There have been many "GOATS" over the course of basketball history. Before it was LeBron, it was Mike and, before that, it was Magic. Every generation has its star -- someone who dominates the game and impacts life for communities off the floor.
Well, for IT, those guys include Bill Russell, Kareem, Dr. J, himself, and LeBron James.
“Now in the White community, that might be different. Tom Brady doesn’t have to speak for and Joe Montana doesn’t have to speak for the White community and uplift them in America. In the Black community, it’s always been different; whether it be Joe Louis when he was fighting Max Schmeling and how important that fight was; Jesse Owens winning the gold medal in Germany and how important that was, Tommy Smith [and John Carlos]…so when you look at Muhammad Ali; Muhammad Ali wasn’t the greatest because he could knock people out – Muhammad Ali was the greatest because of what he did outside of the playing field; outside of the ring. So the champion has always carried that mantle; particularly in the NBA – Bill Russell carried it, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar carried it, Dr. J carried it, I carried it and now LeBron is doing it."
So, for IT, being the greatest is more than about ones impact on the basketball floor. It's about being a role model, leader, and fighter for those who don't have a voice.
So when you look at what the ‘GOAT’ means for us in terms of lifting us up in the society, speaking for the voiceless in our community; you can be a champion on the floor and you can be a champion off the floor. So what he’s done statistically – the numbers don’t lie. But also what he’s done OUTSIDE of the playing field, that doesn’t lie either. So you know, in terms of being a complete basketball player in terms of passing, dribbling, shooting, rebounding… no one has done what he’s done statistically in EVERY single category. Now we’ve had players to dominate one category. But we’ve never had a player that’s come in and dominate it in so many statistical categories across the board. And that’s LeBron James.”
Mysteriously missing from the list, however, is Michael Jeffrey Jordan, who is not only recognized as having an unmatched skill at the game of basketball but who also made a huge wave of impact in the community as well. Jordan has donated to many charities, has supported countless causes and movements, and has spoken up about many social justice issues both during his playing days and even today.
His omission came as no surprise to some, who have accused Thomas of having a negative bias of Jordan.
"Now if people think that I’m trying to slight somebody by talking about these two, then they have an agenda of their own, not necessarily mine."
Thomas and Jordan have a long history of brutal face-offs, that include many playoff battles and several off-court verbal spats. Clearly, there are still some lingering feelings of animosity between the two.
When asked if Thomas was open to a one-on-one sit down with Mr. Jordan, he said he was willing to make it happen -- though, whether or not it actually will remains to be seen.
As for his rather controversial view of the GOATs, you can make of that what you will, but he's right on one thing: the best players are remembered for what they do off the court almost as much as for how they play on it.