I recently alluded to my personal opinion that Tim Duncan is a Top four all-time basketball player, who can be viewed as the absolute greatest of all time, depending on which arguments resonate strongest on any given day. To an NBA fan less familiar with basketball history, this seems like a stretch based on personal preference.
But in reality, it doesn't take any sort of mental gymnastics to make Duncan's case. Looking beyond the raw numbers and public opinion to holistically look at the totality of Duncan's impact reveals not only does he have a greatest of all-time case, but it's also better than most.
For this article to do Duncan, or any other potential "GOAT" justice, we first need to define what greatness actually means, since it can be so subjective, which leads to people talking about different concepts without even realizing it.
To me and many others out there, greatness is a significant positive impact on creating successful outcomes. In basketball, that means either the ultimate prize of winning an NBA title or the holy grail of sustained excellence.
Therefore, in basketball, "the greatest" means the player with the most overall impact on winning. This includes individual impact on both sides of the ball, as well as a teammate and leader. "Greatest" here does not mean best, most talented, most athletic, or even most skilled. These are all admirable accomplishments in their own right but are different from what I am contending here. Simple, right?