October 16, 2020
I have always been a basketball fan for as long as I can remember. My love for basketball has evolved over the years from idolising fantastic players to following great coaches. Because I love basketball so much (ask my wife about it), I can’t help but to share some of my thoughts on the ongoing GOAT debate with the recent conclusion of the NBA season.
If someone claims to be the “greatest of all time,” basically that person is saying that he is the best in the past, present, and future. It means that many years from now, no one will ever be better than MJ, Kobe, or Lebron. Basketball has existed for 128 years now, and just for playing for 15–20 years, will someone deserve the title of GOAT?
Do we really believe that someone can be the greatest player of all time?
My son is into tennis. The current top three players in tennis are Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer. If I believe that one of these three is the GOAT, then it’s like I’m saying that my son has no chance of reaching or even surpassing their level. Maybe I’m biased, but I’m not going to tell my son, or someone else for that matter, that he won’t be able to surpass them or be great as someone else because we already have a GOAT.
Another problem with the GOAT debate is that it is subjective, and because of that everyone has a say on the issue.
What’s the criteria?
Who sets the criteria?
Do we agree on the criteria?
Of course we can talk about statistics, rings, and championships which are objective, but there is still a need for everyone’s agreement, which is a major concern about this debate.
Every generation has a different GOAT because every generation is looking for some model or a hero that could represent them. MJ, Kobe, and Lebron have inspired different people from different eras. But because we have the tendency to be very tribal in thinking, we tend to compare which one has the better camp or which camp has a better leader.
If there is anything good out of this debate, it is that it has raised the level of the competition and highlighted the greatness of every generation.
As a basketball fan, I love to see sports at its best. No one will pay a premium to watch mediocre basketball. Everyone wants players at their best. I think, regardless of the GOAT debate about Lebron, we cannot deny the fact that young NBA players are looking at his accomplishment because he has raised the level and value of the competition.
What we see now is someone’s great sports achievement and we have to learn how to enjoy it. Why cause divisiveness when you can enjoy different kinds of greatness in every era?
So what can we get from this debate?
I am not a Lebron fan nor a hater, but sometimes I find myself comparing Lebron with MJ or Kobe. But then I realized that if I take sides on who the GOAT is, I will miss out on appreciating the greatness of other players in different eras because I end up developing a certain kind of bias toward other players. I do not want to get stuck with a certain mindset that there are no other great players than the one that I choose to take side with.
And when I take sides, I find myself at a disadvantage as a basketball fan and as a leader because I am limiting my source of inspiration in leading others and depriving myself of the wealth of knowledge I could gain from other great people. Honestly, if we will just admit, the reason we take sides is simply because we want to prove to others that we have better choices, which again leads to an unending conversation that proves nothing.
Being the GOAT means being the benchmark of success. One of the reasons the debate is circular and problematic is because everyone has different standards of greatness.
If you are going to pursue success or desire to be successful, make sure that your values are clear because it is only through these values that you can develop your own standard of success. Invite into your life people who can reinforce and fine tune these values for you. When your values are clear, success is inevitable.
When we evaluate our lives with the wrong standards of success, we might end up being successful on the wrong things. I feel sad for Lebron because he admitted that he is chasing after the shadow of MJ. The truth is that he doesn’t have to and we do not have to. Everyone has their own path and everyone needs to have their own standard of success.
The world measures success and “GOATness” in different ways, and sometimes the world’s ways are not something that you would want to build your life on.
I find it arrogant for someone to claim that he or she is the greatest of all time because it is very limiting to the next generation. It is like saying that no one can become better than you even after a thousand years!
A true GOAT cannot be a lid to the next generation. Rather, he must become a leader in the sense that he inspires the younger generation to surpass him or whatever records he has made. Instead of building a monument for himself, he should live his life by preparing the moment for the next generation to rise up and be their best.
Honestly, even if I would become someone as good as MJ, Kobe, or Lebron, (or Steph, I wish), I would never embrace or entertain the narrative of being labeled as the GOAT. Why? Because I’m putting unnecessary pressure on myself, attracting unnecessary noise in my life, setting unnecessary boundaries on the people who can relate to me, and most importantly, creating an idol of myself.
I hope that this debate reminds us that the real value of life is not measured by what we have, but what we become. May we live our lives in peace with everyone.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.