Sunday, May 31, 2009

Top 15 NBA Players of All Time (11-15)

15) Karl Malone - "The Mailman"

MVP Awards: 2 (1997, 1999)
MVP Voting: 9 years in the Top 5
NBA Titles: 0
All-NBA First Team: 11 years
All-NBA Second Team: 2 years

The history of the NBA cannot be written without the name of Karl Malone. He had a career longetivity that few others have matched, and was one of the strongest players in the history of the league, thanks to an intense workout regimen. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has ever scored more career points than Karl Malone, who finished with 37,000+. I never really liked him as a player, but I cannot deny that he's probably the second greatest Power Forward of all time and the greatest pure Power Forward ever. Much like Bird and Magic, "Stockton to Malone" will forever link the two, who played together for 18 seasons, 5 more seasons than any other pair of teammates.

Karl Malone's 61-Point Game:

The Top Ten Plays of Stockton to Malone:

14) Julius Erving - "Dr. J"

NBA MVP Awards: 1 (1981)
ABA MVP Awards: 3
NBA Titles: 1 (1983)
ABA Titles: 2 (1974, 1976)
All-NBA First Team: 5 years
All-ABA First Team: 4 years
All-NBA Second Team: 2 years
All-ABA Second Team: 1 year

Julius Erving was like nobody else that ever came before him, with the exception of maybe Connie Hawkins. ABA Doc was that era's equivalant of LeBron James today. I feel that the ABA players were just as good as the NBA players, and that Doc's ABA numbers should be considered. When they are, Doc has 30,000 career points scored, sixth all time on the list. Erving isn't the greatest small forward in NBA history, but he's right up there at the top three. I am adding footage of Doc in his prime that I included in a prior post to show readers why I see LeBron as being Doc on steroids with a sprinkle of Magic Johnson as well. Without Erving to show the way, there may have never been a Jordan, and so forth.

Below is roughly two minutes or so of in-game footage of Dr. J in his absolute prime in the 1977 NBA Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers, led by Bill Walton. Walton's Blazers were down 0-2, but came back to win four straight and give Portland an NBA championship. Doc had to wait six more years before he got his.

Dr. J in the 1977 NBA Finals - The Most Explosive Player Ever:

The Top Ten Dunks of Julius Erving's Career:

KBlaze Presents - The Best Of Julius Erving:

13) Moses Malone

MVP Awards: 3 (1979, 1982, 1983)
NBA Titles: 1 (1983)
All-NBA First Team: 4 years
All-NBA Second Team: 4 years

Moses Malone is primarily known as the greatest offensive rebounder in NBA History. 41% of Moses Malone's 16,212 rebounds were offensive rebounds. When Moses came to Philadelphia to play with Dr. J, the 1982-1983 Sixers became one of the great teams in the history of the game, immortalized by Moses's "Fo, Fo, Fo" boast before the playoffs started that the Sizers would sweep every series. He was wrong by one game, and the quote became "Fo, Fi, Fo". Younger people remember him at the end of his career as the old guy wearing goggles, but Moses was one of the fifteen greatest players of all time. Elliott Kalb wrote the following of Malone:
"Moses Malone had the peak value that very few players in history had (three MVP's in a four-year period). He had the career longevity that no one else could better. Moses Malone played 21 years of professional basketball. He played the first two in the ABA and the last 19 in the NBA. Only one other player (Robert Parish) played as long. There is no one who played as long, as well, and as hard as Moses Malone."

The Top Ten Playoff Plays of Moses Malone's Career:

12) Jerry West - "Mr. Clutch","Zeke from Cabin Creek"

MVP Awards: 0
MVP Voting: 2nd in 1966, 1970, 1971, and 1972
NBA Titles: 1 (1972)
All-NBA First Team: 10 years
All-NBA Second Team: 2 years

Jerry West is the NBA's Logo. Literally. He's The Logo. West isn't the greatest Shooting Guard of all time, but he's top three in my book. He went to the NBA Finals nine different seasons, but won it all only once. Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics kept denying West's Lakers year after year. As a player, Jerry West was so great in defeat that he remains to this day the only player to ever win the Finals MVP award as a member of the losing team.

Jerry West is also known as a great General Manager (he signed Shaq and traded for a high school kid by the name of K. Bryant or something like that, if you hadn't heard). However, West once again demonstrated why he represents the heartbreak of the NBA better than anyone. He was the General Manager for the Memphis Grizzlies after leaving the Lakers' post. Bill Simmons detailed the agony best here:

"What if Memphis landed LeBron instead of Cleveland? Take a trip back to the 2003 lottery with me. We're down to the final two teams. If Memphis draws the No. 2 pick, it goes to Detroit because of the stupid Otis Thorpe trade the Grizzlies made five years before. If the Griz draw No. 1, they get LeBron. Arguably, it's the greatest hit-or-miss moment in the history of professional sports -- like going on "Deal or No Deal," getting down to two suitcases and having a 50/50 chance of winning $500 million. For a few seconds, the cameras show Jerry West, who has the same look on his face Forrest Gump had when he was hooking up with Jenny for the first time. If he had dropped dead right then, nobody would have been surprised.

Well, we know how it turned out: Cleveland got the pick, Memphis got nothing, and eventually, a heartbroken West retired and disappeared off the face of the earth, presumably to spend the next few years playing Russian roulette in Southeast Asia like Chris Walken in "The Deer Hunter."

The Best of Jerry West:

11) Kobe Bryant - "Black Mamba"

MVP Awards: 1 (2008)
NBA Titles: 4 (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009)
All-NBA First Team: 7 years
All-NBA Second Team: 2 years

I've discussed him earlier in this blog here, but with Kobe, it's all about the numbers. Kobe has now gone to 7 NBA Finals and will probably win his fourth NBA championship and first without Shaq. He is the architect of "The 81-Point Game" and "Kobe 62, Dallas Mavericks 61". He's going to end up with 35,000+  points in his career when it's all said and done, putting him at #3 all time ahead of Wilt and Jordan and just behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. For some people, it's hard to imagine Kobe Bryant as one of the 11 greatest players in NBA History, but when you think about it, he's the second greatest shooting guard ever, and still has four or five more good seasons left in him to climb the list.

Kobe will be remembered as this era's Wilt Chamberlain in terms of his scoring prowess. and he'll also be remembered for his ferocious work ethic and intense competitiveness, all serving his desire to be the greatest of all time. Many fans dislike Kobe because they see him as a ball hog, as someone who has an inflated sense of self, and as someone whose exterior personality is fake. They say he tries too hard to be like Jordan. both in skill set and on-court temperament. I don't disagree with any of those points. But you can't deny that there is one thing Kobe is better than Jordan at, and that is shooting. Kobe is a better shooter from longer distances than Jordan ever was. In everything else, Jordan was better. Not significantly better, mind you, but better. Nonethless, Kobe is one of the All-Time Greats. If he gets to 5 rings, he'll enter the Top 10.  

The 81-Point Game:

Kobe 62, Dallas Mavericks 61 after Three Quarters:                                                          

The Top Ten Playoff Plays of Kobe Bryant's Career:

 And now, check out the Top Ten NBA Players of All Time!

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