Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome the fourth installment of my list of the 50 Greatest NBA Players of All Time.
Last list I left you was book-ended by two of the greatest big men of all time in Willis Reed and Wes Unseld. We're getting closer and closer to the top 10, as we tip off this list with maybe the greatest point guard of all time.
20. John Stockton
If there was ever a point guard that dominated the NBA in the 1990s, it was John Stockton. Stockton will go down as the greatest pure point guard of all time and one half of one of the greatest duos of all time. Before Stockton there was never a point guard that could literally create the best plays on every single trip up the court. Stockton was a regular deliveryman as he could deliver pitch perfect passes to all his teammates including his mailman. In fact Stockton was so good a passer that he is the all time leader in assists, if that doesn't qualify you as maybe the greatest point guard ever, I don't know what does. I know what you're thinking though, sure he was a great passer, shooter, and playmaker, but a liability on defense, oh how you couldn't be more wrong. Stockton was a bona-fide thief who could pick any player's pockets before they even realized their hands were empty, Stockton was so adept at stealing that not only does he lead the league in all time assists but is also the all time steals leader, truly a point guard that could literally do it all. While he could never defeat the running of the bulls (then again, who could?) and win his much deserved championship, Stockton still remained an integral part in the greatest basketball team ever assembled in the Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics. Whether he's returning letters to the mailman or mugging players in broad daylight, there's no question that if it wasn't for a real life sorcerer, Stockton would be numero uno on the list of greatest point guards of all time, however 2 isn't so bad, as the majestic maestro played sweet jazz all night long.
Accomplishments: 10x NBA All Star, 5x NBA All Defensive Second Team, 9x NBA Assists Leader, 2x NBA Steals Leader, NBA All Time Assists Leader, and NBA All Time Steals Leader.
19. Jerry West
With the exception of a legendary wizard, this man could be considered the greatest Laker of all time. No figure in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise has been more important than Mr. Clutch. As a player, West was the engine that led the Lakers to nine NBA Finals, losing seven times to the unstoppable mean green Celtic machine and twice to the Golden New York Knicks. West was an exceptional scorer with the ability to shoot from seemingly across the street and still make the basket. West holds the record for highest points per playoff series average at 46.3. While a legendary player, it was another role that West cemented his legacy as the greatest mind in NBA history. Following his playing career, West became coach of his beloved Lakers team, leading them to a 145-101 record and reaching the 1977 Western Conference Finals. Following his coaching career West became a talent scout for the Lakers and was named General Manager, it was here that West is credited for creating the greatest Laker dynasty of all time, the Showtime Lakers, a dynasty that dominated the 80s winning five championships. Not only he is credited with creating one Lakers dynasty, but also creating a SECOND Lakers dynasty trading for a rookie shooting guard that would grow into a black mamba and signing the second most dominant big man in NBA history in 1996. While all of these accolades are truly a sight to behold, the NBA has honored West with the biggest stamp of appreciation by making his silhouette the logo for the National Basketball Association, forever earning West the nickname of The Logo.
Accomplishments: 1x NBA Champion(player), 4x NBA Champion (executive), 1x NBA Finals MVP, 14x NBA All Star, 4x NBA All Defensive First Team, 1x NBA Scoring Champion, 1x NBA Assists Leader, and 2x NBA Executive of the Year.
18. Julius Irving
Is there a doctor in the house? If it's the house of the hardwood then there's no better doctor than Doctor J. Doctor J is forever remembered as one of the most revolutionary players of all time. Before there was an airness, before there was a glide, before there was vinsanity, and before there was a king, there was a doctor that could truly fly. Irving forever changed the landscape of the NBA has he became the first player to bring the art of the slam dunk into the mainstream. Before the doctor, the only players that would dunk would be centers to show off their brute strength and size and it was always from underneath the rim, but Irving changed all that when he came into NBA from the defunct ABA. The legend of Doctor J would begin before that however in the 1976 ABA Slam Dunk Contest, it was here that Irving changed the game of basketball forever, when he ran full court towards the basket and leaped from the free throw line, emphatically and beautifully throwing down dunk in the most amazing and awe inspiring feat of athleticism that has never been seen before. Following this ungodly display of skywalking and after everyone had picked their jaws back up from the ground, Irving instantly became the sport's most popular athlete, appearing in commercials and speaking in an elegant manner of speech that no one could ever possibly comprehend from a basketball player, especially an African American one. Today, whenever children look up and see grown men fly with glorious style, they can look back and see this man that truly started it all and created an art form that will never be forgotten. Fans and historians everywhere can whole heartily agree that basketball's first media superstar was a doctor that could truly fly.
Accomplishments: 1x NBA Champion, 1x NBA MVP(81), and 11x NBA All Star.
17. Moses Malone
We go from the doctor to the doctor's surgeon general. In fact if it wasn't for this man, Doctor J would have never had a championship to his hang gliding legacy. Malone is one of the greatest rebounders of all time, it could be said that if it wasn't for a certain Celtic king, Malone would be the undisputed rebounding king. The Chairman of the Boards attacked the basket like a crazed cracked addict snatching for one last hit. Rebounding always came first for Big Mo, who adhered to the philosophy of "the more rebounds you grab, the more points you score". Rebounding was not only Malone's greatest asset as he was a tenacious scorer, adept passer, and hounding defender. Malone also served as one of the greatest teachers in NBA history in fact, the Round Mound of Rebound Charles Barkley always points to his apprenticeship under Malone that made him into the player and legend he would become. Whenever a team would be in desperate need of a game changing or winning rebound, you can always bet the sea would part for the one and only Moses Malone.
Accomplishments: 1x NBA Champion, 1x NBA Finals MVP, 3x NBA MVP(79,82,83), 12x NBA All Star, 1x NBA All Defensive First Team, and 6x NBA Rebounding Champion.
16. LeBron James
It goes without saying that this will be the most controversial entry on this list, whether his defenders will rank him higher or his haters will rank him lower. Before I begin with this entry, let me start off by saying that at the risk of showing my "old manness" and spout off about the "glory days" of basketball, let me begin by showing this man the respect he deserves. Never before has there ever been a player as strong, fast, athletic, gifted, big, and freakishly talented as LeBron James. At 6'8 and 250 lbs, James is that once in a generation player that comes once every century. James is without doubt the most freakish athlete on the face of the Earth. James has that ultra rare combination of size and speed that no other player could possibly even imagine to rival. Perhaps the most respected quality of the self proclaimed king's game is his team first mentality, able to dish the ball as smoothly and as precise as some of the best point guards today or even ever. James also possesses the power of a locomotive with the speed of a bullet, imagine that charging towards you to score a layup. James is also a fine defender topped off with his spectacular chase down blocks that seemingly come from nowhere just when the opposing player is all alone, safe and sound about to score an easy fast break layup, he suddenly finds a leaping linebacker smacking the ball against the board and crushing his soul. Now comes the old manness and crankiness, will I ever consider James the greatest player of all time? hell no! Given all of his freakish qualities and god given talent, James will always come up short when you need him the most, he is simply afraid to take the big shot and with that doubt comes a missed shot and a missed opportunity. James is also rightfully despised for his selfish and disrespectfully hyped announcement where he plundered an entire city into a deep depression when he announced his decision to join the Miami Heat over his home state and already suffering Cleveland Cavaliers. I ask these questions about LeBron, would the so called greatest of all time ever choke away four consecutive fourth quarters in an NBA Finals series? James did. Would the so called king constantly flop and whine for fouls everytime he's breathed on? king flop does. Would the greatest of all time join forces with an established all star and the third greatest shooting guard of all time along with an all star in name only forward just to win his first championship? LeBron did. Never has a player been so afraid of the big moment and been as anti clutch as LeBron James. It pains me to say this but when you need an all time great in Dwayne Wade and the greatest three point shooter of all time in Ray Allen just to save your entitled butt, then I'm sorry, you're just not greatest of all time worthy. I'm sorry rant over, it just kills me hearing the so called "fans" of today's NBA immediately anoint this fake king the crown of greatest of all time when they have no respect for the history of this great game and the failure to see how he has been able to dominate in the weakest era in NBA history with the worst Eastern Conference of all time and finally with little to zero competition. When it is all said and done, LeBron James will no doubt rise to the top 10 of this list and many other lists but as far as greatest of all time goes, sorry but King James will always be just a witness.
