View Full Version : Barroom Brawl: Revisiting the NBA's Top 50

06-30-2009, 09:14 PM
Monday, June 29, 2009

By Rob Kuestner
Comcast SportsNet

Now we’ve entered the dog days. All four major drafts are completed. Eagles training camp is still over a month away. It’s all Phillies all the time.

So with that said, we introduce the first installment of “Barroom Brawl”, a series that addresses topics that could spur discussion among one’s cohorts.

Topic 1: Revising the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players

At the start of the 1996-97 season, the NBA unveiled its list of the greatest 50 players of all-time. The list included the best players ever to lace up sneakers and hit the hardwood – 50 players for 50 years of NBA hoops. But that was a dozen years ago. Which 12 players deserve to be added to that list? Are there 12 players deserving of all-time status?

The Obvious:

1. Tim Duncan – Arguably the greatest power forward of all-time. Four-time NBA champion. Three-time Finals MVP. Eleven-time all-star. Duncan is not the flashiest player in league history, but he’s among its most effective. Among his more recent contemporaries, Duncan stands out at the four-spot. He’s certainly more clutch than Karl Malone and he’s more versatile and committed than Charles Barkley was.

2. Kobe Bryant – Perhaps the second-best two-guard ever. Four-time NBA champion. Eleven-time all-star. League MVP in 2007-08 Reigning Finals MVP. Kobe is the dominant figure of the past decade-plus. His actions on and off the court generate more headlines than any other. Despite any personality shortcomings fans may have about him (especially in this area), he’s the best player on this list.

The Most Likely

3. LeBron James – The King is still very young (24), but his resume is already worthy of consideration. And considering the fact that he’s on track to replace Larry Bird as the greatest small forward of all-time, he’s impossible to ignore. LeBron has yet to win a title and he may need to do so some day in another city. But at a tender age, he’s already a league MVP, a two-time All-Star MVP and a combination of power and speed the league has never before seen.

Best of the Rest

4. Steve Nash – Nash is probably not one of the top five point guards of all-time and on this list, that’s exactly what you’d expect. However, no one else in this era (besides Duncan) has two league MVP awards. Nash also boasts three first-team all-league nods. Nash has been a tremendous scoring point guard. His defensive shortcomings and lack of a championship make him debatable at this spot, but he belongs on the list of the greatest ever.

5. Dwyane Wade – Much like O’Neal was at the time when the original voters put him on their list, this is a projection pick. Wade has only six years in the league, but in that time he’s won an NBA Championship, a scoring title and earned five All-Star nods. Wade’s talent is all-time worthy. His ability to remain healthy is questionable. For now, we give him the nod that he’ll stay healthy enough to make him one of the all-time greats.

6. Kevin Garnett – The trade that sent him to Boston and earned him a championship seals the deal. There’s also the question of whether we would flip-flop him and Duncan if Garnett had the opportunity to play for a coach like Gregg Popovich and a team like San Antonio. Regardless, Garnett’s 11 all-star appearances and 2003-04 MVP make him a lock.

7. Allen Iverson – Here are the two biggest reasons he’s here: One, he’s the best scoring little man in the history of the league. Two, if you were able to pour talent from a person’s body and have it fill a glass, no player’s talent would fill that glass more than Allen Iverson’s. The ugly finish in Philadelphia has been well-documented. That he couldn’t play with Chris Webber, Carmelo Anthony and a Pistons team that reached six straight conference championships is undeniable. But never forget that a 5-foot, 11-inch, 175-pound (soaking wet) little man struck fear into the hearts of the biggest, baddest men on the planet for a decade. No one could guard him one on one. He was relentless and fearless. Yes, if he took practice a little more seriously, he’d be with Duncan and Kobe as locks. Regardless, he belongs in any conversation of NBA greats.

8. Jason Kidd – The consummate distributor, Kidd is the league’s active leader in assists. Nine all-star games and five first-team all-NBA selections also make him tough to keep off the modern list. No, he’s not a good shooter, but he has improved his shooting as he’s gotten older. He led a mediocre Nets team to back-to-back NBA finals. Kidd’s career average of more than nine assists per game gets him the nod over another point guard who we’ll hear from later: Gary Payton.

9. Dirk Nowitzki – This past season’s revival gets him here. His resume certainly belongs. And he led the Mavs to an NBA Finals appearance in a much tougher Western Conference. Yes, for a seven-footer, he seemed to play a little soft. However, there’s no denying he made his share of big shots in memorable series wins over the Mavericks and Suns in the 2006-07 playoffs. His league MVP that season and four first-team all-NBA selections push him into the top 10.

10. Paul Pierce – This list puts a premium on performance in big spots (unless individual achievements are too obvious to ignore – see Iverson). With that, Pierce gets the nod. On a team with the big three, he was the big one in the biggest games, winning Finals MVP in 2007-08. His defense on Bryant played a key role in the Celtics’ title. And his 41-point effort to nearly match LeBron’s 45 in the 07-08 Eastern Conference semis is the stuff of legend. Sure, it’s tough to ignore the season where he and his team quit, resulting in a lottery pick, which turned into Kevin Garnett. But there’s no denying his performance in helping the Celtics to another championship.

11. Reggie Miller – Drafted in 1988, Miller, one of basketball’s great clutch shooters, failed to make the original top 50. That’s a mistake. Give Miller an inch and he’ll cut your heart out. Yes, he’s a limited. He doesn’t rebound. He doesn’t pass. He doesn’t create his own shot off the dribble. But ask yourself this: are there five other shooters in league history you would rather have take a shot with the game on the line? On that alone, Miller makes the cut.

12. Gary Payton – Drafted in 1990, “The Glove” is another veteran who didn’t make the original cut. He makes it this time on sheer volume of work: 17 seasons, nine all-star games, two first-team all-NBA selections, the 1995-96 Defensive Player of the Year award and nine first-team all-defensive team selections. Sure, Payton didn’t win a title during his heyday. However, his Sonics gave Michael Jordan’s Bulls all they could handle in the 1996 Finals. Payton did win a title on Wade’s coattails in 2006 with the Heat. Payton earns a spot on the updated best of the best list.

Others to consider: Ray Allen, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Chris Webber

Note: This list does not include players bypassed in the original voting whose careers began prior to 1985.



Any players that you think should be there that aren't?

10 years from now what 10 players do you think will/should be added to the list of all time greats?

06-30-2009, 09:23 PM
smush parker

honorable mention: kwame brown

06-30-2009, 09:33 PM

06-30-2009, 09:39 PM

06-30-2009, 09:42 PM

Shaq was on the original 50 Greatest Players list.

06-30-2009, 09:46 PM
in the words of that big head kid from southpark TIMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!