Posts Tagged ‘Bill Russell’

The Trouble with G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) Debates

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

Image via KnowYourMeme.com

Image via KnowYourMeme.com

About a week ago, BEFORE the outcome of the Super Bowl, I made the case against Tom Brady being the G.O.A.T. …or more specifically, against the overly simplistic criteria of Super Bowl rings so many use to come to such a conclusion. Since the Patriots’ improbable comeback, social media has been inundated with claims that it validated his G.O.A.T. status.

 

Even before last week’s win, Brady was well within the conversation…even if the conversation itself is inherently flawed and incomplete. Why? Consider Joe Montana’s response to the question about Tom Brady.

 

“I think that it’s really hard to put anyone in that bucket,” he said. “Even before he got five-you look back to some of the guys some people don’t even know, Sammy Baugh or Otto Graham, I can’t remember which one but one of them won like seven or nine championships and was so far ahead of their time. It’s so hard to compare guys from then to now, how they would compare here and how we would compare back then.”

 

Maybe this is merely one competitor’s refusal to surrender the mythical throne to another, but even if it is, can it be denied that he has a point?

 

Here is the trouble with G.O.A.T. debates: 1) they wreak with recency bias; 2) they lack consideration for era context; and 3) its participants have no way to factor in the eye test.

 

Why are they subject to recency bias? Because it is a natural tendency of human memory. That is precisely why those running for political office try to get the last positive idea about themselves and/or negative idea about their opponent out before the actual election. Whatever is most recent is often deemed “better” or at the very least, most reliable. This is compounded as time goes by. As hard as it might be to comprehend, in 30-40 years some very knowledgeable basketball fans will be having a G.O.A.T. debate and it will not be open and shut that such a title will go to Michael Jordan. In fact, some will not even give MJ proper consideration. As ridiculous as that sounds, trust me, it will happen.

 

Then there is the lack of consideration for the context of eras. Regardless of the sport, different rules and circumstances provide for different challenges. So essentially, the comparisons are next to never “apples to apples”. For example, for most of Mel Blount’s career as the best corner of the 1970s, he could literally maul receivers all over the field until 1978 when the “one chuck within 5 yards” rule was implemented. Add that to the fact that he didn’t have to cover long playing on the back end of the Steelers “Steal Curtain” defense and pass rush. So as great as he was, how does one compare him to Deion Sanders as a cover corner?

 

How does one compare Johnny Unitas to Tom Brady, who faced the same 11 guys on defenses that were far less sophisticated when compared to today’s defenses? But Unitas also had to use receivers that had a much more difficult time getting open then any that Brady has had. Finally, defenders could actually rough up Unitas without getting the flag that they would get today against Brady.

 

The differences cannot be limited to sports factors alone. Our food supplies are different, one could argue for both the better and worst of that supply, I contend has led to bigger and stronger athletes, if not necessarily better. Thus, the more recent era produced a 300+ pounder named Shaquille O’Neal. It’s often said he would have knocked Bill Russel into the second row. But would he have been 300 pounds had he come along during Russel’s era? Would Russel have been a mere 215 pounds had he come up during Shaq’s era? Unless an adjustment is made for both, it’s as a ridiculous comparison as it would be comparing the production of a secretary with a typewriter with one that has a computer. Or the closure rate of a homicide detective with DNA with one before DNA.

 

The last factor in the flawed GOAT debates is the lack of the eye test. This is what stat junkies fall for all the time. Statistics alone do not provide the nuance that only actually watching an athlete does. In other words, consider sports greatness the same as the Supreme Court considers pornography: you may not be able to define it, but you know it when you SEE it.

 

Statistically, some will make the case for Andy Petite being a viable Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF) candidate over other lefthanders such as Mickey Lolich, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, Vida Blue, or David Wells; none of whom are or ever will get into the HOF. I remember all five of them and trust me; Andy Petite, though a very good pitcher for many years, was not as good as any of them.

 

So how can we continue these flawed, but highly entertaining debates? One simple adjustment; instead of declaring who is the G.O.A.T., how about we simply limit it to the G.O.Y.T. or Greatest of Your Time? Under this banner, we are all qualified. Recency bias is not a factor, we can all speak to era context and we limit our assessment to those we have actually seen play.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Melanin Mount Rushmore

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

by OGICIC

MMR

I’ll be honest, I’ve never participated in the “Kobe v. LeBron” or “Kobe v. MJ” debates and I’ve refrained for a simple reason. None of the aforementioned names come anywhere close to being the “greatest” in basketball. I love Floyd Mayweather and he has a success story which is filled with hard work and dedication, yet in still he can never be the “greatest”. I just watched the Super Bowl and was rooting for the Patriots, though after the victory I refused to engage in the “is Tom Brady the greatest?” discussion. Why? Because the greatest is named Jim Brown! The greatest in basketball are named Bill Russell & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar! The greatest boxer is named Muhammad Ali!

