As free agency dies down, the NBA offseason discussion has naturally trended in one direction. That’s right folks, “greatest player of all time” debates are back.
In an appearance on HBO’s “Back on the Record” with Bob Costas, Hall of Fame player and current TNT analyst Charles Barkley was asked who he thought the greatest player of all-time was. His answer came as no surprise but he also managed to dismiss LeBron James in the process.
“Jordan… In fairness, I don’t even put LeBron past Kobe, let’s get that out of the way. … LeBron has stacked his teams, let’s be realistic. … The struggle is part of your legacy,” Barkley said.
This topic often riles up those around the league that feel strongly one way another and this instance proved to be no different. One of LeBron’s former teammates, Richard Jefferson came scrambling to his defense.
“In all fairness Chuck is right,” Jefferson quipped sarcastically, per ClutchPoints. “Lebron didn’t get drafted to a team with Shaq like Kobe. Cavs never found the Pippen in Bron’s first 8 years because he was too good they never drafted that high. Ps… Charles got drafted to a team with Dr.J, Moses Malone and 2 other Hall of Famers. I see his point though.”
First things first: all three players are great. Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant all brought unique skillsets to the NBA and will always be remembered as some of the best to ever lace up their shoes.
That being said, Jefferson is right to point out Barkley’s hypocrisy. Obviously the TNT analyst played with Jordan back in the day, so he got to see that greatness up close. He can’t be faulted for leaning toward him in the greatest-of-all-time debate.
However, to say the LeBron’s accomplishments don’t mean as much because he linked up with other star players is an unfair argument. Jordan had the benefit of playing alongside Scottie Pippen, one of the best defenders to ever play in the NBA and top-tier player in his own right, not to mention the strong supporting casts he had during both three-peats.
Meanwhile, Bryant had the opportunity to land on the Los Angeles Lakers, who had one of the most dominant big men of all-time in Shaquille O’Neal. For the first quarter of his career, the dynamic shooting guard wasn’t even the best player on his own team. During his later championships, Bryant was flanked by Pau Gasol, who was a six-time All Star.
This isn’t to say that LeBron hasn’t benefitted from other great players like Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis. However, to write him off from the greatest-of-all-time debate because he’s played alongside other stars doesn’t take into account that Jordan and Kobe did the same.