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What defines “Greatness”?


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11 hours ago, ManillaToad said:

If the world were just, regular season records would still decide who wins the AL and NL pennants

 

I would disagree with that. Being against wild cards is not at all the same thing as being against playoffs.  There is nothing inherently wrong with playoffs. Indeed, playoffs are great when every team involved in them is a champion.

 

For this reason, the 1969-1993 baseball alignment struck the perfect balance between, on the one hand, giving the regular season its due importance by rewarding only divisional champions with the right to move on, and, on the other hand, having the excitement of a postseason knockout tournament contested amongst those champions. 

 

 

That said, I'm going to dissent from the notion that greatness is defined only by titles. Multiple near misses also go a long way to establishing greatness.

 

There was no baseball team better in the period 1969 - 1971 than the Orioles; and the same is true of the A's of 1988 - 1990, even though each team won one World Series and lost two in those periods. 

 

The Cardinals were one of the greatest teams of the 1980s, and the Braves were probably the overall best team of the 1990s, despite the fact that each of those teams won only one World Series during those runs. The cumulative effect of their divisional and league championships mitigates the lack of multiple World Series titles — especially in the case of the Braves, whose remarkable string of divisional championships bolsters their claim to greatness at least as much as an additional World Series win would have done.

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LeBron James is 4-6 in the NBA Finals. He's been a favorite in one of those six losses exactly once (2011 against the Mavs). He's been dramatically outmatched 5 times (2007, 2015-18) but won one of those, in 2016.

 

People who think LeBron is the GOAT (like me) look at the record and say that, yeah, he should have won in 2011, but he's led his teams10 damn championship finals in an era where no one else does that.

 

Of course, "GOAT" is different than "great," but I bring up LeBron to say this conversation has focused more on teams than individuals.

 

Is Patrick Ewing great? Charles Barkley? Don Mattingly?

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10 hours ago, DG_ThenNowForever said:

LeBron James is 4-6 in the NBA Finals. He's been a favorite in one of those six losses exactly once (2011 against the Mavs). He's been dramatically outmatched 5 times (2007, 2015-18) but won one of those, in 2016.

 

People who think LeBron is the GOAT (like me) look at the record and say that, yeah, he should have won in 2011, but he's led his teams10 damn championship finals in an era where no one else does that.

 

Of course, "GOAT" is different than "great," but I bring up LeBron to say this conversation has focused more on teams than individuals.

 

Is Patrick Ewing great? Charles Barkley? Don Mattingly?

I think LeBron should have been MVP of the 2015 finals and I'm not generally a fan of giving it to a member of the losing team.

 

I am not a fan of ring-counting because I am a believer that circumstances matter. For example, who's better between the Hakeem Rockets and the Stockton/Malone Jazz?  Each made two finals appearances in a row but I'd argue the biggest difference is Jordan's retirement for Houston vs. the Unbeatabulls for Utah. Houston got the rings and will be better remembered than Utah and that's fine, but Utah certainly had different circumstances. LeBron had different circumstances than Jordan and Kobe. After lotto luck and dealing made the Cavs better, it looked like it was time for a run; but at that very moment, the whole game changed, starting in Oakland. Those other guys never had a Warriors team. They never played for a small-market team nobody wanted to sign with. None of Jordan's six finals teams or Kobe's 7 was nearly as undermanned as the 2007 Cavs.

 

As for LeBron's 4-6 record, I'd argue that 4-6 is a lot better than 4-0. I've never understood why players get more of a pass for losing earlier than losing in the finals.  That said, two of those losses came with a super-team that he joined with the intent of catching Jordan in six years.  That's going to cut into his GOAT status, for sure because many people think Jordan or Kobe would have gone 4-0 in those finals.

 

And why do I keep bringing up Kobe and Jordan? Well, I think a lot of hard-core fans of theirs hold particular disdain for LeBron and that's part of what makes the discussion ugly and leads to people actually suggesting that LeBron is a Hall-of-Famer but nothing more (or even LaBust, LOL). These fans cut down LeBron to prop up two guys who's combined 11 titles were all coached by a coach usually included in the top 5, whereas LeBron has had an array of unmemorable coaches (another circumstance that matters to me).

 

Counting rings is easy, that's for sure.

 

After all that, I still think Jordan's the GOAT and I'm not even sure I'd put LeBron ahead of Kobe. But it's not a simple 4-5-6 discussion.

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21 hours ago, Kramerica Industries said:

 

I'm writing way too much here. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, if there's anything that we could learn from the soccer world that would probably be a positive development, it would be acknowledging regular season accomplishments more.

 

That's because in many soccer leagues the regular season is the only season. If the champion was the team with the best record and we didn't have postseasons then teams would actually shoot for that and we'd recognize it more. Right now nobody tries to have the best record. They're trying to put together the best team to increase the probability of being successful in the postseason and if they happen to win the most games then great congrats on home field/ice/court advantage, but most of the time that achievement is accomplished accidentally, which is why nobody cares. The objective needs to be changed for the regular season to matter more. 

