The Quick Report 07.28.08: 10 Greatest Players in NBA History
Posted by Ben Quick on 07.28.2008
It's not filler! I swear!
Last week I mentioned that we are in a "boring period" of the NBA off season. It's way too early to start seriously analyzing the 2008-2009 season. I could write about Team USA, but we're still about a week or so before that becomes serious itself. So, since not much is really going on, I hope you all can forgive my self indulgence this week. Whenever I write a top ten list for anything it does feel a little like filler, but this time it's a little different. The other day I was at lunch with a fellow basketball junkie and I brought up the concept of the 10 greatest players ever. It sounds like a cake walk, right? That's what I thought. With even leaving the idea of ranking the players out, after about six names it gets tough because there have been so many great players in NBA history. People can knock the association all they want, but the NBA has as great of a legacy as in any other sport. From George Mikan to Greg Oden, there's been some amazing talents grace the hardwood. So, for fun, why not make a list of the 10 best ever? That's the idea...
10. Bob Cousy
This was the toughest slot to pick for. Whenever you pick the tenth spot you leave off the dozen or so guys that also deserve mention. This pick came down to Bob Cousy vs. Julius Erving. Obviously Dr. J was the better athlete and a more exciting player, but I have a hard time selecting a guy for the top 10 who spent arguably the best years of his career in the ABA. Besides, Bob Cousy extremely deserves to be selected in his own right. In the thirteen years that Cousy played for the Boston Celtics(1950-1963) Bob averaged 18 ppg, 5 rpg and 7.5 apg and won six championships with Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics. Many consider Bob Cousy to be the first great point guard in the history of the NBA. If you have problems with this pick ask yourself one question. How many other point guards were able to quarterback a team to six championships?
9. Tim Duncan
Some may not like that boring old Tim Duncan is the only current NBA player to make the list, but when you step back and look at Timmy's career, he deserves the selection. No player in the NBA today has led his team to more success than Duncan. Sure, Shaq can claim four titles just as Duncan can, but does anyone really want to try and pretend that he was anything more than a decoy for Dwayne Wade on his only championship with the Heat? Kobe Bryant may be the most skilled player in the league, perhaps maybe ever, but the two chances he's had at leading a team to a championship as the team's best player(2004 and 2008) he's failed miserably. Tim Duncan has had help, but he's still been the best player on a team that has never won less than 50 games since he was drafted to the Spurs in 1997(not counting the lockout). Tim Duncan is the best power forward in NBA history. He has made the Spurs one of the most successful teams in sports for a decade and has carried them to being one of only four teams to have won more than three titles in NBA history. By the time his career is over I'm sure Duncan will rank higher on the list.
8. Jerry West
If Bob Cousy was the first great point guard then Jerry West was the first great shooting guard. He's the logo. He's Mr. Clutch. He's the best player to never be named MVP. This is amazing on the fact alone that he was named to the NBA's First Team ten times. Jerry West was the one of the bigger heroes and victims of the original Celtic dynasty. He was a hero for the fact that he, along with his fellow Laker teammates Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain, challenged the mighty Celtics more than any other team. His count of championships may be few, but Jerry West pioneered the two guard position and had the will of a true champion.
7. Oscar Robertson
One could argue that Oscar Robertson has the greatest stat line in NBA history. His stat line reads 25.7 ppg, 9.5 apg and 7.5 rpg. You can add to that his record of 181 career triple doubles and you're looking at a player that has stats that few can top, if any. The only real problem with Oscar Robertson's career is that he was only able to capture two rings toward the end of his career. Two championships are nothing to scoff at, but it's what has kept him from being discussed in the uppermost tiers of NBA greatness. For the fact that he averaged a triple double for an entire season, a feat no other player has accomplished in NBA history, how can anyone say that he wasn't one of the 10 best ever? His name my not be that of some of the other players on the list, but to basketball junkies he's a legend all the same.
