NBA GOAT discussion

BaseballJones

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I feel like Robinson never gets his full due in these legacy conversations. Mid 90s DRob was such a force. In 1994, he averaged 30/11/5/2/3, yet, people just remember the Olajuwon pantsing in that 1995 playoff series. As you mentioned, he never really played with an elite group. Elliott, Johnson, etc. were nice players but not stars. And Elliott’s knees went to shit fast, if I recall correctly. Basically, DRob had the same supporting cast issue that KG had in Minny. Once he was paired up with a stud like Duncan, the titles came. The NBA is lucky that this pairing didn’t occur earlier in Robinson’s career.
And don't forget that Robinson entered the league way late due to his Naval commitment. His rookie year he was already 24 years old, and his college ball was played at small-time Navy. He sat out two years not playing any competitive basketball. Olajuwon played for big-time Houston and came in as a 22-year old rookie.
 

BigSoxFan

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And don't forget that Robinson entered the league way late due to his Naval commitment. His rookie year he was already 24 years old, and his college ball was played at small-time Navy. He sat out two years not playing any competitive basketball. Olajuwon played for big-time Houston and came in as a 22-year old rookie.
Yup. Having lived in SA in the 1990s, I always felt like he got dinged for his polite personality and people like Jim Rome eventually turned it into him being “soft”.
 

Kliq

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I feel like Robinson never gets his full due in these legacy conversations. Mid 90s DRob was such a force. In 1994, he averaged 30/11/5/2/3, yet, people just remember the Olajuwon pantsing in that 1995 playoff series. As you mentioned, he never really played with an elite group. Elliott, Johnson, etc. were nice players but not stars. And Elliott’s knees went to shit fast, if I recall correctly. Basically, DRob had the same supporting cast issue that KG had in Minny. Once he was paired up with a stud like Duncan, the titles came. The NBA is lucky that this pairing didn’t occur earlier in Robinson’s career.
I actually think he is fairly assessed. Most people have him in the Top 20 all-time, and acknowledge his greatness. He gets credit for two rings, but Robinson past his prime for both of those (he averaged 15-10 and 8-8 in his two title seasons, respectively) and those were more "Tim Duncan is a complete stud" then "Dynamic duo" performances for San Antonio. His prime was fairly short due to his naval commitment and injuries taking him down a few notches after turning 30.

The 95 WCF are a fascinating series. Robinson actually plays pretty well, 24-11 with two blocks. However, and this is a great example of Hakeem being able to reach a level of sheer dominance that Robinson never could. Hakeem puts up a ridiculous 35-12-5 with 4 blocks and buries San Antonio. He went for 39 points or more four out of the six games, playing against his greatest rival and equal the entire time.

Another issue in that series was that Rodman killed San Antonio because he refused to go out and guard Robby Horry at the three point line because it would take him away from the basket and thus reducing his rebounding total. Horry goes 17-40 from three and emerges as the third best player on the Houston team. That really needs to be brought up whenever people talk about Rodman being a great defender. Now a cynic would say that if Robinson was a more forceful leader, he would have cracked down on Rodman and forced him to go out and guard Horry, but I'm not sure that is really fair to Robinson.

Robinson didn't have a lot of help in San Antonio, a key mistake for the front office being taking Elliott one spot in front of Glen Rice in 1989 draft. Rice was a far superior college player and would have been a great fit with Robinson as a perimeter sniper/scorer.
 

Sam Ray Not

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I feel like Robinson never gets his full due in these legacy conversations. Mid 90s DRob was such a force.
To underline this: between 1986 and 1999, there were thirteen seasons of 8.5 VORP or better.

Jordan did it nine times.
Magic did it once.
Bird did it once.
David Robinson did it twice.

That's the complete list. Moreover: the insane +11.4 the Admiral put up in 1993-94 ranks as #4 season all-time by VORP, trailing only Jordan 1987-88, LeBron 2008-09, and Jordan 1988-89. The complete list of >10 seasons:

+12.5 Jordan 1987-88
+11.8 LeBron 2008-09
+11.4 Jordan 1988-89
+11.4 Robinson 1993-94
+10.8 Jordan 1990-91
+10.6 Jordan 1989-90
+10.6 Jordan 1986-87
+10.3 LeBron 2009-10
+10.2 Jordan 1992-93
 

BigSoxFan

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I actually think he is fairly assessed. Most people have him in the Top 20 all-time, and acknowledge his greatness. He gets credit for two rings, but Robinson past his prime for both of those (he averaged 15-10 and 8-8 in his two title seasons, respectively) and those were more "Tim Duncan is a complete stud" then "Dynamic duo" performances for San Antonio. His prime was fairly short due to his naval commitment and injuries taking him down a few notches after turning 30.

The 95 WCF are a fascinating series. Robinson actually plays pretty well, 24-11 with two blocks. However, and this is a great example of Hakeem being able to reach a level of sheer dominance that Robinson never could. Hakeem puts up a ridiculous 35-12-5 with 4 blocks and buries San Antonio. He went for 39 points or more four out of the six games, playing against his greatest rival and equal the entire time.

