April 19, 2020, 9 p.m., Eastern Standard Time is a date in time that will forever live in ALL AMERICAN’S LIVES. No, I am not discussing COVID-19. “The Last Dance” documentary, which shadowed the 97-98 Bulls team, will continue to further our divide between the greatest of all time (GOAT) regarding basketball.
To this day, most basketball fans will categorize Michael “His Airness” Jordan as the goat while others state the claim for LeBron “Chosen One” James as the goat. Both sides have valid reasons for his/her choice; however, here is my take on it all even prior to the documentary.
Growing up, I had the privilege of watching Michael Jordan (my old self) while he came back from baseball the first time. This was truly my first take on him as a basketball player. I started watching more basketball during the 94-95 season thanks to my father who was a HUGE Hakeem, Barkley, and Clyde fan, therefore, you knew where he sided haha. As Jordan graced us back with basketball, I watched games where he simply just “took-off” so to speak. At this point, I had not seen it done before. Playoff Jordan was, and still is, a force to be reckoned with this day in age. This made me ask my father about older stories of Michael. The documentary, along with NBA TV reruns, continue to solidify why Michael Jordan has a great percentage of people that believe he is the GOAT. But a few things I noticed about Jordan during his historic runs were: a CONSISTENT sidekick (Scottie Pippen), a CONSISTENT coach (Phil Jackson), a post player that rebounded (Horace Grant/Dennis Rodman), and a strong supporting cast.
Since 2002, when I was in the Schottenstein’s Center watching LeBron play our beloved Brookhaven Bearcats, I knew I was watching the next one up. Ever since, I have enjoyed watching LeBron, the basketball player and person, over all these years, especially his 4 years in college lol (Miami Heat). LeBron has also graced us with some unbelievable playoff performances whether you are discussing the series against the Detroit Pistons, his dagger for Orlando Magic, or the soul-stealing of the Big 3 of the Celtics during game 6, as a few examples. Lebron’s sidekicks have varied over the years from Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mo Williams (during LeBron’s 1st 7 years at Cleveland), Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh (University of Heatles), Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and now Anthony Davis. While playing multiple positions, LeBron hasn’t had a consistent post player, supporting casts and never a coach of the caliber of Phil Jackson, let alone the coaching expertise of Dean Smith and Roy Williams that Jordan received in college.
So back to the question at hand, who is the GOAT, Michael Jordan or LeBron James? As a fan that experienced both eras of basketball, I actually believe LeBron’s athleticism would have made him an absolute force during the late 80s and 90s. I also believe that the advances of science and medicine would ensure that Michael would be dominant without the hand checking in today’s game. Let us just respect the eras for EXACTLY what they are, eras of basketball. Both players have dominated their eras for their time. Let us also make sure we add that Kobe “Jellybean” Bryant, held his own from the departure of Jordan until the zenith of LeBron.
Whether he will receive more rings than Jordan matters not in a team sport. If that were the case, we would not be having this discussion because Bill Russell, who dominated his era, had 11! At the end of the day, the GOAT, to me, is: “at forward, from Akron St. Vincent St. Mary, in his 17th year, LeBron James.”
P.S. The rest of The Starting 5 does not agree with my sentiment haha!