The Real G.O.A.T of the NBA

Why is the NBA’s actual greatest player of all time always left out of the debate?

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Debates and sports go hand in hand. That is part of what makes sports so great. Not many of these debates are more prevalent than the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) debate. When it comes to the National Basketball Association, the GOAT debate usually comes down to two players: Michael Jordan and Lebron James. Typically the older generation of basketball fans believe Jordan to be the greatest player ever, while many younger basketball fans believe Lebron is the GOAT. Both Jordan and Lebron are two of the greatest players to ever play, and both are easily top three all-time. However, the actual GOAT is rarely brought up during these debates, and I am here to put an end to it.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the greatest basketball player of all time.

I always find it mesmerizing that Kareem is so seldom mentioned when discussing the NBA’s greatest. Maybe it’s because he was drafted in the 60s, or maybe it’s because individuals have reservations about saying a center is the greatest player ever. I’m not sure what’s the reasoning, but I do know the fact that he’s so rarely brought up is a disservice to basketball fans.

Abdul-Jabbar’s sky hook is part of what made him so difficult to defend

Let’s start by comparing Abdul-Jabbar’s career to Michael Jordan’s. Many argue Jordan is the GOAT due to his six NBA championships. Abdul-Jabbar however, also has six NBA championships. While Jordan was a 13-time NBA all-star, Abdul-Jabbar was a 19-time all-star. Kareem has six MVP awards compared to Michael’s five. Abdul-Jabbar also has made more All-NBA teams than Jordan (15 compared to 11 for Michael), and has been on more NBA All-Defensive teams (11 compared to 9). That isn’t all though. Throughout his NBA career, Abdul-Jabbar has accumulated 6,000 more points, 11,000 more rebounds, and 2,000 more blocks than Jordan. Abdul-Jabbar also has more career assists than Jordan, despite playing the center position.

Now let’s move to Abdul-Jabbar compared to Lebron. Kareem has more championships (6 compared to 3), more All-Star selections (19 compared to 16), more MVP Awards (6 compared to 4) and more All-Defensive team selections (11 compared to 6) than Lebron. Both players have the same number of All-NBA team selections (15). When it comes to career stats, Kareem has 4,000 more points, 8,000 more rebounds, and 2,000 more blocks than Lebron.

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Abdul-Jabbar’s career stats far outweigh both Lebron’s and Jordan’s

Not many players have had a career which even comes close in comparison to Abdul-Jabbar’s. When he retired in 1989, Kareem had scored the most points in NBA history (38,387), had the most blocked shots (3,189, despite blocks not being an official stat for four years of his career), had the most MVP awards (6), and had the most All-Star game appearances (19). Kareem is also considered to have the most unstoppable move in NBA history, the sky hook.

Now many may look to diminish Abdul-Jabbar’s GOAT candidacy by proclaiming the only reason he has all of those stats is because he played so long. Yes, Kareem played in the NBA for 20 seasons, but shouldn’t longevity be taken into account when discussing the greatest player of all time? Individuals love what Lebron is doing in year 17 of his career, so trying to weaken Abdul-Jabbar’s career numbers due to his ability to play for an extended amount of time is somewhat hypocritical. I’m not sure if Jordan would have had better career numbers if he played the same amount of seasons that Abdul-Jabbar did. I’m not sure if Lebron will catch Kareem’s all-time stats in the same amount of seasons. I however am not going to change my view on Abdul-Jabbar’s greatness just because he played a few more seasons.

In the future, when the debate continues between Jordan and Lebron, I hope more people will mention Kareem. In reality, no other player has numbers which can compare; and if you do just a little research, you too may realize that Abdul-Jabbar is the greatest of all time.

Written by

University at Buffalo ’20 | BA in Communication | Writer for The Sports Scientist

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