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The NBA G.O.A.T discussion – the greatest of all-time – is tiresome, and “The Last Dance” Michael Jordan documentary has re-ignited this tedious Jordan vs. LeBron James debate.
You have your Jordan stans and your LeBron stans and never the twain shall meet – each side entrenched in their position. No room for gray areas. No room for give and take. No room for acknowledging the greatness of both players.
It’s one side or the other. Fine, that’s what sports debates are. Go have your fun. (They’re both great and both have G.O.A.T qualities and you’re not wrong if you say either is the greatest.)
But if we’re going to have this discussion about the greatest of all-time, then one seven-footer with an unstoppable sky hook shot belongs in the conversation.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Winner of six NBA titles (five with the Los Angeles Lakers), six MVPs, two Finals MVPs. He’s a 19-time All-Star, 15-time All-NBA performer and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points.
He averaged at least 21 points in his first 17 seasons, averaged at least 12 rebounds in his first 10 seasons and shot at least 50% from the field and if you want to talk about someone who protected the paint, Abdul-Jabbar is third on the all-time blocked shots list with 3,189.
He had a sky hook that was almost as successful as it was unstoppable. With a turn and flick of the wrist high over his right shoulder, the hook shot was unique and never replicated with the same efficiency. It’s one of the rare shots that is identified with only one player.
He won his first title in 1971 and his last in 1988. When he was named Finals MVP in 1985, he averaged 25.7 points, 9 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.5 blocks. And his six MVPs came in a 10-year stretch from 1970-71 to 1979-80.
Miami Heat president and former Lakers coach Pat Riley once called Abdul-Jabbar the greatest of all-time.
Add in his three college titles, three Final Four Most Outstanding Player awards, three college player of the year awards, and by any definition, Abdul-Jabbar qualifies as the greatest of all-time.
As for Abdul-Jabbar, he has no room for the discussion, taking the enlightened view.
“The reason there is no such thing as the G.O.A.T is because every player plays under unique circumstances,” Abdul-Jabbar once told the The Undefeated. “We played different positions, under different rules, with different teammates, with different coaches. Every player has to adapt to their circumstances and find a way to excel. This isn’t Highlander. There can be more than one.”
He also has another perspective, a way of saying it’s impossible to decide.
“These G.O.A.T discussions are fun distractions while sitting around waiting for the pizza to be served,” Abdul-Jabbar told The Undefeated. “But they’re on a par with ‘Which superpower would you want most: flight or invisibility?’ Whether I’m included or not in anyone’s list doesn’t matter. I played my hardest and I helped my teammates. That’s the most important thing I walked away with.”
Abdul-Jabbar better be on your list.
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5/2 in sports history
1876: Ross Barnes hit first home run in National League.
1920: First National Negro Baseball League game played. The Indianapolis ABCs defeat the Chicago American Giants, 4-2, in Indianapolis.
1939: Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak ended at 2,130 games. He never played another game and was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
1967: Terry Sawchuk made 40 saves as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 to win the Stanley Cup. The Leafs haven’t won the Cup since.
1968: The Boston Celtics defeat the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA title in six games. It was Bill Russell’s 10th NBA title as a player and first as player-coach.
1999: John Elway announced his retirement from the NFL.
2015: Floyd Mayweather Jr. defeated Manny Pacquiao in a 12-round unanimous decision
What to watch
Since the Pistons have received so much attention in “The Last Dance,” you can watch the 30 For 30 special on the Bad Boys on ESPN2 (8 p.m. ET) and the Dennis Rodman 30 For 30 on ESPN2 (10 p.m. ET).
If you’re a Golden State Warriors fan, NBA TV has Game 3 and Game 5 of the 2017 NBA Finals (9 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. ET).
Need your NFL fix? Fox will air a replay of Super Bowl LIV between San Francisco and Kansas City (8 p.m. ET).
There actually is a live sporting event today: the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. NBCSN, NBCSports.com and on the NBC Sports app will have coverage (6-8 p.m. ET). NBC will also televise a special on American Pharoah’s 2015 Triple Crown (3 p.m. ET). Go ahead and make that Mint Julep anyway.
NBCSN has two Rose Bowl games for you: 1975 between Southern California and Ohio State (8 p.m. ET) and 1988 between Southern California and Michigan State (10 p.m. ET).
What we’re missing
NBA and NHL playoffs
The Kentucky Derby
Major League Baseball games:
- Cincinnati Reds at Washington Nationals
- Texas Rangers at Boston Red Sox
- Baltimore Orioles at Chicago White Sox
- New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays
- Colorado Rockies at Philadelphia Phillies
- Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics
- San Francisco Giants at Cleveland Indians
- Pittsburgh Pirates at Miami Marlins
- Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals
- St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers
- Atlanta Braves at New York Mets
- Chicago Cubs at Arizona Diamondbacks
- Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres
- Minnesota Twins at Los Angeles Angels
- Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners
Major League Soccer games:
- Montreal Impact v. Orlando City SC
- Toronto FC v. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
- Portland Timbers v. Los Angeles Galaxy
- Seattle Sounders FC v. DC United
- New England Revolution v. New York City FC
- New York Red Bulls v. Columbus Crew SC
- Minnesota United FC v. Colorado Rapids
- FC Dallas v. Chicago Fire FC
- Los Angeles FC v. Sporting Kansas City