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Multiple Halls of Fame

Arkady

President
OK, I was wondering whether people could think of any "Double Hall of Famers." The idea is, can you think of sports figures who were so good in some major sport that if you started measuring just AFTER they reached the point in their careers where they already had done enough to make their sport's Hall of Fame, the balance of their career still would have been enough to qualify for the Hall of Fame without reference to what came before -- essentially enough productivity that even if they had been two different people, both would have made the Hall.

Any ideas? I was thinking about this earlier and it's a really tall order. Even most no-questions-asked first-ballot HOF types don't come close to living up to that standard.

Michael Jordan is a good one to start with since he's so widely considered his sport's best and his career has a natural break. If he'd retired for good in 1993, when he stepped away to play baseball, he'd certainly have been a Hall of Famer without ever touching a basketball again. He'd been a three-time NBA MVP by then, and had three championships under his belt, and had led the league in scoring eight times. So, if you drew the line there, the question is whether his subsequent performance, with three more championships, two more MVPs, and two more scoring championships --plus the Dream Team and leading arguably the greatest team in league history-- would have made the Hall. Everyone with at least two MVPs is in the Basketball Hall or destined for it, so I think Jordan's a double-hall-of-famer. Or, if you think maybe that second half isn't quite a lock, you could split the career a year earlier, and the first half would still be an easy pick for the Hall and the second half would cross the threshold more easily, with four championships.

In basketball, Bill Russell would make it, too. As with Jordan, you'd have one half with three MVPs and the other with two, but he'd probably get in even easier, since you'd have him as the best player on a team that won six championships and also the best player on a different team that won five. Has anyone ever had two league MVPs and led his team to five championships without being a first-balloter for the Hall? After Jordan and Russel, things get a bit dicier in the NBA. Kareem might do it. You could put 3 MVPs and 3 championships in each half, and though he wasn't the best player on some of those championship teams, it wouldn't be hard to build a case for him. Plus, half his career scoring is still on par with, say, John Stockton. Wilt and Lebron might conceivably make it, since you could make two separate two-MVP careers, but with fewer championships, I don't think they'd make the cut. Other greats, like Bird, Johnson, Robertson, Duncan, and Malone, just can't be sliced in two without leaving one or the other half short of the Hall.

Football? There might be no double Hall of Famers there. Peyton Manning, possibly -- you could divide his career into 3 MVPs and 2 MVPs, with about 36,000 yards passing. A 2 MVP, 1 SB, 36,000-yard career (in the modern era) would be on the bubble for the HoF (basically, Kurt Warner). Brady's on the bubble, but more of a long shot -- each career would have one MVP, and they'd have 2 and 1 championships respectively, but a lot fewer yards. I don't think any other player makes it. Unitas and Montana have paltry career yards if cut in half. Elway and Marino might get some HoF talk for a half-career, but wouldn't make it. Cut Jerry Rice's career in half and you've got something akin to Rod Smith for each half, and he doesn't make it. Emmitt Smith -- if he'd retired half-way through his production, he'd have had the same issue as Terrell Davis -- a proven winner with great ypg and ypc numbers, but just not enough total yards to make it an easy choice. Walter Payton, Jim Brown, and Barry Sanders don't cut it. The defensive players have a harder time to begin with, so cut any of them in half and they don't have a chance. Take someone like Reggie White or Bruce Smith and cut their careers in two and you've got a Jim Jeffcoat -- possibly a nominee, but not an inductee.

Baseball? I know very little about it, so I'd like to hear what those who know more about the sport's history have to say. Just some quick possibilities: Babe Ruth? Roger Clemens? Nolan Ryan? Ted Williams? Barry Bonds? Hank Aaron?

NHL? Gretsky seems like the biggest slam dunk in any sport. Cut his career in half and even the lesser half would have as many MVP as anyone in league history other than Gordie Howe. Cut his points in half and you still have the 15th-highest point total in league history. Each half would also involve being the best player on two championship teams. Cut his career in half and even the lesser half would be an easy first-balloter. Aside from him, maybe Howe and Lemiuex?

Boxing? Joe Louis had 25 consecutive title defenses in a nearly 12 year reign. Cut that in half and a nearly six-year reign with twelve defenses would still exceed, say, Muhammad Ali's longest title reign. Wladimir Klitschko is another top choice -- cut his career in half and you'd still have more days as champion and more title defenses, cumulatively, than Joe Frazier. Julio Cesar Chavez defended his title successfully more than any other boxer, with 27 times, even half of which would be HoF material.

It looks like no more than ten double-hall-of-famers, total, for all major sports combined. How about other sports? Tennis? Steffi Graf, Federer, Margaret Court, and Serena Williams, maybe. Swimming? Phelps, Spitz, Thorpe. Track and Field? Carl Lewis. Golf? Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Other thoughts?
 

