Opinion: Why I don't want to hear the GOAT chants for LeBron James

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates after breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbars all time scoring record of 38,387 points during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday.

Gene Seymour is a critic who has written about music, movies and culture for The New York Times, Newsday, Entertainment Weekly and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @GeneSeymour. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)I'm fed up with GOATs.

Had it with them. Past done. If you could see where my right hand is as I write "Up to here with GOATs," it's about six inches over my head -- and I wish my arms were longer.
Gene Seymour
By GOATs, as you can tell from the capital letters, I mean the acronym and not the barnyard animals. They can stay around for as long as they like, doing their part to clear excess trash and stuff.
    I speak instead of the shorthand description for Greatest Of All Time. If you watch or read about sports, you're all too aware of that species of GOAT. It has lately seemed as though GOATs pop up every other day, or week.
      And not just in sports. When Beyoncé Knowles made history the other night by winning the 32nd Grammy Award in her career, overtaking the late symphony conductor Georg Solti, presenter James Corden properly acknowledged the historic weight of the moment, but took it a step further by declaring Her Royal Bey-ness the GOAT because she had accumulated so many more of those shiny megaphone trophies than anyone before.
        Beyonce at the 65th annual Grammy Awards on February 5, 2023
        "Greatest-Of-All-Time"? Really? Granted, Knowles has had a fabulous, even extraordinary career with more accomplishments likely to come. But "All Time" takes in a whole lot of territory, including, off the top of one's head: Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Duke Ellington, Glenn Gould, Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, Maria Callas, Prince, Sarah Vaughan, and yes, maestro Solti himself, whose 22-year stint as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's musical director made it all but preeminent among other such organizations all over the world.
        Thirty-two trophies make you "greater" than all those people and at least 40-50 others one could add? Hmmm...
          All this GOAT talk with Beyoncé was likely exacerbated by last week's retirement (maybe, finally?) of 45-year-old quarterback Tom Brady from professional football after a storied, near-unprecedented 23-year career.
          Brady, who'd retired exactly a year before this latest announcement but changed his mind to eke out one more season under center, has been so habitually labeled the greatest quarterback, and -- remarkably, by some -- as the greatest football player period (!), that the GOAT acronym has, to all intents and purposes, become virtually synonymous with his name.
          Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Raymond James Stadium on January 16.
          The primary reason is that he's played in more Super Bowls (nine) and won more (six) than any other quarterback. There are more than a few spoilsports out there willing to mitigate such superlatives by mentioning that Brady lost three of those Very Big Games while Joe Montana, who'd retired from football after a relatively paltry 16 seasons, won all four of the Super Bowls he'd played.
          Such hair-splitting will likely continue in the days, months and even years ahead -- especially now that LeBron James of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers has surpassed previous Laker legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's career scoring total of 38,387 points. James broke the record late in a home game Tuesday, which ended in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder with Abdul-Jabbar, now a distinguished writer and cultural pundit, looking on with approval.
          The GOAT chants are building to a fervent pitch around James's name against those who believe Michael Jordan closed off the GOAT discussion in professional basketball with his six titles with the Chicago Bulls. Meanwhile, Abdul-Jabbar's onetime Laker coach Pat Riley, now an executive with the Miami Heat, has felt compelled to promote the now-75-year-old Artist Formerly Known as Lew Alcindor for the latter's title-laden career.
          Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, poses with  Abdul-Jabbar after passing him to become the NBA's all-time leading scorer on Tuesday.
          "OK, OK," James's acolytes insist. "But did Jordan or Kareem win titles for three different teams the way LeBron has?"
          And on and on... and on the arguments will go.
          Don't get me wrong. King James is great and so, for that matter, is Queen Bey. Both have prevailed in their respective realms in large part through an alchemy of adaptability, ingenuity and sheer endurance. But since when did the mere accumulation of trophies and "records" (however one defines them) represent the prevailing standard by which "greatness" (however one defines it) is firmly established? Such a standard makes "GOAT" into a final and absolute judgment on a person's career without greater nuance or closer scrutiny.
          It's a standard that turns "greatness" into nothing more than a "King of the Hill" game, a paraphrase of the sentiment, attributed to the late billionaire Malcolm Forbes, that "he who dies with the most toys wins," one of those phrases that launched t-shirts, bumper stickers and, later, memes.
          But having the most trophies shouldn't be the only criteria for judging, enjoying or being inspired by an artist or athlete. Let's go back to Brady. From the time he emerged from obscurity in 2001 as a second-year NFL player (and sixth-round draft pick) to lead the New England Patriots from longtime mediocrity into perennial playoff contenders and Super Bowl winners, Brady developed into a prolific passer and clutch scorer, holding every meaningful quarterbacking record in the NFL.
          Sportscasters often referred to him as an "escape artist" for his ability to pull winning plays from seemingly impossible situations. He enabled the Patriots to be a dynasty for not just one, but two decades. Brady excelled at his work and was often impressive and entertaining while carrying it out.
          To my own eyes, however, there was something almost too seamless and slick about Brady's unprecedented ascent to GOAT-ness. Everything about Brady, from his private life to his health regimen, was geared toward the single-minded pursuit of victory and the enhancement of his reputation. As Dave Zirin, a sporstwriter for The Nation, put it in a gimlet-eyed assessment published before Brady's last Super Bowl in 2021, "Bra