Michael Jordan is widely considered to be one of the best NBA players of all time – on most people’s lists, he is #1. And why not, right? With six championships, ten scoring titles, five MVP trophies, a highly praised defensive ability, and an absurdly marketed brand that has ascended to international fame, his influence over the game is everywhere. You cannot escape the name Michael Jordan even on a monthly basis if you tried.
But is Michael Jordan actually the greatest NBA player of all time? This is a question I have difficulty with myself. As an avid NBA fan, I would not be hesitant about calling him the greatest scorer of all time – with an average of 30.1 points a game, there is little doubt that Michael Jordan was, along with Wilt Chamberlain, the most dominant offensive force this game has ever seen. However, when I think of him as the greatest NBA player of all time, I can’t help but wonder if he actually is or not. In my mind, players like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, and (with a couple more titles) Lebron James all have an equally good stake at claiming the highly coveted title of “GOAT” – Greatest of All Time.
Here are ten reasons why Michael Jordan may not be considered the greatest NBA player in history.
10. He Won His Titles In an Era of When Expansion Teams Were Added, Diluting the Overall Quality of the NBA
Right before and during his championship reign in the 90’s, several teams were added to the league, including the Orlando Magic, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, and Vancouver Grizzlies. It is a widely known truth that expansion teams rarely ever have winning seasons in their first few years in the league, as the talent pool is diminished due to the fact that a team has to fill a roster with completely new players, many of which have possibly never played professional sports before. Michael Jordan won 6 championships between 1991 and 1998; between 1988 and 1996, six teams were added to the league, making the era of Michael Jordan one that had lots of newbie teams.
9. MJ Couldn’t Get the Washington Bullets to the PlayoffsI get it, he was way past his prime and not the Michael Jordan that averaged 32, 8, and 8 in the 80s. Still, we are talking about the “greatest player of all time,” only three years removed from his most recent championship run in Chicago. Certainly, you would expect that the greatest player of all time would be able to help his team get at the very least into the playoffs? Perhaps his leadership and wisdom could have outdone his ability at the time, but no, the Wizards did not make the playoffs in either of the two years MJ was with the team.
8. He Was a Huge Ball Hog
Much like Kobe Bryant in today’s NBA, Michael Jordan was a huge ball hog, often taking as many as 30 shots a game in the 86-87 season alone. Basketball is a team sport, and hogging the ball like he did back then is a large reason why the bulls were not able to make it out of the first round of the playoffs his first three seasons in the league.
7. Michael Jordan Couldn’t Get Past the First Round of the Playoffs Without Scottie Pippen
In the 1980s, the world was inebriated with the potent shotmaking ability that was Michael Jordan – in his third year in the league, he averaged an astonishing 37.1 points, which is the highest point total average of all time out of all NBA players not named Wilt Chamberlain. His first three years in the league, the Chicago Bulls did make it to the playoffs; despite averaging an absurd 43 points per game in the 1986 playoffs, as well as incredibly high scoring numbers in 1985 and 1987, Michael Jordan was not able to get his team out of the first round of the playoffs in those three years.
With Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan found an athlete who is widely considered one of the greatest defenders of all time. With Pippen, the Bulls finally had an incredibly pesky defender who constantly took the Bulls to deep playoff runs. Interesting note: Pippen has a better career winning record than Michael Jordan.
6. The NBA Teams He Defeated In the Finals Were Overrated
One of the staples of MJ’s legacy is that each of the teams he defeated in the finals had very memorable superstars. Although this is true, when looked at a bit deeper, these teams may be a little overrated. Let’s take a quick look at the teams Michael Jordan defeated in the finals and how they might be a little overrated:
1991 – Los Angeles Lakers – a good team, but point guard Magic Johnson was on his way out, and James Worthy was not nearly as effective as he was in the 80s. Also, the team no longer had Michael Cooper like they had in the 1980s, who was widely considered one of the best defensive players of all time. Needless to say, this Lakers team also no longer had the talents of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar like they did in the 80s – this Lakers team was a far cry from the Lakers that dominated the 80s.
1992 – Portland Trail Blazers – Outside of Clyde Drexler, this team boasted the legendary talents of…Jerome Kersey and Clifford Robinson. Moving on!
1993 – Phoenix Suns – Probably one of the better teams that MJ played, the Suns were led by then-MVP Charles Barkley, who was one of the league’s best power forwards. Outside of Barkley, this team lacked quality interior defense, a persistent theme throughout Jordan’s title run that was also a big reason why the Bulls won the 1991 and 1992 NBA finals.
1996 – Seattle Supersonics – the famous duel between Gary Payton and Michael Jordan, unfortunately, was incredibly one-sided. The Seattle Supersonics really only had two good players, Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. Kemp was an effective forward, but his work ethic left much to be desired, and the team did not have the depth that the Bulls had, with Pippen and Dennis Rodman working as incredible defenders while Michael Jordan constantly took shot after shot, making only 46% of his shots, which is low for the “greatest player of all time.”
1997-1998 – Utah Jazz – Probably the best team Jordan faced in the finals, this Jazz team was admittedly stocked with high-level talent, which included the likes of John Stockton and Karl Malone. Still, this team paled in comparison to the 1980’s Utah Jazz, who had defensive presence Mark Eaton to stop the offensive teams in the low post.
As we can see, the teams Jordan faced in 1990s finals either had low post defensive issues, were not as good as they were in the 80s (which is why they could be overrated), or lacked great depth.