Mr. Friscus

I think, therefore, I poop
Michael Jordan is a good one to start with since he's so widely considered his sport's best and his career has a natural break.
While he's widely considered to be "the best", the myth of MJ, as well as his league-pushed advertising campaign, clouds what he really was.

Jordan is one of the best, but to say he's outright the best is mere modern ESPN propaganda in my opinion. You can throw a lot of guys to be fairly considered as possibly the best.

Anways, yes, the argument could be made that, if split in half, his career could produce a "double" Hall of Fame. I'm not so sure about the second half though. Starting in 1995-96 it would be 3.5 years, 2 MVP's, 3 championships... albeit a leader, but on a stacked team that was winning 50+ games without him, headed by the best coach in NBA History. It's just too short of a span.

Meanwhile, on a sidenote, there's much to suggest that Jordan's "retirement" was actually a league suspencion on the down-low, as he was busted for heavy gambling charges. Jordan was the single league endorsed meal ticket (they learned from the mistake they made with Jordan and endorsed multiple super stars going forward).. so, they had to cover their asses. Even Jordan admitted as such by saying in a press conference "When they let me back into the league"...

In basketball, Bill Russell would make it, too. As with Jordan, you'd have one half with three MVPs and the other with two, but he'd probably get in even easier, since you'd have him as the best player on a team that won six championships and also the best player on a different team that won five. Has anyone ever had two league MVPs and led his team to five championships without being a first-balloter for the Hall? After Jordan and Russel, things get a bit dicier in the NBA. Kareem might do it. You could put 3 MVPs and 3 championships in each half, and though he wasn't the best player on some of those championship teams, it wouldn't be hard to build a case for him. Plus, half his career scoring is still on par with, say, John Stockton. Wilt and Lebron might conceivably make it, since you could make two separate two-MVP careers, but with fewer championships, I don't think they'd make the cut. Other greats, like Bird, Johnson, Robertson, Duncan, and Malone, just can't be sliced in two without leaving one or the other half short of the Hall.
I think Duncan's career could be split and still have Hall of Fame numbers. from the late 90's to 2006 he had approx 23 ppg and 12 rebounds with 3 titles and 2 MVP's 3 Finals MVP's, and from 2006-2015 he had more like 18 ppg and 10 rbp with 2 titles. If you wanted to split it before 2006, it might make for a more convincing case for the second "career".

Football? There might be no double Hall of Famers there. Peyton Manning, possibly -- you could divide his career into 3 MVPs and 2 MVPs, with about 36,000 yards passing. A 2 MVP, 1 SB, 36,000-yard career (in the modern era) would be on the bubble for the HoF (basically, Kurt Warner). Brady's on the bubble, but more of a long shot -- each career would have one MVP, and they'd have 2 and 1 championships respectively, but a lot fewer yards. I don't think any other player makes it. Unitas and Montana have paltry career yards if cut in half. Elway and Marino might get some HoF talk for a half-career, but wouldn't make it. Cut Jerry Rice's career in half and you've got something akin to Rod Smith for each half, and he doesn't make it. Emmitt Smith -- if he'd retired half-way through his production, he'd have had the same issue as Terrell Davis -- a proven winner with great ypg and ypc numbers, but just not enough total yards to make it an easy choice. Walter Payton, Jim Brown, and Barry Sanders don't cut it. The defensive players have a harder time to begin with, so cut any of them in half and they don't have a chance. Take someone like Reggie White or Bruce Smith and cut their careers in two and you've got a Jim Jeffcoat -- possibly a nominee, but not an inductee.
I'd say there's a case for Peyton, given his huge first few seasons with Denver (55 TD passes, league record). Plus, Manning could easily have 6 MVP's, as the year Adrian Peterson won it, it was basically neck and neck (no pun intended for Peyton).

Brady certainly wouldn't. Although he was winning Super Bowls early in his career, he was putting up average numbers and allowing his top notch Defense and great coaching to carry him. Hell, he only threw 1 TD pass throughout an entire playoffs and won the Super Bowl one year. Brady developed into a HOF QB unquestionably, but his "Trent Dilfer" style early in his career has largely been white-washed from history, oddly enough.

Baseball? I know very little about it, so I'd like to hear what those who know more about the sport's history have to say. Just some quick possibilities: Babe Ruth? Roger Clemens? Nolan Ryan? Ted Williams? Barry Bonds? Hank Aaron?
If you don't count steroid use, Barry Bonds definitely has 2 HOF careers, as does Roger Clemens. Nolan Ryan for sure (the guy was dusting people into his late 40's, and could probably still throw 80+ in his late 60's.)

