Picking the NBA’s Greatest is Tough

Posted: February 13, 2012 in sports
Tags: , ,

With the NBA having recently announcing this year’s all-stars team it got me to thinking about the greatest pro basketball players I’ve ever seen. Obviously it isn’t an easy task and clearly there are dozens of different opinions. Like most sports debates, there is no right and wrong. Beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder.

Was Wilt Chamberlain better than Bill Russell? Was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a better center than either one of them? Is Michael Jordan the greatest ever? Where do Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, Bob Pettit, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and Shaq O’Neal fit in? Do current players Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Tim Duncan belong in the debate?

Perhaps the most difficult part of the debate is trying to judge players from different eras. Would Wilt dominate today like he did in the 1960s? Would LeBron be even more incredible if he was playing against 1970s competition?

Of course we’ll never know, and that’s part of the fun.

Here are the five players I’d select as my team:

Chamberlain would be my center. Russell and Abdul-Jabbar won more titles, but no one dominated like Wilt. At 7-2, he was not just tall but a great athlete. The rules were changed because of him.

James and Bird are my forwards. LeBron is a freak athletically and he’s still improving. He may not be all that likeable, but this isn’t a personality contest. Bird wasn’t close as an athlete, but no one ever had more or better basketball skills than he had. Leaving off Pettit, Baylor, and Erving makes me question my own judgment.

Picking the guards is the most difficult. How can you leave off Jordan, perhaps the greatest of all-time? I can’t. My second guard is the Big O, Oscar Robertson. He averaged a triple-double ONE season! How would he do today? Don’t know, but he was the greatest of his era. Sure, I apologize to Magic, West, Kobe and even Bob Cousy, but, like I said, this isn’t an easy task.

Damn, I didn’t even mention Hakeem Olajuwon or Steve Nash or Karl Malone or John Stockton or Walt Frazier or . . . well, you understand the problem.


  1. BigBlackRod says:

    I concur with your pick of Chamberlain; I came of age when he was getting old, but he stiil was like a man among boys. I kind of devalue Russell because he played with so many Hall of Famers, how could he NOT win? I would have Tim Duncan at the four, with Bird playing the three. Magic would run the point, and Mike got to be Mike. Doc would be the first off the bench, and Hakeem would spell Wilt. I’d have to find a way to get Barkley on the floor for meaningful minutes, and, if one of the opposing guards started making too many baskets, I’d bring in Frazier to lock him up. There. I’ve got a pretty good team, huh? PEACE.

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