Ask an NBA fan who is the Greatest Of All-Time (or GOAT) and nine times out of ten you will get the same answer, Michael Jordan. New school fans of the game will go to the player they’re familiar with now, LeBron James. The debate will forever rage on but the answer is simple. While LeBron has earned a seat at the table when it comes to this discussion, he is not now and never will be the greatest of all-time.
Michael Jordan dominated an era much more difficult than this current incarnation of the NBA. Players were allowed to hand-check. Physicality was normal as opposed to today where a player can get a technical foul for rolling his eyes if he is facing the wrong people. Jordan not only dominated that era but went undefeated in the Finals for a clean 6-0 record.
LeBron James deserves credit for getting into the NBA Finals for eight straight seasons but his results fall woefully short of Jordan. After leaving Cleveland to chase a championship in Miami, he succeeded in winning two rings. After four seasons in Miami he returned to Cleveland where he brought a championship to the beleaguered city in the 2015-16 season. However, his won-loss record in NBA Finals is 3-5. LeBron apologists will say he’s rarely had the best team going into the Finals but those same people call him the greatest player in the world, not the NBA, the world.
Sounds like the ultimate trump card to me, yet he’s 3-5.
The argument should be over right there but here’s more food for thought. James had to leave his city to win a championship, he was not great enough to elevate the team that drafted him to a championship so he left to gravy train a championship at the expense of one of his best friends, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat. Yes, LeBron obviously became the best player on the team but the Heat had already won a championship without LeBron just a few seasons earlier. It was Wades’ team and LeBron took it over.
Jordan, on the other hand, exalted the team that drafted him to a team of legend and won six championships in the process.
After four seasons, James bailed on Wade and Miami to return to ‘The Land’, and in a move that can be considered altruistic and narcissistic at the same time, won a championship in Cleveland. Like Wade, he took over the starring role from Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers were building around their star player and making strides until James returned and once again, the Cleveland universe centered around him.
Adding fuel to the fire is the recent developments of Irving asking to be traded out of frustration that everything is centered on James. Irving wants to head his own squad, not be LeBron’s sidekick. Such a revelation can also be an indicator of how James is as a person. The fact that the second best player on the team would rather leave than stay in a place that gets to the Finals every season is a damning indictment of James.
Meanwhile, back in the Jordan era, players were lined up out the door and around the United Center for the opportunity to play next to Jordan; and willing to take a pay cut to do it.
Superstars should be flocking to play with the ‘greatest player in the world’. All they’re getting are has-beens and mid-level players like Kyle Korver, Jeff Green and Derrick Rose. There’s how you measure greatness in the eyes of your peers.
Finally, LeBron is not showing the city he loves his loyalty. If he was that loyal, he would stay home and help build a team worthy of challenging the Golden State Warriors. He should be willing to build something sustainable for ‘The Land’. Instead, it is the worst kept non-secret in the world that after the upcoming season James is going to take his talents…somewhere not named Cleveland.
When the going gets tough, James gets going…out of town.
James is going to look around the league and cherry-pick the softest place to land with the biggest collection of talent outside of Golden State. Once again, he will invade another teams’ atmosphere and convert their air supply to his own. Transcendent players shouldn’t need to switch teams so many times during their prime.
James wears 23 to remind himself of his quest to supplant Jordan but Jordan didn’t need to leave to win. Jordan retired before coming back for the one ill-fated year with the Wizards that no one cares about. Six rings. Tim Duncan stayed in one place and dominated. Five rings. Kobe Bryant stayed in one place and dominated. Five rings. Magic Johnson stayed in one place and dominated. Five rings.
When you’re the man, you don’t need to find the action. The action will find you.
James will never enter the rarefied air of the GOAT. He’s not even the stone-faced killer Duncan and Bryant were. In the end, for all of his travelling and team-hopping in hopes of chasing rings and reaching that plateau, he is showing himself for who he truly is…
…an arrogant, ego-maniacal, bandwagon-jumping, team-quitting….
The Greg One