The Thanksgiving table can get contentious at times. Generations of family loudly discussing politics, sports, and the proper use of nonbinary pronouns.

Grandpa may never understand the difference between he/him/his and they/them/theirs, but he will go to his deathbed with the belief that Bill Russell with his 11 rings, is the greatest basketball player of all-time.

Cousin Logan is a millennial. He listens to 32 podcasts a week, pays $6.50 for his coffee each morning, and swears in his vintage Kobe Bryant signature shoes, that the G.O.A.T. is Kobe Bryant.

Aunt Suzy thinks that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the best, Grandma is a Wilt Chamberlain fan, and Uncle Eddie likes Elgin Baylor, and apparently, Jack Daniels.

I always believed that Michael Jordan was the greatest player of all-time.

Jordan won six Championships, six Finals MVPs, five League MVPs, ten Scoring Titles, and made nine All-Defensive Teams.

Last Sunday, Lebron James passed him.

Okay, you’re probably thinking that it’s premature to call Lebron the new G.O.A.T. simply because he went off and scored 37 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, and dished out 8 assists in a 105-104 last second victory over the Houston Rockets.

But if he is not, it’s just a matter of time.

Lebron James just started the Tom Brady stage of his career.

Leaving us nine more stages before the G.O.A.T conversion, and Lebron’s career, are finally over.

• The Tom Brady stage – The world kept waiting for Tom Brady to get old and fade, but at 44 years of age, Brady threw for 5,300 yards, 49 touchdowns, and was named MVP in winning his seventh Super Bowl. Lebron is averaging 26.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 6.5 assists this season – while shooting 58.6% from the field. Lebron may be turning 39, but four or five more years in the Tom Brady stage of his career, and his numbers will be out of reach.

Credit via CNBC

• The Bronny stage – Lebron has stated that he would love to play professionally with his son Bronny, currently a freshman at USC. Considering Bronny’s health condition and enormous NIL deal, Lebron will be playing at least into the 2028-29 season before this can actually come to fruition. And by that time, Lebron will be a Tom Brady-like, 44 years of age, and padding those stats like crazy.

• The Ring Chasing stage – Having fulfilled his aspirations of playing with his son, it is time to chase rings for a few years. Still a talented player unwilling to come off the bench, Lebron joins Durant and Booker in Phoenix year one, Kyrie and Luka in Dallas year two, and Steph and Klay in a desperate year three move. The rings never come, but Lebron moves to second on the all-time assist list playing beside such talented shooters.

• The Adjustment stage – Father Time is undefeated, but that doesn’t mean Lebron can’t go twelve rounds. No longer playing with as much physicality as before, Lebron takes a page out of MJ’s, Kobe’s, and Vince Carter’s playbook by settling for mostly three-pointers and fade-aways. The body feels good, and Lebron moves past Reggie Miller and Ray Allen on the all-time list for three-pointers made at the age of 49.

Credit via Sports Illustrated

• The Bounce stage – After getting some career advice from Shaquille O’Neal, who ended his career playing sparingly for Boston, Cleveland, and the Phoenix Suns, Lebron contemplates retirement coming off the bench for the Charlotte Bobcats. At 52 years of age, Lebron passes Elvin Hayes on the all-time rebounding list – and Ish Smith for the most teams played for.

Credit via Heat Nation

• The Udonis Haslem stage – Udonis Haslem played for the Miami Heat for 20 years. But over the last seven seasons, Haslem played in just 9 games a year, averaging 7 minutes a game. Bringing his talents to South Beach again, Lebron spends three seasons with the Heat contributing leadership, accountability, and the occasional bucket.

• The Kobe stage – Everyone remembers when Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in his final NBA game – but very few remember that he took 50 shots, including 21 three-pointers, to get there. Lebron takes notice, announces his retirement, plays his final game with the Miami Heat, and scores 61 points on as many attempts as it takes.

Credit via The Wall Street Journal

• The Comeback stage – Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Brett Favre, George Foreman, Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Muhammad Ali, Magic Johnson, Sugar Ray Leonard. The greats can never seem to stay retired. Lebron’s retirement lasts one season as the Cleveland Cavaliers sign the 57-year-old to a one-year contract. Lebron averages 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists – while making his…I don’t know…35th or 36th All-Star Team.

• The Ownership stage – Lebron retires again, buys the Cleveland Cavaliers, then returns to the court to increase fanbase and revenue. Once informed that playing for the team is a violation of league policy – Lebron divests all his interests in the team and moves it to a dummy corporation out of the Cayman Islands, averages 18 points and 5 assists for the season, and then later sells the team at a $3.6 billion dollar profit.

• The Pickleball stage – Although retired for years, and the owner of practically every NBA record, Lebron is contemplating a comeback. For Lebron, hoops are like Pickleball. He could be 65 and out of shape, avoid stretching, have a backcourt teammate named Gladys, and he’d still be one of the best players on the court.

Images via Wikipedia, cnbc, sportsillustrated, heatnation, wallstreetjournal

Alan Tapley is an educator, author, and blogger who has lived just outside of Boulder for the last twenty years.  His published work includes two novels, two children’s books, a series of cartoons in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and multiple sports related articles. His love for family and the state of Colorado is only matched by one thing, his passion for sports.  The first baseball game he ever attended was at Wrigley Field, before there were lights.  At the final Bronco game at the old Mile High, he allegedly cut out a piece of his seat in the South stands.  But regardless of being here for the Avalanche’s last Stanley Cup, the Rockies only World Series appearance, and all the Broncos’ Super Bowl Victories, his wife never fails to remind him that he wasn’t at the University of Colorado in 1990, like she was.  The year the Buffs football team won the National Championship