Former NBA player and a HOF Isiah Thomas was always consistent when people asked him who he thinks is the greatest player in NBA history. He recently made a guest appearance on the Heavy podcast, where he touched upon the heated debate on what makes someone a GOAT and why Kareem Abdul-Jabbar deserves should be in this conversation. Thomas made a good point that this debate is different in every sport. Still, when it comes to the NBA, it's almost universally one player that falls in this category even though it's a team sport, and every era is different than the other.
Thomas made his name during the '80s and had the opportunity to play against the Lakers and Kareem in two consecutive NBA finals. On top of that, he admired Kareem ever since he was a kid watching him at UCLA and later on in the NBA when he was a member of the Milwaukee Bucks and then later on the Lakers.
The respect Thomas gained for Kareem doesn't come just from his accomplishment on the floor but also because he was a social activist who wanted to give back to his community. The longevity and consistency were vital for Kareem's greatness, and this is one of the aspects Thomas always admired about him.
When you look at Kareem, and I've been on the record saying it, Kareem is the best basketball player in terms of the GOAT status. When you talk about what he's done off the floor, what he's done inside the playing arena, from high-school, college to the NBA. No one compares to his status, to his winning, his two-plus decades of domination in this sport. If you want to go back all the way to college, it's three decades of domination in the sport. No one has done it better than Kareem.
Isiah Thomas, via Heavy
Thomas recently said he considers LeBron to be the GOAT among the players of this generation, and the reason is pretty much similar to the one for Kareem. LeBron has the same type of consistency and impact off the floor, which are the main reasons why Thomas respects him so much compared to other players of his generation.