Dr. Twitch’s Top 20 NBA Players of All-Time (including his shocking and ‘sacrilegious’ top 3)

Editor’s note: Since the NBA Finals ended, MSF writers have been submitting and defending their top 20 NBA players of all-time. You can see the aggregate list here. The goal was to see where Dirk fell, or if he fell, among the top 20 players ever after his sterling playoff run this year.

Below are the thoughts of Jon Washburn, who does include Dirk among his top 20 players ever. He also has the most unique top 3 of anyone who submitted a list, which is why I asked him to provide a detailed description of his top 20. And boy did he. Enjoy.

When I was a kid, Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback of my beloved Indianapolis Colts. One season, we started out 4-0 (we were the last team to lose a game that year) and ended up making the playoffs as a wild card. We went into San Diego and beat the defending AFC champs before going to Arrowhead Stadium and beating the 13-3 Kansas City Chiefs. We ended up losing to the Steelers in the famous “Hail Mary” game, and I cried for what seemed like an eternity.

Through it all, Harbaugh earned the nickname of “Captain Comeback” and became my favorite football player. For several years, I thought he was the greatest player of all time. Why? Because I felt like I shared something special with him. I grew up with him. I liked him. I wanted him to be the best.

It wasn’t until I got a little older and started comparing him to other players that I realized what he was: an inspiring player, but a mediocre one at that.

Life is like that sometimes.

When we like a guy, he holds a higher place in our hearts, regardless of anything else that happens. No matter who else comes along — for me, it was Peyton Manning…who I wanted to trade halfway through his rookie year — that new player will never be as good as the guy we grew up with.

All that to say, 98% of you are not going to like what I have to say in this post.

That’s fine. I realize that while you read this, you will feel like I’m making a personal attack on you. It will seem like I’m criticizing someone that you shared something with, someone who was special to you.

Most likely, I will not change anyone’s mind. That’s the beauty of sports – we all have our opinions, and it takes a lot to change them. It won’t bother me in the least bit if you read through this column and disagree with me. Honestly, I’m not one of those writers who writes controversial pieces just to drive cheap traffic…after all, I spent two months researching a 2700-word piece about college sports that had 18 footnotes and almost nobody read. You don’t have to agree with me, or even like me, but just remember I’m not flooding your inbox or twitter account with death threats, insults, and meaningless hyperboles.

So let’s just get to it. Let’s rank the twenty greatest NBA Players of all time.

The Context

A few quick but important notes:

I will be ranking this as if I were a GM creating a team. Knowing everything that we know, who would I draft to start my team? This has two huge ramifications.

A) Peak matters, but so does longevity.

Bill Walton may have had the greatest individual season a center has ever had; the guy missed 24 games in 1978, and was still voted that season’s MVP. You could make a very compelling argument that his peak was greater than any other center’s peak. However, he was really only healthy for 2 1/2 years. Knowing all of this, would you draft him #1 in a fantasy draft? Absolutely not. Would you hope and pray that he slid to the 5th or 6th round and you could post some amazing stats for a short period of time? Of course. But you just need more from a guy you are building your team around. (Remember this when you are beating your face on the table while reading who I had at #3).

We will also have to extrapolate a little bit with some of the current stars. Of course, this is very subjective and impossible to do, but I will try to be as conservative as possible with the predictions.

B) Era matters.

You will see that my list is heavily weighted towards the current era.

I’m not trying to disrespect the older players, but please understand…how good would Bill Russell, an incredibly smart and athletic 6’9” center with a limited offensive game REALLY be in today’s NBA? I’m just not sure. At the end of the day, he has to make the list because of his competitive fire (maybe the greatest competitor ever), his number of rings (simply staggering), and his defensive abilities. But let’s just be honest: we are all mildly terrified that Dwight Howard would pick Russell up, shove him in his pocket, and run all over the court with him. Plus, Russell was playing in a league that was mainly white. Wouldn’t Zach Randolph average like 50 points a game in Europe? Let’s just move on before I start offending people.

Again, none of this is meant as an insult to the old generation. Many of these players accomplished a lot against their peers. Unfortunately, I just don’t know how many of them would be successful if you dropped them into another era.

C) Rings matter…but are not necessarily the ultimate trump card.

Basketball is a team sport. It either takes two superstars, or one superduperstar and great role players, to win a championship. Just because a guy like Charles Barkley never won a ring doesn’t mean he can’t make our top 20. His best teammate during his prime was Kevin Johnson. KEVIN JOHNSON!!!! Let’s give the guy a little bit of a break.

The Close-But-Nos

Players who didn’t make the list:

Karl Malone

The classic “very very very very good but never great” basketball player. Just look at his playoff record sometime before 1997 when all of the other good teams in the Western Conference were gone. Pretty lackluster. He almost makes the list because of his incredible longevity…but to me, you aren’t winning a championship with him as your best player.

David Robinson

Good at basketball, but cared more about being good at life. And that’s cool. I think he’s happy with how it all turned out for him.

Bill Walton

Not enough longevity.

Rick Barry

Maybe the worst teammate of all time. Go ahead and find one complimentary statement made about him from one of his peers. I dare you.

John Stockton

Maybe the most overrated player of all time. Switch him out with Derrick Rose on the Bulls this year. So they win 60 games? 50? 45? Are they a playoff team?

Bob Petit

How good would he be today? Would he even be Tyler Hansbrough? Maybe. We just can’t be sure.

Bob Cousy

He revolutionized the PG position, and we should all be grateful. But see Petit, Bob.

Chris Paul

Probably shouldn’t even be on this list, but I’ve never seen anyone play the point guard position as well, and if his knee isn’t permanently screwed up, he will most definitely crack this list.

Julius Erving

Played too much of his prime in the ABA against players that weren’t allowed to play defense on him because he was too valuable. Only won one ring in the NBA, and he wasn’t his team’s best player.