It looks like no more than ten double-hall-of-famers, total, for all major sports combined. How about other sports? Tennis? Steffi Graf, Federer, Margaret Court, and Serena Williams, maybe. Swimming? Phelps, Spitz, Thorpe. Track and Field? Carl Lewis. Golf? Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Other thoughts?
Tennis is measured differently and more straight forward. Margeret Court, Martina Navratolova, Serena Williams, Steffi Graf all have 20ish majors, and if you cut it in half, it's still a "HOF career". Same with Federer and his 17 major titles, or Pete Sampras with his 14.

While one of my favorite athletes growing up, Andre Agassi, had a career resurgence like few have had, I'm not sure if either stint stand alone as some iconic, HOF career. Perhaps borderline. He won a total of 8 majors, and had the unfortunate timing of playing during Sampras' prime.

I think the obvious theme here is longetivity. Even if you're great for only 10 years in team sports, it might not be enough to justify 2 HOF careers. To be honest, I think many sports are too leniant on HOF inductees as it is. Like Paul Pierce in the NBA... I just don't see him as a HOF guy. He's a great scorer for a long time, and won 1 title with the Celtics.. but he was considered a first ballot? Maybe I'm just out of touch.

Good topic of discussion though.
 

Arkady

President
the myth of MJ, as well as his league-pushed advertising campaign, clouds what he really was.
I remember, back around 1990, watching a Michael Jordan highlight reel -- the commentators were oohing and ahhing over the spectacular moves, but if you actually broke it down, he traveled in nearly every instance, and when he wasn't traveling he was often charging. You could have used the same film as an instructional video of what you aren't allowed to do according to the official rules of the game.

It's normal in the NBA for the top stars to be given leeway by the refs for moves that would draw a whistle for a journeyman. When the arena goes nuts and the scoreboard operator is queuing up the replay, what ref is going to want to negate the spectacular basket just because a superstar took an extra step or knocked a bench-warmer on his butt on the way to the basket? But, with Jordan, it was a whole different level -- almost as if the rules had been officially amended to say that he gets that extra step. He picked up on that and used it shamelessly.

For my money, Russell is the GOAT. That's party my home-town bias, I'm sure, but if you see the point of the game as winning instead of compiling personal stats, he did that. And when you watch the old games and clips, the kinds of things he did don't show up in the standard stats -- for example, the standard stats reward someone for gambling on a steal, because those steals get counted, whereas the times you lunge and the other guy uses that as a chance to go around you and score, or to dish off for an assist don't get counted. If, instead, you're a solid defender who is always positioned well and forces your guy to kick it back to someone else or throw up an air ball, that's harder to quantify. Russell made the inside game a nightmare for opponents. The stats also treat a blocked shot the same whether you block it into an opponents' hands, or the stands, or into the hands of your own guy, yet obviously those have hugely different outcomes. Russell consistently went for the directed block, rather than the spectacular swat that would let him thump his chest while giving the ball back to the other team.

Other options for GOAT: Chamberlain (so good they had to change the rules to slow him down), Abdul-Jabbar (hard to argue with an all-time scoring record), Oscar Robertson (such a complete player he averaged a triple double for a whole season), Johnson and James (each because they were such complete players, who could score off the dribble, pass, and defend a player of any size), and Bird (a freakish combination of size, passing, rebounding, and pure shooting touch from any range -- he could do whatever a team needed at the moment, from running the offense to cleaning the glass to putting up 40 points.)

Anways, yes, the argument could be made that, if split in half, his career could produce a "double" Hall of Fame. I'm not so sure about the second half though.
Just to be clear, the rules I'm thinking of wouldn't require actually splitting it in half. Instead, it would be split at the earliest point where the first portion would get the person a trip to the Hall of Fame. With Jordan, that would probably be after the 1991-1992 season -- by then he had won two championships, five scoring championships, and three MVPs, along with two Olympic gold medals. I think if he'd blown out his knee in the offseason and never played another minute, he'd have gotten to the Hall. That gives him four championships in the "second career," along with being the clear best player on what many argue was the best team of all time. Hard to picture someone who leads a team to four championships ever being shut out of a hall of fame.

Meanwhile, on a sidenote, there's much to suggest that Jordan's "retirement" was actually a league suspencion on the down-low
Yes, that seems plausible to me.

I think Duncan's career could be split and still have Hall of Fame numbers.
I thought about Duncan but didn't really dig into his numbers. You make a good case. He might well make the list. Interesting how heavily the complete multi-sport "double hall" list is skewed towards NBA centers or PF/centers: Russell, Chamberlain, Abdul Jabbar, and Duncan all would probably make it, and there are several "bubble double hall" players as well (Olajuan and even Shaq could make a case).

