There are few debates in this world that ratchet up the crazy in sports fans more than the one about the GOAT. That's why many took umbrage when LeBron James decided to nominate himself for the distinction, even if he was justified. Yet it wasn't just hyperventilating Michael Jordan fans or Kobe stans trapped without gas money in Temecula who did a double-take when James proclaimed he was the NBA's GOAT, and has been for almost two years now.
Exaggeration and excess aren't solely the tools of internet trolls. They afflict NBA executives as well. Celtics GM Danny Ainge isn't prone to slips of the tongue. He knew exactly what he was saying when he went on 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher & Rich radio show, by way of NBC, and dropped a doozy of a metaphor about LeBron's GOAT comments.
"His career's not over," Ainge said. "I'd just like to—why he's saying that, I don't know. Maybe he thinks that that sells. Maybe he's taking the Donald Trump approach and trying to sell himself. I don't know."
Dropping the Cheeto-in-Chief's name as proxy for LeBron's media exhortations was sure to reverberate far and wide (we're writing about it now). Ainge knows this. He also must know that few athletic stars, or even celebrities of LeBron's stature, have taken a more adversarial approach to Drumpf. Few, if any, with James' massive audience have so pointedly criticized the POTUS. So much so, the head of the U.S. government lobbed racially charged invective back at him.
That's why we're thinking Ainge's radio comments were more of an extended homage to James' former teammate, Kyrie Irving. They're a badly worded effort to make sure Irving's really re-signing this summer. Lazy speculation aside, Ainge did put James ahead of his former teammate on the Celtics, Larry Bird, who is often the second small forward picked, behind LeBron, when smart fans are dreaming up their all-time starting five.
"LeBron went to the Finals," Ainge said. "I would have to say [he's better than Bird] just because he was able to have more durability and play at a top level of his game for longer." In the droll words of John Oliver, "cool."
Ainge also conceded LeBron's "obviously...in every conversation with who is the greatest player of all time. But time will tell. I don't know if anyone knows who the greatest of all time is, because the years are so different."