Goodnight, sweet prince.
The rankings on my top 10 greatest basketball players of all time are as dear to me as water, sun and food. I constantly revise the list and after a few beers I can even name the players backwards. Every player wants to retire from the game, knowing they are widely regarded as a legend, knowing their style and flash inspired a generation of fans, knowing their name will be fondly remembered when a fresh crop of basketball players have replaced them. Truly every basketball player tries to fight for the audience’s memories and loyalty, knowing that time will eventually fade away their greatness. My top 50 greatest player rankings and in particular my top 10 ranking stands as a testament to the basketball players that have forever cemented themselves into basketball lore, their combination of talent, skill and style has forever changed the game of basketball and evaluated it to a higher place. I woke up yesterday, watched some basketball clips, watched a pissed off Chris Paul torch the Washington Wizards whilst throwing up the filthy stat line of 38 points, 12 assists, 3 steals, 3 rebounds on 11/14 shooting from the field. I also watched Joe Johnson single handedly become the human torch, he could of shitted out fire by the end of the game and not have surprised a single person, draining an ungodly 10 out of 14 three pointers and turning the 76’ers game into an NBA2K game.
I also watched LeBron James just put him stamp upon the Utah Jazz, like an artist gently controlling how their painting turns out, LeBron James also was in total control of the game. He was the perfect combination of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Scottie Pippen, consistently collapsing the defence and kicking it out to Chalmers, Allen or Lewis, grabbing rebounds and anchoring the defense so Bosh could save his energy for offense and turning into a bulldozer on the break. I’ve never ever seen anyone control the game like LeBron James, he probably influences the game more than Magic Johnson, because defensively as a perimeter defender, he’s second only to Jordan and Pippen. I’ve watch Jordan games religiously and even I don’t think MJ can match his level of complete and utter domination of how the game plays out. Jordan slowly allowed Pippen to play Point Guard, smartly relinquished his touches so he could primarily focus upon his greatness gift, getting buckets and allowing the offense to flow more smoothly. James is expected to be the primarily scorer, grab the most or second most amount of rebounds, be the primarily play maker, be the defensive anchor and be the ice cold assassin in the clutch. He’s unbelievable and I sincerely think every Miami Heat player should donate 20% of their salary to James, he’s the work horse that never flatters, never tires and survives on 2 litres of water a week. My Bulls may never win a ring because they’re playing in the King James era, I may never get to see Derrick Rose humiliate LeBron James in the post season (Unless he keeps playing till 45) but regardless it has been a privilege to watch James play, greatness transcends time and I have no doubt I will be telling my grand children about LeBron James 4 decades from now.
(Full credits to Kirk Goldsberry)
As I began to tire from watching Youtube clip after Youtube clip of basketball I slowly slipped away to my NBA fantasy land, a place where Michael Jordan is always 28 years old and only wears red, a place where Larry Bird’s threes never miss and a mystical land where Olajuwon’s dream shakes works 100% of the time. I began to wonder… Why isn’t LeBron James in my top 10 greatest players of all time? Right now he’s scarface after a mountain of cocaine, he’s Bo Jackson after being injected with moose testosterone, he’s the best player in the world. Well LeBron’s biggest weakness would be longevity, James has “only” played 9 years in the league, compare that to O’Neal’s 19 years (Though you could definitely convince me to forget his last 2 or 3 years after a few shots of bleach), Jabbar’s mind boggling 20 years (Though he was a walking corpse after year 18) or Jordan’s 13 seasons (I’m a Bulls fan, I will never EVER acknowledge his Washington days, EVER.) Right now my top ten listing currently stands as … 1) Jordan, 2) Jabbar, 3) Russell, 4) Magic, 5) Bird, 6) Duncan, 7) O’Neal 8) Chamberlain, 9) Bryant, 10) Olajuwon (I will say number 7-9 is completely interchangeable and they are separated only by a hair’s width) Does LeBron James deserve to crack the top 10? Does his once in a generation mixture of skill, size, athletic dominance and talent make up for the fact he hasn’t even played 10 full seasons yet?
I say yes.
