Michael Jordan or LeBron James? The King or His Airness? Who is the greatest basketball player of all time? It has become a massive debate on barstools and social media over the last few years that has been both comical and disturbing.
Frankly, and thankfully, an outsider’s opinion doesn’t really matter here. The dialogue is exhausting. Hearing people who simply cannot get over the nostalgia of Jordan with the Chicago Bulls and thrash James’ NBA Finals record with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, or the one’s too young to remember just how much Jordan elevated the game’s brand, and only laud James’ superhuman ability, is too much to manage.
It’s a nightmare, really, and luckily the one player who is often forgotten in the entire debate shared an opinion that some might truly appreciate, while others will get some entertainment value out of it, at the very least.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the legendary 7-foot-2 center for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers, recently spoke with The Undefeated to clear the air on the topic and make his stance on the GOAT (greatest of all time) debate:
“These GOAT discussions are fun distractions while sitting around waiting for the pizza to be served. But they’re on a par with ‘Which superpower would you want most: flight or invisibility?’ Whether I’m included or not in anyone’s list doesn’t matter. I played my hardest and I helped my teammates. That’s the most important thing I walked away with.
“The reason there is no such thing as the GOAT is because every player plays under unique circumstances. We played different positions, under different rules, with different teammates, with different coaches. Every player has to adapt to their circumstances and find a way to excel. This isn’t Highlander. There can be more than one.”
The Highlander line is so great. Seriously, to have 71-year-old KAJ, the innovator of the “skyhook” shot bust out a mid-80s movie reference is phenomenal, and it helps drive his point home in a clutch way.
It’s obviously not going to please everyone, though, because, you know having more than one answer is just not going to cut it, no matter how much the statement has some validity.
Fans, educated on the subject or not, simply want to be correct and won’t back down, which has a big reason why the topic is annoying in the first place.
The irony in Abdul-Jabbar, formerly known as Lew Alcindor, saying this is due to the fact he gets overlooked in these types of discussions.
Abdul-Jabbar is a 19-time NBA All-Star, 10-time First-Team All-NBA, six-time NBA Champion, and six-time MVP. He also is the NBA’s all-time leader in points scored, games played, minutes played, field goals made and attempted, blocked shots, and career wins, among other things.
Not to mention he was a three-time NCAA champion at UCLA under legendary coach John Wooden before being the No. 1 overall pick in the 1969 NBA Draft.
The resume is there for KAJ to be in the discussion as the best player, but he doesn’t care. All it is to him, and many others, is a foolish debate going nowhere.
But it is definitely nice that we all now know his take and ability to pull out some great move references.