We can disagree on how all-time great players are ranked. It’s a fun exercise, albeit sometimes frustrating.
But we can’t disagree that LeBron James is the most scrutinized, over-analyzed, and polarizing athlete ever. Part of it is due to the explosion of social media and the innumerable amount of bloggers and podcasters.
When Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird were the three best players in the league, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram did not exist. Sports Talk Radio was minimal and we didn’t watch endless debate shows which dominate day time programming on ESPN, ESPN2, and FoxSports1.
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James is able to build his brand through these means but lives in a universe where he faces a daily Colonoscopy from pundits.
In addition, there is some deep-seated disdain by many of James’ contemporaries. As the first player to seriously challenge Michael Jordan as the GOAT, James is despised by Jordan fans whose first sports hero was Jordan. Also, LeBron can be passive-aggressive and arrogant. I ask you this; Do you know of any all-time great that wasn’t or isn’t arrogant?
If LeBron James referred to his teammates as his supporting cast he would be chastised. Jordan often referred to his teammates as HIS supporting cast. Crickets.
In these people’s eyes James is not a great leader but somehow Jordan is in the same stratosphere as General George Patton as a leader of men.
When LeBron James has the final say on his certain documentary will he be sure to belittle key contributors the way Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant were painted in “The Last Dance”? Jordan does it and he gets portrayed as a win at all cost athlete.
With that in mind, former Celtic great and current ESPN troll, I mean analyst, Paul Pierce weighed in to rank his greatest players in NBA history.
He said that LeBron James is not a top-five player, in fact, at best he has the “King” ranked 8th behind Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabber, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Tim Duncan. All great players. No doubt.
But his reason for having James lower than sane people rank him is that LeBron was not part of a dynasty. While the others were.
We throw around the word dynasty without knowing it’s true meaning. A dynasty is generation to generation. A singular player isn’t a dynasty unto himself. He can start a dynasty and be part of it.
The only two dynasties in NBA history are the Celtics and Lakers. While the Bulls won six titles in eight years, it really wasn’t a dynasty. It could have been the beginning of a potential dynasty.
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Many of the players ranked ahead of LeBron in Pierce’s rankings didn’t have the ability to sign with another club. Also, every team that won championships added pieces around stars to form those title teams.
Kareem didn’t win with the Lakers until Magic Johnson arrived.
Larry Bird won three titles in six years thanks in part to the drafting of Kevin McHale and trading for Robert Parrish, Dennis Johnson, and Bill Walton.
Jordan started winning when the Bulls added Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, then later on with Dennis Rodman.
Shaq and Kobe. Kobe and Shaq. Pick your order of importance.
Paul Pierce won three series in his first nine years in the league. After trading for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen the Celtics won a championship and went to another Final.
Every team that had multiple title runs, had a big three. The vast majority of those big three’s were made up of players acquired in trades or through free agency.
Maybe Pierce should have gone to General Manager Danny Ainge in the summer of 2007 and told him to not acquire Garnett and Allen because he wanted to win a title with original Celtics Rajon Rondo and Al Jefferson.
Because James took his talents to South Beach he doesn’t rank in Pierce’s top five? What LeBron did was leave a dysfunctional franchise (Cleveland) to go to a competent one (Miami).
Pierce’s feud with James has clouded his mind.
Paul Pierce and LeBron James are mortal enemies. Former Celtic Center Kendrick Perkins (Who, as I do, feels that LeBron is the GOAT) recalled a story that took place in the 2004 preseason when Pierce spat at James and Drew Gooden as they sat on the Cavaliers bench.
The propaganda piece, The Last Dance, has made Michael Jordan’s legacy grow even though he hasn’t played in 17 years. We’ve reached the point that his legacy has trampled the facts. We don’t need exaggeration to explain Jordan’s greatness. But Jordan sycophants find the need to do so.
A head-to-head poll of 600 NBA fans, conducted after “The Last Dance”, gave Jordan the edge over LeBron as a passer. That is laughable. Would Jordan win in a poll over LeBron on comparisons as to who is taller, heavier, younger, or more tattooed? Yeah, probably.
Give credit to Paul Pierce for remaining relevant by jumping into this discussion. In this case, Pierce isn’t telling the truth. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but no one is entitled to their own set of facts.
John Sapochetti is Co-Host
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