Photo Credit: ibero 90.0
The never-ending debate as to who the greatest NBA player of all-time is often features two players: LeBron James and Michael Jordan. The fact that these two players are the only two that are consistently included in this debate is why the debate is overrated, and quite frankly, pointless. There are plenty of all-time greats that have been better than both at a number of aspects at the game. But without getting into the specifics of those players, let’s focus on what makes the James-Jordan debate ridiculous in itself.
Jordan backers are quick to bring up the fact that he has six championships with a 6-0 NBA Finals record while LeBron has won just three of his eight NBA Finals appearances with just an 18-27 overall record in Finals games.
Rings matter more than anything from a career achievement standpoint. There is no doubt about that. But from a debate standpoint, they don’t mean anything. The above Tweet illustrates it perfectly. Here are some specific examples why.
JaVale McGee has more rings than Karl Marlone, John Stockton and Charles Barkley among other greats combined. Mario Chalmers has twice as many rings as Kevin Durant, and James Jones has as many rings as Stephen Curry and Durant combined. And Jordan’s total of six rings isn’t the highest total of all-time; in fact, it is tied for 10th.
If you have the time, you could list hundreds more of these crazy but true scenarios. But I’ll stop, as long as you believe me when I say Barkley is better than McGee.
LeBron backers are quick to bring up the fact that he has consistently leads his teams to the NBA Finals without much help. Yet they also consider LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love a “Big Three”. Sorry, but it can’t be both.
It is true that he has taken his teams to the NBA Finals for seven consecutive seasons, and him joining the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers (again) turned those teams into contenders from pretenders. But it is also true that the Eastern Conference has been weaker than the Western Conference for decades, so him getting to the Finals that often isn’t as impressive as it could be.
So then his backers claim that he has been unlucky to run into the historically good Warriors team three times, so that has hindered him from being the GOAT. Well, he did beat them once, so it’s not like it’s impossible. They’re all professionals out there on the court. And what about his other five NBA Finals appearances, of which he lost three? You win some, you lose some. He’s lost more than he’s won.
The bottom line is that no matter what anyone says about either of these two great players in a debate, the arguments only hold water on the surface. Meanwhile below the surface, those arguments have their vulnerabilities, and there are plenty of other players out there that people don’t generally talk about as being the GOAT, yet they are easier to argue for.
You want rings? Call Bill Russell; he’s got 11, nearly twice as many as MJ. You want players who carried their team to a championship? How about Dwyane Wade in 2006, who LeBron actually ran off to in order to win two of his three rings? The LeBron James-Michael Jordan debate is simply a waste of time, as there will never be a sure winner, and even if there was, that player would simply be the better of the two, not the best basketball player ever.