If you’ve ever spent any time sitting at the bar or hanging out on the couch, then you know that sports fans love to argue. One of the standard debate topics is all-time greatness: if all things are equal, who’s the best player to ever step onto the field or hit the hardwood. In the world of basketball, the two go-to answers are Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
On Sunday night, LA Lakers head coach Frank Vogel weighed in with a definitive response. In his mind, LeBron James isn’t merely an elite player; the forward is “the greatest player the basketball universe has ever seen.”
LeBron James just added another accomplishment to his legendary career
At this point in his career, LeBron James has established himself as a living legend. On Sunday night, though, the Lakers star added a few more accomplishments to his resume.
While it might seem like an eternity ago, James burst onto the basketball scene as a teenager at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. He then jumped straight to the NBA, becoming the first-overall pick of the 2003 NBA draft; King James joined the Cleveland Cavaliers and promptly became a legitimate star.
Things didn’t end happily in Ohio, however, as LeBron infamously took his talents to South Beach. After winning two championships with the Heat, though, he returned home and took care of unfinished business; James won a third title, this time with the Cavs, before joining the LA Lakers in free agency.
While his first season in Hollywood was a struggle, James’ move to Hollywood paid off on Sunday night. The Lakers comfortably clinched the NBA championship, giving LeBron his fourth ring with three different franchises; he also claimed another NBA Finals MVP award, making him the first player in league history to earn the honor with three different organizations.
Frank Vogel weighs in on the NBA GOAT debate
By adding some additional silverware to his trophy cabinet, LeBron James reignited basketball’s GOAT debate. When LA Lakers coach Frank Vogel addressed the media after Game 6, however, he didn’t have any doubts about who deserved the crown.
“I have always believed in LeBron James,” Vogel explained when he was asked about the Lakers buying into his defensive philosophy. “He’s the greatest player the basketball universe has ever seen, and if you think you know, you don’t know until you’re around him every day, you’re coaching him, you’re seeing his mind, you’re seeing his adjustments, seeing the way he leads the group. You think you know; you don’t know.”
While that’s already high praise, Vogel wasn’t finished there.
“It’s just been a remarkable experience coaching him and seeing him take this group that was not in the playoffs last year, the roster was put together, you know, overnight, and just taking a group and leading us to the promised land, so they say,” the head coach continued. “He was terrific the entire season leading us, and I can’t say enough about him.”
What happens to the Michael Jordan-LeBron James GOAT debate now?
Now that LeBron James has won another NBA championship and NBA Finals MVP award, we’ll see another round of debates about how he compares to Michael Jordan. In reality, though, not much will change.
Despite some new numbers to cite, the 2019-20 NBA championship probably didn’t alter many opinions about basketball’s GOAT. If you already preferred LeBron, leading another team to a championship and beating back Father Time will only be another feather in his cap. If you’re in MJ’s corner, the same criticism will remain: even with another title, James is still below .500 in NBA Finals and got some major help from Anthony Davis.
In reality, though, there’s a middle ground, too. Jamal Crawford made reference to it after the game with one simple tweet. It’s possible to appreciate LeBron James for what he’s doing, without trying to figure out his place in basketball history. Even if you don’t believe he’s the GOAT, you shouldn’t miss the forest through the trees.
To Frank Vogel and plenty of basketball fans around the world, LeBron James is easily “the greatest player the basketball universe has ever seen.” Whether you agree with that statement or give that title to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, or anyone else, King James is still making history before our very eyes. That, no matter your fandom, is worth appreciating.