How do I define greatness, or the “greatest”? I define it by one’s performance on and off the field. To be the “greatest” means that you persevered through far more than anyone else, emerged victorious and uncompromised. How can Michael Jordan, or LeBron James, or Kobe Bryant be the “greatest”? I’ve never heard of MJ speaking up for the inner city youth that die for his shoes, much less the Chinese youth that make them. I appreciate LeBron’s speaking up on issues and his philanthropic efforts, but how does any of that exist without Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? If we are to talk hardware, Bill Russell won 11 NBA championships and did so as both a player and coach in one of the most racially hostile cities in America (Boston). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (aka Mr. Never White America’s Negro) won 6 NBA championships. If we are to talk about more than championships, Bill and Kareem have been avid advocates and spokespersons for Melanin/Hebrew/African-American people! They stood with boxing’s “greatest” Muhammad Ali, as he took on the racist and biased institution.

Jim Brown? Well he only won 1 NFL Championship, yet his fight of racism and injustice, his youth work and his constant advocacy have more diamonds in them than any ring!!!!

Thats how I define greatness……so sorry….MJ never has a chance, Kobe not even close, LeBron (I guess we can wait and see) can be 3rd at best! Brady, no way, Montana, never heard of him. Marshawn………heeeeyyyyy……..ask Jim about that one!

Zachariah Ysaye Oluwa Bankole “OGICIC”, for War Room Sports

Is Michael Jordan Really a Sellout?

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

By Devin McMillan

Charlotte Bobcats majority owner Michael Jordan walking into a labor meeting last week.

 

Last week, before the news of child sexual abuse at Penn State University rocked the sports world, the newswire was abuzz with another story.  It had been rumored that certain circumstances in the NBA labor negotiations were causing current NBA players to see their childhood idol and proverbial hero, Michael Jeffrey Jordan, in an entirely different and negative light.  Much of the subsequent conversation surrounding  this topic was sparked by a column written by Jason Whitlock for Fox Sports, labeling “His Airness” as a “sellout” for being the “hard-line front man” for NBA ownership’s eagerness to roll back the amount of revenue shared with the players on a yearly basis. 

Jason Whitlock calls “MJ’s” stance the “ultimate betrayal” due to the fact that the league is now filled with young, Black players who grew up worshipping Jordan and purchasing his overpriced shoes and apparel, ultimately helping to make him and his brand the financial titans they are today.  He thinks Michael Jordan is betraying the same players’ union that went to bat for him and forced the Bulls to pay him $30 million per, in his final two seasons in Chicago.

Though all the aforementioned information is indeed fact, there is one huge flaw in this overall line of thinking.  Michael Jordan is no longer an NBA player.  He is the owner of an NBA franchise.  On behalf of that franchise, Jordan has recently been engaged in negotiations where he’s sat on the other side of the table from the players.  Michael Jordan is no longer obligated, nor would it be intelligent for him to think along the lines of, or fight for the wants/needs of NBA players.  He is majority owner of the small-market Charlotte Bobcats; a team that has struggled in the standings as well as in the stands.  The team’s average attendance last season was 15,846, leaving 16.9% of Time Warner Cable Arena’s seats empty on a nightly basis.  The team does not have a transcendent superstar, nor could they afford to keep one succeeding the years of a rookie contract, if they were lucky enough to acquire one in the draft in the first place.  His team also resides in a city that has once already failed as an NBA market, losing its first NBA franchise to New Orleans.  The franchise has been losing money since the moment Jordan purchased it from BET founder Bob Johnson in February of 2010.

So why is it again that Jason Whitlock, NBA players, or anyone else with interest in this story, thinks that Michael Jordan should go out of his way to be the voice of the NBA player in these negotiations, to the detriment of his business?  I don’t think anyone should be labeled a sellout for giving a damn about their bottom-line as a business owner.  The current economic landscape of the NBA is not beneficial for many owners of small market franchises.  So why shouldn’t they fight to change it?  Why is there a growing sentiment that Michael Jordan owes the current crop of NBA players anything?

This isn’t the first time Michael Jordan’s name has been synonymous with the term “sellout”.  Jordan has never been of similar pedigree of socially-conscious superstar athletes of the past, such as Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Jackie Robinson, etc.  He has always garnered criticism for never lending his name or using his power, influence, or iconic status to get on the front lines of any pressing social issues.  So, if social activism is what you look for in your influential, superstar athletes, call him a sellout for that.  You’d still probably be toeing that fine line of ignorance, but at least the sentiment would be somewhat understandable to at least a certain rational portion of the population.  But to imply…or to flat out say that a business owner is a sellout for looking out for the best interest of his business, is absolutely ridiculous, in my opinion.

