lebron, mj and kareem

a friend wrote to me that “LBJ only needs two more rings to equal mj.” this is true if one only lists championships as their GOAT criteria. havlicek has eight rings; bill russell 11. are they higher on the GOAT scale than mj? does robert horry’s seven rings make him better than barkely or malone or stocktom? of course not.

LBJ has already locked in his legacy even if the lakers had lost this finals series. Teams win championships; GOAT speculation is an individual distinction. So the question is: what is the criteria from which to judge the GOAT? rings are one criterion among others. it would be a miracle for all of us to agree on all the criteria. even if we did, we would probably disagree how to weigh the various areas. Then there is the difficulty of comparing eras with different rules as well as comparing different positions.

people are generally too narrow minded or focused on one area alone. there are also the homers and haters who are so tunnel visioned and are incapable or unwilling to discuss nuanced analysis and contrary information. because of this, GOAT commentary is more emotional than rational. that is us as human beings in general.

yes, stats and rings are important criteria but not the only areas for a comprehensive GOAT discussion– they are not the only important areas of the game. the beauty of the basketball, especially at the nba level, is deeper than the numbers on paper. the criteria needs to be seen in relation to one another. it is a wonderful dance to imagine this and best done over a bottle of wine and dinner. I like bringing up the criteria of longevity, character, off court contributions to society, scandals, influence on rule and other game changes, being a teammate, pre and post nba career, the stat of triple doubles, the eye test. there are other intangibles and subjective criteria too.

Kareem can be argued as GOAT too but there aren’t enough youtube videos for those who didn’t see him first-hand. being 57, i saw KAJ in his prime in the 70s and his game was pure joy to watch. although i was only nine and have vague memories of the lakers and wilt winning the 72 championship. depending on the criteria, chamberlain could be considered too.

i am okay with looking at GOATs through the various eras: wilt in the 50s-60s; kareem in the 70s and early 80s; mj later 80s and 90s; lbj 2000-present. or by position: mj as guard; lbj forward; either kareem or wilt (depending on your criteria!)

so my suggestion is that we do not impoverish GOAT discussions with ad hominem or red herring fallacies. nor should we only consider narrow or incomplete criteria. but let’s enjoy the banter and the lesser talked about important areas that goes into our GOAT opinions. Please give stephen a and wilbon my number– i’d love to hear their perspectives on GOATs with some wine and dinner!

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