Tommy Hicks: Which one is the greatest?

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Enough with the debates. Just stop. And no, that is not in reference to politics, though I’m just fine with those folks stopping their debates too.

I’m talking about the Michael vs. LeBron, greatest of all time debates. It’s silly and there is no correct answer. For every positive someone produces in support of Michael, there is one that can be presented for LeBron.

While the arguments continue the true celebration is missed — enjoying the talent and athleticism that is happening right in front of us, right now. Save debates like these for another time, when both have retired and completed their careers. Why does one have to be better than the other? Why is one NBA title deemed more important than another? Why is one guy’s title game performance judged to mean more than one by the other guy?

Enough already. Stop debating long enough to recognize the good fortune of having the opportunity to watch an athlete perform in his prime as well as anyone who has ever played the game. What LeBron James has done, not just during the NBA playoffs and the championship series, but throughout the season, has been a wonder to behold.

Who cares if someone believes Michael Jordan was a better player? Or that LeBron should hold that title? What about Wilt Chamberlain? Bill Russell? Larry Bird? Magic Johnson? Kareen Abdul-Jabbar? Kobe Bryant? Pete Maravich? Whomever?

Instead of worrying about who may be considered the best player of all time, consider — and I’m speaking mainly to my brothers and sisters with membership in the Baby Boomer generation, but could also be speaking to those who have been observing sports over the past 30 years — all the great athletes we’ve seen in our lifetimes. Consider the amazing talent and incredible performances that we have viewed. And yes, the competitions.

Those are the things we should be celebrating and talking about, not which player was greater than the other when all the ones who pop up in those conversations are truly great.

It is not a debate held just to basketball, of course. Try it in baseball (Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Pete Rose, Brooks Robinson, and on and on) and golf (Arnold Palmer? Jack Nicklaus? Tiger Woods? Ben Hogan?) Football? Don’t even try to go there as the list would be too long. The same is true for boxing, track and field, soccer, auto racing, tennis, swimming, hockey.

You could even take it a huge step further …

How about the greatest athlete ever? Jesse Owens? Bo Jackson? Babe Zaharias? Jim Brown? Jim Thorpe? Make a list. Then check off the names of the athletes on those lists that you’ve been able to see perform, either live or on TV, and then count your luck stars.

Picking the G.O.A.T. in each sport is silliness and beyond subjective. For one, the comparisons usually involve athletes who don’t even play the same position in their respective sport; how can, for example, a position player be compared to a pitcher in baseball? How can a center be compared to a shooting guard in basketball? A running back to a linebacker in football?

That doesn’t take into account the different eras that may be involved when comparing two athletes. There are bound to be differences in equipment, if equipment is a factor, but so would be approaches to the games that differ from generation to generation, as well as a host of other factors that come into play.

Heck, you could even debate as to who has the best such list, the best G.O.A.T. comparisons. And again, you’d be missing the point and what is right in front of you. Just in recent years we’ve seen Tiger at his peak and now a comeback of sorts. We’ve seen LeBron score 51 points in a NBA Finals game … and his team lose. We’ve seen Jack Nicklaus win the Masters at age 46 and Roger Federer win major title after major tile.

We’ve seen Serena Williams dominate a sport perhaps as well as any athlete ever. We’ve seen Hank Aaron break one of baseball’s most beloved records and we’ve seen Michael Phelps win more Olympic medals than anyone, ever.

We are the Camerons of our own Ferris Bueller sporting worlds — we don’t think we’ve seen anything good today.

Well, there’s another Ferris Bueller quite that perhaps we should all put into play as it concerns this topic:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Tommy Hicks, a Phenix City native, has covered sports in Alabama for more than 40 years. Contact him at