Another issue in that series was that Rodman killed San Antonio because he refused to go out and guard Robby Horry at the three point line because it would take him away from the basket and thus reducing his rebounding total. Horry goes 17-40 from three and emerges as the third best player on the Houston team. That really needs to be brought up whenever people talk about Rodman being a great defender. Now a cynic would say that if Robinson was a more forceful leader, he would have cracked down on Rodman and forced him to go out and guard Horry, but I'm not sure that is really fair to Robinson.

Robinson didn't have a lot of help in San Antonio, a key mistake for the front office being taking Elliott one spot in front of Glen Rice in 1989 draft. Rice was a far superior college player and would have been a great fit with Robinson as a perimeter sniper/scorer.
Good point on Rodman. He really didn’t do his job that series. I always felt like Rodman was a forced fit in SA. Made sense on paper but always seemed to leave you wanting more. And Robinson didn’t really have the personality to keep him under control like MJ did.
 

BaseballJones

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You're Boston right now. Robinson walks out of the Naval Academy and the Celtics can have him in a "trade". What is the max you'd be willing to give up for an about-to-be-prime David Robinson in today's game? I don't know what kind of $$ we're talking so you have to just kind of take a shot here. You know he's soon gonna be making absolute max dollars.

Do you deal Tatum in that trade? I think you have to be willing to, right?
 

Smokey Joe

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You're Boston right now. Robinson walks out of the Naval Academy and the Celtics can have him in a "trade". What is the max you'd be willing to give up for an about-to-be-prime David Robinson in today's game? I don't know what kind of $$ we're talking so you have to just kind of take a shot here. You know he's soon gonna be making absolute max dollars.

Do you deal Tatum in that trade? I think you have to be willing to, right?
You try like hell to avoid it. However, you would not need to trade Tatum for a rookie with DR’s potential, and if they KNEW what he would turn into, they wouldn’t trade him.
 

Kliq

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ESPN ranked the Top 74 Players of All-Time, the list will be spoilered for length.


1. Michael Jordan
2. LeBron James
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
4. Bill Russell
5. Magic Johnson
6. Wilt Chamberlain
7. Larry Bird
8. Tim Duncan
9. Kobe Bryant
10. Shaquille O'Neal
11. Oscar Robertson
12.Hakeem Olajuwon
13. Steph Curry
14. Kevin Durant
15. Julius Irving
16. Jerry West
17. Karl Malone
18. Moses Malone
19. Dirk Nowitzki
20. Kevin Garnett
21. Scottie Pippen
22. Elgin Baylor
23. Charles Barkley
24. David Robinson
25. Kawhi Leonard
26. Dwyane Wade
27. Giannis Antetokounmpo
28. John Stockton
29. Allen Iverson
30. Steve Nash
31. Isiah Thomas
32. James Harden
33. John Havlicek
34. George Mikan
35. Jason Kidd
36. Kevin McHale
37. Patrick Ewing
38. Bob Pettit
39. Walt Frazier
40. Chris Paul
41. Bob Cousy
42. Russell Westbrook
43. Rick Barry
44. Elvin Hayes
45. Anthony Davis
46. Dominique Wilkins
47. George Gervin
48. Bill Walton
49. Reggie Miller
50. Wes Unseld
51. James Worthy
52. Tracy McGrady
53. Gary Payton
54. Paul Pierce
55. Vince Carter
56. Ray Allen
57. Clyde Drexler
58. Manu Ginobili
59. Bob McAdoo
60. Willis Reed
61. Robert Parish
62. Dennis Rodman
63. Alonzo Mourning
64. Earl Monroe
65. Pau Gasol
66. Dave Cowens
67. Alex English
68. Pete Maravich
69. Bernard King
70. Tony Parker
71. Bob Lanier
72. Damian Lillard
73. Dikembe Mutombo
74. Artis Gilmore


I actually think they did a pretty job with the list. The top ten is pretty solid, I'd drop Wilt and Kobe down, but they didn't fall for some of the typical pitfalls (put Wilt in front of Russell and Kobe in front of Duncan).

Of course people are upset about the list, but for most of the wrong reasons. Iverson, imo, is way too high, yet some people on social media can't believe he is only 29, or that Kobe is 9. Some guys like Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe, Pete Maravich, etc. are on the list that I wouldn't have put on there. Interesting that Carmelo wasn't on the list, to me it is hard to justify putting Iverson at 29 and leaving Carmelo off the list entirely.

The old players do get boned, like they normally do. Cowens was a former MVP and the best or second best player on two title-winning squads, hard to see him getting placed below Mourning. Havlicek is fucked over as well. Do people really think Allen Iverson was better than Havlicek? Pettit is also underrated (2x MVP, 11x All-NBA, closed out the '58 Finals with 50-19 to beat the Celtics). I'd also say that Drexler is significantly underanked, best player on two teams that made the Finals during a very competitive era, and the second best player on a team that won the titles. He is certainly much better than Vince Carter.

Perhaps the most egregious omission is Sam Jones, I guess if he won 11 championships instead of 10 that might have put him over the top.
 
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bankshot1

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The 70's Celtics teams and Cowens. with 2 championships, (should have had 3) never gets the recognition they/he deserves. He was an all-time great two-way player.

edit-just checked the list, I misread the comment re Havlcek and assumed he was passed over.
 
