Most of the backlash from my Top 10 NBA Players of All-Time list centered around Kobe Bryant and Wilt Chamberlain being slighted. Many were outraged that Kobe didn’t make the list at all and many thought Wilt deserved to be much higher.
1. Michael Jordan
2. Bill Russell
3. Magic Johnson
4. Larry Bird
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
6. Tim Duncan
7. Wilt Chamberlain
8. Jerry West
9. LeBron James
10. Oscar Robertson
Here are some of the best reader responses we received and I give feedback to your feedback.
@CrazyLuck84: You don’t know s--- about basketball. What about Shaq, Kobe, Dr. Jay, and the Mailman.
Burke: My response for most of these is: “Who are you taking out of my top 10?” LeBron is the weakest link in most people’s minds, but let’s get real. Athletes evolve. If you put LeBron, who at 6-foot-9, 255-pounds runs the floor like a gazelle and can shoot from deep, in the 1950s or 60s he averages somewhere close to 72.3 points per game and leads his team to the championship every single year. I actually think I gave way too much respect to these old farts in retrospect. Only two active players made the cut. I’m guessing Kevin Durant would smoke Jerry West one-on-one.
As for the guys you mentioned:
- Shaq is probably my No. 11, I’ll admit. He was just so dominant.
- Kobe missed the postseason in his prime in 2005 and led the Lakers to first round exits the next two years. No one on this list misses the playoffs in their prime.
- Who is Dr. Jay? I assume you mean Dr. J, who wouldn’t crack my top 20.
- Karl Malone is the third best power forward in history behind Tim Duncan and Charles Barkley.
J.T. Potter: It is evident you know nothing about sports with a list like the one printed in Metro 5/25/16. Have you ever played? Do you even own a jock?
Burke: Dude. I was captain of my high school basketball team, OK. We went 3-17 my senior year in a below average league in Massachusetts. I think I know what I’m talking about here.
Carlin Saafir: Russell won most of the titles during that time because he had a much better supporting cast. By the time younger players like Jordan, Duncan and LeBron arrived, there were many more teams and the league was watered down. Don’t judge Wilt on how many titles he won. He is the most dominant player who ever lived.
Burke: If Wilt and Russell played during this current era of social media, Wilt would be eviscerated on the daily for caring far more about his own statistics than winning titles. The scoreboard is easy to read. Russell won 11 friggin’ titles. Eleven! Wilt won two, and one of them came after Russell retired. 11-2 is damning for Wilt, and I don’t want to hear about how Wilt never had a legit supporting cast. He had Jerry West and Elgin Baylor in the 1969 Finals and his Lakers still lost to the Celtics. He played on teams with Hall of Famers like Nate Thurmond, Tom Gola and Paul Arizin. Wilt had plenty of opportunity to make these players even better than they were, just like Russell made his teammates better. Wilt didn’t, and that’s why he’ll go down in the record books as the most celebrated loser of all-time.
Rafee Kamaal: Michael Jordan ahead of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is ridiculous, just compare the stats.
Burke: I thought everyone agreed that Jordan was the greatest. I guess not. Also, it’s clear that I don’t value stats all too much in these arguments. It’s extremely difficult to compare stats between eras. Top guys in the 50s and 60s were pulling down 25 and 30 rebounds in games on the regular. Did the next few generations just forget how to rebound, or does it have something to do with the rules and the competition during those days?
Oscar: What about the Dr. Julius Erving, the iceman George Gervin, Rick Barry, Elvin Hayes, Elgin Baylor, Walt Frazier, Earl the Pearl Monroe, Dave Bing just to name a few. If we are considering all the NBA players when trying to get to the top 10 there’s a lot of work to be done.
Burke: LeBron would tomahawk dunk on all of ’em.
Pagilbert221: The fact that Julius Erving did not make your top 10 shows that you do not know basketball.
Burke: Who are you taking out of my top 10 in favor of him?
Pagilbert221: You figure it out. It is your inferior list. Formulated by your own bias.
HERE ARE SOME RAPID FIRE RESPONSES FROM READERS
Kel_Ran: Are you insane? How do you put Lebron James on that list but not put Kobe on it. He's not a better player than Steph Curry and he sure ain't better than Kobe. Lebron has only been able to win a championship with the help of Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. He can't even stay with one team.
Ritchie Tiemann: Your top ten hoopsters of all time is solid. I could quibble with your exact order, but most of all with who numero uno is. Given the fact that the total number of titles won by Wilt, Oscar, West, and throw in Elgin Baylor(not on your list but perhaps should be) is a grand total of one when Mr. Russell was in the league winning 11 titles, and considering Russell's unique shot-blocking, rebounding, defense, and inspirational leadership, I'm going with Bill Russell for the top spot. And if he had not hurt his ankle in the '58 playoffs, I dare say he probably would have had 12 titles. Sure, Jordan's offensive skills were superior, but he didn't start winning titles until Bird, Magic, and Kareem were safely out of the competitive mix. Those of us who saw Russell in action back in the day will never forget his impact.
Theodore Henderson-Brown: Just saw your list of the top 10 of all-time. I have to respectfully disagree. Its always hard to have this conversation because different generations have different list, but the same always remain, Jordan, Jabbar, Chamberlain, Magic and Bird. The others are for debate, the Kobe snub is warranted only because of Jordan. Olajuwon reason for snub was straight disrespectful using the non Jordan theory is a cop out. Matt, how many players have you got to see play on TV or live. Not talkin NBA Tv throwbacks or YouTube. You really look like you just graduated college. Yeah a lil dig, but looking forward to your response.
