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.