Accomplishments: 2x NBA Champion, 2x NBA Finals MVP, 4x NBA MVP(09,10,12,13), 10x NBA All Star, 5x NBA All Defensive First Team, 2004 NBA Rookie of the Year, and 1x NBA Scoring Champion.
15. Scottie Pippen
If LeBron's entry was controversial, I'm sure this one will be as well, if not more. Let me begin by saying I'm a little biased here cause this man right here is my absolute favorite player of all time, but with bias out of the way, I still truly believe that Pippen belongs on this list and belongs in the top 15. Whether you think he's overrated or some cases underrated, you can't deny the impact Pippen had on the NBA and the Chicago Bulls. I know the haters are fully aware of what I'm about to say and are slowly preparing their sighs and facepalms but I don't care, I'm gonna say it. Scottie Pippen is the greatest perimeter defender of all time and the second greatest all around defender ever. There, go ahead haters, blow out the sighs and bury your face firmly in your palms, but that is a statement I truly believe in and have witnessed with my own eyes. Pip could literally do it all on the defensive side, he was long enough to reach out and seemingly snatch an errant pass from out of nowhere with go go gadget arms, he was tall enough to soar through the air and slap a ball right out of the player's hands, also if an opposing player was preparing to play the Bulls and knew that this man would be guarding him, he would request his jersey sized enough to fit two, cause they knew Pippen would be inside their jersey all night. Pippen's legacy will always be as the greatest sidekick of all time and the number two in the greatest duo in NBA history, but most people forget that even without his number one, Pippen nearly single handily led the Bulls back to the Finals with an MVP caliber season as he led the Bulls in every statistical including points, assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals. Following his main man's return, Pippen was instrumental in the creation of the greatest team in NBA history in the 1995-96 Bulls, a team which racked up an incredible record of 72 wins and 10 losses, a record that I believe will never ever be broken, at least not in my lifetime. Whether you believe he just played second fiddle to the maestro or was just lucky to go on the greatest ride in NBA history, it goes without saying that Batman would be nowhere near as great without Robin and Pippen is without question the greatest Robin a player could ever ask for.
Accomplishments: 6x NBA Champion, 7x NBA All Star, 8x NBA All Defensive First Team, 1x NBA Steals Leader, and the true 1x Defensive Player of the Year. (Sorry couldn't resist)
14. Karl Malone
The mailman always delivers, in rain, sleet, and snow, and this mailman always delivered. If the big fundamental didn't exist, this man would no doubt be the greatest power forward to have ever lived. Perhaps the most physical forward to have ever played, his tenacious rebounding, violent defense, and ability to run the court was the perfect 1 2 punch with the pick and roll master John Stockton. Malone has sometimes been called the most deserving champion of all time, going to 3 NBA Finals and losing every single time including back to back in 97 and 98, but that wasn't his fault. Malone holds the NBA record of most free throws attempted and made. He is also second on the NBA All Time Scoring List, which is no easy accomplishment given the era that he played and against the player that ruled that era. Even though Malone never won that championship he so rightly deserved, there's little doubt that in every Utah Jazz fans' heart that this man is the greatest champion that has ever played and you can take that to the post office.
Accomplishments: 2x NBA MVP(97,99), 14x NBA All Star, and 3x NBA All Defensive First Team.