Elliott G. Swinton, Old School Philly & NBA: Matthew - As with all lists like this, of course there will be agreement and controversy. So with us, that holds true. Our lone total agreement, is that you included the three greatest centers of all-time: Kareem, Wilt, and Bill. And three greatest guards: Oscar, Jerry, and Magic. After that well:
By your picture, you look like the typical NBA sports fan, who has not seen film footage prior to ’91, And rely on facts, or hearsay, about athletes, prior to that year (referring to your continued use of “ I was told”, Or “I heard”), as a prelude to talking about your choices, especially what you may feel is their shortcomings.
We can go on and on; but in the end it is opinion vs opinion. So, I’m just going to deal w/ a few.
As always, your age group goes along w/the adage that MJ was the greatest (b/c of the media and the film footage you choose to watch) . He was the greatest player of the 90’s, THAT’S IT !!! The league was watering down then.
Kareem was the GREATEST of all time !!! (A CHAMPION AT ALL LEVELS OF COMPETITION) !!!
Some of YOUR LIST selections, have gone on record stating that.
Don’t think you will find any footage of MJ blocking any SKY HOOKS, but Kareem could defend MJ.
Plus, Kareem played in the greatest NBA eras of the 70’s and 80’s. and DOMINATED, even in his advancing yrs.
Always remember, Basketball is a team sport, NO ONE MAN WINS A TITLE !!! Kareem needed a point guard, so he needed Oscar at Milwaukee, and Magic in LA, as much as they needed him.. to win those SIX NBA TITLES !!!
Plus, how can your list be shown in Philadelphia, and not show Julius “DR. J” ERVING !!! (As Zink would enunciate, after
A made score by Doc !!!) NO DOC, NO MJ !!! Where do you think MJ learned his aerial moves !!! CHECK OUT WHO DID THE FIRST FOUL LINE TO FOUL LINE DUNK, IN THE FIRST DUNK CONTEST, BACK IN ’76, As well other DR J footage,
Doc also has accolade footage from others, saying he was the BEST FORWARD EVER !!!
YOU SHOULD BE HUNG FOR THAT ALONE !!!
You would do yourself justice to give YOU TUBE OR AMAZON A VISIT !!!
Have a Great Day.
Liam Tolen: First thing I think it's hilarious that you truthfully criticized your own #1pick, Jordan.
If you actually just read the historical stats you would see that Wilt is undeniably the greatest player to have played NBA basketball. Wilt's top seasons in every category are better than anything Jordan has recorded. Whether it is scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, or assists
As far as scoring, Wilt still holds the record for the top 4 season averages per game despite no three point shots in his era, Jordan has the fifth. Wilt also has him beat in scoring percentages per season and in his best assist year Jordan still had less than Wilt. Jordan never lead the league in rebounds (Wilt did in 11 of 14 seasons, Russell 4 of 13 seasons) or assists (Wilt 1 time, to shut up criticism that he was a ball hog, Russell and Jordan, zero.) As far as championships that is a team award that somehow the press loves to attribute to a single person which is an illogical conclusion. To quote Wilt: If I had played with the Celtics they would have won 13 of 13 :-)
Finally I do not recall any rule changes due to Michael Jordan with the obvious exception of "walking" which sadly still lives on in today's game.
Omar Branch: Mr. Burke definitely started something to get people riled up for argument's sake..lol. Overall, a pretty good list, but I would probably replace Lebron for Kobe. Kobe's championship pedigree is much better and I would make a case for replacing Jerry West for Shaq, only because Jerry West was one for nine in the Finals and that has to play a factor in rankings, no matter how great you were.
Joshua King: I'm deeply disturbed by your selection of LeBron James at the number 9 pick and truly believe you missed some of the best players that could easily replace him at that spot. So let me help you with a few, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Isiah Thomas, Patrick Ewing, and Hakeem Olajuwan. Take your pick just not LeBron James at least not yet.
DOREEN: your list is great except for no# 9—I think you meant to write Kobe Bryant— at least that who should be there.
Brad Schussel, Tenafly, NJ: Mr. Burke. I love your list; it's very similar to mine. That being said, I'd make a few changes. Kareem has to be number 3 behind Jordan and Russell. He's the all-time leading scorer and as you said, has more MVP's and All-Star game appearances than anyone else. Also, I'd leave Jerry West out and put Kobe or Shaq in. "The logo" was great, but he doesn't really belong in that company.
Thank you for taking the time to read my response! My grandfather showed me the article and he'd be ecstatic to see this in the paper (as would I, of course).
Bob Marquez: Matt, I read your top 10 NBA Players of all time in yesterday's Metro and agree you scored a slam dunk with 9 of your selections. But - as great a player as Tim Duncan has been, I can't see him in this group instead of Dr. J, Julius Irving. Dr. J.'s resume matches up with the other top players - one NBA title, two ABA titles, MVP (3 times in ABA) 11 time NBA All Star, etc., etc. And if you look at impact on the game, he actually changed the way basketball is played with his amazing althleticism, which has set the standard for players up until today.
Thanks for all the great feedback guys! Arguing this stuff is like arguing politics. People are set in their beliefs. You will never convince me that Wilt was better than Russell, just as I will never convince my 64-year-old, whiskey-drinking, rifle-owning neighbor Glen that Ronald Reagan was overrated as a President.