By: Jeremiah Graham
As the great American philosopher Meek Mill once said, “Hold up wait a minute, ya’ll thought I was finished? As you can see I am back here again to poke some holes in the “Michael Jordan is the undisputed G.O.A.T” argument. As I said earlier, I’m a big MJ fan, but it has gotten to the point where you even mention someone in the same breath as Michael, you’re looked at as if you just committed a double homicide. So without further ado, let’s pick up where we left off.
His Competition Was Watered Down (cont.)
1997, 1998 Utah Jazz- I failed to mention this team in part one. This Jazz squad was highly overrated in my opinion. They’re two best players were in their mid-thirties (John Stockton and Karl Malone) and they had little to not depth with role players such as Greg Ostertag and Howard Eisley. Not only that but their starting shooting guard at the time a 6 foot 3, 180lb Jeff Hornacek. This wasn’t even the best Jazz team in franchise history. In the 80s the Jazz had a prime Stockton and Malone as well as star swingman Thurl Bailey. They also featured Mark Eaton, a former all-star center and arguably the best shot blocker of his era. That team couldn’t get past the 2nd round but a weaker version ten years later gets to back to back NBA finals appearances? Why is that the case?
The answer: The western conference was much better during the 80s. You had the showtime Lakers with a Magic, Kareem, and Worthy. Rolando Blackman and Mark Aguire’s Dallas Mavericks were a contender at the time. The Rockets featured the twin tower combo of Ralph Sampson and a young Hakeem Olajuwon. The West also featured the high-scoring Denver Nuggets, led by Alex English and Kiki Vandeweghe. Now let’s fast forward to the late 90s.
The only contenders in the west at this time were the Seattle Supersonics and the Houston Rockets. The Rockets featured an over the hill trip of Hakeem, Clyde Drexler, and Charles Barkley and the Sonics were broken up due to the departure of Shawn Kemp to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1997. The only other playoff teams left were the Spurs and Lakers, who had Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant only in their first couple of years in the league. The Jazz basically got to the finals by default. Who else was there to compete? If you factor in all of these points, it’s another cakewalk finals victory for Jordan’s Bulls.
Jordan couldn’t have picked a better time to win championships. If he was born ten years later, would he still win six titles and go undefeated in the finals having to compete with the Lakers of the early 2000s, which had Shaq and Kobe in their primes? Or an eastern conference in the early to mid-2000s that featured players such as Dwayne Wade, Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, and LeBron James all in their primes? I’ll lean towards no. Or how about if he was born ten or 15 years earlier? Would his squad go undefeated in the finals having to battle that 1980s Western Conference gauntlet for an entire decade? Probably not.