The age-old debate of who is the NBA’s GOAT (Greatest of All Time) dominated countless sports headlines for the better part of the 2010s and has carried over into the new decade. During said argument between analysts, fans, and even adult and children, the debate usually comes down to two primary figures: LeBron James and Michael Jordan.
In an appearance on NBA insider Chris Haynes’ podcast “Posted Up with Chris Haynes” this week, Philadelphia 76ers legend Julius Erving had a different take, which left many people scratching their heads. During the discussion, Erving was asked to give his all-time NBA first and second teams, and shockingly left King James off of both squads.
“He’s the guy who has led the charge in terms of super teams…”@JuliusErving doesn’t have LeBron on his top-two All-Time NBA teams 👀
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) April 27, 2021
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Though the first seven seasons of James’ career were defined by his otherworldly talents, accolades – including two MVP awards – and lack of a championship, the past 11 campaigns have seen LBJ create super team after super team. Whether it was joining Dwyane Wade and recruiting Chris Bosh to join a Big 3 with the Miami Heat, teaming up with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love with the Cleveland Cavaliers, or bringing a title back to the Los Angeles Lakers‘ franchise alongside Anthony Davis, Dr. J has a point, sort of.
Why Dr. J Is Dead Wrong About LeBron
It’s true that despite James’ four NBA titles, he has had a knack for being a part of super teams over the second portion of his career. However, in each of those cases, the 36-year-old was the best player on his team full of stars.
Wade, Irving, and Davis will go down as historically great players – not to mention Bosh, who is a candidate for the Hall of Fame this year – and Love, who is a five-time all-star. There’s no doubt that James has had help, but people shouldn’t forget that for every NBA team he’s played on, he’s been the leader, and the main reason they get as far in the postseason as they do.
The dude has played in the most playoff games in league history at 260 and one could argue that without his play, the three franchises he’s suited up for wouldn’t have appeared in those respective postseasons.
Aside from the absurd amount of playoff and finals appearances, James’ individual statistics don’t lie, and the number that may be most telling is 137.11. That is James’ Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) for his career, which places him atop the all-time NBA/ABA leaderboard.
Who Made Erving’s All-Time First and Second Teams?
Just because Dr. J may have had one notable omission amongst the 10 players, that doesn’t mean the ones he named weren’t worthy themselves. In his first group of five, Erving went with guys who played primarily in the 1960s and wrapped up their playing days in the early 1970s, just when he was coming onto the scene in the ABA.
The first five for Erving included Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. The second quintet featured stars of the 1980s and 1990s in Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
In defense of Erving, there are no glaringly obvious mistakes on the two teams. The only reason that none of the players from the first team appear on the all-time VORP list is because the statistics kept during their days were limited. Few would argue that Baylor, Russell, “Big O”, “The Logo” and “Wilt the Stilt” don’t belong on this list.
For the slightly more modern players and their standing on the VORP leaderboard, “M.J.” is second, “The Mailman” is fourth, Abdul-Jabbar is eighth, and right behind Erving himself at 13th are Johnson at 14th and Bird at 15th.
There is no obvious guy who gets the boot from the top 10, but there is no question that LBJ belongs on one of these teams.
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