Jack HooverTuesday, February 7, 2023
There is one word that sums up NBA all-time scoring leader Lebron James's recent play despite the recent absence of his Laker co-star, Anthony Davis: domination. James seemed to age like fine wine as he chased down Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's long-elusive record. During Davis’s absence, James averaged 35 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1 steal per game. He was also scoring at a very efficient clip: 53 percent from the field and 83 percent from the free-throw line.
James says, however, that he has not been focused on his recent scoring record. As he told ESPN, "I have not set out to do that. It wasn't like a goal of mine when I entered the League … the scoring record was never ever even thought of in my head because I've always been a pass-first guy. I've always loved the excitement of seeing the success of my teammates of playing the game."
But since James did break Abdul-Jabbar's all-time scoring record, does this make James the Greatest Of All Time, over the likes of Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, Bill Russell, and ... gasp ... Michael Jordan? Once James won his third championship against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors while overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, "Lebron vs. Jordan" became a heated debate. Many can agree James has longevity over Jordan, but others say Jordan in his prime easily reigns supreme over James.
To get knowledgeable perspectives on this debate, we interviewed Altamont basketball coaches and former professionals Richard Ford and Steve Mitchell, former college player Donald Daniels, and award-winning journalist, former sports reporter, and self-described Old Man Hooper John Archibald.
When asked whether James could possibly be considered the GOAT over Jordan, Ford responded, “I don’t think so … Doing it with one team is higher to me, and I think a three-peat is extremely hard … and to do it twice is extremely difficult! You know, to stop playing basketball and come back and do it again -- that is extremely hard to catch."
Ford admitted that James will surpass Jordan in many key statistical categories, but he says that's not the whole story: “Number one, he is going to play the game longer at a high level and longer than Jordan did … The resources he has to continue to play, Jordan never really had. You know like the [oxygen] chambers and all this other different stuff.” Like many others, Ford believes that James has sustained a longer period of dominance than most all-time greats because of his access to modern health resources.
Ford also pointed out that James had the opportunity to choose a lot of his teammates and coaches. He says that James does not deserve “extra brownie points,” even with the lack of talent on some of James' championship teams.
Ford added, “If you ask me whose the best player I’ve seen play the game, its hands down Michael Jordan … No other player in league history has turned a lousy franchise from being a one-man show to a dynasty the way Mike did it."
Altamont parent and former Division ll basketball player Donald Daniels said that it is difficult to name the GOAT of basketball. Rather, he thought each position had its own GOAT. For example, he said Jordan is the GOAT for guards and Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan were the GOATs for centers. But Daniels said that if he had to choose the overall GOAT for basketball, "It would be Lebron. Lebron can probably play all five positions and be great at it.”
Daniels added, “To See Lebron at 37 or 38 ... As you get older, you realize how hard it is to basically to play through it [pain and injuries]."
Daniels also had an interesting take on Michael Jordan’s three-peat after his retirement. “Unlike Jordan," he said, "Lebron has won a championship with every team he has been on and that says a lot, too. Playing with different people. Michael Jordan played a few different people … Anytime time you can put a new team together and still win, that really says a lot."
Coach Mitchell, who was drafted by the Washington Bullets, shed some light on why there's so much disagreement on who is the GOAT:
“I do not believe you can compare players from different generations, different eras for a number of reasons … And a factor that has to be considered is the rule changes to the game over the years."
Former sports columnist and current tenacious rebounder John Archibald also says it is an impossible debate, although he appreciates that fact: “The beauty of it is it will always be a debate."
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So, when debating about the GOAT, you have to take things with a grain of salt. Everybody is going to have varying opinions, since people grow up playing and watching different brands and styles of basketball in different eras. But that's the beauty of basketball and of this debate. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), the debate can never be 100 percent resolved unless we had a time machine to see who would win in a direct match up.
But with all that said, who do you think is the basketball GOAT? Feel free to consult the stats at the bottom of this page, and please let us know at this poll:
Check these stats:
38.1 MPG, 27.2 PPG, 7.3 APG, 7.5 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 1.6 SPG, 3.5 TPG, 50.5 FG%, 34.4 3P%, 73.5 FT%, 58.8 TS%, 8.78 BPM
38.3 MPG, 30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 0.8 BPG, 2.3 SPG, 2.7 TPG, 49.7 FG%, 32.7 3P%, 83.5 FT%, 56.9 TS%, 9.21 BPM
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