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OTG Roundtable: Who's Your G.O.A.T!?

Via. Essentially Sports

It's a conversation that'll never end it's engrained in every major sports league. The desire to debate, "who's the greatest of all-time? Why?" Several of us at OTG got together to join the debate in regards to the NBA. You might be surprised by some of the G.O.A.T selections..

Jonathan Ebrahimi - @EBRAO7

G.O.A.T: LeBron James

Via. Time Magazine

Plain and simple, the GOAT is the best player to ever play the game and I’m not messing around with hypotheticals like “If Magic played in 2010, he’d obviously be more athletic” or “Jordan would magically be a better shooter if he played today”. That player must have the resume and statistical accomplishments to back up your talent, but there is no mathematical equation that proves one player to be greater than the other. Counting championships and MVP trophies just doesn’t work, especially when you compare players across different generations.

With that being said, in my opinion, LeBron James is the GOAT. No player has had his combination of size, skill and athleticism and his overall in-game impact is unrivaled. He does everything on the court, and he does it at an elite level. James scores with the greatest scorers of all time. He passes with the greatest playmakers of all time and he can defend with the greatest defenders of all time.

Even though he has been criticized for his defensive effort recently, we forget that at one-point James was arguably the best defender in the league. In fact, the advanced stats point to LeBron James being a superior defender to Michael Jordan when they were both at their peak.

His resume speaks for itself, but ultimately, the fact that James is the most dominant player in the most talented era of NBA basketball is the reason why I have him as the GOAT.

Nik Cuvalo - @NiikCuvs

G.O.A.T: LeBron James

My G.O.A.T selection is LeBron James. MJ and LBJ are as neck-and-neck as two candidates can be, and honestly, you can’t really go wrong with either one as your choice for basketball’s very best (or Kareem for that matter, if you’re an older head).

But for me, it boils down to sustained, all-around greatness. LeBron is the player I’d want to build my team around; his combination of athleticism and court vision (without even mentioning his scoring ability, despite his current pace to break the 40,000 career points marker) raises the floor of any team. While MJ was a scoring machine, and perhaps a better one-on-one defender, his presence alone was not demonstrated to be equivalent to a nearly-guaranteed Finals appearance.

LeBron’s longevity, which has him on pace to become the NBA’s first-ever 40K-10K-10K player (points-rebounds-assists), is the final criterion that edges him over Jordan. If you consider MJ’s reign as the best player in the NBA to stretch from 1987-88 (his first MVP award) to 1997-98 (his last MVP before second retirement/Wizards stint), that gives him an impressive 10-year coverage as the NBA’s top dog. But there’s a reason why they call LeBron the King; LBJ, if you start from his first MVP (2008-2009; also perhaps the most impressive carry job in NBA Playoff history), then LeBron has already hit 11 seasons of dominance; his name has never left the conversation of ‘best player in the world’ in that timeframe. The scary thing is: he might still have a few years (rings?) left in the tank.

Justin Quinn - @Justinquinnn

G.O.A.T: Bill Russell

Via. NBA.com

I hate the idea of a "G.O.A.T."

Between the lack of agreement on what the term even refers to and the incommensurability of comparing players from different eras, it can feel like a big pat on the back for our own subjective opinions.

But of all players in the history of my favorite sport, there is one I hold above others.

That would be Bill Russell, 11-time champion and one of the few players in NBA history who actually bent the game to his own cerebral style of play.

And for me, it's the mind of Bill Russell that's every bit as impressive as the embarrassment of hardware; the indisputable greatest winner of all time forged his path with an extraordinary consciousness of the world in which he lived as a second-class citizen, choosing --decades before the concept of a "platform" for athletes truly even existed -- to put his career on the line to support those who would come after.

A lifelong civil rights activist, Russell continues to stand (and sometimes kneel) for causes he believes in -- even eschewing personal honors to the degree of refusing his own induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame until trailblazers like Chuck Cooper received the respect due them.

For me, to be the G.O.A.T. requires more than just on-court prowess. It needs a foundation beneath it deeply rooted not only in the solidarity of team basketball Russell's Celtics epitomized, but in concern for one's fellow humanity -- a defining feature of the Louisianan's storied life.

Khaleel Abdullah - @Its_khaleel

G.O.A.T: Bill Russell

The names you hear the most when debating the greatest player of all time are Michael Jordan, LeBron James and maybe even Kobe Bryant (RIP Black Mamba). While you could make a legitimate argument for any of those, I’m here to tell you who the real G.O.A.T is in my opinion.

M.J. himself said the point is to win championships and you can’t argue with math. For that reasoning alone, one player stands head and shoulders above all others.

