By Thomas Sellers Jr.
With so much idle time out there, debates have risen up in various realms of life.
Normally in late May, we’re watching the NBA playoffs and debating the greatness of LeBron James. Usually the NBA legend is making a deep postseason run, including 8 straight NBA Finals appearances.
But as we know 2020 is a little bit different. With a need to make up programming on all these sports channels, James is a frequent topic for debate.
Does James want to save the season to win a title?
Is LeBron better than Michael Jordan?
Is LeBron the G.O.A.T?
To be honest, there are a few candidates for greatest of all time in the NBA. I am here to settle this barbershop hot topic and click-baiting debate with this week’s Best Sellers’ List.
I will count down my top 10 greatest basketball players of all time. After extensive research, hours of viewing games and listening to various arguments, I am ready to go on record with my top 10 list.
Going into rankings are championships, era, style, impact on the game and most importantly who would I start a franchise with.
Before we run the list of my best, here are a few names that should be in the running: Shaquille O’Neal, Bill Russell, Tim Duncan, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Julius Erving, Steph Curry, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Dwyane Wade, Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, Elgin Baylor, Grant Hill, Elvin Hayes, Kevin Garnett, Moses Malone, Dirk Nowitzki, Pete Maravich, Anthony Davis, George Mikan, Dominique Wilkins, Gary Payton, James Worthy, George Gervin, Wes Unseld, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Penny Hardaway and Scottie Pippen.
- Isiah Thomas
PLAYING CAREER: 1981-94
Isiah Lord Thomas III is the greatest point guard in basketball history. Standing just above 6 feet, Thomas was ruthless with the basketball. He could dance around the court dribbling the rock. He could weave through defenses to locate a teammate or score the basketball. He was transcendent ushering in the quick, scoring point guard into today’s game. Thomas was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. He was successful prior to becoming a Detroit Pistons icon. Thomas led the Indiana Hoosiers to the 1981 NCAA title and was the most outstanding player in the process.
In a short NBA career, he compiled 18,822 points, 9,061 assists and 1,861 steals. He was the heart and soul of those back-to-back Detroit championship teams in 1988-89 and 1989-90.
Thomas proved in an era featuring Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, he had what it took to be a leader of a championship team. He was the focal point of the Bad Boys and he looked good doing it.
- Kevin Durant
PLAYING CAREER: 2007-present
Kevin Wayne Durant is the best pure scorer I’ve ever seen in the game. He has a smooth, silky style that puts you in the mind of George “Ice Man” Gervin. Then he can hit the three-pointer like his former teammate Steph Curry.
Durant is the “pick your poison” type of player. It is almost impossible to defend him. But it is easy to offend him off the court. Some of his decisions have been criticized massively by the public. And Durant has not been afraid to express his displeasure.
The only part of his game that is easy to defame is defense. But he makes up for it with his scoring and the attention he demands on the offensive side of the court. Durant has a pair of Finals MVP awards and was named USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year in 2010 and 2016. Durant will continue to add to his legend and possibly move up my rankings in the next few years with the Brooklyn Nets.
- Magic Johnson
PLAYING CAREER: 1979-91, 1996
Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. is one of the greatest winners in NBA history. In a nine-year period, Johnson and his Los Angeles Lakers won five championships.
Johnson’s first professional title came in 1980 with him replacing legendary teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at center in the decisive Game 6. Johnson scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and tossed out 7 assists in beating the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 1979 NCAA Championship with Michigan State announced Johnson to the world. The title with the Lakers put Magic on the worldwide stage.
We’ve proven Johnson is a winner. But his stats validate he’s one of the best to ever dribble a basketball. He averaged 19.5 points per game. He dished out 10,141 assists per game. With a 6’9″ frame, he grabbed 6,559 rebounds. Johnson was one of the members of the 1992 Dream Team. That team was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. Johnson went into the Hall as an individual in 2002 and will always be remembered for his no-look passes and amazing assists.
- Kobe Bryant
PLAYING CAREER: 1996-2016
Kobe Bean Bryant is the closest to the “next Michael Jordan” we will ever see. Bryant modeled his game after his idol and came close to achieving stats and championships to a Jordan level.
Bryant was a three-time NBA All-Defensive second team selection. He was All-NBA first team 11 times, with only one NBA MVP award coming in 2008.
But Kobe was about winning championships. He picked up three titles with Shaquille O’Neal as the focal point of the team from 2000 to 2002. Then when the Los Angeles Lakers became Kobe’s team, he needed a little help form Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and others to pick up back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
Kobe was so good he got two jerseys retired by the legendary Laker franchise. Some people even debate if No. 8 or No. 24 was better. Just remember this: If you score 81 points in a game, you deserve to be on all top 10 lists of greatest basketball players ever.
- Hakeem Olajuwon
PLAYING CAREER: 1984-2002
Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon was born in Lagos, Nigeria. And Olajuwon was born to play basketball. He took soccer footwork, soft hands and a dream arsenal of moves to be one of the best centers of all time.
Then when Olajuwon reached his peak in the mid-1990s, he elevated to the level of one of the best basketball players to ever lace up some high-tops.
