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Earl Monroe ”LeBron James is the greatest small forward but one guy is inches behind him”

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Basketball conversations almost always end up in the endless GOAT debates. There's that unrelenting need for fans to single out that lone figure as the champion among champions. While all these talks are valid, it fails to capture the true essence of the sport: that five guys play it. Every piece has to do its part for the machine to work to its total capacity.

With this in mind, perhaps another great way to parse out the sport is by discussing the GOAT in every position. In that way, we could have a holistic view of the sport as a team game. NBA legend Earl Monroe sat down with entrepreneur and basketball fanatic Patrick Bet-David to discuss the matter. Monroe had interesting picks, particularly at the small forward spot. While he believes that LeBron James is the greatest small forward of all time, there's one guy who's inches behind him.

Patrick Bet-David: How about three? Small forward.

Earl Monroe: I'll go with LeBron.

PBD: Do you think anybody is close?

EM: A lot of guys are close.

PBD: Pretty close?

EM: Yeah.

PBD: Who'd you put after LeBron?

EM: Bird.

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Monroe's answer is fascinating since when you ask old heads who they think is the GOAT, and it boils down to two types of answers. As for one, they'll mention someone in their era and diligently prove why he's the GOAT. It's a way of putting their colleagues on a pedestal. But, on the other hand, old heads — especially if they're tagged slackers of their era — will select a player from outside of their time and declare him as the GOAT. It is like a defense mechanism. Even after their playing career, old guys are still competing through their media appearances. 

Monroe is obviously not from LeBron's era. Meanwhile, Larry Bird's rookie year was Monroe's last season in the NBA before retiring. So Monroe's choice is a product of him as a keen observer with potent knowledge of the sport, its players, and its constant evolution.

Does this mean Monroe is the most objective and, therefore, correct in his reading? It isn't easy to say. But as it stands, it's another exciting way to look at the sport we all love.

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