18 Comments
Oct 13, 2020Liked by punk basketball

I have had to take a day or two before responding due to the pain of having to defend MJ over LBJ as the GOAT. With respect to LBJ and his achievements, MJ’s defensive play alone qualifies him for the title (although I can only reach back in time as far as Dr. J). Have the Laker’s announcers or Mike Breen yelled “Unleash the Dobermans” for a LBJ defensive stand (not just one block I will not mention) or even, “OH, my goodness, they poked the bear!” after the opposing team scored?

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I would agree that MJ is more dominant in terms of perimeter defense, but that perimeter defense is of limited utility in comparison to Lebron James versatility. Lebron, at his defensive height in Miami, was an all time great defender and his ability to guard 1-5 providing rim protection along with excellent perimeter defending makes him a more impactful team defender imho.

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I really hesitate to make the comparison, but it's hard not to notice the similarities between KD's defense and LeBron's. Both of them can be so dominant on defense when they're all the way dialed in - which (for me) just tends to highlight all the times that the full engagement just isn't there.

Also, in the GOAT talk, it is 100% all the way fair to nitpick these players' games. If you are really aiming for the very top of the pyramid then you gotta expect people to be looking to chip away at anything that isn't perfectly solid

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This is only a debate for sportswriters who need a topic to fill up their columns. Some people think Trump is GOAT of the presidency. Congrats and all due respect to Lebron. Now, let's get working on either signing AD or Howard for next season.

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Yeah, I normally don't bother writing stuff like this up, but I do think LeBron is crossing into a place where it's going to get harder and harder to defend Jordan's legacy - especially to a younger generation of fans that can't see how thoroughly Jordan dominated and changed the game in a way that LeBron really hasn't.

And how on earth are we signing AD?

Don't get me wrong, I'm 100% on board with it as an idea, but there's no path to it, at least one that I can see.

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Oct 14, 2020Liked by punk basketball

Getting AD is a big ask. I realize that it will probably not happen for many reasons, but if they want a superstar and a player of need at a position they suffer the lack of, AD is probably the best there is. I agree that the Lakers are not the likely champions that some thing they might be and its the future that could be sold to AD and the Lakers. Lebron is at the tail end of his career. Where can they go with their present team? AD's future is the main feature. He is not a leader on a team and the Warriors have the players to change all of that for him. Since he has a player option, he can force his way out if he thinks the future for him is not in L.A. Warriors should try. Howard is a REAL possibility, though.

I'm not on board with any GOAT talk. Too many variables including the talent level of the league, in general.

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My main issue with the AD concept is that it's essentially impossible for the Warriors to add a contract like that via free agency... though a sign and trade with WIggins would be a fitting conclusion to one hell of a wild ride, post-KD

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Oct 12, 2020Liked by punk basketball

It's hard for me to believe that Laker team won. Clearly rebounding and defense matters. James practically willed himself every available rebound. And Davis' ability to guard the perimeter is a big monkey wrench in P+R schemes.

But wait til they face a team with perimeter shooting.

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To be clear, rebounding/defense has always mattered. However, something I never really see talked about in that team is their passing. In a team with limited 3 point shooting, their excellent passing combined with cutting allowed for them to generate far more efficient shots than other teams with limited passing. You have two all time great passers in Lebron/Rondo, a good passer in Alex Caruso, and then solid/smart decision makers in KCP/Kuzma/Danny Green who were primarily catch/shoot/drive players but were nevertheless good in that area. So yeah, I just think thats an underrated aspect of that team.

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It was in one of the early rounds that I started coming around on the Lakers chances this year. Once I saw the Bucks and Clippers go down, I knew that all bets were off.

I think it was when we recorded that thing with Athletic Alchemy that I first put it out to the universe that barring a really good team emerging, LeBron was going to take the trophy home. What a weird playoffs!

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Oct 13, 2020Liked by punk basketball

Sure, the Laker team won, but they have a massive asterisk on their championship between the bubble environment and the massive injuries on their finals opponent.

(Just having fun with the asterisk thing because we can do it every year. Literally: https://www.goldenstateofmind.com/2015/6/17/8788361/nba-finals-2015-golden-state-warriors-championship )

I think one thing this Lakers team demonstrated, aside from the fact that Lebron is not yet washed up (nor are, apparently, Rondo, Howard, and others) is that big-man basketball is not dead in the NBA. The Lakers dominated in a completely different way than most recent champs & contenders: with rebounding, interior defense, and an inside-out attack where 3's are only a smallish factor in their scoring. Honestly, as much as I don't find it to be an entertaining style to watch, the fact that it's yet another viable path to a championship is a testament to what a beautiful game basketball is overall. All the top teams are so different, with such a complex interaction between supremely talented individuals and overall teamwork, that there's no reliable formula for success.

In a sense, the "GOAT" conversation is similar because all the candidates for best player are so unique that they're incomparable. In that sense, the conversation is a Rorschach test: who you pick reveals more about who you are than it settles the question of who's the best overall. I still can't see LBJ as on the same level as MJ because only Jordan has that air of unstoppability. Lebron is an unbelievably good basketball player and has had quite a long career to rack up stats and finals appearances, but he's also clearly fallible: more finals losses than wins certainly attests to that. Meanwhile Jordan retired at the peak of his game after going undefeated in 6 "straight" finals—how can you top that? The only crack in his armor there is the hubris of his ill-fated baseball career. But, I'm sure some of my views there are colored by growing up in the '90s, and people who grew up before or after could make the case for Wilt, Kareem, Lebron, or—ugh—Kobe.

... yeah, this offseason is going to feel long, and weird.

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I guess it is a Rorscharch test. You see no chinks in his armor because of his lack of finals losses, I see those chinks in all the years he didn't even get to the finals.

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LeBron will never be GOAT, in my opinion. But that is mostly because I don't like him. The quote you referenced is excellent. If he had won 4 championships in Miami, then he'd have a claim now. I hope that he never gets another championship ring, though.

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yeah, it's going to get tougher and tougher to argue against because his counting stats are going to bury everyone. It's fine that all that counts, but sort of like rooting for Harden, there's a stylistic aspect to how James has gotten his rings that I personally don't care for

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Huh, I actually look at it a different way. James method of getting the rings is so different and unique, crafting his own teams through his sheer starpower. In comparison, Jordan (and a lot of the other all time greats like Magic Johnson and larry Bird and Steph Curry all had the benefit of being in a great organization that surrounded them with competent players.

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We're talking about GOAT, not favorite, right? So look at the bright side: No NBA candidate for GOAT is as dislikable as Ty Cobb, one of baseball's leading GOAT candidates!

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Oct 12, 2020Liked by punk basketball

I think it is extremely rare that the concept of a GOAT is valid - not to say never but I don't think it's valid in NBA basketball. Y'all know the reasons: different eras, several candidates that seem undeniably "the best," all that. I saw Wilt, Kareem, MJ, and of course LBJ. I'd happily start an all time team with any one of 'em.

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I don't generally spend a lot of time with this sort of thing - like you say, these guys are playing an evolving game so it's almost an entirely different sport they operate in.

Jordan himself has said as much

https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1220799796920885249

(sorry, still working with substack on embed links in comments)

Still, as a discussion point with months of dead air in between the end of this season and the start of the next, I'm more willing than ever to dive into the convo

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