Debating who the greatest basketball player of all time can be a dangerous and often endless road to go down. While the general consensus for quite some time was that Michael Jordan was hands-down the GOAT, new Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has made a strong case for himself in his 15-year-career.
In fact, James has made such a great case that Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey doesn’t even think Jordan, or any other player for that matter, is in the conversation with James.
“You look at his ability to generate wins and championship probability over time, and you basically break that down. You don’t need all the numbers. You can watch as well and see that.”
“But if you basically isolate that and also look at the career he’s had, frankly I think at this point it’s become a bit of a big margin, actually, where he’s come out ahead. I know that’s a little controversial.
Morey then went on to say that while he still “expects” his Rockets and the Golden State Warriors to be better than the Lakers this year, anything is possible for a team with James:
“I would never count out a LeBron James team. He is the greatest ever in my mind.”
Earning praise from one of the best and brightest general managers in the league is no small feat, however, there is something to be said about the similarities between these comments made my Morey and the ones made by Magic Johnson about Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“Oh yeah,” Johnson told ESPN recently. “With his ball-handling skills and his passing ability. He plays above the rim I never could do that. But in his understanding of the game, his basketball IQ, his creativity of shots for his teammates. That’s where we [have the] same thing. Can bring it down, make a pass, make a play. I’m just happy he’s starting in the All-Star game because he deserves that. And he’s going to be like an MVP, a champion, this dude he’s going to put Milwaukee on the map. And I think he’s going to bring them a championship one day.”
Granted, the Lakers, Johnson especially, were walking on thin ice after violating the league’s tampering rules with Paul George last summer, but the fine was a head scratcher. Even Antetokounmpo was confused by the fine (via USA Today):
”It was just a compliment. I don’t think Magic Johnson was tampering in any way,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think it was just a compliment towards a player. He was asked about a player and he gave a compliment. I don’t know what the rules are, if you get fined for a compliment, you get fined for a compliment.”
The situations also aren’t that different. You can say James is locked in for three more years with the Lakers, but Antetokounmpo’s deal with the Bucks doesn’t expire until 2021 either, so it’s not like one was comments made about an impending free agent and one wasn’t.
One also might argue that Morey was (partially) talking about James having success with the Lakers, but Johnson was literally talking about Giannis bringing championships to Milwaukee. Again, these are very similar situations.
If anything, this just once again highlights the absurdity of the NBA fining Johnson (one of the game’s greats) for simply paying a compliment to one of its current best players. Yes, that opens up a slippery slope, but it’s hard to argue that these comments aren’t just as, if not more, complimentary than Johnson’s statement on Antetokounmpo.
Now, I would never advocate for someone to lose $50K, but if rules are rules, Morey should be getting an email from the NBA pretty soon regarding his comments, lest the NBA risk looking as though it has double standards for its executives.