Friday, February 17, 2006

Ten for 10
By Zach

Being the misplaced Seattleite that I am, I usually read the Seattle papers most mornings. Skimming the Seattle Times sports section, I came across a column by Percy Allen that piqued my interest. The concept was that since this is the 60th anniversary of the NBA, it was time to add ten more players to the NBA’s All-Time team. The original team was announced ten years ago, and consisted of the top 50 players in league history. TNT came up with idea, and they’ve narrowed the 36 candidates down to 20. They are: Walt Bellamy, Kobe Bryant, Adrian Dantley, Joe Dumars, Tim Duncan, Alex English, Kevin Garnett, Connie Hawkins, Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Dennis Johnson, Jason Kidd, Bernard King, Bob Lanier, Bob McAdoo, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Gary Payton, Dennis Rodman and Dominique Wilkins.

Now, I’m a huge NBA fan, and I love the history of the league. I see this new addition as a chance to both rectify old sleights and add a few more deserving players to the list.

Kobe Bryant: Whatever you may think about him as a person, you can’t deny that Mamba is one of the top players not just in the league now, but ever. He scores like a young Jordan, if not more prolifically, he’s got three rings, and he’s the best clutch player in the league. Plus, he could easily have six or eight more great years in front of him.

Tim Duncan: He may be boring, but he’s also phenomenal. Has three rings, and unlike Kobe is the primary reason behind at least two of them. He’s got multiple MVPs, and could be the best power forward in league history. He’s certainly a top-15 player all-time.

Alex English: In my mind, he was a glaring omission from the original 50. He’s 11th all time in scoring in league history, and led the league once. He was also an underrated rebounder, topping 7.0 per game 6 times. He’s perhaps more one-dimensional than you’d like, but in my mind he’s the same player as George Gervin, who was included on the initial list. And lest anyone forget, the point of basketball is to score more than the other guy.

Allen Iverson: Percy didn’t have him on his list, and I don’t understand that. Iverson is one of the few guards to impact the game with his scoring, and to do it at 5-10 or so is even more impressive. Add to that an MVP award, several league scoring titles, and a ton of steals, and you’ve got one of the top 60 players of all time. I haven’t even mentioned what he’s meant to the league off the court, or the crazy assist totals he’s put up the last few years.

Jason Kidd: He’s been battling it out with childhood idol Gary Payton for the title of best point guard since Stockton, but both have a place on my list. Kidd is perhaps the best pure passer in the league, and no one since Magic has run a fast break as well. Kidd’s biggest weakness is his shooting, but he rebounds better than almost every other point guard in history, and up until the last two or so years was a top flight defender.

Connie Hawkins: A sentimental pick, if I can be sentimental about a guy who I never saw play. Hawkins got screwed by the NBA, which banned him before he even finished college because he allegedly was involved with gamblers. The courts eventually ruled in Hawkins’ favor, and the NBA had to pay him a substantial settlement and let him in the league. By the time he reached the NBA, he was at the tail end of his career, but he did spend several prime years in the ABL and ABA, and by all reports was a better-scoring version of Dr. J.

LeBron James: This is the equivalent of including Shaq in the original list of 50. Yeah, he may not be able to say he’s one of the top 60 of all time yet, but we all know he will be at one point. I just get the feeling that in five years we’d be kicking ourselves for not including LBJ. The guy can score, handle, pass, and rebound, and no one in the league does them all as well. Obviously he’s still got a ways to go, and making the playoffs might help.

Bob McAdoo: As Percy says, he led the league in scoring three straight seasons, and did so playing in Buffalo…yes, that’s right children, there used to be a team called the Buffalo Braves. In 1974, he had a tremendous year, averaging 30.6 points, 15.1 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game. He also led the league in Player Efficiency Rating. He won the MVP the following year, when he averaged 34.5 points per game, but if you ask me, that 1974 is one of the top single seasons in the last 30 or so years.

Gary Payton: This isn’t just a homer pick. Payton is one of the five best point guards in NBA history, and in my mind at least slightly superior to Kidd. GP was a much better scorer, better defender, and almost as good a passer. He was able to carry his team offensively in a way Kidd couldn’t. But this list has enough room for both, thankfully. Payton was also one of the fiercest competitors the league has ever seen. He’s sixth all-time in assists, third in steals, and 25th in points – a slam dunk pick for a guy who rarely dunked.

