Monday, May 12, 2008

Top 100 Basketball Players of All-Time

Two years ago, I put together the 50 best players in history for each of the four major sports. That was a daunting and time consuming task but I was fairly happy with the results. As time moved along, it started to bother me more and more that I didn’t have a “top 100” so I’ve spent the last six months or so working on that. For the most part, the players rated in my original "top 50" stayed in the same spots with a few exceptions. There was limited player movement that mostly involved active players. Also, there were a few instances where a player moved into the top 50 who was previously left out two years ago.

Please read the following before moving on to the list…

1). It is important to know why and how I chose to rate active players. A list like this isn’t nearly as fun or accurate if we just pretend active players don’t exist. The way I rated active players is simple. I considered their accomplishments up to this point and then assumed a healthy, reasonable, finish to their careers.

2). None of the rankings are arbitrary or without multiple rationalizations. If you would like a clarification, feel free to ask. I’d be happy to rationalize a ranking. If I agree with an objection, then I'll be happy to make a change.

3). It is not uncommon for sports fans to discount current players with respect to history because a). present-day players don’t have the luxury of accumulating gaudy statistics and award-counts against weak competition and b). their most cherished memories are from childhood so there is an inherent preference towards players from earlier generations. I can understand why the overrating occurs but, at the same time, I’m not going to do it here.

4). These lists are based on the NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL. I would love to have the insight to include players from international leagues. The same goes for the Negro Leagues. Instead of pretending to know more than I do, I only chose to rate players who did their work in the four major leagues.

5). The list is based on statistics through December '07.

6). First and last names for each player have different links. First names link to Wikipedia-entries and last names link to career-stats.

7). For more information, click here. It’s my criterion from the original "Top 50." It’s basically the same with more boring detail.


Top 100 Basketball Players of All-Time

1) Michael Jordan

There isn't a doubt in my mind that Michael Jordan is the best basketball player in NBA history. He was so good that he didn't win MVP awards because of it. People got tired of voting for him so they started passing the award around to other NBA stars. In all, Jordan won six NBA Championships, six Finals MVPs, five NBA MVPs, and three All Star game MVPs. He was even selected to nine first team All-Defensive teams. Had Jordan not retired for two years the first time around, his career accomplishments would have been even more ludicrous. He almost surely would have won two more NBA Championships as well as two additional MVP awards. Luckily for the Houston Rockets, that never happened. Even with multiple retirements, Jordan is easily the best player in NBA history.

2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

I always knew Kareem was good. You don't hold the record for most points in NBA history by being average. What I didn't know was just how good he was. I only got to see the “bald” portion of his career. In his prime, Kareem was unstoppable. He amassed six MVP awards (most all-time), six NBA Championships, two Finals MVPs, and 19 All-Star appearances (most all-time). His patented "skyhook" was an unblockable weapon. His defensive skills earned him five selections to the First Team All-Defense. His all-around skills made him the perfect big man for Pat Riley's up-tempo offense. Kareem has the most First-Team All-NBA selections of any center in history. He has the most All-NBA (first, second, and third) selections of any player in history. He finished in the top five of the NBA MVP voting 15 times. No player has even come close to that.

3) Magic Johnson

Magic's greatness can be quantified by citing a lot of statistics. But, I think the single most compelling evidence of his greatness is that there hasn't been a player since who has been able to do the things he did. He was a 6'8 point guard who could run the break, drive to the hole, rebound and post-up. His excellence produced five NBA Championships and three MVPs. He accomplished all of that despite the fact that his career ended at 31 years of age. One can only imagine what he could have done with five-to-ten more years added to his career. Magic holds a slight edge over Shaq in a number of categories. He holds a 5-4 Championship advantage, a 9-8 All-NBA First Team advantage, a 9-8 advantage in top-5 MVP finishes, and a 3-1 MVP advantage (although both won three Finals MVPs). Magic is 6th on the all-time Wins Shares Above Average-list. Shaq is 7th. Plus, as a 6’8 point guard, Magic is one of the few players in NBA history who can claim a size advantage relative to his position on par with Shaq’s.

4) Shaquille O'Neal

I realize that this won't be a popular placement. I've actually thought about moving Shaq down the list simply to make this list “look” more accurate. But, if I did that, it wouldn't be my list. Shaq is the most unstoppable force in NBA history. His size and athleticism transcend all eras. There are a number of reasons why he won't be rated this highly by most but few, if any, have anything to do with the fact that he dominated the most talented and physically demanding era in NBA history. To be honest, I can't say that I'm thrilled to have Shaq at #4. The majority of his skills are below average. He can't shoot free throws. He can't shoot outside of eight feet. He can't drive to the rim. The things he can't do significantly outweigh the things he can. His game isn't well-rounded by any means. However, the one thing that he has going for him makes him the most unstoppable force in NBA history. No player has ever been able to successfully guard Shaq straight up. In fact, defensive ploys such as the "hack-a-Shaq" were used to avoid having to play defense against him. Shaq benefits from being the biggest man to ever play the game. He has received the benefit of doubt on thousands of uncalled offensive fouls due to his “size". Right or wrong, Shaq's size has allowed him to get away with liberties. Those liberties, combined with his size and athleticism make him un-guardable. Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell had similar success but the difference is that Shaq would have bullied Chamberlain and Russell, too. Shaq is bigger and stronger than Wilt. And, considering Shaq and Wilt shared virtually the same skill-set, Shaq gets the advantage. He is bigger and stronger and dominated in a more difficult era. The average frontcourt player in Wilt's day was 6'7--or Rip Hamilton. Shaq has three NBA Finals MVPs. Only Michael Jordan has more. He has been selected to 14 NBA All-Star games. Only Kareem has more. Shaq has eight First Team All-NBA selections. Only Kareem has more among centers. He has a career shooting percentage of 58%. Only Artis Gilmore was better. By the time he retires, Shaq will have played in more playoff games than anyone in NBA history other than Kareem and Robert Horry. He has the second best PER (Player Efficiency Rating) in NBA history behind Michael Jordan. PER measures everything that a player contributes both positive and negative. Shaq took his teams to the playoffs in 15 of his 16 seasons including nine Conference Finals appearances, six Finals appearances, and four NBA Championships. For all his greatness, Wilt won two Championships in a mediocre era. If you were building a team right now and you could choose any player in NBA history—in their prime—Jordan would probably be your first choice and Shaq would probably be the second choice even ahead of Kareem and Magic. Wilt and Russell could not handle Shaq in the post and they would have a difficult time scoring on him in the post as well. Differences aside, no reasonable list should have Shaq rated any lower than #7.

5) Wilt Chamberlain

More than a few people probably think that Wilt Chamberlain is the greatest NBA player of all-time. I can respect that viewpoint. I just don't agree with it. He dominated the competition like nobody before or after him. There are a number of reasons why I can't rate Chamberlain higher than fifth. First, Jordan, Kareem, and Magic just have better resumes. Second, his competition wasn't anywhere near what Shaq had to play against. There is no way to quantify the differences in competition-levels but Chamberlain most likely wouldn't have fared as well as Shaq had he played in his era. Keep in mind that Chamberlain was essentially Dwight Howard (big, strong, lean, athletic player without much of a game outside of 8’) playing in the 60s and 70s. Howard gives us a glimpse of what Wilt might be like if he played today. He's good but he certainly isn't scoring 100 points or grabbing 55 rebounds in a game. Lastly, Shaq was the prototype for his position. Shaq was bigger, stronger, and more explosive than Chamberlain. Shaq also won twice as many titles in a vastly more difficult era. As for a Chamberlain/Russell comparison, I give the edge to Wilt. Bill Simmons ("The Sports Guy") recently said that revisionist history has caused Chamberlain to be rated higher than Bill Russell. He also said that back when both men were playing, it was common knowledge that Russell was the better player. If that is the case, then why was Wilt selected to the First Team All-NBA ahead of Russell in seven of the nine seasons that they played together? Also, Chamberlain was 7'1 while Russell was only 6'9. That is a significant difference in height. A match-up like that in the NBA today would be called a "mismatch." The extra four inches are likely the reason Russell wasn't able to match Chamberlain's dominance offensively in an era plagued by 6’7 post-players. The edge goes to Chamberlain.

6) Bill Russell

I am a big fan of taking into consideration championships when analyzing a career. That's not to say that a player who never won a championship can't be better than a player who did win a championship. Nobody, in any sport, has won more championships than Bill Russell. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Unfortunately, I can't justify rating him above the players ahead of him on this list. Winning that many championships takes a good amount of skill and an absurd amount of good fortune. Russell played along side Bob Cousy and John Havlicek who are among the top 50 NBA players of all-time. He also had the "Chamberlain factor" of matching up against much weaker competition than Shaq and Kareem. Russell was awesome. I almost feel like I need to justify ranking him only 6th all-time. Eleven championships will do that to you. He was great, but he was vastly inferior offensively to the players above him on the list. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is also, by far, the lowest of any player that I have rated in the top 20.

7) Tim Duncan

Duncan seems to be slowing down. He is still relatively young. If he can pick things up a bit, he could easily reach the top five. His career accomplishments already stand up pretty good to Magic and Bird. Duncan has won four NBA Championships, two MVPs, and three NBA Finals MVPs. He has been equally good on both offense and defense. He has been selected first team All-Defense eight of his eleven seasons. His PER is the 7th best in NBA history.

8) Larry Bird

I went into the Magic/Bird comparison with an open mind. After looking over everything seemingly a million times and recalling what I saw from each personally, I can't rate Bird higher than Magic. They both won three MVPs but Magic won more NBA Championships (5-3) and more NBA Finals MVPs (3-2). Magic was also a more dynamic player with his ability to play point guard at 6'8. Regardless of his standing behind Magic, I do not feel bad about ranking Bird 8th all-time.

9) Oscar Robertson

I never had the luxury of seeing Robertson play as I'm sure most people haven't. But, his numbers speak volumes. He is the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double over an entire season. He barely missed in four other seasons with assist averages of 9.7 and 9.5 and rebound averages of 9.9 and 9.0. If you're a "rounder", then that's four seasons of averaging a triple-double. His team success doesn't match that of some of the other greats but he did manage to win an NBA Championship and an MVP.

10) Karl Malone

If this list was "championship or bust" then Karl Malone would be out. Malone had a remarkable career that famously produced zero championships. He came close twice but was upended by Michael Jordan's Bulls both times. Thanks to Jordan, there were a lot of great players who never won an NBA Championship including Charles Barkley, Dominique Wilkins, and Patrick Ewing. Malone came close but it never happened. He ranks second on the all-time scoring list behind Kareem. He finished in the top five of the MVP Voting nine times. He was selected to 14 All-Star games which is the second most in NBA history behind Kareem. He won two MVPs and was selected to the All-NBA first team a league record 11 times. That last statistic is why Malone got the nod over the players just below him including Hakeem. A lot of people think Hakeem had the better career but the comparison isn't that close. Malone holds the edge in First Team All-NBA selections (11-6), Top Ten MVP finishes (14-10), Top Three MVP finishes (5-2), MVPs (2-1), and All-Star appearances (14-12). Malone played at least 80 games in 17 of his 19 seasons. Hakeem did it five times. The only edge Hakeem has is the two Championships that Michael Jordan gift-wrapped for him. I'm not going to hold that against Malone.

11) Kobe Bryant

Where Kobe winds up on this list remains to be seen. He could end up in the top five or stay right where he is at. It all depends on whether he can bring the Lakers back to Championship-glory without Shaq. As it stands now, Bryant's career has been spectacular. Although, there is no question that his career was greatly enhanced by Shaq's presence. Together they won three-straight NBA Championships. Apart, Shaq has a title and Kobe does not. Kobe's stellar combination of offensive and defensive brilliance is rarely seen in the NBA. In fact, the only guard that I can recall that played both sides as well is Michael Jordan. Kobe finally has an MVP under his belt which will help his profile. He needs to start piling up the individual hardware if he is going to make a move into the top ten. A few Finals MVPs wouldn't hurt. Jordan has six. Kobe has zero.

12) Hakeem Olajuwon

I view Hakeem Olajuwon on two different fronts. First, I think he might have been the most "skilled" center who has ever played. His repertoire of offensive moves was second-to-none. He was superb on defense and was an excellent passer. His domination of a 23-year old Shaq (and everyone else) in the 1995 NBA Championship was shocking. However, I do think that Hakeem's legacy was greatly enhanced by the first retirement of Michael Jordan. Because of Jordan's retirement, Hakeem managed to finally win an NBA Championship (back-to-back) as well as winning an MVP and two NBA Finals MVPs. Hakeem was a fantastic player but he was definitely in the right place at the right time. Had Jordan retired two seasons later, Karl Malone and John Stockton would have likely gotten those two rings. Hakeem's two Championships, two Finals MVP and NBA MVP all came with Jordan out of the league. Malone's best teams were with Jordan in the league. That's not a knock on Hakeem. It's just important to acknowledge that in a comparison with Malone.

13) Julius Erving

Based on his NBA numbers alone, Dr. J probably doesn't deserve to be rated this high. However, he was so dominant in the ABA that it would be a shame to penalize him for coming from the wrong league. Erving won three MVP's in the ABA which is an impressive feat but shouldn't be confused with winning an NBA MVP where the competition was second-to-none. Erving won two ABA Championships and one NBA Championship. It's not like his NBA-career was second-rate, either. He made 11 All-Star teams. He was selected First Team All-NBA five times. He finished in the top five of the MVP Voting five times and won the MVP in '81.

14) Moses Malone

Moses Malone's career was a lot like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's. Few played better for longer. Malone averaged a double-double for 15 straight seasons which is more than Russell, Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar. All told, Malone collected three MVPs, an NBA Championship and an NBA Finals MVP.

15) David Robinson

David Robinson was my favorite player growing up. I had several posters of "The Admiral" up in my room. He was equally smart as he was exceptional on the court. He single-handedly rejuvenated the San Antonio Spurs organization. The Spurs improved an astounding 35 games from the previous season in Robinson's first year. He led the Spurs to two NBA Championships. He also won an MVP and a Defensive Player of the Year award. He finished in the top three of the MVP Voting five times. He is second all-time in Wins Shares Above Average (WSAA) and third all-time in PER. The most amazing stat that anyone could ever cite about Robinson is that in his 14 seasons, he only accounted for 11 Loss Shares (LS). That number is unfathomable. Antoine Walker accounted for 42 alone in 2005. He missed three seasons to start his career while serving his commitment in the Navy. Had Robinson not missed that time, his resume would have been even more impressive.

16) Bob Pettit

I don't know much about Bob Pettit but what I do know is that he was awesome. He won two MVPs while being selected to the All-NBA first team ten times (second most all-time). His PER was through the roof for a player from his time. He helped lead his team to the NBA Championship in 1958 as well as Finals-appearances in 1957, 1960 and 1961. He is the only player in NBA history to average more than 20 points in every season that he played.

17) Kevin Garnett

KG rates higher than Barkley simply because I would take KG in his prime over Barkley. Both were saddled with average teammates throughout their careers. Both won an MVP award. Both were overshadowed by better players at the same position (Malone for Barkley and Duncan for KG). KG's career also resembles Elgin Baylor's. Both had awesome stats for teams that never had much of a shot at winning an NBA Championship. Both were overshadowed by other larger than life stars (Shaq and Wilt). KG has a second lease on life in the NBA with Boston where he has already added a Defensive Player of the Year award to his trophy case. A Championship might move him up a bit but it'll take more than one to make a significant movement.

18) Charles Barkley

I thought Malone and Charles Barkley would have been harder to differentiate but I think the difference between the two is bigger than the difference between Magic and Bird by a large margin. As I stated above, Malone was selected First Team All-NBA 11 times. Barkley, playing the same position at the same time, only made the First Team five times. Malone won two MVPs and reached the NBA Finals twice. Barkley won one MVP and reached the NBA Finals once. Barkley was fantastic. He was one of my favorite players to watch when I was younger. I still remember watching his 56-point performance in the 1994 NBA playoffs. But, it's tough to argue he should be rated higher.

19) George Mikan

I had a rough time rating George Mikan. The fundamental question that I tried to answer was whether or not Mikan was as good as his numbers and legend indicate or whether his vast size contributed to most of his dominance. I think the answer is a mixture of both but I leaned towards Mikan being that good. There is no question that he had a huge advantage by being bigger and taller than everyone else. Size counts for a lot. However, the fact that nobody had ever been that big and that skillful before means Mikan had something special. Nobody had ever seen that level of agility from a man that size. He was the predecessor to Wilt, Russell, and Kareem. His skills and athleticism probably wouldn't match up well against those players but he was no doubt the best of his time.

20) Jerry West

Jerry West was a fantastic basketball player. He is literally the face of the NBA as he is the silhouette portrayed on the league’s logo. West was a first team All-NBA selection ten times (second all-time). He had the luxury of playing with Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor during his career. That may be the greatest collection of talent on one team the league has ever seen. West was also a stellar defensive player being named first team All-Defense four times. West didn’t win an MVP award for the same reasons Baylor didn’t. Chamberlain and Russell made it virtually impossible for anyone else in that era to win the award.

21) LeBron James

LeBron James is the closest thing to Magic Johnson that the league has seen since Magic retired. Unlike most “pie in the sky” comparisons, I actually think LeBron will end up being better than Magic. In fact, I think LeBron has the potential to end up being the best player the league has ever seen. He is physically dominant at the ripe age of 23. At 6’9, LeBron can do everything Magic could do and more. He is bigger and stronger than Magic already. Barring a career-ending injury, LeBron will dominate the NBA like few have ever seen.

22) Bob Cousy

Bob Cousy is a tough player to rate because he literally played on an All-Star team his entire career. When he wasn’t playing with Bill Russell and Sam Jones, it was Bill Sharman and John Havlicek. Cousy played for six NBA Championship teams. He also won an MVP award and was selected to the All-NBA first team 10 times (second all-time). His PER is the second lowest (Russell is the only one lower) of anyone I have rated in the top 25. I can only guess that Cousy’s career was greatly enhanced by the talent around him. That’s not meant to discredit his abilities. Being the 22nd best player in NBA history is nothing to scoff at. I just wanted to make it clear why he wasn’t rated higher.

23) Elgin Baylor

Elgin Baylor is the only player besides LeBron in my top 40 (George Mikan played before MVPs were handed out) not to have won an MVP award. In a league where MVP awards are "measuring sticks" for greatness, that doesn't sound too impressive. However, it's important to remember that during Baylor's playing career (1959-1972) Bill Russell won four MVPs, Wilt Chamberlain won four MVPs, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won two MVPs. Those three players just happen to be rated in my top six of all-time. Baylor's statistics are eye-popping. Over his career, he averaged 27.4 points and 14 rebounds per game. He was selected first-team All-NBA ten times which is the second best mark in NBA history behind Karl Malone. He also played for eight teams that went to the NBA Finals. Baylor's record in the Finals? 0-8!

24) Dolph Schayes

Dolph Schayes was one of the early “greats”. When he retired, he was the all-time leading scorer in NBA history. The main reason that I can’t justify ranking him higher is that he was only selected to six All-NBA First Teams in 15 seasons in an era when the talent around the league was relatively thin. He was a member of an NBA Championship-team but never won an MVP.

25) Rick Barry

Rick Barry was a great “scorer”. As far as career accomplishments go, he fell just short of Jerry West in just about every measurable statistic.

26) George Gervin

I can’t make a great case for Barry or George Gervin in a straight-up comparison. Their numbers are eerily similar and frustratingly indiscernible. However, I do think there is a big discrepancy in a statistic that puts Barry just ahead of Gervin. Both players played four seasons in the ABA and ten seasons in the NBA. In those seasons, Barry was selected to the All-League First Team nine times while Gervin only managed five selections. In a tight comparison that is enough to give the edge to Barry.

27) Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk takes a lot of heat. Some of it might be deserved but most of it is not. Dirk's game is very specific. It's not fair to criticize him for being something he isn't. He is a skilled, big-man who tries to bang whenever possible. He is limited by his thin-frame. His mid-range jumper is his go-to shot. He can't dominate games like Shaq, Tim Duncan, LeBron, or Kobe because he can't get to the rim like those players. However, Dirk is unquestionably one of the best players in NBA history. He has been selected First Team All-NBA three times. He has finished in the top three of the MVP Voting three times. He won the MVP in 2007. He turned the Mavs into a juggernaut. His supporting cast featured nothing more than a bunch of upper-echelon role players. Dirk was the rock that helped the Mavs to eight-consecutive 50+ win seasons including three 60-win seasons and one of the best regular season win totals in NBA history (67). Dirk led the Mavs to the brink of the NBA Championship in '06 but came up short to Shaq and the Miami Heat. Dirk's Win Shares Above Average, Wins Shares, and Player Efficiency Rating are among the best in NBA history. Those numbers are tough to ignore.

28) John Havlicek

Havlicek probably gets rated a little higher than this on most Top 50-lists but I think that’s because of his good fortune of playing with Bill Russell. Havlicek has the lowest PER of any player in my top 45. He only made four All-NBA first teams in 16 seasons. Those are the reasons why I couldn’t have rated him higher. However, he was also selected to seven All-NBA Second Teams, five First Team All-NBA defense and played for eight NBA Championship teams. His legend probably precedes his resume slightly but he undoubtedly had a stellar career.

29) John Stockton

While it may seem obvious to some, I am not 100% certain as to who was more pivotal for the Utah Jazz; Karl Malone or John Stockton? Maybe it’s a tie. Most summaries of either player won’t go a paragraph without bringing up the other player. I didn’t even make it one sentence. Stockton was the “prototypical” point guard. He was often considered a “dirty” player for his aggressive play. He was quite possibly the greatest passer the league has ever seen. He was deadly from behind the arc. I have suspicions that Stockton was better than Cousy. The only difference is that Cousy won an MVP and six NBA Titles while Stockton came up empty in both.

30) Walt Frazier

If anything, I may have overrated Frazier just a tad but I am comfortable with placing him at #30. Frazier was a fantastic two-way guard. He was selected to the First Team All-Defense seven times and First Team All-NBA four times. He also helped lead the New York Knicks to two NBA Championships. There were betters players on offense and better players on defense but there weren’t many who had his level of proficiency on both ends.

31) Neil Johnston

I had a difficult time separating Dolph Schayes and Neil Johnston from one another. Schayes only got the edge on Johnston because of his longevity. Johnston only played eight seasons to Schayes’ 15. Although Johnston has the better PER of the two, Schayes’ PER would have been better had he only played eight seasons like Johnston.

32) Isiah Thomas

Out of all of the NBA greats, Isiah Thomas probably has the biggest fluctuation in perception from one person to the next. Some people think he was the greatest player six feet or under to ever play the game. Others think he tarnished the game of basketball by bringing a more physical style of play to the court as a member of the "Bad Boys". Michael Jordan even went as far as to keep him off of the 1992 Dream Team. His image may not be the best but there is no doubting his dominance on the basketball court. He led the Pistons to two NBA Championships beating some of the great players the league had ever seen including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird. He was a highly proficient shooter who took the ball to the hole with a big-man's ferocity. His PER isn't all that impressive which is one of the reasons why I can't rate him higher but few players had his drive and determination to go along with superior talent.

33) Steve Nash

If there's any pick that's going to lead to the questioning of my credibility besides Shaq at #4, it might be this one. Then again, I think people know how good Nash is. He is one of only nine players to win back-to-back MVP awards. The other eight are in my top 15. Nash's arrival in Phoenix in 2005 led to a 33-game improvement over the previous season. He is one of the great fast-break point guards in NBA history. Over his career he has shot over 43% from three point range and 90% from the free throw line. There isn't a team in the NBA that Nash couldn't lead to the playoffs. He is the ultimate team player in the sense that he makes everyone better. It's not a coincidence that players seem to have career-years when they become his teammate.

34) Allen Iverson

I could see someone rating Iverson anywhere from the top 15 to outside of the top 50. His enigmatic persona and style of play are hard to put a finger on. He had the misfortune of playing for untalented teams throughout his career. As a result, he took it upon himself to shoot the ball often. The results on the stat sheet have been nothing short of impressive. The results on the court have been a different story. The question still remains as to whether a team can win a championship with Iverson leading the way. He hasn’t had as much of a chance to play “team” basketball as some of the other greats from his era. He was a tough match-up for anyone but it’s much easier to play defense against one guy than five. Iverson did win an MVP award and has a career average of 28.0 points per game which is third on the all-time list behind only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.

35) Elvin Hayes

Hayes averaged a double-double for thirteen-straight seasons. It would have been 16-straight had he not averaged 9.9 rebounds per game in 1982. He was a solid player throughout his entire career but he was never the best. Hayes did his best work in the playoffs averaging a double-double in every postseason that he played in. He led his teams to three NBA Finals and one NBA Championship. His PER is the third worst of the top 50 which is one of the reasons I can't rate him much higher.

36) Bill Sharman

Sharman teamed with Cousy to form a legendary backcourt. Cousy’s production was better across the board and his accolades trumped Sharman’s by a considerable amount. Depending on how much one contributes Sharman’s success to being teamed with Russell and Cousy, I can understand rating him lower. However, he was selected to four All-NBA First Teams and three Second Teams. So, he was certainly accomplished in his own right.

37) Scottie Pippen

Pippen was so hard to rate that I had him outside of the top 50 for the majority of the ranking process. I can fully understand someone not wanting to include him in the top 50. There is no question that--more than any other player--his career was enhanced by the good fortune of playing with a superstar. While Jordan garnered a ton of individual success early in his career, it wasn't until Pippen became an effective all-around force that the Bulls started winning. Pippen had a deadly jump shot and the ability to take the ball to the rim at will. He was also one of the elite defensive players in the league. He made eight All-Defense First Teams. Only Gary Payton and Michael Jordan had more. Speaking of which...

38) Gary Payton

I had similar problems rating Gary Payton but for different reasons. Payton looked like a "washed up" veteran at the end of his career. I started to wonder whether or not he was a bit overrated. But, I came to my senses. Payton looked like a "washed up" veteran because he was one. Before he got old (as all players do), he was the best two-way point guard in the NBA for more than a decade. During his prime, Payton averaged over 20 points and eight assists per game. He also made nine All-Defense First Teams which is the most all-time. Payton is the only player in NBA history to lead the NBA in steals, assists, and three-point field goals made. Payton finished in the top six of the MVP Voting six times.

39) Jerry Lucas

It is easy to overlook deserving players by simply focusing on statistics and career length. I made it a point to look up player reputations and the impact players had on the league to get a better understanding of how good they actually were. Lucas deserves to be in the top 50 and I may have underrated him at #39. Lucas averaged over 20 rebounds in two different seasons. Only four players in NBA history ever accomplished that in even one season. Lucas was chosen as an All-NBA First-Teamer three times in his career. He ranks fourth on the all-time list in rebounds per game. He didn't receive the same amount of attention as Chamberlain and Russell but he was almost as good.

40) Willis Reed

Willis Reed may have had the most productive season in sports history in 1970. He was the All-Star game MVP. He was the regular season MVP. He was the playoff MVP. He was also named First Team All-NBA and First Team All-Defense. That is also the same season in which he made his heroic mid-game return to lead the Knicks to the NBA Championship in game 7 of the Finals. He was also the NBA Finals MVP in 1973. Reed averaged 19 points and 13 rebounds over his career.

41) Tiny Archibald

I found it incredibly difficult to differentiate between the last ten players who made the top 50 and the first ten players who didn't make it. Archibald made the All-NBA First Team three times. Odds are that if a guy is the best player at his position for three seasons in his career, then he was probably one of the best 50 players of all-time. Although, there are a few with three First Team-selections who didn't make the top 50.

42) Bob McAdoo

McAdoo made one All-NBA First Team and one Second Team in 14 seasons. That is one of the lowest totals of any of the 50 players. But, from 1974-1977 McAdoo had one of the greatest four-season stretches in league history highlighted by an MVP award in 1975. He also finished runner-up in the MVP Voting twice during that stretch. McAdoo became a very good sixth man near the end of his career winning two NBA Championships with the Lakers.

43) Dominique Wilkins

Like a few of the guys on this list, I didn't initially include Dominique Wilkins in the top 50. Then, I came to my senses. 'Nique might deserve to be rated higher than this but his career is not much different than Vince Carter's and Carter isn't near the top 50. In short, 'Nique was a fantastic offensive player who never had team success, never won individual awards, and was overshadowed by some of the all-time greats like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to name a few.

44) Clyde Drexler

If a great player plays the same position at the same time as Michael Jordan, does anyone notice? Not really. Drexler is probably one of the least known stars in NBA history. Playing in Portland didn't help his cause much but that didn't have near the impact as playing in Jordan's era. Let's just say that if a shooting guard was going to win the MVP during Drexler's career it wasn't going to be Drexler. His career numbers are impressive. Not coincidentally, Drexler was finally able to win an NBA Championship when Michael Jordan retired. Drexler was a 10-time All-Star who led three teams to the NBA Finals. He also had an impressive PER at 21.4.

