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Frank Aceto: NBA's 'GOAT' discussion rambling out of control

By Frank Aceto Record Publishing Co. Published: June 17, 2017 4:00 AM
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It's a word that has been tossed around like a rag doll in recent years.

Goat.

No, I'm not talking about the domesticated animal you can find on most farms.

The "goat" I'm referring to is pretty much an acronym.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, the word "goat" is often known as the short version for "Greatest Of All Time."

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Unless you don't own a television set (believe it or not, I'm actually one of about nine people in this world who doesn't own one) or think life is better without the worldwide web, you probably noticed that four-letter word has been mentioned in the same sentence with LeBron James quite often.

Of course, if you don't live in Northeast Ohio, you may think the words "goat" and King James are absolute nonsense.

Wherever you turn, pundits everywhere are making their claims of who they believe is the real "goat" when it comes to the NBA.

Has Michael Jordan passed the "goat" torch to Super Bron Bron?

Or if you're partial to the NBA prior to the 1980s, is Wilt Chamberlain the goat?

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How about Jerry West? Perhaps Bill Russell or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

While I will admit such debates can be fun, I must confess this "goat" thing has gotten out of hand.

Some people are making the case that LeBron James is in the conversation when it comes to being declared the greatest of all time.

If you read the comments sections below the online articles on this very subject, you will find that a number of people, who are most likely fans of LBJ or the Cleveland Cavaliers, will passionately state their cases that LeBron has surpassed or at least equaled a man known as "His Airness," who won a bunch of trophies in the Windy City.

And then you will see other people, who are well, most likely LeBron James' haters, scoff at such statements particularly if Northeast Ohio's favorite son is compared to the other No. 23.

My personal view of all this hot air is this: LeBron James is the greatest basketball player since Michael Jordan.

Do I think LBJ is better than MJ? No.

Do I think "His Airness" is better than the King? Again, my answer is no.

So, yeah, I must confess that I'm breaking a journalism rule by refusing to be objective on this very subject.

But I will stand firm on this.

Jordan played in a completely different era with different rules and different styles of play than what we've seen since a certain teenager from Akron was drafted first in 2003.

Jordan, much like another challenger for the "goat" title, Kobe Bryant, or the 2017 Finals' MVP, Kevin Durant, was a scorer first and foremost.

Yes, he won Defensive Player of the Year (FYI: It was before he won all of his titles and most of his MVPs) and yes, his numbers in many key statistical categories are rather impressive.

But MJ, like Kobe or KD, was most lethal when it came to putting the ball in the basket at will.

LeBron, on the other hand, is more of a basketball quarterback than say, Jordan, Durant or Kobe.

In fact, I've always believed that LBJ's game was more like Magic Johnson (yet another "goat" candidate) than MJ.

LeBron's shooting touch, particularly from the foul line, will never match Jordan, KD or The Black Mamba.

However, could LeBron put up 30-plus point-per-game seasons on a regular basis like a certain Chicago Bulls' guard in the 1990s?

Absolutely.

I would argue that Magic Johnson could, too.

But like Magic, taking 30 to 35 shots per game like some of the other "goat" candidates is quite simply, not LeBron's game.

If you know me, I'll be the first to admit that I was never elected president of the LeBron James' fan club.

I grew up a Boston Celtics' fan who dreamed of playing ball like Larry Bird (yet another "goat" candidate).

Nonetheless, I can't help but be bemused by all of this talk regarding the "greatest of all time." And I'm even more perplexed that LeBron James is always in the middle of it.

Look, LeBron is a once-in-a-generation player who has skills and athleticism you will most likely never see again.

Since he joined the NBA, he has been the greatest triple-double machine of the 21st century (sorry, Russell Westbrook).

On a number of occasions, I've said Michael Jordan was the most ridiculously gifted athlete I've ever laid eyes on.

That was before I got my first glance at LeBron Raymone James.

If you're like me and you're older than 40, can you honestly say that you witnessed a player who is built like Karl Malone and has the otherworldly abilities of a Westbrook, Kobe or dare I say it, Michael Jordan?

LeBron has four MVPs and you could make a very reasonable argument that he has been in the MVP discussion every year since the 2004-05 season. He also has three titles, three Finals MVPs and what's most impressive of all, seven straight Finals' appearances.

Of course, when it comes to the LeBron naysayers, the Finals' appearances seem to be his biggest weakness.

They would argue against his 3-5 record on the NBA's most glamorous stage.

And those same people would debate that a certain player in the midwest was a perfect 6-for-6 in the NBA Finals.

Which brings us back to sigh the never-ending "goat" argument.

I'm beginning to wonder if there's something in the stars when it comes to the LeBron vs. Michael debate.

If you do a Google search for "Michael Jordan basketball reference," you might see an eerily familiar name listed right below "His Airness."

Here's a hint: His middle name is Raymone.


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