I was born in September of 1992, the beginning of the third Championship in a row for the Michael Jordan Bulls. Immediately after the three-peat was concluded Jordan retired from basketball (for the first time), and by the time Jordan won his sixth and final ring, I was still only five. I honestly don’t remember much more about his career with the Bulls as I choose to of his time with the Wizards. In fact, the most memorable thing about Michael Jordan’s career to me, may actually be when he led the Tune Squad to a 78-77 victory over the Monstars in Space Jam.
When it comes to the conversation of the greatest of all time, or GOAT, Jordan tops almost every list. His greatness was never questioned, as he truly dominated an era of basketball that featured many of the all-time greats. There are those, of course, who grew up in different eras, watching Kareem, Wilt, and Bill Russell, whom many consider to be the greatest players. Then there are those in my generation, those who have watched LeBron dominate the game over the last 15 years differently than we have seen a single player dominate before, which sparks the debate of who is truly the greatest basketball player to ever live.
The media and fans alike seem to enjoy this debate, but often times the argument itself gets in the way of really enjoying the greatness of the individual. It’s not an argument unique to basketball either, as in every sport you have the same question featuring different stars. In the NFL, is it Brady or Montana or Peyton or Sanders? In the MLB, is it Ruth or Aaron or Mays or Williams? Even in combat sports like MMA you have the discussion of the “pound-for-pound king”. If Demetrious Johnson ballooned up to 205 pounds, would he all of a sudden be able to beat Daniel Cormier or Jon Jones? What if Jon Jones dropped somehow to 125, would he dethrone Mighty Mouse?
The one major flaw in the debate of every “GOAT”, regardless of sport, is that every era is different and there are so many differentiating factors that get overlooked when solely judging “greatness”. These guys play different positions, fight at different weight classes, play in completely different eras, where the sport itself can change dramatically, and yet we all still try and compare. However, by doing so, we often are denying ourselves the chance to truly appreciate the greatness that is before us.
Anyone who has watched LeBron play this year, his 15th season and with potentially his worst supporting cast of his career, I hope you can take a second to step back from the debate of the GOAT and appreciate all that he is doing. He is on his way to his eighth straight Finals appearance, ninth overall and for the second time he has single handedly brought a team to the championship that would be a top-five NBA lottery team without him.
Statistically, he has had one of the best seasons of his career, perhaps even his greatest ever. Playing in all 82 games for the first time, he averaged 27.5 points, over 8.5 rebounds and nine assists per game, all while shooting over 54% from the field. The mere fact that he has brought this Cavaliers team to the NBA finals is outstanding, and proof enough of his greatness, which deserves to be recognized.
What is lost on many fans is that in order to appreciate his greatness, one does not need to discount Jordan’s. They are different players who play different roles on vastly different teams in vastly different eras. They each are, unquestionably, one of the greatest basketball players in history, and frankly that’s where the debate should end. To try and argue that one is “greater”, one way or another, is a losing battle, for there will never be a definitive answer. All that we can do is sit back and just enjoy greatness.
Image above property of Getty Images/Ringer illustration