The True GOAT!
Alright, now the the Last Dance documentary is over, all the Jordan pundits can retreat to their bunkers and clutch their Jordan 1s or whatever dusty memorabilia you have left! Trust, I am not hating! As a ball fan, I was in awe of how the documentary took you through the trials and tribulations of the god-like figure known as Jordan, His Airness, Black Jesus, The Black Cat and a dozen other monikers. One thing you can’t deny is Jordan’s competitive drive and how he lead the greatest team/organization ever assembled to 6 NBA Championships. So much so, there has been an online resurgence of the never-ending GOAT debate where Jordan idolaters have now even more ammo for their meme generators. However, for people like me, I’m just not convinced that he is unanimously the Greatest of All time in the sport and if this documentary was supposed to prove that, then it may have missed its mark with me. The debate has now been narrowed from Jordan vs Kobe vs Lebron to Jordan vs Lebron and that is mostly because Kobe (RIP to the Legend) is the closest thing we have seen to Jordan in recent years and we will never get anything as close ever again. However, Lebron, despite “many” losses in the finals seems to be right on Air Jordan's heels. According to many Jordan fans, there is no debate due to Jordan’s perfect record in the finals but for many “basketball” fans (because Jordan fans are really different from basketball fans) James’ ability to do more with less is undeniable and is starting to become a quality that experts, analysts, players of both eras and even some of Jordan’s ex teammates all seem to take note of. BUT that is not what I am arguing here although I’ll be happy to roast you Jordan fans in a Lebron debate all in good time. My point here is to offer a different and more unique perspective. If we are talking about the GREATEST, why are we not talking about a player who dominated a league over 2 decades? I'm talking about the true GOAT (for now) KAJ – Kareem Abdul Jabbar!
Through this extremely well done documentary, we saw a few things:
1) Just how competitive and dominant Jordan was in his prime
2) The way in which he took basketball, the NBA, and his personality, global
3) Just how underappreciated in many cases, players like Pippen, Kerr, Rodman, Paxson and Grant are in their contributions to Jordan’s success, dealing with their own personal struggles and having to perform at the highest level
4) just how much of a d*ck Jordan was as well (in my honest opinion, I think Jordan has narcissistic qualities but I ain't no psychologist).
What I love about this documentary is how detailed it is in regards to exploring Jordan’s greatness but also his flaws which include gambling, overly competitive nature, torturing his teammates, etc. When we compare great players, Jordan surpasses them all because of one simple fact: He’s been perfect in the finals ,6-6, 6 rings, MVPs, you name it. All this irrespective of several losing seasons in the playoffs but I digress. At the end of the day, you can’t really touch perfection. The real question is if we are really looking for the GOAT and what Greatness truly is, should we really be looking for perfect record? Not to mention, we are talking about perfection in a very short window of time and fans seem to ignore the "I'm Back" season where Jordan did NOT lead his Bulls to the finals. Should we not be looking at Skill, Dominance, Longevity AND Character? Because to be great, you must have some character, right? For Jordan fans, the answer is no! You can antagonize your own teammates, bring terror to the locker room, and even punch one of your own teammates in the face, as long as it gives the desired result: winning! Now this is not about being “nice” because on the battlefield, nice guys really do finish last but this is about having level of respect for your teammates that goes beyond winning. The question I would ask all Jordan fans is…Do you rather someone who would sacrifice any and everything (including teammates) to win? If your answer is yes, then Jordan is "Your" GOAT!
My argument is this; Jordan came into his prime as big dynasties were dwindling (Pistons, Lakers, Celtics) and the Bulls were the powerhouse. Jordan is often credited for Bulls success when in fact, it wasn’t until Pippen & Horace arrived that they started to really succeed. But never mind that, we all know Jordan was the most dominant player in the league at the time with a future hall of fame coach and an amazing organization supporting him. My thing is we always look at the comparison post-Jordan era, especially with Kobe and Lebron but we refuse to put Jordan up against the greats the came before him, specifically Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Why is He NOT considered the GOAT conversation? My guess, it’s the one comparison that Jordan would LOSE hands down! It’s like we discredit an entire generation when it comes to this specific debate (mind you, Kareem won 3 rings on Jordan’s watch – 85, 87,88) . Why isn’t Kareem in the GOAT conversation? I think it Is because Jordan was the catalyst to the evolution of basketball where it and the NBA became a full blown global culture that weaved into music, fashion, film, art, and pop culture (but let me remind ya’ll about how Kareem took on Bruce Lee in his prime). Jordan is the reason we buy sneakers, wear Nike and drink Gatorade. Jordan is why Kobe mastered the turnaround fade and why Lebron, among countless others, wear number 23. But does that mean he’s the greatest of all time? Most say yes. I say, let’s look at some facts: Kareem also won 6 rings, heading to the finals a total of 10 times winning 1 early in his career with the Buck (THE BUCKS lol) and played through Jordan’s first 5 seasons (in which Jordan never made it past the first round). Kareem legit invented the skyhook, a move that made him unguardable and a move that players still can’t master today. Kareem helped create what we know as “Dynasty”, was still balling hard during the Magic Showtime era and helped beat several other 80s dynasties like Pistons, Philly and Boston in the finals. Since the Bulls were the 90s Dynasty, Bulls never were faced with a team the was equal or better in the finals, although, that is debateable (Phoenix, Pacers, Utah and Knicks may come close). The biggest fact is the Kareem remains the NBA’s All Time Scoring Leader, a record that is 30 years old and has yet to be broken (Jordan has slid down to 5th on the list).
So again, if we are looking at dominance, being an icon, long jevity, and just being a decent human, why isn’t Kareem in the GOAT conversation? I personally believe when its all said and done, Lebron will be the best player the game has ever seen but because he doesn’t have a perfect finals record, he will never seem to measure up to Jordan, but in the same vein Jordan doesn’t measure up to Kareem. Not to mention, Kareem won his last ring at age 40!!!!!! Age 40!! By the time Jordan un-retired again, he jumped to the Wizards and never saw the playoffs again! Lastly, they both have 6 rings, but outside of that Kareem wins in almost every other statistical category (pts, rebounds, assist, field goal %, assists, blocks, steals). Kareem dominated on BOTH ends of the court and wasn't just an elite scorer. Not to mention, Kareem dominated in the NCAA leading UCLA to 3 Championships! So again, why are we not giving Kareem his roses? Because everyone got on Jordan brand goggles! Jordan had ALL the right pieces in place: a great coach ( Phil Jackson) a great system (Triangle Offense), a great org, GM (Krause), and hall of fame teammates (Pippen, Kerr, Grant, Rodman). I understand, this is how dynasties are built and I’m not taking away anything from Jordan, I just choose to see “other’ options in the GOAT debate. But if y'all need a perfect symbol of greatness then Jordan is your guy. I on the other hand, need more than perfect record for inspiration. I need a person that wins when they losing is imminent, that dominates when needed and not at the expense of their teammates and a person who actually stands for something outside of their sport. To me, that's the true definition of "clutch" but for now, I just want Kareem Abdul Jabbar to be given a little more respect for his contributions to the game. So when we talking about GOATs, don't ever leave his name out the convo again! Comment if you want to continue this debate...