Jay C. Brandriet
Which guys have been “the best player in the NBA?”
It’s a subjective topic.
This is less about facts, and more about gut feeling and opinion.
I’ll only include the time I have been watching pro hoops (mid 1980’s to 2020).
I did not see Kareem, Moses, or Erving at their prime level.
Many have flirted with the crown of best player, and come up short.
There would be too many to mention.
Examples would be KG, Karl Malone, David Robinson, and Steph Curry.
Larry Bird- The 1984-86 version of Bird was the baddest man on the planet.
Magic Johnson- In 1987, Pat Riley told Magic the team was now his. Magic made sure it was his league as well.
Michael Jordan- It seemed like Jordan was competing against the game, as much as his opponents. The man played ball with his tongue out.
Hakeem Olajuwon- MJ’s time in baseball, left Hakeem underrated. “Dream” had the most impact on both ends of the floor. He smoked the elite centers in May and June.
Tim Duncan- He was immediately a poised winner. Tim became the top player almost casually.
Shaquille O’ Neal- His apex was unreal. He was unguardable. Shaq was often an automatic bucket. Three straight Finals MVP’s.
Kobe Bryant- Kobe came in dripping with self belief. There was a greedy aroma to his greatness. He was the most competitive, skilled, difficult shot maker of his time.
LeBron James- The easiest way to measure LeBron’s status as a legend, is not by Finals appearances or stats. What impresses me the most, is the amount of time that he’s been the best in the game.
HELD THE CROWN FOR JUST A MINUTE
Dwyane Wade- He was not only the 2006 Finals MVP, he was masterful. That hesitation dribble and parades to the foul line left him the runaway hero of the series.
Dirk Nowitzki- Dirk was already a superstar. His clutch effort and will in the 2011 Finals, left him number one on my list.
Kawhi Leonard- In Toronto for a one year, Kawhi made the stop worth it. He led them to a championship. Add in that KD was injured, and LeBron slipped a bit. Leonard pushed Giannis aside, and became the main man of the 2019 season.
THE MOST DEBATABLE
Kevin Durant- KD was a top three player forever. He did everything right in the Finals. He had the numbers, the moments, and the victories.
What clouds things a little is the stacked team he played for, and the reality that LeBron was still rolling.
Durant felt more like, he had an amazing argument. It did not seem concrete.
So KD is better than Wade and Dirk right? He’s every bit as good as Kawhi too.
Sometimes being the best, is also about how the story plays out.
Jay C. Brandriet