Monday, June 1, 2009

Top 15 NBA Players of All Time (6-10)

In the last post, I began to run down my list of the Top 15 Greatest NBA Players of All Time. If you missed the prior post, read 11-15 first, and then return to this post for the unveiling of Players 6-10.

15) Karl Malone
14) Julius Erving 
13) Moses Malone 
12) Jerry West 
11) Kobe Bryant 
10) Oscar Robertson - "The Big O"

MVP Awards: 1 (1964)
MVP Voting: 1st in 1964, 8 other years in the Top 5
NBA Titles: 1 (1971)
All-NBA First Team: 9 years
All-NBA Second Team: 2 years

Oscar Robertson just may be the greatest all-around player in NBA history. He is the originator of the Triple Double, and many people know that he is the only player to ever average a triple double for an entire season. What many people don't realize is that Oscar Robertson also averaged a Triple Double over his first 5 seasons as well. Elliott Kalb. author of "Who's Better, Who's Best In Basketball, decided to look at the first five years of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson, and Michael Jordan. He then took the best averages from the group of four players and compared them to Oscar Robertson's averages.

The Best of Bird/Magic/Michael/AI over their first 5 seasons:

42.0 minutes per game, 32.6 points per game, 10.7 rebounds per game, 9.8 assists per game

Averages of Oscar Robertson's first 5 seasons:

44.4 minutes per game, 30.3 points per game, 10.4 rebounds per game, 10.6 assists per game

Amazing stuff, indeed. Oscar only won one ring, and that was when a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came to Milwaukee. Abdul-Jabbar, in a 1981 Inside Sports article, said "I may achieve a lot in terms of statistics, but I still think Oscar Robertson is the best ever".

KBlaze Presents - The Best Of Oscar Robertson:

9) Shaquille O'Neal - "Shaq", "The Big Aristole"

MVP Awards: 1 (2000)
NBA Titles: 4 (2000, 2001, 2002, 2006)
All-NBA First Team: 8 years
All-NBA Second Team: 2 years
All-NBA Third Team: 4 years

Other than Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O'Neal was basketball's unstoppable force. I believe that Shaq was offensively unguardable from the low post, partly because of his size and strength, and partly because the referees were unsure of how to properly officiate games he played in. Shaq and Kobe were one of the great duos ever, winning three titles together in Los Angeles, but things turned ugly pretty quickly. Shaq will say whatever is on his mind, and I respect him for that. I don't have a lot to say about Shaq here, but he's one of the all time greats, that's for sure.

The Top Ten Playoff Plays of Shaquille O'Neal's Career:

8) Tim Duncan - "The Big Fundamental"

MVP Awards: 2 (2002, 2003)
MVP Voting: 5th in 1998, 3rd in 1999, 5th in 2000, 2nd in 2001
NBA Titles: 4 (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007)
All-NBA First Team: 9 years
All-NBA Second Team: 3 years

With his selection to the All-NBA Second Team for the 2008-2009 season, Tim Duncan became the "only player in NBA history to be named to an All-NBA Team in each of his first 12 seasons (First Team – 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007; Second Team – 2006, 2008, 2009)".

Other than Russell, Duncan is probably the greatest teammate ever. One of the greatest individual finals performances of all time occured when Tim Duncan scored 21 points, pulled down 20 rebounds, threw 10 assists and added 8 blocked shots in the clinching Game 6 of the 2003 NBA Finals against the New Jersey Nets. He was two blocked shots away from a Quadruple Double, and the first ever in the NBA Finals, much less a Playoff Game.

KBlaze Presents - The Best of Tim Duncan:

7) Hakeem Olajuwon - "Dream"

MVP Awards: 1 (1994)
NBA Titles: 2 (1994, 1995)
All-NBA First Team: 6 years
All-NBA Second Team: 3 years

Hakeem Olajuwon was by far the most skilled center ever. He had the best footwork of any big man ever, partially thanks to his soccer background. A guy on InsideHoops had the following to say about Hakeem: "Imagine Tim Duncan. Then give Tim Duncan Dwight Howard's hops, KG's quickness and jumper, Ron Artest's perimeter defense, and Dikembe Mutombo's post defense. Then you have Dream. Olajuwon is the only player in NBA history to rank in the top 10 all time in 3 major statistical categories: Blocked Shots (1), Points (8), and Steals (8). I rest my case without even having to mention clutch free throw shooting." 

The innovator of the Dream Shake, Hakeem left defenders in his wake. He is the all time blocked shots leader (although Chamberlain and Russell almost certainly blocked more shots back when the NBA didn't keep track of that statistic). He is also one of only four players to ever record a Quadruple Double, having done so on March 19, 1990 against the Milwaukee Bucks. In that regulation-length game, Hakeem Olajuwon scored 18 points, pulled down 16 rebounds, threw 10 assists, and blocked 11 shots. Dream is also the only player ever to win the regular season MVP, defensive player of the year award, and Finals MVP in the same season. 

Shaq said this of Hakeem and the Dream Shake: "Hakeem has five moves then four countermoves, that gives him 20 moves." An example of what Shaq was talking about occured when in the greatest individual one-on-one domination in Playoff history, Hakeem Olajuwon did variations of the Dream Shake over and over and over again on David Robinson. The play-by-play announcer at one point exclaims, "David Robinson is absolutley bamboozled!". The story of this game was that Robinson was accepting his MVP award before the tip-off, and thanked a lot of other centers that had won the award before him, but he did not mention Hakeem. Hakeem was already upset, because he thought that MVP award was his, but he came out with a venegance after Robinson's pre-game speech to the crowd. Check out the memorable footage, and keep watching until the end to see a defeated and close-to-tears David Robinson sitting on the bench knowing that he had been demolished in one of the great performances in NBA history by one of his chief rivals. It should also be noted that in order to win his championships, Hakeem had to go through his three greatest rivals (Robinson, Ewing, and Shaq) and he handled them all with relative ease.

Hakeem Olajuwon DOMINATES David Robinson in the greatest Individual One-on-One Playoff Performance Of All Time:

KBlaze Presents - The Best Of Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon:

6) Larry Bird - "Larry Legend", "Basketball Jesus"

MVP Awards: 3 (1984, 1985, 1986)
MVP Voting:
6 consecutive years in the Top 2                                                                8 consecutive years in the Top 3
NBA Titles: 3 (1981, 1984, 1986)
All-NBA First Team: 9 consecutive years (beginning in 1980)
All-NBA Second Team: 1 year

I have Bird and Magic joined together at the hip. When you think of Bird, you have to think of Magic. When you think of Magic, you have to think of Bird. Larry Bird is the greatest Small Forward ever, with only LeBron James having an outside shot at taking that title away from him. I wrote a lengthy blog post on Bird that one can view here called "Larry Legend" that goes further in depth, but I'll say here that I think Bird is probably the most intelligent player ever, and one of the two most clutch players in the history of the game (Jordan and West fight for the other spot). I personally cannot agree with any All-Time Greats list where Bird isn't found within at least the Top Seven.

Bird Steals The Ball:

KBlaze Presents - Larry Bird, The Best Ever:

And now.... The Five Greatest NBA Players ever!

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