I attribute this line of thinking to the overwhelming “employee mentality” prevalent in our society.  Everyone wants to walk around calling themselves “bosses” but think in a manner opposing everything a boss stands for.  I often hear fans sing cries of empathy for athletes while lauding the position of ownership in sports.  No one (obviously Jason Whitlock included) puts themselves into the shoes of the men who invest hundreds of millions of dollars into sports franchises.  People who live lives content with working for comfortable pay while making the next man rich do not seem to understand the risks involved with investments on this level…or any other level for that matter.  They’ve been brainwashed to believe that the person who could potentially get injured on the next play takes all the risks in a labor relationship.  But none of the “employee-minded” realize the risk of leveraging a fortune to run a sports franchise.  When your biggest work-related investment is a full gas tank or a functional bus pass, I expect you to think this way. 

For Jason Whitlock or anyone else to hold these types of expectations of Michael Jordan just because he was once a player is reminiscent of how struggling Black people expected their struggles to be eradicated because Barack Obama got elected president.  Michael Jordan is a team owner now and Barack Obama is president of America, not Black America.  He would have had to have been elected the president of Zamunda to remotely have a shot at fulfilling those silly expectations. 

In actuality, I wish this story wasn’t even about Michael Jordan.  I say this because I’m certain that many people will agree with my sentiments, albeit for the wrong reasons.  People will agree, not due to any profound business-related points I may have think I’ve made regarding this topic; but simply because negative-speak about “MJ” has been deemed as blasphemy in many circles.  Well, this isn’t one of those circles.  Michael Jordan has personality flaws, just like the next man.  If you’ve ever met your hero in person, outside of a camera-filled setting, then you probably know exactly what I mean.  It is also trendy in many circles (especially Black ones) to vehemently oppose anything written by Jason Whitlock.  I don’t subscribe to that methodology either.  As with any sportswriter or writer in general, each piece is met with the same high level of objectivity and my opinion of that particular piece will be formed as I read it.  I don’t allow myself to form an overall opinion of the man based on each of his individual writings.  Whitlock has written plenty of material that I have absolutely agreed with, but he has also written plenty that I’ve thought to be utter malarkey (to borrow a term from my sports media colleague, Brandon Pemberton).

So yes, Michael Jordan has made a fortune selling overpriced shoes, sugarless juice, and horsemeat burgers to idol-worshipping, Black, inner city youth.  Feel what you will about that fact, but keep in mind that we all had a choice.  Yes, Michael could have been more active in the plight of “his people”, but I guess that just wasn’t his thing.  Yes, MJ’s “brand” has always been more important to the man than anything that you and I have tried to deem important for him.  However, Michael Jordan’s example taught today’s players how to be “brands” in the first place.  Without the path that he laid, the Lebrons, the Kobes, the Wades, and the Durants of the world would have never even begun to realize their full earning potential in this league.  “MJ” has done more than enough for these players.  He doesn’t owe them anything more.

Devin McMillan of The War Room, for War Room Sports

How Soon They Forget: An Open Letter to Scottie Pippen

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

 

Wilt "The Stilt"

Dear Scottie,

I have nothing but respect for you my friend as an athlete and knowledgeable basketball mind. But you are way off in your assessment of who is the greatest player of all time and the greatest scorer of all time.  Your comments are off because of your limited perspective. You obviously never saw Wilt Chamberlain play who undoubtedly was the greatest scorer this game has ever known. When did MJ ever average 50.4 points per game plus 25.7 rebounds? (Wilt in the 1962 season when blocked shot statistics were not kept). We will never accurately know how many shots Wilt blocked. Oh by the way in 1967 and 68. Wilt was a league leader in assists. Did MJ ever score 100 points in a game? How many times did MJ score more than 60 points in a game? MJ led the league in scoring in consecutive seasons for 10 years but he did this in an NBA that eventually expanded into 30 teams vs. when Wilt played and there were only 8 teams. Every team had the opportunity to amass a solid nucleus.  Only the cream of the basketball world got to play then. So MJ has to be appraised in perspective. His incredible athletic ability, charisma and leadership on the court helped to make basketball popular around the world — no question about that. But in terms of greatness MJ has to take a backseat to The Stilt.

In terms of winning, Michael excelled as both an emotional and scoring leader but Bill Russell’s Celtics won 8 consecutive NBA Championships. Bills rebounding average per game is over 22.5 lifetime, MJs best rebounding years was 8 per game (1989). But we will never know exactly how many shots Bill Russell blocked because again, they never kept that statistic while he played. However, if you ask anybody that played against Russell they will just roll their eyes and say he blocked all the shots he wanted to block in the crucial moments of a game.

