Bob McAdoo has seen it all.
He's heard it all. And he's still hearing it.
That's why the LeBron James-Michael Jordan debate that's been in the headlines the last few weeks bothers him. Just a little though.
It's not that the former Sixer doesn't enjoy the debate, but McAdoo, who currently serves as a Miami Heat assistant coach, just feels one name is left out when talking about the greatest player to ever lace up in the NBA.
He laughed when the James-Jordan topic came up after the Heat finished a morning shootaround on Saturday, arguing against trying to compare two players from different eras before expressing his opinion.
"What's shocking to me is why Wilt Chamberlain is not in the conversation," said McAdoo, who spent five seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers before finishing his NBA career with the Sixers in 1985-86. "I mean, the man averaged 50 a game, 30 rebounds, 10 blocked shots and nobody even talks about him, like he wasn't even born. That's what's frustrating to me.
"I guess because he wasn't in the media age like [nowadays], but I saw him when he was playing his best. In my book, don't even bring up the conversation if you don't bring up guys like Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson."
Asked to pick one, Jordan or James, McAdoo admitted the choice would be hard.
"Both of them are fabulous players. I know from a fact, because I was a player, people judge you by championships and Jordan has them."
Though he put an emphasis on winning championships and also preached the importance of having a supporting cast, when it was suggested that James would be judged by how many championships he wins, McAdoo agreed, but said, "That's not fair."
"When you look at the teams Jordan has been on, and look at the teams LeBron has been on, Jordan's been on better teams," McAdoo said.
But the fact James is having a season for the ages can’t be ignored. He became the first player in NBA history to score 30 points or more while shooting 60 percent in six straight games earlier this month. Add to that, he departed the Wells Fargo Center with his 35th career triple-double (16 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds). Early in the fourth quarter, with the Heat holding a 16-point lead, James grabbed that last rebound to secure the triple-double, leading the Heat to a 114-90 win over the Sixers.
“I wasn’t leaving [the game] until I got it,” James said humorously afterwards about getting that last rebound.
So the question was posed to McAdoo, the 1974-75 NBA MVP, if he’s amazed watching James this season.
"Nothing amazes me," McAdoo responded. "I've seen great players from when I first started playing. You know, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West to Michael Jordan. You put [James] in that same conversation with those guys because that's the type of season he's having. He's definitely one of the greatest players to ever play this game."
More than the stats, McAdoo is impressed with James’ knowledge, which he pointed to as a sign of respect.
"He knows about the guys that came before him," McAdoo said. "He's very respectful and, you know, I'm impressed with that because a lot of the young guys, they don't know the history of this game and the people that came before them."
It’s not just McAdoo who feels the Jordan-James compassion is unfair. Heat forward Chris Bosh doesn’t think any comparison should be made.
"You have to let guys do there own thing," Bosh said. "He's a great player and understandably he causes a lot of comparisons ... but he's his own player."
Added Heat point guard Mario Chalmers: “I don’t even think that’s a conversation. LeBron is a great player, but Jordan is the greatest of all-time. Their not the same position and they never played against each other. So it’s hard to compare two people who never played against each other.”
Asked if he thinks James is noticing the type of season he’s having, McAdoo believes the three-time league MVP is aware.
"He definitely knows what he's doing," McAdoo said. "He's very efficient, shooting 60 percent in the last nine or 10 games, He's very difficult to stop, not only that, he's getting other people involved too with his passing. He's playing a very complete game; that's why we've won nine in a row, that's why we're in the position we are now because he's the one guy, not only on this team but in the league; he's bring it every night.”
A Forgotten Name
You could sit for hours and talk to Bob McAdoo about the NBA, past, present and future. The man has been around long enough and accomplished that much that he could be considered a basketball guru.
Consider the facts: McAdoo finished his career averaging 22.1 points good for 26th all-time (18, 787 total points), he was a three-time scoring champion and won two titles with the Lakers.
But maybe he didn't accomplish enough, at least not in some minds.
You see, if you scroll through the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players list, which was released in 1996 when Shaquille O’Neal was in his fourth season, McAdoo’s name won’t appear.
It’s a topic that McAdoo will admit is frustrating. One could tell, too.
As the Jordan-James conversation ended, he was asked about being left off the list. His voice lowered and he let it out.
"You know, when you're the only MVP, the only scoring champion that didn't make it, something is kind of wrong with that process," McAdoo said. "When you make MVP, that's saying you’re the best player in the world. ... You lose out to some player that averaged 13 a game. You lose out to some players that only played two years in the league; to me the whole process is bogus.
"It's not only me," he continued, "It's others guys that I thought were worthy of being in there also, but didn't make it. It's almost like the All-Star game voting; letting the fans vote. It's a popularity contest, it's not who's doing the best. It's always been a popularity contest."
Bob McAdoo has seen it all.