Tag Archives: Grant Hill

Greetings, everyone! I’d like to extend a warm welcome to all of you – you basketball fans with the courage to seek basketball analysis in the deepest, darkest corner of the basement of the internet. It warms my heart to see you all here. Really. I’m honored that you all came. All three of you! It’s wonderful to have you.

You deserve congratulations! Through your bravery, traveling to the deepest, darkest corner of the basement of the internet, you have found the resolution of the LeBron v. MJ debate. There are plenty of basketball websites out there – from people who have actual credentials to be commenting about basketball. But, only this website contains the resolution to the most important basketball argument of our era. I thought I resolved it a few years ago, but my resolution seems not to have taken hold among hoop heads. (Perhaps it would help if I had more than three readers.) So, I’m back, first to put this issue to bed once and for all, and then to move onto other important topics related to hoops.

You ready? Good. Here goes…

LeBron is playing basketball at a higher level than any human has ever played it. Perhaps cartoon characters have played it better (I guess we’ll find out when SpaceJam 2 gets released), and there’s likely a video game character out there who has played it better. But, if we’re talking about humans, the way LeBron played these last few seasons represents the pinnacle that any human has ever reached over an extended period of time. His combination of skill, athleticism, and intellect is unparalleled.

Plus, by all accounts, LeBron’s a great guy. He seems like a great family man, and what he’s doing as a businessman and philanthropist off the court is remarkable. Off the court, he is achieving much more than MJ ever did. If I had the chance to become friends with LeBron or MJ, I’d choose LeBron eight days a week.

There’s a but…
And it’s a big but…
A big ol’ but…
No, not THAT KIND of big butt, you pervert!

C’mon, get your head out of the gutter!

The but is this… our discussion about who’s the GOAT is not about which player reached the highest level of performance. That’s because the game is constantly evolving, and the level of performance is constantly elevating. The best player in the game right now would beat the best player in the game from 20 years ago, who would beat the best player in the game from 20 years before that. The tenth-best player in the game now would beat the tenth-best player in the game from 20 years ago, who would beat the tenth-best player in the game from 20 years before that. That’s also true of the twentieth-best player now. Etc. Point is, the group of guys playing now are better than any group of guys that’s ever played before.

LeBron’s the best player in the game now, and that’s got to count for plenty. But, if that meant he was the GOAT, it would mean that the GOAT is continuously changing every couple of years. Each time a new player ascends to be the best in the game for a few years at a time, it would mean that he’s become the GOAT.

That’s not how GOAT works. GOAT isn’t like the heavyweight championship, held by one person until he gets too old to retain it, and then passed to the best person of the next generation.

The question about who’s the GOAT is generally a question about who has built up the best résumé over the course of his career. That’s why phenomenal players who performed at an exceedingly high level for a short window of time (i.e., Grant Hill) are never considered. It’s also why phenomenal players who may be the best in the game at a given moment are never considered unless they have won a championship (think Anthony Davis).

The question about who’s the GOAT considers measurable achievements: championships, MVPs, scoring titles, All-NBA selections, etc. Folks can debate the relative importance of those achievements, so it’s something other than an exercise in counting rings. But, fundamentally, it’s a comparison of achievements considered in the context of the player’s era – not a comparison of on-court performance at the players’ peak.

It’s also, implicitly, a conversation about how the best players performed in their role as stewards of the game. Did they elevate it from a down period, like Bird and Magic? Did they take it to another level, like Jordan? Break down barriers and set honorable precedent, like Russell?

Because the GOAT conversation is a conversation about how the best players performed in their role as stewards of the game, LeBron is out of the running for GOAT. No great player before him ever left his team as a free agent, having failed to win a championship, to join a stacked team. In other words, no great player before him ever sought out an easy path to the validation that a championship ring provides.

Until LeBron quit on the quest with the Cavs to join up with Wade and Bosh in Miami, it was always understood that the pursuit of GOATness was a difficult quest. Until LeBron quit on the quest with the Cavs to join up with Wade and Bosh in Miami, it was always understood that the pursuit of GOATness was nearly impossible for all but the greatest players, and even for many of the greats, was a quest made even more difficult by obstacles such as mediocre teammates and intimidating competition (see, for example: Nowitzki, Dirk; Barkley, Charles; Ewing, Patrick). Until LeBron quit on the quest with the Cavs to join up with Wade and Bosh in Miami, nobody in history had quit the quest to get a ring with a stacked team. It was always understood that being recognized amongst the greatest was an immense challenge, and that no competitor who might be part of such a conversation would do such a thing.

