There have been so many great players in the NBA, it makes choosing who is the best player ever a very very difficult choice. It is also extremely difficult to choose between players from different era’s as the game has changed so very much.
For example the 3 point line was not introduced until 1979, individual players scoring levels increased as a result.
The players of today are generally somewhat taller and definitely more athletic, they also train more often.
In order to bring some fairness to this debate I have look at the best players up until the 70’s and then also from the 80’s onwards.
From the early days, the standout players from my perspective were, not in any order –
- Wilt Chamberlain
- Bill Russell
- KC Jones
- Bob Cousy
- John Havlicek
- Mel Counts
- George Mikan
- Oscar Robertson
- Elgin Baylor
- Jerry Lucas
- Jerry West
From the 80’s onwards – again not in any order –
- Reggie Miller
- John Stockton
- Dwayne Wade
- Alan Iverson
- James Harden
- Russell Westbrook
- Kawhi Leonard
- Kevin Durant
- Steph Curry
- Klay Thompson
- Rick Barry
- Arvedis Sabonis
- Anthony Davis
- Damian Lillard
- Chris Mullin
- Hakeem Olajawon
- Julius Erving
- Shaquille O’neal
- Charles Barkley
- Clyde Drexler
- Patrick Ewing
- Kobe Bryant
- James Worthey
- Larry Bird
- Magic Johnson
- Tim Duncan
- Kareem Abdul – Jabbar
My sincere apologies to anyone that I have inadvertently left out, but you might notice that there are two of the most notables omitted, these are of course according to most pundits the best two players of all time –
So let’s take a look at their career highlights to help us make a decision on who is the GOAT.
Michael Jordan V LeBron James
Born 30 December 1984 in Akron, Ohio
6’9” – 250 pounds – attended St Vincent – St Mary High School in Akron.
Was drafted straight from High School at Pick No 1 in the 2003 NBA draft by Cleveland Cavaliers.
Has played for 3 NBA Clubs – 17 years in total
- 2003 – 2010 – Cleveland Cavaliers
- 2010 – 2014 – Miami Heat
- 2014 – 2018 – Cleveland Cavaliers
- 2018 – present – Los Angeles Lakers
Career Highlights And Awards
- 3 x NBA Championships – 3 from 9
- 3 x NBA Finals MVP
- 4 x NBA Season MVP
- 16 x NBA All Star – All but one year
- 3 x NBA All Star Game MVP
- 12 x All – NBA First Team
- 2 x All – NBA Second Team
- 1 x All – NBA Third Team
- 5 x NBA All Defensive First Team
- 1 x NBA All Defensive Second Team
- 2004 NBA Rookie of the Year
- 2008 NBA Leading Scorer
- 2017 – J Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award
- 3 x AP Athlete of the Year Award
- 2 x Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Award
- 2012 USA Basketball Athlete of the Year
- 2 x Mr Basketball USA
- 2003 Naismith Prep player of the Year
- 2003 McDonalds All – American Game MVP
- 2 x Parade First Team All American
- 3 x Ohio Mr Basketball
- 4th Leading Scorer of all time with 27.10 pts per game
- 3 x Olympic Gold Medal
- 2008 FIBA World Championship Gold Medal
- 2007 FIBA Americas Championship Gold Medal
Born 17 February 1963 – Brooklyn, New York
6’6” 200 pounds – Attended E Laney high School in Wilmington North Carolina and then the University of North Carolina in Raleigh Durham
Was Drafted at Pick 3 in 1984 as a Junior from University of North Carolina by Chicago Bulls
Was rated as the best High School Player in the USA and also the best College player by Roy Williams the then assistant to Dean Smith at UNC. It is said that the only Coach who could keep MJ under 20 pts per game was Dean Smith his College Coach.