Let me just say if I jumped into a time machine and could select any basketball player from any year to start my franchise, my picks would be… 1) Jordan, 2) LeBron James, 3) Jabbar, 4) Johnson (You could definitely convince me to take Magic over Kareem, there’s still O’Neal, David Robinsons, Moses Malone, Olajuwon etcetera, the next best Point Guard is Oscar Robertson… A bigger drop off), 5) Bird, 6) O’Neal, 7) Olajuwon, 8) Duncan, 9) Chamberlain, 10) Bryant. I still wouldn’t pick the King over Michael, he’s the one player that stills intimidates every one in the room just due to his sheer presence. He’s the ultimate competitor and if he wasn’t a basketball player he’d be in jail for being an over competitive psychopath. He’s the one player that cheats in a game of cards against the parents of his college team mates because winning is everything, winning defines him and to be honest it’s an unhealthy obsession. He’s the one player that will dedicate his entire life to destroy my team if he found out I picked him second. But from an athletic position, LeBron James sits up there with the Air Jordans, the Shaquillie O’Neals and Wilt the Stilt. A long with Magic LeBron James is the ultimate glue player, he comfortably plays the 1 to the 4 and can guard centres for brief periods of time. I have no doubt LeBron James can easily play until he’s 35, even in these last 9 years he has evolved his game in multiple ways constantly redefining himself. For the first few years it was clear LeBron wanted to emulate Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, he for some strange reason viewed the post with disdain opting to dominate the ball and thus kill ball movement and willing choosing to play hero ball more often than not.
Having to share the ball with another ball dominant alpha dog (Dwyane Wade) and a completely over qualified third wheel (Chris Bosh), LeBron James in Miami, focused less upon quantity and more on quality and efficiency now that the team’s burden wasn’t completely placed upon his shoulders. In 2011 he took less threes, played less hero ball, though all three stars were still unable to adjust thus resulting in a lot of standing around and isolation plays. It wasn’t until his world wide humiliation at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks that LeBron James finally noticed “Hey! I’m a 6’8 monster with a 44 inch vertical, I’m built like a Russian tank and 95% of times my opponents will never be able to contain me, Maybe I should work in the post!” BOOM, there in 2013 LeBron James has unleashed the most complete inside outside game since 1996 Jordan. Blessed with unparalleled basketball IQ, even in 2020 LeBron James can still be a dominant force in the NBA, following this trend of embracing the post, spreading the ball and only taking over in the final minutes. Does this overshadow the fact LeBron James has only played 9 full regular seasons? Absolutely. You can throw any team mates around 2012/2013 James and I’m guaranteeing you at least one championship, how many other players have that ability in the modern era of basketball? Jordan, Magic, Bird, Duncan, O’Neal, Olajuwon and maybe Chamberlain, maybe Bryant… There are 7 or 8 players maximum in the whole history of basketball.
We’ll look back at LeBron James, the same way my grand father looks back at Russell, the same way my uncles remember Doctor J, the same way children in the 70s looked at Bird and children in my generation remember Kobe Bryant. He has defined the league ever since Kobe Bryant became slipping in 2011 as a player. Now more than ever this is officially LeBron Jame’s league. The best thing? James has a nemesis; Kevin Durant and the upcoming Paul George. Jordan always lacked a rival, someone who could inspire him to greater heights, someone who would force him into the corner a few times leading him to respond with greatness. There was talk of Clyde Drexler being Jordan’s equal in 1991 as him came second in MVP voting. A bitter and pissed off Jordan went out to smoke the Blazers with 6 three pointers in the the first half (NBA record for the finals) and dropped 35 points in the first half also an NBA record for the finals, that discussion was never mentioned again. Jordan retired two years later, bored of basketball, he had conquered the world, he had broken multiple records and was one of the most famous people in the world, there was no leaf left unturned. (I would give both my limbs to the basketball gods if they allowed Bryant to be born in 1960 and thus eligible for the 1984 draft.)
My opinion? King James becomes the third greatest player of all time. He’s already had a better career than Olajuwon and in terms of hardware, LeBron James is already in front. Bryant’s peak at 2006 was wasted on a rebuilding Laker team, but regardless he never reached the same mastery that LeBron James displays, the same mastery that allows him to influence EVERY action on the court from an offensive and defensive stance. Chamberlain and O’Neal never had that killer instinct LeBron James is now equipped you won’t want either player in at the final 5 minutes of a tight playoff game, would you really rank them over James? Bird and Magic don’t deserve to be in the same breathe as LeBron James defensively, 50% of the time LeBron James is already better. Russell would struggle in today’s NBA, a 6’9-6’10 centre that shoots as well as Kwame Brown, lacked any real post moves and relied mostly upon the fast break or put backs for points. (Did I mention he’s built like Durant?) Kareem Abdul Jabbar is LeBron’s first real barrier, this man played for 20 years and won finals MVP 14 years apart… Will I be surprised if James edges him out at the end of his career? Not entirely. But will it be hard? Dam straight. Then and only then does LeBron James deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as Jordan, but I feel like in 2020 after one decade of complete dominance under his belt, it’s going to a much closer conversation.
2 Finals MVPs.
9 All Star Games.
NBA Rookie of the Year 2004.
Scoring Champion 2008.
7 Time All-NBA First Team.
2 Time All-NBA Second Team.
Playoff averages of 28.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 6.7 assist, 47.2%.
– Chingy out.