ESPN’s Top 10 NBA Players Ever

T1000

Legend
1. Jordan
2. Lebron
3. Kareem
4. Russell
5. Magic
6. Wilt
7. Bird
8. Duncan
9. Kobe
10. Shaq

Thoughts?

Not a bad list imo. Would move 3-4 guys around but I think they got the right ten players.
 
The right 10 guys imo, but some will shout about Hakeem.

Would have LeBron 3rd and Kareem 2nd, besides that the rest is surprisingly good, even the order is debatable but I agree with it lol.
 

stringertom

Bionic Poster
1. Jordan
2. Lebron
3. Kareem
4. Russell
5. Magic
6. Wilt
7. Bird
8. Duncan
9. Kobe
10. Shaq

Thoughts?

Not a bad list imo. Would move 3-4 guys around but I think they got the right ten players.
They need 11. To omit Oscar Robertson is a travesty.

Would have Kobe higher, maybe in front of Wilt.
 

GreenClay

Rookie
1. Jordan
2. Lebron
3. Kareem
4. Russell
5. Magic
6. Wilt
7. Bird
8. Duncan
9. Kobe
10. Shaq

Thoughts?

Not a bad list imo. Would move 3-4 guys around but I think they got the right ten players.
Wilt is the greatest ever. Was on only a few good teams, but here’s the real kicker: The league took measures to hinder his game. Widening the key and letting players hang all over him without calling fouls.
 
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Deleted member 743561

Guest
Old-timers (and even many NBA legends) have Oscar Robertson near the tops of their lists.

Before my time, so can't speak to it.

But still somewhat surprising to see that omission.
 

Dino Lagaffe

Hall of Fame
I've seen worse lists, but hardly any better. Like others have said, one could argue for a couple of moves among the ten. Maybe a name or two could be brought up for discussion about being included, but I really don't have a clear candidate to leave the list. As always it's hard to compare different eras, but that's also part of the fun.

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T1000

Legend
They need 11. To omit Oscar Robertson is a travesty.

Would have Kobe higher, maybe in front of Wilt.
They did top 74 which you can see here. There’s links for 74-41 and 40-11.


Oscar is 11 and Hakeem is 12. I only posted the top 10 because that’s what most people care about. Also the list gets pretty bad outside the top 10, like Moses Malone at 18 is way too low.
 
Everybody has Jordan as number one, yes?
Yes, only Kareem has a slight argument, but he comes up noticeably short imo.

You can't go solely by titles won because it's a team sport (Jordan doesn't have the most titles), but his overall accomplishments would be like if one of Fedalovic finished with 25 slams and the others were stuck on 20. I think it's clear cut.
 

r2473

Talk Tennis Guru
Everybody has Jordan as number one, yes?
Pretty tough to compare eras. The game is played and officiated much differently in every era.

How do you compare NFL quarterbacks? These days, everything is officiated for an offensive passing league. And if you even so much as look at the QB wrong, it's a 15 yard penalty. Pretty much the same story in NBA basketball. And of course the NBA is a "chucker league"; a 3 point shooting contest these days.
 

Poisoned Slice

Bionic Poster
Pretty tough to compare eras. The game is played and officiated much differently in every era.

How do you compare NFL quarterbacks? These days, everything is officiated for an offensive passing league. And if you even so much as look at the QB wrong, it's a 15 yard penalty.
I was just playing NBA 2k20 and the commentator was going on about Steph Curry and other players being underrated against other players from history. She said we should try and enjoy players talents without the need to compare all the time.
 
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Deleted member 743561

Guest
LeBron James didn't inspire his teams to tremendous heights anywhere near the way Jordan did.

Not in the conversation.
 

r2473

Talk Tennis Guru
LeBron James didn't inspire his teams to tremendous heights anywhere near the way Jordan did.

Not in the conversation.
Lebron won championships (and went to the championship) playing for a team that, without him, might have been last place in the league.

I'm not sure Jordan could have done that.
 
Lebron won championships (and went to the championship) playing for a team that, without him, might have been last place in the league.

I'm not sure Jordan could have done that.
I think Lebron may be better for taking a rubbish team to very good, but Jordan is the best at taking talent to the highest heights.
 