45). Jason Kidd

I like Kidd. I like the way he handles his business on the court. But, that doesn't mean I don't think he is overrated by some. Point guards don't have to score a lot so it's not a big deal if they don't score a lot of points. However, it is a really big deal if they can't shoot. Kidd is a terrible shooter. He is a career 33% three-point shooter which is pretty bad in itself. What's worse is that he shoots 40% from the field. That is simply atrocious. A great player cannot shoot that poorly. Now, Kidd is a tremendously skilled point guard. He has excellent vision. He runs the break perfectly. He has a stocky-frame that he uses to finish. He is an above-average defender. Those attributes make him a very good player. Kidd has made the First Team All-NBA five times and First Team All-Defense four times. He came close to winning an MVP in 2002 but lost out to Tim Duncan. Kidd makes bad teams better. He did that in Phoenix and New Jersey. What he doesn't do is make good teams great. There is no way Kidd can touch Gary Payton's accomplishments. Payton finished First Team All-Defense nine times, First Team All-NBA twice and Second Team All-NBA five times. Payton shot 47% from the field. In his prime years, Payton averaged 22 points and eight assists per game. Kidd averaged 15 and 10 over his prime years. Payton finished in the top six of the MVP Voting six times. Kidd did it twice. My point with the Payton/Kidd comparison isn't to rip on Kidd. It's to show how Kidd stacks up against another great point guard who will undoubtedly be underrated more and more as time goes on. As for a Kidd/Nash comparison, all I can say is that Nash has won two MVPs with a better PER and has averaged 18 and 11 over the past four seasons. Kidd has never done that for even one season. So, my conclusion is that Kidd is a very good basketball player but that's it.

46) Paul Arizin

Arizin was one of the great early-NBA players. He made three All-NBA First Teams. He averaged 23 points and eight rebounds over his career and led his team to an NBA Championship in 1956. He is probably the least accomplished of the 50's greats (behind Mikan, Johnston, Pettit, Schayes, Bill Sharman and Bob Cousy) which is why he's rated this low.

47). Dave Cowens

I would not have wanted to play against Cowens in the post. Darryl Dawkins says that Cowens was the dirtiest player he had ever seen and I don't doubt it. Cowens averaged 18 points and 14 rebounds per game throughout his career. That is just unheard of in today's game. He won the MVP in '73 when he averaged 21 and 16. He also had second, third, and fourth place finishes in MVP Voting. Despite finishing in the top four in the MVP race four times and winning once, Cowens never made First Team All-NBA. That really doesn't make any sense but he managed three Second Team honors. Cowens also helped the Celtics to two NBA Championships.

48). Tracy McGrady

T-Mac is an incredible basketball player. Based on talent, he should rank in the top 20. There is no doubt in my mind that he is considerably more talented than Dominique Wilkins, Scottie Pippen, and Clyde Drexler. T-Mac hasn't reached his potential and I'm not sure he ever will. He lacks the infamous "killer instinct" that makes Kobe Bryant so great. McGrady doesn't play with the same intensity on defense. He settles for too many jumpers on offense when everyone knows he can get to the rim anytime he wants. His malaised-attitude has been the primary culprit in never winning a playoff series. Still he has been selected First Team All-NBA twice and Second Team three times. When healthy, he is always a bet to finish among the top eight in the MVP Voting. He has been a part of a number of historically significant moments. He led the Houston Rockets to the second longest winning streak in NBA history at 22 games. He once scored 13 points in 33 seconds. He has led the league in scoring twice and has career averages of 22 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists per game.

49) Patrick Ewing

Ewing is one of those stars who had the misfortune of playing at the same time as Michael Jordan. I remember some of his dominating performances in the playoffs against the Pistons. He was one of the top two centers in the NBA in the late 80's/early 90's but he was never able to lead his team to a championship or win an MVP.

50) Dwyane Wade

Even though Wade is considered by most to be one of the best players in the NBA, I think he is vastly underrated. He gets to the rim better than any player I have ever seen and that’s saying something. Any coach who doesn’t give Wade the ball every possession over the last five minutes in a close game should be fired. When Wade takes the ball to the rim late in a game, he will either make it or get fouled. If he can stay healthy, Wade’s individual numbers will skyrocket without Shaq. He is as physically gifted as any player in the league.

51). Billy Cunningham

Cunningham made the First Team All-NBA three times. He averaged 20+ points, 10+ rebounds, and 4+ assists. He is one of only five players in NBA history to accomplish that feat over a career (Bird, Baylor, KG, and Chamberlain are the other four). Over his best five seasons, Cunningham averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds.

52). Artis Gilmore

Gilmore is one of the most underrated players in NBA history. In fact, he is so underrated that I think I have actually underrated him on my own list. Gilmore spent his first five seasons in the ABA where he absolutely destroyed the league. He averaged 23 points and 17 rebounds over those five seasons. During his time in the ABA, Gilmore won the MVP, All-Star MVP, and Playoff MVP. Gilmore made the leap to the NBA at the age of 27. Over his NBA career he averaged a double-double in eight seasons. Over 14 seasons in the NBA, Gilmore averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. He also had a phenomenal shooting % of .599 which is the best in NBA history. In what can only be described as ridiculous, Gilmore is not in the Basketball Hall of Fame. He made the NBA All-Star game six times. There is no question that he would've made the NBA All-Star during his five seasons in the ABA in which he played the best basketball of his career. That is the equivalent of 11 NBA All-Star games. There is no chance that another basketball player with 11 All-Star appearances would be kept out of the Hall of Fame. Gilmore deserves better.

53). Chris Webber

I find it laughable that the question, "Is Chris Webber a Hall-of-Famer?" was even asked when he announced his retirement. What's even more laughable is that the first five TV personalities who answered the question said, "no." Webber is one of only six players in NBA history to averaged 20+ points, 9+ rebounds, and 4+ assists. Webber was one of the most explosive players in NBA history. He took a lot of criticism for not getting the Sacramento Kings to the NBA Finals. People must have forgotten that once upon a team, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal played for the Lakers. That is why the Kings never made it to the Finals. Was Webber as good as those two players? Of course, not. Nobody was. Webber was selected once to the First Team All NBA and three times to the Second Team. He finished in the top ten of the MVP Voting five consecutive seasons. There isn't another player with Webber's numbers whose Hall of Fame status would be questioned. It’s also important to remember that Webber—at least until his knees were shot—was always the best player on his team. He didn’t have the luxury of players like Kevin McHale or James Worthy who got to play with some of the greatest players in NBA history.

54). Wes Unseld

Unseld was the Jason Kidd of power forwards. What Kidd is to assists, Unseld was to rebounds. However, what Kidd is to points, Unseld also is to points. In fact, Unseld didn't even average 10+ points during seven of his thirteen seasons. He was a monster on the boards, though, averaging 14 rebounds per game over his career. Unseld won the MVP in his rookie season and a Finals MVP nine years later. There is no question that Unseld had a tremendous impact on the NBA. Although, his career statistics and accolades do not measure up to the top 50 players. He only garnered one First Team All NBA selection and zero Second Team selections in thirteen years. Despite being recognized as a great defensive player, he never made a First or Second All-NBA Defensive team either.

55). Kevin McHale

McHale is an enigma. He is one of the greatest offensive post players of all-time. He also happens to be one of the greatest defensive post players of all-time. However, he only started more than 32 games four times in his career. He only made one First or Second All-NBA team. His career stats and honors don't put him anywhere close to the other players in the top 60. But, he was an integral part in leading the Celtics to three NBA Titles in the 80s. He teamed with Larry Bird and Robert Parrish to form one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

56). Grant Hill

Even as a hobbled veteran who has undergone countless ankle procedures, Hill is a valuable contributor for the Phoenix Suns. Hill only managed to play just over 22 games per year from 2001-2006. Still, before all of the injuries, He was easily one of the five best players in the NBA. He was selected First Team All NBA once and Second Team four times. He finished in the top ten of the MVP Voting five consecutive seasons. Hill is one of the few players in NBA history to average 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists over an entire season. Had Hill managed an injury-free career, he would've easily finished in the top 30.

57) Nate Thurmond

In 12 of Thurmond's 14 seasons, either Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made First Team All-NBA at center. Thurmond averaged 15 rebounds per game throughout his career which is 5th on the all-time list. He was the first NBA player to record a quadruple-double. He is also one of three players to average 21 points and 22 rebounds per game over a two-year stretch (Chamberlain and Russell are obviously the other two). Thurmond didn't put up the awesome offensive numbers like some of the other greats but few were better defensively. He finished in the top ten of the MVP Voting three times including a second-place finish to Chamberlain in '67.

58). Dave Bing

Bing was a poor man's George Gervin. He didn't play nearly as long or garner as many league honors but he was a pretty good all-around basketball player. He was selected to the First Team All-NBA twice and finished in the top six of the MVP Voting three times. Bing was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Basketball Players of All-Time in 1996. It would be difficult to argue that he is still one of the 50 greatest players 12 years later but he certainly had a great career.

59). Lenny Wilkens

The problem I have with rating Wilkens is that he was never once selected to the First or Second All-NBA Team. He was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history in 1996 so clearly he was a very good player. I just have a hard time believing that a truly great player could play 15 seasons and never be selected to the All-NBA Team. Wilkens did make nine All-Star games and finished second in the MVP Voting in 1968. However, in 15 seasons, Wilkens only finished in the top 15 of the MVP Voting once. I may have overrated him. He will be one of the players who I revisit in the future.

60). Robert Parish

I only really got a chance to see Parish play near the end of his career during the Pistons/Celtics series' of the late 80s. He was still pretty good at that time. Through the wonders of NBA TV, I have gotten a chance to see Parish in his younger days and he was very good. He only made the Second Team All-NBA once and also made a Third Team once. His career totals won't blow you away but he was instrumental in leading Boston to three NBA Titles in the 80's.

61). Joe Dumars

I think it's possible for Joe-D to be overrated and underrated. His game wasn't flashy but he was an extremely effective player on both sides of the ball. His jumper was lethal and nobody played Michael Jordan better defensively. Dumars was selected to the First Team All-Defense four times. He was an integral cog in Detroit's back-to-back NBA Titles in '89 and '90. He also won the NBA Finals MVP in 1989. Still, he only managed one Second Team All-NBA honor and never finished better than 10th in the MVP Voting.

62). Ed Macauley

Macauley was a big-time player in the NBA's formative days. He was selected to the All-NBA First Team three times and also garnered a Second Team selection. Macauley was the MVP of the NBA's first All-Star game in 1951. Macauley's St. Louis Hawks beat the Celtics in the 1958 Championship which ended up keeping the Celtics from a run of 10 consecutive titles. Instead, they had to settle for eight in a row. Of course, Macauley was slightly responsible for that streak since he was traded to St. Louis for Bill Russell. In his ten-year career, Macauley finished in the top 10 in scoring eight times. He also finished among the top ten in rebounds and assists a number of times.

63). Adrian Dantley

The NBA in the 80s was much different than it is now as Dantley and Alex English can attest to. They routinely averaged 30+ points per game and never even sniffed an MVP. In fact, Dantley only finished in the top 10 of the MVP Voting once. He did manage two Second Team All-NBA selections and six All Star game appearances. Dantley was drafted by the Buffalo Braves in their last season in the NBA. The franchise moved to LA to become the Clippers. I met Dantley in 1987 at a Foot Locker where he was signing autographs. My lasting impression of that encounter was that he looked like Lionel Ritchie. Unfortunately, his time in Detroit didn't work out and he was shipped off to Dallas just months before the Pistons won the first of two NBA Championships. Dantley never won a title.

64). Bill Walton

Walton had one of the greatest runs in NBA history which included one of the greatest seasons in NBA history ('78). His career was somewhat equivalent to Sandy Koufax's but not nearly as long. Walton was the premier player in the league for two years. He won the NBA Finals MVP in 1977 as he led the Trailblazers to the NBA Championship. He finished 2nd in the MVP Voting in '77 and won the MVP in '78. Walton only finished in the top 20 in the MVP Voting during those two seasons. His only two All-NBA selections were during those two seasons as well.

65) Hal Greer

Nobody outside of my top 30 had more combined first and second team All-NBA selections than Greer. Of course, none of his seven selections were actually of the First Team variety. Greer was one of the finest guards of the 60's. He also teamed with Wilt Chamberlain to end the eight-year Championship run by the Boston Celtics.

66). Spencer Haywood

In his first year of professional basketball, Haywood averaged 30 points and 20 rebounds (!!!) per game in the ABA. He made the leap to the NBA in his second season and found success there as well. In his first four seasons in the NBA, Haywood averaged at least 20 points and 12 rebounds. He was selected First Team All-NBA twice and Second Team All-NBA two more times. He also finished in the top 10 of the MVP Voting twice.

67). Bernard King

King was the Cam Neely of the NBA. He didn't play much but when he did, he was awesome. King only played in 70+ games seven times in 14 seasons. That doesn't include the two seasons that he missed completely. He led the NBA in scoring in '85 with a 33 ppg scoring average. He finished second in the MVP Voting in '84. He was also selected to the First Team All-NBA twice and a Second Team once.

68). Alex English

English and Dantley had nearly identical careers. Both played from 1976-1991. Both were prolific scorers. Dantley finished in the top ten in scoring six times. English did it nine times. Despite their scoring prowess, neither player was a First Team All-NBA Selection. Neither player won a championship. English finished in the top ten of the MVP Voting twice. Dantley did it once. I gave Dantley the nod for two reasons. 1). His "Win Shares Above Average" is much better than English's, and 2). Dantley had a much bigger gap between his Offensive Rating (points scored per 100 possessions) and Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions). Dantley scored 10 more points than he allowed per 100 possessions. English scored one more point than he allowed per 100 possessions.

69) Pete Maravich

I struggled with the question of whether to include "Pistol Pete" in the top 50 or not. He is the talk of legend by millions of people that never saw him play. I have no doubt that he was spectacular but his resume isn't as impressive as most of the players on the list. Maravich only played ten seasons. He only played in 50+ games in seven of those seasons. His collegiate resume is vastly more impressive. His NBA career was not quite as accomplished but he had a seven-year run worthy of making this list.

70). Kevin Johnson

KJ is the most underrated PG in NBA history in my opinion. He's so underrated that I'm not sure he'll even sniff the Basketball Hall of Fame. Over a four-year stretch from '89-'92, he averaged 21 points and 11 assists per game. He is 6th on the all-time list for assists per game just a fraction of an assist (.13 to be exact) behind Isiah Thomas and Jason Kidd. He is also the only player in NBA history to average 20 points, 10 assists, 2 steals, while shooting over .500% from the field in a season. He was also selected to the Second Team All-NBA four times (three times behind Magic Johnson and once behind John Stockton).

71). Dennis Johnson

I didn't get a full appreciation for DJ's game until I watched the 1981 NBA All-Star game. Before that, I viewed him as the veteran DJ of "And...now there's a steal by Bird, underneath to DJ who lays it in!" fame. Johnson was a perennial all-star and master of defense. He was selected First Team All-Defense six times. He was also selected First Team All-NBA and Second Team All-NBA once each. He was the 1979 NBA Finals MVP and finished in the top 10 of the MVP Voting twice.

72). Paul Pierce

Sometimes statistics and/or reputation don't tell the whole story. Pierce has only been selected to the Third Team All-NBA twice. That might change this year but he doesn't get the recognition he deserves. He is one of the most difficult players to defend in the NBA. He is a very good three-point shooter having eclipsed the 38% mark five times. He uses his large frame to get to the basket on just about anyone. And, he has a lethal mid-range game. By the time his career is over, I think Pierce will have been one of the 50 greatest players of all-time based on difficulty to defend. Whether that becomes a popular view remains to be seen. It's not like his career numbers don't impress. He has averaged 23 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4 assists and close to 2 steals a game for ten seasons.

73). Earl Monroe

There is no doubt that Monroe was a great player. I'm not as high on him as others. In 13 NBA seasons, he never finished in the top 10 of the MVP Voting and he was only selected to one All-NBA team. His career is so underwhelming statistic-wise that NBA Reference.com's Hall of Fame Probability puts Monroe at 26.4%. Obviously there was more to Monroe's game than honors and statistics because he is in the Hall of Fame. I just think his legacy--one that was larger than life before he ever entered the NBA--probably puts him a little bit higher than he should be on most lists.

74). Chris Mullin

Mullin was a tough player to rate. Clearly, he was very, very good. There isn't a member of the original Dream Team that wouldn't be classified as an all-time great. Still, I think I might have underrated him but I can't be certain. He was selected to the First Team All-NBA once and Second Team All-NBA twice. Over a five-year stretch from '89-'93, Mullin averaged 26 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2 steals while shooting .520 from the field. Mullin was also a very good three-point and free-throw shooter having led the league in both categories.

75). Ray Allen

Allen has the prettiest jump shot the league has ever seen. Seriously, if you ever want to know how you should be shooting the ball, just watch Ray Allen. He has an insane amount of elevation and a quick, fluid release. By the time he retires, he will likely be the most prolific three-point shooter in NBA history. I'm also pretty certain that he will go down as one of the most underrated players in NBA history. That might change if Boston wins an NBA Championship. Allen averaged at least 21 points per game for 10-straight seasons. He averages more points, rebounds, and assists than Reggie Miller did. He's also a slightly better three-point shooter. Allen is also more athletic than Miller. Allen hasn't gone the same amount of "pub" as Miller but there is no question in my mind that he has been the better player.

76). Dave Debusschere

Debusschere was a rebounding machine at 6'6. He averaged a double-double for 12 consecutive seasons. He was selected First Team All-Defense six times and made eight trips to the All-Star game. He had a pair of 11th place finishes in the NBA Voting. Although he had some decent scoring seasons, Debusschere wasn't nearly as effective offensively. He only shot .430 from the field throughout his career and never averaged more than 19 points in a season.

77). Alonzo Mourning

'Zo is one of the greatest defensive centers to play the game. He was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year two times. He is 11th all-time in blocks just five behind Robert Parish. He led the league in blocks per game and total blocks twice. He was also a very good offensive player having averaged 21 ppg over his first eight seasons. He finished in the top three of the MVP Voting twice including a second play finish in '99 in which he narrowly lost to Karl Malone.

78). Reggie Miller

Reggie was a good player but he wasn't nearly as good as his reputation makes him out to be. Miller was as one-dimensional as an NBA player gets. He only averaged three assists and three rebounds per game which is nowhere near ideal. He wasn't a great defender. He wasn't a good rebounder. He didn't get a lot of assists. He never finished in the top 10 of the MVP Voting and never finished better than Third Team All-NBA. He was just an awesome three-point shooter. His Hall of Fame probability according to Basketball Reference.com is just a shade over 5%. Obviously, he is going to make the Hall of Fame but his numbers aren't as impressive as some might expect.

79). Tim Hardaway

Hardaway had "skillz". His career was very similar to Kevin Johnson's only it was slightly less impressive. Hardaway did garner one First Team All-NBA selection (which is something KJ wasn't able to do) and three Second Team All-NBA selections. Hardaway also finished in the top 10 of the MVP Voting three times. Hardaway was never a great shooter but he had a number of successful seasons. He averaged at least 18 points and 8 assists six times in his career. He is one of only a handful of players to average at least 21 points and 10 assists in a season twice.

80). Sam Jones

Jones was a vital cog in Boston's 60s dominance. He was a part of 10-Championship teams in just 13 seasons including eight in a row from '59-'66. During that run, Jones was the second best player on a loaded Celtics roster behind only Bill Russell. Bob Cousy was on the downside of his career and John Havlicek was just getting started. He was selected to the Second Team All-NBA three times and finished in the top 10 of the MVP Voting three times.

81). Vince Carter

Carter has the dubious distinction of being one of those players who never wins anything. Dominique Wilkins, Charles Barkley, and Tracy McGrady are other members of that club. To be fair, Carter has never been on a great team. If you put him on the 80s Lakers, there's no doubt he would've won as many championships as James Worthy. Carter should take a hit for not being able to lead a team to serious contention but he should also be appropriately acknowledged for being a great player. Carter is 20th on the all-time list for PPG at 23.8. He takes a lot of shots but his shooting percentages aren't that bad. He is a 45% shooter from the field and a 38% shooter from beyond the arc. Carter's all-around game is certainly more evolved than someone like Reggie Miller. Carter has career averages of 5.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game to go along with a steal and a block. Carter's career has been marred by injuries and untapped potential. Still, he is one of the most athletic players to ever play the game and is one of the top scorers the league has ever seen.

82). James Worthy

Worthy was a very good player. He was as important to the Lakers as Kevin McHale was to the Celtics. An argument could be made that Worthy's place in history is overrated because he was fortunate enough to play with two of the top six players who ever played. However, I suppose it could also be argued that had Worthy been the go-to-guy on a different team, his numbers would be considerably higher. All I can judge him on is what he had to contend with and he was very Vince Carter-like. Like Carter, Worthy was never selected to a First Team All-NBA Team. Worthy never made a Second Team either. Carter has only managed that once. Like Carter, Worthy has never finished in the top 10 of the MVP Voting. Carter scored more points and grabbed more rebounds even though Worthy was a 6-9 PF. Carter's PER (Player Efficiency Rating) is also substantially higher. Carter was the more talented player and probably the better player. Worthy has the brass and I'm sure he's not complaining about that.

83). Marques Johnson

Johnson is one of the best players to not be in the Hall of Fame although he should be. Ironically, his middle name is Kevin. Marques Kevin Johnson and Kevin Johnson are the two best players who are not in the HOF, in my opinion. Maybe it's the name? He was selected to a First Team All-NBA and two Second Teams. Fewer than 60 players in NBA history have averaged over 20 points for a career and Johnson is one of them. He also averaged seven rebounds and close to four assists. His PER is in the top 55 of all-time. He also finished in the top 10 of the MVP Voting twice.

84). Gail Goodrich

Goodrich was once on a Lakers team that also had Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and Jerry West. Granted, Baylor was pretty much done playing by that time but that was some star-power. Goodrich was the Sam Jones/Kevin McHale/James Worthy equivalent for the 70s Lakers. He wasn't the best player on the team but he was very important in helping the Lakers win the '72 Championship. He was the team's leading scorer barely edging out West by .1 points. Goodrich never factored in the league MVP Voting but he did finish First Team All-NBA in '74. He was a very good player but I'm not sure a sound argument can be made that he deserves to be in the HOF over Marques Johnson and Kevin Johnson.

85). David Thompson

If Dwyane Wade doesn't start taking care of his body, he'll end up right around here with David Thompson. I have Wade rated higher because his career isn't close to being over. The way I choose to rate current players is to assume a consistently good--not great--level of production for the rest of their career. If Wade's career ended today, he would plummet. Thompson was a force in the NBA for four seasons. He scored 73 points in the final game of the '78 season. He was selected to the First Team All-NBA twice and finished in the top 10 of the MVP Voting three times. Unfortunately, injuries and substance abuse caused Thompson to be out of the league by the age of 29.

86). Paul Westphal

Westphal is a lot like Kevin Johnson in terms of being underrated. He isn't in the Hall of Fame and I don't think many people care. However, he had a very good stretch that culminated in being named to the First Team All-NBA three times and the Second Team All-NBA once. I would be surprised if there was another player in NBA history who has been selected First Team All-NBA three times who isn't in the Basketball Hall of Fame. From 1976 to 1980, Westphal averaged 23 points, 5.5 assists, and 1.8 steals per game while shooting better than .520. Westphal was selected to the All-Star Game five times and finished 6th in the MVP Voting in 1978. Despite not being in the HOF, Westphal's accolades are just as impressive of many players who are in the Hall of Fame.

87). Mitch Richmond

Richmond had an interesting career. I struggled to compare him to Reggie Miller. Richmond averaged more points, rebounds, and assists. He also was selected Second Team All-NBA three times. Miller never finished better than a Third Team All-NBA selection. Miller shot a better percentage but it was very close. Miller shot 47% from the field to Richmond's 46%. Miller shot 40% from three-point range to Richmond's 39%. The big difference is that Miller's teams won and Richmond's teams didn't. By "winning", I obviously mean had success in the regular season. Miller never won anything in the playoffs. So, Miller gets the nod. Still, Richmond had a Hall-of-Fame worthy career. He is 34th on the all-time points list and 37th on the all-time list for points per game. It'll be interesting to see if he makes it to the HOF.

88). Max Zaslofsky

Zaslofsky goes way back to the days of George Mikan. He was selected to the First Team All-NBA four times. Max led the league in scoring in 1948. He also led the league in rebounds in '47 and '48. Although he never won an NBA Championship, he led his team to the NBA Finals four different times. Max is not in the Hall of Fame which is a little bit ridiculous.

89). George Yardley

Yardley was teammates with Zaslofsky for the last two seasons of Zaslofsky's career. I gave the edge to Zaslofsky because he was selected to the First Team All-NBA four times while Yardley only garnered that honor once. Yardley led the NBA in scoring in 1958. He led his teams to two NBA Finals appearances but came up short both times. Yardley finished in the top four of the MVP Voting twice. The MVP Award wasn't given out until Zaslofsky's career had ended so there is no comparison available there.

90). Jack Twyman

Twyman was a scoring machine as he became the first player in NBA history to average more than 30 points per game in a season (Chamberlain was also the first as both did it in 1960). Twyman finished in the top ten of the MVP Voting four times. He was selected to the Second Team All-NBA twice and made six All-Star games.

91). Walt Bellamy

Bellamy is one of only seven players in NBA history to score more than 20,000 points and grab more than 14,000 rebounds (Robert Parish, Karl Malone, Elvin Hayes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, and Wilt Chamberlain are the others). He finished in the top 10 in rebounding eight times, scoring five times, and field goal percentage 10 times. Some of Bellamy's totals are just ridiculous. For instance, in 1962--his rookie season--he averaged 32 points and 19 rebounds per game. Despite his numbers, Bellamy was never selected to an All-NBA team and never finished in the top 10 of the MVP Voting. Part of that can be blamed on the fact that his contemporaries were Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The other part--I'm sure--can be attributed to the fact that Bellamy was taller than everyone else at 6'11 and had the luxury of putting up big-time stats on bad teams (his teams only won two playoff series in 14 years).

92). Bob Lanier

Lanier had a good but not spectacular career. He only played more than 70 games in seven of his 14 seasons which is why his career didn't play out as promising as it started. From the age of 23-29, Lanier averaged 23 points and 13 rebounds per game. He finished in the top 10 of the MVP Voting three times and won the NBA All-Star Game MVP in '74. However, he was never selected to an All-NBA team. Lanier's PER was among the best in the league over his career. He finished in the top five for eight consecutive seasons.

93). George McGinnis

McGinnis was one of those "tweeners" who spent time in the ABA and the NBA. His NBA totals were decent. He averaged 17 points, 10 boards, four assists, and two steals. His first season in the NBA was brilliant as he averaged 23, points 13 boards, 5 assists, and 3 steals. McGinnis made three NBA All-Star games and was selected First Team All-NBA and Second Team All-NBA once each. He also finished 5th in the NBA MVP Voting in '76. While those numbers and accolades aren't overwhelming, it's important to remember that McGinnis destroyed the ABA for the first four seasons of his career. He was the MVP of the '73 ABA Playoffs and the MVP of the ABA in '75. He also made three consecutive First Team All-ABA teams.

94). Joe Fulks

Fulks was one of the early greats at the forward position. He led his team to the NBA Championship in his rookie season. He also won two scoring titles. His career started the same season as Max Zaslofsky. I gave the slight edge to Zaslofsky for two very small reasons. 1). Zaslofsky was selected First Team All-NBA four times while Fulks was given that honor three times. 2). Zaslofsky took his team to four NBA Finals while Fulks did it twice. Other than that, these guys are fairly indistinguishable.

95). Gus Johnson

Before there was Gus Johnson, the fantastic play-by-play guy, there was Gus "Honeycomb" Johnson of basketball fame. The latter is 12th on the all-time list for rebounds per game at 12.68. He was renowned for having a complete game, offensively and defensively. He was a low-post wiz and a physical defender. He was selected Second Team All-NBA four times and First Team All-Defense twice. Johnson--along with Earl Monroe and Wes Unseld--led the Bullets to the '71 NBA Finals where they were dispatched by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson's Bucks.

96). Dan Issel

Issel was difficult to rate because virtually all of his honors were achieved in the ABA. He made six ABA All-Star teams and only one NBA All-Star team. He was selected First Team All-ABA once and Second Team All-ABA four times and never made an all-league team in the NBA. He led the ABA in scoring three consecutive seasons Still, in nine seasons in the NBA, Issel averaged 20 points and eight rebounds per game. He has the 40th best PER in NBA history. It's clear from looking at both his success in the ABA and the NBA that Issel was, indeed, a very good player.

