At the end of a school day recently, the kids were winding down from a long week anticipating the final bell and I overheard some of the boys talking about the upcoming NBA playoffs. I'm not really a fan of the NBA mostly because my Celtics have been out of the title hunt for years, but I know enough to know who they were talking about and to contribute somewhat to the conversation.
As do most of those types of conversations, the crowning of the "best player ever" in their respective sport came up and the boys were more than willing to chime in with their opinions. I heard the comparisons between LeBron James and Kobe Bryant in their "prime."
There was the group that kept talking about Kobe Bryant's five championships and how LeBron only had two. Then of course you have the gang that throws in their two cents on Michael Jordan's championships and how he is the greatest player of all time.
All of those players are phenomenal in their own right and deserve the accolades that they get, but are any of them the best ever?
If you award the title of best ever to the player with the most championships, MJ takes the lead of those three. You would have to also consider Scottie Pippen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob Cousy, who each have six NBA titles. But are any of them the greatest of all time (Abdul-Jabbar certainly can make a case)?
But what about the nine other players that have more than six NBA titles, including the Celtics' Bill Russell who is the all-time leader with 11? Why does his name never come up when people talk about "Greatest of All Time?"
The same boys were saying that Steph Curry is the greatest shooter of all time. I love it.
The guy is phenomenal and can shoot the lights out from anywhere on the floor, but after a few seasons can we really call anyone the GOAT? I mean for the last few years he is definitely the best shooter in the world, but to be the "best ever" I would think your career stats would have to come from a few more seasons and a bunch more games.
I was watching "El Classico" last week, a game between Real Madrid and Barcelona, pitting two of the best soccer players against each other in Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Of course with them on the same field the conversation naturally flowed back to who was the better player. Messi is not only a better player in the current game, his name is among the elite players to have ever played the game.
In my lifetime I've been fortunate to see some of the greatest players in the history of soccer in Pele, Diego Maradona, Ronaldo (Brazilian, not Portuguese), Johann Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, and Messi. If given the chance, fans of the beautiful game would all have our own opinions on who's the best but how do you really compare Messi and the current game with Pele who played his first World Cup game 58 years ago?
It's like trying to compare who is the best quarterback ever.
Certainly Tom Brady with his domination of that position in recent times (with respects to titles won) has to be in the conversation, but again how does he stack up against the greats from prior eras?
Troy Aikman led his Cowboys to dominating championships in his era, Joe Montana led his 49ers to some great championships during the 1980's and the one that gets no credit for leading his troops to dominate the 1970's with four Super Bowl championships — Terry Bradshaw — all also have to be in the mix.
But how can you compare them with Bart Starr, who won both Super Bowls I and II; Johnny Unitas, who changed the face of the passing game and secured a title or two of his own; or even Otto Graham, with his many world championships.
If I don't throw Sammy Baugh in the mix, my mother may never speak to me so let's put him in there as well.
It's virtually impossible in any sport to anoint any one player as the "Greatest of All Time" when the rules of the game have changed and the quality of equipment and training has improved significantly over that same span. But it sure is fun to pontificate as long as you are able speak your mind and let others do the same.
The French philosopher and writer Voltaire once said, "Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too."
Maybe if we applied the same philosophy to our political world as we do to our sports world, we might just have a better world in which to live.
Latest Carroll County Sports