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Nice reflections on the idea and standards of basketball greatness. I too have lately suspected that the Jordan-as-GOAT consensus is really more a consensus among those of us who grew up watching him play and therefore associate him with the wonders and romance of our youths. As you point out, the new generations are already doing the same with Kobe and lbj.
The Jordan spell broke for me when I started watching LeBron and really paying attention to his game. I would never say unequivocally that Jordan was a better baller than LeBron, regardless of rings.
The discussion is really fatally flawed from the outset because the GOAT discussion is about individual excellence in a team game. How do you separate a man's prowess on the basketball court from the myriad other element - tangible and otherwise - that must come together to create a championship season?
The ever-lurking threat of injury alone is enough to advise any serious basketball fan that a championship is founded more firmly in sheer luck than most are comfortable to admit.
That said, I will also say that one thing Jordan has going for him in the GOAT discussion is his and the Bulls' all-out dominance of nearly an entire decade. Unlike Kobe and Lbj, Jordan's team never got to the finals without triumphing there, and in general no one ever really got the better of them (except of course in the year of Jordan's return from baseball, but the exception proves the rule here). Look how many of the game's greats will go down ringless in history because they were unfortunate enough to play during the Jordan years: Stockton and Malone, Barkley, miller, Payton, Drexler, etc. And even olajuwon would probably never have won it all if Jordan had not gone on his little baseball excursion.
Few teams in nba history enjoy such a long list of illustrious victims as thoroughly decimated as that of Jordan's Bulls.
But this again returns to the question I raised earlier: had lbj enjoyed, during is time with the Cavs, the high level of organizational, administrative, and coaching support that Jordan did when leading the bulls, can anyone doubt the Cavs would have dominated the 2000s with the King at the Helm?
2 years ago on Defining Greatness