Charles Barkley believes Michael Jordan is the GOAT for 2 reasons, and they have nothing to do with his on-court resume
Although there are opinions to the contrary, it is generally accepted that Michael Jordan is the NBA’s GOAT. This is mainly due to its statistical dominance; His Airness dominated the league, winning six championships and winning just about every honor imaginable. Charles Barkley, however, has a different take on things.
Although Chuck thinks MJ is the GOAT, he approaches things from a different angle. Rather than citing stats, trophies or even personal experiences, Barkley connects Jordan’s greatness to the impact he had on the basketball business.
Charles Barkley has two reasons why he calls Michael Jordan the GOAT
During his time on the NBA hardwood, Charles Barkley had his fair share of encounters with Michael Jordan. While these surely left an impression on the striker, they are not the reason Chuck calls MJ the greatest of all time.
“I mean, Michael did two things that I always tell people about [that] I think he’s the GOAT,” Sir Charles explained on The Pivot podcast. “Number one, the shoe thing. Nobody made money in shoes before Michael. Now guys [are] all earning three, four hundred million dollars a year thanks to Michael. Well, a few guys earn that much. But it’s because of Michael.
While Barkley’s numbers are probably off a bit – from 2019, Forbes reported that no one but Jordan made more than $32 million a year from sneakers – the sentiment still holds true. Guys like Walt Frazier had their own signature shoe, but Air Jordan literally changed that.
“Then, second, we all had commercials,” Chuck continued. “Nobody did any publicity before Michael Jordan came along. So magical, bird [who Barkley has credited for saving transforming the NBA into what it is today]and Michael, I thank those guys for never having to find a real job.
Chuck isn’t wrong, but his comments also show the challenges of crowning the one true GOAT
From afar, it’s easy to see the logic in Charles Barkley’s statement. Being the GOAT implies that someone has done more than just dominate on the pitch or in the field; there is also a greater impact element at play. Michael Jordan, in this case, was such a special talent that he completely transformed the entire landscape of the NBA. Surely that must count for something, right?
That being said, however, it’s hard to draw the line between making an impact and hitting the pitch in the right place at the right time. While it’s perfectly reasonable to say that LeBron James wouldn’t be the same if he didn’t stand on MJ’s shoulders, is it really fair to penalize the Lakers star for being born in 1984 instead of 1964?
Otherwise, let’s use Chuck’s other two NBA heroes, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. If we take overall impact to be part of the GOAT criteria, why aren’t these two men climbing to the top of the leaderboard? They both put together impressive resumes and, as Barkley himself puts it, helped transform basketball from a delayed-streamed sport to a global powerhouse.
To be clear, this is a rhetorical question. Please don’t send me messages explaining why Larry Bird could never be the GOAT. However, it highlights the challenges of comparing eras to answer an extremely personal question.
While there’s a statistical basis to GOAT debates – you have to be a top player with a solid resume to even enter the conversation – those numbers don’t provide much clarity. Era adjustments are flawed, and in some cases things are just plain unknowable. How many blocks, for example, would Wilt Chamberlain have if recorded throughout his career? The world may never know.
There is also an element of personal taste that comes into the conversation. Like it or not, we all have preferences, and these color our outlook. If you’ve seen His Airness up close, you’ll probably never forget his dominance. If you’re a Pistons fan, however, you’ll likely have different memories of MJ.
That’s not to say that all GOAT debates should go away. As long as fans are sitting in a bar or browsing social media, some arguments are inevitable. It’s worth remembering the point that Chuck inadvertently made, though.
There are many ways to define your GOAT. Don’t get so bogged down in these that you miss the awe-inspiring exploits unfolding before your eyes.
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