The G.O.A.T vs. The S.H.E.E.P


“Greatness is to stay humble when the whole world calls you great!”
― Mehmet Murat Ildan

Trials, tribulations, obstacles, criticism, failure and defeat, are all but some of the countless trepidations an individual may face along the gallant road towards the illusive grandeur of success. “I made it mom, top of the world!” is an emphatic chest beating howl that symbolizes the primal roar of victory after a tumultuous path towards winning. It is often reverberated in the statement: “You have no idea what it took for me to get here”. So true is this self-written biopic that shows the cartography from which one has come from, to their epic arrival to their sought after destiny. I believe that trying in itself is the embodiment of victory, as the easiest thing for any individual to do is not try at all. It is in the underdog that we can relate to the Rocky-esque ascension, because it enables us to empathize with being knocked down, kicked around, given up on and mentally deflated, as if we don’t belong in the conversation. So appropriate is the quote from Mark Twain that stated: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” I am partial to those who in the face of adversity and amidst turmoil, that rise to the occasion and slay the proverbial dragon by cutting its head off. This ability to become the Phoenix rising from the smoldering ashes, all but incase and crystallizes one into the echelon of celebrated “Greatness”; a caveat that very few gain membership to its hallowed halls of immortal indoctrination. With profound respect to the legacy that is Jackie Robinson, I often utilize Muhammad Ali as the template for “Greatness” due to the fact that his opponents varied from not only the individuals he faced in the ring, but also the racially infested social climate, his provocative religious alignment, as well as, the U.S. Government. Muhammad Ali was the embodiment of the Phoenix rising and because of that he has become arguably the world’s most celebrated athlete to date. The subject of Muhammad Ali is the perfect transition into my topic of discussion. A subject, albeit debatable, that has been at the forefront of sports talk over the past few weeks. The subject has been about greatness and who belongs on the “Mount Rushmore” of basketball lure from a historical perspective. This comes on the cusp of current basketball star, Lebron James, submitting his ballot into the ballyhooed mountain of the historical elite. Now there is something to be celebrated as it pertains to his self-assurance and lofty expectations, however, it was his belief that those who had solidified and cemented their legacy should be removed and replaced by him. That smells of what I call “premature arrogance”. It forced me, being a huge fan of basketball, to ponder what would make him state such blasphemy? Then it occurred to me that it’s “generational disturbia” that is plaguing the audience of this over-saturated era of commercialized mind bending. So in offering perspective as it pertains to greatness, I utilized a known acronym, with a self-created newfangled one. I call it The G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time) vs. The S.H.E.E.P (Shamelessly Hyped-up Especially Entertaining Professional).

First and foremost, I would like to substantiate that Lebron James is one of the most physically gifted athletes in the history of basketball. He’s a multiple league MVP, a two-time NBA Champion and hands down a night in and night out performer without question. His celebrity is well deserved regarding his box office appeal to fans of the game. In fact, I am willing to say that very little about Lebron James on the basketball court can be refuted regarding his value to his team and his value to the collective league as a whole. So my gripe is not with his accomplishments nor his professionalism. My gripe with him is about the amnesia he’s suffering when recalling his career to that of the career legacy of those who preceded him. ESPN has a tendency to put basketball (no other sport do I see them do this with mind you) and place it in a condensed vacuum of “in the moment” acknowledgment instead of the often revisited historical significance to that of a sport like Major League Baseball. The great lengths by which they go to eradicate the archives is beyond an abomination. It is then that we have these unprecedented debates that ask “Who is better, Michael Jordan or Lebron James?” that forces me to scratch the remaining hair follicles of my scalp. Of course my “pistivity” level rises higher than mercury on a hot August summer, as I declare: “How dare they let Robin tug on Superman’s cape?”. Lebron James with all of his accomplishments, leaves the conversation of comparison once you bring up two digits, 6 and 0. That is Michael Jordan’s win to loss ratio in the NBA Finals. Lebron’s record; 2 and 2. Lebron James completely leaves the room of comparison once you consider the level of competition Michael faced on his way to the mountain top. That competition consisted of Hall of Fame players who cut their teeth into the record books of NBA history. Lebron, faces inferior talent, with the exception of the San Antonio Spurs, and has barely been able to get past that inferior talent without what many believe are favorable calls and theatrical flopping. Once we talk about the rule changes in the game that have taken away hand checking from a defender, then it puts an even greater damper on Lebron’s legacy, because technically it renders his defenders merciless. Yet we find ourselves debating whether Lebron is better than an emerging star like Kevin Durant. During the era of Michael Jordan, the distance between him and the second best player was the Grand Canyon and not a small river. But is that not what “Greatness” is? Is greatness not so vast that it’s never questioned, only solidified while we witness it happening right before our eyes? Bill Russell’s greatness was never questioned because he earned eleven NBA Championships. Magic Johnson solidified his greatness as a rookie, capturing a title while playing center for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kareem Abdul Jabbar captured six rings and remains as the all time NBA scoring leader. Larry Bird won three NBA Championships and would forever revolutionize that term “clutch performer” in the NBA. Not to be forgotten as it pertains to Michael Jordan, is the microscope he played under night after night off and on the court; and as expectations rose, so did his level of performance. It perturbs me that entitlement has usurped accomplishment, rendering it to a meaningless asterisk disclaimer. This generation of fandom and reporters are doing a disservice to a storied league whose pride use to far exceed its marketing perceptions. The term “greatness” is being tossed around like a summer frisbee, landing in the mouth of any mutt reporter who is willing to put personal likes ahead of actual facts. You cannot rewrite history in order to satisfy a network’s promotional rating. More importantly you cannot fly alongside side Superman, when you have yet to even leave The Batcave. #stick to the facts

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