For better or worse, sports fans love to debate. While stats and records can provide some factual framing, there’s no shortage of arguments about each sports’ respective GOAT. In the world of basketball, that crown usually goes to Michael Jordan. Isiah Thomas, however, disagrees.
Although that position isn’t new—the Detroit Pistons legend has never had Michael Jordan atop his all-time list—Isiah Thomas is sticking to his guns. In fact, he recently took to Twitter in an effort to clarify his claims.
Michael Jordan is the basketball GOAT, according to most
While he hasn’t hit the hardwood in almost two decades, Michael Jordan is still spoken about in hushed tones by basketball fans. Beyond the title of His Airness, most believe that MJ is also the GOAT.
Even if you didn’t see much of the Chicago Bulls, it’s easy to see the factors working in Jordan’s favor. During his time in the NBA, the guard dominated from a statistical perspective; he averaged more than 30 points per game for his career, claimed six NBA championships, and took home five NBA MVP awards. He also took over the sports scene from a pop culture perspective, as kids around the world wanted to be like Mike.
While LeBron James has made up some ground by winning his fourth title with a third-different franchise, it seems like His Airness still sits atop the all-time rankings. In April 2020, for example, a poll of 117 NBA players found that 73% of them still believed that Michael Jordan was the GOAT.
Isiah Thomas, however, has never given Michael Jordan top billing
While most modern NBA players believe that Michael Jordan is the GOAT, Isiah Thomas disagrees. Over the years, the Pistons legend has consistently placed His Airness further down the all-time list.
Earlier in 2020, CBS Sports’ Bill Reiter asked Thomas to name the five best players he ever faced; the guard ranked MJ fourth, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson, but ahead of Dr. J.
During the NBA playoffs, Thomas weighed in on the GOAT debate again. While he still had Kareem at the top of the list, he explained that LeBron James would eventually take over as basketball’s greatest player.
“I admire [LeBron James’] insatiable appetite to be on top and stay on top,” Thomas explained, according to Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated. “I’ve never seen a player dominate so many statistical categories. We’ve had players dominate certain areas, but we’ve never seen a player that truly does it all. And he’s done it, without fail, for 17 years. For now, Kareem is the best that’s ever done it. But by the time he’s done, LeBron James will be the best we have ever seen play the game of basketball.”
Isiah Thomas seems pretty confident in his beliefs
While Isiah Thomas’ perspective on Michael Jordan might seem unconventional, the former guard isn’t backing down. If anything, he seems prepared to double-down on his position.
In October, Thomas retweeted a clip from First Take, explaining why Jordan isn’t worthy of being considered the GOAT; Isiah added the caption “GOAT debate facts.” The Pistons legend, however, didn’t stop there.
“My accurate facts and real life #nba basketball experiences, should not be classified as hate in the #Goat#Debate,” Thomas added in a subsequent tweet. “I am a #Historian#Educator#Champion#HallofFame#Top50 are my credentials to speak on this topic. Let it be known #nohate just #facts@KingJames@kaj33#Goats”
To be fair to Isiah Thomas, he does have some insight into NBA greatness; while he never faced LeBron James, he did have plenty of experience with Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and other NBA legends. Even if you don’t agree with his stance, he’s certainly well-positioned to weigh in on the GOAT debate.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference