I love lists because they lead to great debates. But, the issue with lists is nobody is going to agree completely with you, and to make their point they disparage your opinions rather than articulating theirs. Recently, ESPN released its top 74 players in NBA history and the Top 10 were right…mostly.
I have nine of their top 10 in my top 10, albeit, in a slightly different order. ESPN has Shaquille O’Neal at #10, instead, I have Oscar Robertson in that slot.
Shaq was dominant for a 5-6 year period. But I believe the “big fella” actually underachieved. Despite being a superb 7’1″, 325-pound athlete, he never led the league in rebounding. If Shaq had taken his conditioning more seriously he would have been in the discussion with Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabber, and Wilt Chamberlain as the greatest center in league history. As it is, I have Shaq #15 overall, behind numbers 11-14; Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Moses Malone, and Hakeem Olajuwon.
ESPN’s list has Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, and Kobe Bryant at seven, eight, and nine. I wholeheartedly agree with those rankings. The worldwide leader has Magic Johnson at five and Chamberlain at six. I would flip those two icons. In his prime, Chamberlain was the most dominant player in league history. His numbers look like those of a dominant high school player.
I think the “Mount Rushmore” of all-time NBA greats is reserved for LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, and Kareem Abdul-Jabber. Those are the only four that can be considered for the title as Basketball’s GOAT.
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I put Russell at third and Abdul-Jabbar at four. ESPN has it the other way around. This would be like debating who is a greater all-time actor; Dustin Hoffman or Al Pacino. At that point, we are splitting hairs.
The mother of all debates is who is #1 and who is #2? LeBron or MJ?
Two months ago I wrote a column explaining why I believe that LeBron James, not Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. I stand by that notion despite the 10-part docuseries, “The Last Dance”, which would leave you to believe that Jordan never missed a shot, lost a playoff series all the while being a leader on par with General George Patton.
MUST READ: LeBron, not Michael, is the G.O.A.T
I know I am in the minority. But my point is to read it and refute my claims. If you wish to throw a wet blanket on my list, I ask only one thing. Make your own damn list.
John Sapochetti is Co-Host
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