97). Tom Heinsohn

Heinsohn barely gets the edge over Vern Mikkelsen. Their careers are nearly identical except Heinsohn was a part of eight NBA Championship teams. I really don't have much more to go on. Both made six All-Star teams and were both selected Second Team All-NBA four times.

98). Vern Mikkelsen

Mikkelsen was the power forward for the Lakers 50s dynasty that won five NBA Championships. Mikkelsen, George Mikan and Jim Pollard formed one of the greatest frontcourts in NBA history. Mikkelsen was selected Second Team All-NBA four times and played in the first six NBA All-Star games.

99). Dikembe Mutombo

I propose a trade. Everyone has to stop insinuating that Mutombo is older than he really is and, in return, Mutombo has to give up his stupid finger-taunt. I think that's more than fair. Mutombo can't stand the insinuations and I can't stand the finger wave. Mutombo is probably one of the two or three greatest defensive centers in NBA history. He has won the Defensive Player of the Year four times. He has led the NBA in rebounds four times and blocks five times. Only Wilt Chamberlain and Moses Malone have led the NBA in rebounds more than Mutombo. No other player in NBA history has led the league in blocks more. Mutombo led the league in blocks for five consecutive seasons. Nobody other player has done it more than twice in a row. He has also led the NBA in offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds on separate occasions. Mutombo gets a lot of heat for his offensive game but he averaged a double-double in each of his first ten seasons and shot over .520 from the field.

100). Amare Stoudemire

Amare gets the edge over Carmelo for a number of reasons. Amare has finished in the top ten of the MVP voting twice including a sixth place finish in '08. Carmelo has zero top-ten finishes. Amare has a First and Second Tea All-NBA selection. Carmelo has never faired better than a Third-Team selection. Amare has a better offensive and defensive rating. He has more win shares and his PER is much better. Amare will rate much higher in just a few years. He's only 25 and missed an entire season due to a knee injury. Carmelo will probably be among the top 100 within a year or two.


Honorable mention (in no particular order): Brad Daugherty, Mel Daniels, Kevin Willis, Jo Jo White, Sydney Moncrief, Chauncey Billups, Mark Price, Slater Martin, Lou Dampier, Maurice Cheeks, Rich Guerin, Alvin Robertson, Fat Lever, World B. Free, Reggie Theus, Rolando Blackman, Geoff Petrie, Anfernee Hardaway, Kiki Vandeweghe, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Ben Wallace, Yao Ming, Bobby Jones, Shawn Kemp, Jack Sikma, Bob Davies, Jim Pollard, Connie Hawkins, Rasheed Wallace, Shawn Marion, Walter Davis, Peja Stojakovic, Glen Rice, Lou Hudson, Jermaine O’Neal, Dennis Rodman, Cliff Hagan, Bob Love, Tom Chambers, Manu Ginobili and Chet Walker.


Top 100 Basketball Players of All-Time (list only)

1) Michael Jordan
2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
3) Magic Johnson
4) Shaquille O'Neal
5) Wilt Chamberlain
6) Bill Russell
7) Tim Duncan
8) Larry Bird
9) Oscar Robertson
10) Karl Malone
11) Kobe Bryant
12) Hakeem Olajuwon
13) Julius Erving
14) Moses Malone
15) David Robinson
16) Bob Pettit
17) Kevin Garnett
18) Charles Barkley
19) George Mikan
20) Jerry West
21) LeBron James
22) Bob Cousy
23) Elgin Baylor
24) Dolph Schayes
25) Rick Barry
26) George Gervin
27) Dirk Nowitzki
28) John Havlicek
29) John Stockton
30) Walt Frazier
31) Neil Johnston
32) Isiah Thomas
33) Steve Nash
34) Allen Iverson
35) Elvin Hayes
36) Bill Sharman
37) Scottie Pippen
38) Gary Payton
39) Jerry Lucas
40) Willis Reed
41) Tiny Archibald
42) Bob McAdoo
43) Dominique Wilkins
44) Clyde Drexler
45). Jason Kidd
46) Paul Arizin
47). Dave Cowens
48). Tracy McGrady
49) Patrick Ewing
50) Dwyane Wade
51). Billy Cunningham
52). Artis Gilmore
53). Chris Webber
54). Wes Unseld
55). Kevin McHale
56). Grant Hill
57) Nate Thurmond
58). Dave Bing
59). Lenny Wilkens
60). Robert Parish
61). Joe Dumars
62). Ed Macauley
63). Adrian Dantley
64). Bill Walton
65) Hal Greer
66). Spencer Haywood
67). Bernard King
68). Alex English
69) Pete Maravich
70). Kevin Johnson
71). Dennis Johnson
72). Paul Pierce
73). Earl Monroe
74). Chris Mullin
75). Ray Allen
76). Dave Debusschere
77). Alonzo Mourning
78). Reggie Miller
79). Tim Hardaway
80). Sam Jones
81). Vince Carter
82). James Worthy
83). Marques Johnson
84). Gail Goodrich
85). David Thompson
86). Paul Westphal
87). Mitch Richmond
88). Max Zaslofsky
89). George Yardley
90). Jack Twyman
91). Walt Bellamy
92). Bob Lanier
93). George McGinnis
94). Joe Fulks
95). Gus Johnson
96). Dan Issel
97). Tom Heinsohn
98). Vern Mikkelsen
99). Dikembe Mutombo
100). Amare Stoudemire

230 comments:

1 – 200 of 230   Newer›   Newest»
Jim said...

Not to count the chickens before they're hatched, but Dwyane Wade in (I assume) the same spot he was a couple years ago? His injury-plagued career makes him seemed destined to be Penny Hardaway 2.0 at best, I just don't think he can keep slashing to the basket like he used to. From the standpoint of a Pistons fan, let's not forget he was largely responsible for ushering in the NBA's "breathe on a media darling player while they're driving to the rim and it's an automatic block" hand-check policy.

Jake said...

Jim,

I understand where you’re coming from. I actually dropped Wade considerably from my last list and almost dropped him further. I had him and LeBron right next to each other at 29 and 30 two years ago (remember my “active player” rule which is to assume no injuries and continued level of solid production). This was after Wade had won the NBA Championship and Finals MVP and was Second Team All-NBA two years in a row all by the age of 24. LeBron and Wade have gone in different directions since then. Anfernee Hardaway never came close to putting together the type of seasons that Wade has had which is why he isn’t in my top 100. Hardaway was a product of Shaq. He had no ability to take over games. Penny was the second best player on a team with Shaq in his prime. That position guarantees respectable stats at a minimum which Hardaway barely had for three seasons. Wade took over the NBA Playoffs in 2006 with an outdated version of Shaq. Wade has had four seasons that are better than any season Penny ever had. I think a better example in terms of production/injuries would be Grant Hill who I have in the 50s along with Wade. Hill got the injury-bug worse than any player in NBA—and possibly sports—history but his legacy is preserved for two reasons; 1) He was one of the best players in the NBA for six seasons, and 2). Even after his injuries, he has been a solid contributor. Wade’s peak has been better than Hill’s peak for four seasons and, unlike Hill, Wade hasn’t suffered any devastating injuries. They’ve all been of the nagging variety. Plus, Miami is about to add Michael Beasley to go with Shawn Marion and Wade. Last season was a disaster for Miami and I think it’s important to put Wade and the Heat’s performance in perspective.

Wade is obviously an injury-prone player which has caused him to plummet down my list. However, if he stays healthy, I think Wade could really make a jump. He is unique in his ability to get to the rim (ticky-tack fouls aside) like you mention. Few players (Jordan, LeBron and maybe nobody else) could get to the rim like Wade. He already has a pretty solid resume. Since his rookie year, Wade has averaged 26 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block. Anyone who averages those numbers over four seasons is in the discussion for top 50 of all-time for sure. Anyone who has already done it by age 26 has to be considered a near-lock career-ending injuries not withstanding. Throw in the Finals MVP and multiple top-ten finishes in the MVP Voting and Wade is close to cementing his status regardless of how his career finishes. Although, I think he needs to continue to be productive for a few more seasons to put together a legacy that will last. If his career continues to be injury plagued, then his status will continue to drop but probably not as far as you might think.

Take care!

Frank said...

No CP3?
Are u penalizing players for being injury prone or are u taking just their average? So you would take Webber's 800+ games over Parish's 1600+. Similarly Grant Hill over Paul Pierce? I'm not a Boston fan btw. Just think that the most important skill a player can have is durability.

Jake said...

Frank,

Paul has only played three seasons and my list was finished before the All-Star break of this season. So, his second-place finish in the MVP Voting and First Team All-NBA selection didn’t get factored in. He is frickin’ awesome, though, and I have no arguments if you would put him in right now. If he puts together a similar year next season, I might have to update the list sooner than I planned just to get him in there. Thanks for mentioning Paul though because I should emphasize in my intro that only stats through ’07 were factored in.

The Webber/Parrish question is a good one. Webber gets the edge over Parrish, IMO, for a few reasons. First, Webber has finished in the top ten of the MVP Voting five times in 15 seasons. Parrish did it twice in 21 seasons. Webber was a First Team All-NBA selection once and a Second Team selection three times. Parish garnered just one Second Team selection in 21 years. Clearly, Webber was the better player. He had the better high-end seasons. He was more explosive, more skilled and more athletic. I don’t think anyone is going to debate that which brings me to the length vs. quality debate. I agree that durability should be a factor. I think it plays an important role in some player comparisons. For instance, Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr are often considered the top two hockey players in NHL history. Some swear by Orr. Others swear by Gretzky. Well, Gretzky had better stats and award-counts than Orr and played 13 more seasons. In my opinion, that cements the #1 spot for Gretzky. So durability plays a role. However, I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that a player who was decent for a long, long time (say, 21 years) should rate ahead of a player who was unstoppable for a good stretch (say, eight or nine years). Unstoppable players are unique. Webber was unique in his ability. As I mentioned in his write-up, he is one of only six players to average 20-9-4 over a career. Parish never averaged 20 points or 4 assists in any one season. At some point, there are diminishing returns on the value of career-length. Over his last six seasons, Parish never averaged over 15 points or 10 rebounds. His Player Efficiency Rating over those seasons was awful. You could find a mid-level free agent to put up those sorts of numbers. Before those last six seasons in which Parish was really just a body, his career was only 300+ games longer than Webber’s. Considering what each player accomplished individually in his career, I don’t think Parish’s advantage in career length trumps Webber’s advantage in production. I’m not going to punish Webber because he didn’t play ten more seasons as a marginal player. That’s why Webber gets the advantage in my book.

As for Pierce/Hill, I’m as big a supporter of Pierce’s game as there is. But, Hill is more accomplished. Hill has a First Team All-NBA selection and four Second Team selections. He also has five top-ten finishes in the MVP Voting. Pierce has a doughnut in both categories. That is a significant difference. I’m not sure there is a compelling argument for Pierce to be rated ahead of Hill at this point. Pierce could rate ahead of Hill by the time his career is over but I think Hill has accomplished more at this point.

Enjoy the playoffs!

Davan said...

The reason Max Zaslofsky isn't in the Hall is because he took the ABA job to coach the New Jersey Americans (now New Jersey Nets) in 1967. The NBA made the team's life a living hell concerning where they played and the conditions they played under (constant harassment). His life after he left the Nets was hell as well. The NBA put the Scarlet A on him.

He was the third leading scorer of all time when he retired at 7,900 pts. Remember, this was before the shot-clock era. His flaws couldn't play defense or go to his left. But one of the great all-time shooters.

Kevin said...

To even suggest that Shaq is a better player than Wilt is kind of silly. Chamberlain was in fact taller, stronger & faster, a much more significant offensive threat and a better defender. All against clearly better competition down low.

Frank said...

Jake,
you make some good points but you can't say the last 300 games of the chief's career was insignificant without mentioning that Webber was basically robbed of this athleticism since his knee injury in 03. He still put up empty number but you can tell he is not the same player. Also, I don't think its fair to compare numbers straight up between the two players. Parrish played on an all star team with bird/mchale/johnson where he served his purpose as defender/rebounder very well. He couldn't put up that type of numbers. As a Laker fan, Ive watched Webber's Kings battle kobe/shaq and just think you are overstating his resume as a player.

Also, I noticed that you left rasheed off the list. You probably know better as a Detroit fan. I think he should be on the list over someone like amare who is softer than a pillow on defense. When Rasheed was on the Blazers he ripped up the Lakers in the 2001 playoffs. I definitely feared him a lot more than I ever feared CWebb.

Jake said...

Kevin,

To suggest Wilt played against better competition is kind of silly. You're telling me that basketball is the only sport where players in the 60s were better than players forty years later? Wilt played in a nine-team league. Think it might be easier to dominate in a nine-team league against 6'7 frontcourts? Basketball players are better now than they were forty years ago and it's not even close. If you don't know that then there's really nothing worth discussing here. That doesn't even get into your "Wilt was stronger" argument which would be compelling if it were actually true.

Jake said...

Frank, four years of Parish's prime were spent with Golden St. where he was the main guy by a long shot. Even then, his numbers never came close to C-Webb's. I would take Webber's career over Parish's (neutral teams, of course) and try my luck at finding a free agent to supplement Parish's games-advantage which wouldn't be difficult. Also, I'm not a big fan of the notion of empty statistics. Even on a bum knee C-Webb put up 20 and 9 on playoff teams. He wasn't useless for the last few years of his career like Parish. We'll have to agree to disagree. Webber had the better seasons, more invidual accolades, and was more difficult to defend. Parish had a healthy games-advantage and played for one of the deepest teams in NBA history. I don't think you're wrong, I just disagree.

As for 'Sheed, don't confuse potential with reality. Sheed has been dominant at times but he has coasted way too much. He is a big-man who refuses to play in the post. If Amare continues on the track that he is on (which is how I choose to evaluate active players), then he'll be considerably more accomplished than Sheed by the time his career is over.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

Wow this is a great list. It's extremely difficult to compare players across eras and positions. None of the selections on your list stand out to me as being stupid although I would rate Bird over Duncan. Bird finished in the top 2 in MVP voting 7 times winning three; Duncan was in top 2 only 4 times winning two. Hakeem should probably rate ahead of Baylor.

Jake said...

Anon, thanks for the comments. I actually agree with you about Hakeem over Baylor. In fact, I took a closer look at Baylor and I think I have him ranked quite a bit higher than he should be. I’ve given his resume a closer look with respect to the players behind him and I feel much more comfortable with him at #24 behind Bob Cousy. Baylor never won a title or an MVP. I think everyone who I have rated 13-23 should get the nod over Baylor. LeBron is rated differently because he is an active player so his career totals don’t match Baylor. Everyone else, though, gets the advantage in a career-comparison. Interestingly, Baylor made it to eight NBA Finals. He finished 0-8! Thanks for encouraging a second look.

As for Bird/Duncan…I really can’t argue too much on this. It’s like splitting hairs. But, I believe Duncan has the edge for a few reasons. I realize Bird had seven top-two finishes and Duncan only had four. However, there were only 23 teams in the league when Bird played. Duncan plays in a league with 30 more starters. The league is deeper than it has ever been. Who were the big-timers during Bird’s day? In the 80’s, it was Magic and Bird and really nobody else. Moses Malone was there for the first part of the 80s. Jordan was still too young. Kareem was too old. It is staggering that Bird could finish in the top two that many times. I just think it’s a bit unfair to hold that against Duncan who has played with Shaq, KG, Dirk, Iverson, Nash, Kobe, and LeBron. Both Duncan and Bird finished in the top 10 of the MVP Voting 11 times. Both finished in the top 5 of the MVP Voting 9 times. I don’t think that’s much of an advantage for Bird. To me, that’s mostly a wash. Bird has the 3-2 MVP advantage and I definitely give him the edge there.

However, this is where I think Duncan gets the edge... Duncan has the NBA Titles-advantage 4-3. He has the Finals MVP-advantage 3-2. Duncan also has an 8-0 First Team All-Defense advantage. Both players were First Team All-NBA selection nine times. But, remember, Duncan is only 31. So, I have to give the overall edge to Duncan in a very close comparison.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I must qualify my comments by first saying that I am both a Magic Johnson fan and a Lakers fan. That said, from an objective point of view, I heartily disagree with some of your comments regarding the comparisons between Magic and Lebron James.

Lebron is a fantastic modern physical specimen. He's faster, jumps higher, and is stronger than Magic. But to say that "At 6'9, Lebron can do everything Magic could do and more." tells me that you either didn't see Magic play, or your memory of him is a bit fuzzy.

Lebron is the type of player that can carry his team's scoring load almost on his own. He is a prolific scoring machine, and barring injury, will go down as one of the league's best scorers ever. But, there are three things that he cannot do as well as Magic did - two of these, he will never catch up to Magic, the third he might have a chance.

First, Magic is the best passer in history. Stockton may have more assists, Pistol Pete may have matched him in artistry, but overall Magic is still the best passer that ever lived - especially on the fast break. Since Lebron is a scorer first, he will never be as good a passer.

Second, vision/decision making. Magic is the ultimate floor general. In crunch time, you really want the ball in his hands. Being basically the tallest point guard in history, he has a knack for:
a) finding open teammates
b) knowing when to drive
c) knowing when to shoot
Again, Lebron will never be as good in this respect.

Finally, there is leadership. Magic understands the responsibility of being the best player on his team, is to make the whole team better. Even a scoring machine like Lebron is easier to shut down than a team that plays well together. Magic was a good scorer, and he could have been a great scorer if he wanted to be. But, he wanted to win championships, and he knew that in order to achieve that, he had to make his teammates better. Magic is a better leader than Lebron. In this respect, I will give Lebron more time to catch up with Magic. He is still young. Even still, I doubt that he will ever become the inspirational leader that Magic was.

Anonymous said...

I think you are being to harsh on Penny Hardaway. He was all nba 3 times(including 2 1st teams). He played in the mid 90s when scoring was tougher than nowadays and averaged 22,7, & 5. And I do remember him taking over in the '97 playoffs vs the Heat and in '00 vs the Spurs (when Kidd was injured). In fact I remember a jam in The admiral's face....

trav1220 said...

Very interesting list. Its hard to rank people when you are getting past like the top 25 because you start getting very subjective. I definitely disagree with the isiah thomas, he was much better than alot of people you listed before him in terms of accomplishments, the talent he played against and succeeded against, championships and pure talent. Dirk???? Wow...I'm not even going to go down that road. Man, Wilt over Russell?? thats though. Russell beat him head to head over and over again and like you stated Wilt was stronger and bigger than everyone he played against by ALOT! I would put Duncan right after Jordan, Magic, Kareem. Not too many players have the resume he has. He actually was first team nba his first 9 years in the league...no one has ever done that before. But overall it was a fun list.

Nick said...

This a good list until the top fifteen. Why are Wilt, and Russel so low. They should clearly be ahead of Shaq, and in my opinion ahead of Kareem, and Magic. Also why is the big O so low shoulden't he be higher for his career 25 points per game 7.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists. One more thing for consideration I think Pettit, Hayes, and Erving be higher. Not that you want to hear, but my top ten would be:

1. Bill Russel (11 titles come on)
2. Micheal Jordan
3. Wilt Chamberlain
4. Oscar Robertson
5. Kareem Abdul Jabbar
6. Magic Johnson
7. Larry Bird
8. Tim Duncan
9. Shaquille O'Neal
10. Kobe Bryant (At the end of his career I think he will be #2 for me he's got some rings ahead)

Great site good job.

Bryan said...

I think you should definitely look at the field goal percentage a bit more when evaluating some of these guys. It's not a flashy number but it's one of the most important things we can quantify. It's the reason Kobe will never be anywhere near as good as Jordan. Pettit really shouldn't be anywhere on that list. a guy that jacks up as many shots as Jordan, Pettit, and Kobe do tends to be FG% anchor, if you will. If they shoot 50% for their career, as Jordan did, the team is going to be at that level. If they shoot 43% like Pettit, well, the team is gonna be down there too. I like the top of the list, but the Big O is too low and it gets sloppy around the 15 mark.

TZ said...

Haven't had a chance to have a thorough look-through, but looks like an extensive breakdown... Solid work, bravo...

A couple of these have to be jokes though, right? - Vince Carter ahead of David Thompson and James Worthy? Stockton ahead of Isiah??? Chris Webber ahead of Kevin McHale?????

The worst, though, is Karl Malone put ahead of The Dream. That's unbelievable to me.

It's your list though, so more power to ya. It was interesting to read your reasoning, but you put too much emphasis on trophy's and awards... things like "three selections to Second Team all NBA" and "first team all defense", and especially MVP's. Everyone knows Malone didn't either MVP award and that Zeke lit up Stockton.

Interesting read though, man. I'll be back later to look through it all better.

Jake said...

TZ,

I appreciate your comments (well, most of them), but I’m not sure what information you’re basing some of your claims on. First, Isiah owned Stockton? Stockton having the longer and more individually successful career is one thing. I’m not sure how you can just ignore that. But, gamelogs exist for every game they played against each other. So, we don’t have to guess. In 13 career games against each other when both were starters, Stockton holds the advantage 7-6. Stockton averaged 15 points, 12 assists, and 1.7 steals in those 13 games. Isiah averaged 20 points, 6 assists, and 1.2 steals. I’m taking Stockton in that comparison every time.

Awards, honors, championships and statistics are what we have to go on. The NBA doesn’t hand out awards for making the best cakes. They give them to the best players. It makes all of the sense in the world to put a big emphasis on awards and honors. For instance, Stockton was a First or Second Team All-NBA selection eight times. Playing the same position in the same era, Isiah was First or Second five times. That matters. That tells us something. It doesn’t tell us everything but nothing does. I wouldn’t take a list seriously that doesn’t put a heavy emphasis on awards and honors, along with championships and statistics. Then again, that’s only my opinion.

What makes David Thompson so great? He never won a championship or even made it to the finals. He only played five seasons in the NBA in which he played in more than 62 games. By the time Vince Carter’s career is over, he will have played twice as many games (!!!) averaging more points, rebounds, assists and steals and with a better Player Efficiency Rating. If Carter came up in the 70’s, he would be revered as a basketball God. There is no way Thompson’s career will come close to stacking up to Carter’s career. It sucks that Thompson got injured and was out of the league by 29 but I’m not going to pretend that’s not the case.

I’m shocked that you would question C-Webb over McHale after saying Thompson should be ahead of Carter. C-Webb is close to the power forward version of Thompson. I actually don’t mind someone putting McHale ahead of C-Webb. It’s a difficult comparison. McHale had the luxury of playing for a dynasty. Webber did not. I don’t award players for being lucky. McHale was good and very lucky to play with Larry Bird and Robert Parish. I look at their accomplishments and what they could do on the court. A healthy Webber is better than McHale, in my opinion. His awards and accolades don’t lie.

I talked about the Malone-Hakeem comparison in detail. I have yet to hear a compelling argument for Hakeem being rated ahead of Malone. All I ever get is “he was the man” or “he had the best post moves of all-time.” I don’t care about first hand accounts as much as I care about their resumes. I watched them both. They both revolutionized the position. People want to pretend Malone sucked. Before Duncan, he was the best power forward of all-time. Hakeem is no better than the 5th best center of all-time.

Thanks for writing. I hope you enjoy the rest of the list. I spent a long time comparing players. There is a reason why I have guys rated where they’re at. You might disagree with things (and I expect you to) but none of it should shock anyone.

Anonymous said...

your list is very well written, but one player I think should be at least in the top five is Larry Bird. Even though he didn't win as many mvp's or championships as other players he still could do EVERYTHING. He could shoot, make amazing passes, play outstanding D, and rebound. Magic Johnson- "I don't fear anyone except Larry Bird." "He was so good it was scary." After these words I hope you will consider Larry Bird as one of the best.

Nick said...

Brian I understand what your saying about Kobe, but to me M.J.'s 49% shooting average isin't that much more impressive than Kobe's 45%. And to say that Kobe will never even be near as good as Jordan is just ubsurd, and misinformed. At the end of Kobe's career he will probably have as many or more championships than M.J. I think it's pretty clear that the Lakers are going to roll over the Celtics this year, and with Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum (if he returns at full health) as roleplayers there going to win more than just one championship. Also if your looking at NBA Honors
(including all rookie, all NBA first, and second, and all defense)
for these guys M.J. has 21, and Kobe has 19, and he's at the height of his power. This list has a large emphasis on awards too now it looks like M.J. is going to win that now, but if the Lakers win as many championships as I think they will in the upcoming years then Kobe is almost a lock for finals MVP, he will probably win 1 more regular season MVP, maybe 2. If you want to look at statistics Kobe will have more minutes, 3 point %, free throws, free throws attempted, free throw % and assists. Now thats not including all the catagories that are too close to call Kobe may also lead him in: Field Goals, Rebounds, assists, and points. I'm not saying that Kobe is better or will be better than M.J., but to say that they can't even be compared really offends, and upsets me. After reading this I hope you take second look.

Jake said...

Nick,

Thanks for the comments. I apologize it took me so long to reply.

My thoughts on the Shaq/Chamberlain/Russell comparison can be found in the write-ups. I really have nothing more to add on that. The quality of player gets better in every sport over time. We may come to a point where that isn’t true. However, in every sport, players become more skilled and more physically suited for their sport. Chamberlain dominated 6’7 post players. Sure, there were some formidable frontcourt players in Wilt’s day but when he put up his absurd totals during his first few years, frontcourts were loaded with 6’7 players. Do you really think there will be another team in any of the major sports that will win 11 titles in 13 years like the Celtics? The NBA is filled with too many good players for that to happen again. The only reason it happened in the first place is because the league was terrible by comparison. Also, if you have Russell number one because of his 11 Championships, then why don’t you have Sam Jones ranked #2 of all-time or at least in your top ten? He won 10 championships. Feel free to take everything Wilt and Russell did at face value. I choose not to. It is a more difficult era. Degree of difficulty matters in my opinion.

As for Oscar Robertson, who should he jump on my list? He won an MVP and a Championship. Here are the combined totals of MVPs, Championships, and Finals MVPs of the players I have ranked ahead of him…

Jordan 17
Kareem 14
Magic 11
Shaq 8
Wilt 7
Russell 16
Tim Duncan 9
Larry Bird 8
Oscar Robertson 2

There is a distinct cutoff after Bird. Russell’s number is a little crazy because he played for the Celtics dynasty that won 11 Championships. I’m not sure who you think Oscar should jump. I can’t rationalize moving him ahead of anyone.

Take care!

Gino said...

Bryan, good post regarding field goal %. I do want to disagree with a bit of it though. I am old enough to remember Bob Pettit play. Dude, he was an absolute monster. Clearly one of the best players in history. Here's why.
1. Ten times in a row 1st team All-NBA
2. The only guys to ever rebound more per game were Wilt and Russell.
3. MVP in All-Star Game 4 times. Think about that for a minute.
4. Pettit led his team to the only interruption of the Celtics dyasty, at a time when the Celtics had Russell, Cousy and others. Both Cousy and Russel were league MVPs the previous 2 years. They were invincible, except for the Hawks beating them that one time.
5. Seventh highest scoring average of all time.
6. Twice league MVP, twice 2nd, once 3rd, three times 4th.
7. Fifth in all time efficiency (a very accurate, advanced statistic), including number 1 four years in a row.
Bottom line is that Petit should be, and most experts have him, between 10 and 15. Truly one of the greatest players ever.

TZ said...

Hey Jake, you’re right I didn’t provide a lot of “information” to back up my claims. I was being lazy, not in the mood to get on NBA.com to make my points. I’m gonna do that now though, but I only have time to do it in parts. I’ll start off breaking down Isiah vs. Stockton...

Ok, first let’s start with how you’re judging players. I get that you’re trying to be objective, and so the “I saw them with my own two eyes and I KNOW who was better” factor is not in play here. So although that is how I base most of my opinions of players, I get that it will be nearly impossible to convince you by using that logic. I really do get that...

There is a problem with your logic though, Jake. If you’re going to be objective, then you can’t use awards that are voted on (ie the All-NBA, All-D, and MVP awards). Votes made by coaches and writers are no more objective than all-star game voting, or you and me picking out our top 100. They mean nothing to this discussion as I see it. Championships and statistics are the only truly objective methods you can use, so let me break Isaih Thomas and John Stockton down using (for the most part) those... Onto NBA.com...

Isaih averaged 19.2 points, 9.3 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals during his career. Stockton averaged 13.1, 10.5 assits, 2.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals. Isiah has an advantage in points, Stockton has a slight advantage in assists, and Isiah has a slight advantage in rebounds. Now, could I bring up the fact that Stockton ran 7,495,328 pick and rolls with Karl Malone (another great player that you don’t hold against stockton... yet you hold Mchale’s teamates against him... but I’m getting ahead of myself now), leading to 94.8% of his assists? Yes, I could do that. But that wouldn’t be all that objective now would it, Jake.

