Everybody knows that Bill Walton is something of an eccentric, so it is understandable that some of his opinions are written off as nothing more than the ramblings of an aging Deadhead who just happens to have a microphone in front of him. When Walton brought up the fact that Michael Jordan was not even among the top three of the greatest NBA players of all time, which you can see here, most immediately dismissed the opinion as ludicrous and completely unfounded. While the prevailing opinion seems to be that Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time, there is a strong argument to be made against this fact.
Walton, who played at UCLA in the early 1970s and played in the NBA until the late 1980s, believes that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the best ever, and Walton is in the unique position of having played against both Jordan and Abdul-Jabbar during his career. And it is not like Walton was a slouch during his playing days, either. Walton was coached by the legendary John Wooden and earned National College Player of the Year honors on three separate occasions before winning the NBA MVP award in 1978. He was named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and still possesses a sharp basketball acumen.
Walton’s opinion is certainly not a popular one, but it is also not completely indefensible. There is no doubt that Jordan is among the best ever, and his basketball legacy will remain highly respected for many years to come. There are, however, many reasons that Jordan should not be considered the best of all time, and what follows are 10 of the best reasons to consider someone other than Jordan as the G.O.A.T.
* All stats were taken from Basketball-Reference.com
10 The All-Time Scoring Title
Sure, there are better metrics now available for judging a player’s career, but the all-time scoring title is still important nonetheless. While Jordan famously won 10 scoring titles – seven of which were consecutive – he remains fourth on the all-time scoring list behind Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant. Jordan, of course, lost several prime years because of his first retirement and the sabbatical he took to play baseball. Abdul-Jabbar racked up 38,387 points over the course of his career and Jordan retired over 6,000 points behind him.
LeBron James was highly criticized when he left Cleveland for Miami to go title-chasing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. While the criticism over the way LeBron handled “The Decision” was certainly warranted, the fact that he won his titles with the help of outstanding, all-star caliber talent should not detract from his legacy. After all, Jordan struggled to win during his first five years in the league, until the Bulls added two future Hall of Famers in Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson.
6 What About Oscar Robertson?
5 The Highlight Reel
4 Bird and Magic
3 Marketing Hype
2 The 1993-94 Season
1 Jordan Struggled Without Pippen and Jackson
Before Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen arrived, there was simply no doubt that Michael Jordan could score the basketball at will. Jordan averaged 37.1 points per game during the season before Pippen joined the Bulls, but while there was no questioning his scoring prowess, there were definitely questions about his ability to win. The Bulls had been summarily dismissed by Eastern Conference powerhouses in the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons in the playoffs, but the arrival of Jackson and Pippen forever changed Jordan’s fortunes in the playoffs.
The triangle offense helped Chicago thrive, and under Jackson’s leadership Jordan was able to win his six NBA championships and four of his five NBA MVP awards. Pippen took a lot of the pressure off of Jordan and lessened the team's reliance on its star player. Without the help of Jackson and Pippen, Jordan may have been remembered as nothing more than one of the game’s greatest scorers. If the fact that LeBron couldn’t win without help in Miami is used as an argument against his greatness, it should be applied in a similar manner to Jordan’s career.
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