Elgin Baylor

The hardest guy to leave off this list. Unfortunately, he never won a ring, and may have just played at the wrong time.

John Havlichek

One of the greatest competitors of all time – it’s just hard to project wing players that don’t really shoot into the league right now. Would he be an outstanding defender? Yes. Would he be a team leader? Of course. Maybe he’s Shawn Marion, maybe he’s pre-crazy Ron Artest. I’m not sure.

And now onto the top 20.

The Top 20 NBA Players of All-Tme

#20 Dwyane Wade

dwyane-wadeWe have no idea how Wade’s career will go from this point on. In my opinion, he is the fourth greatest shooting guard of all time behind Jordan, Bryant, and Jerry West. To be honest, his ranking on this list will ultimately come down to longevity.

His 2006 Finals ranks among the greatest performances in history. He is clutch. He’s a great defender. He’s a fantastic finisher at the rim. Even if he only plays for another five seasons, he will have played for 13 years, with 12 of them being quality.

He will have had the skill, the competitive fire, the ring(s), and longevity you want from your shooting guard.

With any luck, he will pass up the Logo and finish as the third greatest SG of all time.

#19 Kevin Garnett

His career will forever be hard to truly evaluate because he was stuck on incredibly awful teams for so long in Minnesota. Regardless, he goes down in history as one of the greatest defenders of all time, one of the best passers for his position, and an awesome teammate.

You could probably make the case that he was better suited to be a second banana as opposed to the main guy. This all comes back to his willingness to settle for jumpers instead of going to the basket late in games.

However, he finishes ahead of Malone because of his championship in 2008, and ahead of Baylor because of his longevity (13 quality years and counting compared to just 10 for Elgin).

#18 LeBron James

I’ll keep this quick.

There has never been a better time to hate on LeBron, and much of what you say could be correct. However, no one on this list has more upside (and really, it’s incredible that we can still say that, 8 years into a guy’s career) and even if he plays just another six years, he will finish with some of the greatest stats of all time (and most likely, at least one ring).

Obviously, if he never wins a ring, things will change. But even so, you will be hard-pressed to find a player that does more things well than King James.

#17 Charles Barkley

I’ll just leave this anecdote from Sir Charles himself, courtesy of the B.S. Report from May 19.

“Until Game 2 of 1993, I thought I was better than Michael Jordan. We lost Game 1 because we were scared of the moment, but I went home after that night and told my daughter that we were going to win Game 2 because her father was the greatest basketball player in the world. I went out that night and scored like 47 points, but Jordan scored 53 and beat us.

“That night, I went home, and my daughter was crying. She asked me what happened, and I realized at that point, that Michael Jordan was just better than me.”

So sad. But sometimes, those are just the breaks. Unfortunately for Charles, he played against one of the greatest players of ever, who also happened to have Scottie Pippen on his team.

Fortunately for us, we had the privilege of watching the greatest rebounder ever (pound for pound), one of the most exciting players in the open court, and #17 on our list of all-time greats.

Full Disclosure: Was this pick perhaps slightly influenced by the fact that Barkley is the greatest color commentator in NBA history? Possibly. I’m ok with that.

#16 Scottie Pippen

I know what most of you are thinking:

“The guy rode Jordan’s coattails for his entire career.”
“He cried on the bench while Toni Kukoc made the winning shot in a playoff game.”
“This guy’s an idiot…he doesn’t even like John Stockton!”

Here’s what I know.

  • Michael Jordan didn’t win a single playoff series until Scottie Pippen arrived in Chicago.
  • Pippen is the greatest wing defender of all-time (I will argue this to the death…he could defend and shut down four positions, and the Bulls would have lost the 1991 Finals if he hadn’t switched over to guard Magic).
  • Until LeBron accomplished it in 2010, Scottie was the only player ever to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals for an entire season in 1994.
  • Chuck Daly called Pippen the second best player on the Dream Team…behind you know who. By the way, that team included Magic, Bird, Clyde, Malone, Barkley, Robinson, Ewing, and Mullin. Pretty nice compliment if you ask me.
  • After the Bulls won the title in 1993 and Jordan left to play baseball, Pippen played out of his mind and the net effect on the team was a swing of two games. Be honest, that stunned you. You would have thought the loss of Jordan would have affected the Bulls a lot more, right?

Michael Jordan was easily the best guard of the 90s, but to be fair, Scottie was pretty easily the second best. Of course, Scottie benefited from Jordan, but you could make just as compelling of a case that Jordan would not be who he was without Scottie.

I’ll just let long-time teammate Ron Harper finish this point for me.

“Everybody talks about MJ first, but Pip had a more all-around game. Defense, offensive rebounds, and defensive boards: Pip made the game easier for all of us to play.”

#15 Dirk Nowitzki

My, how the tables have turned. Dirk has gone from “soft European star” to “America’s favorite golden boy.”

It’s hard to really pinpoint where Dirk deserves to be on this list. But at this point, he deserves to be ahead of Barkley, Malone, Garnett, and all of the other PFs not named Tim Duncan for the following reasons:

  • His fadeaway is the second most unstoppable move of all-time (behind the Sky Hook).
  • Not many other players have been unstoppable in crunch time as Dirk, and he cemented this for us in the 2011 Playoffs.
  • Offensively, he simply has no holes. He’s a willing passer, incredibly unselfish, and not only the best shooting 7-footer of all time, but one of the best five shooters of all time.
  • He’s led the Mavericks to the playoffs nearly every year since he’s been there, and deep into the playoffs consistently as well. While battling against Kobe, KG, Duncan, and Shaq (four of the other guys in our top 20), he’s more than held his own. Quite frankly, he’s a winner.

At this point, he’s played for 13 years, and 11 of them have been quality. A player like Dirk could easily play another five to seven years, even if he was just a rich man’s Sam Perkins late in his career. Give me a minimum 13 great years from a 7-footer who just wins any day of the week.

#14  Moses Malone

Even though he couldn’t speak English (Fo-fo-fo), Moses was probably the greatest rebounder of all-time.  Maybe he only did one thing really well, but he did that one thing better than most other players did any one thing.

In a league that had Kareem and Magic, as well as Larry, McHale, and Parish on the same teams in their primes, Moses led his team to a title…convincingly.  He comes in at Fo-teen on our list, and might even wear the title as most underrated player of all-time.

#13  Oscar Robertson

I’m torn on the Big O.  He averaged a triple-double for an entire season.  But how many 6’5, athletic guards would have done the same thing in a league that had the unspoken rule of “only two black players are allowed on each team?”  Would a healthy Brandon Roy have done that?  Would Jordan have averaged 70 points?  What could Vince Carter have accomplished?  Ok…I won’t get carried away.

Robertson makes it to #13 based on reputation, but to be honest, I would have had no problems leaving him off this list entirely.

#12  Isiah Thomas

You probably think Isiah is too high for one of three reasons:  A: You don’t like him as a person (he was probably the most unlikeable star of the 80s);  B: You remember his career after he stopped playing (he was probably the worst GM/Coach of all time); or C: You just forgot about him.

Again, let’s look at some of the things that we do know.

  • In 1990, this was the argument: Who is better, Magic, Bird, or Isiah?  To be honest, Michael Jordan wasn’t even in the conversation yet.
  • At 6’1” (if he was lucky), Isiah is easily the smallest person on our list, and yet he won two titles in the most competitive era of basketball in NBA history.
  • He beat Bird, McHale, Parrish, and Dennis Johnson, as well as Magic, Kareem, and Worthy while they were in their primes.  Michael and Scottie cannot make that claim.
  • He goes down as the greatest pure point guard of all time – a guy who could get his entire team involved for 44 minutes, and then take over the last 4.

Sure, he is an unlikeable guy, and he was a terrible GM.  But Isiah Thomas could ball, and that’s what we are drafting for our team: the player, not the retired legend.

#11 Wilt Chamberlain

The hardest guy on this list to place.  He put up the most mind-boggling stats in NBA history, but again, wouldn’t D-Howard, Shaq, Hakeem, Robinson, etc. put up equal stats in a league that was small and white?

In the end, Wilt just doesn’t seem like he was a winner.  He only won two championships, and only one of those came on a team where he was the best player.

#10  Shaquille O’Neal

When he wanted it, he was the most dominant player I have ever seen.  Unfortunately, he only wanted it for like two and a half seasons.  Fortunately for him, he was still good enough to win four titles, even though he wasn’t really giving 100% for two of those teams.

I take him over Wilt because of his four rings, humorous personality, and sweet nicknames.  If he had ever worked for it, he could have been a top 3 player of all time.  I think Shaq is ok with how it all turned out though.  He will have to settle for being #10 and the most likeable superstar of the 00s.

#9 Hakeem Olajuwan

hakeem-olajuwonI have four reasons for why Hakeem should be ranked ahead of Wilt and Shaq.

  1. “The Dream Shake.”  Nobody has ever been smoother at the center position, and we will probably never see another player like him.
  2. He absolutely dismantled all of his rivals in the 90s – Robinson, Ewing, and Baby Shaq.  Shaq couldn’t do that, and Wilt definitely didn’t do that.
  3. “Stocks.”  Bill Simmons blew this out in his book, but if you combined steals and blocks into one category called “stocks,” nobody has ever come close to the crazy stats the Dream put up.  Only one player in history has over 5900 stocks, and it’s the Dream at 5992.  Oh, and nobody else has more than 5500…or 5000…or 4500.  Yep, nobody has ever come close to Hakeem’s unbelievable defensive numbers.
  4. He played for 18 years, and 14 of them were quality.  His longevity is, simply, unmatched when it comes to franchise centers.

This is getting a little tedious, so let’s just bang out the next few guys with one or two sentences.

#8 Jerry West

The Logo is still the only player in NBA History to be voted the NBA Finals MVP on a losing team.  Dude could ball, and if he was a Celtic instead of a Laker, he would probably be higher on this list.

#7 Tim Duncan

The greatest power forward of all time won as many rings as Shaq, and was a more complete player for the entirety of his career.

#6  Bill Russell

See my previous thoughts on Russell. To be honest, I’m not sure I would really draft him ahead of Tim Duncan for my team in today’s world, but the guy deserves to at least be ranked as high as his number.

#5  Larry Bird

Larry Legend was the most intelligent player in NBA History, as well as one of its fiercest competitors and most clutch finishers.  Plus, he’s from Indiana; he has to be this high.

#4  Magic Johnson

Finishes ahead of Larry because of the number of rings (5 to 3) and his longevity (12 quality years compared to 10).

#3 Michael Jordan

#2 Kobe Bryant

#1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Please let me give my reasons before you flood my (and my editor’s) inbox with rude comments.

First of all,

Michael Jordan is easily the most universally liked person of the three.  According to most people, Kareem was “some Muslim activist” and Kobe is a “6 for 24 shooting adulterer.”

Personally, I have no idea why Jordan is universally loved more than the other guys.  The guy is addicted to gambling, has had more affairs than any other athlete not named Tiger Woods, and allegedly punched teammates in practice for not trying hard enough.  He gave a nearly hour long, vindictive Hall of Fame speech where he basically admitted that he had respect for nobody, and he even told his son he felt bad for him because he could never live up to his old man.  Michael Jordan is not a good guy by any definition…but everyone loves him anyway.  That’s fine.

Let’s try to put aside personalities for a minute though and really judge these guys as players.

Secondly,

Jordan won all of his titles from 1991 to 1998, the second weakest era in NBA History.

The weakest era coincided with the ABA, when all the good players were split in half, making both leagues weaker. But 1991 to 1998 was almost equally as poor. Don’t believe me? Let me throw this at you.

From 1991 to 1998, Michael Jordan only beat ONE team that had another top 20 player in his prime – the 1993 Phoenix Suns.  Past that, he only beat one other team that had another top 20 player at all…the 1991 Lakers.  When you take into account the fact that Jordan was also playing with Scottie Pippen (maybe he’s not #15 on your list, but you can’t argue that there was another guard as good in the decade), it’s not surprising in the least bit that Jordan won six rings.  Looking back on it now, the Knicks were overrated (Ewing was soft, and who was guarding Jordan…6’2” John Starks?  Please), the Lakers were old, the Blazers, Suns, and Sonics were just not as good, and the Jazz excelled at choking.

So who did Jordan really beat during that time?

Expansion had weakened the NBA to a certain extent.  Magic, Bird, Isiah, Kareem, and Moses were all washed up.  The “too much too soon” era was also in full force, as guys like Glenn Robinson, Chris Webber, Derrick Coleman, and others were given unbelievably bogus contracts that caused them to stop working and waste their potential.  Shaq and Penny were too young and immature.  Payton and Kemp only got along for like one year.  Hakeem didn’t have good enough players outside of ’94-’95.  Jordan only really had to beat three peers: Clyde, Barkley, and Malone.  And none of their second best players even came close to Scottie Pippen.  In fact, none of them really compared to Scottie.

On the other hand, Kobe had to battle against Duncan, Dirk, and KG every single season in his own conference! Meanwhile, Kareem had to beat individual teams that had Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Bill Walton, Dennis Johnson, and Danny Ainge on them.

Listen, I’m not going to sit here and make comments like, “Jordan never would have won anything unless all the other greats retired and the league wasn’t so weak.”  But the fact is that Jordan never DID win anything until all the other greats retired and the league was weaker.

You can argue that Jordan would have been great in any era, and that he was so competitive he would have won championships against anyone.  The fact is, though, that he didn’t.

Thirdly,

Of the three players, Jordan by far had the shortest reign.

If you take out 1986 (the year he got hurt), ’94 and ’95 (the years he played baseball), and everything after 1998, that leaves us with a total of eleven quality years of basketball for Air Jordan.  Now I will be the first to admit that those eleven years may be better than Kobe’s best eleven years, or Kareem’s best eleven years.  But when it comes to an entire career, those eleven years better be enough better to overcome the longevity of the other two.

I just don’t think that’s true in this scenario.

Kareem played for a startling 20 seasons, and was an All-Star for 15 of those years.  He won six rings, just like Jordan, and in the words of Bill Simmons, nobody in NBA History can approach the next two lines:

Kareem, 1971: 27-19-3, 61% FG, Finals MVP

Kareem, 1985: 26-9-5, 61% FG, Finals MVP

If I’m building a team, I would take 20 years of a 7’3” big man with the most unstoppable scoring move of all time over 11 transcendent years from a SG who never actually beat anyone of note.

Photo source: RHF Collective

As for Kobe, the argument is a little tougher, but I stand by it.

Jordan’s stats are a little better.  While the caliber of athlete he was playing against was laughable compared to Kobe’s era (just imagine how many points Kobe would score if he was guarded by Jeff Hornacek in back-to-back NBA Finals’), Kobe’s era is much more conducive to scoring (just imagine how many points Jordan would score in a league that’s not allowed to hand check), so nobody really had a clear advantage, and Jordan wins the stats argument.

At this point, Kobe’s played for 15 years (just like Jordan), but 14 of them have been quality.  It’s hard to say how many he has left, but at 33, he could easily have anywhere from 2 to 5 more seasons left with 2 or 3 of them being quality.  He’s won one less ring, but he’s had to beat at least one of the guys on this list in every single one of his championship seasons.

It’s an incredibly tough choice.  Do I take the guy with a slightly higher peak, or the guy that gives me greatness for a longer stretch of time?  In the end, I would take Kobe’s career over Jordan’s peak.

Obviously, you would be happy to have any of the guys in the top three.  All three guys lucked out with teammates to a certain extent.  Kareem had Magic – the best teammate of the three – for five of his titles, but he also beat teams that were much more stacked than Kobe and Jordan.  Kobe had Shaq and then Pau for his five rings.  And Jordan had Scottie for all six of his.

However, because Kareem and Kobe had to do it against harder competition, and because their careers were longer than Jordan’s, they finish ahead of Air…even if I’m the only guy who thinks so.

Commence vitriolic anger…NOW!

The comment section awaits.

**********

Seriously, I’d love to hash this out further with anyone that’s interested. If you prefer to express your opinions privately, you’re welcome to e-mail me directly at jwtwitch@gmail.com, though we encourage you to comment publicly so everyone can enjoy the debate.

* – Jim Harbaugh photo source: My350Z.com

* – Scottie Pippen photo source: NBA.com

* – Hakeem Olajuwon photo source: Ultimate Youth Basketball Guide

* – Michael Jordan photo source: Promethean Times

* – Kobe Bryant photo credit: Getty Images via Zimbio



About Jon Washburn

Jon Washburn grew up in Indianapolis, IN and as such, is a diehard Pacers, Colts, and Cubs fans. When it comes to college, he cheers for Notre Dame football fan and Purdue basketball. Yes, this sounds shady, but since he grew up without cable, he learned to love Notre Dame - the only team on TV. Glenn "The Big Dog" Robinson was at Purdue when Jon was in his formative years, so he latched onto them as well. Did that make him a fair-weather fan at the time? Sure. Give him a break...he was 8...and he has stayed with those teams ever since. Currently, he lives in Charleston, SC with his wife who grew up in Cleveland. Although he is no longer physically in the Midwest, his heart will always be there. Jon goes by the name "Twitch" because he has Tourette's Syndrome. Hit him up on his twitter @jwtwitch.