Has played for 2 NBA Clubs – 14 Years Total
- 1984 – 1993 Chicago Bulls
- 1995 – 1998 Chicago Bulls
- 2001 – 2003 Washington Wizards
The question is, could the Bulls have won a 7th title in 1999, had the organisation not gotten rid of the Coach, go figure, which led to MJ, Scottie Pippen and Steve Kerr all leaving as well ?
Career Highlights And Awards
- 6 x NBA Championships – 6 from 6
- 6 x NBA Finals MVP
- 5 x NBA Season MVP
- 14 x NBA All Star – every year
- 3 x NBA All Star game MVP
- 10 x All – NBA First Team
- 1 x All – NBA Second Team
- 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year
- 9 x NBA All Defensive First Team
- 1985 Rookie of the Year
- 10 x NBA Leading Scorer
- 3 x NBA Steals Leader
- 2 x NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion
- 3 x AP Athlete of the Year
- 1991 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year
- NBA 50th Anniversary All – Time Team
- 1982 NCAA Champion
- 1984 National College Player of the Year
- 2 x Fist Team College All American First Team
- 1984 ACC Player of the Year
- 2 x First team All – ACC
- 1982 ACC Rookie of the Year
- 2 x USA Basketball Athlete of the Year
- 2016 Presidential medal of Freedom
- Leading NBA Scorer of all time with 30.12 pts per game
- 2 x Olympic Gold Medals
- 1992 FIBA Americas Championship Gold Medal
- 1983 Pan American games Gold Medal
- Total Games – 1258
- PPG – 27.1
- Reb PG – 7.4
- Asst PG – 7.4
- Stl PG – 1.6
- Shot% – 50.4
- 3pt% – 34.4
- FT% – 73.5
- Total Games – 1072
- PPG – 30.1
- Reb PG – 6.2
- Asst PG – 5.3
- Stl PG – 2.3
- Shot% – 49.7
- 3pt% – 32.7
- FT% – 83.5
LBJ has scored more than 40 pts in a game – 92 times including playoffs
MJ – 172 times
Although both are obviously the two greatest players, I think that a study of the above information favours Michael Jordan.
Firstly he was 3” shorter than LBJ, but as 2 Slam Dunk Contest wins at the All Star game attest, he was a better Athlete.
One wonders how much LBJ was helped by his height advantage over MJ.
MJ was a better Shooter, a better Scorer and was better, virtually unstoppable, when driving to the basket.
His poise and balance in mid air is really quite incredible.
MJ leads LBJ in Championships 6 to 3, led the NBA season scoring 10 times to LBJ one, and led the NBA in steals 3 times to LBJ none.
MJ has also never lost a Championship series, he is 6 from 6.
LBJ has participated in 9 Finals series, but winning only 3, 2 with Miami and one with Cleveland.
With NBA Championships MJ led the Bulls to do a Threepeat twice, the second time after coming back from 2 years playing Baseball. LBJ has never been able to repeat.
LBJ has played 17 seasons in the NBA compared to Jordan 14, don’t forget that MJ missed 2 seasons flirting with Baseball and another 3 playing College Ball which LBJ didn’t. MJ also had 3 years off between Chicago and Washington.
MJ’s stats would also be better without his 2 years at Washington where his points per game dropped to around 21.
His Career average ppg at Chicago was 31.45.
So some might disagree and think that LeBron is the GOAT, or even perhaps Kobe Bryant or Magic, but look closely at the above and you should agree that it is clearly Michael.
If you have watched the 10 episodes of “ The Last Dance “, then how could you not be left in absolute awe at some of his drives to the Basket, he absolutely takes your breath away.
As for the GOAT – no question – MICHAEL JORDAN
I was extremely fortunate to have seen MJ play in 1998 in Chicago at the United Center, when they played Charles Barkley and the Houston Rockets. They guarded each other for most of the game.
MJ had 24 pts at quarter time and finished with 45. Sir Charles had 39. it doesn’t get any better than that.
Please feel free to add your thoughts and comments