Jay C. Brandriet
When Michael Jordan retired the first time (1993) he was widely considered at a minimum, the most transcendent sports figure since Ali.
I’d estimate 80 percent of NBA fans I encountered, thought he was the greatest player of all time.
After June of 1998, MJ was almost universally considered the G.O.A.T.
The basketball public gave Michael this distinction.
Today, and for years to come LeBron James will be Jordan’s figurative rival in this sports argument.
Someone asked me last week, “who was the G.O.A.T. when you were a kid?”
Such a good question, I had to write this piece.
I’ll take myself back to April of 1988, when I was 13. Still young, but old enough to have some thoughts on the topic.
At that time Magic Johnson and Larry Bird ruled the NBA world.
Michael Jordan was the supreme talent in the game.
SO, WHO WAS THE G.O.A.T. WHEN I WAS A KID?
What’s interesting, is there was not a clear answer.
Though I took the names of West and Robertson seriously, it felt like a mix of four different guys.
This is how I would split the percentage pie of who it SEEMED like the greatest was when I was that age.
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR (40%)
Jabbar had the best blend of personal and winning accolades. He had the most All-Star games, and points. He also came with the most unstoppable shot. Kareem’s career was coming to a close at this point, and he was being celebrated each game like an iconic NBA grandpa.
WILT CHAMBERLAIN (30%)
Wilt was a mythical character of dominance and athleticism. Many of his stats and records are still unbreakable. His 100 point game and the fact he once averaged 50, were always pushed by those in Wilt’s corner. He was more old school than Jabbar, Having “just 2 rings” hurt his definitive case as the best of the best.
BILL RUSSELL (15%)
Russell was heralded for his amazing leadership, defense, and winning. We were taught, “Russell was the ultimate winner.” I felt like he started to get more G.O.A.T. like respect in the early 2,000’s.
JULIUS ERVING (15%)
DR. J. had class. He was the hero, of my basketball heroes. When retiring he was being compared to the elite guys in all other team sports. Erving felt a little Goatish.
Those four athletes did not have close to the advantages of exposure guys like Jordan and James have had.
We are all biased towards the players we saw in person, or in real time.
The “greatest” is all just perception and opinion. It makes for fun debates.
As time continues to roll by, the amount of names in the conversation will naturally rise.
There’s a 12 year old out there right now.
He will have LeBron’s body and basketball IQ.
He will play defense like Rodman, and have Larry Bird’s swag in the clutch.
Oh ya, he may have a wicked skyhook.
In 20 years, many will be calling him the G.O.A.T.
Jay C. Brandriet