LeBron James and Michael Jordan

Who’s the GOAT? The NBA says MJ, not LeBron
Image: Getty Images

LeBron James’ fans must simply concede. The charade is over. That flimsy argument is washed. James isn’t the G.O.A.T. And who said so? Who settled this long-running barbershop debate? Well, the NBA, itself.

This week, the league announced it was naming some of its most prestigious awards after greats in its game:

  • The Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy — awarded to the best defensive player of the year.
  • The Jerry West Trophy — awarded to the clutch player of the year.
  • The Wilt Chamberlain Trophy — awarded to the rookie of the year.
  • The John Havlicek Trophy — awarded to the sixth man of the year.
  • The George Mikan Trophy — awarded to the most improved player of the year.

The biggest news, however, was that the Most Valuable Player of the league award would be named after Michael Jordan. MJ’s resume is ridiculous. He was 6-0 in NBA Finals and was MVP of each. He won five regular season MVPs, and easily could have won more. Voters wanted to be fair and spread it around. He won the scoring title 10 seasons in a row. By looking at the stats, you would be hard-pressed to find a bad year, a non-MVP-worthy year in his career. It’s so fitting, deserved by His Airness. The league left little wiggle room as to who it believes is the best player the league ever had.

Quickly, James’ minions made the excuse that the league couldn’t name it after James because he’s still playing and it would be awkward to give a trophy out with a current player’s name on it. Nonsense. If the NBA honestly believed that James’ name belonged on that trophy, it could have waited to name it, and left it blank until it was ready to put James’ name on it.

There was no formal deadline, or time issue that said the trophies had to be named this week. It is all arbitrary. There’s no rhyme or reason. It is particularly a slap in the face when you considered that James will pass Kareem Abdul Jabbar as the league’s all-time leading scorer later this season.

The NBA powers-that-be could have logically said let’s wait on the MVP trophy naming. They could have said to themselves that James could win a few more championships and catch Jordan. He will probably lead in all offensive categories when he’s done. Plus, he will have the all-time scoring record.

Easily, the NBA couldn’t have painted that scenario and decided to wait on James’ greatness. After all, once these trophies are named, it’s a done deal. They won’t take anyone’s name off. The NBA was smart in doing the naming now. It had a built-in excuse for why James wasn’t named: He’s still playing. It saves James the embarrassment of not being named after his career is over. And it saves the league criticism from his minions who will feel like James with slighted, despite all his accolades.

For now, James’ fans can accept the excuse that it couldn’t be named after James because he’s still active. But what they fail to realize is what award will James’ name go on. All the big ones have been named. There’s no room at the inn. So much so that even a former NBA player, Evan Turner, joked about the diss of LeBron by the league. He tweeted out a definitely LOL-worthy tweet.

“If we ever have a bubble championship again then that specific trophy should be named after him,” wrote Turner, the former No. 2 pick in the 2010 NBA draft.

James and the Lakers won the championship in 2020 playing in the NBA bubble in Orlando.

Some can downplay the significance of Jordan getting the nod over James, but they would be all wrong. It made such an impact in sports that even some in the NHL are talking about renaming its MVP Trophy from the Hart Memorial Trophy to the Wayne Gretzky Trophy. He’s considered by many as the greatest hockey player to ever put on shakes. He’s the equivalent of Jordan.

If the naming wasn’t important, a signal of the league confirming the belief that Jordan was the greatest to lace them up, there wouldn’t have been this reaction from other leagues. For sure, this is huge, and monumental in NBA history. It wasn’t long ago that James proclaimed himself the G.O.A.T. The league clearly saw it another way.

Case closed.



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