When the greatest NBA player of all time argument comes up, those three names are popular choices.
In reality, picking the GOAT NBA player is strictly subjective. If you admire accomplishments, then Bill Russell is your guy. 11 NBA championships say enough.
If you lean toward pure dominance and longevity, then LeBron James may be your GOAT. At the age of 35, James is well on his way to being the most complete player in history.
But if you want the blend of accomplishments, longevity and in Michael Jordan’s case, basketball grace, then he may be your GOAT.
However, what really makes Jordan the greatest of all time isn’t just his basketball skill set or his accomplishments.
What made Michael Jordan the greatest player to ever step on the floor? His determination to win.
Jordan went six-for-six in the NBA Finals during his time with the Chicago Bulls. Yes, Russell won 11 NBA titles and is more accomplished in that sense than Jordan. But Russell wasn’t known as an assassin on the court, just a winner. Jordan was a winner and an assassin. He struck fear before he stepped on the court. That is rare.
Impact and influence have to be fairly weighted when the title of GOAT comes into play, from the embrace of basketball shoes to wanting athletic guards who dunk, score and distribute to taking the assignments of guarding the best players on defense and doing whatever it takes to win. Speaking of, the fourth quarter belonged to Jordan.
Even though Michael Jordan retired 17 years ago, his influence is imprinted in basketball. While we will respect James a great deal when he retires, will his influence be on par with Jordan’s? We are still struggling to give Russell his flowers while he can still smell them.
James will more than likely retire as the most accomplished individual basketball player who ever lived. He will become the only player with 30,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 10,000 assists. That is an incredible accomplishment in itself. But Jordan transcended stats and accomplishments. He won with grace and made it seem easy even when it was difficult. He inspired his generation and the ones after to prioritize winning.
So what makes Michael Jordan the greatest of all time? Repeat after me: he represents winning. It’s as simple as that.