May. 20, 2017
NBA Breakfast Special: Spurious GOAT Arguments Against LeBron James
Chicken and waffles from Mama Joyce's in Cleveland, via Cleveland Scene
by Fox Doucette
As the conference finals stopped to draw breath last night and let the Cavs and Celtics catch up to the Warriors and Spurs, speculation started swirling after LeBron's demolition of the Boston defense in Game 1 about just what King James would have to do in order to become the Greatest of All Time and seize that championship belt from Michael Jordan. This led to an interesting Twitter exchange between myself and the estimable Zach d'Arbeloff, card-carrying LeBron hater that he has by his own admission been since 2003.
Now first things first; I'm 13 years older than Zach is. I'm the guy who grew up watching Bird and Magic and Jordan and I'm just old enough to remember watching Dr. J, admittedly well past his prime. Zach's NBA formative years involved lockout-shortened never-happened seasons, 66-64 playoff games, and the woefully inefficient YMCA gunner Allen Iverson being talked about as the league's best player; it's a wonder he likes basketball at all. And that's before we get into Michael Jordan being on the Wizards when Zach was the same age that I was when Kareem retired.
So you'd think that, his distaste for the guy from Akron aside, he'd favor the new school over the old, but no, he's sitting behind a machine gun and a concrete bunker defending MJ Hill with his basketball writer life, while I'm out there charging his position with the King James Army.
The crux of his argument goes like this:
And I've had a couple of days to think about it, and I'm sorry, but that argument makes No.
God. Damn. Sense.
If “who gets the ball with one shot to make” is your criterion, then Robert Horry is a Hall of Famer (Horry is also the “but what about” argument when “count the rings” comes up too, never mind that I absolutely think it'd be great to have Big Shot Bob in the Hall of Fame.)
When Cleveland finishes disposing of the Celtics, and they will, LeBron will be headed to his seventh straight NBA Finals. And you could (and Zach did) argue that “well, if he hadn't gone and played baseball, you know Jordan would've won eight in a row”.
But MJ is “what if”. Bron going to seven straight Finals is “he did.” And MJ never had to play against a Gregg Popovich-coached team in June to get his title.
MJ also never pulled a championship more or less completely out of his ass the way LeBron did last year. Bron, down 3-1, did a bang-on impression of Magic Johnson in Game 6 of the 1980 Finals, one of the greatest Finals performances of all time...then LeBron did it two more times. In a row.
Jordan never pulled a whole series out of the fire by himself like that. He had great individual games in series in which his team was already in a position to dominate.
Plus, it is not anywhere near out of the realm of possibility that LeBron may end up with 40,000 career points if he slips into his NBA dotage with enough left in the tank to do like Kareem did and throw in a few extra at the end for good measure. Jordan played baseball. He went into exile for two full seasons. He could've gone for 40 large; the point is, he didn't.
And yes, for totality of career, there's a long list of all-time greats to choose from.
But if LeBron wins a title this year, we have to at least consider that it's his time to seize that belt and claim his legacy.
Highlights return tomorrow, so stay tuned and thanks for reading!