Sports fans love a good GOAT debate, pointless as it is. Different people have different criteria, and ultimately it usually comes down to the player with which you most closely identify.
If you grew up in the Michael Jordan era, he’s your GOAT. You’ll claim the game was tougher back then and Jordan would score 50 a game under today’s rules.
If you’re of a younger generation, LeBron James is probably your GOAT. You’ll claim the athletes LeBron is playing against are better and he’s more versatile and physically gifted.
But what about that dude that is, you know, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer? That guy with six championships and six MVPs and one of the most iconic shots in history? What’s his name again?
Oh, yeah. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
You don’t hear his name much anymore in these debates, if at all.
Dwyane Wade doesn’t think that’s coincidental. Again, it’s a generational thing. Fans who grew up watching Kareem dominate are no longer controlling the conversation. A lot of them aren’t even alive anymore, if we’re being honest. And the ones who are, their voices have been as fazed out as the very style of game that allowed for Kareem’s dominance in the first place.
Wade believes that in time, Jordan’s once seemingly unassailable GOAT status, to this generation, will not only take a similar fall, but ultimately become irrelevant in the minds of the next wave of fans.
“We’re not gonna be the ones having a conversation about the GOATs,” Wade said of his generation of basketball players and fans that grew up with Jordan on a recent episode of the “Armchair Expert” podcast with Dax Shepard and Monica Padman. “Now it’s going to be the younger, younger, younger generation. And they’re gonna forget about Jordan like we forget about Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar].”
Wade acknowledged that Jordan was the “the first icon in basketball” in terms of his global appeal and reach and fame even outside the game, which will make him difficult to supplant, but in the same breath he acknowledged how much better the players of today are than even when he played, let along when Jordan was in his prime.
“I watch players play today and, like, I thought I was good … [but] they’re way better than me,” Wade said. “…The game continues to keep moving forward, and so we’re going to continue to see things we’ve never seen before. And the eyes are gonna get younger and younger.”
Wade is absolutely right about this. Everything and everyone eventually moves forward. The GOAT debates are fun, but they ultimately come down to the athlete to whom you most closely identify. What makes the Jordan vs. LeBron debate so fun right now is there are still a lot of people from both generations having the conversation. That will faze out, and eventually there will be a lot more LeBron campers. And eventually, someone will make a new generation of kids forget about LeBron.