There has been a lot of talk over who is the greatest NBA player of all time the last few weeks.
Michael Jordan started it by saying he would take Kobe Bryant over LeBron James. Skip Brainless and Screamin’ A. Smith took it to another level all week on ESPN’s First Take. Michael Smith, Jalen Rose, and Hugh Douglas debated over it on what is quickly becoming my new favorite sports show “Numbers Never Lie”.
Well, those cats gave their opinions on who is the G.O.A.T. (most, if not all, picked Jordan). It’s time for me to give mine.
To me Magic is the greatest player for several reasons. He (and Larry Bird) was credited with saving and popularizing the NBA. He invented Showtime that fans had come to love (or loathe if you were a fan of the Boston Celtics or Philadelphia 76ers at the time).
More important, Magic was perhaps the most versatile player to play the game. Remember the 1980 NBA Finals? Magic played center for an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and dominated (42 points and 15 rebounds). Magic also played the other four positions in that game. That effort led his Lakers to an 123-107 Finals clinching win and earned Magic Finals MVP honors – the first AND ONLY rookie to win the award.
For his career Magic averaged 19.5 points, 11.2 assists, and 7.2 rebounds per game.
Think about this, Magic was a 6’9″ player who dominated as a POINT GUARD. He was practically a Karl Malone with handles. That has never been seen before, and hasn’t been seen since.
Sure Magic won ONLY five titles compared to Jordan’s six. However, we are talking about the greatest PLAYER – not greatest WINNER (that would be Bill Russell, not Jordan), nor the greatest scorer (that would be Kareem, not Jordan).
Now that I have given my rant on why Magic is the greatest NBA player, here is my top 10 ranking of all the greatest NBA players of all-time.
- Magic Johnson
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He had the most unstoppable shot: the sky hook.
- Bill Russell. Not only is he considered the greatest winner (11 NBA titles), he was able to neutralize what was considered the most unstoppable force at the time…
- Wilt Chamberlain. He was the Shaq during the 50s and 60s. No one could stop him – except Russell.
- Michael Jordan. He’s definitely the greatest MODERN player, but the not THE greatest player.
- George Mikan. He was the original big man. He led his Lakers to the first NBA title.
- Larry Bird. This cat was the greatest shooter – and trash talker – in league history. People who called him the greatest white American player in NBA history did not pay attention to how great he really was on those Celtics teams.
- Shaquille O’Neal. Was the unstoppable force during his prime. He was the reason why the Lakers won those three titles in the 2000s (three Finals MVPs).
- Tim Duncan. He is probably the most under-appreciated player on this list. He can shoot, pass, rebound, hit foul shots – and won four NBA titles. His Spurs (and Shaq’s Lakers) dominated the Western Conference from 1999-2010. Without Duncan, the Spurs would have zero championships.
- Kobe Bryant.
I can understand some of those except shaq. I can think of one Center you left off that list that showed Shaq up in 2 years straight knocking him and the magic out of the playoffs. It’s was very clear that Hakeem “the dream” Olajuwan was and will always be one of the greatest centers to ever play. Shaq while a lovable character is not even in the top 20.
My bad on that one Chris. The Dream is one of the best centers I’ve seen play in the NBA.
While I would have Wilt at the top of my list, your list is instantly valid for not having Jordan at the top.
We are agreed on Magic Johnson. I said as much about him over MJ in front of Bobby Brown at a restaurant bar in Encino 3 years ago, and he looked at me as if I were non compos mentis. We got into it a little.
THE Bobby Brown? I bet that was a hilarious conversation in and of itself. Hell, I’m impressed that he could even articulate a rational thought…
I have this argument with people all the time… The Jordanites are just so mad when you even suggest somebody else was just as great as Michael… But Magic would have been a HOFmer at any position. There is no other player in the history of all sports who can say that. Magic and Larry got everybody watching again in the 80s just in time to witness Michael’s unrivaled greatness in the 90s.