Over the past few weeks I have heard different people banter on TV, Facebook and other media outlets as to how good LeBron James is when it comes to the best all-time basketball players.
LeBron is good, but he doesn’t even make my top 12 when it comes to the best - at least that’s my opinion. I just don’t think he is on the list of the best NBA players ever to suit up - at least not yet.
I don’t think anyone can even argue that the top three are Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Those three are on about everybody’s list if they were going to pick a starting five. Those three made the NBA popular and brought it to prominence.
Bird’s and Magic’s rivalry, that went back to the NCAA championship game in 1979, and continued into the NBA, is classic.
The resumes of these three players stand out and their legacy will live on forever.
Jordan, a 6-6 guard, is arguably the most talented player ever to hit the hardwood. Who else could leave the game to try his hand at pro baseball, then return to hoops and win more championships. He led the Bulls to six titles.
Magic was a 6-8 point guard, whose flashy passes made it cool to not only score, but to get assists. He was a perfect fit for the Los Angeles Lakers and Hollywood.
Bird, a 6-9 forward, turned the Celtics around and brought that franchise back to where they were one of the best during the 1980s. Bird could score, rebound, pass and was a true team leader. It was nothing to see him dive on the floor for a loose basketball. He played to win, no matter what the cost on his body.
After that, you can really make some arguments.
I think you have to put Bill Russell on the list. He helped the Celtics win 11 championships. He doesn’t even have enough fingers and thumbs for all of his rings.
After that you would have to go with Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Those five I have mentioned would be my starting five. Russell would move to power forward, Jabbar would be in the middle, Bird would be the other forward, Jordan the shooting guard and Magic the point guard.
After these five I would have to pick the late Wilt Chamberlain, probably the most dominant offensive player ever. The 7-1 pivot-man averaged over 50 points a game one season and one time scored 100 points in a game. When he wanted to, he could dominate the boards and play shutdown defense.
The “logo” has to be on this team. Of course, if you’re from West Virginia, he is not only a legend in the state, but in the NBA. Jerry West was one of the greatest ever. I really wanted to put him on my starting five, but I didn’t let my heart sway me. At only 6-4, West was dubbed “Mr. Clutch” due to his performances when the game was on the line. He also built the Lakers franchise as their general manager during the 80s and 90s.
Oscar Robertson was ahead of his time. He would be on my roster of the top 12. Robertson averaged a triple-double one season for the old Cincinnati Royals. He was a strong 6-5 guard who had a great career.
Perhaps I did let my heart sway me on these next two players. Most everyone knows I’m a diehard Boston Celtics fan. My favorite player growing up was John Havlicek. I put him on my list of the top all-time NBA team. He has the stats to back it up, even though many of the younger readers never saw him play. “Hondo” was a 6-5 forward-center who could do it all.
My next pick is a 6-8 center. Dave Cowens, another Celtic, was one of the hardest working players ever. He could take the ball inside and the lefty could knock down a 20-foot jumper with ease. Although he was undersized, Cowen held his own with taller centers like Jabbar and others during his career.
That leaves me with two more players to round out my 12 man roster. The first 10 for me was easy to pick, but narrowing down the list to fill out my team was a little tougher. I grew up admiring so many players and I’m definitely old school. Sure, I could go with LeBron, Paul Peirce, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon and others.
However, I’ll stay old school and go with Julius Erving. “Dr. J” was unbelievable when it came to dunking the basketball and slicing through the lane to take the ball to the basket. Although he played for a team I hated, the Philadelphia 76ers, you had to admire Erving. He was the first player that really made an impact when the old ABA merged with the NBA. Erving was a star in both leagues.
Finally, last but not least, I’m going with “Pistol” Pete Maravich. The late Pistol Pete is the all-time leading scorer in college basketball. He averaged 50 points a game before the 3-point shot while at LSU. He was simply a wizard on the court. His passing and ball handling were as good as anyone who ever dribbled a basketball. His pro career was not the greatest, because he labored on poor teams. But, he was one of my favorite players.
There are many others that I enjoyed watching over the years. Bill Walton, who has a pair of championships, but injuries shortened his career. But, when he was healthy, he was one of the best. I loved it when he spent his last seasons with the Celtics.
Earl “The Pearl” Monroe was fun to watch. He had more moves than a belly dancer. I have to mention Hal Greer, who played at Marshall University, before an outstanding career with the 76ers. There was big Elvin Hayes, flashy point guard Bob Cousy, the “Iceman” George Gervin and many others.
I know there have been some great modern day players. Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and many others.
All of the players I picked were selected to the top 50 on the NBA’s 50 anniversary a few years back in 1997.
It is always difficult to narrow a list down when picking from 100s of great players. I feel some of my picks were no-brainers, and I admit others came from the heart or personal preference.
Maybe I gave you and your friends something to talk about over the 4th of July holiday.
(Kyle Lovern is the sports editor for the Williamson Daily News. Comments or story ideas can be sent to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org)