Comments

  1. JodanHater says:

    If you hate Jordan so much, why did you even list him? Because you HAVE to. Jordan is what basketball is all about. You play both ends of the floor, not save energy for when you are on offense. You practice harder than when you play, playing the game should be the easy part. You didn't mention Jordan losing his Dad, for someone as close to his family, that hurt him. He wanted his father to heve seen his last game, but the LOVE he had for competition drove him back, and he picked up right where he left off. Sure, Kareem deserves the #1 rank, that can be argued, but to mention Kobe up there, thats a JOKE.

  2. Dwight Howard??? Best Defensive player in the past few years and will most likely continue. As you said this era is scoring and for Howard to be that much of a beast?? He will have a lot of good seasons down the road. Also I would have put Wade in front of LeBron because Wade is clutch….In 2 NBA Finals appearances LeBron has not been there for his team. It would not have been a close series if Wade wasnt there.

  3. Watch nearly any game Jordan played in ( especially from 91 – 98 ) . for the full game he played hard – for 82 games he played hard . Commentators in those games, fresh with the memories of larry, karem, magic were calling him the greatest ever… and that was in the early 90s, even before he had won a championship, annointing him the " greatest individual talent in the game" . the defences were tough back then, the competition was fierce… the 89 – 91 Pistons were weak ? the 92 – 98 Knicks were weak ? please !

    "just imagine how many points Kobe would score if he was guarded by Jeff Hornacek in back-to-back NBA Finals" .. just imagine how many points Jordan would of scored against JJ Berea in the finals instead of Gary Payton etc..

    The best comparision is to imagine the players in their primes swap teams – Put Kobe on the Bulls and see how he'd do against Indiana in 98 or the Pistons in 89… And vice versa.. Jordan paired up with Shaq .. They would still be winning championships !

  4. Lebron might win a title younger than MJ did, but that doesn't mean he will ever approach Jordan's total (even within eyesight of it).

    MJ aged ridiculously well – still MVP level when most players are going into decline. Expecting Lebron to do the same when his game is still based almost completely on his athletic ability would be foolish at this point in time.

  5. All you have to do is look at how Jordan got Finals MVP in EVERY FInals he participated in, and FOUR TIMES he was named both Regular Season AND Finals MVP. FOUR TIMES!!!

  6. tonythestatmaster says:

    Hes a Pacers fan.

  7. tonythestatmaster says:

    Twitch, I'm pro-Jordan as you know. The problem with your ranking is not that you have Kareem #1 or dont have Jordan #1. Kareem #1 is a legit argument. However, putting Kobe ahead of Jordan is where the hate comes from. In your article you put up so many stats for Kareem but then just kinda wrote words about Kobe and said how he and Jordan cancel out each other and then you craftily slid Kobe past Jordan without a legit reason. Jordan had the stats. Jordan was the best player on every championship team (which I think you dont look at enough). Jordan and Kobe washed when you flip the 90's defense with the 00's players. So where is Kobe's edge? A couple more quality years? I think your Kobe argument is weak. MJ was old when he won he last couple rings. Kobe is already fading at his age (and I know since he was in the NBA at 18 he will fade a tad sooner). To end it tho: when Magic, Isaiah, and Bird all say MJ is the greatest ever…I think you have to put him ahead of Kareem. And the best player on each championship team I think just settles it as for MJ over Kobe. MJ #1 Kareem #2 Kobe #3

  8. Scottie Mac says:

    List is pretty good. I don't have a great deal of a problem putting Kobe over Jordan … but remember, when you're talking about how good of a teammate someone is–which is why you excluded Barry it seems–Kobe gave a "him-or-me" ultimatum to his team concerning the most likable superstar of the 90s (your words) and also demanded (then revoked the demand) another trade in the preseason of the mid 00s (can't remember what year right off). If Barry doesn't make the list because of being a bad teammate, I don't see how Kobe can be #2. His teammates may say the obligatory niceties about him now, but wait until they're all retired. I bet they hate him. But that's speculation.

    Make Barkley higher. Best small forward to ever play. Maybe the best power forward (who was small) to play. That is all. Good work.

  9. reginadoeslife says:

    I can't believe I'm saying this, considering how much I dislike Kobe Bryant, but I actually agree with the order up there. I think Kareem definitely belongs as number one.

  10. Lebron does have time ahead of him – i'm just not sure it's as much as you'd think.

    Jordan was definitely an elite athlete at that age, but – by now – he was also developing a killer low post game that he would ride to 6 titles*. Lebron has shown little willingness at all to develop that aspect of his game – if he's going to do so, it needs to be soon. Playing at an MVP level through transition buckets and pure athleticism doesn't happen when the clock hits 30ish.

    * One big difference between Kobe & MJ that this article fails to mention is that while Kobe is more talented and has more go-to moves than Jordan on his best day, Jordan had a much better idea of what he was. He was perfectly happy to stay within his comfort zone knowing that the opponent couldn't stop it. Kobe does everything well, but that's part of the problem – he goes to a variety of moves but doesn't have any one aspect of his game that is as strong as Jordan's 12 foot pull-up jumper (if he's got a long defender switched on him) or low post baseline turnaround (if he's guarded by someone quicker/smaller).

  11. theres no way that you can put kobe over jordan. your forgetting that during kobe's first three championships he wasnt even the best player on that team, shaq was. I think the talent in the very early 2000's was the weakest it had ever been, tim duncan pretty much won those championships himself considering the second and third best players were parker and manu(nothing compared to the team of shaq n kobe). Dirk never had anyone good around him and the sixers and nets made the finals with only one good player on each team, other stars in the league at the time were vince carter, tracy mcgrady, j kidd, and allen iverson. Can you really compare that to who jordan played?(stockton, malone, peyton, kemp, hakeem, barkley, drexler, muller, miller, starks, ewing, hardaway)

  12. KobeIsAwesome says:

    you guys need to understand what Kobe has done. He won five championships, made it to the finals 7 times, all in a decade. thats impressive. And Kobe is the only person I would give the ball in the clutch. And so what Kobe cheated on his wife, he was acquitted, and every nba player has cheated guaranteed. Kobe scored 81 in a game. Put that into Perspective. Wilt was way taller than anyone else. Kobe is 6’6 and he was SHITTING on Toronto.