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Ale Xander

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The Truth has been written.

Disappointed we couldn't actually "see" much of the Dream Team battle.
 

djbayko

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I love the Sam Hinkie bit. "Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and I assume Jayson Tatum are a dynasty by now."

"Russ, you throw up bricks from a distance."
 

kfoss99

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The 70's Celtics teams and Cowens. with 2 championships, (should have had 3) never gets the recognition they/he deserves. He was an all-time great two-way player.

edit-just checked the list, I misread the comment re Havlcek and assumed he was passed over.
I wonder if this is due to two things. 1. Too recent to be mythologized like the players from the 60s. 2. No TV footage on NBA TV and YouTube. It's the reason Kareem doesn't get as much respect.
 

bankshot1

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I wonder if this is due to two things. 1. Too recent to be mythologized like the players from the 60s. 2. No TV footage on NBA TV and YouTube. It's the reason Kareem doesn't get as much respect.
I think there may be a few reasons, As you inferred the NBA in the 60s and the battles between the Russell and Wilt was never approached (ever) and the 70s may have suffered from the absence of that type of rivalry (that was eventually satisfied by Larry and Magic). Although there were some good rivalries, for Celtic fans, the early 70s rivalry with the Knicks was very heated. I hated, but respected those Knicks, they were really good, and in some respects their rise from terrible to champions is somewhat reminiscent of the Pistons rise in the late 80s, as the knicks had to get past the Celts, "Bullets" and then Celts again. And the NBA's spotty national TV exposure didn't help promote the brand.

Kareem? There was some truth to the "Airplane" scene as the public perception was he underperformed his vast talent through lack of fire/desire. Its too bad (for lots of reasons that Walton was always hurt) but those two guys battling in their primes would have been epic.


Also the ABA sucked off talent from the NBA so there was a dual dilution (the NBA internally added a lot of teams in the 70s). and then the late 70s the NBA had a coke/image problem, and even diehards like me, started to get turned off by the product.
 

kfoss99

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I think there may be a few reasons, As you inferred the NBA in the 60s and the battles between the Russell and Wilt was never approached (ever) and the 70s may have suffered from the absence of that type of rivalry (that was eventually satisfied by Larry and Magic). Although there were some good rivalries, for Celtic fans, the early 70s rivalry with the Knicks was very heated. I hated, but respected those Knicks, they were really good, and in some respects their rise from terrible to champions is somewhat reminiscent of the Pistons rise in the late 80s, as the knicks had to get past the Celts, "Bullets" and then Celts again. And the NBA's spotty national TV exposure didn't help promote the brand.

Kareem? There was some truth to the "Airplane" scene as the public perception was he underperformed his vast talent through lack of fire/desire. Its too bad (for lots of reasons that Walton was always hurt) but those two guys battling in their primes would have been epic.


Also the ABA sucked off talent from the NBA so there was a dual dilution (the NBA internally added a lot of teams in the 70s). and then the late 70s the NBA had a coke/image problem, and even diehards like me, started to get turned off by the product.
As for Kareem, I'm too young to remember him playing. So, I've only seen his play against the Celtics in replays of the Finals. He's okay in those games. But, if there was available footage of him putting up 40 a game on the Bucks, I think he'd be better remembered. Some nice curated highlight reels would really help his legacy, no one would see him taking defensive plays off.

The old VHS highlight reels of Bird, Magic, and Jordan floating around YouTube has really helped preserve their legacies. I don't know of anything like that for Kareem, Oscar, Havlicek, Walton, etc. Guys who's primes were in the 70s.
 

Kliq

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I love the Sam Hinkie bit. "Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and I assume Jayson Tatum are a dynasty by now."

"Russ, you throw up bricks from a distance."
My favorite lines were Jokic, in the midst of battling the Dream Team saying "This is for Toni Kukoc!".

Also "You know that guy on the construction site that just yells at everybody? Draymond, you be that guy. Jimmy...you also can be that guy."
 

bankshot1

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"As for Kareem, I'm too young to remember him playing..."

KAJ is righfully regarded as one of the greatest players/elite of the elite, in NBA history, and recently he was listed as #3 on ESPN's greatest 74 players, (behind only LBJ and Pizzaman-I would not put KAJ ahead of Russell maybe Wilt, but I can understand the ranking) but IMO there's not an overwhelming case to call him the GOAT.

As i sense you are a KAJ fan, google, 1974 NBA Finals Game 6-its an all-time classic 2OT war, you'll enjoy it, (still too soon for me-heh) in some ways its sort of like Game 6 of the '75 World Series, but in reverse.
 

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I found this episode to be the weakest of the bunch, and I'm surprised they're only doing 4 episodes this year when past years they've done 8-9.
 

67YAZ

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Kareem? There was some truth to the "Airplane" scene as the public perception was he underperformed his vast talent through lack of fire/desire. Its too bad (for lots of reasons that Walton was always hurt) but those two guys battling in their primes would have been epic.
Guys who have that smooth athleticism and low key demeanor always criticized for not trying hard enough. Kareem was so graceful, fluid, and composed - all that over 7ft tall. Six time
MVP, 2 time NBA finals MVP, 10 time first team All-NBA, 6 time champion...if anything, he gets underrated in the NBA GOAT discussions.

