The Endless (And Pointless) Sports Debates

The NBA playoffs are here so while we wait the two months for the Cavaliers to meet the Warriors in the Finals, we have to talk about something. The go to topic is always the arbitrary question of “Is Lebron better than Jordan?” There is so much wrong with this question but I understand why it is proposed.

As a former mediocre athlete, I always had the ambition to be the best at my position. I was always striving to be better and set goals for myself that were the bars I was trying to reach. I had absolutely no delusions, I knew I did not have the skill to play any higher than college football, but I still wanted to be the best.

There are mediocre athletes like myself, and then there are the freak athletes like Michael Jordan and Lebron James. These guys were given physical gifts that I could not even begin to imagine. We can all agree they are some of the greatest athletes to ever put on a jersey in any professional sport. So why do we have to pit them against each other? Moreover, why do we have to discount one man’s achievements to make one seem better than the other?

Michael Jordan did things that no other player has ever done and may never do again. Lebron James has done things that no other player has ever done and may never do again. Why can’t we just enjoy what we are watching and not try to quantify everything? That is one of the greatest parts of sports in that there are things that cannot be quantified. If we want to quantify it then here are the numbers.

Lebron James has played 13 seasons in the NBA and averages 27.1 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds per game. Lebron entered the league as an 18 year old straight out of high school, so he is only 32 years old. He has won four regular season MVP awards, three finals MVP awards, and has won three NBA titles. To go along with a host of other awards, Lebron James has been to six straight finals with two different teams and looks poised to add another finals appearance this year.

Michael Jordan played 15 seasons in the NBA and averaged 30.1 points, 5.3 assists, and 6.2 rebounds per game. Jordan won five regular season MVP awards to go along with six finals MVP awards. Michael Jordan won six NBA titles which included two three peats with the Chicago Bulls.

Now I am perfectly capable of spinning numbers and finding ways to set one man apart from the other, but I think major sports outlets and twitter do enough of that. When you put all of the numbers next to each other they are both incredible in their own right. And yet, everyone tries his or her best to put one man down to put the other at the top of the pedestal.

One of the biggest reasons it is impossible to compare these two players is because of the times in which they played. Every sport is generational and is played completely different from year to year and decade to decade. You cannot compare guys who played at different times with different circumstances surrounding them.

Basketball is not the only sport to do this though; the same idiotic debate takes place in football.

I feel like every time I begin to read articles or watch ESPN shows pertaining to the NFL, the same word pops up: Elite. This especially relates to quarterbacks, as for whatever reason, in the last decade sports analysts have tried to separate quarterbacks in terms of their eliteness (if that is even a word). It is a constant debate of who is elite and who is not and who deserves a place in Canton and who does not.

While these analysts attempt to use stats to quantify their positions, only one number seems to every matter. Super Bowl trophies.

The 2004 NFL draft will go down as one of the best drafts ever as it pertains to quarterbacks. Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger were part of the first eleven picks of the draft. All have had great careers and while all analysts agree Roethlisberger and Manning deserve a place in Canton, Rivers gets left out. Why is that? Is it because of his numbers? Nope. It’s because of how many rings he has to his name. I mean I am from San Diego so I had to defend my boy Rivers.

Somehow the numbers get thrown out the window and the only thing that matters is how many times a quarterback has raised a Lombardi trophy over his head. If this reasoning was true then I guess Trent Dilfer is more of an elite quarterback than Dan Marino. I mean, Dilfer has one ring and Marino has none, so if Marino were so great he would have a handful of rings.

I especially cannot stand this classification of quarterbacks because football is so much more dependent on the team than one position group. To use a current example, if Dak Prescott had been drafted by lets say the Browns, does anyone even remotely believe he would have been anywhere near as successful? No, because that team is awful. I truly believe that had Philip Rivers stayed with the Giants, he would have just as many rings as Eli Manning. Again, this is my biased opinion.

The NFL and the NBA are notorious for comparing players and attempting to classify one ahead of the other. We, as the consumers, buy into this rhetoric and get wrapped up in who is better and will debate till we are blue in the face that our guy is better. We should spend more time enjoying the feats that we are witnessing by Lebron James, Tom Brady, and others without having to classify their greatness. In the end they will stand shoulder to shoulder with the greatest to have ever played their sports in their respective hall of fame.

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