Originally Posted by JasonJohnHorn
Magic was great, but IMO how can you be considered the best of all time if you were not great on both ends? This is a big reason why MJ, Kareem and Wilt are the 3 most talked about for GOAT. Because while Russell has the titles and the defense, he wasn't great on offense. Magic has the offense and playmaking ability but he wasn't great on defense.
As for why Jordan is usually the majority pick for GOAT over those two in particular (disregarding Wilt/Kareem etc.), there are a couple of reasons:
- Statistical dominance. Though Magic and Bird both put up otherworldly numbers, Jordan's production-- and not just in terms of scoring-- was stratospheric for a non-center. Jordan's average EFF (a cumulative stat that takes into account all the statistical categories and measures overall statistical impact) upon his retirement in 1993 was an astonishing 32.9. And that's an 8 season average. By comparison, Magic only topped 32.9 on one occasion, and even then just barely (33.3 EFF in '88-'89). Bird topped 32.9 on a few occasions (with EFF's of 34.3, 34.4, and 34.0), but his average EFF from 1980-1990 (not counting his last two seasons due to injuries) was "only" 30.4. Jordan's single season high in EFF was 37.0, and he topped 34 two other times as well (34.6 and 35.1). And Jordan led in PER 7x, while Bird and Magic did so only once and MJ has the highest PER ever recorded at 27.91 with Shaq being 2nd.
- Achievements, such as MVP's, Finals MVP's, DPOY award, and first-team and defensive first-team selections. Jordan had 5 MVP's to Magic and Bird's 3 apiece; he had 6 Finals MVP's to Magic's 3 and Bird's 2. He had a DPOY award that Magic and Bird could never hope to get. He had 10 all-NBA first-team selections to Magic's 9 and Bird's 9. Yes, Magic would have had more had he not retired and Bird would've had more if not for injuries, but Jordan would have also had 2 more had he not retired in '93, and likely a third had he not broken his foot in '86, so it's no use playing the "what if" game. Jordan also had 9 defensive first-team selections to Magic's none and Bird's 3 defensive second-team selections.
- Championships. Simply put, Jordan (6) has more than either Bird (3) or Magic (5). Yes, Bird and Magic had to beat each other for rings, which precluded either of them from getting more, but they each also had tons more help than Jordan did. Regardless, arguments about league strength aside, Jordan just has more, and his period of dominance was longer than Magic or Bird's. Also, this is only one aspect of the overall picture, so even if you feel that MJ's 6 rings don't hold as much weight as Magic's 5 (though I personally feel that the strength of Magic's supporting cast relative to Jordan's is enough to counterbalance the supposedly "weaker era" and make them relatively equal accomplishments)-- but if you disagree, then just realize that this is only one aspect of a larger picture.
- Overall skill. All three were among the top 5 or 6 most skilled players of all-time imo, and each had advantages over the others in various areas. Bird was the best rebounder of the bunch, Magic the best passer, Jordan the best scorer and defender. However, in their respective primes, the edges that Bird and Magic had on Jordan in these categories is not as large as the edge that Jordan had on Magic and Bird in his pet categories. For example, in his prime, Bird was capable of getting 13-17 rebounds on any given night, while in his prime, Jordan was capable of grabbing 11-14 rebounds on any given night. Magic in his prime could dish out 13-17 assists on any given night, whereas Jordan in his prime could dish out 10-14 assists on any given night. However, scoring-wise, Jordan was good for 45-55 on any given night while Bird was good for about 35-40 or so on any given night, and Magic "only" about 30-35.
Also defensively, Jordan was capable of disrupting entire teams' offenses in a way that neither Magic nor Bird were ever remotely capable of; he was also capable of playing lock-down defense, which neither of them really could, and he did so fairly consistently. I have a game vs. Boston on DVD from '88 where Jordan has 8 steals at the half, and Boston literally could not run the plays they wanted to because of Jordan's presence on the court. Bird looked exasperated. He could almost singlehandedly take opposing big men out of the game with his help defense from up top and the weak side. At any rate, the gap in defense between Jordan and Magic/Bird is much more significant than Bird's edge in rebounding and Magic's edge in passing in their respective primes imo. At the very least, these 3 are a wash skill-wise.
