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Debating the NBA’s greatest

Published 12:28pm Wednesday, February 20, 2013

By Andy Graham

There’s a debate going on right now in the sports world about the greatest NBA player of all time and who actually deserves that moniker.
Of course, this argument has been going on and will continue to go on as long as the NBA exists, but the recent exploits of LeBron James have caused many to revisit the question.
So many in this latest generation have already anointed James as the greatest and, to be honest, he’s beginning to win over some of the older generation as well. In fact, my 14-year-old nephew informed me that James is clearly better than Michael Jordan.
In the end it’s all a matter of opinion and everyone’s entitled to an opinion (even if they are clearly wrong).
I think James is a phenomenal athlete and a superb basketball player, but he is not the greatest NBA player of all time and it’s not even close. At this point, Lebron James isn’t even in the top five.
He may be before the end of his career, but let’s actually let his career play out before we go crazy.
Arguments like these are always generational to some degree and there’s no clear standard by which players are judged.
What makes a player the greatest of all time? Is it his statistics? Is it championships?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leads professional basketball in scoring by a wide margin with 38,387 points. He’s also third on the all-time list in rebounds with 17,440 and third in blocks with 3,189.
He won six NBA championships, six NBA MVPs and was a 19-time All-Star in his 20-year career.
Statistically, Abdul-Jabbar is undoubtedly the greatest NBA player of all time.
Bill Russell, however, won 11 NBA championships with the Boston Celtics from 1957-1969, with eight straight from 1959-1966.
Russell is second in NBA history with 21,620 rebounds and also second in rebounds per game averaging 22.5. He once gathered 51 rebounds in a single game.
Russell also won five MVP awards. If the greatest is measured by championships, Bill Russell has no competitor.
I think statistics matter a great deal and I think championships matter as well, but it goes beyond numbers to be considered the greatest of all time.
Only two men fit the bill to be the greatest NBA player of all time. First, Wilt Chamberlain was probably the most dominating force the NBA has ever known.
Chamberlain is fourth all-time in scoring (31,419), first all-time in total rebounds (23,924) and first in rebounds per game (22.9). He was one of only two men to average 30 points per game for his career.
Wilt Chamberlain won four MVP awards and two championships, good for second on my list.
The greatest NBA player of all time is Michael Jeffrey Jordan without any doubt.
He’s third all-time in scoring (32,292) having played at least 400 games less than the two men ahead of him.
He averaged 30.1 points per game for his career which is first all-time. He is also third all-time in steals with 2,514. He won five MVP awards and six NBA championships.
He took the game of basketball to an entirely new level all by himself. He made every clutch shot and rose to every challenge (unlike James).
Jordan was, is, and will always be the greatest.
Graham is a columnist for The Outlook.