I'd say there's a case for Peyton, given his huge first few seasons with Denver (55 TD passes, league record). Plus, Manning could easily have 6 MVP's, as the year Adrian Peterson won it, it was basically neck and neck (no pun intended for Peyton).
I think Manning also ran into a similar issue as Jordan did the year Barkley won it -- at some point people are just looking for some variety -- they don't want to keep giving the MVP award to the same player every year.

Brady certainly wouldn't. Although he was winning Super Bowls early in his career, he was putting up average numbers and allowing his top notch Defense and great coaching to carry him.
He certainly benefited from the system and team, but the football hall of fame is awfully partial to QBs, and it doesn't have a track record of discriminating against winning QBs who arguably road great defense and coaching to championships. Troy Aikman is in the Hall of Fame. He was never a QB who could beat you himself -- he just managed an offense with one of the greatest runners ever, plus outstanding all-around talent, paired with a terrifying defense. Joe Namath? Bob Griese? Terry Bradshaw? Warren Moon? I think you could make a case for half of Brady over any of those. Here's the match-up with Griese, Aikman, Bradshaw, and Namath:

Griese: 25,092 yards, 192 touchdowns, 172 INTs, comp% 56.2%, 2 SBs
Namath: 27,663 yards, 173 TD, 220 INTs, comp% 50.1%, 1 SB
Bradshaw: 27,989 yards, 212 TDs, 210 INTs, comp% 51.9, 4 SBs
Aikman: 32,942 yards, 165 TDs, 141 INTs, comp% 61.5%, 3 SB
1/2 Brady: 29,014 yards, 214 TDs, 75 INTs, comp% 63.6%, 2 SBs

Granted the game has changed a lot to pad passing stats since the 1970s, so Griese, Namath, and Bradshaw are at an unfair disadvantage. But, still, half of Brady was clearly superior to all of them across all those passing stats -- slightly more productive and vastly more efficient. As for Aikman, he played in the era of gaudy passing stats, as well, so that's more directly comparable. Aikman had only slightly more yards than half of Brady (and by the time Brady's done, that may no longer be true), but Brady was a whole hell of a lot more efficient about it.

I think the only year you can fairly accuse Brady of Trent-Dilfer-style play was 2001. After that, he cleared 3500 passing yards and at least 23 TDs every single year (other than his injury year) for the rest of his career. Dilfer didn't crack 3000 yards even once in his career, and never threw for more than 21 TDs. To put in perspective those early Brady years, Troy Aikman's very best year had 23 TDs and fewer than 3500 passing yards, so the less impressive early Brady years were still markedly better than Aikman.

Another way to look at it: Brady's worst year was his first as a starter, when he threw for 2843 yards and 18 TDs and 12 INTs. Dilfer's best year was 2859 yards and 12 TDs and 19 INTs.

Anyway, it's interesting how football doesn't lend itself to "double hall" numbers the way other sports do. You're talking, at most, two players punching that ticket twice. There's way more in the NBA and MLB.

If you don't count steroid use, Barry Bonds definitely has 2 HOF careers, as does Roger Clemens. Nolan Ryan for sure (the guy was dusting people into his late 40's, and could probably still throw 80+ in his late 60's.)
If you're fairly knowledgeable about baseball, I'd love to hear more, since it's a sport I don't follow much and know little about, so it's the one where I have the least idea who else might make the list.

While one of my favorite athletes growing up, Andre Agassi, had a career resurgence like few have had, I'm not sure if either stint stand alone as some iconic, HOF career. Perhaps borderline.
I had the same thought and decided he was on the bubble -- though I made the same call with Sampras and it sounds like you'd give it to him and given the dilute state of the Tennis Hall, I guess you're right. I'm also less impressed with Narvitolova, who seemed more like a plodder, but if I look at it in light of who's in the Hall, it's hard to deny half her stats a trip there.
 

Arkady

President
I think the obvious theme here is longetivity.
Yep. I guess that's another fun question -- who would have punched a second ticket to the hall in the least amount of time?

Steffi Graf is an option. What's the very earliest she'd have made the Hall? You could argue she'd have made it after 1988. If she'd suffered a career-ending injury after that year, she'd probably have been in, anyway, with five grand slam titles under her belt, plus an Olympic gold medal. There are women who made it with less than that. She was just so ridiculously unbeatable in 1988, that it would be hard to deny her even if her career had ended then. For example, in the 1988 French Open, in seven rounds of play she only lost 20 games, and no sets, and she took the finals without losing a game. She demolished the women's field so completely, that year, that I think punched her ticket. She'd probably then punched her second ticket after the 1993 season, when she had six more majors under her belt. So, that would make her a double-hall-of-famer at age 24. Crazy!

