“Coming into the league, if I would’ve had money, then obviously I would’ve had more tattoos.”
Allen Iverson


NB: this discussion is only for the NBA and NFL.

Here at the Profound Bartender is where the argument belongs. There is no definitive way to declare any player the greatest of all time: except in a bar, over many drinks. The passion that we have for our favorite players makes it fun.

Pull up a cold one, my friend.

Many people will bring up championships as a major if not deciding factor. Go back to the bar, get another drink and consider the error of your ways. And never, ever, consider law school. It is a weak argument because we are talking team sports. In football, they only play half the time!

My brother, bless his heart, likes to choose Tom Brady as the greatest of all time. Let’s be clear, he means the greatest quarterback of all time. He is thinking Terry Bradshaw vs Tom Brady, not a thought towards Mike Singletary, Vonn Miller or Jerry Rice.

Does Tom get a discount because he plays for the greatest coach of all time? How about that he’s played for the same coach and team for all of his career. Should his legacy be tainted by scandal, getting caught once for cheating suggests twenty or thirty non-catches. How about a watered-down league? The expansion was in 2002, Tom’s numbers are from facing inept defenses.

I like Tom Brady as a pick.

But did he change the game? Peyton Manning changed the game, he got to call his own plays, all that Omaha stuff. He changed the play at the line, re-set the offensive line’s assignments, took his time and got the defense spinning in circles. Today, you see many quarterbacks doing what Peyton did. He changed the darn game!

Teams win championships. Players win MVP awards. Those MVP awards are political. Consider the single vote for Allen Iverson by the sportswriter in Philadelphia. It was to keep Shaq from being the first unanimous MVP. Petty and Political, I don’t trust the MVP awards.

How about Air Jordan? He changed the game. His first decade was a losing decade, how can he be the greatest? He was a selfish ball hog who was called the black hole, if you passed it to him, you’d never get it back.

But, he led the league in scoring as a guard. Prior it was always the big man, Jordan changed our perception of the game. We saw new terms like “volume scorer”. And we saw and still see gunners at the guard spot leading the league in points-per-game.

Jordan had a great team. Personally, I’d be tempted to vote Dennis Rodman as the greatest of all time because while Jordan was tossing in 30 a game, Dennis was blowing up the other team — he was a crazy man that drove the other team to distraction, fights and all kinds of stuff. He was the model for the Bad Boys of Detroit who followed after Jordan’s teams.

Jordan had a great team. His coach might be the greatest of all time, Phil Jackson with an astonishing eleven rings. Horace Grant was a work-horse and a delight to watch on the court. And Pippen, y’can’t talk Jordan without Pippen. Oddly, in all of those highlight reels, you never see Jordan making that great assist.

LeBron has never had a Scottie. He carries his team by himself. Look at those early Cleveland teams as he took them deep into the playoffs. He came right out of high school and dominated the long-term professionals. He is still doing it today.

Kobe was in his prime after this three championships with Shaq. Then he was on crummy teams, players like Smush Parker. What do you do? Kobe went off, five years of scoring greatness as the league has ever seen. He once out-scored the entire Memphis team in three quarters by scoring 64 by himself, and then sat out the fourth because the lead was so big. One time, in Madison Square Garden, the New York crowd began chanting MVP while he was putting on a show.

There are too many factors to decide the greatest of all time. That is why it is a bar fight. For the NBA, I’m liking NBA player Tim Duncan as the greatest team player of all time.

Our luck is that we have gotten and get to see some great players on the court and on the field.

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