CHICAGO, May 14, 2012 – To make things crystal clear, this is not a claim that LeBron James is the greatest player of all-time, in other words the most accomplished, the most feared. It would be awfully hard to deny Michael Jordan or Bill Russell that title, as they managed something that has eluded LeBron as of this season: the actual winning of a title. No player without one single championship ring ever deserves to be called the greatest player of all-time.
The most physically gifted player to ever step on the court is a different ordeal entirely. Jordan was an incredible athlete, but if you put him up against a center and told him to play lockdown defense, you would have that seven-footer putting up 40 points and 30 rebounds. Air Jordan could dunk from the charity stripe, but boxing out a 280lb center would definitely seem to be too much.
Conversely, imagine Bill Russell guarding even the average college point guard. His ankles would never recover from being broken so badly.
So you can see how the greatest players the game has ever seen weren’t the most gifted, but now just try to open your mind and imagine that the converse statement is also true. LeBron is the only player in the game right now who can effectively guard any player on the floor, from point guards to centers; the only person that could reasonably mentioned in the same defensive-versatility category would be the great Scottie Pippen.
That places LeBron on a level that only Pippen and perhaps a few others could match in terms if defensive prowess, but that’s only one side of the court: the other half is just as important. As of right now, James has scores 11 more points than Pippen did in each career game, as well as collects an extra half-rebound and dishes out another assist and a half (an important distinction considering that LeBron’s going to have to beat a very good Pacers team without the help of Big 3 teammate Chris Bosh).
In other words, LeBron is the offensive Superhero of his team. Pippen was just the sidekick, albeit to the G.O.A.T.
The debate for the title of being the greatest player of all-time is an easy one; in general, claiming that someone other than Jordan deserves the title is enough to instantly have you deemed to be insane. The debate for the most athletically gifted player surprisingly merits more discussion, and unfortunately, the most logical solution to the problem is the one man that no one wants to admit to be capable of greatness.
Now if only he could pull out an NBA championship every now and then, he could sleep well. Until then, King James, enjoy the high honor of being the player with more potential than anyone in the history of the game that never managed to package it together into results that the fans care about.
To contact Nick Goralka, see above to send him an e-mail containing a question, comment, or scathing insult. His work appears in Alley-oops for Touchdowns! and That Liberal Pinko in the Communities at the Washington Times Online.
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