Some of Jordan’s predecessors have tried unsuccessfully to debunk the theory that he is the greatest ever. Oscar Robertson, the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season, had this to say about the topic. “The media now has anointed Michael Jordan the greatest of all time. Is he greatest of all time? No, I don’t think he is.”
Then Scottie Pippen dropped this jewel during the NBA Playoffs. “But I may go as far as to say LeBron James may be the greatest player to ever play the game because he is so potent offensively that not only can he score at will but he keeps everybody involved."
To say Pip was attacked would be an understatement. He was scorned, vilified, but most of all, he was questioned. Who is more qualified to say if Jordan was the best ever? Yet, it seems no one is allowed to question “His Airness'" placement on the throne. Should you dare to do so, you will be removed from the village and ostracized to the forest among the wild, since this is where some believe you belong for speaking such tomfoolery.
Pippen’s comments solicited an open letter from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In that letter, Abdul-Jabbar questions Jordan’s and LeBron’s credentials to obtain the title of G.O.A.T.
Three different players, all of whom have played at the highest level of basketball and all are emphatic that Jordan was not the greatest. The more significant point is the outcry of disrespect directed to not just these three, but to anyone who publicly dares to throw rocks at the throne.
The sports world, and basketball fans specifically, have been led to believe that there is no greater winner than MJ, that no one player was as dominant during their era. When in actuality that is not the case, and is one of the many myths we have unconsciously devoured.
Bill Russell is basketball’s greatest winner, always has been. Russell’s 11 rings in 13 years is the epitome of winning. In the two years he did not win the championship, Russell lost in the finals and the Eastern (Conference) Division finals. Right now, every person over the age of 55 is smiling from ear to ear. Russell was the quintessential winner, but is often omitted when discussing the G.O.A.T.
What makes the Russell argument so strong is that the goal of every player is to win championships. The “upset” in sports is what attracts the casual fan, and one of the things that motivates the avid fan. In 11 years, the Russell-led Celtics never had to say “If we played them 10 times we would win nine. They were the better team in this series.”
In short, his focus and discipline should warrant more than just a casual mentioning more than likely said by someone who watched him play.
Just for good measure, where do you think Jordan’s six championships rank him all-time?
MJ currently sits tied for ninth place. He is resting comfortably after 76,000 Celtics and Robert Horry’s seven. Oddly enough, he is tied at six with the very man whose letter facilitated this inconvenient truth.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leader in regular-season total points scored with 38,387, and Wilt Chamberlain is the single-season leader for points (4029) and has the highest single season points per game average (50.3). This is very intriguing because MJ is not second, not third, not fourth, but fifth (shout out LeBron James). How can the greatest scorer to ever crap between two shoes be fifth? How can the greatest scorer ever trail Wilt in 60-, 50- and 40-point games?
Jordan is the all-time playoff leader in total points scored, and single-season leader in points per during the playoffs. He also holds the record for consecutive seasons leading the league in scoring with 10. However, if Kareem is the total points leader and Wilt is the points-per-game leader, it should be arguable that Jordan is the game's greatest scorer—not definitive.
So, if our celebrated king is not the all-time leader in rings or points, where did he conquer his kingdom? The overwhelming response is going to be the eyeball test. The eyeball test can be the difference between a man buying you a beer and giving you an eye jammie—especially when talking about Jordan.