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While there are some contrary opinions out there, it’s generally accepted that Michael Jordan is the NBA’s GOAT. That’s mostly due his statistical dominance; His Airness dominated the league, claimed six championships, and won just about every honor imaginable. Charles Barkley, however, has a different perspective on things.

Although Chuck believes that MJ is the GOAT, he approaches things from a different perspective. Rather than citing stats, trophies, or even personal experiences, Barkley connects Jordan’s greatness to the impact he made on the business of basketball.

Charles Barkley has two reasons why he calls Michael Jordan the GOAT

During his time on the NBA hardwood, Charles Barkley had his fair share of encounters with Michael Jordan. While those surely left an impression on the forward, they aren’t the reasons why Chuck calls MJ the greatest of all time.

“I mean, Michael did two things why I always tell people [that] I think he’s the GOAT,” Sir Charles explained on The Pivot podcast. “Number one, the shoe thing. Nobody was making money in shoes before Michael. Now, guys [are] all making three, four hundred million dollars a year because of Michael. Well, a couple of guys are making that much. But that’s because of Michael.”

While Barkley’s figures are probably a bit off — as of 2019, Forbes reported that no one other than Jordan made more than $32 million per year from sneakers — the sentiment still stands. Guys like Walt Frazier had their own signature shoe, but Air Jordan literally changed the game.

“Then, secondly, we all got commercials,” Chuck continued. “Nobody made commercials before Michael Jordan came along. So Magic, Bird [who Barkley has credited for saving transforming the NBA into what it is today], and Michael, I thank those guys for me never having to get a real job.”

Chuck isn’t wrong, but his comments also show the challenges of crowning the one true GOAT


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From afar, it’s easy to see the logic in Charles Barkley’s statement. Being the GOAT implies that someone did more than just dominate on the field or court; there’s also an element of larger impact at play. Michael Jordan, in this case, was such a special talent that he completely transformed the entire NBA landscape. That surely has to count for something, right?

With that being said, though, it’s tricky to draw the dividing line between making an impact and hitting the court at the right place and time. While it’s perfectly reasonable to say that LeBron James wouldn’t be the same if he wasn’t standing on MJ’s shoulders, is it really fair to penalize the Lakers’ star for being born in 1984 instead of 1964?

Alternatively, let’s use Chuck’s other two NBA heroes, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. If we’re taking overall impact to be part of the GOAT criteria, why don’t those two men climb to the top of the ranking? They both put together impressive resumes and, as Barkley himself says, helped take basketball from a sport that was aired on tape delay to a global powerhouse.

To be clear, that’s a rhetorical question. Please do not send me messages explaining why Larry Bird could never be the GOAT. It does, however, highlight the challenges of comparing across eras to answer an intensely personal question.

While there is some statistical basis to GOAT debates — you need to be a top-tier player with a strong resume to even get into the conversation — those numbers don’t provide much clarity. Era adjustments are imperfect, and, in some instances, things are simply unknowable. How many blocks, for example, would Wilt Chamberlain have if they were recorded throughout his career? The world may never know.

There’s also an element of personal taste that comes into the conversation. Like it or not, we all have preferences, and those color our perspectives. If you saw His Airness up close, you’ll probably never forget his dominance. If you’re a Pistons fan, though, you’ll probably hold onto some different memories of MJ.

That’s not to say that all GOAT debates should go away. As long as fans are sitting in a bar or scrolling through social media, some arguments are inevitable. It is worth remembering the point that Chuck inadvertently highlighted, though.

There are plenty of different ways to define your GOAT. Don’t get so bogged down in those that you miss the awesome feats that happening right before your eyes.

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