2. Rings and Only Rings
Let's admit it: Whenever championship rings are brought up in a GOAT debate, tempers start to boil and voices tend to be raised.
To be clear, I believe that the NBA Title is the ultimate measure of player success every season. (Sorry Giannis, but that's really what success is.) The key statistic of championships won allows us to narrow down the field of GOAT contenders into a shortlist of icons. But, while I think championship résumés are indispensable in any GOAT discussion, I don't think it's wise for any fan to argue that player X is greater than player Y simply because player X won more titles.
Why is that? Tell 'em, Zeke:
Here's the thing: The lofty title of "great" hardly seems appropriate for an NBA player who wins a ring as a benchwarmer averaging 3.7 points and 8.2 minutes per game in the Finals. As Isiah Thomas puts it, that guy is merely "riding in the car." The distinction of greatness, meanwhile, is reserved for the "drivers" - those alpha males who play upwards of 40 minutes and carry the scoring load for their team throughout the championship series.
In other words, while the tally of NBA titles won is a criterion that bears tremendous weight for any player's claim to greatness, it's not the only criterion that should be considered. You can certainly filter your list of GOAT contenders by excluding the non-champions, but after that, you can fine-tune your shortlist by determining the extent to which each player contributed to their teams' championship campaigns.
To do this, you can take a look at playoff and Finals averages, giving due consideration to how that player performed in comparison to their teammates. Aside from those numbers, advanced statistics - such as player efficiency rating (PER), offensive and defensive box plus/minus, and win shares per 48 minutes - paint an even fuller picture of how the greatest of the great towed their teams to the summit.
Be careful when you dive into those stats, though. There are many ways to use and misuse them.