For years, the debate of the G.O.A.T. has followed LeBron James. Is he better than Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and others? If you look close enough, you will see he’s nowhere close to those players. In fact, it’s one player that never gets mentioned that James has yet to pass. Tim Duncan.
Media, fans, and even players have tried their best to compare James and Jordan but why bother?
James has accomplished plenty in his 14 years in the NBA. He has won 3 NBA titles in 7 tries and that alone will get him in the Hall of Fame but his legacy has taken a hit. Name a STAR player who is mentioned as G.OA.T. that has a losing record in the Finals. This is where Michael Jordan, Kobe, Bird, Magic and others have a leg or two up on James.
The LeBron purist will mention his 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers team that went to the Finals only to be swept by Duncan and the Spurs as being too young. But what about the 50 games they won that year or the 27 points James averaged? Were they not young then? What about the victories in the playoffs against the Wizards, Nets, and Pistons? How could they play like seasoned vets then but be referred to as too young and immature when they faced the Duncan-led Spurs? Or, what about the 2015 Cavs team that was devastated by injuries and lost the championship to the Golden State Warriors? Why is he given a pass? Leaders lead and will find a way to push their team to victory. If he doesn’t have it then he will find a way to make those mediocre players around him better.
I’m sorry but James can’t have it both ways.
LeBron James is on his way to his 7th straight NBA Finals. That’s an amazing feat but even if he wins, he will not be in the same league as Jordan, yet alone, Duncan and here’s why.
Duncan played 20 seasons in the NBA and all with the same team. He had his chances to leave San Antonio but stayed because, well, he loved the challenge. But here is why I place Duncan ahead of James in G.O.A.T. talk. One team, 6 Finals appearances, and 5 championships. That says a lot but it doesn’t say it all.
Duncan had no Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh playing alongside him. Wade is first ballot Hall of Fame and if Bosh had stayed in Toronto, he would have an induction ceremony as well one day. However, look at Duncan and his supporting cast. There was Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Neither will make the Hall but the Big 3 managed to win 3 titles together. Parker and Tim Duncan won 4 as a tandem and Duncan and David Robinson won 1. Besides Robinson, what other Hall of Fame player played a significant role in Duncan’s titles?
James had to enlist the help of Wade and Bosh and when he saw the writing on the wall for that group due to Wade’s and Bosh’s injury history he bolted back to the Cavs. He took well-deserved heat for leaving his hometown team in the first place to ring chase only to go back home when he learned that he could team up with future Hall of Famer, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love who was coming off a 20+ point-13 rebound season.
Duncan, one team, same core players, more rings and a better Finals record. Oh, did I forget to mention that he has beaten both of James’ teams in the Finals?
James is still young and will have another 4-5 years at a high level. But even if he wins another 3 titles, he did so without really knowing if he’s a true leader. Michael Jordan had it, Kobe had it, and Tim Duncan had it. It’s the ability to go out and do what you must to lead your team to a title. Yes, he does have 3 and may have a 4th by the end of the 2017 season but he took the shortcut to get there. A ring doesn’t care whose fingers it goes on.
But to NBA fans it does matter. James had his chances to be the leader and he failed. He realized that he needed the help. Do remember, that each team he has gone to and won a title was never HIS team to begin with. The Heat belonged to Wade and the Cavs belonged to Irving. So, in all honesty, James may be the best sidekick in NBA history but the G.OA.T he is not.
That title is reserved for leaders like Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan.