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Basketball: Who's the best NBA player of all time

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posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 03:37 PM
Just had to resurrect this thread. I can't BELIEVE no one even mentioned Oscar Robertson. In his 2nd year in the league ('61-'62) he averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists per game-an average of a triple-double for an entire season. He won a high school state championship in Indiana, averaged 33.8 points per game in college (Cincinnati), won the national scoring title three times, was an All-American, and was named College Player of the Year.

He led the Bearcats to two Final Fours and an 79-9 record during his three varsity seasons. Among his 14 NCAA records was a career scoring mark that stood until Pete Maravich bested it in 1970. As a sophomore Robertson scored 56 points in a tournament game at Madison Square Garden, and he scored 62 points in another contest.

Co-captains on the gold medal-winning 1960 U.S. Olympic basketball team, Robertson and Jerry West entered the NBA one after the other in the 1960 NBA Draft. Robertson went to the Cincinnati Royals as a territorial pick (the system allowed a team to claim a local college player in exchange for giving up its first-round pick). West went to the Lakers, who were moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, as the first overall selection of the regular draft. Robertson, too poor to own a basketball as a child, signed for $33,000 per year.

His first NBA year, he finished third in the league in scoring (30.5 ppg) and won NBA Rookie of the Year honors for 1960-61. The Big O made his first of 12 consecutive trips to the NBA All-Star Game, winning the MVP Award after scoring 23 points and setting a record with 14 assists, one better than Bob Cousy's previous mark. Robertson also ended Cousy's eight-year string of regular-season assists titles by leading the league with 9.7 per game.

He never had much of a supporting cast in Cincinnati, and didn't win a championship until he teamed up with Kareem in Milwaukee. Jordan's great, no doubt. But to me, Oscar was the best I ever saw.

posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 05:21 PM
Good name to include on the list, however, I wouldn't call him the best ever. Maybe we should rename the thread somethign like "rank all-time NBA players", I'd put Oscar 3rd, right behind Russell and Jordan, and a half step above the Stilt.

posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 08:15 PM
It's very difficult to crown just one player as the greastest of all time simply because over the past 40 years the game has changed so much.My opinion would be Wilt/Russell in the 60's,Dr the 70's Bird in the 80's,Jordan in the 90's,and probably Duncan today.

posted on Oct, 28 2005 @ 02:02 AM
Let me say to begin with that although I've watched a lot of NBA playoff and NCAA tourney hoops in the last 25 years, I for sure have no sophisticated understanding of the game. So, my own opinions about it are worthless.

But, as I've mentioned in baseball posts, I have a close, longtime friend who was once an all-American but went on to fame in a different career. He was an all-American basketball player, many years ago. And I, inevitably, have asked him about the all-time greatest players at each position, and the all-time greatest player.

He is an enormous fan of Bill Russell the human being, and has sent me numerous e-mails on that subject. But he's made it clear that, in his opinion, there are only two real candidates for the greatest player of all time:

(1) Michael Jordan; and

(2) Wilt Chamberlain.

He says it's an apples-and-oranges comparison, but that Wilt gets a bad rap as a "selfish" player, when he was nothing of the sort and once even led the league in ASSISTS (?!!), which Jordan never came within a mile of. He thinks Wilt would physically dominate modern centers other than Shaq, and would athletically dominate Shaq unless referees ate their whistles with Shaq's fouls (gee, has that ever happened?). He also says--and this amazes me--that he thinks Wilt would have physically overpowered even Mark Eaton.

Then he goes on at considerable length to make a compelling case for Jordan as the #1 player of all time. Neither man, he notes, won piles of championships when he was young and didn't have great teammates, but Jordan won like clockwork once he did, and nobody laughed at Barkley when he said nobody else was going to win an NBA title until Jordan retired. And on and on.

So, basically, he's not willing to make the call, but he's willing to say it comes down to those two.

I don't want to reveal this man's identity, but an unimpeachable source has repeatedly referred to him as the most intelligent player he ever knew. He is neither from Kansas or Philadelphia, nor from North Carolina or Chicago. If he says it's a two-way race between Jordan and Wilt, and it's too close to call, I'm sure going to take his word for it.

N.B.: I haven't questioned him on this subject in five years, which, among other things, means the Lakers' lovable Kobe isn't included.

P.S. He has vacillated about whether Magic or Oscar Robertson is the greatest point guard ever (I once thought Magic was the greatest PLAYER ever, which shows what I know), and he's vacillated between Bird and Dr. J at small forward (again, pre-Kobe). But he's unequivocal about the best power forward ever: Karl Malone.

posted on Oct, 28 2005 @ 08:45 AM

Originally posted by BaseballHistoryNut
I don't want to reveal this man's identity, but an unimpeachable source has repeatedly referred to him as the most intelligent player he ever knew.

hmmmm....Jerry Lucas maybe?

Don't discount your Magic Johnson opinion. In a period of "2-guards" and "power forwards" the guy was just a player. He could play any position on the court and beat you. I guess when I think about the best ever, I'm thinking of a combination of skills, versatility, and of course stats and wins have to be factored in. They're all great. I can't say Russell was the best ever, but he was an outstanding team guy. It's tough to pick a "best" when you're talking team sports.

I won't say Jordan's not arguably the best ever. I'd call Bob Knight an unimpeachable source and when he coached the '84 Olympic team, he had occasion to say not only was Jordan the best player ever, he was the best player there'll ever be. And this was BEFORE he started his pro career.

Maybe there's a nostalgia-induced distortion associated with my opinion, but maybe we also have a tendency to give more weight to the more recent. I'll still stand by my choice. Oscar was the best I ever saw.

posted on Oct, 30 2005 @ 03:15 PM
This very well may be my favorite thread on the board here. That is because, there is no black and white answer to the question, and it concerns one of my favorite sports.

That being said, I appreciate your friends comment on Karl Malone as the best Power Forward ever, being a huge Utah fan.

However, I will continue to argue Russel's case until I'm blue in the face. I would think it interesting to see the statistics from games and series where Russell and Wilt went head to head. But, alas, I don't feel like looking for that inforamtion, at least at this particular moment...

posted on Oct, 30 2005 @ 07:59 PM
Again conceding I know from nothing about basketball....

Is it fair to take a small sample of Wilt's career and judge him by it? That's what people have done with Bob Gibson, citing his World Series record, and I think they've badly over-inflated him as a result.

YES, he's the greatest World Series pitcher I've seen in 47 years of watching the Fall Classic. He wasn't nearly as good in 1964 as people make him out to have been, going 2-1 and winning Game Seven, but doing so by a score of 7-5, giving up 5 earned runs and 3 home runs. Not exactly the way to win Game 7 as a starter. His manager was grilled about why he kept Gibson in so long. Answer: "I had a commitment to his heart."

But Gibson in 1967 and 1968 pitched better than any other pitcher I know of ever pitched in 2 Series and 6 starts. No, he didn't throw 3 shutouts in either year, like Mathewson did in 1905, but his stats in both Series were overwhelming (basically a pitcher's equivalent of Ruth-like stats), as he went 3-0 in 1967 and strangled Boston, then suffocated Detroit in Games 1 and 4 in 1968, and lost Game 7 only because Curt Flood, with the score tied 0-0 and 2 outs in the 7th, misjudged a fly ball by erroneously breaking in on it, giving Jim Northrup a bogus "triple" that knocked in two runs.

As a result of those 6 games, Gibson is routinely named one of the 10, and usually one of the 5, best post-Dead Ball pitchers ever. And there is NO WAY he was that good. Just among active pitchers, Clemens, Maddux, Pedro and The Big Unit are all far better, unless you make World Series games worth about 30 times as much as other games.

I don't think that's a valid way of evaluating a pitcher's career, and very few baseball fans I've talked with do, either.

QUERY: Should Russell vs. Chamberlain be treated differently? Granted, when you play 82 games, as opposed to 162, and your playoff series is 7 games in both sports, it's obvious that 7 out of a total of 89 games (not counting other playoff series) is a much bigger percentage than 7 out of 169 total games. But pretty much the ONLY arguments I hear for Russell over Chamberlain are that Russell's team got the better of Wilt's in the playoffs (repeatedly), and perhaps that Russell individually outplayed Wilt.

From what I understand--and let me know if you agree with this--Russell DID NOT HAVE TO out-perform Wilt, right? And he didn't have to totally neutralize Wilt, either. He had to keep Wilt sufficiently under control that Wilt did not rack up his outrageous, ludicrous, Ruth-like, blow-out-the-computer statistics. And he did a very, very good job of that in most, if not all, of their postseason games, correct?

Is that enough reason--and this question is real, not rhetorical--to rate Russell ahead of Wilt for their entire respective careers? I mean, maybe it is. When you have the talent that I see some of those Celtic teams had (Cousy, Havlicek, etc.), you probably started the year taking it as a given you would make the playoffs, right?

So maybe, as with today's top NBA teams, the Celtics of that era took a playoff berth for granted and focused their attention from Day One of the season on the playoffs, much as some NBA teams today do. If so, maybe it IS right to place what otherwise would be inordinate emphasis on those Russell-Wilt matchups in evaluating Russell's career. I, obviously, have no clue if this is fair. So I'm asking y'all.

Is that the case? Does that seem fair? Or does it seem like this is a basketball version of what baseball has done with Bob Gibson, transforming a pitcher with a 251-174 record (that's 8 more wins and 32 more losses than Marichal had) into one of the very greatest ever because of those last 6 Series starts?

What do you all think of this question?

Baseball History Nut

posted on Oct, 30 2005 @ 08:43 PM
There were only 9 teams in the NBA during the greater part of thier career, so they played an average of 9-12 games against each other over that timespan.

The number of times they met up isn't the interesting thing to me. I'm curious if, for instance, say that season when Wilt averaged 50.4 points per game, did he average more or less when he was facing Russell? And how did Bill's numbers stack up, when they were head to head?

Another thing to consider in this discussion, if individual statistics where all to consider, then why aren't we including John Stockton in the discussion? All he ever did was lead the NBA in career steals and assists. Not exactly something to sneeze at.

Some links I just found on the Wilt vs. Russell debate -

Tony Kornheiser article

ESPN top 10 rivalries's Top Ten Rivalries

NBA legends of the game

posted on Apr, 12 2006 @ 10:00 PM
This is definitely my favorite sports debate: who is the best NBA player of all time?

When one talks about greatness, the first thing to look at is the stats. In my opinion, the true test of greatness is total statistical dominance. In all of sports, only two players have achieved that: Jerry Rice and Wayne Gretzky. Rice's records may be challenged someday, but I feel Gretzky's are untouchable. No one in basketball even gets close to statistical dominance. All the players one considers have great stats, but not even Michael Jordan's numbers clearly outrank anyone else's.

That said, I make my case for Larry Bird. First of all, he was an incredibly versatile player. He was both a good outside shooter and a great low post player. He shot long range and passed better than mose guards. He was also a good defender, believe it or not. Early in his career he made the All-Defensive Team three straight seasons. True, he was not too good in one-one-one defense, but he was an impressive team defender. His stats are comparable to any other great. For example, if you compare him to Jordan, he has a better RPG, APG, FT%, and 3Pt%. Jordan has a better PPG and SPG. They are basically even in FG% and BPG.

But Bird's greatness does not end with statistics. He had an innate skill for the game that cannot be taught. His passing ability is rivaled only by Magic Johnson's. Have you ever seen some of Bird's passes? Absolutely amazing. Some of his passes were only five feet in length, but they were around, through, and over defenders. He was a thinking player who continued to pull off amazing performances. I remember one particular play in 1987: so simple, yet so amazing. In Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals that year (the same one where Bird got the steal against Isiah), there was a missed Celtics shot that was high in the air. Bird knew he could not grab the rebound, so he simply tipped it away from a Pistons defender into the hands of Kevin McHale, who made the basket. Take a look sometime at the 1988 playoff game against Atlanta, where Bird puts up 20 points in the fourth quarter in a duel with Dominique Wilkins. Some of the shots he takes are sick: strange angles, guys in his face, everything.

The one play that identifies Bird's greatness is one I'm sure all of you have seen. In the 1981 Finals against the Rockets, Bird fires up a 18-footer from the right side. The shot misses, but Bird sees it coming, runs to the right, leaps, and in one motion rebounds the ball and then lays it is. That play shows how he was always one play in front of the competition. Sure, Michael Jordan had more aerial theatrics, but Bird's highlight reel has more variety.

Here is one point I always make when debating Bird vs. Jordan or any other player for that matter. Look at Bird's impact on the teams he has played for. In 1978-79 he led Indiana State--a bunch of no names--the the NCAA Championship game. Before that the Sycamores had never made it to the tournament at all; since then they have not made it. In 1979-80, Bird's rookie year, the Celtics went 61-21, a 32 game improvement over the year before. That was without Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, who joined the next season. In 1988-89, Bird missed essentially the whole season (76 games) recovering from bone spur surgery on his heels. That year Boston won only 42 games, a 15 game decrease from the previous season. With Bird, that team was great, without him they were mediocre.

Compare that to Jordan. True, Jordan won an NCAA title in his freshman year at UNC, but remember that the star of that team was James Worthy. Once Worthy left and Jordan was the leader, the Tar Heels couldn't make it past the Sweet 16. In Jordan's rookie year, the Bulls did improve, but only 11 games. In 1992-93 the Bulls won 57 games. The next season, WITHOUT JORDAN FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR (his dubious "first retirement"), the Bulls won 55 games--a decrease of only two games! Without Jordan, the Bulls were still a great team (not a championship team, but still great.

I have not taken time to read the other posts yet, but I will soon.

posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 09:21 PM
The main reason I do not endorse Michael Jordan as unequivocably the best player ever is simply that there is not one statistic or one area of accomplishment in which he clearly outranks everyone. He has the all time best PPG, but by less than one point per game over Wilt Chamberlain. That is the only statistic he is #1 all time in. He has five MVP awards; so does Bill Russell--and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has six. He has six rings from championships won with the Bulls. That's certainly impressive, but several other players have just as many (Robert Horry has six) or more, including Bill Russell, who has almost twice as many with 11.

Consider the players who are clearly dominant. The best example is Wayne Gretzky in hockey. He is #1 in goals scored, assists, and total points. He has more assists than any other player has points. All in all, he holds 62 NHL records. He also won NINE MVP awards, including eight in a row to start his career. In the other three major sports, the mark for consecutive MVP awards is four (Barry Bonds, 2001-2004). The NFL had a three straight winner in Bret Favre (1995-1997), and the NBA has had three players win three in a row (Russell, Chamberlain, and Bird).

Jordan is nowhere near the level of dominance that Gretzky was. How can anyone really claim that he is "in a league of his own"?

posted on Apr, 15 2006 @ 07:26 PM
Yep, that's the debate here. Of course, I was so surprised to see that you think Larry Bird is the greatest, BTB!
I still haven't changed my opinion about Russell yet, though...

posted on Apr, 15 2006 @ 07:36 PM
I use to always join these little mini-debates, but I've come to realize something. You can't name a "best" player. There is always someone better. You can argue that any player in the league is the best, but it can always be countered with some sort of stat, or something else.

Michael Jordan's brother was said to be much better than Jordan... not only by locals and such, but by Jordan himself. the only thing that kept him from college and the pros, was a life that led to crime and drugs. Had Jordan's brother been inthe league, would we be discussing Jordan? Would we be debating whether or not his brother was better than Stilit?

So my opinion is, is that you can't name a best player simply because there is always a bigger, better fish out there, in some aspect of the game.

posted on Apr, 15 2006 @ 11:07 PM
Gibbs, I see that your argument for Russell is essentially based on his 11 title rings. Winning is only a part of greatness, and while Russell had some good statistics, they are not impressive enough to place him ahead of other greats--even with those 11 rings. True, he did average 22.5 RPG, but that is partly because of the way the game was played back then (teams usually grabbed 80 rebounds a game, whereas today they pull down 50). His 15.1 PPG is nothing special, and his .440 FG% and .561 FT% are both pitiful. Russell was undoubtedly a good player, but back then steals and blocks were not tallied. I just don't see those 11 rings putting him over the top, especially considering that other Celtics--who we never mention in these debates--have eight.

posted on Apr, 16 2006 @ 09:31 AM
Russell didn't jus twin. He made the players around him better. (thus, the 11 rings) That is the basis of my arguement. No other player can say that. Period.

posted on Apr, 16 2006 @ 08:37 PM
ok time to decide whos the better all around PG is it nash or iverson? u make the decision

posted on Apr, 16 2006 @ 10:25 PM
So sorry, Gibbs, but your argument is flawed. Bill Russell was just one piece of the puzzle; it was not just he who made the Celtics a better team. Remember that no team has as many Hall of Famers as Boston. Russell spent his career surrounded by incredible players: Bob Cousy, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, Bill Sharman, John Havlicek, Tom Heinsohn, Don Nelson, to name a few. And it is not as if those players' performances--at least their stats--were incredibly impacted by Russell. Cousy was a great point guard before Russell even got there; Havlicek had an even more impressive career after Russell retired. Did you know that Russell once played on a team (I want to say the 1960-61 team, but I'm not totally sure) where he was one of EIGHT future Hall of Famers! Bird had two (McHale and Parish), Magic had two (Abdul-Jabbar and Worthy), and Jordan probably had two (Pippen and Rodman). Russell had seven!!! Russell was great, but he just benefitted from the Celtics' superior level of talent.

