Sunday, May 31, 2009

Top 15 NBA Players of All Time (1-5)

Within the previous two posts, I ran my countdown of the Top 15 Greatest NBA Players of All Time. If you missed the posts, you may want to check out players ranked #15 through #11, followed by those ranked #10 through #6, and then return here for the unveiling of the top five, presented in reverse order.

15) Karl Malone 
14) Julius Erving
13) Moses Malone 
12) Jerry West 
11) Kobe Bryant
10) Oscar Robertson 
9) Shaquille O'Neal 
8) Tim Duncan 
7) Hakeem Olajuwon 
6) Larry Bird

5) Earvin Johnson, Jr. - "Magic"

MVP Awards: 3 (1987, 1989, 1990)  
MVP Voting:  9 years in the Top 3
NBA Titles:
5 (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)
All-NBA First Team: 9 years  
All-NBA Second Team: 1 year
                    

Magic played in 9 NBA Finals, and won 5 of those, compared to Bird's 5 Finals appearances and 3 championships. Because this is a list, I have to act as if someone held a gun to my head and said "no ties are permitted!". Magic is just a hair's length ahead of Bird on this list. Arguably the most charismatic player there ever was, he has the greatest nickname ever: Magic Johnson. He captivated the basketball world with his brilliant no-look passes as he ran the Laker's vaunted Showtime fast-break offense.

It has been roughly 18 years (November 7, 1991) since Magic abruptly retired due to having "attained" the HIV virus. I was able to find footage of the press conference and sub it below for your viewing. When watching the announcement live at the time, I wasn't alone in thinking he would be dead in a few years, and almost two decades later, Earvin Johnson looks as healthy as ever. When Magic said he was going to be around for a long time, he wasn't kidding!



In addition to being one of the great passers ever, averaging ridiculous assist numbers per season, nobody ever ran the fastbreak better than Magic Johnson. Magic is unlike any player the NBA has ever seen before or since. At 6'9", he remains the tallest Point Guard in the history of the league, but his major calling card is this: Magic Johnson is the only player in the history of basketball who could not only effectively play any position on the court, but dominate NBA games from any position. And dominate games, he did.

The Top Ten Playoff Plays of Magic Johnson:



Magic Johnson - The Greatest Point Guard Ever:



4) Wilt Chamberlain 

MVP Awards: 4 (1960, 1966, 1967, 1968)
NBA Titles: 2 (1967, 1972)
All-NBA First Team: 7 years
All-NBA Second Team: 3 years



Wilton Norman Chamberlain "was basketball's unstoppable force, the most awesome offensive force the game has ever seen", says NBA.com. The thing about Chamberlain are the numbers associated with him. 50 points per game for an entire season. 100 points in one game. 55 rebounds in another. Never fouling out in a regular season or playoff game in 14 seasons, despite playing virtually every minute of every game. And you can't forget 20,000 women, either.

For me, one of the most impressive Wilt Chamberlain feats occurred on February 2, 1968, when he recorded the first and only Double Triple-Double in NBA history - 22 points, 25 rebounds, and 21 assists.

Wilt Chamberlain at 17 years of age:



Wilt Chamberlain at the 1972 NBA All-Star Game:



3) Bill Russell

MVP Awards: 5 (1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965)
MVP Voting: 10 consecutive years in the Top 5 
NBA Titles: 11 (1957, '59, '60, '61, '62, '63, '64, '65, '66, '68, '69)
All-NBA First Team: 3 years
All-NBA Second Team: 8 years

Wilton Felton Russell is the greatest winner in team sports. He has more championship rings (11) than he does fingers. Russell is almost definently the greatest defensive player to ever play the game. His main rival was Wilt Chamberlain, who got most of the attention and recognition, while Russell kept winning championship after championship. Offense was not his strength, but he still got by with a 15 point per game average. Russell is arguably the greatest shot blocker ever (even better than Chamberlain), and he's easily the greatest team player of all time. Big Bill Russell is the ultimate winner, and that is what the game of basketball essentially boils down to: Winning it all.  Russell/Chamberlain reminds me of Brady/Manning in the NFL, in that Russell was 10-0 in Game 7's while Brady is undefeated in Overtime. Whereas Chamberlain and Manning get more praise heaped their way, Russell and Brady win the championships and lead their teams. Russell even served as player/coach during his final season, likely becoming the only player/coach to win an NBA Championship. 

