Fans may never be able to settle on one answer to the question: who is the greatest basketball player ever? Public opinion teeters back and forth mainly between two superstars, Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd, who is also one of the greatest point guards ever settled the debate squarely on the Los Angeles Lakers guard.
Kidd has gotten to spend time with James the past few years when he was an assistant with the Lakers. Now that he has seen it up close, Kidd believes James holds the title for greatest, via Dwain Price of Mavs.com:
Jason Kidd on if MJ or LBJ is the greatest of all-time: “I think LeBron will go down as the greatest to do it. When you look at his numbers — what he’s done on and off the floor — no one’s done that. You got to put the whole package together. He’s the greatest of all-time.”
— Dwain Price (@DwainPrice) March 29, 2022
Numbers on the court are a toss-up. Jordan has more NBA titles, but LeBron is the only player to record at least 30,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 10,000 assists. This is why you count “what he’s done on and off the floor,” according to Kidd.
Some basketball fans may scoff at the “on and off the floor” sentiment, partially because how do you measure off the floor influence? A history buff will tell you, it might be easier than you think.
Jordan changed what it meant to be an NBA superstar. He followed Magic Johnson’s playbook and then multiplied it by 100. By creating his own shoe (which made $126 million in the first year of sales) and reaching worldwide phenomenon by the age of 18, he created a path for stars to forge their own legacy. James however, has a legacy of his own, one where even Jordan didn’t dare venture.
It’s been widely covered at this point that Jordan had tunnel vision when it came to his basketball career. The outside world did not matter — no matter how volatile things were off the court. At times when Jordan was asked to use his influence for something greater, to draw attention to racial inequality facing Black people in the ‘90s, he withdrew from the spotlight.
James veered the other way. His playbook was drawn from the pages of athletes like Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson. He is just as much an activist as he is a basketball player, and he welcomes the challenge of playing both roles. Much to the dismay of political pundits, James broke down the door of what athletes are socially capable of. He didn’t just gain a following of diehard basketball fans, he used that following to amplify messages he believed needed more attention.
James helped form “More Than A Vote,” a group fighting the voter suppression of African Americans. He also created his own school, I Promise, for third through eighth graders and has paid multiple students’ tuition to the University of Akron.
James wasn’t afraid to use the NBA’s own spotlight when it really mattered. In 2014, he and his teammates on the Cleveland Cavaliers wore T-shirts reading, “I Can’t Breathe” to protest the death of Eric Garner by a New York police officer. When Fox News’ Laura Ingraham said that James should “shut up and dribble,” his response was chillingly aware of his own power.
“We will definitely not shut up and dribble,” he said at NBA All-Star Weekend. “I mean too much to society, too much to the youth, too much for so many kids who feel like they don’t have a way out.”
For James, the game and real-life are inseparable. His achievements “off the court,” as Kidd put it, are impossible to ignore when speaking of the greatest of all time.
Vogel pegs Kidd as NBA Coach of the Year
as far as what Kidd has accomplished in his own right both on and off the floor, he has gotten another chance as a head coach with the Dallas Mavericks as has done a great job this season.
His hard work has not gone unnoticed by Frank Vogel, who recently endorsed his former assistant for NBA Coach of the Year.
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