For this assignment a paper was to be written discussing something somewhat controversial, or something that could be argued. I decided to write about the NBA, because I love talking about sports, and it is something I am very passionate about. Often times, my friends and I get into intense debates about who the best basketball players of all time are. I hate it when they bring up how many championships certain players have won, because I really don’t think it should matter, for a collection of reasons. In this paper I explain why it is wrong to ever use this statistic to distinguish between players’ greatness.
When I revised this piece, I went back and added more clarification on who certain players were, and provided much more background so that a person with little NBA knowledge could still understand the argument. Throughout writing this paper, I came to the decision that Lebron James should probably be considered the greatest of all time, although Jordan’s highlights are certainly more flashy.
Why Rings Shouldn’t Matter
The average bonfire almost always gets heated when the discussion turns to who the greatest basketball player of all time is. I myself have been apart of this discussion many times. No one can ever be proven right or wrong, but that’s what makes it a fun debate topic. When discussing the greatest basketball player of all time, it is entirely inappropriate to mention how many times that player has won the NBA Championship. This statistic is insignificant, and should never be used to prove a point. There are many other things to consider before this, such as points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, steals per game, and defensive ability.
A few years ago, when asked how good Lebron James is, who is considered one of the greatest players of all time, and is still active, Kobe Bryant, another all time great, replied, “Five is greater than one.” Both of these players are considered a couple of the best to ever play, based off of many things, mostly talent alone, as well as incredible statistics. Kobe was implying that he had won the NBA Championship five times, while Lebron has only won it once. Thus, he is further implying that Lebron is still below him. The logic that Kobe is better than Lebron because he has more rings, aka championships, is totally flawed. Based off of this logic, then Bill Russell should be the greatest of all time, because he has 11 rings. But this clearly isn’t true, because Russell never had great statistics, and wasn’t as athletic and dominant as tons of other players. Also, every team has several players that hardly get in the game, or don’t get in the game at all. Therefore every championship team has some of these players. So there are some players who have a collection of rings without actually doing anything to earn them. Are these players just as great as Kobe Bryant? Clearly not.
Michael Jordan is considered the greatest of all time by almost everyone. This is because on top of his tremendous talent, athletic ability, basketball IQ, defensive ability, and clutch gene, he won a total of six championships, and was the most valuable player every championship series. And what else? He was 6-0 in the finals! He never lost in the finals. Many people use that to separate Jordan from Lebron, who has only won three championships, and lost four. But i’m here to tell you why that fact shouldn’t be used to separate the two. The reason Michael Jordan won six rings, and never lost in the finals, was because his team was great. Jordan had a supporting cast full of future hall of fame players. Jordan was the best player on the team, but he had other people to help him out, and help him win all his championships. Lebron James has gone to the finals seven times already, which is once more than Jordan did in his whole career. But he was only won the finals three times. This doesn’t make Jordan better than Lebron. Lebron, several times, took very mediocre teams to the finals. It was an incredible accomplishment for him to have taken several of his teams to the finals, because other than Lebron, those teams were not very good. He really didn’t stand a chance in a couple of his finals losses, because he didn’t have a supporting class even close to the talent that Jordan had alongside him. Basketball is a team sport, and a championship is a team accomplishment. It is not something that can be achieved alone.
As a whole, using the number of championships a player has won to determine how great he is, is very inconsistent. Kareem Abdul Jabbar has won the same number of rings as Michael Jordan, and has also scored the most points of all time. Statistically, Jabbar matches up well with Jordan. There is no real reason for him to not be considered just as good as Jordan, especially because they have won the same number of championships. According to people who use number of rings to distinguish players, these two should be very close to each other. But they are not. Kareem isn’t even considered a top five or even ten player by most analysts. Why is this? I truly have no clue, it really makes no sense. This just shows that using number of championships is too inconsistent to determine greatness.
Overall, basketball is a team sport. There are five players on the court at a time for each player. One man only accounts for twenty percent of his team at any given time when he is on the court. A single player can certainly make a team better, but a single player can never win a championship for an entire team. It takes the right collection of talent and chemistry to achieve a championship. This is why it is absurd to ever say that rings matter when discussing who is the greatest basketball player of all time.
If you’ve never seen Michael Jordan play…
Kobe was good too…
If you watch these videos, you will probably find that Jordan has the flashiest highlights, and I would agree with that. But don’t let that determine who was truly the greatest. Here are some statistics comparing the three careers when they were each 29.