The Greatest of All-Time: Fiction Rather Than Facts

Ahnaf AhmedContributor IIISeptember 15, 2011

Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson: two of the greatests
Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson: two of the greatestsGetty Images/Getty Images

Fans of any sport love to discuss many topics; the greatest of all-time of a certain sport is always an interesting debate.

When it comes to basketball, which player is really the greatest? Some say Wilt Chamberlain, others might say Michael Jordan, many youngsters claim that it’s Kobe Bryant, and a Celtics fan might believe Larry Bird is the greatest. People have various answers to this question.

But who is the best of the best? The answer is nobody. The greatest of all-time debate is a subjective topic.

Fans’ perception about the legacy of players varies from individual to another. Many fans, for instance, might value scoring above anything else. Others, meanwhile, might value the completeness of a player. Some might even consider the one with the most championships as the greatest of all-time, whereas others will label the player with the most MVPs as the greatest.

There is no right answer, nor a wrong answer to this debate.

What makes this topic even harder to debate is the fact that many greats have played in different eras. Different eras have different rules. For instance, in the days where Bill Russell’s Celtics dominated the league, there were no three-point shots, and blocks and steals were not recorded.

Also, opponents of great players are really hard to debate. For example, it is not known whether Jordan would’ve had an easier time than Wilt Chamberlain, had he faced the Celtics’ dynasty in the 1960s. It is not known whether Wilt would’ve dominated today’s bigs with his amazing speed for a 7-footer. It could be argued that Larry Bird might have averaged fewer points if the 3-pointer was never allowed. Maybe Hakeem would have never won a title had Kareem and Magic been in their primes in the 90s. All of these are pure speculation, and nothing factual.

Stats can be deceptive.

Stats tell people that Iverson was a great scorer, but was a very low-efficient scorer. However, stats won’t tell you that even with Iverson’s low efficiency, Philadelphia’s terrible squad back then was a perennial playoff contender.

Stats do not tell people under what coaching scheme a player is playing for. It could be argued that if LeBron played in a balanced offense ran by a good coach, he might average a lower number of assists. In addition, stats tell fans that Iverson was a great defender based on his steal count. However, stats will not tell the average fan that Iverson gambled on defense, and was mediocre when it came down to playing sticky defense on his man.  

Many fans love to take the media’s take on the greatness of a player, whereas others love to quote players and coaches about the legacy of a certain player. It should be noted that the media, the coaches and the players’ perception about a certain player does not make it factual, it’s their opinions.  

Many legendary players are great in their own ways.

The various perceptions of “greatness” from fans, dissecting the competitiveness of an era, the rule changes and comparing the opponents of greats makes it virtually impossible to determine who the greatest of all-time really is, not only in basketball–but in any sport.