 

I do agree that the most equitable way to determine a champion would be for every team in the league to play the same schedule and then the best team at the end of the 82/162 game season is the winner, but I don't think that would be the most exciting way to contest these things. 

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11 hours ago, DG_ThenNowForever said:

Is Patrick Ewing great? Charles Barkley? Don Mattingly?

 

Maybe? Yes. No.

 

No one cares, but Don Mattingly and I were born on the same day a very long time ago. His baseball career went a little better than mine.

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The 90's Buffalo Bill were a great team. It's much more difficult to make four straight Super Bowls than it is to win just one.

 

DISCUSS!

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1 hour ago, OnWis97 said:

I am not a fan of ring-counting because I am a believer that circumstances matter. For example, who's better between the Hakeem Rockets and the Stockton/Malone Jazz?  Each made two finals appearances in a row but I'd argue the biggest difference is Jordan's retirement for Houston vs. the Unbeatabulls for Utah. Houston got the rings and will be better remembered than Utah and that's fine, but Utah certainly had different circumstances. LeBron had different circumstances than Jordan and Kobe. After lotto luck and dealing made the Cavs better, it looked like it was time for a run; but at that very moment, the whole game changed, starting in Oakland. Those other guys never had a Warriors team. They never played for a small-market team nobody wanted to sign with. None of Jordan's six finals teams or Kobe's 7 was nearly as undermanned as the 2007 Cavs.

 

People forget Jordan was in the 1995 playoffs and got walloped by the Orlando Magic. He was out of the playoffs one year; not two.

 

LeBron James led his teams to nine out of 10 potential NBA Finals series, and the one he didn't make was because his Lakers didn't make the playoffs (in large part because of his injury). That's 60s Celtics level of consistency in a modern era. That's the determining factor for me, and why he's my GOAT. I can accept 1B to Jordan, but certainly not below Kobe. Kobe's maybe top 5 at best behind James, Jordan, Kareem, Magic and Russell. Probably Tim Duncan too. And maybe Larry Bird.

 

2 minutes ago, infrared41 said:

The 90's Buffalo Bill were a great team. It's much more difficult to make four straight Super Bowls than it is to win just one.

 

DISCUSS!

 

You're being tongue in cheek here (I think), but there's an interesting question about why we can separate rings from great players but not from great teams. There was a clear separation of talent in the NFC East/49ers for like 15 years and the Bills were a great team, but not good enough to win as favorites (in Super Bowl 25) or as plucky underdogs to Washington and all-time Dallas teams. However, it is objectively unfair the Bills get a loser label for making the title game and losing four times. Yeah, it sucks, but they beat their entire conference four years in a row. Not even Tom Brady did that. Or the Cowboys. Or the 49ers.

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47 minutes ago, infrared41 said:

 

Maybe? Yes. No.

 

No one cares, but Don Mattingly and I were born on the same day a very long time ago. His baseball career went a little better than mine.

I share mine with Eric Yelding (at least he owned Frank Viola).  My ex-wife shares hers with Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell (she wins).

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There was never a season that the Bills were the best team in the league.  None of their SB losses were to fluke one-year-wonder teams.  No 2007 Patriots situation.  It's a great accomplishment to make it 4x, but they were beaten by legitimately better teams each time (and teams that were in a run of winning multiple bowls themselves, so the Bills weren't even the best over any multi-season stretch.)

 

 

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I agree with the general ideas that the best team doesn't always win the championship, a team can't be considered great if they don't win their championship, and that winning a championship doesn't necessarily make a team great.  The Patriots and Giants example?  Neither are great -- but if I had to rank them, the greater team is the one that won with the championship on the line.  There's a difference between the regular season and the playoffs in professional sports in terms of intensity and focus, how they're officiated, whether players rest or play through injury, etc.  The Lightning example from earlier in the thread was the perfect one -- they were built to be a great regular season team, but when the officials swallow their whistles in the playoffs and the games tightened up and became more physical, they didn't have the personnel they needed.

 

1 hour ago, DG_ThenNowForever said:

People forget Jordan was in the 1995 playoffs and got walloped by the Orlando Magic. He was out of the playoffs one year; not two.

 

Plus, the Bulls won 55 games without Jordan in 93-94, so it's not like he was dragging some hapless team to championships.

 

I don't know... I think GOAT player arguments are pretty silly exercises.  There's not an era of the NBA you can throw LeBron into where he wouldn't be the best player in the league... unless people actually believe that if you take one of the biggest freak athletes we've seen, make everybody around him smaller and/or less athletic, and the defenses far less complex, he would somehow do worse than he currently does.