If this were a general, all-levels basketball GOAT thread, Kareem wins hands down. His teams went 79-2 in high school, with 2 national championships and one runner up. In three years of college he went 88-2 with 3 titles & 3 tournament MVPs. It’s an absolutely unmatched pre-professional career.

And @kfoss99, you’re off base here. Kareem was the foundation that Showtime was built on. In the defensive end, his shot blocking allowed the wings to cheat for steals and his rebounding was so consistent that the Lakers would always send 3 and often 4 flying up court when an opponent launched a jumper. How many times did we see him snag a rebound and in one fluid motion outlet to Magic at halfcourt who would then push the ball to Rambis or another PF? Those guys were only on the break because Kareem could control the paint by himself.

And on the offensive end, he was the linchpin of the Lakers’ half court sets. If they couldn’t score on the break, then they had all sorts of sets around Kareem on either block. Leave him one v one, out comes the skyhook. Double him from the wing to prevent the hook, and Kareem passes out to one of their shooters or, preferably, James Worthy, who was always just two steps from a finger roll.

 

TripleOT

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Besides FT shooting and championships won, what was MJ better at than LeBron? James was a better shooter overall, from 2 and from 3, a more efficient scorer, a better rebounder, a way better passer, and defensively their isn't a clear leader, with both being very good. MJ scored 3 more ppg but took 3 more shots. LBJ has a much higher VORP, higher TS, more win shares, both offensive and defensive.
 

Kliq

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Besides FT shooting and championships won, what was MJ better at than LeBron? James was a better shooter overall, from 2 and from 3, a more efficient scorer, a better rebounder, a way better passer, and defensively their isn't a clear leader, with both being very good. MJ scored 3 more ppg but took 3 more shots. LBJ has a much higher VORP, higher TS, more win shares, both offensive and defensive.
Jordan is a much better jump shooter than LeBron. They have almost the exact same field goal percentage over their careers and LeBron played in a better-shooting era with more spacing. LeBron did take more three pointers, but Jordan took more shots overall. Jordan was better in his prime at getting to the line and free throw shooting was a real strength of his, as opposed to LeBron where it is a borderline weakness.

LeBron is probably a better passer BUT I think the gap isn't that large. LeBron has higher assist totals but that is partially because LeBron has played in an era and system that has made his playmaking more of an asset than Jordan. If Jordan played in the 2010s, I think that the Bulls wouldn't have bothered with Ron Harper and BJ Armstrong bringing up the ball, Jordan as the alpha-creator, would have the ball in hands even more frequently in a Harden-eque role and his assist totals would go up.

The same can be said for rebounding, LeBron averages a little bit more than one rebound per game than Jordan, which isn't that much. Throw in the fact that Jordan played in an era with more big men to compete with for rebounds, and especially later in his career, played in a slower paced era with fewer rebounds to be had. He also played in a era with fewer three point attempts, which meant fewer long rebounds, which meant reduced rebounding totals for perimeter players as compared to today.

On defense, LeBron due to his size has more potential, but Jordan was probably a more consistent defender and the pressing and tenacity he had on the perimeter was incredible. LeBron takes a lot of plays off and it is interesting to look at a lot of his teams and see that they were not particularly good at defense. Since LeBron went back to Cleveland, his teams have ranked the following in defensive rating: 18th, 10th, 21st, 29th, 12th and 3rd. So outside of this season, with Davis aboard, LeBron's teams have been either average or bad on defense since he left Miami. Jordan's teams of course were tremendous on the defensive end, albeit Jordan was playing with some very, very good defenders, but that doesn't excuse LeBron's teams for being pretty mediocre.

But perhaps most importantly, beyond counting stats, is that Jordan had a supernatural knack for willing his teams to win in ways that no other NBA player, with the possible exception of Russell, has been able to do. Jordan has 38 career playoff games where he scored 40+ points, LeBron has 27. Jordan has 8 50+ point playoff games, no other player has more than four (LeBron has one). That despite LeBron having played in many more career playoff games than Jordan (239 to 179). Scoring isn't everything of course, but part of the reason Jordan has six championships and LeBron does not is that Jordan was able to summon herculean performances in the playoffs time and time again at a rate nobody else in NBA history could reach.

LeBron is an amazing basketball player, but Jordan was just better.
 

Ale Xander

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Besides FT shooting and championships won, what was MJ better at than LeBron? James was a better shooter overall, from 2 and from 3, a more efficient scorer, a better rebounder, a way better passer, and defensively their isn't a clear leader, with both being very good. MJ scored 3 more ppg but took 3 more shots. LBJ has a much higher VORP, higher TS, more win shares, both offensive and defensive.
This is purely an anecdotal/eye test-ish comment, but I think Jordan took tougher/more covered shots than Lebron. Lebron is a better passer though, and it's quite likely they're functions of each other.
 

PedroKsBambino

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Guys who have that smooth athleticism and low key demeanor always criticized for not trying hard enough. Kareem was so graceful, fluid, and composed - all that over 7ft tall. Six time
MVP, 2 time NBA finals MVP, 10 time first team All-NBA, 6 time champion...if anything, he gets underrated in the NBA GOAT discussions.

