LeBron James may not be the GOAT, but he’s Top 5 right? As a 16x All-Star, 4x MVP, 3x Champion, 2x Olympic Gold medalist, and the NBA’s third-highest leading scorer, there aren’t many players in history who can match that resume — and certainly not many who can match his skill set.
But Celtics legend Paul Pierce left the King off his Top 5 list and was rather enthusiastic about doing so.
“What has LeBron did to build up any organization from the ground? I’m talking about these players, top-5 players. Bill Russell built the organization of Boston, Kareem, Magic, Jordan, Tim Duncan, Kobe, Bird. These guys are all-time top 10 players who helped build their organization or continued the tradition.”
In the hours and days to follow, he was called to defend the exclusion of James.
”He took a different route than all the guys I named,” Pierce argued on ESPN. “ When you go searching out and they don’t come to you…”
Plenty of folks have reacted to this list by Pierce, with most of them outright flaming Pierce, calling the decision “personal.”
On First Take yesterday, famous basketball analyst Stephen A. Smith took his turn:
“Listen, Paul Pierce, as far as I’m concerned, is a future Hall-of-Famer, he’s a Champion, I respect the hell out of him. But I just think that he’s wrong and I’m not gonna sit up there and attack him.
But at the end of the day, when I look at Paul Pierce, in saying what you said, you know basketball, you’ve competed against LeBron. You’ve seen him compared to his contemporaries and… there is no doubt that Miami took once Dwyane Wade convinced him ‘you’re the best in the world and we need you to be that, don’t defer to me. It’s your team.’ And that’s really where LeBron James’ game took on a new dimension.
In the end, I think that if you’re Paul Pierce, watching LeBron and knowing his size, his physicality, his athleticism, his abilities, the basketball savant that he is and how he thinks the game as well as how he plays it, you can’t be a basketball player going against him — and literally look throughout history when Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and everybody else in between recognize LeBron as an all-time great — and you don’t even have him in your Top 5.”
Pierce’s list almost sounds personal. He and LeBron have a pretty lengthy history that often saw James at the top. Of course, it is true that he left to create his own superteam in 2010 and again four years later, but Pierce had a superteam of his own in, as did Michael, Magic and a lot of other stars who have multiple Championships.
We can certainly hold “the decision” against him — and people do — but that alone doesn’t seem enough to make the case that LeBron isn’t a Top 5 player ever, especially not when so many other past and present stars have admitted it.