Who’s the greatest ever? What difference does it make?

LBJ MJ

By MIKE HERNDON

Here we are, ready to watch two dominant basketball teams square off for the NBA title for the third straight year, and all you people want to talk about is whether we can start calling LeBron James the greatest basketball player ever.

For the record, let me say that distinction still belongs to Michael Jordan, who never lost in the NBA Finals and who was one of the few elite talents who always seemed to be in control in their particular sports. Regardless of the score, Jordan had things in hand. You just knew it.

But this isn’t a column about why Jordan is still the greatest ever. This is a column about the fact that arguing about who’s the greatest ever is stupid.

Instead of splitting hairs, why can’t we revel in the greatness of both of them? They both can do and have done things that few humans are capable of. It makes about as much sense to argue about which is the better color, red or blue.

Some other things it makes about as much sense to argue about:

Greatest rock and roll band: the Beatles or the Rolling Stones

They’ve both got more hits than most of us have relatives. They are probably the two most influential rock and roll bands ever, essentially taking the genre out of its 1950s infancy and transforming it into what it is today (some would argue, something better than it is today). The Stones popularized rhythm-and-blues on a worldwide scale, mixing the soulful voice and charisma of Mick Jagger with the bluesy guitar and sheer indestructibility of Keith Richards. The Beatles, meanwhile, were innovative trailblazers who essentially created modern pop music and featured perhaps the greatest songwriting duo of all time in Lennon and McCartney.

Are you a Stones person or a Beatles person? I love them both, but I’m a Beatles guy.

Most quintessential John Belushi movie: Animal House or Blues Brothers

The original Saturday Night Live cast member was one of the best comedic actors of all time, despite leaving us in 1982 at the age of 33. But was his best role the future Senator Blutarsky, who was prescient enough to foresee the advent of fake news (“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”) despite going through college fat, drunk and stupid, or the suave Jake Blues, who could do somersaults in James Brown’s church, sing soul with Ray Charles and charm a rifle out of Carrie Fisher’s hands?

Advantage: Blues Brothers, if only for its staying power (Jake and Elwood have become cult heroes, with nearly as many impersonators as Elvis), its pairing of Belushi with Dan Aykroyd and Belushi’s performance in the restaurant scene.

Most useful condiment: mustard or ketchup

What could be more American than ketchup, the favorite condiment for hot dogs? With viewership of baseball dropping among the younger demographic, they ought to change the saying to: “As American as football, apple pie and ketchup.” But mustard is far more versatile. Who’d put ketchup on a turkey and Swiss? Only a philistine.

Advantage: mustard. And for the record, anyone over the age of 5 who puts ketchup on a steak shouldn’t be allowed in public.

Most indescribable college sports mascot: Syracuse’s Otto the Orange or Western Kentucky’s Big Red

“What is that thing?” It could be, and has been, said about either Otto the Orange or Big Red. Both look like oversized, gelatinous blobs. Otto at least looks like an orange, however. I still haven’t figured out what Big Red is or how he relates to Western Kentucky’s nickname, the Hilltoppers. Then again, I’m not sure what a Hilltopper should look like.

Advantage: Big Red

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The Oxford Comma: Yes or No

I was raised to believe there should be no comma before “and” in a series, but I’m not so rigid in my grammatical orthodoxy that I don’t acknowledge there are situations where the Oxford comma eliminates confusion. Take for instance, this sentence: “I wrote a story about a couple of drug dealers, the mayor and the police chief.” Without a second comma, the story becomes something completely different.

We’re all veteran English speakers and writers here. Use whichever method you prefer. If it’s confusing, use the damn comma.

Advantage: None, except for grammarians looking for something to argue about at parties.

Now can we shut up and watch some basketball?

(Photos from Wikimedia Commons & flickr)


Categories: NBA

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