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Is John Grant Jr. The Best Lacrosse Player… EVER?

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Junior for Canada at the Duel in Denver.

I’ve asked myself tough and sometimes suspect questions in the past, it’s true. Is Ned Crotty The Best Player In the World Right Now?  Is Furman University In South Carolina Going To Add D1 Lacrosse?  Rugby On A Lacrosse Site?  The list goes on and on… but this time, I’m on to something, so while the answer may already seem obvious to a few, the question deserves to be asked to be all:

Is John Grant Junior the BEST lacrosse player to EVER play the game?

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Junior for Canada at the Duel in Denver.

Give me a chance to explain, read the article, then let me have it. Please?

“Best EVER” is a big claim and a tough one to substantiate, and it definitely requires going back in time and creating some parameters for judgement. Let’s get the time travel out the way first.

Back in the gold old days, when the sticks were made out of wood and LAX was only an airport in California, to be considered the best ever, one really had to make their name and star at the collegiate level. The usual suspects for “Best Ever” from this era include, but are not limited to: Jim Brown, Jimmy Lewis, and Jack Turnbull, amongst a host of other legendary players. Of course, this is only the US side of the coin.

The Canadians have their own set of greats from this era as well, and to pull one player from this large group as the best ever is a near impossible task. Where Brown was a game-changing athlete and player, Lewis was a game-changing innovator, master of skill, and player. Which one is better? It is impossible to say. To say a Canadian star was better or worse is also, impossible.

When one looks at the Native American side of things from this era, we generally hear less, although that is not because the native players were not playing. There were just fewer of them playing in the college game. However, if the great Oren Lyons is any sort of example, the talent within native circles may have been the best in the world. Again, it is impossible to select a single player.

Then we get to the next era of lacrosse, where the outdoor World Championships began to emerge as a heated contest, plastic sticks entered the game, box grew, and the Iroquois entered the greater lacrosse consciousness to a larger degree. The potential list of players from this era, both in the US and Canada, as well as the Iroquois and Australia, is staggering. The list of great players from the late 80s and early 90s alone could be a post totaling 5,000 words.

By now, you must be wondering why I am glossing over all of these great players, and not enumerating their accomplishments in greater details, so I’ll cut to the chase. When I’m talking about the greatest player ever, it has to be someone who can play the field game just as well as they can play the box game, winning at the highest levels is important as well, and “the best” can’t be a flash in the pan.

Until the modern era of lacrosse, the opportunity to do all of the above, and compete on a somewhat even level, didn’t really exist. So, under the above criteria, only modern players are really up for consideration, and for me, it’s tough not to put John Grant Junior at the top of that heap.

Now there are some reactions I fully expect most readers to have right now: Have you ever heard of the Gaits? How about the Powells? Tom Marachek? Or how about the Powless family members? John Tavares? Gags? Petro? All fair points, and all are worthy players, but in my opinion, John Grant Junior is still the best of the bunch.

Topping the Gaits in terms of game changing creativity, or longevity is tough, and they really set the standard for best ever in my opinion. They played at the highest levels for what seems like forever, but right now, with Jr., I think we’re seeing the exact same thing. For crying out loud, the man is 37 years old and he’s still making passes and scoring goals that only a 15 year old would try shooting on the net in his backyard… except Grant actually makes them count!

Simply put, he’s as creative and skillful as they come, and he can stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone in that regard. He has also played the game for a long time, and plays in a ton of games almost every single year. Does anyone on the planet play more lacrosse than Jr. when he’s healthy? I really don’t think so.

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Plus he seems to be a hit with the fans.

When it comes to winning championships and bringing in accolades, Jr. can stake a claim there too. I don’t know how many Mann Cups he’s won, but it’s at least five or six… and he’s been the MVP at least twice. In college he led Delaware to their first ever quarterfinal berth and was named Player of the Year, scoring 110 points his Senior year.

Jr.’s NLL career is an argument unto itself for best player ever, but the fact that he scored his 1,000th point last year en route to notching a league record 116 points in a single season should give you some idea. He’s also scored 15 points in a game and he won two championships with Rochester. The MLL is no different. Couple of rings, lots of MVP awards and scoring records and titles. It’s all there and measures up with anybody on the planet.

He has been on four Canadian National Teams, and won a gold and three silvers… and that’s just in field lacrosse. He also has two World Indoor golds on the mantle. When you combine Delaware, the NLL, MLL and CLA, he has scored over 2,300 points. Add in high level tournaments like Hawaii and other non-pro events and this number could reach 3-4,000 easily.

I’ve made the case for John Grant Junior so far, and while I think it’s really strong, I know that it doesn’t necessarily put him above the other great players of the modern era. So what separates Jr from the rest of the guys?

I’ll be as honest with you here as I can… I don’t really know. There are far more players out there who meet these standards than I originally thought: Casey Powell, the Gaits, Brodie Merrill, Pat McCabe, Darren Lowe, and the amazing Chris Sanderson, just to name a few. All have strong arguments behind them under my criteria, but something in my gut says I’ve got to go with Grant Jr on this one.

