Friday, June 21, 2013

Lebron joins GOAT shortlist with 2nd title

Though I've always rooted for the Spurs dating back to the Admiral-Duncan Twin Tower days as much as a neutral (or a Laker-hater) can, I will confess that I was pulling for King James to pull off a 2nd title.  Had Ray Allen's 3 pointer with 5 seconds left in Game 6 not gone in, Lebron would have been saddled with 3 NBA Finals losses in 4 tries, probably permanently damaging his claim to be the Greatest Of All Time, at least in my mind.  Just like in the days of watching Jordan in his prime, the pure sportsfan in me wants to see the transcendently great players perform their best when it counts.

With this back-to-back title, Lebron clearly surpasses Kobe on GOAT scale.  He's got 4 regular season MVPs to Kobe's measly 1.  They share the same number of Finals MVPs.  I tire of hearing Laker fans holding up Kobe's 5 rings in their arguments.  Is Scottie Pippen mentioned anywhere in the GOAT of all time conversations for having 6 rings?  Sure, he's a HOFer to be sure, but he can't be on the list of those transcendent GOAT simply because of MJ.  So, Kobe was Pippen while Shaq was Jordan in those first 3 championships.  Shaq won the Finals MVP all 3 times.  End of discussion.

To be the greatest, you have to be both the best in the regular season and the best when its all on the line, in the championship.  I think to qualify for GOAT consideration, you need to have achieved both merits multiple times (sorry Dirk).  The following is a list of all players with multiple awards in both categories.  Not surprisingly, it is an accurate representation of most reasonable people's GOAT lists.
GOAT list (in no particular order)
Russell - 5 MVPs, Finals MVP did not exist, but they did name the award after him. (Out of 11 rings, he would have probably won Finals MVP at the very least, what, half the time?).
Jordan - 5 MVPs, 6 Finals MVPs
Kareem - 6 MVPs, 2 Finals MVPs
Magic - 3 MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs
Lebron - 4 MVPs, 2 Finals MVPs
Duncan - 2 MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs
Bird - 3 MVPs, 2 Finals MVPs

C Kareem, PF Russell, F Lebron, SG Jordan, PG Magic - would be my pick for greatest starting 5 in history.  (Laker haters shouldn't have much to say since there's two here).  For my money, Jordan and Russell have the best claims to GOAT.  Jordan's 11 MVPs (which is probably only surpassed by what Russell would have won) is the benchmark for which to measure Lebron.  If Lebron can get another MVP or two and 3 more Finals MVPs, he would clearly have an argument.  The best part about this is that he still has about 4-5 years more prime years left.

Just miss:
Shaq - 3 Finals MVPs, but only 1 MVP, an indictment on a lack of season-long committment.
Wilt - 4 MVPs, but only 1 Finals MVP - an indictment on his play on the biggest stage.
Moses Malone - 3 MVPs, but only 1 Finals MVP
Kobe - 2 Finals MVPs, but only 1 MVP
Hakeem - 2 Finals MVPs, but only 1 MVP

Now who are the players to win the MVP and Finals MVP in the same season as Lebron did this year?

1970 Willis Reed
1971 Lew Alcindor
1983 Moses Malone
1985 Larry Bird
1986 Larry Bird
1987 Magic Johnson
1991 Michael Jordan
1992 Michael Jordan
1994 Hakeem Olajuwon
1996 Michael Jordan
1998 Michael Jordan
2000 Shaquille O'Neal
2003 Tim Duncan
2012 Lebron James
2013 Lebron James

So only 10 players have accomplished the feat since 1969 when the Finals MVP was first awarded.  Only 3 players have done it multiple times (Jordan 4, Bird 2 and now Lebron 2).  Remarkably, all 3 did it in back-to-back years and Jordan even did it twice.