The GOAT of professional basketball conversation might be one of if not the most difficult conversation to have. Why? I think it is rather obvious, as there are quite a few arguments for who takes that throne as the GOAT/greatest of all time, and when you have arguments from all sides, the picture of the GOAT gets murkier and murkier. Do you count more than just statistics? Do you only count titles? Do you only count pure athletic ability/dominance on the court?
All of these categories can change the direction of who is considered the GOAT, and this is why it can be an endless conversation.
Names such as Michael Jordan, who needs no introduction or LeBron James, or even the late Kobe Bryant are a few examples of names thrown in as the GOAT. But as of lately in the basketball world, LeBron James is on the doorstep of possibly taking the title of the GOAT. Until then, Michael Jordan has been called the greatest of all time based on his six NBA titles, various records, and the pure dominance that Michael Jordan possessed on the court for essentially his whole career. LeBron James is the modern-day version of that once-in-a-generation talent and has put up arguably one of if not the best NBA career to date when compared to Michael Jordan.
Michael Jordan won six NBA titles in his time in the NBA, all six with the Chicago Bulls, but you know that already, hopefully. LeBron James has won four NBA titles in his 17 years in the NBA so far, one title with the Cleveland Cavaliers, two with the Miami Heat, and one so far with the Los Angeles Lakers, but again, you know that already. The real conversation at hand should be…does a fifth title overall put LeBron atop the mountain of greatest of all time?
I could bore you with the stat comparisons probably for about the next three paragraphs, but that feels wrong to just blurb about stats when anyone can look those up. Obviously, there a few categories of stats that truly matter in this conversation for if LeBron would pass Michael Jordan for the GOAT title.
First, LeBron passed Michael in all-time scoring on March 7th, 2019, and is currently sitting at 35,367 points in his career. LeBron is also the all-time leading scorer in playoffs history with 7,578 points, passing Michael in March of 2017. Based on that, LeBron has shown how dominant of a scorer he is despite averaging fewer points per game in his career than Michael ever did.
Second, while Michael tended to score most of the points for his team, LeBron has managed to go from a primary scorer to a three stat tool player where he can spread the floor with his passing but also put up 25 plus a night. LeBron is the only player, yes ONLY player, in NBA history to be top ten in scoring and assists in a career (third in scoring, eighth in assists). Even guys like Magic Johnson did not accomplish that feat and here is LeBron scoring like Michael, but passing like John Stockton; an elite combination.
Third, there is an argument that LeBron has played with too many all-stars to be considered more dominant than Michael Jordan, but even as a heavy supporter of Michael Jordan, this is not true for LeBron. James has taken teams like the mid-2000’s Cleveland Cavaliers to the Eastern Conference Finals and so on. Despite the big three in Miami, the Kyrie Irvings in Cleveland, and even the Anthony Davis addition in LA, LeBron has proved time and time again that he is still the prime-time player on every team he has played on. Michael was different because he played in Chicago all 14 seasons, but even still, LeBron going to different squads and continuing to win shows he affects franchises overall.
With all of that information, it should be evident how difficult it is to truly decide who the GOAT of professional basketball is. LeBron has made a serious case for himself on this topic and is essentially waiting outside the door of the throne. So, to answer the ultimate question, does a fifth title make LeBron the GOAT?
I think I can confidently say that yes, it will solidify him as the greatest of all time to play professional basketball. While he would still be one title short of Jordan, LeBron has helped his case by breaking numerous records, and as I mentioned before, passed Michael in areas of career stats that should propel LeBron past him.
The new saying in basketball should be “all hail King James” if he is holding up the Larry O’Brien NBA title trophy by the end of this year’s playoffs. Keep an eye on James and his seventh seed Lakers, and maybe, just maybe, we might have a new GOAT in the world of basketball very soon.
Stats from nba.com and espn.com
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