Comparing players from different eras is a difficult exercise. Because of rule changes, talent depth, league norms and advances in training and medicine, figuring out how good a player like Elgin Baylor would have been in today's NBA, or how dominant LeBron James would have been in the '60s -- it's really hard. It can be a rewarding thought exercise, sure. Plenty of people have had a good time playing WhatIf Sports. And to some degree the comparison needs to happen to effectively respect our history in the Hall of Fame.
But when we just start plucking out things to compare -- like the Lakers' record-setting '71-72 33-game winning streak to the Heat's now-ended 27-game streak -- we're not really advancing beyond whimsy. Like, it totally does not matter in any way whether the Heat's streak, though shorter than that of the Lakers, was more impressive. It was shorter. So the Heat don't get the record. Math! It's not like the fact that Miami "only" got to 27 is going to be forgotten. It's the second longest streak in NBA history. It's in the record books, in the No. 2 spot. We'll tell our grandchildren about it when the 2053 New Orleans Pelicans get to 25 wins in a row and G-Sports 1 (the new ESPN, natch) shows a graphic with the 2012-13 Heat and 1971-72 Lakers ahead of them. "Grandpa, did you see the Heat's streak?" "Why yes I did, sonny. The double overtime win over the Kings was amazing, and LeBron was unstoppable in the comeback against Cleveland. It was a magical time in America!" "Grandpa, who's LeBron?" "Oh ... no. Your father is the worst, isn't he?"
I've never been moved by comparisons between historical feats. Lord help me if the History Channel adds a show where a Chip Bayless argues whether Bunker Hill was more important than Lexington and Concord with a current Army officer. You make history, you get remembered. The Lakers made history. We bring them up every now and then. The Heat fell short, but it's pretty obvious we'll be remembering this collection of players, and particularly No. 6, for a very long time. We don't need to bestow imaginary honors to assure that. It will happen.
Folks can spend their time however they like, but there are so many inane things in sports already that I'm pretty opposed to creating more inane things to worry about. The drive to deem something the most [adjective] [noun] ever can be explained away as a method by which we appreciate the great feats of the here and now. But in my view, it's a lazy way to appreciate the great fears of the here and now. Document what's happening, dig deep into the narrative and the stat sheet, analyze the difficulty of achieving these things. But please don't immediately turn to a scorecard to compare a current great feat with the gold standard of this feat from the past. You do that, and you remind me of Drake in that commercial where he claims the 2010-11 Heat are the greatest team ever.
Don't be Drake. Resist the urge to Skip Bayless our favorite sporting moments.
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