Most in the NBA world have the "GOAT" debate down to two superstars: Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Legendary point guard Isiah Thomas has a different take on the debate, opting for another NBA legend: Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
If you expand the debate a bit, the former Los Angeles Lakers center is a strong inclusion. Others might opt for Bill Russell, winner of 11 NBA Titles with the Boston Celtics, or his Lakers rival Wilt Chamberlain, an all-world talent who famously scored 100 points in a game and regularly produced unthinkable statlines.
Isiah Thomas doesn't think that Kareem's title will necessarily last over the next few years, though. He sees LeBron James overtaking him, as he looks to add to his own legacy in Los Angeles, citing his ability to do everything on the court at an elite level. The Lakers will be the favorite among the final four teams to win this year's NBA Finals.
“I admire his insatiable appetite to be on top and stay on top,” Thomas said of LeBron, in a new interview with Sports Illustrated. “I’ve never seen a player dominate so many statistical categories. We’ve had players dominate certain areas, but we’ve never seen a player that truly does it all. And he’s done it, without fail, for 17 years. For now, Kareem is the best that’s ever done it. But by the time he’s done, LeBron James will be the best we have ever seen play the game of basketball.”
Also of note is the absence of Michael Jordan in the conversation, on Thomas' part. The two superstars shared a fierce rivalry during their time in the league, and Jordan is famously not fond of Thomas or his famous Detroit Pistons teams. That became even more evident this year, with the ESPN documentary series The Last Dance.
Considering his elite status in the NBA, Thomas was asked if he was hurt by his portrayal in the Michael Jordan–led The Last Dance documentary, which carefully chose its details, painting a narrative of Jordan as the hero and Thomas as the villain.
“I thought we played basketball and everybody went home,” said Thomas. “To feel that way after all these years, the level of whatever he’s carrying around, I think all of us who watched it were a little shocked by it.”
Only he knows if that is why he leaves Jordan out of the "Greatest of All-Time" discussion, where so many others consider it a settled debate in his favor.