Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on GOAT conversation: “This isn’t Highlander. There can be more than one.”

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This is a GOAT resume: Six championship rings, six MVPs, 15-time All-NBA, two-time Finals MVP, 19 All-Star appearances, 11-time All-Defensive team including twice leading the league in blocked shots. Oh, and he also scored more points than any player in the league’s history, much of it with one of the most iconic shots the game has ever seen.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar too often gets left out of the “Greatest of All Time” talk. He HAS to be included.

Abdul-Jabbar also had a reasonable, logical take on something too many people get irrational about — the GOAT conversation. From a fascinating, must-read interview with Marc Spears of The Undefeated (that touches on race and politics and more):

“These GOAT discussions are fun distractions while sitting around waiting for the pizza to be served,” Abdul-Jabbar told The Undefeated. “But they’re on a par with ‘Which superpower would you want most: flight or invisibility?’ Whether I’m included or not in anyone’s list doesn’t matter. I played my hardest and I helped my teammates. That’s the most important thing I walked away with.

“The reason there is no such thing as the GOAT is because every player plays under unique circumstances. We played different positions, under different rules, with different teammates, with different coaches. Every player has to adapt to their circumstances and find a way to excel. This isn’t Highlander. There can be more than one.”

That second paragraph emphasizes a key point — it is hard to compare basketball (or any sport) across eras. We get this most recently with the “could today’s Warriors beat the 90s-era Jordan Bulls?” debate. Well, are you playing 1990s defensive rules or 2018? Jordan and Scottie Pippen are unquestionably great defenders, but if you take away the hand-checking (which has come back, a little) and tighter calls on physical play on the perimeter, and those two will have the same problems stopping Stephen Curry everyone else does.

Personally, I’m partial to a tier system for ranking players. To me, Jordan and Abdul-Jabbar are both on that very top tier (along with Magic Johnson and a couple of others). We can debate the fine line of whether a player belongs on that upper tier, or the second one, or wherever, but I don’t see a point in a “Jordan vs. Kareem” or whoever debate. As KAJ noted, it may make a fun time killer on sports talk radio, but in the grand scheme it’s moot.