“…I said that even before I knew I was.” When Mohammed Ali made that statement, he was seen as arrogant, cocky and self righteous. But there is a certain level of self confidence, will and desire that goes into making a great competitor the greatest. Across all sports, there’s usually that little edge that separates great players from the greatest. In basketball it isn’t the stats, it isn’t only the rings; rather it’s the sheer will and desire and ability to shoot a jump shot consistently (bet you thought this would be a cliche).
I will address the importance of shooting the basketball later, in the meantime, I want to put an end to possibly the biggest sports debate on the planet; “who is the greatest NBA player of all time – Mike or Lebron?”
There was a defining moment in the 2018 NBA finals, that compelled me to pen this article. Game 3, Cavs down 3 and Kevin Durant has possession of the ball. Hold that thought, let me first introduce you to the aforementioned. Kevin Durant is arguably the best offensive player in the game today. His size defies his abilities, his shooting range can only be matched by a .50 caliber rifle, he has an uncanny ability to handle the ball for his size. In short he’s an offensive God.
Back to the story…So Kevin is dribbling over the half court line, there’s a minute remaining in the ball game and Lebron has the defensive assignment. Steph Curry sets a pretty weak screen and Lebron went under, allowing Rodney Hood to pick up his assignment. Now there’s nothing wrong with a defensive switch typically, but it is usually used when a defender has no other choice, usually because of how good the screen was and how deadly the player is. Instead of fighting over the screen to stay in front of Kevin, Lebron showed no desire to keep his assignment. Kevin sized up Rodney, used another weak screen and drained a three pointer from way behind the three point line. Coach Lue called a timeout and Lebron started staring down his teammate in anger. Make no mistake about it, when the game is on the line, the greatest competitors do not let up. Whether they are fatigued, injured, off the whole night, has a tough defensive assignment; you name it, they will find a way to get their team the victory.
Lebron does everything well, his talent is unmatched possibly in the NBA’s long history in terms of his ability to do so many different things on the court. There has never been another player like him and it will be difficult to find one like him ever again. Shaquille O’neal has been called the most dominant big man in NBA history, I say Lebron James is the most dominant player in NBA history. Lebron could very well have averaged a triple double his whole career if he wanted to. The one chink in his armor since he joined the league straight out of high school is his inability to make a consistent jump shot, especially when the game is on the line.
When Lebron went to his first NBA final, his team (Cavaliers) got swept by the San Antonio Spurs. For the entire series, they bated him into shooting and was ready to shut down the paint when he drove. It was a simple strategy to stop this freight train of a man, yet it proved very effective. He has improved his offensive game since those early days, developing a pretty decent post game and even improved his shooting a little bit, today though he still remains an unreliable jump shooter.
The importance of making a consistent jump shot cannot be understated, despite all the other things you can do on the court if you cannot make a consistent jump shot you cannot be regarded as the greatest ever. Sounds ridiculous? Let me explain a bit further. Traditional big men (before they became shooters and dribblers, like Kristaps Porzingis and the like) have never really been regarded as the greatest players ever, ever! This is even Despite there ability to score loads of points and grab plenty rebounds. Not many people will agree on this point, but quite simply the greatest players need to be ‘money’ with a jump shot with 1 second or less. A quick dribble to create space and the ability to make that shot consistently when the game is on the line. That’s what Mike, Bird etc did their whole careers and where Lebron has consistently failed.
Lebron is the most dominant basketball player in the history of the NBA, Mike is the greatest of all time.
Everybody wanna be like Mike, even Lebron.
Written By: Jason McPherson