A LOT OF PLAYERS ARE GREAT

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Why do we always have to worry about who is the “best of all time.?” Can’t several people just be great and leave it at that.


This has come up again recently as LeBron James advances his NBA basketball career. He’s starting to approach, and break, some life time records and his accomplishments are in the neighborhood of Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, etc, etc.

Recently LeBron broke Jordan’s all-time record for playoff points, which certainly is an accomplishment. Of course, Jordan fans will point out that it took James more games to reach the mark, and that’s a good point.

With the finals going on right now, with the Warriors up 2-0 as I write this, a lot is being made of LeBron going for a fourth championship. Of course we know Jordan has six, and he never did lose in the finals. So, you might give that edge to Jordan because he never lost in the finals.

Then again, if you’re arguing for Lebron, this is his seventh straight finals and eighth overall. His teams won the NBA Eastern Conference title two more times than Jordan’s did, and LeBron still has plenty of gas left in the tank.

What does all this prove? Is LeBron the all-time great? Is Jordan the all-time great? How about just leaving it at that, “they’re both great.”

It’s tough to compare players who did not play against each other since they played in different eras. You could say Jordan’s accomplishments mean more because the game was more physical when he played. Then again, LeBron is a much more physical player than Jordan ever was, so why hold that against him?

They don’t do this as much in other sports. In baseball you could say Babe Ruth was the greatest player ever, but how can you justify that in an era of segregated leagues? Josh Gibson might have been the best baseball player ever. If you watch the baseball documentary Ken Burns did there are plenty of old timers who will tell you that.

But it doesn’t matter, because in baseball you have great players and no one is deemed “the greatest.” Personally I would say Willie Mays, but that’s just one man’s opinion.

I think people tend to lean toward players from their formative time. I was amazed by Mays when I was growing up. Likewise, if you pin me down I’d say Jim Brown was the best football player I ever saw, and no one ever dominated basketball like Wilt Chamberlain. They made rules to change the game just for him. They widened the lane and put in “offensive goaltending” directly as a result of no one being able to stop Wilt around the basketball.

One thing that drives me nuts is determining who is the greatest by the number of rings they own. Many times a great player can’t determine what he has around him. Not unless you’re a bandwagon jumper like Kevin Durant, and I don’t count anything he might win with the Warriors as being as worthwhile as Jordan’s titles or LeBron’s championship in Cleveland.

You always hear Bill Russell’s name come up among the greatest. No doubt, he was a good player, but he always had a strong cast around him. I saw Bill Russell play a lot and he was a terrible foul shooter who couldn’t hit a jump shot if you left him wide open. He was a good rebounder for his size and a great shot blocker and leader, but far from the greatest ever.

I was talking about this with a friend the other day and I came up with a bunch of centers alone who I consider better than Russell. I’d take Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, Shaq, Akeem, David Robinson, Moses Malone and several others as far better centers than Russell. They weren’t all on better team, but they were better players. Put 6’9” Russell at center today with the same skills and he wouldn’t even make the all-star team. Do you think he could stop Anthony Davis?

My grandsons match players of different eras on their NBA computer game. It’s interesting to watch, and the graphics are undeniably realistic, but it still doesn’t settle who is “the greatest.”

I can remember years ago someone did a simulated tournament with computers as to who was the best heavyweight boxer of all-time. They took the best 16 or so and had a single elimination bracket until only one was left. I don’t even remember who won, but it was interesting to see matchups between, for example, Jack Dempsey and George Foreman.

Of course, everyone has an opinion on that and I grew up with Muhammad Ali, so in my mind he’s the best. In fact, he might be the only one who actually called himself “the greatest” and didn’t get much of an argument.