Dominique Wilkins: The Human Highlight Reel was another guy who got shafted on the initial list. Perhaps hurt by a lack of titles, and by spending most of his career in the shadow of MJ, people didn’t realize how good of a player ‘Nique was. He’s 11th all time in scoring, was a nine-time All-Star, and helped pioneer the “swingman” position.

Glaring Omissions:

Kevin Garnett: This one might be a bit about personal bias. While I love the passion Garnett plays with, I can’t shake the feeling that he’s never lived up to his potential. He rarely takes games over, which has a lot to do with the fact that he’s had very little playoff success over his career. He plays too far away from the basket for a guy who stands seven feet tall, and he’s too deferential to his (inferior) teammates. Team him with another legit all-star, and the T-Wolves win a title. Unfortunately, because of his monster contract, that won’t happen until he’s past his prime. It’s a shame, because I love watching the guy play.

Reggie Miller: This was the hardest person for me. Miller deserves to be included because he was so vital to the history of the game, and because he provided a ton of memorable moments. But I’m not sure as a player he comes anywhere close to the rest of the guys. He was a scorer, and not much else, and yet only once in his career did he even crack the top 10 in scoring (1990, when he ranked 8th with 24.6 PPG). He’s 92nd all-time in points. Yes, he was a prolific three-point shooter, and yes, he was great in the clutch. But was he one of the top 60 players of all time? Not in my mind.


Blogger Ben Valentine said...

Sorry Zach, got to put Garnett on that list over Lebron. Two and half years doesn't compare with Garnett's career where he's been perenially one of the top five players in the league. Lebron hasn't even made the playoffs yet. He might be a great scorer and end up the "choker" Garnett is. Or he might end up being MJ. We don't know. (And that's if you buy Garnett as a choker, which I don't). Besides if you open up that can of worms, then one could easily say "what about Dwayne Wade, he's put of great numbers in his first two years and taken the Heat to playoffs in both."

I'd also argue Rodman, since he was so far and away the best rebounder of our era... and essentially the Ben Wallace of the early 90's. (He won two defensive players of the year awards). I know you argue that it was because he focused on one aspect of the game, but if it were that easy, then there'd be at least one or two other guys in the last ten years who put up comparable numbers to Rodman. None have.

But overall, great list.

3:15 PM  
Blogger David Arnott said...

I have to agree with Ben about the Garnett thing. God knows if James will pull a Kellen Winslow Deuce motorcycle maneuver (or, depending on your point of view, Jay Not Jason Williams maneuver) sometime in the next couple years. If you're right, and I have no doubt that, barring injury, you'll be right about James's career, you can add him at the NBA's 70th anniversary. And Ben, you know I love Dennis Rodman's game to the point of irrationality (Why don't more guys consciously try to model their playing styles after Rodman, only with a little less laziness between plays? Wouldn't someone with no discernible offensive skills, but some size, some level of intellect and drive, be of most use focusing entirely on defense and rebounding instead of trying to improve his hopelessly bad shooting and ballhandling skills? Adonal Foyle, anyone?), but to say he's one of the NBA's 60 best players ever is a difficult argument at best. That would be like saying David Cone was one of the 200 best baseball players of all time. Yes, he's underrated, but that doesn't mean we have to overrate him to compensate.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

Garnett just doesn't do it for me. To say he's one of the best 60 players of all time means you're saying he's one of the top 24 forwards of all time. I'm not gonna name 24 guys who I think are better, but I feel confident that I could.

Ben, you and I have already talked about Rodman. His game was far, far too limited to reasonably talk about him as one of the top 60 players of all time.

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Zach, but I also don't know where you come away saying that Reggie Miller was 92nd all-time in career points. Now I may not agree either that Reggie deserved a spot on the Next 10, but he is 15th all-time in career points. Maybe you meant 92nd in career average but then again, I'm not really sure what you meant. Overall, I too also would have possibly looked at Garnett/Iverson/Lanier as the biggest omissions.

4:00 AM  

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