With Stephen Curry being hailed as the most skilled player ever (in that case by none other than Steve Nash) and revolutionizing the way basketball is played, he and his Warriors are justifiably being compared to Michael Jordan and his (1995-96) Bulls. (By the way, I happen to agree that on skill alone, Curry is the most impressive player I’ve ever seen.) Meanwhile, in basketball circles, most of the last decade has been spent debating Kobe Bryant and LeBron James’s places in history relative to Jordan’s. But I’ve always believed that nobody can touch Jordan, whose combination of elite athleticism and meticulously crafted skill was and is unparalleled. Calling MJ the G.O.A.T. is hardly breaking new ground, obviously, but today my support for that argument is founded solely on how aesthetically pleasing Jordan’s game was in a “basketball junkie/purist” sense. In particular, I’m talking about his post moves.
I hereby share my favorite MJ compilation video on YouTube, a 19-minute ode to Jordan in the post, which to me provides definitive proof that he was the best player ever. Having watched this, I don’t need to see or refresh my memory about any other parts of his game — his crunchtime chops, his defensive abilities, his dunks, his circus layups, his passing — to be convinced of that fact. Look at the vast array of moves and abilities on display here: left block, right block, left shoulder, right shoulder, step-backs, shot fakes, and all kinds of pivots. Perhaps best of all is the economical use of (live) dribbles, which is so smooth and intelligent that it sometimes seems like he’s done the work of three crossovers to get a shot off when in reality he’s only used one dribble. To me, excelling in the post allows a player to remain effective without exerting as much energy, therefore signaling his ultimate mastery of the sport. And with all due respect to Curry, James, Bryant, and all the other greats this game has seen, no one has ever mastered basketball quite as wholly as MJ did. Behold.