We did this exercise last year and it created great debate. Who are the top 10 NBA players of all-time?
Like last year, we’re doing this list before the NBA Finals – so some things could change. For instance, last year we had LeBron James No. 9 on our list. Because of his otherworldly 2016 NBA Finals against the Warriors, he jumped up a few spots this year. Here is the 2017 version.
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1. Michael Jordan
Last week there was great national debate regarding whether or not LeBron was as good as Michael Jordan. In short, no.
The difference has always been that Jordan gets better when he’s punched in the mouth, and LeBron does his best work when he’s ahead. LeBron is a front-runner. The Celtics, who have one of the worst teams to ever appear in the Eastern Conference Finals without Isaiah Thomas, held LeBron to 11 points on Sunday night and Kyrie Irving had to bail LeBron out in Game 4. Both games were in Cleveland, mind you.
Jordan was simply the most ruthless competitor in sports history and would have eviscerated this Celtics team. In his prime, he never scored less than 17 points in a playoff game and he was facing defensive juggernauts like the Knicks and Pistons.
2. Bill Russell
The Wilt people were all over me last year for putting Russell ahead of him. Sorry, you can’t argue with 11 titles in 13 years. I don’t care if there were four teams in the league at the time. He’s the greatest winner in sports history.
3. Magic Johnson
For those who think I’m a homer with the Russell over Wilt pick, here’s proof that I call it right down the middle. Magic won five titles. Bird won three. That’s why he gets the edge here.
4. Larry Bird
Much like Pedro Martinez, you could make the case that no player’s peak level (1986 for Bird) was ever as good. Larry Bird of 1986 could have beaten Michael Jordan of 1992, I have no doubt.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem is the league’s all-time leading scorer and won six NBA titles along the way. Thought about putting LeBron here, but Kareem still has double the rings as the so-called King.
6. LeBron James
Let’s give credit where it’s due. He’s about to make it to his seventh straight NBA Finals. That is unreal. And if he duplicates what he did last year in the Finals, I’ve gotta think about putting him in the Magic-Bird range.
7. Tim Duncan
Duncan hasn’t even been retired a year and I feel like some people have already forgotten how great he was. I have LeBron leap-frogging him here just because we’re seeing how great of a coach Gregg Popovich is now. LeBron never had someone as good as Popovich on the bench.
8. Wilt Chamberlain
He averaged a ridiculous 50.4 points per game in the 1961-62 era due the fact that he was that much bigger and stronger than every other player in the league at the time. Gotta think though that if Shaq played in the 1960s, he would have put up similar numbers. For the record, Shaq is not on this list.
9. Jerry West
“The logo” made the All-Star team 14 times and led the Lakers to the Finals a LeBron-esque nine times.
10. Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem gets the nod over Oscar Robertson this year (he was a “snub” last year), because of something Russell Westbrook did. Westbrook pulled off Robertson’s famous triple-double for a whole season deal – which diminishes the Big O a hair. Hakeem has two rings, the Big O has just one – so it’s a Hakeem kind of year.