But the question of who is greater between Zeke and Stockton depends on how you define “Great” - Dominance or Longevity. During his prime, from ‘84-’87, Zeke averaged 21 and 11.5 - point guard dominance that the NBA never had, has, or probably ever will see again. You’re from Detroit though, Jake, you know this. In terms of total stats Stockton takes it, but to me Isiah was “greater” than Stockton during each of their primes. Here, check this out...

Taking away his two injury riddled seasons, Isiah never averaged less than 17 points a season. Stockton never averaged more than 17. Zeke elevated his status in the playoffs, Stockton's diminished. Isiah was named “Mr. Clutch” by Sports Illustrated in ‘87 after dismantling ‘Nique and the Hawks. In the ‘84 playoffs he took Bernard King for 16 points in the last minute and a half. But his most famous performance was in ‘88, when he scored a record 25 points in the 3rd quarter (43 in all) on a sprained ankle, cementing him as one of the toughest players in the game.

Sure, he only made three first teams and two second teams, but because of the relentless (and at times reckless) way he played the game, his career was short. He played through injury. The big difference between him and Stockton, in terms of scoring, was that Zeke did most of his work in the paint. That took a toll on his body.

In my opinion that should not be held against him. A true point guard has never led his team to the places Zeke did.. or in other words, a small guard, that was the best player on his team, has never led his team to an NBA title besides Zeke. Not only that, he did it twice and it would have been three if he wouldn’t have messed up his ankle in 88. Stockton was the second best player on a team that couldn’t even win one. And don’t give me the MJ b-s, cause Zeke went up against him too. Zeke beat Magic, Bird and MJ. End of discussion.

Come on Jake, Zeke makes, takes and “bakes the cake” for sure. :)

Anonymous said...

Where is Chris Paul?.. he deserves some place...

Jake said...

TZ,

Zeke definitely “baked the cake.” There is no doubt that the difference in opinion lies in how you’re judging a career. Isiah—at his peak—had more “wow” performances. But, this isn’t a peak list. That’s why Bill Walton isn’t in the top five and David Thompson isn’t in the top 50. I don’t have a problem with someone saying Isiah was better in his prime than Stockton. Stockton didn’t put his team on his back and go for 40 like Isiah did at times. But, he did put his team on his back and go for 20 assists. In fact, of the 99 20+ assist-performances in NBA history, Stockton has 34 of them. Stockton wasn’t flashy, and maybe he wasn’t as great one-on-one, but at the very least, he was equally as effective as Isiah. For me, Stockton’s longevity trumps any advantage Isiah might have in a peak comparison. It really comes down to how you value each factor. On a neutral team, I would much rather have Stockton’s 19-year career over Isiah’s 13-year career.

A few minor quibbles from you comments:

“Awards” given by coaches, players, and writers are a little different than random fan opinions. They are a consensus. The whacko-opinions get diluted by the masses. They are voted on by people who are immersed in basketball. They aren’t the end-all but they are certainly more noteworthy than you’re giving credit for. They are way more objective than All-Star game voting. Vince Carter gets voted to start the All-Star game every year whether he’s hurt or not. All-NBA, All-Defense, and MVPs are very accurate depictions of the league at the time. I don’t always agree with the voting but I probably agree with it 80% of the time. I disagree with your claim that statistics and championships are objective measures. They might be on the face but they certainly aren’t for our purposes. For instance, Sam Jones has 10 Championships. Is that more impressive than Isiah’s two rings? You have to consider that Jones had Russell, Cousy, and Havlicek. Championships and statistics cannot be taken at face value. They have to be interpreted. For instance, you cite Isiah and Stockton’s statistics and include points and assists. But, what if Isiah achieves his statistics with a Player Efficiency Rating of 18.3 and Stockton achieves his with a PER of 21.8? Statistics and Championships are as subjective as awards because they have to be interpreted and put into context. All should be used—with discretion—when comparing various resumes.

The other thing I wanted to comment on is your suggestion that I have unfairly treated Kevin McHale by failing to use the same “teammates made him better argument” with Stockton. Again, I think this is way off base. If you take away McHale’s three rings, what’s left? Would he even be on a top 100 list? It’s doubtful. He made one All-NBA team and finished in the top 12 of the MVP Voting once. If you take away the rings, he’s simply left with a decent Tom Chambers-esque resume. On the other hand, Stockton doesn’t have “rings” to carry his resume. He has numbers and honors. There is no convenient application here. It’s only responsible to prorate McHale’s resume based on the fact that he was on a great team because other than that team’s success, McHale’s resume isn’t that strong.

Also, the fact that most of Stockton’s assists went to Malone is irrelevant. Most of Magic’s assist went to Kareem. That doesn’t make Stockton or Magic any less of a player. Stockton played with one All-Star. Isiah played with four. I could easily make the argument that it was harder for Stockton because his team wasn’t as talented. I could also argue that it was harder for Stockton because the defense new exactly what was coming (since he ran the pick and roll over and over again as you mentioned) but he was so good at shooting and passing that defenses were helpless to stop him. You also might want to consider the fact that Stockton kills Isiah in some of the more advanced statistics. Stockton had 243 Wins Shares Above Average. Isiah had -6.5. Stockton had an offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) of 121 and a defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 104. Isiah was 106 and 107 respectively. Those numbers aren’t even remotely close.

I don’t want to diminish Isiah’s rings, but you have to admit that Magic and Bird were done and Jordan hadn’t gotten started yet. Magic won his first title in 80, Bird did it in 81. It’s not a coincidence that Isiah didn’t get his until eight and nine years later. Also, Jordan killed the Pistons in ’91. The Pistons didn’t all of a sudden get old in one year (Dumars was 27, Isiah was 29, Rodman was 29, Salley was 26, Agguire was 31). Jordan had finally reached his peak. History shows it. The Pistons beat the Bulls 4-1 in ’88, 4-2 in ’89, and 4-3 in ’90. And then, bam, the Bulls killed the Pistons 4-0 in 91. I interpret that as Jordan getting better and getting better teammates. It’s not like the ’88 Bulls were the same team as the ’91 Bulls and the Pistons just got worse. The Bulls became the best team ever. Luckily for the Pistons, that didn’t happen until ’91. It was the perfect time for Isiah. I don’t know any other way of looking at it. You can’t just say Isiah beat Magic, Bird, and MJ without including the caveat that he did it before and after they had their best teams. Magic never won a championship again (and he wouldn’t have even if he didn’t have to retire early) after the Lakers lost to the Pistons and Bird never even made it back to the Conference Finals again after losing to the Pistons. That wasn’t a coincidence.


That’s all I’ve got. Thanks for the discussion.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

Once again Hakeem gets disrepected. A man dominates Shaq and Ewing in back to back years along with D-ROb along the way and still gets low balled. He is so clearly better than the other centers I dont even think its close, we'll start with his free throws and work from there. Its not his fault Jordan decided to quit, we have no idea how the series would have been played out

Jake said...

Anonymous,

Actually, I have a pretty good idea how a Chicago/Houston series would’ve turned out in ‘94 and ‘95. If you don’t have an idea yourself, then you probably weren’t watching basketball in the 90s. The Bulls would’ve had homecourt both years. Houston won 58 and 47 games in their two championship-years. In their six championship-seasons the Bulls averaged 65 wins per year. Maybe Houston would’ve had a slight-chance with homcourt advantage. To suggest that Houston had any chance as the road team is just ridiculous. It’s not Hakeem’s “fault” that Jordan retired. I said no such thing. It is a distinction that needs to be made especially in a comparison of Karl Malone and Hakeem. The only difference between Utah in ’97 and ’98 and Houston in ’94 and ’95 is that Jordan was in the league in ’97 and ’98. If you don’t see that as a distinction worth making, then you’re not being objective.

I have Hakeem WAY ahead of Ewing and ahead of David Robinson. Not sure what your point is with those players since you used those players as evidence that I “lowballed” Hakeem. As for Shaq, yeah, a 32-year old Hakeem outplayed a 22-year old Shaq. So, I guess that defines Shaq’s legacy forever, then. Are you ready for Shaq and Hakeem’s lines for the ’95 Finals?

--------PPG--Rebs—Asts—Blks-FG%
Hakeem--32.8-11.5-5.5--2.0-.483
Shaq----28.0-12.5-6.5--2.5-.595

Houston had two of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in their prime. The average age of their starters was 30. Orlando had Shaq and a bunch of players who never accomplished anything without Shaq and the average age of their starters was 25. I’m not sure what else you expected Shaq to do at 22.Eddie Jones at 25 started over Kobe Bryant at 18. Does that mean Eddie Jones should be ranked ahead of Kobe on the all-time list? Of course, not.

If you’re starting at “free throws” in a Shaq/Hakeem career-comparison, then I’m not sure there is any hope here but, anyone who takes Hakeem over Shaq on the all-time list has to explain the following…


Championships:

Shaq 4
Hakeem 2

Finals Appearances:

Shaq 6
Hakeem 3

Conference Finals Appearances:

Shaq 9
Hakeem 4


Finals MVPs:

Shaq 3
Hakeem 2

All-NBA First Team:

Shaq 8
Hakeem 6

Top-Five MVP finishes:

Shaq 8
Hakeem 6

PER (Player Efficiency Rating):

Shaq 27.1 (2nd all-time)
Hakeem 23.6 (15th all-time)

PPG:

Shaq 25.2
Hakeem 21.8

Rebounds:

Shaq 11.5
Hakeem 11.1

Field Goal %:

Shaq .581 (2nd all-time)
Hakeem .512 (59th all-time)

Anonymous said...

as long as you have michael jordan at 1, it's a good list. In the future, I believe Kobe Bryant should will be worthy of moving up to number 2.

Anonymous said...

Before i start critiquing your list I have to give you props for making an awesome list. I agree with much of it. I have a few things. You said only Moses Malone and Wilt led the league in rebounding more times than Mutombo but you're forgetting Rodman who isn't even on your list. Rodman is one of the top defenders of all-time. I agreed with much of your top ten and I think Shaq is one of the best ever. People have to remember how much his team benefitted from the hack-a-shaq method because it put the other team in foul trouble. My top 10 looks like this:
1-MJ
2-Russell
3-Magic
4-Bird
5-Shaq
6-Kareem
7-Chamberlin
8-Duncan
9-Kobe
10-Oscar

One Bill Russell stat stands out to me: 10-0. Bill Russell's record in Game 7s. I have Kareem a bit low because I feel that he lacked compition when he was racking up his MVPs. I agree with you on KJ being the most underated PG. I liked the spot for LeBron and that you put Karl over Moses. I liked that you put Elgin Baylor and Jery West around 20. They were healthy and on the team with Wilt in 69' and 70' yet still couldn't win game 7. In 69' game 7 Wilt took himself out for the final 5:45. He had an ouwee on his knee, poor guy :( and thank you for including Mutombo 4x DPOY.

Jake said...

Anonymous,

I appreciate the comments. Good stuff with your list. I have no qualms. A lot of it depends on how you interpret things. For instance, if you focus on team-oriented stats, then Russell will be ranked higher etc.

I want to clarify that I was referring to “rebounds” and not rebounds per game when I said that only Moses Malone and Wilt have led the league in rebounds more often than Mutombo. Mutombo led the league in rebounds four times. Rodman and Russell also led the league four times.

A side note on Rodman… I didn’t rate him in the top 100 for the same reason I didn’t rate Ben Wallace. Both were effective rebounders/defenders. However, I don’t think either belongs in the top 100. If I extended the list to 150, they'd probably show up somewhere in that range. It's just a personal preference, though. They were certainly good at what they did.

Take care!

Brian said...

Before i go and critique all your work, I would like to than you for making this list, i agree with alot of it, but i believe that you don't take into account the intangible qualities that some players have. For instance Paul Pierce. now don't get me wrong, i don't feel that the is the best player in the world or anything, but when Pierce is on his A game, he is unstoppable. I know its hard to update theses lists with how fast basketball happens, but the Finals this year showed what Pierce is capable of, and what he has to bring back in the future, i believe he deserves better placement than his current one.

Also, on the topic of intangible characteristics, Larry Bird ( I'm not a Celtics fan by the way) deserves better placement simply because of what he brought to the game, i know the numbers and the titles aren't there, but to say that Bird wasn't a better player than Shaq or Tim Duncan simply seems out of the question to me.

I know that its hard to see the intangibles some players have, because not all players have ways of seeing how they had once played, but given the opportunity, why not take advantage?

Bruce said...

I have watched the NBA since the 60s, and I believe that, no matter how objective we try to be, our opinions about the greatest players are inevitably subjective. Statistics and awards make a weak foundation for comparision because they are always relative to the competition that existed at the time, and cannot be compared across eras. Their importance is further weakened when they do not measure something that truly defines greatness -- a player's performance when the game is on the line. My opinion is that if you ranked by performance in the clutch during the eras I have observed, you would have among your top five players Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Jerry West. When the game was on the line, these players were the best I ever saw. Although I see Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a short step below the others in terms of clutch performance, I would add him to my top five based on a number of factors including his defense and longevity, but primarily on the fact that his skyhook was the most unstoppable shot in the history of the game.

My personal view is that Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were the greatest players
ever, based on skills and clutch performance. Although, Jordan gets the nod from most as the best ever, I favor Johnson and Bird based on their abilities to greatly enhance the performances of their teammates. Further, I think Jordan's fantastic skills ultimately had a negative effect on the game because athleticism and the spectacular dunk became the goals of too many players who attempted to emulate him. This, along with over-controlling coaching styles (e.g. Mike Fratello) resulted in a boring dark age for basketball that persisted until the recent emergence of the up-tempo styles of teams such as Phoenix with Mike D'Antoni and Steve Nash. Unfortunately, it appears that boring basktetball will ultimately prevail because the league won't call fouls in the playoffs, thereby making valuable such hack artists as Bruce Bowen, who otherwise would be out of basketball or be bench-warmers in the secondary leagues of Europe.

I enjoyed reading your list and thank you for the time and effort it must have taken you to compile it. I agree with many of your points -- such as Kevin johnson being underrated. I disagree with others. For example, Wilt Chamberlain was a much better player than Dwight Howard -- at least to this point in Howard's career. Also, I don't think Wilt would have been dominated physically by Shaq. While he proably weighed less during much of his career, Wilt was about two inches taller and could jump much higher than Shaq. Of course, since they didn't compete against each other, the only thing we can say for sure is that they have been two of the worst freethrow shooters ever, with Wilt being even worse than Shaq, and was the first notable player to be the victim of off-the-ball intentional fouls late in games. That the Hack-a-Shaq strategy is still available dumbfounds me. It is horrible for the game -- unless you like slow-paced, incredibly boring conclusions to great matches. It doesn't surprise me, however, because David Stern is a tool.

Anonymous said...

This was a well written list and fairly objective list overall. Just a few points that I thought were note-worthy. The poor PERs for the Celtics players during their dominance was due to the fact that there were so many great players on that team. I don't think that Russell should be as low as he is just because he had a low PER. Effeciency is measured with minutes played and it's hard for every player to be effecient when your team is an all-star team. Russell should not be knocked for that.

Intangibles were mentioned and I think they should be taken into considerations for tie-breakers to preserve the list as objectively as possible. Oscar Robertson should not be moved up the list because of his weak 2 MVP and Championship total, but because he could control the pace of the game better than anyone regardless of era or position.

I really like where you ranked active players. A lot of players are unprovened on the big stage like LeBron and Dirk, so having them relatively low is appropriate.

As far as the hot topics go (Isaiah v Stockton, Hakeem v Malone), I think you did a very good job of judging these matchups objectively. Your points are hard to argue against.
Personally, I wouldn't put Shaq at four because you're not being objective when you call him the most dominating player ever. He does deserve more credit for playing in an era where there is more competition from different teams and bigger, faster, and stronger athletes, but like you admitted, his weaknesses far outweigh his dominance.
Much in the same way LeBron compares to Kobe, I think Shaq compares to Russell. LeBron is more physically gifted, but his game is missing a lot. James can't consistently shoot from outside 5 feet and his defense is improving, but still light years behind Kobe's. Russell could have easily dominated the offensive end and put up Wilt's numbers, but chose to focus on defense while still putting up huge offensive numbers. Shaq is a physical freak, but has limited options that are being exposed now in Phoenix and will affect his longevity.

Kareem being in the league when there was little competition and posting 6 MVPs should also be taken into account.

Again, overall a great list, just a few tweaks.

Will said...

Ok great list i can tell u took alot of time in making this and i just have one disagreement why is pistol pete so low....now i understand his numbers are not the greatest but you have to include his impact on the game and i think he has had a bigger influence on the game than everyone in your top ten i mean just watch a highlight clip of the guy......great list though

BrianJ said...

Pete Maravich and Kevin McHale behind Chris Webber.....????

Has Webber won 3 Championships? Been one of the best players on one of the best teams ever?

Did Webber stun crowds whenever he touched the basketball?

Dave said...

Great post. I'm was surprised, but pleased to see Gary Payton at 38. People forget just how good he was.

agent smith said...

You say that Hakeem's championships were with Jordan out of the league but he was back in the nba during the rockets' second championship run. The bulls lost to the Magic in the playoffs.

Jake said...

Agent Smith,

Jordan came back for 17 games to end the regular season. He shot a career low in field goal percentage over those games and had a PER that was nowhere near his career average. He had missed two years of competitive basketball. So, forgive me if the fact that a rusty Jordan was present in the playoffs doesn’t add even the slightest bit of degree of difficulty for Hakeem. The fact that the Bulls lost to Orlando should be enough to show that MJ was just an average player after missing so much time. It wasn’t a coincidence that the next season—when Jordan was at his peak—the Bulls destroyed Orlando 4-0 in the playoffs and easily won the NBA Title.

Take care!

Chris said...

i enjoyed ur list a lot. it's extremely hard to list even just 25 players and rank them in order with explanation on each player. i enjoyed ur opinion very much. i have some of the same opinions as the commentators above me, so there's no point in listing them again. just wanted to say good list.

- hamexpress.net (cchen2010)

Anonymous said...

what does lose share and win share above avg. mean

Jake said...

Chris,

Thanks, I appreciate the comments.


Anonymous,

Win Shares Above Average is the number of win shares that a player earned above the average player in the league. It is calculated by using the following formula Win Shares-Loss Shares/2 “Win Shares” is a statistic or measure created by Bill James to easily compare baseball players. Basketball-Reference.com created a similar statistic to compare basketball players. The formula that was in place when I wrote this post has since changed. Here is the new formula for Calculating Win Shares: http://www.basketball-reference.com/about/ws.html

I have emailed the folks at basketball-reference for some clarification on how Win Shares Above Average fits in with their new formula, if at all. I'll pass along their response.

Take care!

Jake

Anonymous said...

Jake,
I think this is an outstanding list. The 2 best things about this list (I think) is the placment of Scottie Pippen, because he's not quite good enough to be in the top 25, but is way too good to be under the top 40.
I also liked the placement of Gary Payton because nobody ever remembers just how good this guy really was. Stellar list.

Anonymous said...

who eva said to replace Abdul-karim Jabaar fo kobe bryant, you are out of your mind

replace shaq

Anonymous said...

You have got to be kidding.
There is no way that Shaq is top ten, let alone above Wilt and Oscar Robertson. Kobe is way better than Shaq. Besides, if Pat Riely wasnt the coach when kobe and shaq were on the same team, they never would have won a championship.

Jake said...

I can't believe there are people out there who actually believe this.

jack said...

Greetings,

My name is Jack Janigian... and I am looking for an expert. Last night a group of guys were supposed to gather for a Fantasy Basketball draft... but the website (yahoo) was not working, so instead we sat around the Novi Buffalo Wild Wings and talked sports. A heated argument broke out about who would be the top five players you could put on a court at one time to form a team. (ALL TIME)

So... in the end, we sat around BW's with no lists, no previous studying, and had an impromptu draft. I am looking for a ranking of who you might think is the best of these teams. Imagine that you take each player... and take him at the VERY peek of his game. (Tho some of these guys are obviously VERY young) Tell me which team you think is the BEST.

TEAM LEBRON
PG – John Stockton
SG – Clyde Drexler
SF – LeBron James
PF – Chris Webber
C – Hakeem Olajawon


TEAM MJ
PG – Dwayne Wade
SG – Michael Jordan
SF – Carmello Anthony
PF – Moses Malone
C – Yao Ming


TEAM KOBE
PG – Deron Williams
SG – Ray Allen
SF – Kobe Bryant
PF – Karl Malone
C – David Robinson


TEAM MAGIC
PG – Magic Johnson
SG – Joe Dumars
SF – Scottie Pippen
PF – Dennis Rodman
C – Shaquille O’Neal


TEAM WILT THE STILT
PG – Allen Iverson
SG – Oscar Robertson
SF – Julius Erving
PF – Dirk Nowitski
C – Wilt Chamberlain


TEAM GARNETT
PG – Isaiah Thomas
SG – Reggie Miller
SF – Grant Hill
PF – Kevin Garnett
C – Amare Stoudemire

TEAM DUNCAN
PG – Chris Paul
SG – Pete Maravich
SF – Vince Carter
PF – Tim Duncan
C – Bill Russel

TEAM BIRD
PG – Steve Nash
SG – Larry Bird
SF – Dominique Wilkens
PF – Charles Barkley
C – Dwight Howard


IF you don't have time to evaluate... I understand, but would love to hear your 1-8 rankings of these 8 teams as to how they would do against each other.

Jake said...

Jack,

I'm in. Give me a day or two. If you don't mind, I'm thinking of just making a post out of it. I want to do your question justice and I hadn't decided on a post topic yet. Two birds, one stone.

Take care!

Jake

P.S. No Kareem!

jack said...

Ha...

That would be awesome man. And yes, the Kareem ommission was the first one noticed by some this morning! Looking forward to seeing your thoughts.

Jack

Ben said...

Hi, I was just wondering if i could get clarification on George Mikan's posistion in the list. I understand its hard to rate someone you only hear stories about but consider this, Mikan is the Only player that had the rules and playing court changed (widening of the lane and three second rule) to combat him. would that of been considered in your ratings? thanks

Jake said...

Ben,

There's no question that those factors have to be considered. However, Mikan played in the least competitive era in NBA history. He would've been an average player in any era after the 70's, in my opinion. That's why I don't have him rated higher. Basketball was just getting started. Players were shorter. He was definitely skilled but he was also much taller than everyone else. The degree of difficulty just wasn't there.

One last thing, your point still stands but Mikan isn't the only player who had rules changed as a result of his dominance. Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul Jabbar also brought rule changes to the sport. The NBA changed its rules for Mikan because he made it obvious that there were flaws in the game. The three second rule and widening of the lane would've happened eventually. If it wasn't Mikan, it would've been Wilt, Russell, or Kareem.

Had Mikan not had the distinction of being the league's first superstar, or being the league's first skilled big man, or prompting rule changes, he probably would've rated lower on my list. Certainly those factors are why I have him as high as I do.

Take care!

Jake

Ben said...

Thanks jake, for clearing that up for me. Im an avid basketballer myself, and love the history of the sport. Sadly being Australian, Basketball is not as big over here. its always a pleasure to find people as passionate about sport as i am. One last thing if you watched any of the olympics particularly the Australian/USA game what is your opinion on Patrick Mills? and do you think he has what it takes to make the NBA.

Jake said...

Ben,

Your guy Mills has a bright future, no doubt. He will certainly be one of the better players in the NCAA this year which is quite a distinction considering he’s a sophomore. He definitely has an opportunity to grow into a Steve Nash-type player. However, a word of a caution…The difference between college and the NBA for a point guard is huge. A guy like Mills might take a while to find his niche. Remember, Nash floated around the NBA as a mediocre point guard for five years. Then it all just clicked for him. Nash began to see the floor like Neo from the Matrix. There’s just no way to predict whether a guy will ever develop that sort of court sense. I think whether it “clicks” for Mills or not will determine how successful he’ll be. I thought Dan Dickau had a chance to be a similar player to Nash and it just hasn’t worked out for him. There is no question, though, that his Olympic experience—and the caliber of competition that came with it—will prepare him for the NBA.

Take care!

Jake

Jake said...

Jack,

My post is up. Hopefully it is what you're looking for.

Take care!

Jake

Anonymous said...

Hey Jake

First off great list, that must of took a great deal of time, and it seemed very well thought out. My only problem with it is the exclusion of Dennis Rodman. I know he is a creep, but in my opinion, he was the greatest defensive player to ever play. He could guard every position. I know he did not score much, his career average is like 6ppg or something. But look at his rebound totals, they are massive for his time period. Also, every where he went, his teams won. Defense wins championships, and I have yet to see a better defender than Rodman.

Thanks, and keep up the good work

Anonymous said...

Jake,
I'm going to have to go with team MJ or MAGIC. I mean, come on, you almost HAVE to have Jordan on the greatest team of all time.

Anonymous said...

Probably team Kobe. Too well rounded, too athletic, all are capable of team play, all are scorers.
I appreciated player rankings. They seemed non-bias and reasonable.

Anonymous said...

Jake,
First off, great list. There is only 1 thing I was wondering about. Where is Tony Parker. Here are some stats to consider.
In Regular Season:

PPG: 16.1

APG: 5.5

RPG: 3.1

In Playoffs:

PPG: 18.4

RPG: 3.7

APG: 4.8

As you see, he's very well rounded, and just watch him drive to the basket. He's won 2 (I think) with the Spurs. A lot of people think it's all because of Tim Duncan. He helped a ton, but Tony also did his part (and more). Just something to consider.

Write back!!

Jake said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for writing! Tony Parker has been a very good point guard in the NBA. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that he keeps getting better. I do think he will eventually make it onto the list but, at 26, I think he needs a few more years. Offensively, I’m with you on him, though. He is the greatest finisher from the point guard position in NBA history, in my opinion. No point guard has ever lived in the paint the way he does. It’s like a magic act. He also boasts a lethal mid-ranger jumper.

Parker’s defense is pretty weak and he is a below average 3-point shooter for a guard. I would love to see, at some point, how he would fare on a weaker team that isn’t so good defensively. I think that helps him quite a bit.

Parker has three championships along with the a Finals MVP. It certainly helps that he plays with one of the 10 best players in NBA history (Timmy D) who had won a championship with the Spurs before Parker came along. That doesn’t mean Parker hasn’t been important. I’m just not ready to throw him into the top 100, yet. I’m not sure his resume is that much better than Chauncey Billups’s at this time and Billups was quite a few spots out of #100. Parker is six years younger than Billups so I feel comfortable saying that six years from now—and likely even sooner than that—Parker will easily be on this list.

Take care!

Jake

Anonymous said...

The list looks very good to me, but I believe that you have underrated Reggie Miller a bit. I am a NYK fan, but still you are not doing him justice. He is one of the only players to ever have over 40% 3-point, 50% FG and 90% FT in a season. Not to mention that he did not have a great team to rely on either. Nevertheless, I do agree with the fact that his assists and rebounds were quite low, but he did not have anyone amazing to assist to. When he had the ball he normally made it and he was not notorious for turnovers. I am not criticizing, just expressing my opinion. TY

Aaron said...

Yeah, where is chris paul. ever since his rookie year he has been one of the most dominate players leading his team to the playoffs. He had, had no experience and no other team leaders and lead his team far into the playoffs. If you look at the other players on your top 100 list they all had other superstar players with them but Chris Paul doesn't. Now at the present he is the most dominate player in the league better than kobe ever was and ever will be at a young age.
Another player with the name of pete maravich should be moved up he was so advanced for his time. His spectacular passing. Teammates couldn't even catch his magnificant passes. He would practice for hours a day. Not to include his teammates didn't even like him because they thought he was overpaid resulting them not to coperate with him making him not to achieve his fullest but still leading his team to the playoffs manytimes.

DM said...

I think this is a very well-conceived list. The only glaring omission I can think of offhand is Elvin Hayes (he is missing, right? Or did I simply overlook him?)The Big E may have been a selfish loudmouth, but was a scoring and rebounding machine and there are other selfish loudmouths who did make your list. I would not have rated Nowitzki so high either.
I know that Kobe Bryant is a supreme talent, but I wouldn't put him in a class with Jordan and won't until he shows a lot more. He doesn't make nearly as many hustle plays as Jordan did and has far fewer steals and blocks. Jordan's career shooting percentage may only have been about 49, but he went up over 50 several times, something Bryant has never done. But I do think Bryant is catching on, learning how to let the game come to him.
Everyone's list is going to be subjective, anyway. At least you made one and are prepared to explain and defend your selections.

Jake said...

DM,

Thanks for the comments. I do have Elvin Hayes at #35.

Take care!

Jake

DM said...

35) Elvin Hayes
See there! I must have been half blind when I read it the first time. Sorry about that.

Anonymous said...