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Deleted member 743561

Guest
Lebron won championships (and went to the championship) playing for a team that, without him, might have been last place in the league.

I'm not sure Jordan could have done that.
Love the first-name basis here. :)

Hmm. I wonder which player had fiercer competition? :unsure:
 

r2473

Talk Tennis Guru
Love the first-name basis here. :)

Hmm. I wonder which player had fiercer competition? :unsure:
Would you say that if "Prime Jordan" was playing for Lebron's Cavilers teams, he would have taken them to the championship series and won titles. Against the Warriors?
 
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Deleted member 743561

Guest
Would you say that if "Prime Jordan" was playing for Lebron's Cavilers teams, he would have taken them to the championship series and won titles. Against the Warriors?
You're suggesting that LeBron James somehow managed to lose twice the number of times in finals than he won?

In a weaker era? :oops:
 

Dino Lagaffe

Hall of Fame
First, I'm trying to learn, not instigate conflict...

I watched a lot of basketball, both NCAA and NBA, in the early 1990s (a lot with the Bulls and the Pacers), and then again in 2005 (a lot with the Mavs). Since then I haven't watched that many full games, but have tried to keep up with the game anyway.

Isn't there a huge difference in what was allowed back in the day compared to nowadays? It was brutal back then! You don't have to go to the "Bad Boys"-vintage of Detroit Pistons to see "in your face-defending" that I think would get people fouls, fines and suspensions in today's game. Imho, if I assume correctly, that makes the feats of players from earlier eras even more impressive.

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stringertom

Bionic Poster
They did top 74 which you can see here. There’s links for 74-41 and 40-11.


Oscar is 11 and Hakeem is 12. I only posted the top 10 because that’s what most people care about. Also the list gets pretty bad outside the top 10, like Moses Malone at 18 is way too low.
That’s an amazing picture of Oscar surrounded by DeBusschere, Lucas, Clyde and Phil! It took four guys to contain him, even near the end of his career.

A young Oscar went from two Final Four appearances (79-9 career record) at NCAA Cincinnati and Olympic gold into NBA Cincinnati’s 1960-61 ROY triple double machine with a season 30.5/10.1/9.7 average. No sophomore slump, in 1961-62 he improved to 30.8/12.5/11.7 with 41 game tripdubs. That was enough to help the Royals into a 1R playoff result. The next year stats were down just a bit (28.3/10.4/9.5) but the team fought the champion Celtics to seven games in the East finals. Jerry Lucas, the Royals’ territorial pick, didn’t play that season as a result of someone that became very well known in sports ownership in another city a decade later:

Were it not for meddlesome Cleveland Pipers (ABL) owner George Steinbrenner trying to lure Lucas away from the NBA with a partial-ownership pay package, the burly rebounding Ohio State Lucas would have been banging on Bill Russell in that seventh game. Instead, Lucas lost what would have been his rookie season in 1962-63 because of the mess George made and the ABL folded as Steinbrenner’s champion franchise went under from the money he threw at Lucas. The Boss went back to shipbuilding and saved the cash for throwing at MLB free agents in the 70s.

Robertson went on to average a triple double aggregate for his first five seasons and was the only NBA MVP (1963-64) not named Russell or Chamberlain in the 1960-68 era.
 

stringertom

Bionic Poster
Would you say that if "Prime Jordan" was playing for Lebron's Cavilers teams, he would have taken them to the championship series and won titles. Against the Warriors?
Every Cadaver would have two black eyes if Be Like Mike was the ringleader.
 

Kevin T

Hall of Fame
IMHO, the 'Big Fundamental' Tim Duncan is better than any big man on the list. Great inside and out, great mid-range shooter, great defender, great rebounder, good free-throw shooter. Russell was on great teams and weak era. Wilt, also weak era for big men. A lot of his career would be like a grown man playing against 5th graders, the size match-ups were often so mismatched. Kareem was a scoring machine but not a great defender. I know, I know. Different eras, etc. Lebron needs more titles. Early Cleveland years were lean but not second time around and certainly not with the Heat. He's running out of time. Lebron would have also gotten the 'Lebron Rules' version of the 'Jordan Rules' and taken a beating driving to the hoop. He's much bigger but there's only so many shots from the Bad Boys/Oakleys/Xavier McDaniels of the day you're willing to take.