I know, it's the age old story of: is it the player or the system. Joe Montana had a great career, but he worked in the then innovative West Coast Offense designed by coaching genius Bill Walsh. After he was gone, Steve Young took over without a hitch and the Niners still won a Super Bowl. Even after Young had retired, Jeff Garcia had a few impressive seasons at quarterback. Were Montana, Young, and--to some extent--Garcia really that great? Some would say they were just fortunate to have players like Dwight Clark, Wendell Tyler, Roger Craig, Jerry Rice, Tom Rathman, Brent Jones, John Taylor, Garrison Hearst, and Terrell Owens supporting them. Others would say Montana and Young made those players better.

But even Montana and Walsh didn't have the HOF help around them that Russell had in Boston. Seven other Hall of Famers on your team? Wow.

posted on Apr, 17 2006 @ 03:08 PM
However, the guys surrounding Russell didn't get a championship without him. 1956 was the year he was drafted, and, coincidentally, the very first year that the Celtics won an NBA title. Russell retired after his 11th championship, after the 1968-1969 season. THe Celtics didn't win a championship again until 5 years later (OK, Havliceck was still there, but, c'mon, 5 years?)

Here's some of his Bio from -

Bill Russell was the cornerstone of the Boston Celtics' dynasty of the 1960s, an uncanny shotblocker who revolutionized NBA defensive concepts. A five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 12-time All-Star, the angular center amassed 21,620 career rebounds, an average of 22.5 per game and led the league in rebounding four times. He had 51 boards in one game, 49 in two others and a dozen consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more rebounds.

His many individual accolades were well deserved, but they were only products of Russell's philosophy of team play. His greatest accomplishment was bringing the storied Celtics 11 championships in his 13 seasons. Until the ascent of Michael Jordan in the 1980s, Russell was acclaimed by many as the greatest player in the history of the NBA.

And what it says about Russell vs. Chamberlain-

Russell's greatest adversary, Wilt Chamberlain, entered the NBA and joined the Philadelphia Warriors for the 1959-60 season, setting up a decade-long rivalry. The debate over who was the greater player would last even longer. Chamberlain put up incredible numbers during the period in which the two went head to head, but Russell helped the Celtics hang nine NBA championship flags in the Garden in his first 10 seasons.

As Celtics player Don Nelson told the Boston Herald, "There are two types of superstars. One makes himself look good at the expense of the other guys on the floor. But there's another type who makes the players around him look better than they are, and that's the type Russell was."

Source NBA History

posted on Apr, 17 2006 @ 05:41 PM
Russell was the ingredient that put the Celtics over the top. He joined a team laden with talent and pushed them up to another level. Magic Johnson did that as well. The Lakers already had loads of ability with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkers, and Norm Nixon. But with Magic, they were a championship team.

To me, though, individual greatness means more thatn making your teammates around you better. I thoroughly disagree with Nellie's statement about the two types of players. Sometimes the best ones just have to take control and show everyone--including their teammates--why they are so great. What distinguishes the truly elite ones from someone like, say, Kobe Bryant, is that the elite can shine individually while still being team players. As a Bird fan I think of his performance in the 1988 playoffs against Detroit (one of the greatest games ever played; if you ever get a chance to see it on ESPNClassic, do it!). The whole team played well (McHale had 31, DJ had an amazing second half), but in the fourth quarter Bird took control with 20 points.

The greatest players are the ones who can put on brilliant performances while still leading their teams to victory.

posted on Apr, 17 2006 @ 06:11 PM
Ummm, Manute Bol??? Blows away EVERYONE, including even the great Mark Eaton, in blocked shots per minutes played. And unlike Eaton, he could hit the occasional trey (about 1 in 5, or so). Plus, I have his autographed card!!! And it's worth $8.00!!!

Whaddya guys think? Am I right? Was he the greatest ever? Am I just the only person in the U.S. brilliant enough to recognize how great he was?

BASEBALL History Nut

posted on Apr, 17 2006 @ 09:30 PM
Bol was the most impressive shot blocker I ever saw. I always remember and interview with Michael Jordan in the early 1990's. The interviewer was asking him what teams and defenders Jordan thought he had scored most against. He guessed the team he had the best average on--Cleveland--but he didn't know against which team he had the lowest PPG. It turned out it was Golden State. Jordan didn't hesitate when asked why that team did so well against him: Manute Bol.

Bol's secret was that he NEVER went for a pump fake. He always stayed on his feet with both hands up. He only jumped if the shooter did. And he didn't do that stupid showboating swatting of shots. He just simply tipped the ball to a teammate. Goofy looking guy (he was only 190 lb in college), but he was the best shot blocker ever.

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