In any profession the question that is always asked is, “Who is the best?” People have a desire to determine the one who achieved the greatest success at their field. In many cases there is no definite answer, but we spend our time debating who excelled to the greatest extent.
The NBA is no different. For years basketball fans have argued over who is the greatest player of all time. Players like Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are among the players who come to mind. However, the one player who defined greatness was Michael Jeffrey Jordan.
It’s hard to compare players from different eras. The best way to do so is by evaluating how dominant a player was during his time. Michael Jordan was named to 10 All-NBA first teams, essentially meaning he was among the best five players in basketball for 10 seasons. He also added nine All-Defensive first-team selections over the course of his career.
Jordan was the NBA’s most valuable player five times, and many believe he should have won even more. Most notably, it is widely believed that Karl Malone unjustly won the 1998 MVP over Jordan because writers believed Jordan had won enough. Jordan was also named the NBA’s defensive player of the year in 1988.
By any calculation, Jordan is the greatest scorer the league has ever seen. He won a record 10 scoring titles, and boasted a career average of 30.1 points per game, the most in NBA history.
Jordan was also among the greatest winners in NBA history. During the early portions of his career, Jordan had to go up against all-time great teams such as the Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics and the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons. When Jordan was finally able to reach his first NBA championship in ’91, he didn’t look back. Jordan led the Bulls to six NBA titles, and was named finals MVP all six times.
The thing that separated Jordan from many of the all time greats was his compulsive need to win. Jordan was and is still known for his intense competitiveness which on many occasions has gotten him in to trouble. However, on the basketball court this was a trait Jordan used to his advantage.
He was among the all-time great trash talkers and had a knack for getting into his opponents’ heads. When the media compared him to Portland Trailblazers guard Clyde Drexler prior to the ’92 NBA Finals, Jordan took notice and used the finals as an opportunity to prove Drexler wasn’t in his class. When Jordan’s Bulls met Karl Malone’s Jazz in the ’97 finals, the same year in which Malone controversially won the season’s MVP award, Jordan dominated Malone and once again proved his greatness. Every little thing anyone did or said Jordan used to fuel his competitive fire.
Finally, Jordan has hit more clutch shots, and has had more big game performances than any player in NBA history.
Let us count the ways: There was the 63-point game against the ’86 Celtics at the Boston Garden; the game winner over Craig Ehlo in the ’89 playoffs; the “shrug game” in which Jordan hit six first-half three pointers and scored 35 first half points in the ’92 NBA finals; Game 5 of the ’97 NBA finals where Jordan scored 38 points, including the game-deciding three pointer with 25 seconds left, despite battling the flu; Game 6 of the ’98 finals when Jordan stripped the ball from Karl Malone and proceeded to hit a foul-line jump shot to clinch the finals.
Russell may have won more championships, Chamberlain may have averaged 50 points per game in a single season and Kareem may be the all-time scoring leader, but if you take into consideration the entire package, Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time.