Special to the DD-T
Three men converged at the local post office around 10 a.m. Monday morning and a causal conversation turned into a full debate about the greatest of all time or the G.O.A.T. in professional basketball.
This discussion is nothing new but the ESPN documentary “The Last Dance” rekindled the conversation. More than six million people tuned into the chronicle of the Chicago Bulls final championship run in 1998 with Michael Jordan displaying brilliance on both ends of the court to lead the Bulls to a sixth championship in eight years.
So, with this much-watched TV event fresh in our memories, a fruitful discussion emerged.
Don Abney, who provides security services for federal building said, “Dr. J. (Julius Erving) doesn’t get enough credit because he played in a different era. He was athletic and could take over a game at any moment.”
As Abney discussed the above the rim exploits of the good doctor, an older gentleman perhaps in his 70s, began to sort his mail on a table nearby.
Abney said, “Excuse me sir. Who would you say is the greatest basketball player of all times?”
The man replied, “I’d have to say Bill Russell. How can you argue with 11 championships and his college team, the San Francisco Dons won more than 60 games in a row. He’s got the best resume in the history of the NBA.” Abney and the man debated back and forth about the number of Hall of Fame players that helped Russell’s resume.
The man departed as local power company operator Dexter Hemphill joined the conversation.
Like Abney, Hemphill has coached basketball in Greenville for several years and has an intimate knowledge of the game. “Well, I have to say Michael Jordan without a doubt,” Hemphill said. “He was just outstanding on both ends of the court. He took high percentage shots and got to the rim for layups and dunks which helped open up his outside game.”
The conversation went on for several more minutes with Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Wilt Chamberlin, Lebron James, Larry Bird and others being tossed around. But the debate converged on what most of the polls over the years have been reaffirming for many years.
“There are so many great players from different eras and you have to consider whether a player could have played when the game was more physical or when the game turned into a three point shooting contest,” Abney said.
“But, after all is said and done, I’d still have to say, ‘Jordan is the G.O.A.T.’”