Comparing greatness of players past and present an enjoyable part of sports fandom

As the NBA season approaches, discussion this week has centered on the relative status of several players: Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Michael Jordan. While the first three players in this list were involved in a question about who is the best current player and potential MVP, Jordan also has been inserted in the discussion due to his starring role in NBA2K11 and comments he made about the number of points he could score if he played today when more fouls are called.

Several quick thoughts come to mind:

1. The new era of statistics in sports offers more opportunities to make comparisons of players across different eras, particularly if you can control for certain features of the game at each time period (like the average pace in basketball).

2. I wonder how much current players think about issues like these. Fans seems to like these discussions. It allows the average guy sitting on the couch to say, “my guy, whoever that may be, can match up or beat your guy.”

3. Jordan, like some other old players, still likes to be part of these discussions.

4. All of these discussions are magnified by the non-stop media attention for sports these days. I can hear it on local sports talk radio which all sound like the CNN of the radio airwaves; stories are repeated all day long with slightly different interpretations.

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