The NBA's 10 greatest players

12/06/2012 5:16 PM

12/06/2012 5:45 PM

It’s always such a challenge trying topick the best ever in a particular sport because of that clock on the wall.

It keeps moving. Generations change, games change, players change. Drawing comparisons over the course of 10 years, let along 50 or 75, is difficult to impossible.

But sports fans are not deterred by these sands of the hourglass issues. We love the argument. Most of us can agree that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever. Right? But what about the rest of the Top 10? This morning on “Mike and Mike,” ESPN’s first-thing-out-of-the-chute radio show, the hosts argued about the top five NBA players.

Bruce Haertl and I did the same thing on our radio show, “Sports Daily.”

These debates are infectious. There is no end to them.

Most, of course, are based on personal preference. Anyone who feels strongly enough to enter a Top 5 or Top 10 discussion has a personal agenda, which is the reason they want to be in the discussion. I’m not interested in talking about the top 10 piano players of all time because I don’t have the sufficient knowledge to do so.

But I know me some basketball, so this debate is in my comfort zone. Of course, I do come to the argument with personal preferences – namely Larry Bird. Since he is my favorite player of all-time, I’m going to present every imaginable piece of evidence to support my argument. And if that doesn’t work, I’m going to raise my voice. And if I’m still dissatisfied, I’ll pout.

Those are the lengths to which I’m willing to go in support of my guy.

Michael Jordan is where the best-of-all-time discussion in basketball begins and ends. If the question is: Who is the best player in NBA history?; the answer is: Michael Jordan. Right? I’m sure some would dispute that, but not enough to overturn the verdict.

So, essentially, we’re starting with No. 2 here. And I have 21 names written down for these next nine spots. This is where it gets interesting.

Before I go with the No. 2 player on my list, here is a trivia question: Who are the only two players in NBA history who rank in the Top 50 all-time in scoring, rebounding and assists? (This is your time now to think for a bit).

The answer: Karl Malone (second in points, sixth in rebounds, 46th in assists) and Larry Bird (29th in points, 45th in rebounds and 34th in assists).

Interesting, isn’t it?

OK, who is No. 2?

I’m going with Wilt Chamberlain. Some would argue for Bill Russell here; others for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. What can I say; I’m for Wilt. The guy could do everything – score, rebound and pass. And he blocked shots, of course.

So we have Jordan and Chamberlain 1-2. Now for the rest of my personal Top 10.

3. Oscar Robertson. Look him up if he was before your time. You’re looking at a combination of Jordan, Bird and Magic Johnson rolled into one player. And I’ll even sprinkle in a little LeBron James for good measure.

4. Larry Bird. You knew he was coming, and here he is.

5. Magic Johnson. The best point guard in NBA history, bar none. A 6-foot-9 point guard with the mad skillz (that’s how the kids spell “skills”).

6. Bill Russell. The best defensive player in NBA history, bar none. End of discussion. And all of that hardware. If I didn’t love Bird so much, Russell would be in the Top 5.

7. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I suppose anyone who ranks first all-time in scoring, third in rebounding and won championships with two teams deserves a spot. Of course,  K A-J is worthy.

8. Karl Malone. I know, no championships. Give me another flaw. You can’t, can you?

9. LeBron James. Yes, he’s that good. Already.

10. Hakeem Olajuwon. Titles, numbers, class. He has it all.

Apologies to Jerry West, John Havlicek, Elvin Hayes, Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, Dominique Wilkins, Elgin Baylor, Tim Duncan (especially, he’s No. 11), Charles Barkley and all of the others who might have a Top 10 case. The problem with a Top 10 is that only 10 can be on it.

Have a good night, everyone.

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