- Clutch play and dominance. Magic was clutch, to be certain, even if his clutchness often manifested itself in different ways than MJ's clutchness usually did. Bird was, obviously, a top 3 clutch player all-time (along w/Jordan and West imo), so he's in that conversation. Still, Jordan is generally considered to be the most clutch of the three, though it's not a huge advantage by any means. While all three were capable of beating you with the shot, rebound, or pass (some better than others in each category, but all capable), Jordan was a clutch defender as well, and could come up with the key block or steal or denial of a shot attempt by his man when it counted to a far greater degree than either Bird or Magic. Bird and Magic made up for their comparative lack of defensive ability with their canniness (e.g., Bird's steal vs. Detroit in the ECF), but it wasn't nearly on the same level as Jordan. Also, of the two, only Bird approaches Jordan's dominance over the league in terms of "who is the biggest bad guy? Who don't you want to piss off?" Bird was a bad, bad man. Jordan was badder, and he maintained that status for longer (through no fault of Bird's own; his injuries really robbed him of a few of his prime years).
You put all these things together and it's difficult to pick Magic or Bird over Jordan, for me at least. I have no problem admitting that all are on the same relative level. If Bird's prime wasn't cut short, he would've went down as better than Magic imo, since his peak play ('84-'86) was better than Magic's peak play ('86-'89). Like Jerry West said of Jordan in 1993: "he's the best offensive player in the league, he's the best defensive player in the league, and he's the best competitor, playing on a team that, while suited to him, is not an ideal team. He carries that team; and very rarely do you see players carry teams to victories, much less championships. And if there's ever going to be a player who comes along that's better, I think we're all going to be sitting here scratching our heads."
I think most people would say either Jordan or one of the big three. Jordan has a couple of advantages there -- he played most recently and played a different position, so the three centers split some votes.
Personally I think the only two players that you can make a case for as greatest ever are Russell and Jordan. To me its those two and then Jabbar,Wilt,Magic,and Bird in any order. I think these 6 players are by themselves ahead of anyone else. My problem with naming Jabbar the greatest is he failed to win some titles that i thought he should have won if he was the greatest ever. I didn't see Jabbar win any titles that I thought Russell or Jordan couldn't have won if surrounded equal talent as Jabbar was.
Thats the same reason that I wouldn't rank Wilt,Magic,or Bird as high as Russell or Jordan. I saw Wilt,Magic,Bird,and Jabbar fail at times where I thought if they were realy the greatest they should have won the titles or at least done better. Russell and Jordan in my opinion won the title everytime they were surrounded by enough talent that someone considered the greatest ever should win a title. Jabbar was surrouned by a very good Bucks team in 73 and failed to even make it past the Warriors. In 81 surrounded by a great Laker team he lost to the Rockets. In 83 surrounded by a great Laker team he was swept by the 76ers. I couldn't see this happening to Russell or Jordan.
Coincidentally they have the best records in series with HCA as well.
Now Russell did win 11 titles, but you also gotta remember for 8 of those titles there were only 2 rounds and the other 3 there were 3 rounds. He basically won 25 playoff series for those 11 titles, while nowadays you have to win 4 series to even win a title. So this is why saying 11 titles doesn't mean much when there were far less series to win. Now had he had to win 4 series yearly that would be a different story. Jordan on the other had to win 24 series to just get 6 titles. So using 11 titles is more than 6 doesn't matter here when all you had to do was win 25 series to get 11 titles while the other guy had to win 24 to just get 6 titles.
Jordan: 14-0 / 10-0
Russell: 10-0 / 12-1
Shaq: 11-2 / 12-2
Magic: 9-2 / 20-1
Duncan: 15-5 / 8-1
Jabbar: 11-3 / 23-2
Olajuwon: 4-0 / 5-2
Bird: 10-6 / 14-1
Wilt: 4-3 / 9-2
Tmac: 0-2 / 0-0
Kobe: 18-2 / 7-0
Lebron: 2-3/ 10-0
Wade: 2-2/ 8-0
Durant: 2-1/ 2-0
Also by comparison Russell won 27 playoff series in his career while Jordan won 30 playoff series in his career.
Jordan won each of his as the best player on his team, the same can't be said for Russell as he did not lead his team in PER and Win Shares ever year.