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The ‘G.O.A.T’ Debate isn’t Fair

Los+Angeles+Lakers+President+of+Basketball+Operations+Magic+Johnson+speaks+during+a+news+conference+introducing+the+Lakers%27+first-round+draft+pick%2C+second+overall%2C+Lonzo+Ball+at+the+team%27s+training+facility+in+El+Segundo%2C+Calif.%2C+on+Friday%2C+June+23%2C+2017.+%28Wally+Skalij%2FLos+Angeles+Times%2FTNS%29
Los Angeles Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson speaks during a news conference introducing the Lakers' first-round draft pick, second overall, Lonzo Ball at the team's training facility in El Segundo, Calif., on Friday, June 23, 2017. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Los Angeles Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson speaks during a news conference introducing the Lakers' first-round draft pick, second overall, Lonzo Ball at the team's training facility in El Segundo, Calif., on Friday, June 23, 2017. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Wally Skalij

Wally Skalij

Los Angeles Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson speaks during a news conference introducing the Lakers' first-round draft pick, second overall, Lonzo Ball at the team's training facility in El Segundo, Calif., on Friday, June 23, 2017. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

David Amirdjanian, Staff Writer

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The ‘Greatest Of All Time’ or G.O.A.T debate is stupid for most sports, especially when it comes to team based games, such as basketball.

Each basketball team needs to have five players on the court at all times; after all, it’s a team sport. Each player also has a position that they play, and it’s stereotypically based on the physical traits of a player. People who are above the six foot, 8 inches range tend to play the center and forward positions in basketball, and every person shorter tend to play the guard positions.  It is silly to compare players that play a certain position their entire career to players that don’t play the same position.

For example, players John Stockton and Magic Johnson both play the point guard position, and both players played around the same era (80s – 90s) of basketball. Stockton was more of a ‘true point guard,’ someone who focuses to pass the ball to the teammates first, and to score second. He still scored the ball, but it wasn’t the most important thing to him. He tried to get the whole team involved the entire time, thus allowing him to achieve the most assists recorded by a single player in NBA history. He played 19 seasons throughout his career.

Magic Johnson, on the other hand, was more about being flashy with his passes, and wowing the crowd. Not only did he pass the ball around, he could score. He ended up averaging more points per season than Stockton could for most of his career. Not to say Stockton didn’t put up impressive numbers, Johnson just did it more than he could.

Both players were masters at basketball IQ; they knew when and how to pass to players to insure points for their team. But both players had their strengths and weaknesses. Johnson played for the ‘Showtime Lakers’, with players such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Byron Scott, and James Worthy. These players were absolute beasts during this era, and they consistently dominated the league every season. And with such supporting cast, Johnson was able to play at his peak, allowing his passing ability and his basketball IQ to really shine since each player knew how to play at such a high level, and it also led him to win five championships as well. Unfortunately, Johnson ended up getting HIV, cutting his basketball career short. He had to sit multiple seasons out due to it, thus coming up short in the career statistics for assists. Stockton was able to avoid such injuries and ended up playing 19 seasons. He didn’t have such a strong supporting cast as the Lakers did, and didn’t win any championships because of it.

There are so many human variables to the game of basketball that it becomes hard to judge players only based on statistics. So who would you say is better, Stockton or Johnson? In this situation, it’s fine to argue who is the better point guard, but people try to start arguing who is the best player of all time and then start comparing them to players outside of their positions. This is where is becomes unreasonable.

You can’t compare guards to centers or forwards because their game is completely different, and what they can and cannot do physically is also completely different. And to compare players in different eras also becomes hard to argue who is better. The game now has evolved from what it used to be. The offenses of basketball teams now are faster than any team in the 80s or 90s.

Basing everything on statistics or on the amount of championships won is really hard when it comes to arguing who’s a better player. There’s players that never won a championship in their entire life, but they are still considered basketball legends. Tracy McGrady was an amazing player, but never one a single championship game, or even got into the finals. Yet he’s a hall of famer for being one of the most lethal scorers while he was in his prime. But there’s players such as Robert Horry, who was a sixth man for mostly his entire career, but because he was in the right place at the right time, and was able to pull off clutch plays when he was needed the most, he ended up winning 7 championships, but he is no way an all-star, or a super-star. So comparing championships is also a bad way of telling who is the greatest.

In the end, you should be judging a player within his position, and avoid the talk about championships to have a fair debate for who is a greater player in the NBA.

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