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Kareem says Oscar Robertson better than Jordan or LeBron

Oct 3, 2013, 7:18 PM EDT

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While most current NBA fans give Michael Jordan the nod in the hypothetical “best player ever” competition, but a lot of that is simply due to timing — most hoops fans alive today saw him play, or have heard the mythology of his era at least.

Basketball is a game that is hard to compare across eras and generations and most of us didn’t see the greats of the 1960s or 1970s play. Those that did have the same bias for the players of their generation as people who came of age in the 1990s do for Jordan.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was on ESPN’s Collin Cowherd radio show on Thursday and was asked about the greatest — and he went with the first major star he ever played with (transcription via LakersNation).

“LeBron is awesome, MJ was awesome — but I think Oscar Robinson would have kicked them both in the behind,” said Abdul-Jabbar when asked about James and Jordan. “Absolutely. Oscar was awesome. He had brains. [...] He had all the skills.

“He could rebound and box out guys four and six inches taller than him. He was ruggedly built. He had fluid, quickness, and just understood the game. No flair, he just got the job done every night. Who’s going to average double figures in points, assists and rebounds?”

I don’t think anybody sane questions that Oscar Robertson belongs among the all-time greats. He is a perfect example of why the “rings” argument is a poor judge of a player — he carried bad teams pretty far, not winning until he was past his prime but Kareem joined him in Milwaukee. Robertson AVERAGED a triple double 1962, he was ridiculously good. He should be front and center in the Hall of Fame. But he also played in an era when the pace of the game was much faster, which boost his per-game numbers.

How does he stack up to Jordan and LeBron? I don’t know. I wasn’t alive when Robertson was at his peak and the grainy Youtube footage of him likely does not do his game justice.

It’s easy to say Jordan is the best or LeBron could challenge them, or that Magic Johnson belongs in the conversation, because we saw them — not in an unbiased way, but we saw them. We can form conclusions we just can’t with Robertson.

By the way, the guy always shortchanged in the GOAT conversation in Kareem himself.

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