The fabulous SLAM Magazine have recently published another great collectors magazine citing the #100 greatest players of all time. It is a major undertaking and one that will never receive unanimous agreement.
The challenges to any list like this are memory, type of stats we look to and the make up of the league at any one time. Stats only tell a partial story, the league has had regular expansion which changes the challenge for titles and our memories usually gravitate to the players we remember best. The current players in our league are exceptional and in a couple of years time, the top 10 may well change.
My Top 10 of all time are:
#1 – Michael Jordan and Lebron James (Tied) – These players are stand out and clearly ahead of the field but I do not believe they can be split at this stage. There are so many ‘Ifs’ with Jordan but in a list like this, he took 3 years out and that damages what may have been. Lebron may well sneak ahead after a couple of more seasons but at present these guys are the top of the pile.
#3 – Bill Russell – Words cannot do justice to all that Russell achieved and the way he played the game. He found ways to win and with an unblemished finals record of 11-0 and was a great team player.
#4 – Magic Johnson and Larry Bird (Tied) – Without each other, neither would have reached their heights, the challenge to beat one another rescued the league, brought rivalry to a new level and once again brought the ‘team game’ to basketball. It is more than stats, the aura they brought to the floor, the expectation of winning challenged any competitor before the first tip. As individuals, Magic rises ahead, with the team ethic, Larry marches on – overall – impossible to split.
#6 – Kobe Bryant – The Black Mamba was exceptional and achieved at times when he should not have done. His mentality and drive changed peoples perception of the game and he consistently delivered.
#7 – Wilt Chamberlain – A champion who came second. His failing was being in the same era as Bill Russell but he may have matched his counterpart if he played better team ball. He controlled the rock and dominated so much…but was just a step away from that top 5.
#8 – Hakeem Olajuwon – A powerhouse of a centre who may have won more finger jewellery if it was not for a certain Bulls legend. He brought fear to the opposition and won games with both offensive and defensive intensity, even getting that elusive quadruple double.
#9 – Tim Duncan – Mr Consistency who delivered without the support that other teams had. He led when necessary and took a back seat when necessary – he had it all and the rings to demonstrate it. One of those players who was technically brilliant – with a little more flexibility and support, he may have been in that top 5.
#10 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – He should have been #1 and perhaps could have been. However, that mid career blip that needed Magic to re-invigorate him denied him that stand out brilliance. You can never doubt the talent, the brilliance but the lack of career long intensity denies him so much.
In future, will Kevin Durant or Steph Curry be in the mix? What about Shaq or Dave Cowens? No list is perfect and all are arguable but we can all be grateful that these discussions are a lot of fun. What about you? Who would make your top 10?