The only "argument" you ever hear about KAJ is that he won "only" 1 ring in the 70's. This is what usually is cited by those who argue KAJ is not the GOAT. Is this a sensible argument, though? For one, it ignores the 80's and conveniently brushes aside 1980, his final prime year when he was MVP. KAJ remained a MVP caliber player through 1986.
It is interesting to see KAJ losing as an argument for him not being the GOAT. That is quite odd because it places a unique burden on KAJ: that he be able to win by himself, and manage to keep his teammates healthy. Why is that unique burden placed on KAJ, especially if he is not your GOAT? People like MJ were routinely losing in the first round when he lacked the team around him. Moreover, to hold his team's performance/health against him one has to assume that others would outproduce what KAJ did and magically "will" his teammates to be healthy.
KAJ's playoff numbers in the 1970's
1970: 35/17/4 57% (lost in the ECF with an expansion team that won 29 games the previous year). KAJ averaged 34 ppg in the ECF.
1971: 27/17/3 52% (won the championship). 27/19/3 on 61% in the Finals.
1972: 29/18/5 44%(lost in the WCF to the 69 win Wilt/West Lakers). KAJ averaged 34 ppg in the WCF. Oscar Robertson and Lucius Allen were playing hurt in the series.
1973: 23/16/3 on 43% (lost in the WCSF).
1974: 32/16/5/2/1 on 56% (lost in 7 games in the Finals). KAJ averaged 33/12/5/2/1 on 52% and had the game winner in Game 6. KAJ had 26/13 on 48% in the game. Oscar Robertson had 6/3 on 15% in Game 7 and 12/3/8 on 43% in the series. The Bucks reached the Finals despite Lucius Allen getting hurt at the end of the season--and taking his 18 ppg with him. Imagine the Bulls with Pippen going down at the end of the season or the early 2000's Lakers without Kobe or the Heat of recent years without Wade. This is KAJ's fault?
In 1975 the Bucks missed the playoffs as they went 3-14 (a 14 win pace) without KAJ, although they had a winning record with him. Somehow this is used against
KAJ by his detractors!
In 1976 the Lakers missed the playoffs under different rules where the top teams from each division would make it, not the top teams from the conference as a whole. Under modern playoff rules, the Lakers would have made it. Moreover, this was a Lakers team that did add KAJ but had to give up an all-star, a 16/11 center and the #2 pick and another top 10 pick in that year's draft to get him. In other words, the team was gutted. Imagine, say, MJ being traded to the Bulls with Pippen, Grant leaving Chicago in that trade. How far would that team go?
In 1977 KAJ had arguably the GOAT playoff run. 35/18/4/4/2 on 61%. The team lost in the WCF, though. KAJ averaged 30 ppg in the series. Once again Lucius Allen went down. Portland had a chance to be a dynasty if it were not for Walton's injury next season. They started the following year something like 50-5 before Walton got hurt. So once again KAJ's team lost, but did so to an all-time great team.
1978: 27/14/4/4/1 on 52%. The Lakers lost 2-1 in the first round to the eventual Western champion (Seattle), who would lose in 7 games in the NBA Finals and win the title the following year. The 1978 Lakers were 8-13 without Kareem, a 31 win pace.
1979: 29/13/5/4/1 on 58%. The Lakers lost to the Sonics again, this time in the WCSF. KAJ averaged 29 ppg against them.
In 1980, of course, KAJ again had a playoff run for the ages but because Magic was a 18/7/7 player in 1980 that does not count.
For detail on each of these runs see http://www.insidehoops.com/forum/sho...d.php?t=340692
Other than 1972 and 1973, where he could have shot better, how is KAJ to be blamed for this teams losses? He consistently increased his scoring and rebounding in the playoffs, dominated but had bad luck in terms of injuries and his uncompetitive teams did not fare well without him (3-14, 8-13). It isn't as if his teams were capable of battling all year for the #1 seed without him and KAJ was not lifting them up.
There is too much emphasis placed on team success by basketball fans. There are a variety of factors that go into whether a team wins a championship--and one player can only contribute so much. To hold Kareem liable for his teams losing in the 70's judges him be an unfair standard that is not applied to any other player. Jordan was losing in the first round perennially and not even getting past 0.500 when his teams were poor and had 5 losing seasons (KAJ never had a losing season in 20 years--his 1975 and 1978 teams were 35-30 and 37-24 when he played). Wilt routinely put up big numbers and lost. Shaq was swept perennially in the 90's. Hakeem lost in the first round 9 times. Peak Kobe was losing in the first round. The list goes on and on. Winning should be a factor but even then should be invoked when one player had a much higher degree of winning, i.e. comparing Wilt to Russell. KAJ is the greatest winner in basketball history after Russell. 6 NBA rings, 3 NCAA titles in 3 years (KAJ was so dominant the NCAA had to ban dunking to attempt to limit him. KAJ as a freshmen led the freshman squad to victory over the #1 team in the country. Can you name any other player in history who could have done that?), 3 titles in high school. Given his record, it is extremely ironic that "lack of winning" is basically the only argument used against him.
What players would have fared better than KAJ with his 70's teams? It can only be held against him if you believe there are some who would have performed even better than KAJ did and managed to lift their teams to more success. Who are these players and what in their actual record suggests they could do that?
KAJ may not be the GOAT, but to discredit him based on team factors in the 70's is unfair and often agenda-driven because outside of that there is really nothing to use against KAJ in his 20 year record. He arguably was the most dominant player ever at his peak, he had a 11 year prime (who else had such a run at that kind of performance level?), he has the clear GOAT longevity, he had team success and he was a clutch player who was even at the end of his career his team's choice in clutch situations.