Why MJ IS NOT The Goat

A scene of Michael Jordan, watching a video on his tablet during the ten-part docu-series “The Last Dance”

Hello everyone! This piece discusses my reaction to the docu-series “The Last Dance”, and why I think… Michael Jordan isn’t the greatest basketball player ever. Enjoy, and please share it with your friends.

Before I begin, I must clarify. In my opinion, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever.

Not LeBron. Not Magic. Not Kobe. But Michael Jordan.

Remember, it’s my opinion, which doesn’t matter in this debate. However, I’ll explain the reasoning behind it.

Michael Jordan shooting over three Detroit defenders during the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals. He would lose to Detroit in three straight postseasons before defeating them in 1991.

These past few weeks I’ve watched “The Last Dance”, a ten-part docu-series which goes behind the scenes on the 1997–98 Chicago Bulls, and everything before that season. The series perfectly highlights Jordan’s star power.

It’s no mistake Mike had talent. As a six-foot-six scoring guard, he dominated a league littered with tough, physical big men on each roster. He had no weaknesses. He could shoot, dribble, pass, and defend at an elite level.

He had accolades. He was the Rookie of the Year. The Defensive Player of the Year. A five-time MVP. A six-time NBA champion. A six-time Finals MVP. Fans and players in the league immediately realized his special abilities.

He was competitive. Mike made sure to tell opponents he would destroy them, each time he went to battle. He did anything to gain an advantage, whether it was mental or physical. He was a trash-talker. And he did whatever it took to win.

Michael Jordan attempting a layup during the 1991 NBA Finals. His Chicago Bulls would defeat the L.A. Lakers in six games.

Watching this docu-series proved to be a joy. Oftentimes I wish to be born thirty years earlier, so I can see Michael Jordan’s amazing feats in real-time.

I would kill to be in attendance when Mike scored sixty-three points on the Boston Celtics. Or for his battles against Detroit in the postseason. Or when he picked apart my New York Knicks. Or his Game six performance against Utah in 1998.

My favorite part of the series is when Jordan and his teammates discussed how he treated them. Many feared him. At times he was overbearing, and would ridicule them. He was an authoritarian.

I thought to myself, “I would hate to play alongside someone like him, he sucks the joy out the game.”

Michael Jordan attempting a fade-away over Clyde Drexler in the 1992 NBA Finals. His Chicago Bulls would defeat the Portland Trailblazers in six games.

But when Mike explained himself, in tears, it all made sense. He’d literally busted his behind getting the Bulls back into relevancy. It took him discipline, hard work, and dedication.

None of his teammates were there from the start like Mike. Therefore, he expected his teammate to act on par with him, regardless of how he treated them. And sometimes he crossed the line. The man punched Steve Kerr in practice for no reason.

But his method resulted in six freakin’ championships. Jordan was doing something right.

And it was cool to see the human side of Michael.

I entered this world in 2001, so I missed out on Jordan’s glory years with the Chicago Bulls. It just adds to the fascination I have for him. For me, Mike represents a sort of God-like figure.

Michael Jordan attempting a free-throw during the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He would win his first gold medal with the “Dream Team”, that summer.

And “The Last Dance” further proved that. Such an amazing watch.

Despite what I said before, here’s why Mike isn’t the greatest ever.

Typically when you ask someone who the greatest basketball player ever is, you receive three concrete answers.

Those three are Michael Jordan, LeBron James, or Kobe Bryant. Other candidates may or may not include Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, or Wilt Chamberlain, amongst others.

So what’s the difference between the players I just mentioned?

Michael Jordan (right) alongside Charles Barkley (left) during the 1993 NBA Finals. Mike’s Bulls would defeat the Phoenix Suns in six games.

Aside from their positions, they played in different eras, and were in their prime during different times. Wilt ruled the sixties, Kareem the seventies. Magic the eighties & Jordan the nineties. Kobe the aughts & LeBron the tens.

The NBA has evolved since it’s creation seventy years ago. Each new era introduced a new style of basketball.

Recently, I read an article on ESPN that made a good point, and inspired this piece. Click here if you would like to read.

The point stated “Jordan was the best scorer of his era because he was the best post-up and midrange shooter of his time. He was the best at what everyone was trying to do.”

Michael Jordan attempting a fade-away over Gary Payton during the 1996 NBA Finals. The Bulls would defeat the Seattle SuperSonics in six games.

That statement made me think. It’s impossible to pinpoint one person as the greatest ever. Each all-time great played ball differently. And, each great played the way that was most popular at the time.

Ultimately, there are too many factors involved for this to be a legitimate argument.

Here’s what I mean.

During the eighties, the NBA game was played at a fast pace. Teams flew up and down the floor and for as many shot attempts as possible.

Magic Johnson, the eras top player, played at a fast pace. He led the “Showtime Lakers”, who often ran teams out the gym, to five titles during the decade.

The nineties featured a slow it down, methodical approach to the game. Big men, post-ups, and mid-range jumpers were the staples of every team’s offense.

Michael Jordan, the eras top player, specialized in both post-ups, and midrange shooting, despite playing at shooting guard. This resulting in his six titles in the decade.

Michael Jordan (left) and Scottie Pippen (right) during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, a.k.a “The Flu Game”. The Bulls would defeat the Utah Jazz in six games.

The aughts featured some resemblance to the nineties. Games had more isolation plays, and/or included several teams led by a single superstar player.

Kobe Bryant, the eras top player, is the most talented isolation player ever. His game resembled that of Michael Jordan, and most years, Kobe was his team’s only offensive weapon. He earned five rings this decade.

The ten’s were defined by two factors: three-point shooting, and versatility.

LeBron James, the eras top player, is as versatile as anyone. He can play all five positions on the court without issue. And Steph Curry, arguably the eras second best player, changed the NBA with his deadly three-point shooting.

So why do I share with you this information?

Kobe Bryant (right) defending Michael Jordan (left) during the 1997–98 regular season. Kobe idolized Michael and referred to him as a “big brother”.

As stated before, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever, to me. However, there shouldn’t be a debate. We must stop comparing the greats. Each one brought something new to the table as the game continued to evolve.

LeBron can’t be better than Mike because he averaged more assists and rebounds. And Mike can’t be better than LeBron because he can post-up, and shoot well from thirteen feet.

They were just the best at whatever style was prominent in their respective eras.

The “Greatest of all-time” debate should be scrapped altogether. There are just too many components to consider, which makes for a poor argument. There really isn’t a “GOAT.” Each player is exceptional in their own unique way.

Therefore, that’s why Michael Jordan isn’t the greatest basketball player of all-time.

Michael Jordan shooting the title-winning jumper against the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals. That was his last field goal in a Bulls uniform.

To conclude, “The Last Dance” was a much-needed distraction for me during quarantine. It brought our world together in a time where we’ve all been distancing.

The series opened my eyes in a myriad of ways, and proved to be a memorable experience. I love to hear the story, behind the story. Hopefully, teams, in every sport, will gift us with something similar in the future.

If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!



*Special shoutout to Kameron, Anthony M, Kimberly and Bintou. Also shoutout to Jake and Josh, congrats on graduating guys!

(Originally posted May 19, 2020 on Medium. Edited May 23, 2020 on WordPress.)

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