If this were a general, all-levels basketball GOAT thread, Kareem wins hands down. His teams went 79-2 in high school, with 2 national championships and one runner up. In three years of college he went 88-2 with 3 titles & 3 tournament MVPs. It’s an absolutely unmatched pre-professional career.

And @kfoss99, you’re off base here. Kareem was the foundation that Showtime was built on. In the defensive end, his shot blocking allowed the wings to cheat for steals and his rebounding was so consistent that the Lakers would always send 3 and often 4 flying up court when an opponent launched a jumper. How many times did we see him snag a rebound and in one fluid motion outlet to Magic at halfcourt who would then push the ball to Rambis or another PF? Those guys were only on the break because Kareem could control the paint by himself.

And on the offensive end, he was the linchpin of the Lakers’ half court sets. If they couldn’t score on the break, then they had all sorts of sets around Kareem on either block. Leave him one v one, out comes the skyhook. Double him from the wing to prevent the hook, and Kareem passes out to one of their shooters or, preferably, James Worthy, who was always just two steps from a finger roll.

It is an impressive record—but still not as successful as Bill Russell’s.

I agree Kareem is often underrated. One challenge he has is that if one focuses on stats he loses to Wilt and if one focuses on winning he loses to Russell. I don’t think it really that simple but I think that is part of the challenge his legacy faces.
 

HowBoutDemSox

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I agree Kareem is often underrated. One challenge he has is that if one focuses on stats he loses to Wilt and if one focuses on winning he loses to Russell. I don’t think it really that simple but I think that is part of the challenge his legacy faces.
I think another issue is that the vast majority of his championship success (five of six) came while he was paired with Magic, and started as soon as Magic got there, including that iconic Game 6 in 1980 when Kareem wasn't even there and Magic played center in the clinching game. It's easy to chock that success up to Magic rather than Kareem, given how Kareem hadn't won in almost a decade before then and how Showtime got started as soon as Magic got there (not to mention Kareem's only other title was when paired with Oscar). Obviously you need multiple stars to win titles like that, but from a narrative perspective I usually see those teams considered more as Magic's than Kareem's.
 

Kliq

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I think another issue is that the vast majority of his championship success (five of six) came while he was paired with Magic, and started as soon as Magic got there, including that iconic Game 6 in 1980 when Kareem wasn't even there and Magic played center in the clinching game. It's easy to chock that success up to Magic rather than Kareem, given how Kareem hadn't won in almost a decade before then and how Showtime got started as soon as Magic got there (not to mention Kareem's only other title was when paired with Oscar). Obviously you need multiple stars to win titles like that, but from a narrative perspective I usually see those teams considered more as Magic's than Kareem's.
Kareem was the MVP of the 1980 and 1985 Finals.
 

PedroKsBambino

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Yes but KAJ was the Lakers best player until 1987. It’s ain’t just about one game.
 

Kliq

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Taking nothing from KAJ, but Magic was the MVP in the 1980s Finals. He had an amazing G6 clincher with KAJ riding the bench with badly sprained ankle..
You are right I was misremembering the story.

Kareem was still the best player on the Lakers that year, Magic G6 be damned; in the first five games of the finals he averaged 33/13 and 4.6 blocks.
 

bankshot1

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I hate the Lakers but Magic's G6 1980s Final was the stuff of legend. He was unreal that night And he was a fucking rookie playing out of position.

I can say pretty definitively that Bird was better than Parrish or McHale, and more instrumental in the Celts success in the 80-86 period, but I'm far less certain that the same can be said of KAJ and Magic, same time period. IMO Magic was driver of the Laker's 80s bus, particularly as that bus rolled further into the 80s and KAJ's impact started to fall-off at an accelerated pace.
 

PedroKsBambino

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Yes, it was an amazing game. But he simply wasn't the focus of the Lakers---or their best player--until 1987. Though in 1986 it was pretty close.

The thing about Magic's career is that he wasn't even the best guy on his team for half his career, and he wasn't really a complete player until he stepped up his jumper a little later. Once he did, you can definitely make the case he was as great as Bird or others in that tier. But Magic didn't get there for a long time and due to HIV, his 'peak' at that level was a lot shorter than anyone else in the discussion. Now, this doesn't change that he is the greatest PG ever to play mind you....

His 'rise' in greatest player lists is interesting---I think part of that is the assists help a great deal on many advanced stats. Part of that is the legend, and part of that is people who didn't watch those teams forgetting about Kareem.
 

snowmanny

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Yeah it is also what people saw last. At the end Bird was broken down. But essentially nobody thought Magic matched Bird 1980-1986 when Bird went ROY then 2-2-2-1-1-1 in MVP voting. (And Bird finished 2 to Magic’s 3 in 1988). The titles and the last few years tilted a lot of perspective.

I wonder how many folks have finished top 2 in MVP voting six years in a row. Not MJ. Not LeBron.
 

67YAZ

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Yeah it is also what people saw last. At the end Bird was broken down. But essentially nobody thought Magic matched Bird 1980-1986 when Bird went ROY then 2-2-2-1-1-1 in MVP voting. (And Bird finished 2 to Magic’s 3 in 1988). The titles and the last few years tilted a lot of perspective.