I'm the guy who posted about Tony Parker, and now I have a request. May you please rate these dominant pairs of players 1-4(1 being the best and 4 being the worst).Here are the pairs:
Karl Malone + John Stockton

Karem Abdul Jabaar + Magic Johnson

Bill Russell + Larry Bird

Michael Jordan + Scottie Pippen


Please write back:)

game said...

1 mj
2 kobe
3 wilt the stilt
4 magic j
5 bird
6 lebron
7 kg
8 allen iverson
9 d wayde
10 melo

lots of u think this is stupid but every player on hear is or was the star player of their team and were in all star games

some mvp and rookie of the year of second runner up (melo to lebron rookie year

Anonymous said...

1-8 rankings of teams

1 team mj
2 team bird
3 team wilt
4 team kobe
5 team magic
6 team duncan
7 team lebron
8 team garnett

but think of

pg allen iverson/
sg michael jordan/ kobe
sf carmelo/ bird
pf kevin garnett/ tim duncan
c wilt chamberlain/ dwight howard
all in their prime same team

can you say championship

Jake said...

Tony Parker-guy,

Before I get into the rankings, I just want to mention that Bill Russell and Larry Bird did not play together. I'm not sure if you knew that already. The other three pairs you listed played together. Not sure if that was intentional or not.

Ok, I'll start by ranking the 4th place combo. This is easy, actually. Malone and Stockton never won a title. They were the masters of the pick n' roll. They made it to the finals twice. They are two of the greatest players of all-time. However, the other three combos won many, many championships. So, Malone and Stockton are last by a mile.

MJ and Pippen won more titles than Kareem and Magic including two over Stockton and Malone. Jordan was the best of the four but Kareem and Magic were so much better than Pippen that I think I have to give the nod to Magic and Kareem. You can't beat the inside/outside game of the greatest point guard who ever lived and arguably the greatest center who ever lived. MJ and Pippen played the 2 and 3. Their responsibilities were similar. Magic and Kareem covered everything. So, I have to go with Kareem and Magic over MJ and Pippen.

I'm not sure if you still wanted me to rate Bird and Russell since they didn't play together but I have Kareem rated ahead of Russell and Magic rated ahead of Bird. So, obviously, I would have Kareem and Magic over Bird and Russell. MJ/Pippen and Bird/Russell is a toss-up. I could argue either way but, again, Pippen is quite a bit off of the caliber of Bird and Russell so I'll give the nod to the Celtics on this one.

Here is the list without Bird and Russell:

1). Kareem and Magic
2). Jordan and Pippen
3). "Stockton to Malone"

Here is the list with Bird and Russell:

1). Kareem and Magic
2). Russell and Bird
3). Jordan and Pippen
4). "Stockton to Malone"

P.S. The guy you would probably want to pair with Bird who was a teammate is Kevin McHale. I would've placed Bird/McHale third just ahead of Stockton/Malone. Take care!

Anonymous said...

I like this list. At least the top 10 or even top 20 do make sense. Then it gets pretty difficult to compare the players from different eras.

Anonymous said...

Hakeem has more points, blocks, assists, rebounds, and steals than Shaq. Is that objective? Shaq will pass him in points this year but has no shot in the other 4 major categories. The data you provide in Shaq's favor are the result of weaker competition at the center position, Shaq's dominance of pop culture, and the people he shared a court with. Who do you think would win a pick up game - Penny, Kobe, Wade, Nash and Stoudamire or Cassell, Horry, Thorpe, Kenny Smith, and Drexler (1 year)? Tough call. I ommit Pippen and Barkley for the exact same reasons that Payton and Malone aren't on the Shaq's list. Hakeem graces a top 10 all time steals list filled with hall of fame guards and is rivaled only by Stockton's assist numbers in his domination of the block list. It is laughable that you claim Mutombo to be the premier defensive center.

But what is trult upsetting is the continued regurgitation of the same two knocks on Hakeem (which, funny enough, are always prefaced as not being knocks on Hakeem) that have no basis in fact. Argument 1: Jordan 'gift wrapped' Hakeem's titles. Fact is, Jordan is lucky the two didn't meet. During Jordan's first 3 titles, Olajuwon led the Rockets to a 5-1 record over the Bulls. The '3-headed' monster could not come close to stopping Hakeem. The Bulls just couldnt match up. And yes the playoffs are a different beast but maybe you should check Hakeem's playoff numbers. Off the charts. He completely destroyed Robinson, Ewing, and Shaq - I can only imagine what he would have done to the Bulls.

Argument 2: Hakeem was in his prime and Shaq was too inexperienced. Since when has being young and athletic been a bad thing in the NBA? Just look at the numbers. Shaq's first three years were the most dominant of his career. He had better numbers across the board, dunked harder, ran faster, and had quicker reflexes in '95 than he would ever have again. In other words, he was better equipped to defend Hakeem in that series than he would ever be. Everyone should youtube Shaq's consession of Hakeem's superiority following their loss. To say that no one could guard Shaq one on one is just a lie.

I would like to see what centers in the NBA who guarded both of them would have to say. I mean, Shaq can't shoot, dribble, drive, or steal the ball. ANd in a conversation about the best big men of all time he is a sub par rebounder. He is big, he is powerful, he is charming, and he played with some of the greatest sidekicks of all time. Congrats. But in all honesty, of course he is great. One of the greatest. But Hakeem is chronically underrated at his expense. I hope my arguments have been interesting if not persuasive. Would love to hear a legitimate counter argument to the points I have made.

Jake said...

Anonymous,

If I knew for sure that you were a Rockets fan, I probably wouldn’t be responding. There really isn’t a sane reason that I can think of to willingly attempt to convince a Rockets fan that Shaq is better than Hakeem. It’s an unwinnable endeavor. You said quite a bit so I’ll attempt to address all of it…

Did you by chance watch the Phoenix-Portland game on November 22? Shaq dominated Greg Oden. He threw down a near-criminal dunk in Oden’s face to start the game and abused him the rest of the way. Shaq finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds. Oden had as many fouls as points and grabbed one board. At 36, Shaq is well passed his prime. Oden is nearly 21 and, according to you, is as physically capable as he will be at any time in his career. So, does that mean that Greg Oden couldn’t possibly have a better career than Shaq? Is Oden forever relegated to “inferior to Shaq” status because he wasn’t better than Shaq at 21 years old? That’s what you’re arguing when you try to discount Shaq’s age when he and Hakeem squared off in the finals. Shaq conceded that Hakeem was better because Hakeem was better. It would’ve been silly for him not to. I’m not sure how old you are but you may want to consider Michael Jordan and Kevin Garnett (among many, many others) who—despite being pretty good players at a young age—were abused early in their careers by more savvy veterans. Both took off exponentially during their mid-20’s when their minds and bodies matured. With all due respect, suggesting that Shaq getting abused by Hakeem when he was in his early 20s is evidence that Hakeem’s career was better is not exhibiting a good understanding of the NBA. Shaq was raw physically and mentally. How would a 23-year old Hakeem have performed against a 30-year old three-time Finals MVP Shaq?

Then there’s the fact that Hakeem’s dominance over Shaq in that series has been grossly exaggerated. The way people retell the story you would think that Shaq curled up in the fetal position and Hakeem turned into Teen Wolf. Give credit to Shaq for being humble after that series. His “team” got killed by Hakeem’s “team”. Shaq did not get killed, dominated, or even embarrassed by Hakeem. If Hakeem outplayed Shaq it was by a miniscule amount. Shaq averaged more rebounds and assists and he equaled Hakeem in blocks. Then there’s the fact that over the series, Shaq scored 19 fewer points and took 42 fewer shots! Shaq shot 59% in the series. Hakeem was at 48. Hakeem bested Shaq in one category: steals. Statistically, I’m not sure how anyone can look at that series and say that Shaq was outclassed. I don’t buy into revisionist history. At 23 years old, Shaq more than held his own against one of the greatest all-around centers to ever play the game.

The reason why I think you’re a Houston fan is because there are only a handful of people in the world (95% of which are from Houston) who think that Hakeem’s Rockets were better than Jordan’s Bulls. There is no way to prove any of this. You can argue until you’re blue in the face that Jordan was “lucky” that he didn’t have to play the Rockets and I can call you crazy but none of that will get us anywhere. All I know is that it would be extremely coincidental if Hakeem’s only two championships just happened to come in the two years that Michael Jordan retired. Do you realize what the odds are of that happening? Hakeem made the playoffs in 14 of his 18 seasons. The only two seasons in which he won the Championship is when Jordan retires for two years? Am I really supposed to believe that the Bulls—a team that was better than the Rockets from 1990-93 and from 1995-98—would’ve have magically fallen off in those two years had Jordan not retired? Again, facts don’t help us here because there is no way of proving this but I would classify that sort of thinking as highly illogical. I’m not sure what you’re trying to prove when you cite that the Rockets were 5-1 against the Bulls during Jordan’s first three titles. Putting the fact that it was the regular season aside for a moment, if Hakeem’s Rockets were better than the Bulls over those years then why didn’t Houston even make it to the Western Conference Finals? The Detroit Pistons went 3-1 against the Cavs in the ’06-07 regular-season and then lost to them in the Eastern Conference Finals with homecourt advantage. The regular season is called the “regular” season for a reason.

It is incredibly easy to write-off Shaq’s numbers as a result of weak competition. It’s a cop-out. I could make the exact same argument about Hakeem. Who are these big bad centers that Hakeem dominated? David Robinson? Patrick Ewing? Who else? Here are the Western Conference All-Star centers that Hakeem had to contend with… Dikembe Mutombo, Otis Thorpe, Kevin Duckworth, Mark Eaton, James Donaldson, and 40-year old Kareem Abdul Jabbar. So, if Shaq’s numbers came against weak competition, then what do you say about Hakeem? The truth is that there was much more “big man” talent in the NBA during Shaq’s prime than there was during Hakeem’s. It’s not even close. Amare Stoudamire, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Yao Ming, and Dirk Nowitzki are all PF/C who are every bit as good as Patrick Ewing and David Robinson. Heck, Pau Gasol and Rasheed Wallace are considerably better than the “All-Stars” that Hakeem had to deal with listed above. Your argument about Shaq’s competition doesn’t hold up at all. In fact, if anything, Hakeem is the one who should be branded with that label.

Not sure what you’re getting at by comparing the best players that Shaq and Hakeem played with over their careers. Try comparing the ’05 Heat to Hakeem’s Rockets. The Heat were 42-40 the year before Shaq arrived. They were 59-23 and the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference in his first year and then won the Championship in his second. Try comparing the ’95 Magic to Hakeem’s Rockets. What happened to Penny Hardaway, Dennis Scott, and Nick Anderson when Shaq left for LA? This is the first time that I have ever hard anyone attempt to make the argument that Shaq won because of his sidekicks. That notion couldn’t be more wrong. Shaq’s sidekicks won because of Shaq. What did Penny ever do once Shaq left? What has Kobe won since Shaq left? What has Wade won since Shaq left? I’m not sure how you can skew that to argue the other side.

I’m also not sure what’s so funny about Dikembe possibly being the greatest defensive center ever. Where is your argument? Seriously, convince me that Hakeem was clearly a better defensive center. Please don’t cite career blocks and steals totals as your evidence. Compare their primes and then convince me Hakeem was clearly a better defender.

I don’t really have anything else to add on the Hakeem/Shaq comparison. I tackled this subject on June 10, 2008 in the comments section. If you haven’t read it, then go check it out. If you have, then you already know why I give the nod to Shaq in the comparison. I don’t put much weight in career totals. If I did that, then Eddie Murray would be one of the top 20 baseball players of all-time. Shaq had a much better PER, a much better shooting percentage with a much better scoring average. He also averaged more rebounds per game. That along with Shaqs huge edge in team success speak more to me than Hakeem’s advantage in “totals.” By the way, if Shaq is a subpar rebounder among all-time big men, what does that make Hakeem?

I appreciate the comments, questions, and arguments. I’m in a no-win situation here especially if you’re a Houston fan. All of this stuff is subjective. Someone could argue that Carmelo Anthony is the greatest player ever and there is nothing anyone can do to “prove” otherwise. Both Shaq and Hakeem were the elite of the elite. Both are among the top 12 players in NBA history, in my opinion. I don’t think there is a lot separating players 2-12 on my list. My thoughts are not “right” any more than yours. My opinions are formed with a considerable knowledge of basketball history and that’s really all I can say. All I can ask of people is to remain objective.

Thanks and Take care!

Jake


P.S. Shaq’s influence in “pop culture” has absolutely nothing to do with the argument. If anything, more people dislike him than the average player which is why he does not get the recognition he deserves. I’m sure Shaq is a nice dude but I don’t know a single person who likes him as a basketball player. That ship sank 12 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff. I sincerely appreciate the dialogue. But I might not have been clear with some of my supporting evidence. When All-Star starts are the result of popular vote you simply can't say that a likeable charming pop culture phenomenon doesn't have an edge over a low key Nigerian who let his name be misspelled for the first 5 years of his career. And yes, Shaq won the titles for Kobe, not vice versa, and Shaq won the title foe Wade. Clearly - I'm not a novice. But perhaps the reason Hakeem never even had a shot at the Jordan Bulls was because his teams were simply not as good as Shaq's. Do you think if he played side by side with a Kobe Bryant type or even a DWade, he wouldnt have had more post season success? Of course he would have. He went to the playoffs in his first 14 or 15 seasons with no supporting cast. That's just not true of Shaq.

And the fact is the Bulls never knocked the Rockets out. It's not like we lost to them in the finals twice in a row and then they left and then we won. If that were the case, the Rockets titles definitely would have been a gift. The fact is simply that we produced our two best teams the years Jordan was out. That's it. Yes, by definition that is a coincidence. Rudy T didn't hold back and wait until Jordan left and then launch a surprise attack on the league. Those Rockets teams were just flat out good. Tied the best starts in NBA history at 15-0 and 20-1. And the second go round we acquired Drexler late so you cant look too much at the record, but they had a Magical post season. Down 2-0, and 3-1 twice! It was almost fated and then swept the Magic. Of course it is subjective. Might we have lost to Jordan? Yes. Might we have won? Yes. So all I am arguing is that nobody 'gift wrapped' anything. Hakeem earned and deserved those as much as anyone. Please hold on to your asterisk.

Oh, and stop citing Shaq's RPG because by the time he retires he will be the exact same or else a lower RPG than Hakeem with less total in his career. Hakeem is an average rebounder (in a convo about the best of the best) and Shaq is slightly below.

But if you dont chane your mind about anything else I need you to think about this one. Hakeem's era was unquestionably the era of great big men - not Shaq's. That is just it. KG, Duncan, Rasheed, etc. are great but are voted as forwards so when we are doing a comparison of first team NBA and all star games you, these guys arent in the picture, so how are they even in this conversation. ESPN put out a good top 10 list last year. They have Shaq 4 and Hakeem 5. But you will notice, Hakeem played against 5 of the guys on the list and Shaq played against 3 - Hakeem, Ewing, and Robinson. Olajuwon's career parallels what is known in NBA history as the era of the big man. Not to mention that he played againes Dikembe and Zo for an entire decade as well.

And now for the big finale BPG: Hakeem - 3.1, Dikembe - 2.8, Total: Hakeem - 3,830, Dikembe - 3,278, Best Season: Hakeem - 4.6, Dikembe - 4.5, Seasons better than 4.0: Hakeem - 3, Dikembe - 2, Seasons better than 3.0: Hakeem - 9, Dikembe - 7. SPG: Hakeem - 1.7, Dikembe - .4, Total: Hakeem - 2,162, Dikembe - 494, Seasons over 2.0: Hakeem - 5, Dikembe - 0, Seasons over 1.0: Hakeem - 17, Dikembe- 0. DefRPG: Hakeem - 7.8, Dikembe - 7.2, Total DR: Hakeem - 9,713, Dikembe - 8,530.

Considering Dikembe is the 2nd best defensive center ever, and Hakeem is clearly head and shoulders above in every way, it is just that much more of a compliment for the Dream. Also why did you not mention anything about Hakeem's uncanny placement as 7th all time in steals.

And, did you ever look at Shaq's numbers in his first 3 campaigns. They were the best of his career. It makes sense that someone as large as Shaq would start to slow down at a younger age than a less ginormous human being. He was still lean and quick in '95. Are these not attributes that would help him guard Hakeem? What would Hakeem in his prime have done to a Shaq that was slightly slower of foot.

Also, Oden sucks. At least now. What are you saying. Shaq dominating Oden is anything like Hakeem being better than Shaq at that time. Shaq was dropping 32 and 14 for 3 straight years when they met. Oden has been putting up crap and crap for 25 games of his career. Get a new analogy.

Oh, and this is not to make anyone admit that Hakeem is better than Shaq (though it may sound like it). It is just to say that they are indeed much close than most people will let themselves admit. And that Olajuwon is waay better than Malone. I love Shaq - he's great f*** the Mailman.

Thanks for the response, look forward to your next one.

Jake said...

Rocket Man,

Well said. You had me fooled. I would not have guessed in a million years that you weren’t trying to say Hakeem was better than Shaq. You definitely came across that way. However, you said that you were just unhappy with the significant gap that most people feel there is between the two. I’m not sure how much closer I could’ve made them. I’m guessing you have no qualms with saying that Kareem, Russell, and Wilt were better than Hakeem (although, I do not think that is a certainty considering significant differences in strength of eras). The only other center I have ahead of Hakeem is Shaq.

A couple points: I still don’t understand how Shaq is a below average rebounder and Hakeem is an average rebounder. Are you really arguing that if Shaq retired today that he would be a better rebounder (because his RPG wouldn’t continue to dip) than if he retired two years from now? Shaq’s RPG is better than Hakeem’s right now. If, in fact, Shaq’s RPG dips to Hakeem’s level, then how can it be that Hakeem is an above average rebounder and Shaq a below average? Wouldn’t they be the same?

You missed the point of the analogy about Oden. The point isn’t that Oden is good or that he will be good. Though, he probably will end up being much better than he looks right now. The point is that you’re using Shaq’s 22-23 year old performance against a 32 year-old all-time great as proof of his inferiority. Frankly, I would be reluctant to use that as supporting evidence, anyways. Shaq played Hakeem to a statistical draw in the ’95 Finals. Shaq was nowhere near his prime. Hakeem was right smack in the middle of his. You claim that my analogy with Oden is silly but you’re missing the point. If using Oden’s performance at 21 against a veteran Shaq is silly, then using Shaq’s performance at 23 (a pretty damn good one no less) against a veteran Hakeem is equally silly. It doesn’t make any difference how good Shaq was statistically in his first three years. Looking back on those teams and what happened to his Magic teammates after he left, it’s obvious that he was the only true offensive threat on his team. Of course his numbers dipped slightly with Kobe. It’s inaccurate to argue that Shaq was better during his first three seasons than the rest of his career. Again, players mature physically and mentally. I would say Shaq was at his prime right around the time he won three NBA Finals MVPs and three consecutive NBA Championships.

I disagree with your assertion that Shaq was better equipped to defend Hakeem during his first three years. Shaq’s additional size is an advantage, not a hindrance. In fact, had Shaq not bulked up to 345+, I don’t believe he would’ve been near the dominating force he ended up being. His size posed tremendous problems to post players. Hakeem was skilled enough to cope but there is no way he would’ve been able to get into the paint the way he did against a lighter Shaq. I cannot think of a single instance when an offensive player has owned Shaq since he moved up to 330-350. His size and relative athleticism stymies quicker players. There just isn’t room. When Shaq faced Hakeem as a youngster, it was athleticism vs. athleticism. That is a battle that Hakeem was superior in although not by as much as people think. A comparison of their primes pits size vs. athleticism and that is a battle that Shaq wins. Hakeem would’ve been destroyed by Shaq in the late 90’s. Hakeem was 6’10, 255lb. Shaq in his prime was 7’1 345+. The muscle and size that Shaq put on as he matured is why teams could not score against his teams and it is also why he overwhelmed defenders. With Shaq, it wasn’t about locking someone down or picking their pockets which Hakeem was much, much better at. It was about being so massive that there wasn’t room to operate. I don’t rate Shaq this high because of his “skills”. It’s because of his size and amazing athleticism for that size. That is an advantage he has over every other player who has ever played basketball.

I do not agree at all about Hakeem’s era being more difficult than Shaq’s. Perhaps the worst nickname ever given to any era in any sport is calling Hakeem’s era “the era of the big man.” I listed Hakeem’s “all-star” competition in my last comment. Other than Ewing and David Robinson, they were a bunch of stiffs. Later in his career, Zo and Mutombo came along but you can’t say those guys were Hakeem’s competition. They were only around for half of Hakeem’s career. They were around for all of Shaq’s. You cannot include Kareem Abdul Jabbar as proof of Hakeem’s competition. Jabbar was old and well passed his prime. The big men in the NBA right now and over the last 10 years are much more talented than what Hakeem faced. It doesn’t matter what position players are “listed” as. It matters who they guard. KG, Dwight Howard, Pau, Yao, Rasheed, Al Jefferson and Amare have all had to guard Shaq. They are all PF/C except for Yao. They are his peers. They aren’t like the stiffs from the 80s who were just bodies who could block shots and rebound. These guys are considerably more skilled offensively than what the average 80s center produced so they often take on the offensive responsibilities of a power forward but the defensive responsibilities of a center. These players are all 6’11 and taller and legitimate centers. All of them would’ve been stars in the 80s and early 90s. While I don’t particularly care about whose era was more difficult—it’s not like we’re comparing the 60s to the 90s—I do believe that Hakeem had an easier landscape to deal with. Shaq has dominated the greatest big man era in NBA history in my opinion in terms of skill and depth. Chris Kaman—a slightly above average center now—would’ve been a perennial all-star in the 80s. Same with Mehmet Okur, Tyson Chandler, Emeka Okafor, Andrew Bynum, Andrew Bogut, Al Horford and Jermaine O’Neal. Brad Miller, Marcus Camby, Samuel Dalembert, and Zydrunas Illgauskas are good examples of what the centers in the 80s and early 90s were like. They are average centers today.

As for the Dikembe-Hakeem defensive comparison. There is no question that Hakeem has better career defensive stats. Mutombo’s totals and averages were crippled by his last six years in the league. Still, I’m not sure how anyone could say that Hakeem was unequivocally better than Dikembe defensively during their primes. I have plenty of statistics in support of Deke. Mutombo’s prime lasted 12 seasons. Over that time, he won more DPOY awards, and led the league in blocks and rebounds more often than Hakeem did over his prime. They also sport nearly identical RPG and BPG over their primes. I’m not arguing that Dikembe was easily the better defender. In fact, considering Hakeem’s longevity and propensity for steals, he probably should get the edge. I’m just not sure how it’s “laughable” to suggest that Mutombo might have been the best defensive center. Certainly the gap is razor-thin. Nobody in NBA history has won more DPOY awards. Nobody has led the league in blocks more often. Only Wilt and Moses Malone have led the league in rebounding more times. I will, however, change what I wrote in Deke’s write-up. You definitely make a good point about Hakeem’s candidacy as the best ever. I’ve changed it to read, “Mutombo is probably one of the two or three greatest defensive centers in NBA history.”

We are going to have to agree to disagree on some of these issues. I do not accept (obviously just an opinion here) that it was a coincidence that Hakeem won two and only two rings in the two years that Jordan happened to retire when Jordan won the previous three championships before and the next three after his retirement. Karl Malone would have two rings if Jordan retired two years later than he did. The Jazz had their best teams in 97 and 98 just like the Rockets had their best teams in 94 and 95. The only difference is that the greatest player in NBA history (and thus arguably the greatest team in NBA history) was out of the league. I’m not going to pretend that wasn’t the case. Congrats to Hakeem and the Rockets. They won two championships. However, I’m pretty sure Karl Malone, John Stockton, Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, and Charles Barkley would’ve appreciated it if Jordan magically retired when they were on their best teams.

It’s too bad that Shaq and Hakeem never made good on their Pay-Per-View one-on-one match put on by Taco Bell. That would’ve been awesome. Interestingly, that event is what prompted Shaq to significantly add to his frame. He famously started to lift weights for that competition.

I appreciate the comments. I respect the hell out of Hakeem. Had Jordan not retired, there is no question in my mind that Hakeem’s legacy would not even remotely approach Shaq’s. Still, I don't think saying Hakeem is among the 12 greatest basketball players in NBA history should be taken as a sign of disrespect.

Take care!

Jake

Anonymous said...

Are you ever heard for Drazen Petrovic?
Top 5: International Players Of All-Time and he is in!
Thing about it.

Anonymous said...

I greatly enjoyed reading your list, and while there are a number of rankings I could debate, the most glaring problem for me in Tracy McGrady at 48.

McGrady really only had 4 great NBA years. He was incredibly good with the magic for his 3 years there, and he was great his first year in Houston. He posted very very good season stats during those years, was considered one of the 'best' players in the NBA, and his playoff per game averages backup those claims (even though he never made it out of the first round).

That's it though. He isn't even close to being a top 25 NBA player (present day) in the previous or after years, mostly due to injury. It's a shame his career took a nose dive, and we can always think 'what might have been', but for me 4 seasons of excellent play is not enough to crack the top 50 let alone top 100 of all time list.

Just for comparison sake, you have him ranked ahead of Patrick Ewing, who averaged 20 and 10 for close to a decade?!

Jake said...

Thanks for the comments, anonymous. I have to disagree with your assertion that McGrady has “had only four great NBA years.” He has finished in the top eight of the MVP voting six times. That’s six “great years” right there. He has also been selected All-NBA seven times. So, that’s at least seven very good to great years. McGrady is only 29 years old! At 29, Ewing only had two top ten finishes in the MVP voting and four All-NBA selections. McGrady has been selected first team All-NBA twice. Ewing managed one first-team selection over his entire career. McGrady’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is better than Ewing’s (23.2-21). McGrady has led the league in scoring twice. Ewing never led the league in anything.

Through the age of 29, McGrady has unquestionably been the better player. The comparison is not close. A problem might arise if McGrady’s career continues to be plagued by injuries. As I stated in my criterion for rating active players, I assume a reasonably productive and healthy finish to a career. If McGrady turns into Penny Hardaway or retires in two years, then he will fall considerably on my list. Until that happens, though, he definitely gets the nod over Ewing.

Anonymous said...

Jake,

You make some good points, but for arguments sake.

You said: "Ewing never led the league in anything."

Ewing led the league in...

Defensive Rebounds in 1992-93
Defensive Rebound Pct. in 1994-95
Defensive Rating in 1992-93
Defensive Rating in 1993-94
Defensive Win Shares in 1992-93
Defensive Win Shares in 1996-97

and most importantly...

Personal Fouls in 1987-88!

He also has been dunked on by Michael Jordan more times than anyone in the history of the league... so there's really plenty of things he's lead the league in.

He was in the top 8 in MVP voting 7 times in his career.

He was all NBA 2nd team or better 7 times in his career. The only reason he wasn't 1st team every time over that span was because Hakeem was in the league.

He was an 11 time all-star.

He was voted one of the top 50 players of all time.

I can't believe I'm defending a Knick, so I'm going to stop, and hope you are right about McGrady and the hopefully lengthy career ahead of him.

Anonymous said...

The list was pretty good but i think there were a few players that should have been included...particularly Penny Hardaway and Dennis Rodman instead of Amare Stoudamire and David Thompson

Anonymous said...

Jake you do realize that Hakeem's Rockets did beat Malone's Jazz twice to get to the NBA Finals. I mean you can think whatever you want about Jordan retiring and Hakeem's championships being "gift-wrapped" even though Jordan's teams from 91-93 had a losing record against the Rockets. But Hakeem beat Malone's team twice when Malone had an all-time PG like Stockton and Hakeem had Kenny Smith. See the difference. All I know is that when it was crunch time (NBA Finals) Hakeem showed up to play when it counted (defeated Shaq and Ewing) and Malone choked when it counted (Mailman delivers on Sundays). I said my peace

Anonymous said...

personally i think you are crazy to consider steve neash a better player than allen iverson

Investor said...

overall good list, obvious you put a lot of work and thought into it. Definately think Nowitski, Grant Hill, and McGrady are ranked a bit high...and I think James Worthy and Kevin McHale are ranked too low - especially James Worthy, who was a finals MVP and without whom the Lakers wouldn't have won maybe 2 or 3 titles. Dont think these guys should be penalized for playing with superstars - you didn't penalize Pippen for playing with Jordan....

Jake said...

Investor,

Thanks for the comments. You have fair points, for sure. The Celtics and Lakers of the 80s had three "stars" each. The Lakers had Kareem and Magic who I have in the top five all time to go along with Worthy. The Celtics had Bird and Parish to go along with McHale. Before I go any further, it's important that I clarify that I did not punish Worthy and McHale for playing with great players. I simply looked at their career accomplishments without giving them too much credit for their championships. The rebuttal to their career accomplishments is, "yeah, but look how many titles they won." That's where I argue that they won titles because they played with such great players. The Bulls were a two-man team. They did not win until Pippen evolved into an elite player. Pippen had better individual numbers and accolades throughout his career than both Worthy and McHale (I'm not sure it's even close) and he was roughly 1/2 of the Bulls success while Worthy and McHale were more like 1/3. On top of that, Pippen won six championships with Chicago. Worthy and McHale won three each.