My G.O.A.T is Bill Russell. He played 13 seasons and in that time won 11 rings, so many that he could wear one on each finger and let you hold one. Bill was also named MVP on FIVE different occasions and was named an All-Star 12 times. He didn’t have the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Scottie Pippen or Dwyane Wade on his squad. He instead single-handedly took down the original super team and big three of Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain.

The odds of any current player or future player doing what he did are so slim that this title may never be taken away from him. Bill Russell is the G.O.A.T.

Kyle Russell - @kbrheatnation

G.O.A.T: Michael Jordan


What does it mean to be the greatest player of all time, the G.O.A.T? To me, it’s about recognition. Sure, hoop heads and blog boys will go on and on about stats, awards, circumstances, or playstyle. Ultimately, though, the general NBA fan either won’t know or won’t care for such nuance, let alone someone vaguely interested in basketball.

The G.O.A.T is someone everyone knows is the G.O.A.T and the majority agree. So what’s compelling enough that everyone can agree on? To quote Tyrion from Game of Thrones: “Nothing is more powerful than a story.” While a terrible method to pick a king, it’s my gold standard for picking a G.O.A.T.

Stats, awards, accomplishments, historical moments, all can be encapsulated within the story of a player's career. And no one has a better story than Michael Jordan. Don’t believe me? Go check out The Last Dance. The scoring barrages. The playoff moments. The undefeated Finals record. The worldwide recognition that this guy was the greatest to ever play. Lebron James is still writing what could be the greatest basketball story of all time, but right now his isn’t better Jordan’s.

It’s not the most original or provocative answer, but that’s because we all know deep down it’s the truth: Michael Jordan is the G.O.A.T.

Victor Sabatel - @Vic_Sab

G.O.A.T: Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan has been and will continue to my personal G.O.A.T. I have no quarrels with those making arguments for LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wil Chamberlin, it’s just impossible for someone like me who lived through his reign of terror to disavow his genius. It isn’t just his six championship rings, it’s the many moments he created on his way to immortality, it’s the slam dunk contests, it’s the dream team, it’s the flu game. Jordan has changed the lens in which we viewed athletes in America. Jordan’s resume speaks for itself, he has won just about every individual and team award possible all while dominating a league during the height of its popularity.

The aerial displays, ungodly scoring outputs, and clutch shots have elevated Jordan into a different stratosphere. Jordan’s individual numbers will always validate his claim to the throne but it’s his influence and cultural impact that make transcendent. Names like Babe Ruth, Wayne Gretzky, and Tom Brady are synonymous in their respective sports for greatness, the select few whose exploits have come to define a generation for fans. Jordan is that rare caliber of an athlete whose feats have managed to morph sport into theater, and transform basketball players into icons.

Cody Kluge - @cody_kluge

G.O.A.T: Michael Jordan

Via. Chicago Tribune

A lot of players can be considered the greatest to ever play, including Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and LeBron James just to name a few. In my mind, and the minds of many, there is just one guy who stands above the rest: Michael Jordan. When looking at who might be the greatest of all-time, several factors must be analyzed, but two of the biggest are what you did when it mattered most, and how much you won.

Jordan was an elite scorer, a good passer, and as a lot of us may forget an incredible defender. But the man was simply one of the most clutch players we have ever seen. Jordan did not miss when it counted, and that is part of what separates him from a guy like LeBron. The talent and clutch gene helped the star lead the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles in eight years, and who knows what would have happened had he not retired to play baseball. Chicago absolutely dominated the ‘90s and we may never see a team do that again. Although he began getting tired legs during the Bulls last couple of title runs, Jordan was amazing for the better part of fifteen years, and never shined brighter than his last sequence as a Bull, where he made a layup, a steal, and the game-winner for his sixth title. The NBA has seen a lot of stars, but there is no doubt that Jordan is the greatest of all time.

Kory Waldron - @KwalHoops

G.O.A.T: Michael Jordan

The Michael Jordan documentary is fresh in my mind still and I know it was a form of propaganda to make Jordan once again seem untouchable. I think Lebron James is close, I truly believe that when it's all said and done we will say Lebron is the greatest of all-time. We just aren't there yet, there isn't a completed resume. Jordan pulled off not one but two three-peats. One of the hardest accomplishments in major league sports which is hardly ever done. The fashion in which he did it, that attitude of winning at all costs, pushing himself and others to be the very best.

What makes him the G.O.A.T to me is the awards, accomplishments, titles, performances and lastly the legacy. Jordan became bigger than the sport he played, he's been retired for nearly 20 years and his name is just as strong. As long as there is an NBA there will be talks about Jordan, he left his mark for decades to come.