Who is the greatest of all time?
Michael Jordan? Lebron James? … Luka Doncic? (not yet, but someday perhaps)
It would take a herculean effort to unseat Jordan, especially in the minds of fans that grew up seeing him play in the 80’s and 90’s during his prime.
Michael Jordan was the undisputed best scorer on the planet, a 9-time all-defensive team selection that could also clamp down on the best scorers on the other team. He had the determination to win at all costs which resulted in two separate three-peats, and was miles above the competition of his era. If he didn’t retire he would have won more than 6 championships as well.
7 straight scoring titles and led the league in scoring 10 times overall. His highlight reel dunks and athletic double-clutch moves inspired a generation of basketballers to imitate them on the playgrounds. If you were to build the ultimate prototypical basketballer it would be MJ.
Despite being a 6’6” Guard, Jordan’s hands were almost the same length and span as Shaquille O’Neal’s allowing him to grip the ball with ease. He had a 2.1m wingspan and a 48” vertical leap, along with his mental toughness which allowed him to do things that no other player has been able to achieve.
Lebron James’ career isn’t done yet. As much as I am a fan of MJ I have to concede there is a case to be made for Lebron. Unlike with Jordan where you can easily point to the stats to say he dominated in certain facets of the game, in Lebron’s 18 seasons in the NBA he has only ever led the league in any statistical category twice. In 2007-08 he led the NBA in scoring at 30.0ppg, and in 2019-20 he led the league in assists at 10.2apg. Surprising, but that’s it.
His resume is built more on prolonged greatness as an all-around excellent player. He continues to accumulate NBA records as he somehow defies age and continues to put up very good numbers on a nightly basis. He’s made many trips to the NBA Finals, resulting in 4 Championships and the Lakers bolstered lineup spearheaded by Lebron James and Anthony Davis are favourite to win him his 5th this season too at $3.60 odds at PlayUp.
He’s currently 3rd all-time in the NBA in total career points with 34,578. He’s 2,350 points behind Karl Malone for 2nd spot, and 3,809 behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the top spot.
This brings us to Luka Doncic. Coming off a 36 point, 16 rebound 15 assist game where he knocked down 6 threes, it’s clear that this kid is special. It’s hard to believe he’s just 21 years old. He has more triple doubles with 30 or more points, 15 or more rebounds and 10 or more assists at 21 years of age than every other player in NBA history combined achieved before turning 22. He’s reached a level of greatness that is unprecedented by his age in the NBA..
He’s now in his 3rd season in the NBA and these are Doncic’s numbers year by year:
It’s reached the stage where it almost feels like a disappointing game when he doesn’t notch a 30-point triple double.
The young superstar is currently the $5 odds favourite at PlayUp to win the NBA MVP award, in what is still a pretty wide open race:
So what would it take for Doncic to be elevated above all the greats that have ever played the game and have a realistic debate about why he’s better than not only Bird, Magic, Malone, Kareem, Wilt, Russell, Kobe, Duncan, Olajuwon, but better than his Airness?
Titles: It’s a pre-requisite that Doncic win multiple rings to be considered the GOAT. Ideally 5-6 by the time his career is done. That is a tall order, and would require a lot of things that are outside of his control to go his way. If he plays in an era of superteams that he is not a part of, that will be a huge obstacle. Dallas does have a solid building block with Doncic and Porzingis that they could be competing for titles within the next couple of years with one more quality star added to the team.
Numbers: He needs to continue the trajectory his career is currently on. It is unlikely he has peaked at 21 years old, so how much better can his individual numbers get? Will he be averaging 35-12-12 in a few years’ time? Will his best games go from being 36-16-15 to 45-20-20? If so, and he does that for the majority of his career he will have a strong case. Numbers alone won’t do it for him, Harden for example puts up ridiculous individual numbers without gaining the respect of his peers that would normally come with such eye-popping stats, so he will need all three of these criteria to generate the widespread recognition as a GOAT contender.
Popularity: In order to resonate with fans, you need to generate a lot of buzz and excitement and be a player that people love to talk about. Look at Tim Duncan, he won 5 rings and had an illustrious career, but he doesn’t get the same recognition as many other players of his era. Doncic will not suffer the same fate, as he is already a fan favourite. As a rookie he was in the top 3 for All Star game voting (behind Lebron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo). In his 2nd year he was just narrowly behind Lebron James (6.11 million votes vs 6.28 million votes). If that continues he will likely get the most votes of all players this season.
It will be interesting to follow Doncic’s career and see what his ceiling is in terms of how good an individual player he can become, and whether that will result in the Mavericks winning championships together. Whether he goes on to be the greatest player ever remains to be seen and only time will tell.
In the meantime, to bet on the Mavericks this season including individual player bets on Luka Doncic, head to the NBA section and click on ‘More Markets’ to bring up a long list of bets you can place. This is where you go to find out what the odds are for Doncic to score under/over a certain total, how many rebounds or assists he will get, or for him to record a triple double and more. These markets normally go up on game day. See an example below:
Best of luck on your NBA bets this season!