Then, LeBron quit on the quest with the Cavs to join up with Wade and Bosh in Miami. When he did, he set a precedent that has damaged the game tremendously, thereby removing himself from the conversation about who is the GOAT. Because of LeBron’s precedent, it seemed perfectly sensible for Kevin Durant – one of the most outstanding players of his generation – to leave a team that was up 3-1 in the conference finals, so he could win a championship with the team that came back from being down 3-1 in the conference finals to beat him in the conference finals. It was the greatest sin against the game of basketball since Isiah Thomas uttered the words “with this signing of Jerome James to a $30 million contract, the New York Knickerbockers are back on the path to greatness.” Durant committed the sin, but LeBron set the precedent.

So, as good as LeBron is, the conversation about whether he’s the GOAT is over. It ended years ago. It ended when he took his talents to South Beach.

If you’re a LeBron fan, I recognize that it might make you angry to read this. But, don’t get mad at me. I’m not the one who ended the conversation.

He is.

On to a new season of Hoopservations! I hope the three of you will stick around, there’s some good stuff in the pipeline.

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Jalen, Grant, Race, Etc.

Before I say anything that has anything to do with race relations in America, let me be clear:  I’m completely aware that nobody comes to this site to read my musings about history, politics, sociology, or any of the hot-button issues that tend to divide Americans.  So, I generally stay away from even touching on any of those issues here.  (In response to that, some might observe that nobody comes to this site to read what I have to say about basketball, either, and, yet, I continue undeterred.  Fair point.  Wiseass.)

For a few weeks, though, I have been compelled to dip my toe into that dangerous water, because of the brewhaha involving, Jalen, Grant, Duke, and Michigan, in the wake of the airing of “The Fab Five” on ESPN.

To even dip a toe in the water, it is necessary to first set the table for a discussion that touches on race:  In my experience, it is impossible to talk about race in America. Regardless of what position you take in a discussion about race, there are people who are ready to accuse you of racism.  Against affirmative action?  Plenty of people will call you racist.  In favor of it?  Same thing.

Because there are accusations of racism around every corner in a conversation about race, I appreciate people who are honest about their racial feelings.  Of course, that appreciation only goes so far — people who shamelessly espouse racist feelings get no appreciation from me.  But, in general, assuming people are expressing opinions that I consider to be on the spectrum of opinions that people of good faith can have, I’d rather have someone who is fully open about their feelings than someone who speaks in code, or hides their feelings.  So, when I hear that someone used controversial language about race, I try to put the comment in context before being too critical.

Which brings me to Jalen Rose’s comments.  I watched the film, and it sounded to me like Jalen was expressing jealousy at Grant Hill’s upbringing; Jalen pointed out that Grant’s father was a professional athlete who raised Grant in a loving, supportive household, while Jalen’s father was a professional athlete who wanted nothing to do with Jalen.  It was also clear to me that, when Jalen talked about hating Duke because the only black athletes it recruited were “Uncle Toms,” it was obvious to me that Jalen was expressing the feelings he felt as a 19-year-old, not the feelings he holds now.  I mean, the guy sits in a tv studio cracking jokes with Hannah Storm; it’s quite clear that he thinks black folks can work with white folks without giving up part of their identity.  Thus, while I generally find references to “Uncle Toms” offensive, I didn’t have much of a problem with Jalen’s comments, because I understood the context.

In light of that, I was a bit surprised at the emotion the comments stirred up in Grant Hill. I thought Grant’s response (here) was both thoughtful and thought-provoking.  It just seemed slightly over-the-top.

There’s much more to say about the comments from Jalen and Grant, and the various issues those comments bring up, but I don’t think I could add much to the statements above and to the insightful analysis of Michael Wilbon (here).

So, let’s switch the topic to some hoopservations about the film.  I have two:

1.  Mitch Albom’s comments about the money Chris Webber allegedly received as an amateur resonated with me.  Mitch said that he spent lots of time with Webber in Ann Arbor during his days at Michigan, and, if Webber was taking hundreds of thousands of dollars of money from a booster, he was doing a fantastic job of hiding it.  I wasn’t at Ann Arbor when C-Webb was (and, if I had been, I’m pretty sure that he would have been able to find people to hang out with who were more fun than I am), but I’ve been hearing stories for years about Webber having to go without things that he wanted even while his jersey sold for $70 in stores that he would walk by.  (Perhaps I just spend too much time listening to and reading Mitch Album.)  Something about the notion that he was taking hundreds of thousands of dollars while he was there doesn’t make sense to me.

2.  As a basketball fan, it was sad to look back on that footage and that era of college basketball.  None of the players in those videos, who seemed to have such promising careers at the time, wound up being an important player on a championship team in the NBA.  I’m not just talking about the Fab Five themselves, I’m also talking about Hill, Laettner and Hurley from Duke; Johnson, Augmon, and Anthony from UNLV, and all of the guys on the Carolina team that beat Michigan in the famous national championship game.  It just goes to show that, no matter how talented college athletes are, there are no guarantees about what the future has in store for them.  For all we know, the high-flying, trash-talking, trend-setting, rising young star might one day retire from the NBA with no championships, and move on to become an ESPN analyst alongside Hannah Storm.

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