Gilbert Arenas Declares 1988 as the Year the GOAT Debate Was Settled

Exploring a pivotal year in basketball's rich history.

by Nouman Rasool
Gilbert Arenas Declares 1988 as the Year the GOAT Debate Was Settled
© Tim Heitman/Getty Images

The perpetual debate over the greatest basketball player of all time might seem endless, but according to Gilbert Arenas, former standout guard for the Washington Wizards, this argument was conclusively settled over three decades ago.

For Arenas, the year 1988 marked a defining moment in basketball history, unequivocally establishing Michael Jordan as the unparalleled 'Greatest of All Time' Arenas, reflecting on Jordan's ascendance in the late '80s, remarked, "When Jordan came in, what they saw was a whole different animal.

This was something unprecedented – a player who moved differently, spoke differently and approached the game with a unique swagger. Right from the start, it was evident that we were witnessing the best player ever, regardless of what followed.

That realization first hit everyone during the 87-88 season."

1988: Jordan's Apex

1988 stands out as Jordan's most remarkable individual season and arguably one of the most dominant in NBA history. Not only did he clinch the league MVP, but he also secured the NBA All-Star Game MVP and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards.

This feat marked the first time a player had won both the MVP and DPOY in the same season. Jordan led the scoring charts and excelled defensively, leading the league in steals (3.6 SPG) and averaging 1.6 blocks per game. Under his guidance, the Chicago Bulls recorded their first 50-win season since 1974.

Moreover, the release of the Air Jordan III, showcasing the now-iconic Jumpman logo, further cemented his status in the annals of basketball history. Arenas added, "In 1988, Jordan was not just a player; he became a symbol, epitomized by the Jumpman logo.

That year wasn't just about his on-court dominance; it was a cultural revolution, marking him as the best ever." Dismissing the later-emphasized ring count argument, Arenas emphasized that Jordan's legacy was already solidified before his championship wins.

"The ring argument is a retrospective construct. Back then, it was about the sheer impact and the uniqueness of Jordan's game. Others like LeBron James, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kobe Bryant might have their claims, but in my view, they are all vying for second place.

Jordan's 1988 season was a solo mission that redefined greatness in basketball." Arenas' bold statement adds yet another fascinating layer to the ongoing GOAT debate, positioning Jordan's 1988 campaign as the pinnacle of basketball excellence, a benchmark yet to be surpassed in the eyes of many.

Gilbert Arenas