6. Larry Bird
Larry Bird is the perfect example of why basketball is an amazing sport. Here's a player that didn't have many natural gifts. He was tall, but not overwhelmingly so. Larry Bird was never the athlete that Dr. J or Michael Jordan was. Still, in his prime one could argue he was the very best player in the world. Larry Bird was an extremely smart player. His basketball IQ was second to none. He had a game that was built of that IQ and strong fundamentals. The legendary Celtic architect Red Auerbach once said that Larry Bird was the best player he'd ever seen. Larry Bird was a player that won three championships and also three MVP trophies. When the average fan thinks of the NBA generally three names come to mind. Larry Bird is one of them and the other two are still to come.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
It doesn't matter what you call him. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Lew Alcindor. This UCLA Bruin was one of the most dominate players we will ever see. His infamous sky hook isn't only the most famous single shot in the history of the sport, but it was also the most devastating. In Kareem's career he won titles with both the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers, with his final total coming to six. Kareem also holds the record for most MVP trophies with six. I always feel that a lot of people just remember his goofy appearance and not for the fact that one could argue he was the greatest center of all time. I don't know if I would make that argument, but one could. With six rings, six MVPs and being the NBA's all-time career scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will always make this list.
4. Wilt Chamberlain
This will probably be my most controversial selection. Not really because of the player, but more because of his placing on the list. Okay, there's no question that Wilt Chamberlain was the most dominate individual in NBA history. His records of scoring 100 points and grabbing 55 rebounds in single game performances and adding to that of being the only player to ever average an unthinkable 50 points per game may lead some to proclaim him the greatest of all time. I can definitely understand that impulse, but I always hesitate to do so. I can't call a player the greatest of all time that wasn't ever apart of a dynasty. With all of the great champions in NBA history, I can't place at the top a guy who only won two rings. Still, when it comes to setting records and dominating on an individual level, Wilt will never be topped.
3. Magic Johnson
The number ten pick, Bob Cousy, may have been the first true great NBA point guard, but Magic Johnson is the greatest point guard ever. It's not even close either. More than any other player will probably ever achieve, Magic Johnson is remembered as the ultimate passer and facilitator. His stat line may seem a little meek for being selected at #3(19.5 ppg, 11.2 apg and 7.2 rpg), but the five rings that he lead the Showtime Lakers to will more suffice. No player in NBA history proved that basketball is at its best when all five players are involved more than Magic. Oh, and this is the second of those names I mentioned earlier...
2. Bill Russell
For all the people who like to debate Larry vs. Magic, I've always thought Russell vs. Chamberlain was much more interesting. Which player is the greatest center ever? Is it the greatest offensive force the game has ever seen or the greatest defensive force the game has ever seen? Well, for me, I have to go with Russell. The guy is the father figure of the NBA. Whenever you see him at a game or an NBA event now he just brings such a level of class that no other player can match. That probably has to do with the eleven rings that he has. Bill Russell was the best player on a team that won 11 championships in 13 seasons. The Boston Celtics of the 1960's will always be the greatest dynasty in the history of the game. If it wasn't for the strength of my #1 pick I would feel kind of stupid for not selecting Russell at the top.
1. Michael Jordan
Okay, I know it's a little obvious and I don't mean little. The three names that the average fan thinks of when they think of the NBA are Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, but let's be honest, Michael's still on another level than Magic and Larry. When I look at Michael Jordan's accomplishments it never fails to amaze me. Let see, six NBA Championships, five MVP awards, six NBA Finals MVP awards, ten NBA scoring titles and a career stat line of 30 ppg, 6.2 rpg and 5.3 apg. Still, why Michael is the greatest player in NBA history goes far beyond the awards and stats. Never was there a player more suited for the big stage than Michael Jordan. When you saw him play it was obvious that Michael Jordan needed to win as much as he needed air. Whenever he was in a game there was never any doubt that he the best player on the floor.
More so than at any time in NBA history, in Michael Jordan's prime there was never any doubt who the best player in the league was. Today you can debate on Kobe vs. LeBron, but when Michael was leading the Bulls to those six championships it was a joke to even pretend a player was better than he was(just as Charles Barkley and Karl Malone). Michael Jordan led the Bulls to six NBA Championships without a major low post presence. That just doesn't happen, people. Today every superstar that enters the league is asked to pass the Michael Jordan test. Most have failed and none have completely succeeded. In a sport you only get one truly great player. That one player that transcends the sport. For baseball it was Babe Ruth, golf has Tiger and boxing had Ali. Basketball has Michael Jordan, the greatest.
Well, that's it for my filler column. Next week I think I'll have to take a look at the roster for Team USA. No disrespect to other countries' teams, but the USA should always win that tournament. I'll have to sit down and analyze whether this year's team should fair any better than the 2004 Athens squad did. Until then my peeps!