Back in the early 1980s, Olajuwon traveled from his Africa to join the Houston Cougars for college basketball. He had such a great career there, Olajuwon was selected No. 1 overall in the 1984 NBA draft.
Olajuwon was going along, having a special career but no championships on any level. Then in 1994, his Houston Rockets outlasted the New York Knicks in seven games to earn the crown. Olajuwon was clutch and won his first of two Finals MVP awards. Olajuwon was a guard trapped in a center’s body. He tallied 26,946 points, 13,747 rebounds and blocked 3,830 shots. He was simply a dream.
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
PLAYING CAREER: 1969-1989
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. And the NBA legend won a title under both names. Alcindor was the most dominant college basketball player ever at UCLA, winning three championships.
Then he headed up to the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks, winning the title alongside Oscar Robertson in 1971.
In 1975, Abdul-Jabbar made the move to Hollywood and became an American icon. Winning five titles with the showtime Lakers helped his recognition in the public. But starring in movies and being a vocal activist moved Abdul-Jabbar into another stratosphere.
But his play on the court was good enough to make Kareem a household name. During his career as a center, Abdul-Jabbar was a record six-time NBAMV, made a record 19-time NBA All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA selection and an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team member.
Abdul-Jabbar won 71 straight games in high school, playing in New York. He was the three-time MOP at the NCAA Final Four, and he is the all-time leading scorer in NBA history with 38,387 points.
- Larry Bird
PLAYING CAREER: 1979-1992
Larry Joe Bird has the nickname “The Hick from French Lick.” I just call him Larry Legend. As of 2020, Bird is the only person in NBA history to be named Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, NBA Finals MVP, All-Star MVP, Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year.
He should be called “Larry Basketball.” Bird was so good, he was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1978, a year before leaving Indiana State. During that year, all Bird did was guide the Sycamores to a 33-0 record before taking on Magic Johnson’s Michigan State squad in 1979 for the championship.
Bird was 81-13 with ISU. Then he took his winning ways to the Celtics, leading them to three titles. He even got a little revenge on his old foe Johnson, winning the 1984 title over the Lakers.
Back issues limited Bird’s impact on the game during the late 1980s and early 1990s. He had enough juice to be a part of the Dream Team and rack up averages of 24.3 ppg, 10 rpg and 6.3 apg.
- Michael Jordan
PLAYING CAREER: 1984-1993, 1995-1998, 2001-2003
Michael Jeffrey Jordan is undeniably the greatest NBA player ever. After leaving North Carolina and hitting the game-winning shot in the 1982 National title game, he proved he was clutch, running down six championships with the Chicago Bulls.
His unapologetic leadership style made those Bulls teams unbeatable. In 1996, the Bulls racked up a 72-10 record and beat the Seattle Supersonics in six games.
Jordan’s individual accolades and accomplishments include six NBA Finals MVPs, 10 scoring titles, five MVP Awards, 10 All-NBA First Team, nine All-Defensive First Team honors, 14 NBA All-Star Game selections, three All-Star Game MVP Awards, three steals titles, and the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award.
He holds the NBA records for highest career regular season scoring average with 30.12 points per game. Jordan also has the highest career playoff scoring average with 33.45 points per game. When it came to dominating the NBA, nobody did it better than Jordan.
- Wilt Chamberlain
PLAYING CAREER: 1958-1973
Wilton Norman Chamberlain had more nicknames than Shaq. Scored more points in a game than Kobe with 100. Ventured over to acting before Kareem and physically intimidated the opposition more than Lebron.
Chamberlain holds numerous NBA records in scoring and rebounding. He averaged more than 40 and 50 points in a season. He won seven scoring, 11 rebounding, and nine field goal percentage titles and led the league in assists once.
Chamberlain is the only player in NBA history to average at least 30 points and 20 rebounds per game in a season, which he accomplished seven times. He is also the only player to average at least 30 points and 20 rebounds per game over the entire course of his NBA career. So his career totals ended at 31,419 points and 23,924 rebounds.
But the reason Chamberlain ranks ahead of Jordan on this list is that Jordan had to play in a league influenced by the rules created to limit Chamberlain. They literally rewrote the game to try to limit his greatness.
- LeBron James
PLAYING CAREER: 2003-present
LeBron Raymone James Sr. is the greatest basketball player ever. He can play all five positions on both sides of the floor. He has great court vision and gets his teammates involved.
James has averaged 7.4 assists for his career. He’ll mix with the big boys in the paint, grabbing 7.4 rebounds over his career. And James has more than 30,000 career points, averaging 27.1 points in his career.
If he stays healthy and basketball returns for a full 82-game schedule, James will break several records held by men previously mentioned. But the main reason I rank James as the G.O.A.T. is because whether it is the NBA, FIBA or a local YMCA, he will be the most dominant force on the hardwood.
He can run the point, lock down a center and keep up with any slasher on the court. He can score as well and shut down the other team’s best player. And wherever James has gone in the game of basketball, he has been a transcendent winner.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.