I wonder how many folks have finished top 2 in MVP voting six years in a row. Not MJ. Not LeBron.
Good question:

Russell 1958-1963
 

BigSoxFan

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Yeah it is also what people saw last. At the end Bird was broken down. But essentially nobody thought Magic matched Bird 1980-1986 when Bird went ROY then 2-2-2-1-1-1 in MVP voting. (And Bird finished 2 to Magic’s 3 in 1988). The titles and the last few years tilted a lot of perspective.

I wonder how many folks have finished top 2 in MVP voting six years in a row. Not MJ. Not LeBron.
Yeah and Bird just barely lost to Erving in the 1981 MVP vote. Nearly had 4 in 6 years.
 

reggiecleveland

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Jordan is a much better jump shooter than LeBron. They have almost the exact same field goal percentage over their careers and LeBron played in a better-shooting era with more spacing. LeBron did take more three pointers, but Jordan took more shots overall. Jordan was better in his prime at getting to the line and free throw shooting was a real strength of his, as opposed to LeBron where it is a borderline weakness.
I think Lebron is much better human being than MJ, but...
MJ is much better at going one on one and scoring. The NBA, especially in his era was reffed, etc for the guy that could go get a hoop when it was needed would win. Michael is way way better than Lebron at this. Larry was better than Magic at this too. Lebrom will always suffer since he just isn't as dominant when you just give him the ball. I saw a youtube clip that showed statistically he was not very good at this, below average maybe. Isa id this in threads about Kobe, but this is what Kobe saw as greatness to the point (IMHO) in hurt his teams.Mike learned to pick his spots, and be a team guy, but when he was needed he could go get it. Lebron just isn't as good at that, and maybe bettert at everything else, though I think MJ was an elite defender too. But Mike being better at that one thing, is enough to make him better.

Kareem at his best is the single greatest player, but he was likely to sulk away an entire season as was to step up and single handedly defeat the 87 Celtics. After his 74 title teams centered by Clifford Ray, Alvan Adams, Bill Walton Jack Sikma (twice) came out of the west. Much of this time Kareem floated, whined sulked. Very often he would moan and bitch about the refs and just write off a game. He has been unable to land an assistant coaching job, and is pretty univerally disliked in NBA circles. He was certainly treated unfairly, but I doubt the media pressure approached what MJ or even Bird and MAgic had to deal with. Kareem's attitude has to count against him. He and Wilt carry in my opinion a fatal stigma when it comes to GOAT, they didn't always play hard.
 

PedroKsBambino

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Alluded to Bill Russell’s success earlier.

In his 18 years of competitive basketball—last two years in high school, three years of college, and 13 in the nba—he won 15 titles. And in one of the three he didn’t he was hurt.

Michael Jordan may be the greatest player ever. But he isn’t in Bill Russell’s league as a winner. Of course, no one else is either...
 

bankshot1

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I once read (I think it was from Bob Ryan) that in 21 winner take all games (2 NCAA tourneys, 1 Olympics, and NBA-best of 5 and best of 7) that Russell was 21-0 in those games.
 

BaseballJones

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Interesting and fun exercise here:


So not the best players at each position, but the best TEAM consisting of a starting five plus sixth man. Here's my go:

Steph Curry
Michael Jordan
LeBron James
Kevin Durant
Hakeem Olajuwon
Larry Bird

Curry, Durant, and Bird give the team insane outside shooting. The team can go big if they want Hakeem, Bird, Durant, LeBron, and Jordan on the floor. They can go small if Olajuwon comes out and you put Bird at a modern stretch five. They can play defense with Jordan, James, and Hakeem. They can run - elite athletes at all five starting spots. They can post up - Jordan, Hakeem, and even Bird were all elite post players. Bird and LeBron are the consummate team players - both can dominate without being the alpha scorer. The passing on this team is off the charts. They have great length and quickness. Curry would be like the 4th option on offense and would be able to launch threes with basic impunity. They've got the ultimate end-of-game-and-must-take-the-last-shot players in Jordan and Bird. Hakeem has the athleticism to defend in today's P&R game, or to bang with bigs if they're playing by old-school rules.

And all are championship studs.

Steph: 3 titles
Jordan: 6 titles
LeBron: 3 titles
Durant: 2 titles
Olajuwon: 2 titles
Bird: 3 titles
 

snowmanny

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Good question:

Russell 1958-1963
Thank you.

Looking more, I think Russell, Bird and Gretzky are the only ones to finish top 2 in MVP voting six years in a row in any major sport. Of course Gretzky’s run was the best.
 

PedroKsBambino

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I once read (I think it was from Bob Ryan) that in 21 winner take all games (2 NCAA tourneys, 1 Olympics, and NBA-best of 5 and best of 7) that Russell was 21-0 in those games.
That's an amazing stat.

In some ways Russell is a bit like asking "what makes Belichick great?" in that the answer is not one specific thing---it is a competitor who is flexible and incredibly focused on winning in a way that people find hard to categorize.

Goes without saying that it is a struggle to compare players across eras. That said, if one believes that winning is a key criteria for evaluating the greatest it is very hard to make the case for anyone being above Bill Russell.
 

67YAZ

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That's an amazing stat.