The argument could certainly be made that if Worthy were on a team without Magic and Kareem his numbers would've been much better. However, he probably wouldn't have won any championships and he would've ended up being ranked in virtually the same spot that I have him now. Take care!

Mark said...

very nice job all i want to know is im a huge dirk fan and i would like to no why he is not ahead of KG most dirks stats are better

Anonymous said...

Wow... Forgetting everyone else on the list, ask yourself, who is a better player. Bill Russell or Shaq?

Now I agree that Shaq was an unstoppable force in his era, but so wasn't Russell. As much drooling as you are doing about Shaqs size on the court he only put up 15 RPG. Russell put up over 22 RPG!!!

Shaq has 3 NBA Finals MVP awards.
Russell has none but it wasn't introduced until the last year he won a championship. That year Jerry West averaged 38PPG in the finals and is the only losing player to ever receive the award.

Shaq won 1 MVP award
Russell has 5 (which is tied for the most with MJ)

Shaq has 4 rings
Russell has 11 in 13 years and 2 of those he played AND was the coach of the team!!

Russell did play with a top 50 player, Havlicek
Let us not forget who Shaq has won with, Kobe and DWade

I can't honestly see anyone picking Shaq over Russell in their primes. Come on now....

Jake said...

Anonymous,

I appreciate the comments.

I’ve written extensively on this topic but I’ll recap. You absolutely cannot put together a list with even a semblance of integrity if you do not account for the change in level of play across eras. If Shaq got to play against the bums (relatively speaking, of course) that Russell got to play against, he would’ve averaged more rebounds per game than Russell. Players during Shaq’s era were bigger and stronger than they ever were in Russell’s era. The average front court player in the 60s was 6’7. Shaq would’ve destroyed those players.

It’s way too convenient to say that Shaq won because he had Kobe and Wade. Shaq took the Magic to the Finals without anyone of note. Notice Penny’s career dive-bombed after Shaq left. Kobe was 21 when the Lakers won their first title with Kobe and Shaq. Wade was 24 when the Heat won. Who do you think was most responsible for those titles?

As for Russell, he played on the greatest team (adjusted for era) in NBA history. I’m not sure why you only mentioned Havlicek but he also played with Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman (top 50 players) as well as Sam Jones and Tom Heinsohn (all top 100 players).

It all comes down to what is more impressive. I’ll take the guy who dominated the most difficult era in a sport over the guy who dominated one of the weaker eras. That seems like the common sense way to look at it and that’s the way I differentiate between players from different eras in basketball. I certainly do not compare stats. How many rebounds do you think Shaq would’ve averaged against Russell’s competition?

Here’s another way to think about statistics from that era…I have Nate Thurmond ranked 57th on my list. Nobody seems to have a problem with that. Of all of the comments I’ve received, none has ever been about my placement of Thurmond. In 1968, Thurmond averaged 21 points per game and 22 rebounds per game. The only other two players to do that in the history of the NBA were Wilt and Russell. Thurmond also has the fifth best rebound per game average in NBA history. Clearly, the basketball public hasn’t had any trouble discounting Thurmond’s numbers as being achieved in an extremely weak era. If that weren’t true, then people would be crying “bloody murder” at my having him rated 57th. Why do people adjust for the era when talking about Thurmond but virtually nobody does for Wilt and Russell? People love heroes. They love thinking that things were better back in the day. That’s why Wilt and Russell don’t have their stats discounted. If Wilt and Russell never existed, then everyone would think that Nate Thurmond was one of the five best basketball players of all time. Stats were inflated in Russell’s time not because it was an extreme act of coincidence that the best players ever all came from that era, it’s because that era was the weakest and therefore prime to produce out-of-whack stats. 14 of the top 15 players in NBA history in “rebounds per game” started their careers before 1975. Did players just get worse at rebounding? Of course, not. The league became increasingly more competitive making 15 and 20 rebounds per game impossible.

Anyhow, if I were building a team, I would take Shaq over Russell in a second. Take care.

Justin said...

I dont agree about shaq being forth on the list. He should be lower. Sure he was alot of titles but he also had good teammates

cjmo23 said...

How can Reggie Miller the all-time leader for 3 pointers made be number 78 on the list? The guy is on the top 15 scoring list in NBA history. you cant he could only shoot 3's either. His career free throw percentage is over 90%. The man is a legend and deserves to be at least higher than Ray Allen who didnt win a ring till he was with Kevin Garnett and Paul Peirce. Sure Miller never won one but he also had to face the Kobe and Shaq dynasty. He also had a lot less to work with.

Anonymous said...

I just wanna say i do like your top 100 list.....but i cant believe some of your guys that you have towards the bottom of your list and people that you dont even have on your list. Like a guy like chauncy billups. Led his team to a championship ...was finals mvp...help lead the pistons to a team of the lakers caliber that was supposed to be unsstoppable. he could have been easily squeaked across in the 95 to 97 categorey. I just dont like it when people overlook some players.

Anonymous said...

It may be too early to make the argument that Brandon Roy belongs with the top fifty players of all time, but it is not too early to make that a prediction. Roy certainly does belong with the top 100 already. Few second year players show his ability to both lead patiently and skillfully deliver when his athleticism is needed.

Anonymous said...

i honsetly dont beleive paul peirce is all that great, look at him when he didnt have allen and garnett, his team went no where. But when he gets the top 1-3 post man in the nba in kg and the best shooter since reggie miller, ray allen they start thinking he's good.

Anonymous said...

more than half the people on the top 100 player list had another real good player(s) on there team to back them up like Shaq with KOBE BRYANT and then shaq with wade, duncan and david robinson then with manu and parker, kareem and magic(worthy). that dont mean there not top 100 players but have to give credit to people who ran it by themselvs like wilt, vince carter, tracy mcgrady, and kg who made their careers by being a one-man show.

Mike said...

Great list. Personally I think you have Karl Malone a bit too high. I'd rank Garnett and David Robinson ahead of Malone.

Nate said...

Fantastic list.

IMO, however, I think the big men are jumbled up in the wrong order.

I'm not going to go into various accolades or statistical accomplishments - I just think that the order should be: Russell, Shaq, Chamberlain, Kareem.

One other thing: Wade will end up being in the top 10 and maybe top 5. I think that at the end of Wade and Lebron's career - the objective observer will realize that Wade was better. Since Jordan is so palpably the greatest player ever - I've always thought Wade was the next Jordan. Lebron isn't even close. Lebron is the most talented basketball player ever, but being talented is not what made Jordan the greatest player ever. Lebron doesn't have what Jordan had but Wade does - just in a 6'4 frame.

I've said this since I saw Wade at Marquette. If given the chance to take ANYONE in the league to start my franchise - I take Wade first, above anyone (only among active players). Kobe would be second, Shaq third, Duncan fourth, and then Lebron....maybe.

Lebron isn't going to win a championship...I just know it. If you interchanged Wade with Lebron right now - the Cavs win the championship.

Ok...those are just my two cents. I love talking sports.

TY for your time - and fantastic job putting together the list.

kaey said...

chris webber should be taken off this list

Anonymous said...

Hey Jake, I've been following your top 100 lists for a couple of years now and think they're really good. Keep up the good work.

It seems that you wrote this list in about May 2008. I'm writing to ask where you would place these players after the 2009 regular season: (I've included their likely accomplishments in 2009 and from the 2008 playoffs)

LeBron James - MVP, 1st Team All-NBA, 2nd/3rd in DPOY, 1st Team All-Defensive, Top 5 PER season of all-time, Leader in +/-

Dwyane Wade - 2nd/3rd in MVP, 1st Team All-NBA, 2nd/3rd in DPOY, 1st Team All-Defensive, Scoring Title

Kobe Bryant - 2nd/3rd in MVP, 1st Team All-NBA, 1st/2nd Team All-Defensive, Won 2007-08 Western Conference

Dwight Howard - Defensive Player of the Year, Top 5 in MVP, 1st Team All-NBA, 1st Team All-Defensive, Rebounding Title, Blocks Title

Chris Paul - Top 5 in MVP, 1st/2nd Team All-NBA, 1st/2nd Team All-Defensive, Assists Title, Steals Title

Kevin Garnett - Won 2007-08 Championship

Paul Pierce - Won 2007-08 Championship, 2007-08 Finals MVP

Thanks in advance.

Jake said...

Anon,

Thanks for the comments. I’ll do my best but I have to warn you that I don’t think there will be too much movement. I think we’ll see significant jumps from LeBron, Paul, and Howard over the next five years but they need to add quite a bit to their resumes first.

KG

I’m pretty confident that even with KG’s championship, his resume to date is not strong enough to jump Moses Malone at #14. The question becomes, does it propel him past David Robinson at # 15? KG and the Admiral’s careers are mirror images. Both have an MVP. Both have a DPOY. Robinson finished in the top ten of the MVP voting eight times. KG will have done it eight times after this season. Both have been All-NBA first team four times. Robinson has two championships to KG’s one but Robinson played on much better teams throughout his career and likely would not have won either championship if San Antonio didn’t luck there way into Tim Duncan. Since KG’s career is still going strong and has an equal resume already, I think KG jumps to #15.

LeBron

This might surprise you but I probably wouldn’t move LeBron yet. I think he’s a lock to win the MVP this season but, even then, the players in front of him are quite accomplished. Think of LeBron as a snake in the woods right now. He’s off the radar in terms of the top 15 but I think he’ll be in the top 10 before we know it. His ceiling is much higher than Kobe’s. I cannot see LeBron only winning one MVP over the next six seasons. If LBJ starts winning championships, the chase to Magic and possibly MJ is on. Right now, though, I think he’s good at #21.

D-Wade

Wade has had a dynamite season. If he can string together three or four more like it, he’ll skyrocket. I don’t think this one season changes much simply because his ’08 season was less than stellar. He only played in 51 games and the Heat was brutal. The next active player on the list is Tracy McGrady at #48. Although I am pretty confident that Wade will ultimately finish much higher than McGrady—I think he’ll be top 30 when he’s done—his career still falls short of T-Mac. I think Wade stays at #50.

Dwight

Along with Chris Paul, Howard makes the biggest jump. He goes from not rated in the top 100 to a minimum of #65. It’s still really early so I can’t justify a move into the top 50 but I think he’ll easily be there within two years.

Paul Pierce

Pierce is steady at #72 but if the Celtics win another championship this year and he’s as vital as he was last year, he’ll make a giant leap. There are a lot of people he can pass with a good finish. A second championship would easily put him on par with Joe Dumars at # 61 and might even put him into the top 50. For the record, I think Pierce is one of the most underrated players in NBA history. He is as versatile offensively as any player I have ever seen.

Chris Paul

Paul’s jump is probably not as big as Howard’s simply because he hasn’t been in the league as long. I would say Paul would rate somewhere in the 80s but keep in mind that is going to change drastically over the next few seasons. Honestly, I think a more productive question might be where I think these guys will end up. I think that would be more fun. Not a lot changes in a year or year and a half in terms of where these guys stand in the history of the game. It takes 3-5 years to get significant movement. However, I think Paul is going to end up being the best non-Magic point guard in NBA history.

Kobe

I think Kobe will end up passing Karl Malone but I just can’t do it, yet. Malone—although many fans have a hard time admitting it—is going to be tough to pass. If Kobe wins the championship this year, I think that would be enough. Right now, he’s still at #11 in my opinion. I can see Kobe getting to as high as #5 but that would take an awful lot. He would need two more championships and one or two more MVPs. I don’t think the MVPs are going to happen with LeBron around.

That’s about all I’ve got. I doubt I’ll still be doing this three years from now but that would probably be the time that I would re-do the list. Take care!

P.S. Thanks for the player summaries!

Anonymous said...

Cheers for answering my question mate. I'd ask you where you think all of those players are going to end up on the list, but I don't want to put too much of a strain on you. Feel free to answer though.

I agree with most things you said. A couple of small changes I'd make would be having LeBron at about the same level as Barkley, and clearly moving up if he wins the championship.

I'd have Kobe below Olajuwon, with Hakeem also being ahead of Malone at 10.

I'd also move Wade higher than he is. Definitely ahead of McGrady, as he has the championship and Finals MVP on his resume. I'd probably have Wade just ahead of Nash and Iverson with the potential to move up higher.

Howard, Garnett and Pierce sound about right at the moment, and I'd have Paul a bit higher, maybe in the 70's just below Kevin Johnson at this time.

Jake said...

Here’s a quick guess on where these players end up…

If LeBron starts winning championships, I think he’ll finish in the top 2. He’ll have the raw stats that nobody else will be able to match. Remember, Magic had to retire early. There is a decent change—not necessarily a great chance—that LeBron will end up as the greatest player of all-time.

As for Kobe, I think a lot will depend on what happens over the next two months. This might be his best chance at winning another championship which he absolutely must do to move up on the list. If he doesn’t get it done, I think his ceiling is probably going to be just below Larry Bird

Wade is up in the air right now. He alternates unbelievable stretches with injury-riddled stretches. If he doesn’t win a championship, I don’t think he’ll ever rate higher than Charles Barkley. My best guess for him is in the mid-20s. It will be difficult for him to gather MVPs and championships with LeBron and Kobe around.

I feel bad for KG because I think Boston would’ve won another championship this year. Who knows how good the C’s legs will be next year when they’re all a year older. A second championship and perhaps a Finals MVP would’ve catapulted KG up to Hakeem. I think that’s still possible but LeBron might own the next ten years making another title for KG tough to do.

In terms of their place in all-time history, I think Paul Pierce has been the most adversely impacted by KG’s injury. Pierce has just started to earn the respect that his game deserves and was poised to make another leap in the minds of NBA fans. With KG out, the C’s aren’t coming out of the East and Pierce’s momentum will take a hit. I think he’ll continue to climb a bit but there won’t be much movement without another championship. Without another championship, I think his peak is the mid-50s.

Chris Paul—in my opinion—has a chance to be the greatest PG other than Magic in NBA history. That would put him in the top 20 all-time. Whether or not he can make it into the top 15 or top 10 will depend on whether he can win MVPs and championships—something elite point guards rarely do other than Magic.

I’m up in the air on Howard. It’s certainly not his ability. I’m just not sure he’ll be able to do anything with LeBron and Kobe around. Howard’s game is not the all-around game that Tim Duncan has. Howard has a power game that is solely predicated on athleticism. Since he’s not 350 lbs or 7’1 like Shaq, there is a ceiling for what he can accomplish. I’m not sure he’ll be able to pass KG. He’ll need a championship and an MVP to do that and I’m not sure Howard’s game is good enough to do the former. I have to wholly disagree with Phil Jackson’s assertion that of all the players in the NBA, he would build a team around Dwight Howard before anyone else. That is ludicrous. Howard’s game is not sharp enough to make that claim. Howard’s ceiling is probably at Moses Malone. I think he’ll end up in the mid 20s somewhere.

Take care!

Chuck said...

Dude, Dude ? I love your list! But you have to be absolutely insane when you put Dominique "The Human Highlight Film" at 43 and Drex at 44 , WOW? Totally astonishing! I seen Drex and Nique both Play Jordan personally and they both lit pippen and Jordan and Grant. Dominique Wilkins could go back to back against jordan. Ive seen it at Chicago stadium in Jordans hometown. Dominique you said played against some of the greatest and therefore is one of the greatest himself in, basketballs golden era!.. And Drex went to the finals with jordan averageing like 20 a game. WOW? Come on, Please look back and realize what you have done!

Jake said...

Chuck,

I have no problem defending, clarifying, or even changing my rankings but, to be honest, I’ve read your comment a few times and I can’t figure out what you’re arguing for. Please clarify and then I’d be happy to respond.

Jake

Chuck said...

What I am saying is that in your list and most other lists Dominique Wilkins is always underated. I am saying that Dominique is top 25 material! Jordan said that Dominique is the toughest offensive player he has ever played against and that he matched every point that Jordan himself put up. Danny Ainge also says that Wilkins is the most underated bballer of all time. You say that Dominique has never won anything but that is not true, heres the list.

1983-All rookie Team
1985-1986- Wins NBA Scoring Title
1985-Won slam dunk championship
1986-1994- All-star team
1990- Again Slam Dunk Champion!

I am saying that when you look at Dominiques stats he is top 25 and he played in the Golden Era of basketball with Bird, Magic, Jordan, Isaiah Thomas,Drexler, stockton, barkley, malone,chris mullin, Just to name a few. Hey if Jordan says that he is top 25 he is hands down plain and simple. I hope now that you can understand what I am saying because I would love a response. Peace and love brother!

Chuck said...

Also another baller who should have made the list is Chris Mullin. Look him up and see if he makes the cut in your book.

Jake said...

Chuck,

Just to clarify, I wasn’t trying to be cute or put you down. I honestly wasn’t sure if you were saying I had underrated ‘Nique or that I had underrated Drexler. I’m still not sure what you were saying about Drexler. I think you were saying that Drexler should be farther behind ‘Nique than what I have. If that’s what you were saying, I can’t agree there. There careers are very similar. Drexler was a better all-around player. He also went to the Finals twice and won a championship. I have ‘Nique higher but their resumes are fairly even.

OK, when I said Nique never won anything, I obviously meant he never won anything that mattered which obviously means the playoffs. Nique never won an NBA Championhip. He never made it to the Finals. He never even made it to the conference finals. He was the Tracy McGrady of his time. 15 years from now, Kobe Bryant will be saying the same things about T-Mac as Jordan said about ‘Nique. It won’t be true when Kobe says it about T-Mac and I don’t think it’s true when MJ says it about ‘Nique. I don’t see how I can rate someone who never won an MVP or never even made it to the conference finals any higher than where I have him. When it comes down to it, your resume has to have something on it. What you’ve cited for ‘Nique is no more impressive than Adrian Dantley. Dantley made a bunch of All-Star games, too, and he won two scoring titles. ‘Nique was not the greatest defender in the world. I know you say I have underrated him but I think I probably have him higher than most people. I think #43 is more than fair for a one-dimensional player with only one first-team All-NBA selection, zero MVPs and not even a single conference finals appearance. This list I put together is about judging resumes. There is no way Nique’s resume is in the top 25 of all-time.

Chris Mullin absolutely deserves to be on this list and he is on this list. I have him at #74.

Take care, Chuck!

Chuck said...

I understand what you are definitely saying. You are right most people have Dominique much lower than you do, the NBA doesnt even have him in the top 50. I do know one thing that is if the Bulls had Nique instead of Pippen I truly beleive that his stats would be way above Pippens. What I was saying about Drexler is that I feel u have Nique and Drex both to low. I love Drex I love NIque and are both top 25. Regaurdless what Kobe will say about T-mac has nothing to do with what Jordan said about Dominique there is no compare. Dominique is one of the most untouchable offenders the league has ever seen and definitely top 25. But I love your list and if it wasnt for you I would have nothing to dispute. Thank you for your knowledge and your list. This is the greatest game ever invented.

Anonymous said...

Kobe 11?
Kobe is the next best thing to michael jordan. Also it's tough to say some players are better when they play a different position in a whole new era and style of basketball. I would put him top 5 no doubt. I don't like shaq that high or bird. Both were great but not better than Kobe. My top 5 after Kobe and LeBrons careers are over.

1 MJ
2 Magic
3 Kareem
4 Kobe
5 Lebron

Jake said...

Anon,

We're all entitled to our opinions but I think you're assuming quite a bit with Kobe. First, unless something major happens moving forward--and by major I mean multiple championships or multiple MVPs--I don't see how anyone could have Kobe rated ahead of Shaq. I just don't see how anyone could take an unbiased look at their careers and resumes and conclude that Kobe belongs ahead of Shaq. The other thing I'll mention is that I have a very, very hard time believing that Kobe will finish ahead of LeBron when it's all said and done. LeBron would have to suffer a catastrophic injury. LeBron could win five or six MVPs not to mention however many championships he wins. Kobe is stuck at one MVP and that number may never increase. I think we agree on the top three, though. We also agree that LeBron is top five by the time he's done. He is the only player in basketball who has a chance of passing MJ. Not saying it'll happen but nobody else even has a chance--Kobe inlcuded. Take care.

Anonymous said...

What do you think Lebron has to accomplish in order to pass Jordan? great list by the way

Jake said...

Anon,

I don’t think there is a concrete answer for what LeBron has to do to pass Jordan simply because Jordan’s resume is so impressive and so vast that I don’t think anyone will ever have a good enough career to unanimously beat out Jordan. Remember, Jordan won five MVPs but he was the best player in the league more than that. Voters began to spread their votes around because Jordan was winning every year. So, even if LeBron manages six or seven MVPs (this is hard to believe but possible) I don’t think that necessarily gives him the advantage over MJ. Jordan probably should’ve won seven or eight MVPs. That’s why I think that the best LeBron can do is put himself into a tie with MJ where people will argue passionately for one or the other until the end of time. Beating MJ is going to be nearly impossible. Here is something else to remember, though. MJ retired for three seasons in his prime. Those are three seasons that LeBron will have to make up ground.

Now onto the specifics of your question. I would say that LeBron needs to dominate the league like Shaq and MJ—nobody else can be in his class. That will need to happen for at least 10 years. He’ll need to equal Jordan’s five MVPs and he’ll need to win five or six championships. LeBron is a more physically dominating player than Jordan. So, he has the higher ceiling in terms of what he can do on the court. If he reaches his potential and equals Jordan’s accomplishments, then I think he’ll be in a deadlock with Jordan at #1. He’ll need to do something crazy like win 7+ championships and 6+ MVPs to pass MJ.

Even though that’s not likely, I’m not putting it past him. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Pistol Pete at #69 is absurd...anyone who says Kevin Johnson is the player right below him is insane. And what about Earl Manigault, even Kareem said he was the best ever!

Anonymous said...

Pete Maravich at 69? You mention his small resume, but he couldn't control that. He died when he was 41 and his health was on the decline since his astonishing 44 point NCAA average. I would put Pistol Pete in the top 30.
I'm open for arguments on why he shouldn't be that high.

Good list, though!

Jake said...

Earl Manigault was a street baller. He never played in the NBA. #4 in my intro clearly states: “Thse lists are based on the NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL. I would love to have the insight to include players from international leagues. The same goes for the Negro Leagues. Instead of pretending to know more than I do, I only chose to rate players who did their work in the four major leagues.”

As for Pistol Pete, I think the onus is on you to prove why he should be rated higher than # 69 let alone in the top 30. When professional athletes are done with their careers, they leave a very clear and measurable “footprint.” I refer to this footprint as a resume. If Pete Maravich is a top 30 player in NBA history, then his resume would show that. In my opinion, it’s not even close. Maravich won one playoff series in his entire career. He finished in the top 12 of the MVP voting only one time. If I’m going to move Pete in any direction, it would be down. However, I’m content with where I have him. He—like Bill Walton—was very good for a very short time. The only difference was that Walton was vastly more accomplished and valuable which is why I have him rated higher.

Preston said...

Ben Wallace, 4 time defensive player of the year, one of the greatest defensive players of all time and he up againts guys the size of shaq, yao, and he only 6'9. Lebron is bigger than he is. and wheres hakeem the dream?

Jake said...

Preston,

Hakeem is #12.

As for Ben Wallace, you gave a pretty good reason not to have him in your comment. LeBron—a shooting guard—is bigger than him. Wallace is/was an undersized power forward/center. He is one of the worst offensive post players the NBA has ever seen. His defensive prowess barely—if at all—makes up for his shortcomings offensively. If I was going to put a defense-only player in the top 100 it would be Dennis Rodman over Ben Wallace. To be fair, both are probably among the next 25-50 players outside of the top 100. There’s just no way I can put Ben Wallace in the top 100. Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace would get in before him. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, i have decisive issues, this list would have take me years to do, but good on ya for doing it, whilst of course there are a few players actually i have never even heard of, maybe a handful, and i would rate some higher and some lower of course, but it made a great read and introduced me to a few greats i never even heard of, mind you if they were so great why i aint heard of em. Nearly all the players that i would considered are there or are on the worth a mention list, anyways im off to watch orlando denver in a mo, but big up yo'self, your analysis is very factual, my list would be less factual and as you mentioned take era's played in as opponents into consideration. I feel ZO could have been higher on the list not for his health problems he encountered. Definitely quite a few players of today I would include in there based on stats and talent, and how exciting they are to watch. peace out!

Anonymous said...

First I would like to say this is a great list and I know it isn’t easy to put together a list like this. One of the most controversial places of this list is O’Neal in my opinion. I read the comments about this and in one of them you quoted this:
“If you’re starting at “free throws” in a Shaq/Hakeem career-comparison, then I’m not sure there is any hope here but, anyone who takes Hakeem over Shaq on the all-time list has to explain the following…”
After this there were a lot of statistics about Shaq and Hakeem. I am one of those guys who think Hakeem was better than Shaq. Let me add to this that I am actually a Lakers fan for whole my life and I try to look at them as objectively as possible.
Let’s look at those stats you gave.
Championships:

Shaq 4
Hakeem 2

The last was Wade’s championship in my opinion (Shaq played great though). The three with the Lakers were obviously Shaq’s championships (Kobe was the sidekick). You stated that “Hakeem was a fantastic player but he was definitely in the right place at the right time”, I don’t think in order to have a lot of championships this is true. He had those two Jordan-less years but that’s it. He played against teams as the showtime Lakers (Magic, Kareem, Worthy,...), Celtics (Bird, Mchale, Parish,...), Bulls (Jordan, Pippen, Grant, Rodman,...) and Jazz (Malone, Stockton,...). But maybe you are right that Shaq is a better winner, but is he a better player because of that? Shouldn’t Russell (a 11 time champion) be above Kareem and Shaq then?

Finals Appearances:

Shaq 6
Hakeem 3

4 of Shaq’s and two of The Dream were discussed in championships. So it is two to one in favour of Shaq. 1 was with Kobe (number 11), Malone (number 10) and Payton (number 38) in the starting line-up, I think it is certainly not in favour of Shaq that they didn’t win it, they got slaughtered by the Pistons instead. The other was when they lost 4-0 against the Rockets who were lead by, guess who, Olajuwon. The one from Olajuwon was in 1986 after winning 4-1 from the Showtime Lakers (Magic, Kareem, Worthy,...) and they lost in the finals 4-2 against a great Celtics team (Bird, McHale, Parish, Walton,...). I really don’t think O’Neal has the advantage here.

Conference Finals Appearances:

Shaq 9
Hakeem 4

Again 6 of the 9 and 3 of 4 were discussed above so it is 3 to 1 for Shaq. It shows that Shaq played in better teams than Olajuwon obviously. Of course O’Neal was a big part of each of those teams so I give Shaq this one.

Finals MVPs:

Shaq 3
Hakeem 2

Shaq made 6 Finals Appearances and Hakeem only 3. Those were already discussed above. So out of 6 finals Shaq was ‘only’ three times the MVP, that’s 50% and Hakeem was 2 out of 3 that is 66,7%. I don’t think Shaq wins here.

All-NBA First Team:

Shaq 8
Hakeem 6

I don’t think this means anything in the debate of who is the better player.

Top-Five MVP finishes:

Shaq 8
Hakeem 6

I also don’t think this statistic is very important. It is only two times less than Shaq, if it was with a difference of 5 it would mean something but this stat also depends on how other players are playing just like the amount of First Team selections.

Anonymous said...

PER (Player Efficiency Rating):

Shaq 27.1 (2nd all-time)
Hakeem 23.6 (15th all-time)

I assume this is a number for their entire career. If so you contradict yourself that you have to look to players in their prime , if not please clarify for which period this is.

PPG:

Shaq 25.2
Hakeem 21.8

Again this are their career averages. Anyway if you take their five best years O’Neal still wins. I will take a closer look at their offensive stats later.
Olajuwon O'Neal
5best years 26,58 29,06
Career 21,8 24,7

Rebounds:

Shaq 11.5
Hakeem 11.1

Again this are their career averages. When you make it up-to-date O’Neal has an advantage of 0,1 and when you look at their prime Olajuwon has an advantage of 0,1. Who is the better rebounder? I think they are both equally as good.

5best years:Hakeem:13,28;Shaq:13,18
Career:Hakeem11,1;Shaq:11,2

Field Goal %:

Shaq .581 (2nd all-time)
Hakeem .512 (59th all-time)
No question, Shaq wins this one.

