Gilbert Arenas’ Jordan comments highlight unequal reality of GOAT debate

Whether they like it or not, the GOAT (greatest of all time) debate is just a part of the sports world. Whether you watch a TV show with characters talking or sit in a sports bar, there will inevitably be arguments about one player being better than another. Time constraints no longer exist; it’s about finding the best person.

In the world of basketball, Michael Jordan is usually at the top of the power rankings. A few other names, like LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, may come up, but his mettle will usually be recognized. Gilbert Arenas, who briefly crossed paths with the legend in Washington, D.C., doesn’t disagree with the majority.

Recently appeared on Paul George’s show podcast ask, Arenas took out a staple article in basketball media and explained that in his opinion, Jordan is the greatest player. While this is not groundbreaking in isolation, its logic does reveal a challenging reality of such conversations: things are ultimately intangible and subjective.

Arenas talks Jordan, rings and overall greatness

As mentioned above, there’s nothing groundbreaking about a former NBA player praising Jordan’s greatness. Arenas does bring a unique perspective, however.

exist PodcastPIn a conversation about Super Team, the former Wizards guard said the way championship rings are used has changed over the years and players feel the need to play within those rules.

“That’s the unfair part, because it’s not a great creation, right,” Arenas explained. “Rings weren’t created to create greatness back then, right? They use it now to keep everyone away from greatness. That’s the bad part. How about this? Put two players in a bottle and say you can’t Better” instead of them and then making regular judgments about us. Rather than saying, ‘Oh, well, you didn’t do that. Ah, you didn’t get three MVPs and five…’ Like, come on, y’all. “

Things circled back to Arenas after George weighed in on Kevin Durant, who recently weighed in on “GOAT” talk.

“It’s a false door (viewing championships as a means to historical greatness),” he said of viewing rings as a ticket to greatness. “Because those guys aren’t in the door. They’re in the other door. Right? That’s the problem. Oh, it’s the goat door. Right? Well, I want some rings, and then you realize, ‘Hey , Michael Jordan isn’t here, you guys. He’s not in this door, you guys. He’s somewhere else.”

Ever since the specter of the all-time great was raised, things have moved further towards trying to claim the title of “The GOAT”.

“As players, we look at our numbers, right, our rings and say, ‘No, we should be able to, I have the title lead, I beat him in every statistic. Why don’t you put Me in front? Him?’ And the answer is: He’s the NBA,” Arenas explained.

“Magic and Bird controlled it. Right? They controlled it. They made the game exciting. You know, when the game started, it was tape delay… So, when Bird When De and Magic fought, when Jordan arrived inside, they saw a completely different animal,” Arenas said.

“You’re going to see some different stuff, different moves, different talk, different ways of playing. Swag is phenomenal, right? It’s the best thing we’ve ever seen.”

Arenas’s case isn’t over yet. I mentioned Jordan’s legendary 1987-88 season and said that was when the Bulls were on their way to greatness. That was before he won any NBA championships.

“That’s when he became the best player ever,” Agent Zero said. “No rings. Rings are what they’re using right now. Six. That’s what he does. He takes on everything we have right now. One-man mission. It’s hard to beat one-man mission with stats. LeBron can win right now. There were six rings. They didn’t give them to him.”

To be clear, there’s a lot to unpack here, but Arenas raises some interesting points in terms of judging greatness. Rings matter — James, for example, trails Jordan in this all-important metric — until they don’t. Take the ring Kevin Durant earned with the Golden State Warriors, for example. Or, ask why Bill Russell isn’t the GOAT, despite his legendary winning ways.

gilbert arenas
Gilbert Arenas (right) drives past Goran Dragic on December 19, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. Arenas discussed the greatness of the NBA on Paul George’s podcast.
Christian Peterson/Getty Images

Beyond that, the former guard claims Jordan just looks and feels different. While everyone can judge for themselves, there is something to be said for being first and making an impact. We’ve all seen an athlete, whether in the air or anyone else, simply say, “Wow.”

This also creates a certain degree of unfairness. MJ’s date of birth was, after all, out of his control, so why should he get credit for being number one? But at the same time, it makes sense.

Again, we’ll use James as an example, but you could plug in any contemporary player. There is always something worth achieving beyond statistical comparisons. Jordan never lost a game in the NBA Finals. Jordan didn’t need to change teams to win. There’s something indescribable about Jordan that makes him a real-life superhero. If you can’t achieve these, you simply can’t surpass him.

Ultimately, there’s a level of emotion involved, and it’s always exciting when something happens for the first time. Just think, even when James emerged as a high school student, he was positioned as the heir apparent to Jordan’s throne rather than a unique star. And, whether you like it or not, sequels rarely have the same resonance as the original.

That’s not to say we should completely ignore the “best player” debate or remove championship rings from historical evaluations. That would be a bit naive; fans will always want to compare X to Y, whether it’s a team, a player, or anything else. However, it pays to have some perspective on the biases that structure our thoughts.

The NBA (or NFL, if we count Tom Brady as the GOAT, or any other professional sports league) is filled with great athletes. There are incredible moments every night. Things should be interesting in the end.

It would be a shame to miss this as you get bogged down in arguments about greatness, especially when they are not based on a unified framework.