The NBA Greatest of All Time (Goat) Criteria

By J.N.

The time is here to do it. Following in my NBA league MVP Criteria is the NBA Greatest of All Time Criteria. The endless debates over the past ten years from the media and message board fanatics have added up. The advanced metrics matter in this discussion. Points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks are not good enough. Almost everything matters. One title ring and one league MVP are not enough to be the Greatest of All Time. Just stick with the facts to keep emotions in check.

  • Player must have multiple championships.
  • Player must have multiple Finals MVPs.
  • Player must have multiple league MVPs.
  • Career PER has to be 25 or more.
  • Career total win shares have to be 200 or more.
  • Having notable defensive achievements is a plus.
  • Player must be in the Hall of Fame.

The requirements are strict because role players, who have multiple rings, have to be eliminated quickly. There is no need to bring these guys in the discussion to prove a point. It’s stupid so let’s eliminate them quickly from any Greatest of All Time argument.

The numbers eliminate the bias and eye test. Do not come here with the eye test because that’s subjective like hating or loving a song. Save that for NBA League MVP discussions.

Never ever discuss eras. This will get anyone in trouble. Talking about a particular playing time, such as the 1970s or 1990s, is subjective. The debates will go in circles and get rehashed. Older generations have fond memories of their time while watching the current time for comparison. The newer generations do not have that luxury. Let’s eliminate era talk completely. Besides, players are not in control of their competition in any era. They’re only in control of the basketball and what they can do with it. That’s it. They play whoever is in front of them. It is not their fault if they are in a weak or strong era.

Determining the skill level of their competition is also subjective. It’s too hard to judge. Basically, discussing different eras is a grey area. Do not go there.

The Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is not the perfect single number advanced statistic, but it is currently the best we have. Observing points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and three point percentages is fine. With that mind, those building block numbers are not enough in this realm. Different positions, such as guard and center, yield different expectations. Efficiency unifies everyone and it’s simpler to observe. The career PER of 25.0 is chosen because many players cannot maintain that average. Not fulfilling the 25 average does not make or break the player, but it’s a high watermark that further supports a player’s bid for the GOAT title.

The win share metric is about winning. The win share data shows us the better winner because it is an estimate showing how many wins a player contributed. The metric also incorporates defense and offense. The number 200 is chosen because it’s an extremely high standard that not many obtain over a career. Currently, only 5 players have career total win share over 200.

If the player does not have any rings, league MVPs, and Finals MVPs then they are eliminated.

The NBA GOAT criteria has some holes, but after years of listening to debates, looking at numbers, and observing trends, this is the result. If you think/feel this is stupid then most likely your favorite player did not fulfill the requirements to be the Greatest of All Time.

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