Bill Russell Mix:

Bill Russell - Spirit:

2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (formerly Lew Alcindor) 

MVP Awards: 6 (1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1980)
NBA Titles: 6 (1971, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)
All-NBA First Team: 10 years
All-NBA Second Team: 5 years


Kareem often gets the shaft in many of the Top Ten lists I've seen floating around. There is no way in the world that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar isn't at least in the Top Five of any all-time greats list. Let's review. Kareem is considered by many to be the greatest High School basketball player ever. He's also considered by many people to be the greatest College basketball player ever. He was the DOMINANT player of the 1970s'. Kareem had a career value and longevity in the NBA that only Moses Malone comes close to, retiring as the NBA's all-time leader in Points scored in a career and minutes played in a career. He's not the greatest NBA player ever, but one can make a legitimate argument that Kareem IS the most accomplished basketball player ever (factoring in HS and College basketball).

The Top Ten Plays of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Career:




1) Michael Jordan - "His Airness", "Air Jordan"

MVP Awards: 5 (1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998)
NBA Titles: 6 (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998)
All-NBA First Team: 10 years
All-NBA Second Team: 1 year



Michael Jordan is the greatest NBA player of all time. He was both the best offensive player and the best defensive player in the league for several years. Jordan played every minute of every game like it was the closing seconds of Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and was the unquestioned leader of one of the great NBA teams ever, the 72-10 '96-'97 Chicago Bulls. There's not much else for me to say that the quotes below don't cover. These quotes reflect why I believe MJ is and always will be the GOAT until someone can seriously challenge him for the title.
"Air Jordan was the most skilled, most athletic, toughest, meanest, most inspirational and most competitive of all the shooting guards who have ever played the game. He dominated both ends of the floor. He also was the biggest winner and perhaps the greatest clutch player in history."

"The credentials -- and pictures -- speak for themselves: six championship rings, five MVP awards, six Finals MVP awards, one defensive POY award. And his career numbers were otherworldly, most notably 32,292 points (third all time) and a 30.1 points per game scoring average (first). Oh, and he averaged 20 points and six rebounds as a 40-year-old! Only his last two seasons in Washington kept him from shooting more than 50 percent for his career."

"Jordan had no real weaknesses; he mastered every facet of the game. He dominated a big man's game and was the leader of the only dynasty in NBA history that did not feature a dominant center." - ESPN, Greatest Shooting Guards of All Time
"By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. Although, a summary of his basketball career and influence on the game inevitably fails to do it justice, as a phenomenal athlete with a unique combination of fundamental soundness, grace, speed, power, artistry, improvisational ability and an unquenchable competitive desire, Jordan single-handedly redefined the NBA superstar."

"Even contemporaneous superstars recognized the unparalleled position of Jordan. Magic Johnson said, 'There's Michael Jordan and then there is the rest of us.' Larry Bird, following a playoff game where Jordan dropped 63 points on the Boston Celtics in just his second season, said the performance was from 'God disguised as Michael Jordan.'" - NBA.Com
Michael Jordan in his Absolute Prime:
The 69 Point, 18 Rebound, 7 Assist Game (vs. Cleveland, 1990):

KBlaze Presents - The Best of Young Jordan (Pre-1990):

 The Top Ten Playoff Plays of Michael Jordan's Career:

So there you have it. The Top 15 Players in NBA History, as I see fit:

15) Karl Malone 
14) Julius Erving
13) Moses Malone 
12) Jerry West 
11) Kobe Bryant (with 4 rings) 
10) Oscar Robertson 
9) Shaquille O'Neal 
8) Tim Duncan
7) Hakeem Olajuwon  
6) Larry Bird 
5) Magic Johnson 
4) Wilt Chamberlain 
3) Bill Russell 
2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 
1) Michael Jordan

Let the debate begin!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kobe needs to be moved up to number two or three.

Anonymous said...

Hell no. Kobe is not even better than Shaq in my opinion.