Yesterday (6/22/2016), in the debut of his HBO show “Any given Wednesday”, the competent journalist Bill Simmons, known as an expert on the history of the NBA, boldly claimed that Lebron James already is at least among the 3 all-time NBA greatest players, and that his first 13 NBA seasons: “were greater than anyone’s else’s first 13 seasons: 4 MVP’s, 3 Finals MVP’’, 6 straight finals, 9 straight All NBA first team selections, one historic comeback, and he’s the most durable NBA superstar ever. He has never suffered a major injury. He has logged almost 47.000 minutes in 13 seasons. Only Wilt Chamberlain had a bigger workload and he was going against a bunch of scrawny white guys (note: sad to see an expert repeat popular legends; “scrawny white guys” like Nate Thurmond?). Lebron James is on pace to become the GOAT. Look, for real, it’s between him, MJ and Russell. He already passed Kareem. He has even passed my heroes: Bird and Magic”.
Before commenting on Bill Simmons words (by the way, I really like his work), it is essential to read part of the interview that he did with the great Julius Erving (Dr. J) in 2013 (to heat the complete version, click here):
Simmons: Who do you think out of the guys from your generation, do you think Moses was probably the most underrated?
Dr. J – Well, Moses is the most underrated because… Kareem is the greatest. I mean in terms of centers of all time, Kareem is the number one guy. In terms of players all time, Kareem is still the number one guy.
Simmons — Really?
Dr. J — He’s the guy you got start your franchise with.
Simmons — Because you get 20 years.
Dr. J — You get 20 years and you get leadership, you get excellence in terms of offensively and defensively and figuring things out and accomplishments. I mean, you know, his numbers speak volumes. And just because he had a bad attitude, there’s a lot of people who disrespect him. But he never had a bad attitude with me. And you know I’ve met him back in 1970 and I don’t think there has ever been a more potent weapon to step on a basketball court than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Whatever it’s Lew Alcindor or Kareem Abdul Jabbar, you talk about disrespected, underrated, left out of conversations. You, I mean, I seat with a roundtable over at TNT. Kareem wasn’t in the conversation and they were talking about centers. I’m like: out you for real? (chuckles) How can you do that?
Simmons — He can’t be lower than third all time. Just can’t. Plus he won… How many MVP’s did he win? Like 7? And he won like 5 titles. Or maybe he won more than that. He might have won 6 titles. Yeah, the record speaks for itself. I hate the Lakers, so it’s tough for me to admit, but Kareem, you can’t deny the stats. You can’t deny the numbers.
Dr. J — See, stats sometimes don’t tell the whole story
Simmons — That’s true. I’m just saying the sheer resume.
Dr. J — But when you have the stats and you have the story.
Simmons — And the titles.
Dr. J — Come on.
Simmons — Yeah.
Dr. J: Why be a hater? I mean, you know.
Simmons — Right.
I think we can tell that Bill Simmons did not pay the right amount attention to the wise words of Dr. J, because he dismisses Kareem when he considers him to be already surpassed by Lebron. However, it is important to say that I do not underrate the great Cavaliers superstar; certainly he is already among the top 10, or perhaps even 5, greatest of all time.
So, let’s now go back to Bill Simmons arguments for such statement. Initially, he said that no one has ever had better first 13 years than Lebron. What? How can Simmons be so contradictory? Well, Bill Russell’s (a player among the top 3 best ever, according to Simmons) career lasted exactly 13 years (with 11 titles and 5 MVP’s). Why isn’t Lebron already greater than Russell then? There possibly enters, not the great journalist, but the Celtic’s fan and self-proclaimed Lakers hater. There might also be the reason why he dares to say that Lebron passed Kareem.
Like I have written in a previous post, even if I personally disagrees, I do believe that Kareem has arguments to be considered greater than even Jordan (let alone Lebron, who has less titles and MVP’s): superior longevity (final’s MVP at 38); winning the same 6 titles as Jordan; NBA all time leading scorer; most MVP’s in NBA history (6, one more than MJ); had the skyhook in his arsenal, the most effective and unguardable shot in basketball’s history (not perfectly emulated to this day; even a great shooter and legendary player like Dirk Nowitzki has stated how tough the skyhook is to master). By the way, about Kareem’s resume, how doesn’t Simmons, a known NBA expert, know off the top of his head the number of MVP’s and rings won by Jabbar? Unbelievable!
Does all this mean that Lebron may never surpass Kareem? Of course not. But to claim he has already done is to disrespect the deeds of the great center. If, according to Simmons own words, “the record speaks for itself”, “you can’t deny the numbers”, “you can’t deny the stats” of Jabbar, we can use Dr. J arguments to ask Bill Simmons: “Why be a hater?”.