Is LeBron James the GOAT? Considering Some Factors
Trying to sort out a complex matter — such as whom the GOAT is in a particular sport — ranges from difficult to nearly impossible in many cases. When trying to evaluate two players from different eras, peeps tend to look at stats and championships first. While this may seem like the most efficient way to determine an edge for one player or another, it can never completely tell the entire story.
On top of stats, the visual aspect of players from bygone eras just don’t physically match-up in old grainy videos and early photos. Looking at pics of Babe Ruth and Mike Trout and trying to imagine the “Babe” somehow outperforming Trout in today’s MLB doesn’t compute in the minds of a younger generation of sports fans. That directly fuels a “recency bias”, and the NBA’s greatest performers will all face this type of scrutiny as a new generation of athlete is perpetually ushered in.
When assessing LeBron James as the GOAT, his longevity is the first thing that stands out. James has been performing at an extremely high level approaching two decades now. LeBron has won all the awards and is deserving of being on the short list of those to consider when it comes to the NBA GOAT.
Although the obvious comparison (and perceived last hurdle to clear) in considering James as thee GOAT is convincing the Michael Jordan crowd that “King” James is indeed the largest figure standing on basketball’s Mount Rushmore. Funny thing is, many people still make the case that LeBron isn’t even better than Larry Bird — let alone “His Airness.”
Yes, LBJ is gifted with a superior genetic blueprint from a physical standpoint; therefore, watching YouTube vids from nearly a half-century ago doesn’t do Larry Legend any justice. The lanky aspect of players from that era (not to mention those horrid short-shorts) is apparent in 80’s b-ball. That said, there’s a natural progression of humans through time as we find ways to improve all aspects of life.
Just take a gander at humans in photos from 1900 and compare it with pics from 2000. A “strongman” from that era was generally a large human with a big gut — devoid of muscle definition. Today, athletes are jacked to the hilt. There isn’t enough love for those playing sports a few decades ago (or longer) when trying to size them up with today’s prototype athlete.
As times change through progression, so does the American athlete and the leagues they compete in. Advances in training methods, nutrition, kinesiology and therapy have all helped today’s NBA player maintain and play at a higher physical level than those of Magic and Larry’s time. However, that shouldn’t snap tell us that today’s baller is better just because of these advancements.
Hooping in the 80’s and 90’s was a different time. Hand-checking and knocking a guy on his ass if he even thought about driving down your lane was the norm. Today’s NBA is more of an entertainment product, with players regularly taking a 3-4 step trip to the rim amid players who routinely give up on defense. The emphasis on three-point FG attempts is now paramount around the league. Larry Bird didn’t even average a full 3-attempts beyond the arc (per game) even though he’s associated with the triple and being a pioneer big man of that era.
When trying to make a case for the GOAT, one has to take many factors into consideration, which leads some to mention greats such as Bird, Magic, Kareem, Wilt, Oscar and Russell. Deciding an NBA GOAT is ultimately and purely subjective. Old-school generally holds up the MJ banner, while new-gen says LeBron. This story may never have a consensus winner. However, as LBJ continues to rack up the stats, he’s that much more likely to win-over additional voters — especially if he manages to win another title before he hangs ’em up.
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| Title: Is LeBron James the GOAT? Considering Some Factors
| Author: Steven Miller
| Date: Nov 29, 2021