If anyone appreciates the dominance and longevity of LeBron James‘ career, it’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The NBA’s all-time scoring leader won his first league championship in 1971 — and his last in 1988. He was named an All-Star in all but one of his 20 NBA seasons while earning 15 All-NBA honors, six MVP awards and two scoring titles.
Do not ask him, however, to compare James to himself or other greats of eras past. That exercise, he wrote in The Guardian , simply isn’t interesting or particularly useful.
Fans love to speculate about who’s the greatest player ever. Is LeBron greater than Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant? Am I better than Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell? While this might be a fun pastime for fans and sports journalists, most players find this kind of alternate universe pondering to be fairly boring, somewhere along the lines of who would win in a fight: Hawkeye or Green Arrow? Aquaman or Sub-Mariner?
Make no mistake, Abdul-Jabbar is an enormous fan of James and his accomplishments, but past and possible. In praising James, he did not hesitate to mention the Cavaliiers’ superstar in the same breath as the most iconic stars in NBA history. Along the way, however, he made a point to remember and honor the similarly monolithic accomplishments of another legend: Bill Russell.
LeBron is one of the best players now and his intelligent combination of team leadership, brawny lay-ups, dominating rebounding, and surgical passing is elevating the game to its next level. Just as Michael Jordan, Jerry West, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and others did. In fact, for those paying attention to the playoffs: Bill Russell went to eight NBA finals in a row, and his teams won all eight.
Unlike many who race to compare statistics and total achievements, Abdul-Jabbar left no doubt that James‘ place among the pantheon of NBA performers is assured — regardless of the outcome of the 2018 NBA Finals.
“On Thursday,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote, “LeBron James will once again demonstrate why he deserves to be a living legend as he leads his team, regardless of whether they win or lose, further into greatness.”