Shannon Sharpe was very much on his job Monday morning. He and co-host Skip Bayless debated the iconic worthiness of LeBron James’ 56-point outburst. The King’s quest for another ring has switched focus to his full-court chase-down of Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
This change in dynamic and purpose has led to more conversation about LeBron James’ standing as an all-time scorer in the court of public opinion.
In the season 5 premiere episode of LeBron James’ “The Shop,” the NBA’s third all-time leading scorer lamented to Maverick Carter and guests that despite his scoring prowess, he doesn’t feel like he’s recognized among the greats when it comes to pure scoring because of the way he has always embraced “getting my teammates involved” and facilitating rather than dominating the ball.
When they discuss “the best scorers of all time they never mention my name,” LeBron griped.
After being asked if LeBron is warranted for being “pissed off” about this, Sharpe made a comparison between James and the man who many feel is still MLB’s “official” home Run king, Hammerin’ Hank Aaron.
“It’s the same situation as Hank Aaron. When you talk about home run hitters, Skip, Hank Aaron had the record, but nobody thought of Hank Aaron as a great home run hitter. There were no moonshots. There was no hitting it out of Yankee Stadium or Tigers Stadium like Babe Ruth.”
Shannon is only half right. Babe Ruth played from 1914-1935, so he would have never had an at-bat at Tiger Stadium, which wasn’t in existence until 1961. So, “The Babe” never hit one out of there.
In 1895, Detroit Tigers owner George Vanderbeck had Bennet Park built on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull Avenues.
Tigers owner Frank Navin built 23,000-seat Navin Field in 1911.
In 1938 Briggs Stadium, a 53,000-capacity edifice with a double-deck, was built to accommodate a burgeoning fan base. Finally, in 1961 new owner John Fetzer named it Tiger Stadium
Hank gave the Yankees some serious work in the 1957 World Series, hitting .393 with 11 hits, three homers and seven RBI. It’s the only World Series win that the Braves have in four meetings with the Bronx Bombers. He might not have tanked one as far as Mickey Mantle, but Aaron was strong as an ox and he did ghost ballparks.
As Shannon correctly stated, Aaron just wasn’t known as a one-trick pony.
Aaron averaged 37 home runs a season (per 162 games) over a 23-year career and was the model of consistency. The longevity and durability that he displayed (hitting over 40 homers seven times) and the versatility in his offensive bag is similar to LeBron’s.
Aaron still either holds or places in the Top 5 of numerous elite MLB records. The fact that Aaron has just one MVP in his illustrious career is also comparable to LeBron James’ lack of hardware in that department. They both played in an era where the competition for such accolades was fierce and they were often held to a higher standard than other players.
Bron has four MVPs in his 19-year career but hasn’t won one since 2013 despite competing in ten NBA Finals, including eight straight with the Heat and Cavaliers from 2011-2018.
Sharpe continued with his comparison, pointing out the fact that guys like LeBron and Aaron actually get penalized for being so effortlessly multi-faceted.
“We don’t look at (Aaron) like a McGwire,” Sharpe reasoned. “We didn’t look at him like these great power hitters. So we look up and it’s like hold on. Yall talk about all these great power hitters, but I’m the home run king.
And LeBron says, ‘Hold on. Y’all keep talking about these great scorers, Kobe, KD, this one and that one,’ but here’s the thing, LeBron James … of the great scorers, no one has been asked what he’s been asked to do for the length of time he’s been asked to do it.
“When you do so many things and you do it well, it’s hard to be known as doing one thing great.”
LBJ only averaged 30 in a season one time, but he still holds the fifth highest scoring average in NBA history (27.1). And his 55 plus points, 10-rebound game at age 37 is also unprecedented. Aaron similarly had his highest homer output at age 37, smashing 47 dingers in 1971. Then he came back two years later and hit 40 dingers at the age of 39!
Hammerin’ Hank still has a lock on two incredible records that aren’t likely to be broken anytime soon, especially with baseball’s trend towards more strikeouts, more homers and less hits.
Aaron leads both leagues in all-time Runs Batted In with 2,297 and also accumulated an insane 6,856 total bases. In addition, he has a .305 career batting average, over 600 career doubles and 240 stolen bases.
In 1963, Hank slugged 44 home runs and stole 31 bases becoming the third player in MLB history to hit 30 bombs and swipe 30 bags in the same season. In other words, he changed the game. Hank also drove in a league-leading 130 RBI that season for good measure.
We definitely can’t forget Aaron’s 3,771 career hits, which ranks third all-time behind iconic contact hitters Pete Ross and Ty Cobb.
Bron similarly rates in the top five to 10 in most powerhouse offensive categories and metrics. Sharpe noted that LeBron has more 20-point, 30-point, 40-point, 50-point and 60-point games than Kevin Durant, who’s considered a candidate for best scorer ever.
Both of these legends have a statistical portfolio to back up GOAT claims, but their consistent greatness and the way they made the magnificent look so mundane at times has become an inhibitor to each receiving credit for their true impact and Sharpe shrewdly pointed that out.
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