Bulls Insider

Who cares who's the NBA's GOAT? Savor LeBron's greatness

/ by K.C. Johnson
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Bulls Insider

There are certain indelible moments in NBA history, whether you witnessed them first-hand or not.

One certainly arrived Tuesday night in Los Angeles, where LeBron James became the NBA's all-time leading scorer with his fellow Lakers legend and previous record-holder Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in attendance at Crypto.com Arena.

James' 38,388th point came on a 14-foot stepback jumper over Oklahoma City Thunder's Kenrich Williams with 10.9 seconds left in the third quarter of a game eventually won by the Thunder. The game stopped for a ceremony featuring NBA commissioner Adam SIlver and Abdul-Jabbar. James was visibly moved.

"Please give a standing ovation to the captain," James said in an address to the crowd, citing Abdul-Jabbar.

Watch: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar passes basketball to LeBron James after breaking record

James also thanked his family, Silver and former NBA commissioner David Stern, among others.

The shot brought to mind other famous moments in NBA history, including Michael Jordan's follow through on his NBA Finals-clinching jumper in 1998. That shot and pose placed an exclamation point on a Chicago Bulls' dynasty that everybody knew was sputtering to an end that offseason.

With James also recently moving into the top-five on the all-time assists list, the debate over who is the NBA's GOAT---Greatest of All Time---is raging anew.


To which the proper answer is: Who cares?

Of course, the definitive answer is impossible to produce, the different eras impossible to compare. And more importantly: Why would anyone want to do so? Why not just savor and appreciate the greatness?

Privileged to be at Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals in Salt Lake City, Utah, I remember---even in the mad dash to deadline and delirium of a season- and dynasty-ending victory---taking a brief moment to savor the moment, to appreciate history.

I did the same Tuesday night while streaming the Lakers-Thunder game on a smartphone that didn't exist in 1998.

James' longevity and durability and sustained greatness is remarkable. He's one of the few labeled as a can't-miss prodigy who really didn't miss. If anything, he surpassed the hype and did so, as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich noted on Monday night at the United Center, with class and aplomb in this age of social media and 24-7 news cycles.

The Chicago Bulls found themselves on the short hand of James' greatness multiple times over the years. From losing in the first round to James' Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 to falling to James' Miami Heat in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals to getting eliminated by James' Miami Heat in the second round of the 2013 playoffs to James returning to the Cavaliers and ending Tom Thibodeau's tenure in the second round of the 2015 playoffs, there was plenty of heartbreak for Bulls' fans.

Which NBA team has LeBron James scored the most points against?

The 2015 series even featured a James' buzzer-beater at the United Center that flipped the momentum of that series.

Just like Jordan demoralized so many opponents over the years.

Sustained dominance like the type that James, Jordan, Abdul-Jabbar and so many candidates for the GOAT label produced can sometimes be taken for granted. It shouldn't be. Records are made to be broken but rest assured: This one will last a very, very long time.

Silver released a statement: "Congratulations to LeBron on breaking one of the most hallowed records in all of sports by becoming the NBA's all-time scoring leader. It's a towering achievement that speaks to his sustained excellence over 20 seasons in the league. And quite amazingly, LeBron continues to play at an elite level and his basketball history is still being written."

Indeed, it is. At age 38, James has made clear he'd like to try to play until one or perhaps both of his sons potentially make the league. Whenever he retires, the GOAT debate will arrive again.

It shouldn't matter. His greatness should just be appreciated.

When James played for the Cavaliers, the shoe company he endorses long had a large billboard on a building outside the arena. It read: We Are All Witnesses.

Consider us lucky. 

Click here to follow the Bulls Talk Podcast.