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One of the greatest things about sports is the very notion of “greatness” itself – extraordinary performance, unprecedented achievement, surpassing excellence … and, of course, GOATs.

Like him or not, LeBron James is the only current NBA players who will – without a shadow of a doubt – be a legit nominee for GOAT two and three decades from now. Perhaps the likes of a KD or AD (JT? KI?) will emerge from the pack as well, but those juries are still out.

In the same way that triple-doubles may incline us to compare Russell Westbrook to the Big O, LBJ is typically held up in measurement to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant – and, of course, to Larry Bird from a position standpoint. All three provide a reasonable standard in terms of individual statistics and team accomplishment.

There is, however, another historical NBA figure and legit nominee for GOAT with whose career path Mr. James has not only been in sync, but damn near in lockstep.

Like LeBron, this player was a prodigious, highly-touted talent as a schoolboy – and while his games were not “events” on ESPN, the Philly native did have access to “professional” tutoring and competition during his teenage summers working in the Catskills.

This old-timer was a veteran of some college ball at Kansas and a tour or two with Abe Saperstein’s Globetrotters before launching his NBA career – like LBJ – in his hometown.

Circumstance would induce both men to uproot from their parochial beginnings, return home triumphantly and deliver a championship to a title-starved town.

And then finally – and exactly 50 summers apart – each man would “take his talents” to Los Angeles.

Wilt Chamberlain played his final five seasons (1968-69 – 1972-72) in purple and gold, his Lakers snatching the brass ring in 1972. In each of the other four seasons, LA was eliminated from the playoffs by the eventual champions, three times in the Finals, once by the Boston Celtics.

Hmmm!!

The Chosen One and the Big Dipper are both complex men with as many differences in lifestyle (e.g. marriage & family, politics) as there are similarities in their paths to prominence.

Both James and Chamberlain were the epitome of athleticism in a sport that has long boasted the world’s most superior athletes – that moniker equal parts curse and blessing.

Even that magnificence may not make either one of a GOAT, but it sure as hell puts them both in the discussion.



Abacus Revelation for the Road

Fractured Classroom Fairy Tale (circa 1988)

Once upon a time, the Wind and the Sun were unable to resolve a dispute as to which was the stronger. Noticing a traveler at some distance walking along the road, the Sun proposed a contest: whichever of them could induce the traveler to remove his cloak would be deemed the stronger.

The Wind agreed and went first, blowing at his most furious, but the traveler merely wrapped himself more tightly in his cloak. Of course, when the Sun’s turn came and he shone in all his warmth and splendor, the traveler soon chose to remove his cloak.

The moral of this Aesop (really!) fable is “Kindness Effects More Than Severity,” merely another version of Mama’s old honey-vinegar tale.

Abacus, in his long-term guise as a classroom English teacher, enjoyed pointing out to his captive audience…er, that is, students that an equally valuable lesson to be extracted from “The Wind and the Sun” is “He Who Makes the Rules Usually Wins.”

A little healthy cynicism can’t hurt ya, can it?



images: usatoday, getty, sportingnews

Abacus Reveals 7/19/2018 07:58:00 PM Edit
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