In fact, you might be able to find as many as five hall of fame careers in Steffi Graf's record. 1/5 of her singles titles in grand slam events would be 4.4 per career. That compares favorably to Hall of Famers like Lindsay Davenport (she has three grand slam tournament wins). I suppose that to do a fair comparison, you'd need to standardized Hall of Fame entrance requirements (e.g., a rule that a Hall can only admit X% of all players active in a given year per year), to keep standards the same. But, if you did that, Graf might well be the athlete with the most Hall appearances of all. Court has more majors, but she played in an era with far fewer elite female players, which would make it tougher to admit her, whereas Graf's career spanned from Chris Everett to Serena Williams, with dozens of elite players in between (Capriati, Hingis, Seles, Venus Williams, Vicario, and so on).

Like Paul Pierce in the NBA... I just don't see him as a HOF guy. He's a great scorer for a long time, and won 1 title with the Celtics.. but he was considered a first ballot? Maybe I'm just out of touch.
Agreed. I like Pierce. He was an excellent scorer and high quality team mate. I was in the Fleet Center at the event where the Celtics drafted him and the place went nuts. He was also instrument in bringing Allen and Garnett to Boston, getting the team its seventeenth title. But I think a player should be in the top five players in the league for an extended time in his career to win a Hall trip, and Pierce was never in the top five. He was probably only in the top ten once (2008-2009).

One more thought: Aleksander Karelin. Olympic wrestling isn't a big-time sport, but within that small pond, Karelin was a Great White. He won nine world championships and three Olympic gold medals, and a Silver. And that's not in a sport like swimming where you can win multiple medals in a single Olympics. That's four separate Olympics between 1988 and 2000. He was the unquestioned greatest in his sport every single year for 11 straight years. Has anyone else ever been the unquestioned best in his sport for over a decade straight? Even Gretzky "only" had nine MVPs, Manning 5, Bonds 7, Abdul-Jabbar 6, and most of those weren't consecutive. In Tennis, Federer spent almost six years as number one, and Graf spent seven and a quarter. Eleven is just mind-blowing. And you could argue it was twelve, since although he was upset for the gold in 2000, I think most would argue he was the best wrestler that year.
 

Arkady

President
While he's widely considered to be "the best", the myth of MJ, as well as his league-pushed advertising campaign, clouds what he really was.

Jordan is one of the best, but to say he's outright the best is mere modern ESPN propaganda in my opinion. You can throw a lot of guys to be fairly considered as possibly the best.

Anways, yes, the argument could be made that, if split in half, his career could produce a "double" Hall of Fame. I'm not so sure about the second half though. Starting in 1995-96 it would be 3.5 years, 2 MVP's, 3 championships... albeit a leader, but on a stacked team that was winning 50+ games without him, headed by the best coach in NBA History. It's just too short of a span.

Meanwhile, on a sidenote, there's much to suggest that Jordan's "retirement" was actually a league suspencion on the down-low, as he was busted for heavy gambling charges. Jordan was the single league endorsed meal ticket (they learned from the mistake they made with Jordan and endorsed multiple super stars going forward).. so, they had to cover their asses. Even Jordan admitted as such by saying in a press conference "When they let me back into the league"...



I think Duncan's career could be split and still have Hall of Fame numbers. from the late 90's to 2006 he had approx 23 ppg and 12 rebounds with 3 titles and 2 MVP's 3 Finals MVP's, and from 2006-2015 he had more like 18 ppg and 10 rbp with 2 titles. If you wanted to split it before 2006, it might make for a more convincing case for the second "career".



I'd say there's a case for Peyton, given his huge first few seasons with Denver (55 TD passes, league record). Plus, Manning could easily have 6 MVP's, as the year Adrian Peterson won it, it was basically neck and neck (no pun intended for Peyton).

Brady certainly wouldn't. Although he was winning Super Bowls early in his career, he was putting up average numbers and allowing his top notch Defense and great coaching to carry him. Hell, he only threw 1 TD pass throughout an entire playoffs and won the Super Bowl one year. Brady developed into a HOF QB unquestionably, but his "Trent Dilfer" style early in his career has largely been white-washed from history, oddly enough.



If you don't count steroid use, Barry Bonds definitely has 2 HOF careers, as does Roger Clemens. Nolan Ryan for sure (the guy was dusting people into his late 40's, and could probably still throw 80+ in his late 60's.)



Tennis is measured differently and more straight forward. Margeret Court, Martina Navratolova, Serena Williams, Steffi Graf all have 20ish majors, and if you cut it in half, it's still a "HOF career". Same with Federer and his 17 major titles, or Pete Sampras with his 14.

While one of my favorite athletes growing up, Andre Agassi, had a career resurgence like few have had, I'm not sure if either stint stand alone as some iconic, HOF career. Perhaps borderline. He won a total of 8 majors, and had the unfortunate timing of playing during Sampras' prime.

