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Shaq Lays Out His Path For LeBron To Pass MJ For Goat Status

The MJ vs. LeBron debate is one of the most polarized conversations in all of sports, but Shaq offered a path for King James to become the G.O.A.T.

“We look at stats,” Shaq said. “He already passed Kobe and Jordan in points…he’s going to creep on Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] too. I think he’s looking to pass Kareem.”

O’Neal mentioned that stats matter, but he eventually navigates the conversation towards winning.

“I think LeBron is looking to tie Kobe and tie Jordan with championships,” Shaq said. “If he tied Mike, I think people will probably lean a little bit more towards LeBron being the best player in the world.”

LeBron is just coming off his fourth championship and third title as MVP with a different team (a feat no other player has accomplished). With that considered, it seems unfair to settle the G.O.A.T conversation based off of winning. After all, this is a team sport with 14 other players on any given roster.

Yes, Jordan and LeBron are expected to elevate their teammates, but there are way too many other factors to consider.

What Shaq is ignoring

In LeBron’s case specifically, he was drafted at 18-years-old and asked to turn a laughing-stock Cleveland Cavaliers organization into a winner. Jordan was also drafted to an underwhelming Bulls franchise, with a major difference maker to prepare him for the task.

He was coached by Dean Smith at North Carolina.

While Jordan spent his late-teens with his hands on his knees as a Tarheel developing, LeBron was in the huddle with coach Paul Silas, who had a career .442 W-L record.

Teammates

One thing LeBron did that bothered most fans of the NBA is that he used free agency to his advantage. Jordan spent his early years losing with inferior teammates, so his front office could eventually bring Pippen and and Rodman aboard naturally. The aftermath of this patience was that he was more determined to make it work where he was drafted, rather than skipping town to join the Bad Boy Pistons or join forces with Barkley in Phoenix.

That’s a fair criticism for LeBron to embrace, but I think it’s also necessary to address how long James offered Cleveland to improve their roster around him. Before the four-time MVP joined the Heatles in Miami, he played seven full season in Cleveland and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert did nothing with that time.

Proof of that? Antawn Jamison was the best player that Gilbert ever brought in as a sidekick and no one ever made an All-Star team as LeBron’s teammate during his first tenure with the team. That’s objectively embarrassing for a pass-first all-time great player like LeBron to never be rewarded with an All-Star teammate. He’s, by design, the style of player that would encourage his teammates (any scorer, really) to elevate their game to becoming an All-Star.

So, would Michael have left?

Seven brutal years of teammates and LeBron finally had enough. A choice Michael Jordan was never forced to make. What if Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr, or Horace Grant never came? Would MJ have sat around in Chicago and watched the Cavs and Suns beat him down well into his 30’s?

If we’re being honest, probably not. And we should never have asked LeBron to do that, either.

Shaq is implying that LeBron has to both become the all-time leading scorer and win at the same clip as Jordan. O’Neal should know better than anyone of the impact teammates like “big shot Rob” Horry or Derek Fisher have on opportunities to cash-in NBA championships. It’s not all about the best players on the roster the way his “path” for James implies.

Final Verdict

LeBron, barring injury, is likely to pass Kareem as the all-time leading scorer. But what about winning? Who knows if LeBron and his teammates put together a performance solid enough to defeat whoever’s on their plate? What we should be more focused on is that winning shouldn’t separate one great player from another.

In a previous article, I’ve made the claim that Allen Iverson was a better basketball player than Kyrie Irving. I feel most fans of the NBA would agree with that statement, but according to Shaq’s criteria, Irving is more “accomplished”, so he’s the better player.

If you believe Michael Jordan was a better basketball player than LeBron, make it about MJ’s mid-range game and on-ball defense, not Steve Kerr’s ability to help him win an end-of-the-season tournament. LeBron’s argument will always be that his point guard abilities combined with eventually being the leading scorer all-time is a combination no one could match.

The LeBron-MJ debate will never be satisfying, so let’s try and enjoy both players, instead. Thanks for re-opening the wound, Shaq.

Written by Gary Sheffield, Jr

Gary Sheffield Jr is the son of should-be MLB Hall of Famer, Gary Sheffield. He covers basketball and baseball for OutKick.com, chats with the Purple and Gold faithful on LakersNation, and shitposts on Twitter. You can follow him at GarySheffieldJr

8 Comments

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  1. LeBron James is polarizing and doens’t have the charisma and mass appeal that Jordan had. Jordan built the league up. You could argue LeBron has shrunk the influence of the league here at home.

    On the court, Lebron does has stats to compare to Jordan but being the GOAT isn’t just about the stats. Howe you got those stats matter. Lebron plays in a different league. Where all you have to do is take step back threes or get ticky-tack euro step fouls to win the game. It a really soft league full of super teams loaded with all star talent. Its a league that seems more like a bunch of friends putting on a WWE style staged spectacle rather than any true rivalry or heated competitions.

    Full disclosure, I am not a Lebron fan and his damage to the game outweighs what he brought to the game in my opinion.

  2. Hey Gary,
    You know the expression “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it”.
    If you’re 45-50 or older, you know MJ will always be the GOAT. Stats don’t mean anything now that virtually every professional team sport has “adjusted” their standards and measures.
    The eyeball test…look at the association now…anything close to what is was back in the day?
    And if you’re a NBA purist under 40, you know in your bones it’s MJ.
    All the best for 2021!!!

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