The GOAT debate has been discussed ad nauseam recently coinciding with the airing of “the Last Dance” documentary on ESPN. Players and analysts from every era have been weighing in with their opinions. I am going to go ahead and give my two cents on the matter.
I do not know how this is even a discussion, Michael Jeffery Jordan is the GOAT. No matter what LeBron James does from here on out he can only hope to be #2. We could debate all day long comparing each ones accomplishments and accolades but I’m going to simplify it down to this:
Which player would you want to make a shot to save your life?
In this hypothetical situation you are dying and the only way to save your life is if either Michael Jordan or LeBron James has to make a free throw. The choice is up to you. The answer is obvious.
Michael Jordan undoubtedly.
“The Last Dance” has illustrated just how much of a cold-hearted assassin who shined under the greatest of pressure MJ was. Larry Byrd was quoted after a loss to him saying “…that was God disguised as Michael Jordan”. Great quote from a Hall of Famer. Watching MJ in his prime was like watching something otherworldly occurring.
As a kid growing up I watched MJ play in the Finals during both of his threepeats. The first threepeat I was very little so I have little memory of it, but the second one I remember very well. All three of those Finals runs I had absolutely 0 doubt that the Bulls would emerge victorious. I don’t remember anyone on Earth outside of Utah or Washington not believing the Bulls would win. Each series was already over before it began. You may have conceded in your mind a home win for the Jazz or Sonics, but you knew there was no chance, NO CHANCE for them to beat the Bulls four times.
I didn’t watch for the thrill or the suspense, I watched to see the greatest player of all time triumph. It was a lot like watching Space Jam. You knew MJ was going to win in the end but you watched in awe anyway.
I remember watching the Kobe and Shaq led Lakers win a threepeat as well. Those were some really entertaining playoff runs. As great of players as Shaq and Kobe were, there was doubt as to whether they would win or not. The Spurs and the Kings both gave those Lakers fits. It took some buzzer beater heroics from Big Shot Rob and Derek Fisher for them to get there.
My point is there was at least some doubt.
That brings me to LeBron. He has been unquestionably been the best player in the league for 10 years plus. He made the Finals 8 years in a row. However during those runs he only came out with 3 rings. You can say all day long that the Heat and Cavs wouldn’t have even sniffed the Finals those years if it were not for him, but in the end it took miraculous end of game shots from Ray Allen and Kyrie Irving for LeBron to get 2 of those rings.
LeBron has a history of folding under pressure. In clutch moments LeBron always defers to someone else to take the shot. He is historically a sub-par free throw shooter and is even worse in the closing second of a close game.
I am not saying the better free throw shooter determines who is the better player (Michael could and did make them with his eyes closed tho) what I am saying is who would you count on to make one to save your life?
With LeBron you would hold your breath. With Michael you wouldn’t even have to watch. You would breath a sigh of relief already knowing you are going to be all right.
There would be absolutely no doubt at all in your mind that the GOAT would come through for you in the end. All I would ask of him would be for him to not close his eyes.
You could argue that any of the greatest free throw shooters in history would be a better pick, but this is a shot to save your life, not just to win or seal a game. Who would you want? Steve Nash? Pistol Pete? Or God disguised as Michael Jordan?
In the end yes, LeBron is a one of the greatest but he is not THE greatest. There is a reasonable doubt to be had in him, whereas with MJ the only doubt would be whether the ball would touch the rim or not.
The GOAT is the one who could perform miracles, no further argument required.
Jose has written for Bleacher Report, Clipperholics, OC Weekly and wrote a series of articles covering the 2010 NBA Finals for the LA Times. He lives in Southern California and is excited to watch thePeachBasket grow!