Although Michael Jordan followed the footsteps of NBA greats such as Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and went toe to toe with Earvin “Magic Johnson, his Airness is still labeled as the best to ever do it.
On this day 8 years ago, Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest of all time, was inducted to the NBA’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Today’s NBA stars, such as Damian Lillard, have taken to social media to give their opinions on the matter. On August 29, the Portland Trailblazers point guard responded to a Tweet sent to him asking if LeBron James has a chance to ever surpass Jordan.
I don’t think ppl will ever be able to admit someone is better than Jordan even if they are lol… https://t.co/DiLT7BLHd5
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) August 30, 2017
Lillard was quick to shut that down and replied “I don’t think ppl will ever be able admit someone is better than Jordan even if they are lol…..”.
The response warranted a lot of attention and begged the question, “will ANYONE besides Jordan EVER be considered the G.O.A.T?”
Many NBA stars have gotten close to challenging the six-time champion, but there always seems to be something missing.
The most notable comparison is recently retired Los Angeles Lakers guard, Kobe Bryant, who is always thrown into the conversation for the all time greatest discussion.
It’s hard not to include the former superstar from Lower Merion High School, especially when their playstyle is quite similar, but yet again people are hesitant to put him above Michael Jordan.
A constant knock on the Lakers guard is his inability to play defense, despite his appearances on both the first and second All Defensive teams. The only aspect of his game that separated him from Jordan in this category is falling short just one first team selection.
It’s also to note that throughout his career, Bryant was only to eclipse an average of two steals once in the 2002-2003 season. Jordan averaged 2.5 for his entire career, and even when he returned after retiring to play for the Washington Wizards he averaged more than a steal and a half in those two seasons.
It’s worth noting that Bryant was able to turn it on defensively when he needed to, but Jordan’s defensive switch was always on. It didn’t matter what the occasion, or who the opponent was the Chicago Bulls defense, led by Jordan, suffocated the other team into committing turnovers.
Even with his defensive switch always on, Jordan still made sure to do his part on the offensive side and is still considered one of the best scorers alive. That’s where Bryant is held up to the same level as Jordan, his ability to get it in the hoop at any time, any place. The on and off switch that makes athletes perform at their absolute best, despite the obstacles or fatigue.
Just like Golden State Warriors small forward Kevin Durant said, “the game will always be about buckets”, and although the 2017 NBA Finals MVP was referring to recently inducted Hall of Fame forward Tracy McGrady, the message is still the same.
Putting the ball into the hoop has always been one of the main differentials of the elite and the average player, but it also comes down to rings. Bryant has been one of the only recent players to even come close to the six champions that Jordan won in
Chicago. With a record of 5-2 in the NBA Finals, the Black Mamba’s last appearance came in 2010 against the Boston Celtics, and after that the Lakers fell into a constant state of mediocrity.
Some will point out that the botched Chris Paul trade, that would have put Paul, Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard together, put a strain on the franchise and their quest for Kobe’s sixth ring. But even with Howard and Gasol in the frontcourt, the LA legend wasn’t able to get the best out of the former Orlando Magic center and the season itself was a flop.
So would Kobe have added one more title to his resume if Paul were added to the Lakers roster? Who knows, but one could also argue what if Jordan never took a year off after his first three-peat?
The list of accolades go on and on for both phenoms, and Kobe Bryant is most likely a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but when it comes to chasing the G.O.A.T, more is needed.