I would like to add a couple off stats here
Defensive stats.
Blocks5best years:Hakeem:4,16;Shaq:3
Career:Hakeem:3;Shaq:2,3
Steals5best years:Hakeem:2,18;Shaq:0,82
Career:Hakeem:1,8;Shaq:0,6
Defensive Rebounds5best years:Hakeem:9,66;Shaq:9
Career:Hakeem:7,8;Shaq:7,6

As you can see Olajuwon was by far the better defensive player. He got more blocks in his prime and throughout his career, just like his defensive rebounds. The most important stat here is the steals. Shaq didn’t even get half as much steal as Hakeem did. I think Hakeem Olajuwon was arguably the best defensive player ever to play in the NBA.

Offensive stats
Points5best years:Hakeem:26,6;Shaq:29,1
Career:Hakeem:21,8;Shaq:24,7
Offensive Rebounds5best years:Hakeem:4,5;Shaq:4,26
Career:Hakeem:3,3;Shaq:3,6
FG%5best years:Hakeem:53%;Shaq:60%
Career:Hakeem:51%;Shaq:58%
FT%5best years:Hakeem:77%;Shaq:58%
Career:Hakeem:71%;Shaq:45%
Assists5best years:Hakeem:3,44;Shaq:3,34
Career:Hakeem:2,5;Shaq:2,6

O’Neal has more points per game and a better field goal percentage, the one a result of the other. As you can see the only real offensive advantage O’Neal has is the FG% (and because of this a little bit more points). Hakeem was better in his prime in taking offensive rebounds (just a bit), was a lot better on the free throw line (+26% throughout both careers) and has a slight advantage in assists during his prime. Yes the offensive rebounds and assists of O’Neal in his career are better but that’s only because Hakeem played two years more where his numbers were down. Let see how O’Neal averages are in two years in those categories. I think they were both equally as unstoppable offensively but I don’t think O’Neal was a better offensive player. (I actually think Olajuwon was more skilled but O’Neal had more power).
You said also some other things:
“Hakeem was a fantastic player but he was definitely in the right place at the right time.”
I actually think he was far from in the right to in order to win a lot of championships with the Rockets. Like I said before: He had those two Jordan-less years but that’s it. He played against teams as the showtime Lakers (Magic, Kareem, Worthy,...), Celtics (Bird, Mchale, Parish,...), Bulls (Jordan, Pippen, Grant, Rodman,...) and Jazz (Malone, Stockton,...). In the ’95 championship his direct opponent in the WCF was no other than The Admiral who just won the MVP that year and got crushed by The Dream. The direct opponent in the Finals was ,as you know, Shaq.

Anonymous said...

And I would like to add something here in the discussion between Malone and Olajuwon. You said that Malone never won a championship because of Jordan and that Olajuwon won two championships that Jordan gift-wrapped for him. The two years that Jordan was gone, Malone was stopped by mister Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Olajuwon and the Rockets. In ’94 in the WCF 4-1 and in ’95 in the First Round 3-2. You also said he had more MVP awards, this is true but the 2-1 should have been in favour of Hakeem. The year Robinson won it should have been Olajuwon. And the first year Malone won it should have been Jordan but like you said they were tired of giving it every year to Jordan. The second MVP award from Malone was a direct consequence of Jordan leaving. Hakeem never had that benefit because he was past his prime by then.

Next I would like a quick word on the following.
“A side note on Rodman… I didn’t rate him in the top 100 for the same reason I didn’t rate Ben Wallace. Both were effective rebounders/defenders. However, I don’t think either belongs in the top 100. If I extended the list to 150, they'd probably show up somewhere in that range. It's just a personal preference, though. They were certainly good at what they did.”I am actually also surprised that Rodman (and maybe Wallace) is not in the top 100. Rodman is among the best defenders ever to play the game I don’t think there is any denying that. Of course it is your list and maybe you don’t think defence is important in the NBA (I honestly also thought this when I saw you had put Shaq above The Dream) but then again Bill Russell is at number 6. Yes I have to agree they were/are both terrible at the offensive end just like Stoudemire (Tracy and LeBron are not really good defensively either, just to name a few) is at the defensive end. I think Rodman should be in your top 100, he is a 5 time NBA champion and averaged in his prime 18 RPG. Wallace could be in the top 150 like you said.

I would also like to react on your following quote.
“I’m also not sure what’s so funny about Dikembe possibly being the greatest defensive center ever. Where is your argument? Seriously, convince me that Hakeem was clearly a better defensive center. Please don’t cite career blocks and steals totals as your evidence. Compare their primes and then convince me Hakeem was clearly a better defender.”Here are the defensive stats of both players.
Blocks5best years:Hakeem:4,16;Dike:3,88
Career:Hakeem:3;Dike:2,7
Steals5best years:Hakeem:2,18;Dike:0,58
Career:Hakeem:1,8;Dike:0,4
Defensive Rebounds5best years:Hakeem:9,66;Dike:9,34
Career:Hakeem:7,8;Dike:7,1

As you can see Olajuwon beats Mutombo in every way possible.

Maybe you should include Billups in your list. He’s been troubling teams (including my Lakers) for some time. Here is a nice article about it: http://www.nba.com/2009/news/features/vince_thomas/05/27/thomas.billups/index.html

Last I would like to say your number 100 should be Big Shot Rob. A 7 time champion and one of the best clutch players ever, he should be in the list just because of that. Duncan, Shaq and Hakeem (and many others) would have had less rings if it wasn’t for Robert Horry. I know his talent is limited but he still should have been in the list in my opinion.

Jake said...

I appreciate the comments.

I’m going to address your points in reverse order:

I’m not going to hold the “Horry” comment against you and by that I mean I’m going to assume you don’t actually mean it. Horry is no closer to being one of the top 100 players of all-time than Bruce Bowen is. It doesn’t matter how many championships a player wins if that player isn’t a great player. Horry was nowhere near a great player. K.C. Jones won eight championships. Why not throw him on the list? Players are judged by their performance and their subsequent team success and how much they had to do with that success. Horry’s individual performance was marginal at best. His team performance was great and he had virtually nothing to do with it. Horry played 16 seasons. He averaged over 10 points just three times! He never made an All-NBA team. He never made an All-Star game. He never won a single individual honor of note. He wasn’t even a good three-point shooter despite being known for making a few big shots. What do the following players have in common: Hakeem, Shaq, and Duncan. They are the three greatest centers of the last 20 years and are directly responsible for all of Robert Horry’s championships…

Jake said...

Not sure how you could come to the conclusion that I don’t care about defense. Michael Jordan is one of the greatest defenders of all-time. He’s #1. Bill Russell is one of the greatest defenders of all-time. He’s #6. Tim Duncan is one of the greatest defenders of all-time. He’s #7. Hakeem is one of the greatest defenders of all-time. He’s #12. David Robinson is one of the greatest defenders of all-time. He’s #15. Kevin Garnett is one of the greatest defenders of all-time. He’s # 17. I could go on and on but I think you get the point. Do you think those players would be rated as high as they are if, say, they played defense like Michael Redd? Of course defense matters but if you can’t score, how can you possibly be one of the top 100 players of all time?

If Rodman is in the top 100 as you suggest, then Ben Wallace has to be. If we’re talking about defense only—neither was even remotely good offensively—then Ben Wallace was the better defender. He won four DPOY awards to Rodman’s two. He is/was also significantly better statistically. He kills Rodman in Defensive Rating, 94-100 (Defensive Rating is points allowed per 100 possessions). He averaged 2.2 blocks and 1.3 steals to Rodman’s .6 bocks and .7 steals. Wallace had “100+ steals and 100+ blocks” seven times. Rodman never came close to doing it once. I’m not trying to argue that Wallace should be in over Rodman. I’m arguing that neither are even close, in my opinion. Rodman has to beat out Wallace which I don’t think he does. Don’t overvalue Rodman’s rings. Jordan and Pippen would’ve won rings four, five and six with or without Rodman. When you take the Jordan rings out of the picture—again rings that Jordan would’ve won regardless—Rodman barely stacks up to Ben Wallace. If you’re going to argue that Ben Wallace is a top 100 player—which I don’t think you are since you suggested he might be top 150—then you must have a vastly different set of criteria than I do. I’m not trying to spread out this to include “specialists.” This is about being one of the top 100 players of all-time. Being an average player who happens to hit big shots (Horry) or being a great defender but absolutely atrocious with the ball (Rodman and Wallace) isn’t what this list is about. Also, I can’t imagine anyone arguing that I should’ve rated Mutombo any higher than I have. I also can’t imagine anyone arguing that Rodman or Wallace should be rated ahead of Mutombo. Unlike Rodman and Wallace, Mutombo combined at least a semblance of offense with outstanding defense. On a side note, you said, “Yes I have to agree they were/are both terrible at the offensive end just like Stoudemire (Tracy and LeBron are not really good defensively either, just to name a few) is at the defensive end.” First, LeBron is an outstanding defender. He made First Team All-Defense this year. Second, there is a reason why every GM in the league would take Amare over Rodman and Wallace without thinking twice. Wouldn’t you agree that Rodman and Wallace were about as good defensively as Amare is offensively? Then why do you think every GM would take Amare. In basketball, unstopability always beats good defense. That’s why it’s a league of superstars. That’s why Kobe, LeBron, Dwight Howard, and Carmelo (to a lesser extent Carmelo) are still standing. That’s why defense-only players don’t dominate the league. It’s also why a guy like Steve Nash (clearly a poor defender) won two MVPs and Rodman and Wallace never came close....

Jake said...

On to Shaq/Hakeem…You make a big mistake—at least with respect to this discussion—when you talk about percentages over mass numbers when arguing playoff success. You said, “So out of 6 finals Shaq was ‘only’ three times the MVP, that’s 50% and Hakeem was 2 out of 3 that is 66,7%.” This is like saying, “I would rather play the lottery twice and win once than play the lottery five times and win twice.” Of course, anyone would rather win the lottery twice just to buy three extra tickets even though it’s a worse percentage. In this example, what matters is the number of times you win the lottery—not how many times you play it. Shaq was the NBA Finals MVP three times. Hakeem was the NBA Finals MVP twice. That’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter if Shaq went to the Finals 25 times and Hakeem only twice. Shaq’s feat (three Finals MVPs) is more impressive than Hakeem’s feat (two Finals MVPs). The same goes for NBA Championships, Finals appearances, and Conference Championships. Shaq took his teams to the conference championship nine times. Hakeem only did it four times. That is a significant difference. You said, “It shows that Shaq played in better teams than Olajuwon obviously.” I totally disagree. That shows that Shaq was more important than Hakeem to his team. Shaq was always the best player on his team. Always. Even when the Heat won the championship Shaq was equal to Wade. Shaq made the First Team All-NBA the year the Heat won. Wade made second. No matter how you argue, Shaq had considerably more success in the playoffs than Hakeem. It’s a blowout in that comparison. Shaq was always his team’s best player Hakeem was always his team’s best player. Therefore, Shaq has a HUGE advantage in the “team success” aspect of this comparison. I don’t care to rehash everything again because I’ve written about this once or twice already, but Shaq also beats Hakeem statistically. The PER is for their careers. Not sure how I contradict myself. For their careers, Shaq’s PER is much better. This list is not based on “prime.” It’s based on career although I don’t really think it matters. Shaq was vastly more efficient offensively. He scored more points and he did it with a much, much better field goal percentage. Given the choice of the following players, which do you choose? Player A scores more points and does it much more efficiently. Player B scores fewer points and does so much less efficiently. Clearly, you choose Player A. Shaq is player A and he was much more productive and dominating offensively than Hakeem. You said, “As you can see the only real offensive advantage O’Neal has is the FG%”. Only? What other difference do you want? Field Goal % is the most important statistic when comparing superstars. The fact that Shaq scored more and did so with more efficiency isn’t Shaq’s only “real offensive advantage” rather it’s the only thing that matters in the comparison.

I’m going to start repeating myself from earlier posts and this is long enough as it is but Hakeem was most certainly in the right place at the right time. Shaq won four championships because he was the most dominating player in the NBA. Hakeem’s only two championships were entirely contingent on a player unexpectedly retiring in the prime of his career. If Hakeem was as dominating as Jordan or Shaq, he would not have needed Jordan to retire and he would’ve won more championships. Where was Hakeem in the lull between the Celtics/Lakers dynasties and Jordan’s dynasties? The Lakers and Trailblazers were not great teams when they went to the finals in 89 and 90. They barely gave Detroit a sweat in the Finals. If Hakeem was as good as you say, he would’ve taken his team to the Finals and conference finals more often especially in down years like 89 and 90. In fact, where was Hakeem’s Rockets in ’89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 96, 97, and 98 when there was not a dynasty or elite team in the Western Conference? There were many opportunities for Hakeem to make it to the Finals and put together a Shaq-like resume but it didn’t happen....

Jake said...

The difference between Shaq and Hakeem defensively is much less than what you think it is. Shaq gave everyone in the league the same difficulties defensively as he gave them offensively. Name a player who consistently posted up Shaq with success? His sheer size made it virtually impossible for any opposing center to get to the rim. The space he took up was immense. Skill-wise, Hakeem was better defensively. In fact, skill-wise he was better offensively. The reason why Shaq is/was better than Hakeem has little to do with skill. His size trumps everything in the comparison. Shaq owned the paint. Everything (Jordan’s Bulls being the loan exception) starts in the paint in the NBA. Shaq dominated both sides of the paint with his size. Hakeem’s career defensive rating was 98. Shaq’s is 101. That is not a big difference at all. Sure, Hakeem has the edge but the advantage is not big enough to offset Shaq’s dominance offensively.

I agree that the most common point of argument on my list is Shaq’s placement. Shaq’s game is/was nowhere near as pretty as Hakeem’s so some people don’t want to or can’t bring themselves to say that Shaq was better. That’s fine. However, I’ve got many, many stats to back it up and nobody has yet to put together statistics to back up Hakeem being the better player. Your entire argument was predicated on minimizing Shaq’s resume rather than proving Hakeem’s was better. Hakeem was a very good center who was the best player in the NBA for two seasons. Other than those two seasons, he was a very good center. Shaq was the most dominating player in the NBA for a decade. Both players were brilliant. One was physically unstoppable. The other was incredibly skilled. I’ll take the former every time. This identical conversation will most likely take place 15 years from now except it will be between LeBron and Kobe. If things play out the same as Shaq and Hakeem on the court, you know which side I’ll be on in that conversation. (Hint: Kobe is 6’6 200 and incredibly skilled; LeBron is 6’8 250 and statistically superior). Take care!

Anonymous said...

I am on a track and field team and know what stats are good and what stats are bad. Wilt Chamberlain had a 50ft triple jump and 6'6" high jump, which would both be school records in my school, which was state champion for boys track and field multiple times. Those stats are both related to basketball and combined with his 100point game, I would put him at the top of his list.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reaction,
When I said you didn’t care about defence, it wasn’t meant literally. I just meant it looked like you thought offence was more important than defence (btw: you were right about the fact that great offence beats great defence). About Rodman and Wallace. I wouldn’t put Wallace in my top100, but I would put Rodman in it (between 90-100), he was in my opinion probably the best rebounder in modern basketball. He was more than that, he was one of the best hustle players ever and was great at getting under the opponents skin (like Malone). Anyway I can understand that he isn’t in it.
About that Horry thing, that was a Lakers fan speaking. Btw I don’t think Nash really deserved those MVP awards, but maybe again that’s a Lakers fan speaking. And I don’t think James is a great defender (yet). He is a good secondary defender but he almost never defends the opponents best player, unlike Kobe does and Jordan did, just because he can’t.
About the Hakeem/Shaq discussion. I respect your standpoint I just don’t agree. If your list was top 100 most valuable players of the NBA, maybe I would agree. But your list says top 100 best basketball players, and I really think Olajuwon was the better player (I think he might be the best center ever, just watching him play could make my day). It is funny that you talk about Kobe and LeBron. Like the guys from TNT OT say: Kobe is the best player in the NBA right now but LeBron is the MVP (I actually thought Wade was the MVP). That maybe sums up how I think about the Shaq/Hakeem discussion (with Kobe and LeBron it’s a little bit more complicated because they don’t play at the same position). Anyway maybe we should just agree that you choose O’Neal and I choose Olajuwon, both were/are amazingly great centers.
And in 15 years I would take Kobe anytime over James (or a miracle has to happen). As much as I love LeBron I just wouldn’t be able not to choose Kobe, who’s been a Laker for whole his amazing career.

Anonymous said...

Ow and you said this: "I’m not trying to spread out this to include “specialists.” This is about being one of the top 100 players of all-time. Being an average player who happens to hit big shots (Horry) or being a great defender but absolutely atrocious with the ball (Rodman and Wallace) isn’t what this list is about."

Then why is Reggie at 78?

Jake said...

You totally missed the point. I never said that being a specialist prevents you from making the list. I said that simply being a specialist does not make someone one of the top 100 players of all-time. Dikembe was a specialist at defense. Dominique Wilkins was a specialist at dunking. The reason they're on this list is because their all-around game makes them one of the top 100 players ever. Reggie was a three-point specialist but do you think he scored 25,279 points simply because he could hit the three?

b-RADY said...

I agree with your decision to put Shaq at 4. He avereaged 18 and 8 in his 16th year. Wilt and Bill didn't even last that long in the NBA and bill only had a career average of 15 ppg. Also i think you might should consider Tony Parker on your list if he continues to improve his outside game. His speed and quickness combined with his ability to get into the paint is stunning.

But i would never make a list like this. im sure it took a long time to find all of the information and to evaluate each player to put him in his "rightful spot". Good luck with future changes to the list.

Anonymous said...

Kobe Bryant might be the best player on that list, regardless of everything. As far as his championships and finals MVP awards go, give him time. He's already going to win another championship this year, which makes four, including one without Shaq. He's also probably going to get MVP for the series. As for NBA MVP awards, compare the level of talent in the NBA today with the level of talent in the past. A lot of the retired players on the list were absolutely dominant in their respective eras due to a relative lack of competition. Kobe, however, is facing an amazing level of talent on opposing teams. Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, LeBron James and Tim Duncan are only a few of the great players in the NBA today that are competing with Kobe for dominance, not to mention awards. All of those players belong high on this list. Sure, Wilt Chamberlain (as an example) was far more dominant in his time, but consider this: In the period from the 1959-60 season to the 1967-8 season, the NBA MVP award was won by three different people, and one of those won it exactly once. That sort of dominance is impossible in today's NBA. So give Kobe a break for not racking up huge awards, or at least give him time to get them. Kobe may not be the player with the most raw talent, or with the most flashy awards, but he is among the very best in history.

jim said...

It really gets on my nerves when people say that Kobe's success was dependant on Shaq. That's a little like saying that MJ's success was dependant on Scottie Pippen.

Jake said...

Jim,

It's not even remotely close to saying Jordan's success was dependant on Pippen. Watch the tapes of the Lakers with Kobe/Shaq. Look at the stats. Shaq was, by far, the best player on that team. I'm not sure how anyone who actually watched the Lakers from '96-'04 could think otherwise. You do realize that Shaq was the Finals MVP for all three of the Lakers championsihps, right? Michael Jordan was the Finals MVP for all six of the Bulls. If anything, saying Kobe was reliant on Shaq for his championships is like saying Pippen was reliant on Jordan. Which is, well, true! When Shaq left LA, the Lakers missed the playoffs the next season, and got bounced in the first round the two seasons after that. That's when Kobe was in his prime. That would still be going on today if Memphis didn't gift-wrap (this is one of the worst trades in NBA history and should not have been allowed to happen) Pau Gasol to the Lakers. Kobe is definitely a great player but you have to do some research before getting unnerved by something that's actually true.


Anonymous, Kobe is a great player. However, he doesn't merit a higher placement in NBA history, yet. Look at what he has done with an unbiased view. This championship and Finals MVP definitely helps his profile. He starts inching closer to the next few spots. Also, you can throw out the argument about adjusting for playing against great competition. That's already heavily factored into my list. That's why I don't have Wilt Chamberlain #1 or #2 like every other person in the universe. Kobe will decide his placement by his performance. Nobody knows where that's going to be. Right now, he's out of the top ten of all-time. I suspect by next year or there year after, he'll be in the Larry Bird/Tim Duncan territory. He's gotta win championships and awards. If he does that, then there's nothing to worry about. Take care.

Anonymous said...

I believe your selection of stockton over Zeke may be b/c of whatever bias you have agaisnt Zeke. There is no way in hell. Stockton should be rated where he is and most definitely not over Zeke. None. You can drum up all those B.S stats all you want, but seeing and watching there games and them going head to head tells me all I need to know. Stockton was a decent player at best. No defense at all and could not take over a game like other small guards his size or skills set. Was he a good media guy no doubt, but definitely not in the top 50 and barely top 100 if your be truthful. I thank you for your hard work trying to get this list together though.

Jake said...

No bias against Zeke. I’ve got two autographs of his up on my wall. My site is called “Motown Sports Revival” for a reason. I’ve addressed the Zeke vs. Stockton comparison in this comments section already. I have nothing to add. However, you may not want to share you opinion of Stockton being a borderline top 50 and maybe not even a top 100 with anyone else. Stockton is, without a doubt, one of the top 50 players of all-time. I don’t want to use the world “never” but let’s say I would not be surprised if there is not a single reputable list on the internet that doesn’t have Stockton in the top 50. If you’d like to make a persuasive argument in favor of Zeke over Stockton, then I invite you to do so. Simply saying, “I watched them play” isn’t compelling at all. I watched them play, too. I made a rather lengthy argument citing just about every possible measure to show why Stockton had the better career. Until you can produce something similar in favor of Zeke, I don’t really have anything else to add. Thanks for the compliments, by the way. Take care.

Billy said...

I have to agree with Jake concerning Kobe's place in history. I know this is a "what have you done lately" world, but the entire body of work of a player is what determines their place in history. For Kobe, from the 2004 finals to the trade for Gasol, he did not have enough success and it is going to cost him in the all-time rankings. He was in his prime, yet he was absolutely shut down by Prince in the 04 NBA Finals and he refused to stop shooting.....as he took nearly twice the amount of shots as Shaq and was only able to make 38& of his field goals. He then missed the playoffs. He then blew a 3-1 series lead against the suns and bailed on his team in the 2nd half of game 7. Then he lost in the first round again. Then he got Gasol and made the NBA finals...in which he was the 3rd best player in the series behind KG and Pierce as he shot 40% from the field. The point being that circumstances have to be taken into account when comparing players throughout history....Kobe has been very fortunate to play with some of the most talented teams over the last decade. What the 3 years in the middle taught us is that even Kobe can't overcome his circumstances....which is why players like Dirk and KG are vastly under-rated in my opinion because they never had a chance to reach their full potential based on the team's around them. Kobe is one of the best ever....but he's not close to breaking the top 8 in my opinion. He needs at least another MVP and a title....should be interesting to watch.

Andy said...

Lebron is too high seriously....Wade is better than him...dennis rodman should be in this along with manu.....take amare out.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry man but putting Steve Nash where he is is rediculous...he can't defend and with a solid defender on him, he's nothing...his mvp's are bogus (should have gone to Kobe) and the only reason he got them is because he had one great player (Amare), one pretty good player (Marion), and a good supporting cast (Barbosa,Bell,etc.) to play with. It's a lot easier to make your teammates "better" if they're pretty good to start with. Oh and yeah...even with all of that talent, he never even made it to the finals once. By the way...I don't think Shaq belongs at #4 either

Anonymous said...

With Kobe winning a title this year, I think it needs to be seriously considered of putting him in top 7 or 8 or so. Although Kobe will never be Michael, very few players, if any, are as similar to MJ when it comes to evaluating the total package both offensively and defensively. Also, any notion that Kobe was the reason the Lakers lost the 08 Finals is dumb. (Bynum and Ariza hurt, Odom played bad, and Gasol was soft).

Jake said...

One problem with making a list like this is it can become dated quickly. My goal is to update it every two or three years for as long as I'm running the blog which obviously leaves quite a bit of time for things to change. Kobe winning another title and a Finals MVP certainly changes his status. I think he has moved to #9. Since he's got a lot of basketball left, I don't think there's any doubt he'll pass Larry Bird. The rest is up in the air. Take care.

Billy Zei said...

Anonymous
I agree that there were many reasons why the Lakers lost in the 08 Finals. However, you can’t just shift blame to the Lakers other players and use buzz words like “soft”. In game 1 Kobe shot 9-26 from the field in a winnable game while Odom, Gasol, and Fisher combined for 44 points on over 50% shooting. In game 4, the Lakers had an 18 point lead at halftime. Once again, Kobe shot poorly hitting only 6 of 19 shots while Odom, Gasol, and Fisher combined for 49 points on nearly 60% shooting. Obviously, we all know what happened in Game 6. In all, Kobe shot 40% from the field and took more than double the shots of anyone else on his team. Gasol averaged 15 and 10 on 53% shooting and Odom averaged 14 and 9 on 52% shooting for the series. To say that they played poorly is the “dumb” notion. Kobe was the 3rd best player in the series behind KG and Pierce…..and an argument could be made that Ray Allen was better than Kobe as well. 08 was the second straight finals appearance in which Kobe shot horribly and shot more than double than anyone on his team. You can’t do that in the Finals without it impacting your place in history.

Anonymous said...

The reason Shaq was unstoppable was because referees would never call fouls. If the refs were instructed to call it even close to how it was supposed to be called, Shaq would have been out of the game before halftime because of offensive fouls. You CANNOT displace the defender when he is set - that's the rule. Yet he ran through people - and no calls.

Jake said...

Anonymous Shaq commenter,

In the Shaq write-up, I wrote: "He has received the benefit of doubt on thousands of uncalled offensive fouls due to his “size". Right or wrong, Shaq's size has allowed him to get away with liberties. Those liberties, combined with his size and athleticism make him un-guardable."

I think it's safe to say I agree with you. The calls weren't made, though. In some ways, the refs contributed to Shaq's greatness. In a league where those calls are made, Shaq wouldn't have been nearly as successful. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on who you are), the NBA is a league where those calls weren't made.

Anonymous said...

how in the world can you have bill russell as only #6 BEHIND wilt chamberlin. as big as wilt was you think he could have actually been a winner like Russell. 11 championsips..he is the most underated #6 of all time...in my mind, he's the greatest that has ever lived.

Jake said...

Just to clarify, you're saying the Boston Celtics wouldn't have won 11titles with Wilt instead of Bill Russell?

Tom said...

Jake,

I have been looking at NBA all time best player lists for several months now and I got to tell you that this one really stands out. You did an impressive job and it was definitely worth the time.
Every comment is really culture worth knowing and growing.
Of the entire list my biggest concern was the weight given to crunch time players - Larry B and Isiah T for example - which in my opinion should be very high to determine a great player.
Also, I was a little shocked of seeing Isiah so low - very interesting back and forth comments up above regarding this- for a guy that in resume had 2 championship rings being himself the best player of his team by much, even if it was in between a transition era between MJ, Larry and Magic. He was a reference point for that golden era.

Thanks a lot for the hard work put into it. It is greatly appreciated.

Ahmad said...

how is dirk nowitski and steve nash ahead of allen iverson?

Jake said...

How are they not? Feel free to make an argument. You'll have to reconcile the following among other things...

Career Field Goal %

Nash .487
Dirk .472
Iverson .425

Career 3PT %

Nash .432
Dirk .378
Iverson .313

Billy Zei said...

Ahmad. In addition to being a much more efficient player than Iversonon offense, Dirk has led the Mavericks to 9 straight seasons of at least 50 wins. What Dirk has accomplished in Dallas is unreal. As Jake said in his post, Dirk has done this with a bunch of role players and has never had the kind of help Shaq/Duncan/Kobe have had over their careers.

Ahmad said...

how is larry all the way down #8? he is top 5

carrer stats dont matter.
ai and dirk both led their team to the finals but dirk had a way better team and still couldnt get it done. AI even won a game agains kobe and shaq. ai is way better than dirk and steve.

Jake said...

If career stats don't matter, then I think I'm going to have to put myself on this list!

dustin said...

This is Dustin,
I think that bill russell needs to be above chamberlain because of all the years he,s sent wilt and the 76ers home from the playoffs.
Also he played 13 years and won 11 championships. At the end of the day it all comes down to winning and thats what russell did.And there are two kinds of players, those that try to make the other team look bad and those like russell who made their team look good.I dont know how old you are but if you were around in russells time after the first three championships did you start to realize the celtics werent going anywhere?Thanks.

Eric said...

This is a pretty sick list I'd change a couple players around maybe throw in some new ones but overall good job.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this list. Few thoughts:
1. Can you explain why you think Dominique Wilkins is ahead of Paul Pierce, Chris Mullin, and Grant Hill ( all small forwards). I LOVED watching Wilkins, but he was the most one dimensional ballhog the league has ever seen. Other three are more well rounded, can get teammates involved and can score in any system without having to be the focal point at ALL TIMES.
2. I would be happy with Iverson out of the top 50. I've thought about it often, but I just can't come up with a list of players to surround him that would have resulted in a championship with him on it. Pippen ahead of Iverson, and not even close.

