Seemingly every NBA legend has been asked to weigh in on the GOAT debate between Michael Jordan and LeBron James. That trend continued on the latest episode of Back On The Record With Bob Costas when Costas asked Hall of Famer Charles Barkley who he’d take between Jordan and LeBron.
Barkley has never been one to mince words, so Costas likely knew the NBA great would give him an honest answer. The 11-time All-Star not only said that Jordan was the GOAT, but he also stated LeBron hasn’t even passed Kobe Bryant.
Charles Barkley on Michael Jordan and LeBron James GOAT debate
Barkley told Costas that Jordan is better than LeBron simply because he never left the Chicago Bulls to create or join a superteam. Sir Charles believes the struggle is part of legacies.
“LeBron is amazing. What he’s done in the community is amazing,” Barkley said. “Actually, in fairness, I haven’t even put LeBron past Kobe. Let’s get that out the way. I want to be fair. The reason I put Michael before those other guys, LeBron has stacked his teams. Let’s be realistic. To go through the grind and to lose, which Michael did. When I was watching that documentary, I was like, ‘Damn, I forgot how bad the Pistons beat him up.’ But going through that struggle, that’s what separates sports. The struggle is part of your legacy. When the Pistons beat the hell out of him for three or four straight years, and he’s like, ‘No, I’m gonna keep getting better,’ that’s the difference in my opinion.”
Jordan won all six of his championships with the Bulls and lever lost in the Finals. Meanwhile, LeBron has won two championships with the Miami Heat, one with the Cleveland Cavaliers, one with the Los Angeles Lakers, and is 4-6 in the Finals.
Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion on who the best basketball player of all time is. However, any hoops fan who doesn’t have Jordan and LeBron — as well as Bryant — in their top-five list shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are top-five players of all time, per Jayson Tatum
In May 2021, Tatum told the Million Dollaz Worth of Game Podcast that he doesn’t take any fan seriously who doesn’t have Jordan, LeBron, and Bryant in their top-five list. The three legends have combined to win 10 regular-season MVPs, 12 Finals MVPs, and 15 championships.
Jordan averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists during his iconic career. He’s first in NBA history in points per game and player efficiency rating. His Airness is also fifth in points and one of three players in league history to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season, joining Hakeem Olajuwon and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Bryant, who spent his entire career with the Lakers, averaged 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. He’s the fourth-leading scorer of all time and has the second-highest scoring game in NBA history. The Black Mamba scored 81 points in 2006.
LeBron is still an active player, so he has a chance to win more rings. He currently holds averages of 27.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.4 assists and is third in NBA history in points. LBJ is also second in player efficiency rating and the only player ever to rank top-10 in both points and assists.
Everyone has their own GOAT, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The issue several fans have is the non-stop comparisons between Jordan, LeBron, and Bryant. The debate has become nauseating for many reasons.
Fans of each legend tend to bash the other two greats to uplift their favorite player
The problem with the GOAT debate is that Jordan fanatics bash LeBron and Bryant to uplift MJ, LeBron stans do the same to Jordan and Bryant, and Kobe supporters do it with Mike and LBJ. At some point, we need to appreciate all three players for who they are because they are special in their own right.
Theodore Roosevelt was spot-on when he said comparison is the thief of joy. It’s unfortunate that a large section of basketball fans root for LeBron to fail because they don’t want to see him tie Bryant in rings or pass Jordan. After losing Bryant to a tragic helicopter crash in 2020, it would be wise for fans to appreciate greatness while they can.
The GOAT debate will only grow louder if LeBron wins more championships, but it sounds like from his interview with Costas that Barkley will always have Jordan at the top since he didn’t switch teams as much as LeBron has.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.