I think the obvious theme here is longetivity. Even if you're great for only 10 years in team sports, it might not be enough to justify 2 HOF careers. To be honest, I think many sports are too leniant on HOF inductees as it is. Like Paul Pierce in the NBA... I just don't see him as a HOF guy. He's a great scorer for a long time, and won 1 title with the Celtics.. but he was considered a first ballot? Maybe I'm just out of touch.

Good topic of discussion though.
One other guy to consider from an obscure sport: John Brzenk. He has been the best arm wrestler in the world frequently between 1983 (his first world title, at age 18), and the present. He won a national title every year from 1996 to 2010. The guy's an absolute freak of nature:

 

Mr. Friscus

I think, therefore, I poop
I remember, back around 1990, watching a Michael Jordan highlight reel -- the commentators were oohing and ahhing over the spectacular moves, but if you actually broke it down, he traveled in nearly every instance, and when he wasn't traveling he was often charging. You could have used the same film as an instructional video of what you aren't allowed to do according to the official rules of the game.

It's normal in the NBA for the top stars to be given leeway by the refs for moves that would draw a whistle for a journeyman. When the arena goes nuts and the scoreboard operator is queuing up the replay, what ref is going to want to negate the spectacular basket just because a superstar took an extra step or knocked a bench-warmer on his butt on the way to the basket? But, with Jordan, it was a whole different level -- almost as if the rules had been officially amended to say that he gets that extra step. He picked up on that and used it shamelessly.
Agreed. The whole modern ignorance by refs as far as traveling clearly began with MJ. Enforcing the actual rules isn't good for business.

It irks me every time I hear some ESPN generationalist say Michael IS the greatest of all time. By any measure, you can make arguements to the contrary. They say "6 Rings!".. well, Bill Russell anyone? "5 MVPs!" well, Kareem had 6, and Russell had 5.

MJ's legacy is one of greatness, but the claim to being "the greatest" is largely mythological. Every time I debate against the absolute that Michael is the greatest, it usually comes down to my opponent saying "Yea but Michael just had that will to win, and if you needed a big shot, he would make it every time".... While Jordan made a few memorable game winners at big moments, he also missed quite a few more. It's shocking to think the guy had bad games, shot poorly from the field, and didn't win a playoff series until Pippen and Phil Jackson came to town. And even though he played incredibly when he came back at the end of the 94-95 season, he choked against the Orlando Magic, coughing up the ball to a steal by Nick Anderson. And after Jordan left, the Bulls were still great, they won 57 and 54 games without him. And when he came back and they won 72? Well, they also picked up a possessed Dennis Rodman, who would regularly pull down 18 rebounds a game. While Jordan was a great defender, he was probably the 3rd best on his own team behind Rodman and Pippen.

For my money, Russell is the GOAT. That's party my home-town bias, I'm sure, but if you see the point of the game as winning instead of compiling personal stats, he did that. And when you watch the old games and clips, the kinds of things he did don't show up in the standard stats -- for example, the standard stats reward someone for gambling on a steal, because those steals get counted, whereas the times you lunge and the other guy uses that as a chance to go around you and score, or to dish off for an assist don't get counted. If, instead, you're a solid defender who is always positioned well and forces your guy to kick it back to someone else or throw up an air ball, that's harder to quantify. Russell made the inside game a nightmare for opponents. The stats also treat a blocked shot the same whether you block it into an opponents' hands, or the stands, or into the hands of your own guy, yet obviously those have hugely different outcomes. Russell consistently went for the directed block, rather than the spectacular swat that would let him thump his chest while giving the ball back to the other team.

Other options for GOAT: Chamberlain (so good they had to change the rules to slow him down), Abdul-Jabbar (hard to argue with an all-time scoring record), Oscar Robertson (such a complete player he averaged a triple double for a whole season), Johnson and James (each because they were such complete players, who could score off the dribble, pass, and defend a player of any size), and Bird (a freakish combination of size, passing, rebounding, and pure shooting touch from any range -- he could do whatever a team needed at the moment, from running the offense to cleaning the glass to putting up 40 points.)
I think your list is pretty solid. Definitely Russell and Magic Johnson. However, in regards to Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson's numbers, check out this 7 minute video and see what you think. It puts the insane numbers they had into a modern perspective, and I think rather fairly.


I'm not taking away from their greatness, but I think it adds a little honesty to the discussion.

And yes, I'd say Lebron is approaching the status to be considered in the GOAT discussion. I'd say he's clearly done the most with the least. He dragged a laughable team to the Finals in 2007, and the year after Lebron left cleveland, they went from a 60+ win team to winning 19 the next year. Even though Cleveland lost last year to the Warriors in the Finals, Lebron's numbers and performance, without Kyrie and Kevin Love, and multiple other injured players, is historic. He passes the eyeball test as one who simply oozes greatness.
 

