NBA

How the Coronavirus Has Impacted the Goat Debate

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 8: In this 08 June 1998 file photo, former Chicago Bulls player Michael Jordan answers questions during a press conference at the United Center in Chicago, IL. Fox Sports reported 31 March 1999 that Jordan, who retired 13 January 1999, is contemplating playing next season for the Charlotte Hornets, the National Basketall Association club in which he is considering purchasing a 50 percent share.
Daniel Lippitt/Getty Images

What sports fan wouldn’t enjoy watching Michael Jordan drink whiskey and reminisce about his career from his beachfront home? Well, maybe LeBron James, Patrick Ewing, and Isiah Thomas, just name a few.

2020 was supposed to be the year of LeBron James. He would gracefully win his fourth NBA Championship, furthering his case for the title of basketball’s GOAT. Instead, the Coronavirus outbreak disrupted the Lakers’ title run and surprisingly shifted the spotlight back to Jordan. 


With the help of the global pandemic, Michael Jordan successfully stole the show from King James. Once again, everyone wants to “Be Like Mike.”

Michael Jordan’s GOAT Status Has Gone Up

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 20: Basketball star Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls talks to the press 20 March after practice at the Berto Center in Deerfield, Illinois. Jordan reiterated that he has returned to basketball because of his love for the game.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

MJ’s documentary caught like wildfire amidst the global health crisis. Titled The Last Dance, its episodes progress through Jordan’s career while simultaneously chronicling the Chicago Bulls’ famous 1997-98 championship season. The documentary aired two new parts each Sunday, beginning strategically on April 19th. This was two months earlier than anticipated. ESPN and Jordan’s film crew wisely moved up the release date, knowing that such would increase viewership amidst the heart of the pandemic. They noticed that people are at home and have little else to do.  

As a result, the documentary gained a monopoly over famished sports fans who had exhausted their Netflix accounts. ESPN spread the gripping story of Jordan’s greatness to a massive audience.

The Last Dance shares Jordan’s career in a way that makes him appear divine and invincible. In some ways, almost godlike. It offers revealing insights surrounding his mentality and work ethic. LaBradford Smith and B.J. Armstrong could testify to that. The series reminds fans of his sheer dominance and his most extraordinary moments as a player. 

The series also manages to bend some details in MJ’s favor, because after all, he produced it. For one, the documentary favorably portrays Jordan’s harshness as a teammate. It also vindicates him on the claims that he had a gambling problem. Overall, though, it masterfully illuminates why Jordan is the GOAT of the basketball world.

Plenty of basketball fans have gotten to see Jordan in a new light. For the younger generations, it offers a taste of the career that they probably know very little about beyond a few notorious highlights. For older fans, it brings back the nostalgia of MJ’s magic.

The Last Dance Effect

It would be almost impossible to watch The Last Dance and not have a better understanding of Jordan’s glory. MJ’s master plan has worked, after all. In ESPN’s most recent poll of NBA fans, 73% indicated that Jordan is a “better overall player.” 73% is more than a majority; it is a convincing margin of victory. 

As if LeBron’s battle for the title of GOAT wasn’t difficult already, it just became a much taller task.

Lebron James’ GOAT Status Has Gone Down

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 10: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts during a preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets as part of 2019 NBA Global Games China at Mercedes-Benz Arena on October 10, 2019 in Shanghai, China.
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

King James has a sizable collection of GOAT advocates. However, many fans come down on him for winning only three rings in his nine NBA Finals appearances. This season was going to be his best opportunity to add a fourth to his resume. And it was looking fairly likely as the playoffs neared.

Prior to the NBA’s hiatus, LeBron was leading the Lakers to a 49-14 record, good for first place in the Western Conference. He was averaging 10.8 assists-per-game, a career-high, as well as 25.7 points in only 34.9 minutes-per-game. In his nine contests played after the All-Star Break, he improved both his field goal and three-point percentages, averaging 30 points-per-game. His stats are remarkable, especially since he’s toward the end of his career.

If the season does not return, James might have a difficult time returning to the Finals in the future. With teammate Anthony Davis potentially departing for free agency and the Warriors set to be healthy again, his championship window could close as soon as next year. 

In other words, this season would likely be James’ best chance to win again before it is too late. 

Even if commissioner Silver allows the NBA season to resume, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the Lakers will be able to replicate their performance from earlier this year. It could take a while to regain the energy they flaunted prior to the pandemic. James is 35 years old and has last played a basketball game over two months ago. He could presumably struggle to return to midseason form. 

Takeaways

Michael Jordan may have solidified his throne as the greatest of all time. His documentary timed with the NBA hiatus simply stole all of the attention away from James.

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