Opinion Column

Learn to enjoy greatness

By Josh Aldrich, Camrose Canadian

Cleveland's LeBron James again is showing just how dominant he can be.

Cleveland's LeBron James again is showing just how dominant he can be.

In the ADHD world that we live in we are seemingly always at the ready to proclaim something to be the best ever. 

 

This desire comes even if we have not established what the baseline for greatness is or experienced the what previous greatness was. 

We also have a habit of falling for what others tell us is the greatest. President Donald Trump has a habit of informing the world that he is the greatest at everything. While I like to believe that that people are smart enough to realize these are just the bloated ramblings of an overgrown Oompa Loompa, enough people bought what he was selling to vote him in. 

In the National Basketball Association, LeBron James — a man who has been biblically dubbed "King James" since he was drafted first overall as an 18-year-old high school kid — has been making the argument that he is the greatest basketball player who ever laced up a pair of high tops for the better part of a decade. His latest exploits in sweeping the Toronto Raptors, in what seems to be a right of annual passage for Bron Bron, is all the proof some seemingly need to label him the GOAT — Greatest of all Time. 

The thing is, no one really can say for sure, but we constantly feel the need to declare that what we are witnessing now must be the greatest or best there has ever been. 

Living in such hyperbole does a great disservice to the title of best ever. The lack of appreciation for what has come before trivializes the accomplishments of not only the so-called previous best but today's would be throne sitter. 

Can we not just accept that what we are witnessing is truly great without getting into the barroom discussions? 

There are a few problems with these arguments. 

First there is no real way to compare eras of athletes. Mathematicians can break down stats adjusted for time and style, but unless we have a one-on-one game of 21 between Michael Jordan and his would be usurper how can we really know for sure? The idea of intangibles have always infuriated the statisticians. His Airness was a stone-cold killer with the ball in his hands. His greatness laid in his competitiveness and the knowledge that if he had possession late he was going to break the hearts of the other team. 

Until recently, I'm not sure Mr. James could claim that. That is what has this series against the Raptors changing minds about his placement on the Mt. Rushmore of hoopdom. Despite having an overmatched supporting cast, he took over like few times previously in his career. Though he has flashed it in the past it was never at a Jordan-sustained level. He had always needed his posse of greats around him to lift him up. 

Jordan and James are also two completely different players stylistically. Jordan did not need to adapt to different positions. He was a guard and he would just flat out beat you. James, meanwhile, has shown a Magic Johnson ability to best his competition no matter what position his coaches decided to stick him at — point guard, centre, power forward, it really didn't matter. 

Also, what are we using as our measuring stick for greatness? Championship rings? Personal accolades? Stats? The eyeball test? Our own personal memories? There is no consensus. 

We should just be able to sit back and bask in what we are seeing. 

It's not just basketball, this is the bane of all sports. In hockey, I will swear up and down Wayne Gretzky truly is the greatest, the impact he had on and off the ice is unmatched in the sport, he has more assists than anyone else does points while also scoring more goals than anyone else in history. Without him playing in L.A., there are no Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes or Las Vegas Golden Knights. Yet I have friends who will argue till their blue in the face that Bobby Orr carries the mantle, that he revolutionized the game from the back end and he has never been matched, he was the ultimate complete player. Gretzky has been asked this a million times and he always comes back with Gordie Howe, the man he grew up idolizing and who's records he smashed. I can guarantee you there are fans frothing at the mouth to exalt Connor McDavid in the same manner. 

The thing is, they're all right answers. Maybe not for you, but they are for someone. 

The important thing is to appreciate the greatness while it is happening as it can be fleeting. Careers we thought would last for ever will be relegated to debate and memory banks. 

 

jaldrich@postmedia.com 

 



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