In some ways Russell is a bit like asking "what makes Belichick great?" in that the answer is not one specific thing---it is a competitor who is flexible and incredibly focused on winning in a way that people find hard to categorize.

Goes without saying that it is a struggle to compare players across eras. That said, if one believes that winning is a key criteria for evaluating the greatest it is very hard to make the case for anyone being above Bill Russell.
I have a hard time with this argument because if gets us into Rocky Marciano territory - if your strongest claim to being the GOAT is that none of juice contemporaries could beat you, is that enough? Maybe the competition was too weak, the sport no so eveolved and developed yet, the skillset not so readily transferable to the generic “all time.” I love Russell, but what’s his claim to the GOAT beyond his teams’ accomplishments? How much about his individual game stacks up against Jordan, Kareem, LeBron, Bird?
 

PedroKsBambino

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He was MVP six times (as many as anyone ever). He was generally regarded as the greatest individual defensive player ever and among, if not the greatest, rebounder. He also averaged a huge number of assists. But the entire Russell argument is about winning, not about stats. One either believes that he played in a way to help his teams or they do not; I personally think his record speaks for itself. He won more than any of the guys you names and until they change the rules, that is the point of the game. He did it with two completely different types of Celtics teams, and he did at a college that never won a thing before or after. To me, that means something. You may want the numbers---and you may thing Oscar Robertson is better than any of them because of his numbers.

I certainly think a part of any 'greatest' argument is philosophically working through how to translate eras. We have zero idea what Bill Russell would be in 2020 as a basketball player---we don't know if he'd be stronger, if he'd develop a three-point shot, or what. We don't really even know what Larry Bird or Magic Johnson would look like with 2020 rules on hand checking and enhanced spacing. Would Magic's bad 3 pt shooting for much of his career result in him being a 'tragic flaw' guy for many years (his 3pt shooting most of his career makes Lonzo Ball look accurate)? Would Bird be exposed defensively Might he be overpowered at the 4/5? Or would these all-time greats have adjusted their games and even to a degree their bodies to their era? We don't know and never will.

My personal answer to that question---which is not by any means the only one---is that we can really only compare guys by how they played against their peers. Otherwise,I I think the reality is that the current era is always the best era because the game advances strategically, the players come from a bigger pool, and physically they are superior. That may be a fine outcome---but I personally think it is more interesting to rate each player against their era.
 
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snowmanny

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I have a hard time with this argument because if gets us into Rocky Marciano territory - if your strongest claim to being the GOAT is that none of juice contemporaries could beat you, is that enough? Maybe the competition was too weak, the sport no so eveolved and developed yet, the skillset not so readily transferable to the generic “all time.” I love Russell, but what’s his claim to the GOAT beyond his teams’ accomplishments? How much about his individual game stacks up against Jordan, Kareem, LeBron, Bird?
I don’t think he made that claim.

All I remember him saying is that the best you can be is to be the best of your era.

Who cares how the game he played in 1965 would have stacked up against LeBron in 2015? He probably would have played differently.
 

Cellar-Door

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Kobe at 9 is too high, especially with Shaq at 10, they played together, and Shaq was not only the best player on that team, it wasn't that close. Kobe is a good player, he shouldn't even be in the discussion for top 9 though
 

kfoss99

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As for how Bill Russell would be in 2020, he'd be roughly the same size as Dwight Howard, but with a higher basketball IQ, and MUCH more competitive. Wouldn't that make him a cornerstone on a competitor? I'm thinking like Draymond Green.

And going back in time, how good would guys like Harden be if you had to dribble without palming and travel rules were much stricter?

The 50s and 60s are comparable to the dead ball era in baseball in how much the game has changed.
 

bankshot1

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With the understanding that modern athletes are generally bigger, stronger, faster, better trained and coached and in general better than their ancient counterparts (and in all sports) Russell's instincts and superb reflexes would place him among the elite players in today's perimeter game. He did not rely size or strength or a knockdown jumper, but rather knowledge and his ability to control the flow and react on one half of the court and then trigger the Celt's offense with a rebound and outlet pass. And to those who never saw him play he was a superb athlete. And then there was his preternatural will to win. Didn't have much of a shot though.

If basketball was a game of H-O-R-S-E I'd pick MJ or probably Curry because they can/could do stuff with a ball few can, (and Jordan may be the GOAT-Curry just shouldn't be in the discussion) but basketball remains a team game, where great D can stifle the best offenses and win championships. And winning championships is what no one ever did as well or as consistently as Russell. I would not be so quick to dismiss the guy who truly changed the way the game was played.And contrary to some he played and slayed some true giants of the game.
 

Seels

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Kobe at 9 is too high, especially with Shaq at 10, they played together, and Shaq was not only the best player on that team, it wasn't that close. Kobe is a good player, he shouldn't even be in the discussion for top 9 though
Couldn't agree more.

I don't know if many players in sports history have as warped a perception about them as Kobe. Maybe Elway.

By stats: He's not top 10 in any stat. He's 27th in PER, 29th in BPM, 60th in win shares per 48, 19th in total win shares.