Thanks for reading!

Jake said...

Anonymous,

I’ll comment on your second point to start. I agree! The last few years have shed some light on Iverson’s actual worth. For the longest time, it appeared that he was just a guy who had the misfortune of playing on bad teams. However, he certainly did not make Denver or Detroit better and those teams had more talent than probably any team he was ever one with the Sixers. The only thing that’s keeping me from closing the door completely on this issue is how great he played in all-star games as a facilitator. He was like a whole different player. It’s unfortunate he never brought that mindset to games that mattered. I’m not sure when I’ll get to updating the rankings but I would not be surprised if AI slipped even out of the top 50.

The ‘Nique issue is a bit more difficult. He was a ballhog but let’s be honest, the Atlanta Hawks weren’t going anywhere without him being a ballhog. It’s a bit unfair to pin that label on him when there really wasn’t a reasonable alternative. Grant Hill would’ve been rated higher for sure but his career was derailed. ‘Nique put together 12 very good seasons which is about twice the number of Hill. I think you’re giving Chris Mullin a little too much credit. He never won anything and probably played with more talented players. Plus, ‘Nique was considerably more explosive around the basket. I do agree on Pierce. By the time he is done, he’ll surpass ‘Nique. Pierce is such a dynamic player. Another championship would catapult him near the top 50 at least. I don’t think there has been a more underrated player in the history of the game. Take care!

Ahmad said...

Just look at the acoplishments AI has done
he is way better than Steve and Dirk
Atleast AI brought his team to the finals
Steve didnt even do that with his great team
AI is a 4 time scoring champ and 1 time mvp
AI has averaged 27.1 ppg
and thats 3rd all-time
AI has a record 9 steals a game and that was in the playoffs
CAN U BELEIVE THAT HE DID 9 STEALS
well he did
he is a natural scorer
the toughest ever

Anonymous said...

Ahmad,

You're an idiot. Learn how to spell and speak properly. By the way, Dirk HAS led his team to a finals appearance.

Adrian said...

I like your top ten and agree.

Jason Kidd is top 30 easily. Your take on him ignores many, many incredible aspects of his game.

Do you know he's third all-time in three-pointers made?

Do you know he'll retire top-50 or so in defensive rebounds?

FOR A 6-foot-4 POINT GUARD.

Kidd didn't look to score. If he wanted to, he could score 20 a game. He couldn't shoot well off the dribble, but he was excellent when set. He often knocked down the open jumper.

He's also a winner. Put him with four bums, and he'll still win 40 games. That quality is rare and only seen in guys like Magic, Olajuwon, and even LeBron--guys who all get the most out of their teammates.

When you rank amongst the best in assists, steals, threes and rebounds, you're an elite player.

Elliott Kalb ranked him 29th best all-time, I believe. SLAM Magazine put him 28, I think.

I'm 31 years old. To me, Kidd is one of the five best players I have ever seen touch a basketball. He was a 6-foot-4 Magic Johnson but with incredible defense.

The problem, of course, was that Kidd never played alongside an all-star until Vince Carter. The Nets were bound to win 50+ one year but were hit with injuries.

Had Kidd--in his prime--had Kareem, Scott and Worthy, trust me, he would have won at least three titles.

Jake said...

Adrian,

I appreciate the comments. Kidd is nowhere close to one of the top 30 players in NBA history. You say, “Kidd didn’t look to score.” He didn’t look to score because he has a career shooting % of .402. That’s brutal. No NBA player can be called “great” with a .402 shooting percentage. He isn’t 3rd all-time in three-point field goals made as you state. He’s 3rd all-time in three-point field goals attempted.

Obviously, you are entitled to your opinion but if Kidd is one of the top five players you’ve ever seen with a basketball, then I’ve got to wonder how many basketball games you’ve actually seen. Shaq, LeBron, Kobe, KG, Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, Hakeem, Magic, and Larry Bird are in a whole different stratosphere than Kidd and any GM in the NBA would tell you the same.
Take care!

MrLee255 said...

This list needs revising. Shaq is too high now and Kobe is too low now. These list should change about every two years because legends are being born, stamping their legacies with accolades and accomplishments such as all first teams, MVP's, Finals MVP's, Finals appearances and Rings, etc. Kobe should be about #6 or #7 now.

Anonymous said...

All week long I've been watching NBA TV and they are playing old Laker games (1980's). I realize that Kareem was towards the twilight of his career during these games, but he looks awful. Terrible footwork. Missing lots of gimme layups. I have yet to see a succesful skyhook attempt. The so called "unstoppable" shot is being swiped repeatedly by defenders before he even releases it! I'm not a Shaq guy, but he would have absolutely destroyed Kareem. Just an observation.....

Bradpetehoops said...

Nice Top 100 I like your selection and analysis.

Anonymous said...

j kidd should definitley be in the top 15...one of tha greatest passers of all time

Ahmad said...

Anonymous
you are a complete moron
AI ALSO led his team to the finals

Anonymous said...

At first, I thought you had an absolutely fantastic top 10. Then I looked into the statistics. Yes, Michael is the greatest of all time. But right behind him should be Chamberlain. No, his competition wasn't as fierce as Shaq's, but his numbers are outstanding. Here are some examples:
Most Points/game, Single season
1. 50.4 Wilt Chamberlain 1962
2. 44.8 Wilt Chamberlain 1963
3. 38.4 Wilt Chamberlain 1961
4. 38.3 Elgin Baylor 1962
5. 37.6 Wilt Chamberlain 1960
6. 37.1 Michael Jordan 1987
7. 36.9 Wilt Chamberlain 1964
Most 50 point games
1. 122 Wilt Chamberlain
2. 37 Michael Jordan
3. 18 Elgin Baylor
4. 15 Rick Barry
5. 10 Kareem-Abdul Jabbar
Most 60 point games
1. 32 Wilt Chamberlain
2. 4 Michael Jordan
3. 3 Elgin Baylor
Most 70 point games
1. 6 Wilt Chamberlain
2. 1 David Thompsin, Elgin Baylor, David Robinson
Wilt Chamberlain was insanely dominant. Nobody can deny he's at least in the top 3 wrestlers of all time.
Sincerely,
The Tony-Parker Guy

FreshPrince said...

Thanks for giving my main man t-mac some props and paul pierce definatly desevered the top 100 too because hes been working so hard and hasn't given up on his team even through the rough days. I think gilbert arenas should have gotten an honourable mention though. dude was drafted 31st and worked his ass off and is now an all star. if he can stay away from injurys i think he can be one of the best scoring point guards in the game. hes also pretty young and has some time for improvement.

el gaucher said...

Hey fellow!

You did a considerable job and I have great respect for that, but, still, I'm quite astonished by your initial list... How can you explain that there are almost no non-U.S. player (only 2 out of 50), when any fan with a general knowledge of international basketball can assume that numbers of non U.S. players are (far) better than those you listed; let's just name Sabonis, Dalipagic, Petrovic, Oscar Schmidt, Galis... Do you want some more??

Jake said...

El Gaucher, I don't want you to name any more. I just want you to go to the top of the post and read point #4 under, "Please read the following before moving on to the list…"

Feel free to put together an international list. It's not easy but I'd love to see it.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

tim duncan is not better than kobe. tim duncan is much too highly ranked.

Matthew said...

Larry Bird is the only professional basketball player to be in the top 50 all-time in points, rebounds, and assists(or blocks). Noone else is even close because no player has been able to rebound as well while carrying a scoring load and distributing the ball. Due to Larry's unique skill in this regard, I just can't see Duncan ahead of him - and Shaq is a stretch too.

Anonymous said...

I love the list but I have one problem... maybe I missed him but Micheal Finley doesn't seem to be on the list. I believe he should at least get a mention.

Anonymous said...

does anybody else think that garnett and duncan would be flip-flopped if they traded shoes? KG is only lower than duncan because he doesn't have the rings and the mvp's. if he had the teammates that duncan had i think he would have had an identical career.

Jake said...

Maybe. There's no question that KG was hamstrung by his years in Minnesota. However, their games differ a little bit. Duncan has always been aggressive in the paint offensively. I think he is a more fundamental player (thus the nickname). KG has moved farther and farther from the paint it seems as his career has progressed. If we removed MVPs and Championships from the equation and just looked at their abilities, I think I would still probably give the edge to TD. However, the difference is very small.

Anonymous said...

I'm very pleased you put Shaq up that high, because he truly could have dominated any era...And I'm glad you wrote out a reason for every single player you put..Like the list alot and agree for the most part.

i don't agree with the statement "LeBron could be the greatest of all time"...Little too soon for that talk

Two things that made me wanna pull my hair out.

1. TRACY MCGRADY SHOULD NOT BE THAT HIGH.
2. VINCE CARTER SHOULD NOT BE THAT LOW.

At least Vince has had memorable moments (Tmac has had some as well...but Tmac hasnt got out of the first round, that's lame no matter what team you're on). Vince at least got his team a shot away from the ECF...And the VC vs AI in the playoffs was one of the best duels all time I've ever seen.

Vince should crack top 70. Tmac should be somewhere near Vince. The rest I honestly couldn't agree more.

Luke said...

First off, I think Shaq's placement is excellent. He's truly been an amazing force- whether you see it in games or from stats.

I've been looking at 2003-4 season through 2009 stats, and I have a few thoughts on players in that bit of time.

Top 5 seasons by efficiency are held by James, Wade, Paul, Garnett (and James again).

The biggest surprise for me (though, as a Celtics fan I was delighted) was just how low Bryant fell. 10th highest efficiency on his best season since '03 (and before that he was overshadowed by Shaq anyhow, so this is since he was the star) which was 2005-2006. That 10th is also a full 3.7 off James last season. Behind 5 players (the above and nowitzki), james thrice, paul and garnett twice. And this guy's supposed to be one of the best ever? Surely arguing he's good just makes a stronger argument for the others. Of active players his career falls behind Shaq (2nd all time after Jordan), James (soon to be second by all indications), Duncan, Nowitzki and Garnett. I guess I just don't value championship rings as much as others, but I think he's far from being the best player of the last 6 years, or of all active players, even his best season was only 3rd in efficiency.

Alright, now for the easiest attack upon Bryant's standing (or argument for players like James going up if you look at it the other way). Field Goal %. Let's just take the last three seasons and career. Kobe puts up .463, .459, .467 with .455 lifetime. In contrast, and I won't compare him to big men here as that'd be absurd, Wade is .491, .469, .491- far, far better with .483 for his career. Paul is .437 (first year), .488, .503. James is .476, .484, .489 with .471 for his career. Tragically, Bryant's shooting % for his career is a tad better than two of my heros (Pierce at .443 and and Allen at .448), but admittedly they're not considered near as good. And Allen's only a double 007 off.

Lastly, win shares. Bryant again on 2005-06, only gets 11th, with Marion and Stoudamire ahead of him as well as the above players (except Wade, who's fallen a bit). James 1st place beats him by over 4 wins a season. Offensive win shares (where he should be good right?) put his 2005-6 season behind Nowitzki, Billups and James for that season alone, and 9th for the seasons 2003-4 and after.

Obviously Bryant is a phenomenal player. But I think he should be moved down. For young players, James has already passed him in my estimation, Wade and Paul will. Of other active players Duncan, Shaq, Garnett should all be ahead of him. I guess my most contentious point is that I'd say, from these stats, that Nowitzki should be ahead as well.

Here's hoping Arenas puts up a few more great seasons uninjured and eventually earns a spot on lists like this. Though clearly he's still behind players like Stoudamire and Brand for fighting their way on, I have hope.

Luke said...

Sorry, meant to say second season for Paul's .437 FG%.

And to clarify some poor writing, when I say Bryant's best season was only 3rd in efficiency, I was referring to his place for that season, obviously not all time or anything like that.

Anonymous said...

If this is the best basketball players of all time and not just judging players by their Nba career......Then Kareem Abdul Jabbar should be number 1.

Kareem has been breaking basketball records since high school. Noone has had the Ncaa career Kareem has had either, and as for Nba career. He is just as accomplished as Jordan.

6 time Nba champion
1 championship as an assistant coach
2 time Finals Mvp
6 time Nba league Mvp
15 All Nba selections
11 defensive team selections
Rookie of the year
2 scoring titles

And please dont let me post his College accomplishments. By far the greatest college player of all time.

Who seriously has the basketball resume that Kareem has??

I feel people just dont have a mind of their own.

This is a great list though. Also, I honestly disagree with Oscar Robertson's ranking. I think you should replace his spot with Hakeem Olajuwon, put Oscar at 11, move Malone down to 12, and move Kobe up to 10.

I know people are going to bring their foolish bias against Kobe calling me crazy for ranking him higher than Oscar Robertson, but I dare anyone to actually compare Kobe's career to Oscar Robertson's objectively.

Kobe, who is only 31, has already had a more accomplished career than Oscar Robertson in every way aspect except for statistics of course.

Jake said...

Anonymous,

Somewhere in the vastness of the comment section, I wrote that after winning the championship last year, I would put Kobe at 8. So, we're on the same page there. I'm not sure if I'll ever get enough time to update the list but since I published it, Kobe has moved up. I cannot agree with you on the Kareem being #1 point. I have put Kareem higher than any other list I've seen. I have been more than fair to him. Nobody can touch Michael Jordan. Finals MVPs are the trump card. They both won six championships. Kareem won one more MVP. Kareem had much, much better teammates which means he had less to do with his team's success than MJ. I mean, Kareem had Oscar and Magic. MJ had, Scottie Pippen! MJ was first team All-Defense nine times to Kareem's five. MJ came in second in the MVP voting three times; Kareem once. Anyhow, MJ is number one. Compare their career averages--not their career totals. Take care!

sterling said...

Kobe is better then Shaq and he did give them the championship without him. You should switch those rankings... I honestly think Kobe is the second best player of all-time and I am not even a lakers fan

Anonymous said...

How is ranking Kareem at number 2 more than fair???? Kareem has had a more accomplished basketball career than any other player.

His basketball resume is untouchable.

And I think using the "great pg" excuse to diminish Kareem is weak. Kareem was by far the best player on the Bucks so I'm not even going to get started on Oscar Robertson.

But you act as if Kareem wasn't still a top 3 center in the league even playing with Magic.

And I dont think final Mvps are the trumph card, Kareem still has 6 rings. Think about this, final mvps weren't handed out until 1969.

Bill Russell won 11 championships, do you honestly think he wouldn't have won at LEAST 6 finals Mvps if the award was out the years he won??

I have no problem with Jordan being number 1, my problem is fans acting as if nooone comes in his league when in fact there are players who have just as a legit case aas G.O.A.T.

Anonymous said...

To the people who say "rings don't matter": the point of playing these games is to win. That's the only reason they play. So winning must be the most important factor when considering any player to be truly 'Great'.

A lot of mediocre and less have won rings, and a lot of really good players have won none. But in order to be GREAT, a player must have some kind of longevity and, during that time, at some point, take his team to the highest level.

A-Train said...

Your top-nine are no-brainers. People who don't understand Shaq belongs in the top five are moronic.

Where you go wrong is Karl Malone. That's just a crazy pick. No basketball GM, historian, writer, former player, etc. would tell you Malone was a top-ten player. Statistically? Sure. Because he stayed healthy, played for so long and played in a system that focused on him.

But Karl Malone is one of the all-time choke artists. It's not enough to say, "well, if Jordan's Bulls didn't stop him, Malone--like many others--would have won a ring." Malone was terrible when it mattered most. Malone belongs somewhere in the low 20's and late teens. He was a "compiler." He should be neck to neck with Charles Barkley.

Also, Jason Kidd not ranking ahead of Gary Payton and Steve Nash is a travesty. Only three points could be argued better than Kidd, and they are: Cousy, Isiah and Stockton.

Cousy and Isiah were better. Stockton? No. Unlike Kidd, Stockton lacked the ability to be a dynamic, transcending force. Put Kidd on a team with bums and he would still win. He was in many ways like Bill Russell in that sense. His greatest gifts to the game were his brains, his attention to detail, his determination and will to win.

Kidd was the best defensive point guard ever, in my opinion, because he often guarded elite two-guards in the fourth quarter. I've seen him shut down Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant. I don't recall GP, who weighed 185 wet, guarding bigger players.

2nd all-time in assists in the history of the NBA is impressive. And he played with scrubs. Imagine if he had a Karl Malone or Kareem, or even an Amare Stoudemire?

He's the best rebounding guard of all-time.

He was Magic Johnson minus five inches, star teammates, media attention and a extroverted personality. I've only seen Jordan, Magic and Olajuwon influence a game in the same manner Kidd has.

And the argument he can't shoot isn't true. He shoots a ridiculous number of threes (top three all-time in attempts, I believe), and thus his averages are lower. He makes shots in the clutch and almost always knocks down the open jumper. Off the dribble, he doesn't shoot as well.

Anonymous said...

Robinson didn't LEAD the Spurs to any championships until Duncan arrived. Robinson was good, and this might be the correct spot for him, but The Admiral was soft and was owned by The Dream.

Robinson was a disappointing player to me....7'1 and had the athleticism of a guard. He just didn't have the killer instinct.

Anonymous said...

Jake, IT seems like you overrate the active players... I think Dirk, KG, and Nash. Nash should definately not be ahead of Kidd. I think you also overrate Karl Malone, at least he should be under Hakim, and David Ronbinson. I am guessing you are going to put Kobe in top 10 for sure now. Also Clyde should definately be top 30... he's overshadowed by Michael, and Ewing and Walton are both underrated and Grent Hill is extremely overrated in my eyes. If you have David Thompson at 85, Hill should not be at 56.

okelohunter said...

Many people dont understand how good LeBron is going to be at the end of his career. LeBron is has a chance to be the greatest basketball player in history. No diss to the other great players but hte things that LeBron will be able to do in his prime and even now no player in the NBA really has a great chance of guarding him.

And Carmelo Anthony is vastly under rated and should be considered at least in the top 25 at the end of his career let alone the top 100.Talent wise LeBron is not that much better than him and Carmelo can shoot the ball better than him.

But I guess you can't really compare the players of old with generation now

Jake said...

It's not that I overrate active players. It's the method in which I choose to rate them. From the criteria of the list... "1). It is important to know why and how I chose to rate active players. A list like this isn’t nearly as fun or accurate if we just pretend active players don’t exist. The way I rated active players is simple. I considered their accomplishments up to this point and then assumed a healthy, reasonable, finish to their careers."

If an active player drops off unexpectedly or gets hurt, then he will be rated higher than he should be. If an active player blows up or performs better than he is expected, then I will have him underrated.

Hakeem and Malone are a toss up. Kidd is overrated, IMO. Neither he nor Nash has ever won anything. Nash is one of the top offensive point guards of all-time and suspect defensively. Kidd is one of the top defensive point guards of all-time and suspect offensively (shooting). The difference comes down to Nash winning MVPs.

Check out Grant Hill's career before his injury. Compare that to David Thompson's career. I don't think the comparison is even close, IMO. Just because Hill hasn't been good for a while doesn't mean that the fact that he was one of the top 5-10 players in the league for six years should be forgotten. David Thompson was one of the top 5-10 players in the league for three years.

Kobe is top ten for sure.

Take care!

Jake said...

Okelohunter,

With LeBron, it comes down to MVPs and Championships. Those are the measuring sticks. He is a revolutionary player but at the end of his career, all anyone will want to know is if he won six titles or five MVPs like Michael Jordan.

As for Carmelo, you have to understand that he is a totally different player this year. Two plus years ago when I made this list, his game was nowhere near as mature as it is right now. He has come a long way. He has always put up statistics but now there is something to them. He is virtually unguardable. If he doesn't get hurt, he will be top 50 for sure and then it will depend on MVPs and championships to see how high he ends up. See ya!

Mo said...

you obviously did not see Pistol Pete Maravich play....there is NO way there are 50 guys who played basketball better than Pete.....The only players with comparable basketball skill and talent as Pistol were Jordan, Magic, Kobe and Lebron....sure his career numbers dont rank him in the top 10, but believe me, he was one of the best ever, a magician, a genius with the ball...Top 50 for sure hands down..........

Steve C. said...

I say the top fifteen are 1)Michael Jordan 2)Kareem Abdul Jabbar 3)Magic Johnson 4)Wilt Chamberlin 5)Oscar Robertson 6)Kobe Bryant 7)Julius Erving 8) Larry Bird 9)Bill Russell 10)Kevin Garnett 11)Tim Duncan 12)Karl Malone 13)Lebron James 14)Bob Cousy 15)Moses Malone.....Shaq should be closer to 50. He lacks natural basketball skills like a jump shot, dribbling, and free throws. Also, Pete Maravich is top 30 even with a short career. One more thing, Where's Jack Sikma? He was better than 20 people on your list. Obviously, Kobe and Lebron will be higher on the list one day.

Bjørn said...

OK. About international players. Drazen Petrovic played in NBA from 1989-1993. From 1991-1993 he scored over 20 ppg. He was stopped in car accident when he died.
Sabonis played in NBA from 1995-2003.
So if you don't know that this two played in NBA, sorry, but you aren't capable to make this list.

Jake said...

So, Bjorn, you're telling me that Petrovic was so go in just two seasons that he was one of the 100 greatest players in NBA history? I would just LOVE to see your entire list. I'd be interested in seeing where Chris Dudley and Chuck Nevitt are ranked! The list is based on NBA performance. It's not a difficult concept to understand.

NFN said...

moses is too low.

mandell_pratt said...

My opinion is that Carmelo should have been some where on that list i mean he's one of the best players on the Denver Nuggets. Let me rephrse that he is the best after Alen Iverson left.So he should aat least be on the list even it's 100.

dizz said...

Geroge miken must be rollen in his grave for not being a top 100 player. he was mr basketball, the first star of the game. with out him the nba would be sent back 15 20 years. and bill russel is the best, he won 11 championships, oh he had havalchack and cousy. well kaream had BIG O and magic, Jordan had pippen, which should be much higher because jordan would not win championships without pippen. russel beat chamberline, west, baylor with a bunch fossals on his team. THE FIRST BLACK COACH AND PLAYER same time!!! U put to much emphises on offence bill made teams score 85 insted. DEFENCE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS

Jake said...

Dizz, who is #19

Sam said...

Dennis Rodman has to be on this list!!! He led the league in rebounding SEVEN times. You can't judge him just by his off court issues. I think he is not only good enough to make this list but be in the top 50 or 40. He doesn't get credit because look who he played with. In Chicago he was with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, with Detroit he was put behind Dumars ans Thomas, and in San Antonio he was behind David Robinson, he was constintly over shadowed by these players even though he still put up decent scoring numbers.

Thad said...

Dennis Rodman should be on this list! He was an amazing defender! Larry Bird should be HIGHER than Tim Duncan by far! Shaq isn't that good! Scottie Pippen had 6 title with the Bulls! He shared them w/ MJ (who I agree is the #1 player). But MJ even said w/o Scottie the Bulls wouldn't have won those titles. My top ten are...
1. Michael Jordan
2. Bill Russel
3. Wilt Chamberlain (100 and 55!)
4. Larry Bird
5. Oscar Robertson
6. Kareem Abdul-Jabar
7. Magic Johnson
8. Julius Erving
9. Scottie Pippen
10. Karl Malone

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you left shawn kemp off your top 100. I know his overall stats arent that great, but the shawn kemp from 1993-2000 was a legit power forward and he brought more to the table than guys like reggie miller and mitch richmond.

Shawn Kemp has 3 all nba 2nd team selections, Reggie miller has zero. Shawn Kemp took seattle to the finals against the bulls. He always averaged alot of rebounds, blocks and steals in his prime too. Shawn Kemp had more tools than the one trick pony known as reggie miller.

I'm also disappointed with your ranking of Allen Iverson, basketball reference has him at 22 on thier hall of fame probability and honestly he was better than George Gervin. He averaged more assists and steals and he brought his team to the finals, something gervin never did.

The funny thing is that the chicago bulls were willing to trade pippen for kemp, but the sonics refused. Kemp was an animal and the funny thing is that he only played 30 minutes per game in his prime, if he chose to play 38-40 minutes per game, his stats would be similar to kevin garnett.

Jake said...

Tony Parker Guy,

Good to hear from you. I think it would be pretty easy to make an argument that Iverson should be ranked ahead of Nash. In fact, your argument works just fine. The reason I can’t do it is twofold: 1). Shooting efficiency and 2). Peak seasons. Both play(ed) the point guard position. I think it’s safe to say that it’s important for a point guard to be able to shoot. Nash’s careering shooting percentage is .488. Iverson’s is a horrendous .425. Nash is a career .430 shooter from 3-point range. Iverson is a paltry .313. That’s the shooting efficiency part of the equation. The other factor I mentioned is “peak seasons.” You referenced Nash’s 14.6 points and 8.2 assists per game career average. That might be his career average but the Steve Nash that we know as an elite NBA point guard is not a 14.6 and 8.2 guy. Over the last six seasons, he has averaged 17 points and 11 assists. He didn’t become a starting point guard until he was 26 so his career averages are skewed.

To your points about Iverson having to play for poor teams while Nash has played with elite players. I look at it a different way. Iverson played for teams where he was the only scoring option. That meant that it didn’t matter how horrible his shooting percentage was, he was going to keep shooting. His scoring dropped precipitously when he went to the Denver Nuggets and had to share shots with Carmelo. Iverson’s career point totals are partly a function of the horrible teams he played for. I would also disagree with the notion that Nash has played with superstar players. Nash never played with Luis Scola. Barbosa is hardly a superstar. His career PER is 16.1. Amare is the only true superstar he has played with in his prime and Amare hasn’t been the dominating player he was when Nash got to Phoenix. His knee and eye injuries have really hampered his game for the majority of Nash’s time in Phoenix. Nash is the engine in Phoenix.

Both players are/were less than desirable defensively. Neither player has ever won a championship. They have nearly identical PERs. I think the comparison is pretty damn close (which is evident by the fact that I have them rated 33rd and 34th, respectively). I just think Nash was a better, more important player. There are a lot of guys who can shoot 42% from the field. They just aren’t getting 22 shots per game.

I don’t think there’s any problem with arguing for Iverson.

Take care!

Jake

Ward said...

my list
1mj,
2kobe,
3wilt chamberlain,
4hakeem olaguan,
5julius erving,
6kareem,
7lebron james,
8oscar robertson,
9larry bird,
10shaq,
11allen iverson,
12magic johnson,
13domonique wilkens,
14 david robinson,
15 bill russell,
16karl malone,
17pete maravich,
18dwight howard,
19kevin garnett,
20charles barkly,
21jerry west,
22dwayne wade,
23walt frazier,
24reggie miller,
25isaiah thomas,

Sean said...

Nevermind. Saw your response to all the requests for an updated list haha

Laker-ray said...

I will start out by saying I am a die hard Laker fan. I was born in Inglewood Ca. I use to sneak money out of my mom's purse to go watch Magic and Kareem play. In saying this, I will now say that you have Bill Russell misplaced on the list. You say that he played in a time of mediocracy. I will give you that the level of parity that the league now experiences was not in place. With so many gifted players, that a trade here or a free agent moving can raise that team to a finals contender. Bill Russell made other teams and players mediocre. I don't think I need to name off some of the big names that played against him. Just because he had a lifetime of about 15 ppg average, he is negated as sharing the same air as Jordon, Magic or Bird. Look at his over all involvement during a game. If he wanted to, he could have taken most of the shots like Wilt, Kobe, Iverson or Jordan. Then we would be talking about his 28 to 32 ppg life time average. And his 6 to 7 rings. Not the 11 he created. The only man to run out of fingers to put the Championship rings on. Unless you count Phil Jacksons 10 as a coach and one as a player. It's time we stopped talking about who the next Jordan will be. Is it kobe or Labron. Let's not forget that Jordan dominated during the 90's. Not exactly the golden age of N.B.A. talent. It's time we had a paradigm shift in our alignment of the greatest player of all time. Jordan was great Russell made everyone around him great. Remember this is coming from a true blue Magic and Kareem worshiping (even in the 90's) Laker fan.

Matt said...

Rather Impressive list, although I have one minor discrepancy. Take Kevin Willis out of the Honorable Mentions. His raw physical talent wasn't enough to piece together a dominant career. With his talent, I would've at least been a Robert Parish-caliber player.

Also I'm a Hakeem kind of guy so I think that he's better than the Mailman and the Big Aristotle. But that's just me--I have absolutely no problem with The Dream being lower, I mean it's your list!

GJ

SIncerely,
Infamous Vanderbilt Dominates The BigTen Guy

P.S. I was wrong about that, as you proved to me.

Jake said...

Thanks, Matt. I have no arguments with your take on Willis. Surely a 7-footer with his athleticism should average more than .5 blocks per game over his career. That supports what you're saying.

Anonymous said...

Kobe is definitely in the top 10.
Right now hes about to get his 5th ring. If he does I would put him #4.

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