Rethink the GOAT – Protecting the GOAT

Posted: August 15, 2012 in Bunker

Rethinking G.O.A.T.

Maybe championships shouldn’t define the greatness of a player. I defy anyone to tell me that (performance enhanced or not) that Barry Bonds wasn’t the greatest player they have ever SEEN on a baseball field. Not many were around to see Willie Mays and almost no one was around to see Babe Ruth. Hank Aaron was impressive, but over the span of 20+ years. From 2001-2004 Barry Bonds had the greatest 3 season a hitter has ever had. No one was concerned that he didn’t have any bling to show for it, because we’ve somehow all agreed that baseball is a team sport. Due to steroids and other things, in baseball we become overly protective of Babe Ruth and his legacy. Probably because he was a Yankee and maybe because he was a man far ahead of his time. (see: Jim Brown). But we can never profess any baseball player to be better than Ruth. Sacrilege! Again, it’s very interesting given that no one of this era witnessed the Babe play.

On the other hand there’s no real GOAT in football. The only position where the GOAT isn’t debatable is Wide Receiver. The numbers don’t lie, it’s Jerry Rice.

Unless of course:


For your money and my money the greatest Quarterback of all-time comes down to 2 players for vastly different reasons. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. They don’t calculate Wins Added in football, but you would be hard pressed to find a player that accounts for more wins than P. Manning. A 4-time MVP, a Super bowl champion and will end up having the greatest stats of any QB in history. On the other hand we have Tom Brady. Brady, a 2-time MVP, 3-time SuperBowl winner, 5-time AFC Champion. He undoubtedly is the heart of the Patriot dynasty. The lone man left from their improbably 2001 Superbowl win. Brady’s 3-Superbowl wins puts him in a  class where he often overshadows his contemporary Manning. Manning gets the credit for being the better “Quarterback”, but not the better player. Brady gets the edge because of championships. Isn’t it our duty to rethink that simplistic logic.


“If Manning gets another… then we can have that discussion” is something we often hear. Manning gets the credit for having one ring. But when we look back, it’ll be very similar to the way Montana and Marino are remembered. Marino’s greatness is overshadowed by his ringless hands. So when we talk about the all-time greats his pushed behind Brady, Manning, Elway, Montana, Young and some of his other contemporaries. Does that make sense?

Now for the one I find most problematic. Michael Jordan is the most accomplished basketball player of all-time. I won’t argue otherwise. Given the era, his dominance, there was nobody who maximized his potential much like Jordan. However, the Jordan mystique would make it seem as though he had never lost a game. It’s become so bad that we remember Jordan passing the ball to Paxson.


The Jordan lore would make it seem as though he never shot poorly format he field. Nor that he was never questioned as a choker or a greatest shooter, but a bad teammate.

When Jim Boeheim, Coach K and Scottie Pippen have suggested that LeBron could one day be better than Jordan ( and were ripped for it by many) the numbers don’t lie. In addition, Jordan’s accomplishments must be remembered in their proper context. How many top 15 players were around during Jordan’s era? How many all-time great teams could challenge the Bulls. Would we feel the same about Michael if he only had 5. Would we then claim Kareem with 6 was the better player?

Championships, especially in basketball relies heavily on your great players, but having a great team at the right time (see Spurs v. Cavaliers, 2007) often trumps even the greatest.

LeBron’s versatility and his uniqueness may make him one of the greatest of all-time already. But we for some need the proof of TEAM accomplishments to validate the player. In the Jordan v. LeBron argument most of the usual arguments and measurements you would use to compare players (defense, scoring, rebounding, passing, versatility etc.) would favor LeBron. But intangibles like “Heart” “Ruthlessness” go to Jordan [intangibles I might point out that are only used to justify the actions of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan]. In the end when people are down throwing the intangibles and superlatives out, they use championships. As if the championships are only a function of the player, not the surrounding team.

If we are to compare individuals, we should compare individuals. I’m still not too sure where championships fit into the GOAT debate.


By the way Jordan was REALLY REALLY GOOD

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