The NBA’s greatest player of all time debate has been trying to grow legs over the last few years.
In many ways it’s the fans of LeBron James who are adamant that he’s the greatest player ever despite his 4-6 NBA Finals record, and inability to get a Lakers team with five future Hall of Famers (LBJ, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony) into the NBA’s play-in this past season.
It’s also comical how folks just disregard Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who’s won multiple titles starting in high school and into the pros and is currently the all-time leading scorer in NBA history.
But for a long stretch toward the end of his career, Kareem wasn’t even the best player on his team. That distinction went to Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Many of these “best player ever” candidates come with some flaws and have contemporaries who were considered better at some point. All except Michael Jeffrey Jordan, who holds the title of GOAT.
Michael Jordan is the only player in NBA history to retire immediately after winning an MVP award OR scoring title.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 18, 2020
NBA basketball analyst Tim Legler, who faced “His Airness” at the height of his dominance, shares those same sentiments.
In a recent interview on “The Odd Man & The Three” with JJ Redick and Tommy Alter, Legler had this to say about the GOAT debate that has come to fuel sports talk media.
“Number one, it was just a complete given,” Legler said, referring to MJ’s obvious GOAT stature. “I tell people all the time. I played literally from 1990 in the NBA to 2000, ‘90s, that’s my decade. Jordan won six rings. If he didn’t go hit curveballs for two years, he’d probably have eight. So, every year of my career, basically they won.”
Legler wasn’t done.
“So, for me, even back then, it was just a given. This is the greatest player of all time. Now, obviously, with all these years later, 30+ years later, people want to make that into a debate. It still isn’t for me.”
“I guarded him a lot. I guarded those teams a lot. I know what that looked like. For me, it was that. It was what he did as a basketball player, and he was the only guy I’ve played against in my life that never took his foot off gas.”
Michael Jordan made 9 game-winning buzzer-beaters in his career (including the postseason), the most in NBA history.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 4, 2020
Jordan’s Competitive Nature And Immense Accolades Speak Volumes
Throughout his illustrious 14-year career with the Bulls, Jordan showed a will to win that isn’t rivaled by many. His 6-0 NBA Finals record, while winning MVP in every series is unreal.
Jordan’s teams never played a Game 7 in the NBA Finals. The 14-time NBA All-Star, 10-time scoring champ, five-time NBA MVP, did his thing on offense, but it’s on defense where he really separated himself.
14x NBA All-Star, 10x Scoring Champ, 6x NBA Champion, 6x NBA Finals MVP, 5x NBA MVP and 75th Anniversary Team member… Michael Jordan! #NBA75
— NBA (@NBA) April 1, 2022
As the best player in the NBA, the nine-time NBA All-NBA Defensive First Team, and 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year took pride in perfecting both ends of the floor.
MJ was the type of player who went for the jugular and didn’t care what it took to do it. He was out for blood each and every time he stepped onto the hardwood. And usually executed in unprecedented fashion.
Many Former Greats Consider MJ The GOAT
During Jordan’s reign of dominance, only one other superstar won a title, and that player was the great Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, when MJ was briefly retired for all of the 1994 and most of the 1995 seasons, following the murder of his father.
Olajuwon led the Rockets to back-to-back NBA titles. Hakeem, widely considered a top-five center all time, and the greatest international player ever, had this to say about today’s lifeless debate of MJ or LBJ.
“When people start comparing him with Jordan, then that’s not a fair comparison,” the Dream said. “Jordan was a far more superior player in a very tough league, and he was very creative. That’s not taking anything away from LeBron because he is a great player, but it is not a fair comparison because Jordan is a far superior player.”
Michael Jordan turns 53 today. Nobody recently has done 53 like MJ! pic.twitter.com/1KYrdg9la8
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 17, 2016
Other all-time greats who share those same sentiments, include Shaq, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, and Dwyane Wade to name a few.