Maybe I just like the way he approaches the game on the field? It really could be as simple as that. He plays hard nosed, throws on the pads and takes your best shot. He can be deceptive and take what you give him, or he can put his head down and dictate, and both approaches seem equally effective.

He transitions from box to field seamlessly, and does so regularly. He’s known to travel long distances just to play games in different places on back-to-back days. I can’t think of another established pro that has consistently operated on a level anywhere near that. And I respect it.

Grant Jr. is a lacrosse rat. He’s always playing the game, looking for the next way to play, and competing to win. There doesn’t seem to be any quit in the guy, and if he continues to just play the game, and foregoes some of the industry related temptations that can take away from a player’s time on the floor/field, in a couple of years, this won’t even be a question.

Strong arguments can be made for other players as the best ever, especially with Casey Powell suiting up for Team USA Indoor again, but I don’t think any other player is as close to sole possession of the elusive mantel right now as Grant Jr. Right now, he’s slready my pick for best ever, but if he keeps playing, chances are, he’ll be your pick too.

Think I’m off my rocker? Nominate someone else as the best ever and provide a compelling argument!

About the author

Connor Wilson

Connor is the Publisher of LacrosseAllStars.com. He lives in Brooklyn with his better half, continues to play and coach both box and field lacrosse in NYC as much as possible, and covers the great game that is lacrosse full-time. He spends his spare time stringing sticks and watching Futurama.

8 Comments

  • JGJr has 4 Mann Cup victories and 2 Mann Cup MVPs.

    There are other possibilities; the argument for best ever brings up questions like field vs indoor, whether number of championships matter, participation in other sports (e.g. Jack Bionda playing both indoor for the Victoria Shamrocks and hockey for the Toronto Maple Leafs), and positional play.

    But then bringing up players from the 50s makes me the old guy at the end of the bar who talks about the 1969 Mets as if the game is even comparable across the decades.

    • re: your last paragraph (and the second a bit) that’s why I could only really look at modern era players… hard to say anyone is better than a guy like Jimmy Lewis, so I stuck with the guys that we have all seen, and in comparable leagues/scenaris… as best I could anyway. ha?

  • My first reaction is to completely agree with you, but the one thing to make me pause is Brodie.  Jr.’s stats are overwhelming, but that’s extremely difficult when you start comparing to defenders and goalies.  How many goals has he prevented?  How many forced turnovers?  GBs, he’s untouched.  He can also move as you say, seamlessly from a long pole to short stick in box and back.  It’s not only just solid defense, but his scoring as a defender is way up there.

    • super solid argument! he is so diverse, and so valuable. I mean his strong of MLL Defensive MVPs speaks volumes. Add in the scoring and Merrill is right up there. A great argument can be made for BM, I  just think he needs to keep it going for longer… Unfair? Perhaps. But it’s the burden defenders bear. I was one in college. I feel you!

  • It is incredibly hard to compare eras, and even different positions in the modern game, but I have to go with Junior as well. Everything you cited, not to mention multiple Mann Cup titles and OLA Season and Finals MVPs and scoring titles at both Junior and Senior levels.  

    A couple years ago when he was coming off surgery, he showed up to our men’s rec. box league here in Rochester and seeing that my team was short runners he asked me if he could run with us.  Uhhh sure man I think we can find a spot for you! He spent the whole game trying to setup lesser-skilled players for shots and complimenting everyone on both teams.  

    Dude is a lax-rat, down to earth, and I have heard from my pro and ex-pro buddies he is a great teammate.  Only player to win the MVP in the NLL and MLL in the same season. Five years ago I think there are some big arguments to make, but I think his recent accomplishments and consistency from start to present solidify him as the G.O.A.T.   

  • It’s tough to top Gary Gait. Junior benefitted from the change in box philosophy from playing both ends of the floor to playing O/D.

    Gary Gait, especially early in his career, was a fantastic player at both ends of the floor. The guy was putting up loads of points while playing both ends.And when you think of what Gait brought to lacrosse, he was basically a pioneer for NCAA Field Lacrosse in the states. How far behind would Canada be if the Gaits didn’t make the trek down south? Paul was also an excellent player, but he wasn’t able to control a game like Gary. Paul was a sublime passer, but Gary was the guy who fought through traffic and finished it. Gary was doing it just as long as JR has as well, and at just as high a level.

  • Jr. Is one heck of a lacrosse player that is certain. Being an old timer growing up playing box lacrosse throughout southern Ontario, I am unfamiliar with field lacrosse because it was off the radar. However, GrantJr. excels at both games, and his statistics speak volumes to support a #1 status. I played in the generation of his father, and Jr. like many lacrosse players from Peterborough, Ontario come from a fine lineage. I was present for all six games of the 2012 Mann Cup at the Lake Show and once again Jr. shone. He is a force to be reckoned with every time he is on the floor. Up here in Canada, Jr. has stiff competition, but I believe that he is the premier lacrosse player in the world. He is a Peterborough boy, and the small city of Peterborough has produced an abundance of legendary players and teams! I hope that he has some good years ahead because he is a key component in the Lakers and the notorious Lake Show. Canadian box lacrosse reigns supreme!

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