Arkady

President
MJ's legacy is one of greatness, but the claim to being "the greatest" is largely mythological.
I think he's got to be in the discussion for the greatest of all time. I just take issue with the magnitude of the consensus around him. I think good arguments can be made for several others, and ultimately I come out for Russell.

If I had my shot to pick a starting five, Jordan would be in it, at least measuring by the standards of their own time. I'm not sure he would be if we measured by modern standards (allowing the taller, faster, stronger players of today to dominate over previous generations' greats.). A lot of what Jordan relied on was just being so much quicker than players of his era, and I think the speed of the game has caught up to his style of play since then, so maybe he wouldn't be as dominating if plopped down in today's league, where people are more used to that.

It might go something like this:

Relative to their own era:
Chamberlain
Russell
Robertson
Jordan
Baylor

Absolute:
Abdul-Jabbar
Duncan
Bird
Johnson
James

Looking at that latter list, it would be really heavy on big men -- the shortest guy on the team would be 6'8".

Thanks for sharing that video. It was pretty compelling. I'd also like to see stats where each year's stats were adjusted for the difference between overall league starters' stats that year and the overall league starters stats for all years. So, for example, if the average starter in NBA history had 10 points per game, but in a given year the average starter and 12 points per game, then you'd multiply each player's ppg in that year by 0.83333, to account for differences in the game. You could do something similar in football and other sports, and it would work for almost any stat. It would be interesting to see what career stats look like if restated that way. The NFL passer list would, obviously, be very different.
 

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I think Manning also ran into a similar issue as Jordan did the year Barkley won it -- at some point people are just looking for some variety -- they don't want to keep giving the MVP award to the same player every year.

He certainly benefited from the system and team, but the football hall of fame is awfully partial to QBs, and it doesn't have a track record of discriminating against winning QBs who arguably road great defense and coaching to championships. Troy Aikman is in the Hall of Fame. He was never a QB who could beat you himself -- he just managed an offense with one of the greatest runners ever, plus outstanding all-around talent, paired with a terrifying defense. Joe Namath? Bob Griese? Terry Bradshaw? Warren Moon? I think you could make a case for half of Brady over any of those. Here's the match-up with Griese, Aikman, Bradshaw, and Namath:

Griese: 25,092 yards, 192 touchdowns, 172 INTs, comp% 56.2%, 2 SBs
Namath: 27,663 yards, 173 TD, 220 INTs, comp% 50.1%, 1 SB
Bradshaw: 27,989 yards, 212 TDs, 210 INTs, comp% 51.9, 4 SBs
Aikman: 32,942 yards, 165 TDs, 141 INTs, comp% 61.5%, 3 SB
1/2 Brady: 29,014 yards, 214 TDs, 75 INTs, comp% 63.6%, 2 SBs

Granted the game has changed a lot to pad passing stats since the 1970s, so Griese, Namath, and Bradshaw are at an unfair disadvantage. But, still, half of Brady was clearly superior to all of them across all those passing stats -- slightly more productive and vastly more efficient. As for Aikman, he played in the era of gaudy passing stats, as well, so that's more directly comparable. Aikman had only slightly more yards than half of Brady (and by the time Brady's done, that may no longer be true), but Brady was a whole hell of a lot more efficient about it.

I think the only year you can fairly accuse Brady of Trent-Dilfer-style play was 2001. After that, he cleared 3500 passing yards and at least 23 TDs every single year (other than his injury year) for the rest of his career. Dilfer didn't crack 3000 yards even once in his career, and never threw for more than 21 TDs. To put in perspective those early Brady years, Troy Aikman's very best year had 23 TDs and fewer than 3500 passing yards, so the less impressive early Brady years were still markedly better than Aikman.

Another way to look at it: Brady's worst year was his first as a starter, when he threw for 2843 yards and 18 TDs and 12 INTs. Dilfer's best year was 2859 yards and 12 TDs and 19 INTs.
The "Dilfer" suggestion was probably extreme, but my point is still that Brady's current aerial greatness is simply implied and assigned throughout his entire career, when his team's early successes weren't due to some high-powered offense or an All-Pro Tom Brady. He simply hadn't reached that level yet.. and wasn't a top 5 quarterback at the time.

But as a Manning fan, I constantly get in the classic "Brady vs. Manning" debate, and really the only thing Brady supporters cling onto is:

1. Brady is clutch, Manning chokes
2. Brady has 4 rings, Manning has 2

#1 is just ridiculous. Throughout their careers, they've both put up nearly the same QB ratings in the playoffs. Manning has had incredible Playoff games that Brady hasn't touched.

