By Caleb Brown, Staff Reporter
In the National Basketball Association, LeBron James has led the Los Angeles Lakers to their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010 and it’s looking like he is going to win his fourth ring — inevitably bringing up the greatest of all time (GOAT) conversations, once again.
Is it Michael Jordan who won six NBA Finals in only six appearances, with six finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards? Is it Kobe Bryant who won five NBA Finals, out of seven appearances with two finals MVPs? Is it someone else, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Bill Russell?
If the Lakers win the 2020 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat and James wins Finals MVP, he will earn four NBA Finals titles, with 10 appearances in the Finals and four finals MVP awards.
If so, the question would become: what is criteria for a player to be worthy of the GOAT status?
For most people older than millennials and Generation Z, Michael Jordan is undeniably the greatest ever. Most of them grew up watching him, so their minds will probably forever be unchanged. Credit to Jordan’s greatness, he was the best player in the world for at least 8 of his 15 seasons in the NBA.
Looking back at ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary series, MJ made it clear that he was the best player on the 1992 Dream Team and from then he was the best player in the league until he retired in January before the 1999 season.
MJ doesn’t have the most rings so that can’t be what makes you the greatest ever, although you have to have won a championship to even be in the conversation.
No matter what the sport is, people will not consider you the greatest if you never win a championship in that sport. Winning the big one is a huge legacy booster. There are many talented players, like Charles Barkley, who had amazing NBA careers, but they never won a championship and because of that, fans look at them differently, and their success in the history books does not seem as great.
Another question that should be essential to this conversation is: should there be a time cutoff for people in the conversation?
For example, Bill Russell won 11 rings in 13 seasons, but his first season was in 1956. You’d have to be at least 75-years-old to have seen him play. Not to mention there were only 14 teams at most in the whole league at that time, as opposed to 30 teams now. Is it fair to put him in the conversation if most basketball viewers today never saw him play?
The truth is, all of these statistics and the greatness of players will probably have to be separated by eras because no one will ever agree on the answer, nor will they ever come to an agreement on the said answer.
For some people, men like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will be the greatest whereas if you speak to some younger folks today they’ll let you know that they worship the ground LeBron walks on, and if we fast forward 10 to 20 years from now, there will be someone else that people will call the greatest.
Who is the true GOAT? This isn’t a question that has a definitive answer. It’s a “beauty in the eye of the beholder” type of deal. A question that may forever remain unanswered, but people will always discuss this in places like the barbershop or at the school lunch table.
As long as there’s basketball, there will always be a space for this debate, and the fans of yesterday, today and tomorrow will be present and ready to give their opinion.