If you’re a sports fan who listens to talk radio, frequents sports message boards or other internet sites, or simply likes to talk hoops with your buddies, you are probably aware that lately one of the dominant topics is whether or not LeBron James has caught or surpassed Michael Jordan as basketball’s “greatest of all time”. At least in my neck of the woods (North Carolina), the argument still leans towards Jordan, although most will acknowledge that James does deserve to be in the conversation.
Missing in all this is that the actual top basketball player of all time, at least according to both the statistics and awards, is actually none other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
- Abdul-Jabbar remains the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,337 points, over 6,000 more than Jordan. He also has the most career wins.
- Abdul-Jabbar remains third all-time in both rebounds and blocked shots.
- He owns six NBA title rings as a player, matching Jordan’s total. He also holds two additional title rings as an assistant coach with the Lakers.
- Abdul-Jabbar is a six-time NBA MVP, one more than Jordan.
- He was an NBA all-star 19 times, compared to Jordan’s 14 appearances.
- Abdul-Jabbar was named All-NBA first team 10 times (same as Jordan) and also All-NBA second team five teams (Jordan once).
In addition to his NBA accomplishments, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was unarguably the most dominate player in college basketball history. During his three years at UCLA (at the time, freshman were not eligible for varsity teams), Abdul-Jabbar won three NCAA championships, and astonishingly was national player of the year as well as Final Four MVP all three seasons. His #33 jersey has been retired three places: at UCLA, with the Milwaukee Bucks, and with the Los Angeles Lakers.
I do think that it’s very difficult to compare players across eras, and I usually will argue that Abdul-Jabbar was the best player of his era, while Jordan was the best player of his and James the best player of the current era. Same goes for Bill Russell, and it’s a close call between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird for the early 80’s until Jordan took over later in the decade.
But if you have to name a single G.O.A.T., the nod goes to Kareem.