Does anyone think Jordan wouldn't have 8 in a row had he not left for baseball? I know I don't. He was still the best when he retired the 2nd time. He also has 3 fewer years in the league on the front end, as the good players didn't go from high school to pros in the early 80's.
 
Magic should be lower, and Bird and Duncan higher imo.

The top 2 names are absolutely set in stone and make a lot of sense imo.

Overall an excellent quality list.
 

victorcruz

Hall of Fame
Oscar Robertson was a bit of an empty stats guy imo. Westbrook before Westbrook. Still great but not top 10 all time.
Lol how do we know he was an empty stat guy? It's not like any of us watched him live. I don't think Westbrook's stats are empty. Even his MVP crazy year, he was by far the clutchest player in the league. He willed them into the playoffs. But he hasn't had any postseason success post cupcake exit. I was curious to see how he would do in the playoffs this year but I guess we'll have to wait.

Anyway you're right, can't have Oscar in the top 10. Even the ring he won was when he was 2nd option to Kareem. And I checked the numbers he was putting up that year, nothing special.
 

Sudacafan

Talk Tennis Guru
Oscar Robertson was a bit of an empty stats guy imo. Westbrook before Westbrook. Still great but not top 10 all time.
Lol how do we know he was an empty stat guy? It's not like any of us watched him live. I don't think Westbrook's stats are empty. Even his MVP crazy year, he was by far the clutchest player in the league. He willed them into the playoffs. But he hasn't had any postseason success post cupcake exit. I was curious to see how he would do in the playoffs this year but I guess we'll have to wait.

Anyway you're right, can't have Oscar in the top 10. Even the ring he won was when he was 2nd option to Kareem. And I checked the numbers he was putting up that year, nothing special.
What’s an empty stat?
 

victorcruz

Hall of Fame
What’s an empty stat?
Basically someone like Demar Derozan or in modern times, Bradley Beal. They put up crazy stats, but it doesn't amount to winning. Westbrook averaged a ridiculous statline in his 2017 1st round series against the Rockets, but they lost in 5. He averaged 37-12-11 lol It honestly could be having bad teammates. But every teammate loves Westbrook, and I don't think I've heard positive things about Oscar over the years from teammates.
 

Sudacafan

Talk Tennis Guru
Basically someone like Demar Derozan or in modern times, Bradley Beal. They put up crazy stats, but it doesn't amount to winning. Westbrook averaged a ridiculous statline in his 2017 1st round series against the Rockets, but they lost in 5. He averaged 37-12-11 lol It honestly could be having bad teammates. But every teammate loves Westbrook, and I don't think I've heard positive things about Oscar over the years from teammates.
Westbrook, Harden and Durant have something in common, their joint origin in OKC. The three earned MVP honors.
Durant had to go somewhere else and defer a bit to others to escape the empty stat destiny of the other two.
Harden had to leave OKC to cement his empty stat claim.
On another note, LeBron didn’t have any Pippens to match Jordan’s success.
 
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T1000

Legend
First, I'm trying to learn, not instigate conflict...

I watched a lot of basketball, both NCAA and NBA, in the early 1990s (a lot with the Bulls and the Pacers), and then again in 2005 (a lot with the Mavs). Since then I haven't watched that many full games, but have tried to keep up with the game anyway.

Isn't there a huge difference in what was allowed back in the day compared to nowadays? It was brutal back then! You don't have to go to the "Bad Boys"-vintage of Detroit Pistons to see "in your face-defending" that I think would get people fouls, fines and suspensions in today's game. Imho, if I assume correctly, that makes the feats of players from earlier eras even more impressive.

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Not really. Techs and flagrants believe were called less frequently but teams committed more fouls when Jordan played vs now.

1992-1993 season - teams averaged 27.7 (31.1-23.3) free throw attempts per game and averaged 23.2 (28.1-19.3) personal fouls committed per game

2015-2016 season - teams averaged 23.4 (29.4-20.0) free throw attempts per game and 20.3 (22.7-17.5) fouls per game.