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2 hours ago, DG_ThenNowForever said:

You're being tongue in cheek here (I think), but there's an interesting question about why we can separate rings from great players but not from great teams. There was a clear separation of talent in the NFC East/49ers for like 15 years and the Bills were a great team, but not good enough to win as favorites (in Super Bowl 25) or as plucky underdogs to Washington and all-time Dallas teams. However, it is objectively unfair the Bills get a loser label for making the title game and losing four times. Yeah, it sucks, but they beat their entire conference four years in a row. Not even Tom Brady did that. Or the Cowboys. Or the 49ers.

 

The "DISCUSS!" bit was a goof, but I was serious about it being tougher to go to four straight Super Bowls than it is to win just one. In my opinion, there is no question that the 90's Bills were a great team. And they were a helluva lot of fun to watch too.

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4 hours ago, OnWis97 said:

As for LeBron's 4-6 record, I'd argue that 4-6 is a lot better than 4-0. I've never understood why players get more of a pass for losing earlier than losing in the finals.  That said, two of those losses came with a super-team that he joined with the intent of catching Jordan in six years.  That's going to cut into his GOAT status, for sure because many people think Jordan or Kobe would have gone 4-0 in those finals.

 

I'll never understand this.  Yes, Jordan and Montana never lost a championship, but that just means they choked earlier in the season which doesn't help their case at all.

 

But, anything to discredit Lebron and Brady possibly being better than the childhood heroes of oldheads I guess.

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15 hours ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

and the Braves were probably the overall best team of the 1990s

 

That's an interesting discussion because Atlanta completely dominated their division for the entire decade, and won the pennant in both the beginning, middle, and end of those ten years. The Yankees on the other hand had all of their success at the end of the decade, but they won 3 World Series (4 if you include 2000), and beat the Braves convincingly twice. Maybe "overall" is the best word to use when arguing for the Braves. But I'll always think of New York as the best team that decade. And I'll always chuckle when I heard Bob Costas say "The team of the 90s has its world championship" in 1995. If only he knew what the next 5 years would be like

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4 hours ago, infrared41 said:

 

Maybe? Yes. No.

 

No one cares, but Don Mattingly and I were born on the same day a very long time ago. His baseball career went a little better than mine.

Don Mattingly never won a World Series. Your baseball careers are equal.

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On 3/22/2021 at 6:55 AM, Sport said:

Wow this is even dumber than I thought it would be. 

 

Here's your answer - Maybe someone already brought up the Lightning, but they're a good example. The 2019 Tampa Bay Lightning set the record for most regular season wins in NHL history and were swept in the first round of the playoffs. The next year they won the Stanley Cup. By OP's logic Lightning fans should be more proud of the team that s*** their pants than the one that won the cup. 

But I'm not saying the regular season is all that matters. If you proportioned out for equal season lengths, the Lightning won more games in 2020, considering they won 16 in the playoffs. Those still count, obviously. It's also not quite the same in any other sport beyond football. A best of seven is MUCH more valid, although I still think the best team doesn't necessarily have to win the championship. With one game elimination, it's infinitely less likely that the best team will win.

 

I also think it's interesting that people's standards for badness are different than greatness.

Would everyone agree that the worst team in the league is the one with the worst record? The Jaguars were the worst team in the NFL last year? The 2011 Bobcats were the worst team in NBA history? If so, what is the inherent difference between "greatness" and "badness"? Why does circumstance matter so much for one but none for the other?

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On 3/23/2021 at 3:43 PM, ManillaToad said:

And I'll always chuckle when I heard Bob Costas say "The team of the 90s has its world championship" in 1995.

 

At that point the Braves were the "team of the 90's."

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On 3/23/2021 at 2:39 PM, Lana_del_Bae said:

 

I'll never understand this.  Yes, Jordan and Montana never lost a championship, but that just means they choked earlier in the season which doesn't help their case at all.

 

But, anything to discredit Lebron and Brady possibly being better than the childhood heroes of oldheads I guess.

 

In 20 years, you'll doing the same thing when people are saying that Frank Fleming III is better than Tom Brady.

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On 3/23/2021 at 4:09 PM, OnWis97 said:

Don Mattingly never won a World Series. Your baseball careers are equal.

 

My softball team won three city championships in 4 years in the 80's so I have him beat on that one.

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16 minutes ago, infrared41 said:

 

In 20 years, you'll doing the same thing when people are saying that Frank Fleming III is better than Tom Brady.

I’m sorry but unless they win as many championships, and surpasses every meaningful stat no one is surpassing Brady as the GOAT. I’m not even saying to make the super bowl 11 times because no one is going to have a team that consistent that long in the salary cap era, unless another Belichick clone is coaching his team.

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Quote

I also think it's interesting that people's standards for badness are different than greatness.

Would everyone agree that the worst team in the league is the one with the worst record? The Jaguars were the worst team in the NFL last year? The 2011 Bobcats were the worst team in NBA history? If so, what is the inherent difference between "greatness" and "badness"? Why does circumstance matter so much for one but none for the other?

 

An (incredibly) obvious reason: for teams who don't qualify for the playoffs the regular season is the only performance we have with which to judge them.

 

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