There are constant debates among NBA fans on who is the GOAT, and it usually depends on what type of preferences fans have towards specific players. Most people today would say Michael Jordan is the GOAT, and that is a reasonable argument; however, several other players throughout NBA history should be in the same discussions but are often overlooked because they perhaps played 30 or 40 years ago. Even Michael Jordan himself never considered himself to be the GOAT and acknowledged all the greats that played before him and had their own impact on the game.
According to John Salley, who was recently interviewed for VladTv, he remembers Jordan always said he never considered himself the best because he didn’t have the opportunity to compete with some other all-time great players. There was even a notion Jordan personally respected Oscar Robertson and considered him as one of the real GOATs in NBA history. He also had a lot of respect for Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, who were the dominant players of that era and whose moves Jordan studied when learning how to play the game.
He didn’t believe that he is the greatest player who ever played. He would say Oscar Robertson. But then he would say what I said. In Oscar’s time, he was the ‘shit’! When Jerry West was playing, he was so good that Richard Pryor used to make jokes about him on the record! He said:’ Jerry West would give you 40. He’ll be out there destroyin’. Jerry West was giving people 40 a night! Elgin Baylor 35 a night!John Salley, via VladTV
Salley gave an interesting perspective on how different things were back then if you were a basketball player. Athletes didn’t really take care of themselves as they do now, and they didn’t have all the things on their disposal players have now, which also involves a team of experts making sure you have everything you need to succeed.
But you know what, they wore one kind of sneakers, they took cabs, they smoke cigarettes and drink Scotch, and didn’t really have groupies, and it was only 16 teams. So, you look at it. But when you build up this conglomerate, you have to have a tip on a titty. You gotta have something they look toward and after.John Salley, via VladTV
Despite numerous great players that played in the NBA, Salley truly believes Jordan is the best to ever lace them up. His reasoning behind it is not solely because of basketball reasons. Jordan elevated the entire NBA with his popularity and, at one point which enabled the league to expand and therefore increase revenue, which benefited everyone and especially players.
I do think that Michael is the best to play the game. And I told somebody: ‘You know why? Because he is quiet and he kept his mouth shut. He spoke twice in his commercials, and he has more commercials than anybody else. Twice. He looked out to the kid and said: ‘Hey Kid, you wanna ballpark?”. And then he goes ‘Mars, Mars…’. That was the only time he ever spoke on the commercial. Seen and not hurt. Used. And it sold the league – it made us bigger then we were, because we were like third in money-making, now I think we are second behind NFL.John Salley, via VladTV
Even though Jordan never publicly said he thinks Robertson is the GOAT he mentioned on multiple occasions, people shouldn’t forget all the great players that came before him. He understood that these guys paved the way for him the same way he did for all the players that came after him. In the manner of true sportsmanship, Jordan acknowledged the greats and everything they did for the game of basketball.