Andy Hodges

As ‘Last Dance’ finishes Sunday night, quit with the GOAT arguments

As ESPN’s The Last Dance finishes on the mothership Sunday night, maybe all of this ridiculous attempts to come up with the greatest arguments will, too.

As ESPN’s The Last Dance finishes on the mothership Sunday night, maybe all of this ridiculous attempts to come up with the greatest arguments will, too.

There’s no way to determine that.

Tell me which set of rules you’re using to determine the answer and I’ll give you the answer. That answer is based on what the rules were at the time because no matter what kind of self-proclaimed genius anybody is they don’t really know.

While The Last Dance has basically been a min-series on Michael Jordan, we don’t even know how he would have handled some of the decades before him.

Sure, he still would have been a great player but it wouldn’t be for driving into the lane and dunking with his tongue hanging out.

“Not after he landed in the 20th row and no foul was called,” Wilt Chamberlain told me one time in 1986.

Yes, that’s the way the game was played back then.

Ray Felix of the New York Knicks got a little carried away with Bill Russell and was promptly knocked unconscious. Russell was fined $25.

Even the Bad Boy Pistons would have had to step up their game in that day and age. If you got into the lane you paid a price and you better be big enough to pay it.

Russell, by the way, made Jordan look like a cheerleader in terms of leadership and drive to win. He basically ran the Boston Celtics (and Red Auerbach let him).

When the Celtics traded for Don Nelson from the Los Angeles Lakers, he was concerned about the criticism of his lack of rebounding and defense. Russell sat him down at the first practice and told him just do what he does — score points.

“I’ll take care of the rebounds,” Russell told him.

Russell won 11 championships and coached two of the teams that won as a player-coach. His goal was much, much different than Jordan.

In those days they played All-Star games harder than a championship game now. They also couldn’t run from midcourt without taking a dribble to dunk the ball while a couple of opponents stand and observe.

Sorry, that holds zero interest for me.

And it’s also why you can’t determine anything except by era. Here’s the best I saw based on their eras (and some were great in multiple eras)

This is best on what I saw with my eyes. Your opinion may be different.

But there is no way I can pick one as the greatest of all time.

Nobody else can, either, with any guaranteed certainty. It is, quite simply, one of those questions that has multiple answers.

NBA 1960-69

Center: Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers
Power Forward: Bill Russell, Boston Celtics
Small Forward: Elgin Baylor, Los Angeles Lakers
Shooting Guard: Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals, Milwaukee Bucks
Point Guard: Bob Cousy, Boston Celtics

NBA 1970-79

Center: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers
Power Forward: Elvin Hayes, Houston Rockets, Washington Bullets
Small Forward: Julius Erving, Philadelphia 76ers
Shooting Guard: John Havlicek, Boston Celtics
Point Guard: Walt Frazier, New York Knicks

NBA 1980-90

Center: Hakeem Olajuwon, Housto Rockets
Power Forward: Charles Barkley, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets
Small Forward: Larry Bird, Boston Celtics
Shooting Guard: George Gervin, San Antonio Spurs
Point Guard: Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers

Arkansas’ Sidney Moncrief gets a mention in here as he was arguably the best defensive player in the league during a lot of those seasons.

NBA 1990-99

Center: Shaquille O’Neal, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat
Power Forward: Karl Malone, Utah Jazz
Small Forward: Scottie Pippen, Chicago Bulls
Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Point Guard: John Stockton, Utah Jazz

NBA 2000-09

Center: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Power Forward: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat
Small Forward: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Point Guard: Steve Nash, Dallas Mavericks

NBA 2010-19

Center: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors
Forward: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers
Forward: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City
Guard: James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets
Guard: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

 

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