May 31, 2017
LeBron James Doesn’t Care if He’s the GOAT
As his Cleveland Cavaliers approach yet another NBA Finals, superstar LeBron James continues to be mentioned in the same conversation as others considered to be the Greatest Of All Time. Is he better than Jordan? Better than Bird? Better than Magic or Kareem or any of the others often held up as the best to ever dribble a basketball. Ask most of these guys, and they’ll likely say “it’s me.” Ask LeBron, and King James may just shake his head.
James says his pursuit of the records set by Michael Jordan have nothing to do with wanting to be considered the GOAT. He’s just using those metrics as personal motivation to get better. You know who he sounds like when he says these things? Like Mike.
Jordan was, more than anything else, the ultimate competitor. He would not allow the flu, a death in the family or an endless parade of the best and toughest defenses in the history of the game to stop him. Detroit’s Bad Boys? Done. Stockton and Malone? Done. Barkley? Ditto. The best just made Jordan better, and that’s exactly what James says is his motivation. He relishes the chance to bang up against today’s best, even as he pursues records that have stood for a generation.
He’s certainly had opportunity. James is looking at a seventh straight trip to the NBA Finals. That, in itself, is phenomenal. But it’s not enough for the King. He wants to win more. He will likely eclipse Jordan in playoff points scored in this year’s tournament, and he’s not far from being the first player to ever score 6,000 points in the playoffs. Sure, some of that came as he carried his team on his back, but a lot of those buckets came as he worked with superstars around him to collect jewelry.
Asked during a pregame presser what he thinks about his pursuit of greatness, James was characteristically blunt, “You guys are gonna have the conversations about who’s the greatest of all time and things like that … it doesn’t matter to me.”
James did admit he thinks the GOAT conversation happens more in basketball than it does in other professional sports. That could be because there are fewer players on the court than there are on the field or the ice, but there’s also no doubt that a truly “Great One” can take over a game in any league. Just ask Gretzky or Elway. But LeBron isn’t buying that:
“It’s never talked about (in the) NFL, who’s the greatest quarterback. It’s just like (Dan) Marino, (John) Elway, (Peyton) Manning, (Tom) Brady – all great quarterbacks. It should be the same for (the NBA)… We go out and just try to be as great as we can be every night. The comparison of always trying to compare people, either living or still playing or not playing – I think it’s great for barbershops.”
In other words, let the fans argue about it. King James has work to do … and that work may eventually turn all this GOAT talk into a moot point.