Is LeBron James the Real GOAT?
As the NBA return is upon us, we're feeling all the nostalgia of our favorite players we can't wait to see racing down the courts again. One of those all-stars being the one and only, Lebron James. For the better part of the last 15 years, LeBron James has been considered the gold standard of what a basketball player should be. With the ideal combination of athletic gifts, natural skill, and work ethic, James is capable of taking over a basketball game in different kinds of ways. With an extensive resume that is still growing, the discussion is that James has a chance to become the GOAT (greatest of all time), if he isn’t that already. But we begin to wonder... is LeBron James the real GOAT?
It is almost universally recognized that James is the best player of his generation. Regardless of what happens between now and the day he decides to retire, he will be known as one of the best to ever do it. However, his case as the greatest is still very much up for debate.
Lebron James and his Many Accomplishments
There are multiple arguments in his favor. His longevity at the top (17 years and counting) is almost unmatched. His winning rate (3 championships, 8 consecutive NBA Finals appearances, 14 of 17 years he made it to the playoffs) is incredible. His dominance in multiple levels of the sport (2 Olympic gold medals and arguably the greatest high school player in history) is remarkable. And best of all, his career is not done yet (he has the chance to be the game’s all-time leading scorer AND be the first person ever to accumulate 30000 points, 10000 rebounds, and 10000 assists in his NBA career, among other possibilities).
At the same time, there are arguments that go against James. There is his somewhat mediocre finals record (3 championships against 6 finals losses). There is his previous history of wilting at the big stage (his off-games in the 2010 Playoffs and 2011 Finals are particularly jarring). There is the perceived softness to his game (the occasional flops, referee-baiting, team transfers, and conflicts against teammates). In spite of all his accomplishments, it is those things that his resume lacks, both real and imagined, that might ultimately submarine his claim as the GOAT.
Ultimately, how does LeBron James stack against the other basketball greats that were bestowed with the GOAT tag? Here are just some of the players, together with how LeBron compares to them.
Michael Jordan and his GOAT Status
Michael Jordan is considered by many as the real GOAT of the basketball world. With the premiere of his documentary this past April, "The Last Dance", this gave us a refresher of how incredible Jordan really was, not only with his game but the overall impact he had on the league. His individual skill is basically unmatched throughout history. His dominance on the court (including a perfect 6-0 in the NBA Finals) is as close as you can get to perfection. He set many basketball records during his time, with a lot of those records still unmatched. Lastly, when you combine his singular basketball talents, unmatched drive to succeed, and superior marketability, Jordan established an almost-impossible standard to match.
Kobe Bryant Gone but Never Forgotten
The recently-deceased Bryant was considered by many basketball purists as the basketball player (and person) that closely matched the credentials and spirit of Jordan. While James leads Bryant in wins during their head-to-head matchups, it can be argued that during 1-on-1 matchups, Bryant actually dominates James. Plus, his statistical resume (5 NBA championships, 2 Olympic gold medals, numerous records under his belt) more than holds its own against just about any basketball legend. Bryant did indeed leave behind an unmatched legacy that sets the bar beyond high for his time in the NBA, for the work he was doing for the WNBA and the encouragement of his young daughter Gianna. May they both rest in peace.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his Leading Scorer Status
Kareem is one of the true groundbreakers in the sport of basketball. His combination of size, athleticism, skill, and basketball IQ is almost unmatched both then and now. His accomplishments such as 6 NBA championships, 6 MVPs, and 38387 career points (the last 2 are NBA records that stand until now) are gaudy, to say the least. Plus, his voice in the social rights movement both during and after his career takes his impact beyond the basketball court.
The Champion of all Champions, Bill Russell
Considered by some as the first true superstar of the NBA, Russell is the personification of the quote “winning is everything”. If purely winning is the measure of success, Russell won 11 NBA championships as the heart and soul of the Boston Celtics of the 1960s, considered by many as the greatest dynasty in NBA history. He was considered as the greatest defensive player in history, dominating games with his record-setting rebounding and shot-blocking. In GOAT discussions, Russell simply cannot be left out.
Will the Real GOAT Please Stand Up
So... is LeBron James the real GOAT? This question is highly subjective and will spark debate, depending on which values matter to you as a basketball fan. It is not fair to say that he is already the greatest, but he still has a good chance to add on his already-impressive resume. Only time will tell if he will be the GOAT, but James’s imprint in basketball history is undeniable.