The average nba player today is also miles ahead of the average nba player in the 90s. In the 90s most players struggled using their off hand and had to back down the court whenever they were pressed. Most players couldn’t shoot threes at a high enough clip to provide adequate spacing if zone defenses were allowed (which they weren’t in the 90s). The average player today is much more skilled and athletic. Offensive and defensive schemes are much more complex. The only two things the 90s had were hard fouls being called as common fouls and hand checking. Neither of those makes the game more difficult than it is today.
 

Dino Lagaffe

Hall of Fame
Not really. Techs and flagrants believe were called less frequently but teams committed more fouls when Jordan played vs now.

1992-1993 season - teams averaged 27.7 (31.1-23.3) free throw attempts per game and averaged 23.2 (28.1-19.3) personal fouls committed per game

2015-2016 season - teams averaged 23.4 (29.4-20.0) free throw attempts per game and 20.3 (22.7-17.5) fouls per game.

The average nba player today is also miles ahead of the average nba player in the 90s. In the 90s most players struggled using their off hand and had to back down the court whenever they were pressed. Most players couldn’t shoot threes at a high enough clip to provide adequate spacing if zone defenses were allowed (which they weren’t in the 90s). The average player today is much more skilled and athletic. Offensive and defensive schemes are much more complex. The only two things the 90s had were hard fouls being called as common fouls and hand checking. Neither of those makes the game more difficult than it is today.
Thanks for your input!

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stringertom

Bionic Poster
Lol how do we know he was an empty stat guy? It's not like any of us watched him live. I don't think Westbrook's stats are empty. Even his MVP crazy year, he was by far the clutchest player in the league. He willed them into the playoffs. But he hasn't had any postseason success post cupcake exit. I was curious to see how he would do in the playoffs this year but I guess we'll have to wait.

Anyway you're right, can't have Oscar in the top 10. Even the ring he won was when he was 2nd option to Kareem. And I checked the numbers he was putting up that year, nothing special.
He was 32 that year, well past his prime first 5 years with an aggregate 30-point triple double. He still was a 19.4/5.7/8.3 guy in what was reduced minutes for him, the first time he didn’t average 41.5 or more minutes.

His addition to the Bucks meant 10 additional wins from Jabbar’s rookie season and earned them top seed for the playoffs.

Your statement that “it’s not like any of us watched him” is not true. I did see playoff Oscar for those twilight years. Granted, coverage wasn’t like now but they did broadcast on ABC every Sunday afternoon and then added every game in The Finals in 1970. The Knicks vs Lakers Game 7 was the immediate reward for that change. Keith Jackson and Chris Schenkel did play-by-play with a trio of Celtics, HOFers Russell, Twyman and Cousy adding color.

Robertson was definitely not an empty stat guy...he played his prime in an era when Boston and Philadelphia dominated a smaller division/league format (9 or 10 teams, top 6 made the playoffs). No load managers need apply. His only top level teammate during his prime was Jerry Lucas, a talented big man but not Russell/Wilt caliber. That’s why there was no chip in Cincinnati.

Even later, when he did team with KAJ, he was impressive enough for KAJ to recently state, “LeBron is awesome; Michael was awesome. But I think Oscar would have kicked both of them in the behind...He had brains and all the skills; could rebound and box out guys 4-6 inches taller. He had fluid quickness and just understood the game.” I guess KAJ’s top 10 list would look quite a bit different. Given that he competed against the majority of the list, he might know more than the pollsters.
 

nicklane1

Rookie
As talented as all those guys are, they all had other superstars around them when they won NBA championships. Lebron went further to actively seek out other superstars to win.
The only player I can think of who played without superstar teammates was Dirk. As good as Jason Kidd was in the Finals, he was way past his prime. For that reason, Dirk should be at 10.
 

clout

Hall of Fame
1. Jordan (Don't listen to ESPN, MJ is still the slam dunk GOAT of basketball)
2. Kareem (The only other player on this list right now who might have an argument for GOAT)
3. LeBron (He may have an argument by the time he's done, but #3 seems about right as of now)
4. Wilt (I know he played in the 60's but he owns too many records on his CV for him to not be here)
5. Bird (Might be the most well-rounded player ever)
6. Magic (Transcendent player; it's 1A and 1B between Magic and Bird)
7. Duncan (It should be a crime at how underrated he is. He's easily one of the most accomplished players ever)
8. Shaq (Most dominant force in modern times)
9. Kobe (It pains me to say but I do think he gets a bit overrated at times, nonetheless, he's still had a top 10 career all time - RIP Mamba)
10. Russell (I don't rate Russell as high as others may do, but it's hard to omit him from the top 10)
 
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Deleted member 769694

Guest
The NBA makes stars like the WWE, it hasnt been a sport for a while.