By MVP: he won 1 MVP. a 2nd place finish, and three 3rd place finishes. He's 10th in MVP shares, above guys who are undoubtedly better than him like Wilt. He's probably getting passed by Durant and Harden before they retire.

He's 12th in VORP, again above guys who are undoubtedly better than him but had shorter careers, like Bird and Magic.

He has no black ink instead of field goal attempts and points, and every year he led in points he also led in attempts.Except 03, where Iverson attempted 16 more shots.

For me the argument that Kobe is a top 10 player has absolutely no basis in reality and is kind of absurd. There are guys you can reasonably argue here, like Oscar, Garnett, Shaq, Dream, Robinson, etc. Kobe does not have a reasonable argument (especially over Shaq -- literally fucking no one that watched those Lakers teams would think Kobe was the more integral player).

As The Last Dance gets into, Kobe was like Jordan. But he was discount Jordan, and discount Jordan isn't above guys that actually won MVPs and led the league in shit.
 

Kliq

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Yeah, Simmons had Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes on his podcast last week and they went all in with a Kobe>Duncan take and it's just so stupid and the annoying thing is that it appears to be the consensus among the typical NBA fans, especially with fans under 30 which is a whole separate issue for me.

The most annoying thing about Kobe (and boy are there a lot of them) is that the fucker got lucky soooo much in his career. The number one thing he has going for him is his 5 rings, which of course are impressive but he was clearly the second banana on three of those teams. In 2009 he is legitimately really good in the Finals, but in 2010 he is pretty bad, shooting 40 percent and taking almost twice as many shots as any other Laker, goes 6-24 in Game 7 but gets bailed out by Gasol and the refs who keep sending him to the line, and he sneaks away with his 5th ring. Then people argue that Kobe is superior to Duncan because Duncan never "led a team to a title" like Kobe. Give me a break.

He was MVP six times (as many as anyone ever). He was generally regarded as the greatest individual defensive player ever and among, if not the greatest, rebounder. He also averaged a huge number of assists. But the entire Russell argument is about winning, not about stats. One either believes that he played in a way to help his teams or they do not; I personally think his record speaks for itself. He won more than any of the guys you names and until they change the rules, that is the point of the game. He did it with two completely different types of Celtics teams, and he did at a college that never won a thing before or after. To me, that means something. You may want the numbers---and you may thing Oscar Robertson is better than any of them because of his numbers.

I certainly think a part of any 'greatest' argument is philosophically working through how to translate eras. We have zero idea what Bill Russell would be in 2020 as a basketball player---we don't know if he'd be stronger, if he'd develop a three-point shot, or what. We don't really even know what Larry Bird or Magic Johnson would look like with 2020 rules on hand checking and enhanced spacing. Would Magic's bad 3 pt shooting for much of his career result in him being a 'tragic flaw' guy for many years (his 3pt shooting most of his career makes Lonzo Ball look accurate)? Would Bird be exposed defensively Might he be overpowered at the 4/5? Or would these all-time greats have adjusted their games and even to a degree their bodies to their era? We don't know and never will.

My personal answer to that question---which is not by any means the only one---is that we can really only compare guys by how they played against their peers. Otherwise,I I think the reality is that the current era is always the best era because the game advances strategically, the players come from a bigger pool, and physically they are superior. That may be a fine outcome---but I personally think it is more interesting to rate each player against their era.
This is basically how I feel as well when it comes to comparing eras. While Jordan is personally my GOAT, I'll never argue against someone who wants to make the case for Russell, the only real argument against him is that he played in a more primitive era, which isn't exactly fair and also a faulty premise since it means that whoever is the current best player in the modern game is the de facto GOAT.
 

BaseballJones

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As for how Bill Russell would be in 2020, he'd be roughly the same size as Dwight Howard, but with a higher basketball IQ, and MUCH more competitive. Wouldn't that make him a cornerstone on a competitor? I'm thinking like Draymond Green.

And going back in time, how good would guys like Harden be if you had to dribble without palming and travel rules were much stricter?

The 50s and 60s are comparable to the dead ball era in baseball in how much the game has changed.
My dad once said (and we were talking baseball, but it applies, I think) that the great players would be great in any era. You put Jerry West in today's game and he's great. You put Bill Russell in today's game and he's great. You put Nolan Ryan in today's game and he's great. You put Deacon Jones in today's game and he's great.

Because what makes those guys great isn't just specific skills. It's the will they have to be great, it's the work ethic, it's the internal stuff that made them great then, and that stuff doesn't go away. Anyone who thinks Bill Russell wouldn't have found a way to make his game work in today's game is crazy.

Now that's not to say that you could have put Bob Cousy, dribbling like he did back then, shooting with the form he did back then, and put him right in today's game as it is now. Obviously not. But you take Bob Cousy the athlete, the man, the great player, and you let him adjust to today's rules, and be taught proper jump shot mechanics, and yeah, Bob Cousy would have found a way to be great.

It goes in reverse too. Harden's game right now would be hugely problematic if he got dumped into 1961. Every single time he touched the ball he'd be called for a carry or a travel. Every single time. But because Harden is great, he'd adjust and find a way to play by 1961 rules, and oh by the way, he'd still have a great outside shot - better than anyone else in the game at the time. They'd just be worth 2 instead of 3 so his scoring average would be lower.