13. George Mikan
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the very first big man to ever play in the NBA, and one of the founding fathers of the National Basketball Association. Mikan's size, rebounding, and shot blocking changed the game forever. He is also credited as the creator of the hook shot, a part of Mikan's own Mikan Drill. A drill that is learned by every single great forward and center. The drill consists of make a layup with the right hand from under the basket, grab a rebound with the left hand then make a layup with that same hand, then rebound with the right hand and make a layup with the same hand. Repeating this drill teaches every big man into a rhythm of scoring and rebounding. It's uncertain to say where the game of basketball would be if it not for this legendary spectacled specimen. In fact, Mikan was so dominant that the NBA was forced to change the rules by widening the foul lane and introducing the shot clock, these rules are known as you guessed it, the Mikan Rules. Whenever we sit back and enjoy the game of basketball as it is today, especially the NBA, we can look back and thank this man.
Accomplishments: 5x NBA Champion, 4x NBA All Star, and 3x NBA Scoring Champion.
12. Elgin Baylor
Before the greatest Chicago Bull bulldozed the league with his unstoppable scoring, this man was the NBA's scoring machine. Baylor regularly dazzled Laker fans with his hanging jump shots, tireless energy, and seemingly never ending effort. Baylor holds the record for most points scored in an NBA Finals game with 61 points against the Boston Celtics. Baylor is also one of just five players to ever score more than 70 points when he dropped 71 on the Knicks. Baylor is also just one of two players to ever score 60 or more in the NBA Playoffs. Together with Jerry West, Baylor formed the league's first dynamic duo, a duo that thrashed any opponent that came in their way, except for the much maligned Boston Celtics. Seven times Baylor tried to win a champion, and all seven times, he would fail, six of those failures coming at the hands of the Lakers' hate nemesis Celtics. Finally, West and Baylor would find a big dipper on their team that would finally tip the balance in their favor, forming the NBA's first "Big 3". Baylor retired mid season in 1973 and it couldn't have come at a worse time as the Lakers exploded to a 33 game winning streak, the longest regular season streak in NBA season and a streak that still stands and will probably never be broken. If that wasn't bad enough, the Lakers won the 1973 NBA Championship, however the Lakers recognized Baylor's hard work and loyalty to the team by giving him his own championship ring, which makes him a true champion in my opinion.
Accomplishments: 1x NBA Champion (it counts), 11x NBA All Star, the 1959 NBA Rookie of the Year and 1x NBA Executive of the Year.
11. Shaquille O'Neal
It goes without saying, but this man is arguably the second most dominant big man in the history of the NBA, he's also without doubt the second most popular NBA player of all time. Shaq was a physical spectacle that had never been seen before in the NBA. He dominated anyone in the post with brute strength and pure desire. The Big Diesel revived the Lakers franchise and led them to their first threepeat in franchise history. He is also a media darling, who regularly entertained reporters and journalists with his jokes, quips, and nicknames for which he bestowed upon himself and other players. Shaq also ventured into the entertainment industry and starred in films such as Kazaam (which I personally enjoy), Steel, Grown Ups 2, and most recently Blended. You simply cannot dispute the impact the Big Aristotle had on the NBA, not since the Stilt had a big man thoroughly ragdolled any player in his way much like Shaq and crushed everyone with just pure raw strength. Whether he's a genie in a boombox or opening up a can of Shaq-Fu on some poor unworthy competitor. Shaq will always have a place in the hearts of every NBA fan, now and forever, now CAN YOU DIG IT!!!
Accomplishments: 4x NBA Champion, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 1x NBA MVP(00), 15x NBA All Star, 2x NBA Scoring Champion, and the 1993 NBA Rookie of the Year.
We're almost there, the top 10 is just around the corner. Take this time to think who could possibly make the top 10, I'm sure you have some ideas and pretty much know who's gonna be number 1, but there could also be some surprises in store, so stay tuned for the much anticipated Top 10 Greatest NBA Players of All Time.