  13. kobe said michael was better. thats all i have to say.

    • no way he would say he's better, that'd be a media nightmare.. i don't think kobe is better either but just because he says it to the public doesn't mean it's true at all

  14. Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double over the course of his first 5 seasons (if you do the math out, that is, only once in a single season did he average a triple double) and Wilt probably averaged a triple double for a good deal of his career, remember that he played BEFORE blocks were a stat, and I don't care who he played against, averaging 50.4 points and 25 rebounds a game is ridiculous. You can't compare eras, you have to look at the body of work a player put up in their own era because it isn't their fault that the competition was weak or whatever other excuse you want to make.

    • MuffinMan says:

      I agree on this one.

    • Right on, Dan. You do the best against whoever you compete against. All anyone can ask for. And Kareem didn't do that at some times. He didn't face Cowens, Wilt, Reed, Lanier, Walton every night of course and didn't come to play many nights. West and Magic have commented on this in the past.

  15. douglas says:

    Interesting arfticle. I agree with Kareem 1st. Came in as a rookie and immediately makes one of the weakest teams one of the best.

  16. Ok…first thing is first: You called Scottie Pippen a guard….twice. He was a small forward, your entire argument for anything at all just went down the drain for me. Second. I agree that 1990's were the weakest era in basketball. However, at the end of Jordan's run with the Bulls he beat the Utah Jazz twice in a row, which leads me to another point in debunking your horribly un-researched and un-educated argument. Karl Malone, the second all-time points leader in the HISTORY of the NBA behind, yeah, your number one pick Kareem, and you're not even going to put him in the top 20!?!?!? are you kidding me?! is this a joke!? Kareem's great contribution is points, and he did it in a span of over twenty years, that sounds remarkably similar to this other great point scorer who you claim doesnt even crack the top 20: KARL F*&@*NG MALONE! this list is a joke. an absolute joke and that you think you have any ability to determine who makes this list after displaying your complete lack of knowledge of the game….is a travesty. Thankyou.

  17. how could you put kobe before jordan. yeah kobe's good but jordan easily changed the way of the game. if you ever put those 2 in a one on one kobe would get stomped by jordan. and also lebron needs to be #20 on this list not wade because he doesn't know how to play his best when he needs to. he has no idea how to play when there's a lot on the table and just breaks down. you sir were terrible at putting this list together.

  18. this list is so silly it doesn't deserve a comment.

  19. Haha I didn't even need to look past number 20 to realize this list is a complete joke.

    And please quit disrespecting Jordan, you're making a fool of yourself.

  20. Haha I didn't even need to look past number 20 to realize this list is a complete joke.

    Please stop disrespecting Jordan, you're just embarrassing yourself.

  21. Jordan played with Pippen … and Kobe played with Shaq. During a time when nobody except the Spurs played defense in the West. Ludicrous.

  22. I guess Michael Jordan's 6 Finals MVPs arent as good as Kareems 2. I love how you say how Bob Cousy wouldnt be good in todays game, but then you just automatically assume Jerry West would be number 7? Do you also not remember that of Kobe Bryants 5 NBA rings, Shaq was the best player on 3 of those teams, not to mention that the deciding factor in Game 7 against Celtics wasnt Kobe Bryant but the offensive rebounding of Gasol and Bynum. If Kendrick Perkins doesnt get hurt Kobe Bryant has 4 rings

    • Kobe had 15 rebounds that game, and if Kendrick had played the Celtics would have not had Sheed on the floor for most of the game (he was their leading scorer that night).

  23. And its great that Olajuwon has 5500 stocks, but where is any mention of Reggie Miller/ Ray Allen. See they are the NBA leaders in a statistical category that ACTUALLY EXISTS, its called 3 point field goals. Now maybe not top 20, but those guys should have been mentioned somewhere.

  24. This list is great!…for conversation that is. The biggest problem with the list is that you claim to not play by the "era rules" (that is you rank with no respect to how great they were in their era), but you're not consistent with it. That's because it is really hard to do or else you have a list of all new players. Second, in your discussion of Kobe ahead of Jordan you don't even mention that Kobe played with Shaq for 3 of those championships for God's sake!!!…a top 10 player of all time by your own admission!!! The same could be said of Kareem playing with Magic. Nice list in a lot of ways…you just tried to get too cute with it at the end.

  25. Good arguments for your opinions. But…. a little (maybe a lot) a disrespect to Wilt and Russell. Weak opponents?? Hmm. Nate Thurmond, Willis Reed, Walt Bellamy (I know, but good for lst 5 yrs or so). And in Wilt's case, Cowens, Abdul-Jabbar, Lanier as well. NO way Kareem rates ahead of the great 2. Another case of: it was so long ago….etc…
    I really like your 3-6, they probably should be 1-4 in my mind. There is good reason Magic gets most of the credit for the Lakers (5 titles and 5 of Kareem's 6), he was the key (just as Bird on the Celts) man on the Lakers. If Magic had not joined L.A. , Kareem likely woulda' retired earlier and continued to be criticized as an underachieving ref-blamer, whiner and who hustled when the mood struck him. And Kobe 2?? Talk about weak competition. Aside from Lebron (possibly), what other all-time greats has he defeated? Good point about Isiah, though. Maybe the most dislikable (for good reason too), but terrific player and competitor, much I hate to admit it.

