With LeBron James still playing at a high level for the Los Angeles Lakers, the debate between who is the greatest NBA player of all-time should continue to rage on for years to come. Recently, NBA legend Isaiah Thomas came out and said that LeBron is in fact the best ever. That’s especially notable considering Thomas played against players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Kareen Abdul-Jabbar.
The comments from Thomas sparked a reaction from ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who strongly disagreed with the former Pistons star:
Eras matter. What I find most egregious, most blasphemous about Isiah Thomas’ statement is that he ignores the era he was playing in as far as I am concerned. It was very physical, it was very volatile. … I am talking about banging bodies, Jordan rules, people getting assaulted and only getting called for a foul.
Those comments from Smith didn’t sit well with former Lakers tough guy Metta World Peace, who defended his era and LeBron.
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Is the Current Era Actually That Soft?
There’s no doubt that how the NBA rules are these days makes the game less physical. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the current era is soft. Metta World Peace pointed to the 1999 draft, the year he was drafted, as a reason that this isn’t a soft era.
Nobody would question World Peace’s toughness. Just because the rules favor less physicality these days, doesn’t mean that there aren’t tough players in the NBA. Is Stephen A. Smith trying to suggest that players like Draymond Green, Tyson Chandler, Udonis Haslem and many more aren’t that tough? That argument doesn’t seem to hold a lot of weight. There have been plenty of tough players to play in the NBA over the last 20 years and LeBron has played against all of them. Also, an NBA filled with tougher players wouldn’t make LeBron suddenly turn into a pedestrian player. He’s a generational talent and that wouldn’t change if he happened to be born in 1960.
LeBron Likely Would’ve Thrived in Any Era
Saying LeBron isn’t the greatest of all-time because of the era in which he’s played in would imply that he wouldn’t have had as much success had he played in previous eras. However, that doesn’t seem accurate. LeBron is 6’9 and as athletic as any athlete in NBA history. There’s almost no doubt he would’ve been a strong player no matter what era he played in.
LeBron isn’t just athletic, he’s also a very smart basketball player. A more physical game wouldn’t have slowed him down that much. The argument makes a little more sense if you’re talking about a smaller player like Stephen Curry, who probably would’ve gotten bullied around in the 80s. LeBron is a big, strong, physical player so he might have even thrived had he played in the 80s or early 90s. There are arguments against LeBron in the greatest of all-time debate but the “soft era” argument has to be one of the weakest.
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