LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan: Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki weighs in on GOAT debate

By | December 25, 2022

The Mavericks’ GOAT has given his take on the NBA’s GOAT debate.

On Christmas Day, Dirk Nowitzki was further immortalized in Mavericks’ lore with an impressive statue outside of the American Airlines Center. Inside the American Airlines Center, Nowitzki’s Mavs were set to take the floor against LeBron James and the Lakers. While meeting with reporters pregame, Nowitzki was asked about his latest honor among other topics, which also included James’ place in NBA history.

“It’s tremendous that he can still play like this in Year 20, his athleticism is incredible, I’m happy for him,” Nowitzki said of his former NBA Finals foe.

Nowitzki, who spent all 21 years of his playing career with the Mavericks, is more than qualified to speak on the difficulties of competing at a high level this late in one’s career. He then weighed in on James’ all-time standing with respect to his impending milestone of becoming the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. 

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“I always say Michael Jordan is the GOAT,” Nowitzki added, “but if [James] really surpasses Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] with the scoring record, I’m sort of running out of arguments for Michael.”

James entered the Lakers’ Christmas Day game 677 points shy of surpassing Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time record. Five days before turning 38, James turned in 38 points (on 13-of-23 shooting) for his seventh consecutive game with 30 or more points. Each night, he moves much closer to the all-time record, which, barring unforeseen circumstances, will happen in the coming months.

MORE: Best highlights from LeBron James’ Christmas Day game

For more perspective on James’ scoring tear and longevity, here’s a list of players 37 or older with such streaks, courtesy of The Sporting News’ Micah Adams:

Given Nowitzki’s current standing as the NBA’s sixth all-time leading scorer with over 31,000 career points, it makes sense that he’s impressed by the all-time scoring accolade.

He made sure to add that as impressive as James has been on the court, he’s been just as impressive off of it:

“What this guy has done has been nothing short of incredible — the longevity. I’ll always say being called “King” at 15 [years old] and how he turned out and what he’s done for communities where he played and changed so many lives.

“He’s a very very special athlete and for now, we need to appreciate watching him at the level he’s playing at.”

Nowitzki’s comments come just weeks after Warriors’ Draymond Green picked James’ side in the debate. Is it a coincidence that both are so high on a player whose team they eliminated in the Finals? Perhaps it is.

To formulate your own opinion (and maybe switch sides), click here for the key stats you need to know in the neverending GOAT debate.