Bill played on a total of 11 Championship teams and as you very well know, Scottie, the ring is the thing, and everything else is just statistics. So I would advise you to do a little homework before crowning Michael or Lebron with the title of best ever. As dominant as he is, Lebron has yet to win a championship. I must say that it looks like Miami has finally put the team together that will change that circumstance. Its my hope that today’s players get a better perspective on exactly what has been done in this league in the days of yore.

The change in style to the game is not any indication as to how many really talented players there are in the game. So the fact that skilled players come from all over the world does not change the quantity of outstanding talent. Simply put the number of players that could have stopped Wilt Chamberlain in his prime has not increased.

Affectionately, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA’s All-Time Leading Scorer

p.s. If you want to see some real legends arguing about the greats of the game check out my new documentary, On the Shoulders  of Giants, the story of the greatest basketball team you never heard of.  It’s available to watch instantly on Netflix.

www.kareemabduljabbar.com/championshipseason

Taken directly from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.com, the official website of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

What You Hatin’ For?

Friday, March 25th, 2011

5 and counting!

Watching this current NBA season I have gained a new level of respect for Kobe Bean Bryant. Now I have always known he was a great player destined for the hall of fame but this season gave me a new perspective on just how mentally strong he is. In the words of my comrade PJ “Kobe has the body of a 50 year old!” What’s amazing to me is the way he deals with his injuries and stays focused on the big picture.

After the last lost to the Miami Heatles instead of just relaxing knowing he is a 5 time champion, he instead went to work on his shot after the game. Then after watching him get a sprained ankle I thought he would be out a least a week, considering Boozer just missed 5 games with the same injury, but he didn’t miss a game.

This in my opinion is what separates him from every other player in the league. Now I know all of the “King James” fans probably won’t read this entire post, but if you do I got love for you, and if you don’t Marshall Faulk You and go Cheddar Bob yourself!

Cheddar Bob from 8 Mile

The funny thing is, the more I recognize Kobe’s mental toughness he seems to get more hate. In the words of the legendary Philly rap crew Major Figgas “What you hatin’ for?” People in Philly say they hate him because “he disrespected the Sixers in their fans in the finals!” So What! Get over it! Then you have the Lebron fans who refuse to give him credit because in their words “Lebron makes his team better!” And Kobe doesn’t? Lmao!!!! Or they hit you with the “Kobe always had help and Lebron didn’t!” First off that’s just dumb, and I need people to start forming their own opinion and stop repeating nonsense they hear! Michael Jordan had a hall of fame running mate, Bill Russell had more than one hall of famer on his championship teams, when Wilt won titles he had hall of fame help, Dr J. had hall of fame help, Isiah had hall of fame help, and by this time you get the point and if not immediately go to the highest floor possible of wherever you are and jump right now! Another funny one is “He is arrogant!” Lmao! Name me one great player that isn’t arrogant. The hate gets so bad that after Kobe scored 42 pts in a triple overtime game I received an email with this pic attached.

I can’t lie, I LMAO!!!!!!!!!

I’m not just talking to Lebron fans. I have had this debate with Iverson fans, Vince Carter fans, T-Slack fans, D. Wade fans, and now Lebron fans. That brings up another point. All of the guys I mentioned at one point in time were “supposed” to be the best player in the league but there has been one constant during all this time and that has been Kobe.

There is a difference between being a great player and being a winner. Then there is a difference between being a winner and being champion. I consider myself a student of the game and when I look at the history of the game there were only a handful of players that had the mental toughness that made them a champion. Guys like Jordan, Russell, Bird, Magic, and Kobe. As great as Wilt was he didn’t care enough about the game. He had his mind on breaking the BYU honor code as many times as humanly possible. Wilt was a winner but Russell was a champion.

20,000 and counting

Jordan III’s

Jordan XI’s

Now I know all the Kobe haters, if they are still reading at this point, are sick or saying hateful things about him and that’s expected. I too have had players I didn’t like. Most people think Jordan was the GOAT but I don’t and I also didn’t like his a$$ when he played. In fact I don’t like him to the point that I call him Thed. Thed is an acronym that stands for “The Hooped Earring Dude”. I didn’t like Thed to the point that I never owned a pair of Jordans. (I had to make an exception for the Jordan III’s and XI’s because those were as hot as fishgrease cooked on August 18th!) The difference is my hate for Jordan didn’t cloud my judgment when it came to his game. Mike was a monster and he was one of the greatest players to ever do it! He was still a cornball that wore a wack a$$ hoop earing.

My point is, because you don’t like Kobe for something that has nothing to do with basketball don’t judge his game based on that. I can understand not liking him but I hear Kobe detractors use that as the reasons why he isn’t the best playing or even a great player. Learn to separate your hate for the man from your judgment of him as a player. You have a chance to watch one of the greatest to ever do it, so appreciate it. Now for all the Kobe haters that made it this far; You may now start hating!!!

Jimmy Williams