If you look at the ruling in the Tim Donahey case, the judge stated the NBA is allowed to fix their games because its private.
 

Sudacafan

Talk Tennis Guru
The NBA makes stars like the WWE, it hasnt been a sport for a while.

If you look at the ruling in the Tim Donahey case, the judge stated the NBA is allowed to fix their games because its private.
So which sports are public in that sense?
 

Poisoned Slice

Bionic Poster
Another youngster that stands out is Zion Williamson. Really impressed me in the slam dunk contest on NBA 2k20 . Backflips, cartwheels and motorbikes included. My timing is terrible so I just had to say wow.

We had our Shaq and Kobe at LA. Gonna now we have Williamson and I at the Bulls.

Was 86-81 down against the 76ers on playoff game 1 conference final. Only 25 seconds or so left. We triple team the guy and he ends up with back court violation. We get a quick dunk. The last play of the game will always be remembered. We managed to get the ball again without fouling and then Carter manages a dunk and a foul against him at the same time with about 0.5 left. I couldn't believe it. I still thought the game wouldn't allow me back and Carter would miss his free throw. But he didn't. Wow. Over time felt really easy in the end. Great scenes. The second game was very close as well.

OK, sorry, back to real life now. Just got me so excited. :giggle:
 

Vcore89

G.O.A.T.
Another youngster that stands out is Zion Williamson. Really impressed me in the slam dunk contest on NBA 2k20 . Backflips, cartwheels and motorbikes included. My timing is terrible so I just had to say wow.

We had our Shaq and Kobe at LA. Gonna now we have Williamson and I at the Bulls.

Was 86-81 down against the 76ers on playoff game 1 conference final. Only 25 seconds or so left. We triple team the guy and he ends up with back court violation. We get a quick dunk. The last play of the game will always be remembered. We managed to get the ball again without fouling and then Carter manages a dunk and a foul against him at the same time with about 0.5 left. I couldn't believe it. I still thought the game wouldn't allow me back and Carter would miss his free throw. But he didn't. Wow. Over time felt really easy in the end. Great scenes. The second game was very close as well.

OK, sorry, back to real life now. Just got me so excited. :giggle:
Remember the dilapidated shoes?
 

r2473

Talk Tennis Guru
Not really. Techs and flagrants believe were called less frequently but teams committed more fouls when Jordan played vs now.

1992-1993 season - teams averaged 27.7 (31.1-23.3) free throw attempts per game and averaged 23.2 (28.1-19.3) personal fouls committed per game

2015-2016 season - teams averaged 23.4 (29.4-20.0) free throw attempts per game and 20.3 (22.7-17.5) fouls per game.

The average nba player today is also miles ahead of the average nba player in the 90s. In the 90s most players struggled using their off hand and had to back down the court whenever they were pressed. Most players couldn’t shoot threes at a high enough clip to provide adequate spacing if zone defenses were allowed (which they weren’t in the 90s). The average player today is much more skilled and athletic. Offensive and defensive schemes are much more complex. The only two things the 90s had were hard fouls being called as common fouls and hand checking. Neither of those makes the game more difficult than it is today.
Is the list based on relative or absolute terms? In other words, is it how good the player was for his time? Or do we compare and rank players in an absolute sense?

I tend to think it’s a relative comparison, which would put Jordan as GOAT. But in absolute terms, it’s pretty hard to argue against Lebron.
 

Poisoned Slice

Bionic Poster
Remember the dilapidated shoes?
I don't know **** about basketball. ::p Been watching a lot of documentary lately. Going to watch a game live on TV when it returns.

All I know is Zion is the ultimate team mate on the game. Pass to him and there is no messing about. He runs (drives har har) to the basket and gets it done. My points per game is way down now. Assists up. The social media comparing me to Magic Johnson and saying I'm Jordan, Dr J and Vince Carter rolled into one. lol
 
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