Recently, ESPN has released its rankings of who they believe are the top 74 players of all time. With no sports going on and Michael Jordan’s documentary ending on Sunday, it’s only right that ESPN would release such a controversial list. This list is exactly what Twitter and social media needed.
There are lists that are made by prominent media outlets are generally made for clickbait. Seriously, if you check out any all-time lists, you’ll rarely find one that you won’t find at least one ridiculous ranking. These sites do this so they can get people to talk and give them free publicity. Any publicity is good publicity, right?
For example, in this list, ESPN ranked Giannis Antetokounmpo as the 27th greatest player of all time. No disrespect to Giannis, but I can probably think of at least 50 or 60 players who’d I’d rank ahead of him. He has one MVP and no championships under his belt, so it’s comical that they’d put him there.
As far as their top-10 list goes, it actually isn’t too bad. Do I agree with every single player that’s on the list? No. Would I rearrange a few players on their list? Yes. At the end of the day, there’s no such thing as a perfect list or ranking. We will all never agree on the same list or unanimously select who the greatest of all time is. I personally hate debating players in general because it’s silly comparing players that are different builds and played in a different era. It’s stupid if you ask me.
But yet here I am, debating who should be on and off this list. Here are ESPN’s top players of all time:
Like I said before, this top-10 list isn’t bad, I’d just change a few things.
I agree with rankings 1-3. Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time. If there is a debate, that’s the answer. LeBron is the only active player ranked on the list, and he’s #2, where he should be. Jalen Rose argued that a few guys should be ahead of him since he hasn’t retired yet and has more to accomplish, but if James retired today, he would rank as number two.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar isn’t only one of the greatest NBA players ever, but one of the best basketball players ever. He is a three-time NCAA champion and has won three National College Player of the Year and Final Four Most Outstanding Player awards. Jabbar dominated college for three years and the NBA for 19. He should be a lock for the top-3 of all time.
I respect and appreciate ESPN ranking Bill Russell at four. His 11 championships in 13 seasons shouldn’t go unrecognized. No matter the era, that’s a feat that we may never see again. But, I have to slip him down to #5 and put Magic Johnson at #4. Johnson is the best point guard of all time and is the definition of a floor general. He made everyone around him better, helping the Lakers win five titles, and won three MVP awards.
#6 and #7 are hard for me because I’m torn between Larry Bird and Kobe Bryant. Bird didn’t have a weakness in his game. He could go for 30 on any given night, was an unbelievable passer and rebounder, and would lock guys up on defense. He was the ultimate trash talker and backed up every word he spoke. If we want to talk about floor generals, Bird is right up there too. He led a 29-win team to 61 wins during his rookie year. He was a gamechanger. That being said, I put Larry Bird at #6 on my list.
Kobe Bryant was the closest thing we’ve ever seen to Michael Jordan. Bryant idolized Jordan and modeled his entire game after him. He wanted to be like Mike and had that Mamba Mentality that made him such a dangerous player. Some people may have Kobe right below Jordan, or even have him ahead of Jordan, but you can’t rank somebody ahead of the person they mastered their game after. It hurts, but I have to put Kobe at #7.
Tim Duncan is one of the most successful players the game has ever seen. He spent his entire 19-year career with San Antonio and helped them win five championships. He’s won multiple MVP and Finals MVP awards and made the NBA All-Defensive First Team eight times. Duncan is one of only three NBA players with 1,000 career wins. Duncan’s Spurs won at least 50 regular-season games for 17 straight seasons, which is the most in NBA history. Tim Duncan is the definition of a winner, and that’s why he’s ranked #8.
At #9 and #10, I’m putting two of the most dominant centers to play the game: Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon. I’m sorry Wilt Chamberlain fans, but I personally believe Hakeem was a better all-around player and was more successful throughout his career. Wilt has countless scoring titles, averaged 50 points a game in a season, and scored 100 points in a game, but only has two championships to his name. He was arguably the most dominant center basketball has seen, but I can’t put him on my top-10 list.
I put Shaq at #9 because of his pure dominance. In his prime, nobody was getting in Shaq’s way. I can think of only a handful of players who would be able to hold their own against Shaq in the paint. I believe Hakeem is one of those players. Hakeem is the only player in NBA history to win an MVP, DPOY, and Finals MVP award in the same season. Both of these centers accomplished enough to be recognized on this list.
That’s my top-10 ranking, not too much different from ESPN’s as far as players go, but like I said earlier, we can’t all agree on this. Let me know what you think of ESPN’s rankings and who you’d rank in your top-10 list!
Photo: Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune