“That one right there made me the greatest player of all time.”
Lebron James referring to beating the Warriors after being down 3-1 in the 2016 NBA finals. Recently on ESPN’s “More Than An Athlete”, LeBron was nothing but full of himself and all of his career accomplishments.
This is becoming a bit of an overplayed debate, and almost every basketball fan can’t resist to dabble in the “who is the GOAT”. At times it seems to be a war waged by different generations of fans. Lately though it’s more like those who dislike LeBron versus those who don’t.
Let’s try and breakdown what really classifies someone as “the GOAT”. Can there be more than one? Is it about stats? How about rings? Or is it about how polarizing a player is? Maybe the player who accomplished more with less around him?
One thing with basketball is certain — a single player can greatly change the performance of a team more so than in other sports.
That being said, in my time no player has changed the dynamic of a team (or the league) quite like LeBron James. His combination of size, athleticism, and basketball IQ is second to none. It may be an unpopular opinion, but if you were to build the perfect basketball specimen in a laboratory, it would come out in the form of LeBron. Since his days at St. Vincent-St. Mary high school, the kid known as “King James” has been nothing but dominant on the hardwood.
After 15 seasons he has amassed quite the resume: 4 MVP’s, three-time NBA champion, three Finals MVP’s, 12-time All-NBA First Team, five-time All-NBA Defensive Team, and Rookie of the Year in 2003. The list goes on.
So the question remains: is King James the GOAT?
The answer — no, he’s not. Here’s why.
Without having the time to go through the accomplishments of Jordan, Kobe, Magic, Bird, Kareem,
Lebron is not like Jordan, Kobe, Magic, Bird, Duncan, or Kareem in the worst type of way.
From the time he was 17 years old, this man has been called the “King”. As if it were handed to him on the basis of expectation and hype. The only thing “the King” has done, is change basketball (specifically the NBA) for the worse.
From ushering in the era of the flop (what he’s actually the king of), to make winning championships more about teaming up with your friends in the offseason to build super teams. This has hurt NBA ratings more than anything. People feel as though they don’t need to watch the regular season when we already know who’s going to be there at the end. This can’t all be blamed on LeBron, but he has been at the center of it since “The Decision” to take his talents to South Beach.
Older basketball fans love touting the style of play by their guys from the 80’s and 90’s. Saying there is no toughness, no defense, and no real rivalries in today’s NBA. That puts LeBron in a bad position because, well, he is the face of modern basketball.
Then there’s this one. We’ve all heard the phrase “killer instinct”. An attribute that only few have. Kobe dubbed it “mamba mentality”, some call it being clutch. It’s possessed by only the greatest of athletes across the sports spectrum. Killer instinct basically boils down to being so blindly competitive that you’re never afraid of failure.
This is something LeBron has never had (at times maybe has shown flashes), but he’s never embraced it. There are many examples; the latest one that sticks out most occurred in the final minutes of Game 3 in last year’s Finals.
Warriors up three on the Cavs with less than a minute remaining, Kevin Durant brings the ball up the floor and is guarded by LeBron James. At this point the Cavs are in desperation mode down 2-0 in the series, and in order to win this game, they have to get a defensive stop at that very moment.
Nobody on planet earth should be guarding Kevin Durant other than LeBron at this point (KD had been torching Cavs defenders all night). Once he crosses half court, up comes Steph Curry from the left side and he sets the softest screen I have ever seen. One would think LeBron would fight through the screen because THIS IS HIS CLUTCH MOMENT, AND HE NEEDS TO SHUT DOWN KD SO HE CAN PROVE HE’S THE GOAT, but…he doesn’t! Instead he switches with Rodney Hood, and three seconds later Kevin Durant hits the dagger from downtown.
Another reason LeBron will never win the debate is because he has chosen to align himself with one side of the political spectrum. In 2016 he campaigned for Hillary Clinton in Ohio where like many other states, she lost.
Later he called President Trump a bum (ironic that he is in fact a billionaire). He took credit for opening a school in Akron for under privileged youth, when in reality he left the burden on the taxpayers like a true Democrat would. This shouldn’t affect people’s opinion of him as an athlete but we don’t live in that world. Athletes are a national brand, and when brands pick sides and draw a line in the sand, it’s bad for business.
In the case of LeBron calling himself the GOAT, I’d like to quote Michael Jordan when asked if he was the greatest ever by Mike Wilbon in 2009:
“I don’t want that title because it disrespects so many great names who played before my time.”
Simply put, if you truly were the greatest player of all time, it wouldn’t need mentioning.