  26. By the way, RIck Barry was the 1st point forward in addition to being an outstanding shooter/scorer and underrated defender. Much like a quicker, faster Bird, a less physical Baylor. Just didn't measure up to Elgin or Larry on the boards, but everything else he was above avg to great at. Right about Olajawon, most versatile offensive center to ever play. Beautiful inside/outside game with unsurpassed moves, fakes and footwork.
    Moses too (good rate). Tremendously underrated. If he doesn't go to the 76ers, Dr. J doesn't win an NBA title. And Moses (like nobody else I can recall) took a .500 Houston team to the finals vs. Boston in 81' and they managed to win a couple even there.

  27. you are a moron dude pure and simple.
    for one reason only: leaving john stockton the all time assists leader in the history of the game out of your stupid list.

  28. i dont have a problem with kareem being ahead of jordan. That is probably well deserved, kareem is an unbelieveable player.

    but you are a fucking moron if you think kobe is ahead of jordan.

    or even in the top 10. Kobe is great, but he hasn't done enough individually to be ahead of Tim Duncan, Magic, Bird, hell even Hakeem.

    -Forget Kobe's first three peat, he was the second offensive option and was not named to a single finals MVP.

    -When Kobe was the undisputed franchise player from 2004 onwards, the lakers missed playoffs in 2005, and lost twice in a row to steve nash, stoudamire + scrubs in '06 and '07. You can't tell me raja bell, shawn marion, and boris diaw are elite players…LOL

    You are a moron dude.
    I hope you aren't getting paid more than a dollar for this garbage.

    Also leaving out the all time league leader in assists off the "list" … what a fucking moron.

    • completely agree, except there are cases for Kobe cracking the top 10, but being ahead of Jordan no fucking way, how the fuck can you knock Jordan for playing with Scottie and not knock Kobe for playing with arguably the most dominant physical force the game has ever seen in Prime Shaq…

  29. aggreable, 1. kareem 2. michael 3. kobe …. but you did raise a strong point against that. so it dibatible

  30. I totally agree with the comments made about Jordan. An undeniably astonishing player, but in a weak era with a very high-caliber player in Pippen with him. And I also don't get Jordan's likeability, especially considering what he says and how he acts now. Still, though, he deserves all of his praise as a player. Just really wish I could see him go up against a team like the early 2000s spurs. That would be very different, even in his prime. Kareem is rightfully number one, but to put Kobe ahead of Jordan is ridiculous, and you have to acknowledge the difference made by Shaq's presence for a lot of those years

  31. Pleas don’t compile a list when you know nothing about the game. Jordan is a freak that was impossible to stop. He averaged over 30ppg for 10 consecutive season on his way to 10 straight scoring titles. Jordan was spectacular and a complete monster in the playoffs. Kobe never averaged 40ppg in the playoffs. Jordan also has numerous personal accolades. Before you compile a list next time do some research.

  32. G.O.A.T says:

    your fucking stupid. Michael is the greatest of all time, kobe is the greatest of his time. stop comparing kobe to michael people.

    • G.O.A.T. thank you for visiting and commenting, but just a word to the wise: it is probably not in your best interests to misuse your/you're (should be the second one) in a sentence where you call someone "fucking stupid".

  33. HizAirness says:

    Am I crazy? All the years I lived in Chicago during the Bulls championship years, I was sure Scottie Pippin was a small forward who just brought the ball up the court like a point guard. What the heck position did John Paxton and Steve Kerr play? Or are you contending that the Bulls played a 3-guard offense. Also, am I crazy or did you leave Bill Russell off of this list?

  34. im not going to even comment on the jordan vs kobe argument because it will never be solved because jordan beat everyone ultimatly by himself( face it without MJ it becomes Scottie Pippen who?) but it was in an era that was weak enough to be able to beat teams by himself. Kobe cant do it by himself because its an era that requires another superstar or a solid group of role players but in the jordan era could he have done it by himself? You cant say yes and you cant say no. But lets be real. Dirk had one good playoffs compared to how many awful ones? Im not trying to take anything away from Dirk but he was covered by Joel Anthony(bum) or at times Chris Bosh(the poster child for over-rated). Yes hes a freak of nature the best 7 foot shooter ever but over his career in the playoffs the bad far out ways the good(See 07 vs Baron Davis). He should be behind Barkley and KG cause they are just better all around. And heres where the hateful replies come…Lebron should be higher than he is. The NBA has never seen someone with his athleticism and ability to play every postion (see 2008 Olympics)

    • Did he choke in the Finals ya he did but if i recall i dont remember Wade doing much of anything besides putting the ball directly off his foot and Bosh isnt good at anything but open dunks and jump shots. So did Lebron choke or did the Heat choke?. But all around this list isnt any good. Shaq should be higher he was the most dominant center ever. Wade shouldnt be on this list because its too soon to tell. i think when his career is over yes he should be but you can say that about 10 other guys in the NBA now. John Stockton over Thomas anyday of any week but hey its your list and you got good arguments to back it up so I respect it.

  35. ARE YOU KIDDING? YOU CLEARLY KNOW NOTHING ABOUT BASKETBALL. NO WAY IN HELL IS KOBE BETTER THAN MJ. THE 2000'S ARE SO WEAK COMPARED TO THE 90'S, THE 80'S/90'S WHERE WAY MORE PHYSICAL. OMG, IM NOT EVEN GOING TO LIST THE BILLIONS OF REASONS MJ IS THE GREATEST EVER. THIS IS A FUCKING JOKE.

  36. ARE YOU BLOODY INSANE? Dirk Notwinzki , Dwyane Wade , LeBron , Kobe are on the bloody list and not Allen Iverson? And you say Kobe is better than Bird , Pippen , Iverson ( whom you didn't even mention in the list ) . Dude go do some re-search work .

