‘I Don’t Want it’: When the GOAT Label Made Michael Jordan Cringe

Published 02/15/2021, 8:30 AM EST
Michael Jordan during 2006 Jordan All-American Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York, United States. ***Exclusive*** (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)


Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer? Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo? Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton? Who is the greatest of all-time in their field? These sports debates are a never-ending saga. However, none of them is argued about on a more consistent, vigorous basis than the NBA one – Michael Jordan or LeBron James?

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Fans, critics, and close aides never fail to present their case by picking one over the other. But while LeBron James has put himself in the conversation more recently, just a decade ago, there was no debate at all.

That was because most people thought that the so-called GOAT tag belonged to Michael Jordan.

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CHARLOTTE, NC – APRIL 28: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat hugs Michael Jordan. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

However, it is/was not something which the former Chicago Bulls star cherished or even cherishes to this day. He believes that it does a disservice to the ones that came before him and made an impact on the game.

When asked by Michael Wilbon in an exclusive interview back in 2009 if he wants the GOAT tag, he said –

“I don’t want it on a sense because I think it disrespects Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West. You know, all the guys that prior to me, I never had a chance to play against. What everybody’s saying I am I never had the chance to compete with other legends that were prior to me.

“When I hear it, I cringe a little bit because it’s a little bit embarrassing because no one knows… I would love to have played against them but I never did. For you to say, I am better than him, I mean it’s your opinion.”

When LeBron James had a contrasting opinion to Michael Jordan

However, MJ’s nemesis does not share the same thought. After he heroically led the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA finals win over the mighty Golden State Warriors in 2016, he anointed himself the best basketball player of all-time.

In an episode of ESPN’s “More Than An Athlete”, he said

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“That one right there made me the greatest player of all-time… Everybody was just talking about how [the Warriors] were the greatest team of all-time, like, it was the greatest team ever assembled. For us to come back the way we came back in that fashion, I was, like, ‘You did something special.”

Feb 14, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) reacts after a play in the first quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Unsurprisingly, his narcissism did not go down well with the NBA community. He copped up a fair amount of criticism and changed his stand last year.

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Bharat Aggarwal

690 articles

Bharat Aggarwal is a sports analyst for EssentiallySports, covering Formula 1 and NBA. A Delhi University graduate, Bharat has multi-year experience in sports writing, having closely worked with the content strategy aspect as well. Bharat Aggarwal supports Manchester United, Lewis Hamilton, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafael Nadal, Dirk Nowitzki, Sachin Tendulkar, Ayrton Senna, Kristaps Porzingis, and Dallas Mavericks.

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