As a basketball fan its hard to get around people who share the same love for the game that you have and not have an intense debate on who is the greatest basketball player to ever play the game. Who is the GOAT, aka the greatest of all time?
For me this discussion is always difficult to have. One of the main reasons being, everyone is partial to the era of the game that they either played in or had the chance to witness. Another factor that complicates the argument, is do championships matter? If championships matter, does supporting cast take away what one has accomplished? Does what a player achieve off the court have an effect on how you view the player? My Top three of all time Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James. Putting them in order is the tough part.
When I hear GOAT, I immediately think of my Tar Heel brethren Michael Jordan. I grew up watching MJ and the Chicago Bulls. I would watch games of His Airness and then report to the nearest court to mimic his dunks, his moves, and his fade away shots. I would even catch myself going full clown mode and put my tongue out for no apparent reason at all. Jordan averaged thirty points over his fifteen year career, won five MVP awards, ten scoring titles, led the NBA in steals three times, was defensive player of the year once, won six NBA titles and won an Olympic gold medal. Off the court Jordan is by far one of the most successful business athletes ever witnessed. His career ended in 2003 and his brand is bigger now than it was when he played. Jordan also is an owner of a NBA franchise, the Charlotte Hornets. It’s hard not to say that MJ is the greatest of all time, especially since the other guys in my top three admit they also view him as the GOAT. I do admit, they have made a case to dethrone “His Airness”.
Another name that is often mentioned in the GOAT discussion is Kobe Bryant. Kobe a high school sensation built his reputation as one the hardest working players to play the game. Besides his raw talent and athletic ability, Kobe was a true student of the game. In my opinion he was almost a replica of Michael Jordan with a twist. That twist is what Kobe added to the moves he adopted from MJ. He added the young players flair to the game such as the crossovers, and the most slept on part of his game was his footwork. Kobe’s ability to maneuver in tight spots and be able to fully use his pivot caused trouble for all defenses. Kobe also had that same killer instinct that propelled MJ to legendary status. With the game on the line, everyone knew who was going to get the ball, and believed Kobe was going to make the shot. Kobe ended his career with an average of twenty-five points over twenty seasons, with the LA Lakers. He won five NBA titles, was twelve time all defensive team member, and a gold medalist just to name a few of his accomplishments.
Now on to the man of the hour, Lebron James. The game has never seen anything like Lebron James before. He has the size and strength of a power forward, speed and vision of an elite level point guard, and unmatched athleticism. Lebron is my era. Me growing up in Cleveland and him being from Akron I was able to see him a lot early on in his high school career. I tell people all the time, its weird watching him play because the way he dominated at a young age, he dominates the game now the exact same way. From the time he stepped on the court as a kid fresh out of high school, he has lived up to the hype and even exceeded expectations. As dominant as Lebron is he has always been one of the most unselfish superstars to ever play the game. Bron is a guy who could easily average fifty points a game, instead he settles for thirty points, eleven rebounds, and nine assists. Using all of his physical tools on the court he is one of the best defenders in the NBA. Lebron is one of the biggest superstars in the world, and that is due not only to his game but his charismatic attitude. He is a big kid, with a big heart. His brand is constantly growing and expanding. He is a big time philanthropist, and businessman. Some of his ventures I can speak on a little more than the previously mentioned guys, because as a former teammate of his and a Cleveland native, I have seen these things firsthand. Bron is currently in his fourteenth year as professional. He currently has three NBA titles, two gold medals, one scoring title and has been named to the all defensive team six times. At thirty-two years old, Lebron has not shown any signs of slowing down.
Needless to say, you can see why these guys are my top three players of all time. There are other guys who I really believe can be in this discussion, such as, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird and some others, but to me it’s all about personal preference and eras. It’s hard to call someone the greatest of all time and never seen them play, highlights do not count! This argument will forever plague the basketball world. As time goes on more and more greats will be born and the next generation will slowly start to forget about the older guys. Who is the greatest of all time to you? Why?
Who is up next to soon be added to the GOAT conversation?
Till next time…