There are times when you begin an argument and you know where every one is going to go with it before it even starts. When you ask anyone about sports greatness, the first thing that usually comes out of peoples mouths is usually well “insert athlete here” has “insert number here” rings and your guy has none.
If championship rings are the measure of greatness, then why do we even debate who is the greatest. The answers should be simple and straight forward.
Best Basketball Player – Bill Russell (11 Rings)
Best Football Player – Charles Haley (5 Rings)
Best Baseball Player – Yogi Berra (10 Rings)
Right now I can hear everyone saying that this list is a bunch of B.S. because none of these guys are tops on their list. Truthfully you do have a point but let me be clear, when debating greatness rings should be a factor, but not the deciding factor.
If you ask anyone who the greatest basketball player of all time is the first words out of most people’s mouths will be Michael Jordan. Sure Jordan was great. Heck he was polarizing. He played at a high level and received a lot of money and notoriety in an age of television and endorsements, but when you look at the numbers Jordan was good, however there are a few guys that make you scratch your head when you see their stats. If you ask who is the best playing now, that’s when the havoc starts to take place. The debate usually comes down to LeBron, Kobe, and now you can even throw Kevin Durant in the argument. Immediately most will crown Kobe because he has the championships on his side, but does that really matter? There have been several great players who have been considered some of the greatest of all time who never won a ring. Is Bill Perdue better than Patrick Ewing? Is Steve Kerr better than Steve Nash? Is Ron Artest better than Charles Barkley? The answer to all of those questions is no.
It’s not just basketball that has these issues; the NFL carries some of the same problems. If championships are the measure of success, then why are guys like Peyton Manning and Bret Favre considered all-time greats when they only have one championship each. The reality is that championships cloud our judgment when we start putting the label of greatness on individuals. Dan Marino gets overlooked as a premier player because he never won the big game. But when you look at the numbers there is no way he can’t be listed in the top five quarterbacks of all time. I once saw a list that had Trent Dilfer in front of Marino on the basis of having a Super Bowl win. Really, has it come to that?
Rings validate players success, but they don’t necessarily make the person the greatest of all time. Oscar Robinson was no slouch — the man averaged a triple double in his career. Some people have never had one and other greats only excelled in one area be it scoring, rebounding, or passing. Let’s stop throwing the “he has X amount of titles” around when trying to validate someone’s greatness and let’s look at the numbers and the game.
I’m not throwing any of these guys under the bus because for a moment they were able to play on the greatest stage ever assembled and most performed well. My problem is when people start to discredit those who have performed unimaginable feats and they get swept under the rug due to the fact that they never won a ring or they didn’t win as many as the next person.
Stay Breezy ~ I’m Out!
Color Commentator for Time Warner Cable Sports Network NC/SC/OH and NCCU Sports Network. Washed up athlete who used to ball, now I write and call.