The truth is, Brady took the reigns of a Super Bowl contender team, and Manning took the reigns of an awful, talentless laughing stock of the league at the time. A very frustrating thing in this debate throughout my observation is the glorification of Brady for winning 17-14 playoff games, while Manning would lose 35-28 shootouts.

If you want to get into the direct Patriots vs. Manning-led teams.. Certainly the Pats got the best of Manning in Foxboro the first few meetings. But again, the Colts were coming from the bottom up, and had a horrid defense, while the Pats had one of the best. Also, this was before (and arguably caused) rules were put into place so cornerbacks couldn't rape WR off the line of scrimmage, which often happened in those games. I still recall a close game, Colts Pats, in the snow, Manning driving down 6 or so. 4th quarter, 2 minutes to go, 4th down. Dallas Clark beats a linebacker down the seam, the Pats LB grabs a chunk full of jersey, blatantly... holding Clark from continuing his route. And this is just about as obvious of a hold as it gets, Clark pulling this LB via jersey hold. The ball sails over Clark's head. No call. Clark, Manning, Harrison.. all standing there, hands up, obviously asking "What the hell is going on here?"

Besides always enjoying a better defense and better coaching, I've noticed that the Pats just happen to have things go their way outside of Brady. Adam Vinitari making clutch field goals to win Super Bowls, while Colts kicker Vanderjact missing wide right to end the game against Pittsburgh in a clear possible Super Bowl year for the Colts, among other blemishes. The Pats often got Punt Returns for TD's at crucial moments, or INT returned for TD's.. just big plays that really effected big games. And then Brady would trot out and, once again, we'd hear about how he's just a winner to be in the situation.

However, Manning owns Brady in AFC championship games, I think it's 3-1.

Manning isn't a "choker", that's just been a repeated fun jab at him... probably because he's not a "warrior quarterback", and more a finesse guy who can effortlessly pick apart a defense in rhythm. If Manning is a choker, Brady certainly is too. He's lost a lot of playoff games.

As for the neanderthal "rings" argument, we already addressed that with MJ and Bill Russell. However, Troy Aikman is a good name to bring up, because he's NEVER brought up in greatest QB discussions. I'd say there's no way Bradshaw belongs in any greatest QB discussion.

Hell, Dan Marino is in my top 5 QB's of all time, and he never won a ring. Rings certainly matter, but it's just too simple and ignorant of a method to judge players.

If you want to know my top 5, if I had to put a gun to my head:

1. John Elway
2. Peyton Manning
3. Joe Montana
4. Tom Brady
5. Dan Marino

Elway simply did the most with nameless teams... dragging the Broncos kicking and screaming to 3 Super Bowls. He was the ultimate gun-slinger, but without the Favre interception factor. He oozed offense.
 
Agreed. The whole modern ignorance by refs as far as traveling clearly began with MJ. Enforcing the actual rules isn't good for business.

It irks me every time I hear some ESPN generationalist say Michael IS the greatest of all time. By any measure, you can make arguements to the contrary. They say "6 Rings!".. well, Bill Russell anyone? "5 MVPs!" well, Kareem had 6, and Russell had 5.

MJ's legacy is one of greatness, but the claim to being "the greatest" is largely mythological. Every time I debate against the absolute that Michael is the greatest, it usually comes down to my opponent saying "Yea but Michael just had that will to win, and if you needed a big shot, he would make it every time".... While Jordan made a few memorable game winners at big moments, he also missed quite a few more. It's shocking to think the guy had bad games, shot poorly from the field, and didn't win a playoff series until Pippen and Phil Jackson came to town. And even though he played incredibly when he came back at the end of the 94-95 season, he choked against the Orlando Magic, coughing up the ball to a steal by Nick Anderson. And after Jordan left, the Bulls were still great, they won 57 and 54 games without him. And when he came back and they won 72? Well, they also picked up a possessed Dennis Rodman, who would regularly pull down 18 rebounds a game. While Jordan was a great defender, he was probably the 3rd best on his own team behind Rodman and Pippen.



I think your list is pretty solid. Definitely Russell and Magic Johnson. However, in regards to Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson's numbers, check out this 7 minute video and see what you think. It puts the insane numbers they had into a modern perspective, and I think rather fairly.


I'm not taking away from their greatness, but I think it adds a little honesty to the discussion.

And yes, I'd say Lebron is approaching the status to be considered in the GOAT discussion. I'd say he's clearly done the most with the least. He dragged a laughable team to the Finals in 2007, and the year after Lebron left cleveland, they went from a 60+ win team to winning 19 the next year. Even though Cleveland lost last year to the Warriors in the Finals, Lebron's numbers and performance, without Kyrie and Kevin Love, and multiple other injured players, is historic. He passes the eyeball test as one who simply oozes greatness.
George Blanda and Hoyt Wilhelm.
 
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