  37. MARCO GLEZ says:

    THIS GUY IS CRAZY .. IN HIS PRIME .JORDAN WOULD BEAT KOBE , MJ WOULD LOVE TO HAVE KOBE IN HIS PRIME TO BEAT HIS ASS UP .. MJ HAD MORE HANG TIME, COMPETITIVENES, WILL TO WIN.

    KOBE IMITATES A LOT OF MJ MOVES , KOBE LEARNED FROM JORDAN , WOULDNT BE KOBE WITHOUT JORDAN SKILLS, AND ANOTHER THING , NOBODY MENTIONED PHIL JACKSON . KOBE HAD ALL PHIL JACKSON EXPERIENCE THAT HE GAIN WITH THE BULLS AND THEN APPLIED THEM TO THE LAKERS. PHIL IS THE ALL TIME HEAD COACH , MJ AND PHIL WORKED THROUGH THAT EXPERIENCE STARTING WITH CERO.

  38. Lol @ Isiah over Oscar.

    Among many other things.

    Also, Elgin Baylor would like a word with you.

  39. I would bet my left nut I'm a bigger Reggie fan than you, and he IS 45-50. Sure I am a huge fanboy of his but him and Jordan going head-to-head were amazing. He was more than a shooter, he was the number one option on his team and had to create all of his shots. Only team to take the Bulls to 7 games in the playoffs, after which Pippen said the best team lost. He would be considered a much better player had he played in a larger market.

  40. loooooooooooooooool
    Kobe WAS guarded by Jeff Hornacek. Go check Kobe’s career average against Hornacek. And than cry. Kobe played in Jordan era retard. . He was shooting airballs on Utah..Kobe did NOTHING in the 90’s, Hornacek owned Kobe as a 38 year old. And don’t give me crap he was young, he was all star and 4 year veteran. MJ put 51 and 7 40+ points in 00’s as a 40 year old. And that was before the league turned NBA rules into joke, curtailing hand checking and hard fouls. MJ would feast on that. Nice that you’ve mentioned Simmons he is the first one to tell you that MJ would average 45 today. Just like Phil Jackson, Larry Brown or Tim Grover. they all said this. Even Pippen said MJ would average 40-50 today., before he lost his mind with that LeBron thing..
    What better athletes, the league is pathetic. Talking about wattered down talent. Look who is guarding Kobe 40 year old dudes form MJ era like Grant Hill or Jason Kidd. 6’3 liliputs like Boobie Gibson  Randy Foy, Rodney Stuckey or Kirk Hinrich (one of his best defenders – 6’3 white boy, please) 36 year olds like Raja Bell or Anthony Parker. All time bad defenders like Monta Ellis or Kevin Martin. The SG position is historically horrible. Lot of teams are STARTING 2 point guards or 6’3 combo guards. John Starks would be all team defense defender today. Only Tony Allen is playing defense like him. But nobody today plays defense like Joe Dumars, Sidney Moncrief, Alvin Robertson, Garry Payton, Michael Cooper and so many others..those guys were tough quick and strong and could hold, push you beat you, today you can’t even breath on anybody. Have you ever played basketball, do you have slightes idea what difference does it make?
    The difference between Kobe and MJ is, you can’t guard PRIME MJ with a SF, he was too quick, far quicker and explosive than Kobe. Far far quicker.  He would destroy all these Ron Artests and Battiers..
    You had to put quicker 6’4 -6’5 guard on him and let him shoot jumpers. May be try to watch basketball once in a while, idiot.
    I give you 1 thing, moron (you were asking for those slurs anyway), the 2nd half of the 90’s was weaker for the reasons you’ve mentioned, but from 1986-93 that was the greatest and richest pool of talent off all time and MJ posted the greatest stats and won 3 champs.
    Give the world a favour and kill yourself before you masturbate to Kobe’s poster one last time.
    btw. I have KAJ 2nd all time.
    And don’t even start me on Stockton you dumb fuck. He was the best player on Jazz. Ask Payton who was the toughest player he ever guarded..

    • Andersonfadivale says:

       Wow. Dumbest TOP 3 in history. As for John Stockton, everyone that played agaisnt him say he is underrated, he was a beast defender, toughest whiteboy after Bird EVER and just a great player all around.

  41. good argument, at least you tried but your wrong. Kobe would drop buckets in an MJ era, yes. Who would drop more if they both play in the same era, MJ. Even if kobe had a “pippen” at the time. Kareem is incomparable, hard to judge a center and a SG. MJ averaged 30 points one season, yea Kareem has rebounds, blocks, etc. But that’s what his position entails, SHOOTING guard. He knew his role and played it well, just as KAJ did, honestly they are equal on their own levels. Michael played his position, as Kareem did also. Same rings. Dont put kobes name in front of MJ’s ever again you dumbass, beside it, okay. In front, never.

  42. Roehl_Benita says:

    How is jordan not number 1 yea sure im a bird fan and i hate jordans guts but kobe will never be as good as jordan.

  43. Romeyrome80 says:

    I love this list and am glad to hear others that share the same opinion when it comes to the Kobe/mj debate…I really wish people would judge it by actually looking at them play rather than get caught up in media-hype…well put brooooo!!!!!!

  44. Don’t agree with this order at all. All of your evidence pointed to Jordan being the better player despite his career being shorter than Kobe’s. 

  45. steven lewis says:

    Let me say this. I just watched the “flu” game on youtube. Theres something inherently special about basketball, even more so than perhaps any other team sport, where a singular athlete can “will” their team to destiny. That is what Jordan did in that game. I watched that game thinking “I can’t possibly imagine another athlete in any sport performing the way Jordan played under those circumstances”. His off the court transgressions are inconsequential to the fact that nobody can match his will to win. That’s why Jordan is the greatest-its not about stats, or “longevity”, or morality.Its about his immeasurable heart. What was he willing to sacrifice in order to win? Everything.

  46. Sorry but I would have to agree with just about all of your rankings

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