By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief
BOSTON – With live sports on hiatus and the 10-part “The Last Dance” documentary series in the books, anyone and everyone in sports seems to be debating the age-old question of “who is the greatest NBA player of all-time.”
Any argument on the topic has to come with the belief that world class players from bygone eras would “adjust” to the times and evolve with the game. Great athletes and dominant players from any era would’ve been exposed to the nuances of todays game.
The exercise in listing GOATs is certainly fun but difficult as you not only compare an ever-changing game to changing times to changing coaching philosophies to changing EVERYTHING, you also need to compare changing positions, roles, and rules (especially the three-point FG).
To begin, I’ll state that I’ve long listed a view that the “three centers” all have to be considered as the Greatest NBA Players of All-Time. Namely, those players are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.
As a “throw-away line,” I usually state, when asked about my viewpoint of the NBA’s GOAT, “Put the three centers in the order of your choice.”
As you weigh the three center philosophy, the placement of the great Michael Jordan becomes the issue and the centerpiece of the never-ending argument/discussion/comparison. Where does MJ fit?
At the top? Or, at No. 4?
As of this writing, I’m ready to rank Jordan as No. 1, largely due to his all-around game and partially due to deep listening to hundreds and hundreds of well-informed NBA pundits, players, coaches, executives all speak of MJ as the undisputed No. 1.
Here’s my personal opinion NBA GOAT list:
- Michael Jordan
- Bill Russell
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
- Wilt Chamberlain
Yes, No. 5 is now the issue. My candidates are:
- Earvin “Magic” Johnson
- LeBron James
I’m not ready to provide a ranking at No. 5 until James retires but as I take plenty of time to resolve who is No. 5, I’ll probably reserve the No. 7 slot for Larry Bird.
One side-note I’ll share: In my experience while at many an NBA Finals, or other league tribute events, the behind-the-scenes interaction between the all-time great players was a sight to behold. During all of those experiences, Jordan was the ultimate “alpha dog,” as he commanded the spotlight, surely surpassing Larry Bird and Magic Johnson as his main rivals when he entered the league.
The ONLY player that Jordan fell in line behind was Bill Russell.
Was it out of respect for his elder or was it because MJ recognized Russell as the NBA’s ultimate winner?
That question was never answered.
The biggest “change” in my viewpoint, which I reserve the right to change again as early as tomorrow, is the rise of LeBron James to press for “Top 5” status.
Here Now, The Notes: Speaking of James, the Los Angeles Lakers forward is reportedly hosting “safe” workouts with one or two teammates at a time in anticipation of the restart of the 2019-2020 NBA season. Stadium reported on Thursday that James was holding workouts in a “secure” location with select teammates. … In other LeBron news, the Lakers superstar won a 2020 Webby Award for internet excellence on Tuesday for the ESPN feature “Welcome to Bron Bron Land.” … The awards have been presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences since 1996. James was honored with the best user interface award.
Memorial tributes and expressions of sympathy were published and posted (on social media) as the news of the death of popular NBA/Sacramento Kings reporter and columnist Martin McNeal was announced Thursday. Known to many as “Marty Mac,” the New York born and bred McNeal touched the lives and careers of scores of NBA media. Sincere condolences go out to the McNeal family. … A day later, the news came down from Salt Lake City where the great coach Jerry Sloan passed away after a long, difficult illness. The Hall of Fame Utah Jazz (and Chicago Bulls) coach and tough-nosed defensive great of the ’70s Bulls will always be remembered as one of the most competitive people to ever grace the NBA, but in mixing that intensity with an amazingly humble and gracious demeanor that was loved by all who came in contact with him. Sloan was an NBA lifer. RIP.
Professional three-on-three ice hockey might be played in the summer of 2021 as the 3ICE League announced its intentions to form with a healthy list of team coaches. … Six Hockey Hall of Famers are among the eight coaches in the league, which will consist of a nine-week season in which a single-elimination tournament is played in every city. … Approximately 20 cities are under consideration for franchises, primarily in the northeastern United States, Canada and the Midwest. Rosters are dependent upon the player pool, which has yet to be established. … What is known: There is a bunch of star power in the coaching ranks, including six Hockey Hall of Famers, including Grant Fuhr, Bryan Trottier, Guy Carbonneau, Joe Mullen, John LeClair, Angela Ruggiero, Ed Johnston and Larry Murphy. All but Johnston and LeClair are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. … Adam Scott, like all PGA Tour professionals, must measure his personal risk before returning to the golf course for scheduled events. And for now, Scott’s decision is to stay away from tournaments. … From Scott’s perspective, the new rules established by the PGA to keep players safe and healthy amid the coronavirus pandemic aren’t enough. … “They are being fairly thorough, but my initial reaction was I was surprised it wasn’t tighter than it is,” Scott told the Australian Associated Press. “What concerns me is dialogue that [the Tour] is hopeful of returning one- or two-hour test [results]. You’d want that in place before competing.”
Denny Hamlin, running on worn tires late in Wednesday evening’s Toyota 500 NASCAR Cup Series race, got an assist from the weather gods — an assist that handed him the victory at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Rain ended the race with 25 laps remaining. … The 500-kilometer event marked the first Cup race on a Wednesday since July 4, 1984, when Richard Petty won at Daytona International Speedway. … The Wednesday race was the second event since the coronavirus pandemic caused a suspension of action in March — four races into the season. NASCAR made its return Sunday at Darlington. … A third Darlington race — its regularly scheduled event — will be held on Labor Day weekend. … The Dallas Cowboys and franchise-tagged quarterback Dak Prescott are hung up the length of a potential long-term contract, multiple outlets reported Thursday. … After NBC Sports reported Prescott turned down a five-year, $175 million offer and is seeking at least $45 million in the final season of his deal, multiple outlets refuted the report. … The sides have until July 15 to agree to a long-term contract, or Prescott would play the 2020 season on the $33 million franchise tag and approach free agency again next spring. If the Cowboys were to tag him again in 2021, it would cost them just shy of $40 million. The Cowboys have said repeatedly that they will get a deal done with Prescott, a 26-year-old two-time Pro Bowler whom Dallas drafted in the fourth round in 2016.
New England Patriots team owner Robert Kraft’s Super Bowl LI championship ring went for $1.025 million in Fanatic’s All-In Challenge. Gawdy, it was.
Diamond Dust-Up: Two years since he last pitched in the majors and as he celebrates his 47th birthday, Bartolo Colon is reportedly eyeing a comeback. … The right-hander told ESPN that he wants to return for a 22nd season, and he wants it to be with the New York Mets. … “If it was up to me, I would retire with the Mets,” he said. “I would like my career to end in New York.”
Digital Sports Desk posts a once-a-week Sunday Notes column entitled: “While We’re Young (Ideas).” It’s a throwback of sorts to the days when sportswriting and the baseball beat were the best jobs in the entire sports industry, maybe the entire world. One of those sportswriters was named Dick Young and he wrote “Young Ideas” with a “Diamond Dust” section for notes and quotes. (We’re calling our version Diamond Dust-Ups) … Please follow and encourage (at least) another person or two to plug into (@DigSportsDesk) (@WhileYoungIdeas) and (@terrylyons). Field Level Media and other media outlets have contributed to this column.