It’s been 20 seasons since Michael Jordan added his sixth ring and retired as a member of the Chicago Bulls. From that time to today, there has been a dramatic shift in how people perceive MJ.
Jordan is the greatest player I’ve ever seen, in any sport. The first 10 years after hitting that shot at Utah, he was actually overrated. Really!
Fans said he was WAY better than Magic and Bird. I had to explain it was closer than that.
They said Pippen was a joke. The focus was on how he was NOT a top 50 player. They talked about how in his first few years he was essentially a nobody. I was told how Michael had to push him physically and challenge him mentally. It was said Michael created Pippen. I had to tell them regardless of that, Scottie was anywhere from the 4th to 13th best player in the world on six championship teams.
People said Rodman was a detriment. They said he was a distraction, Apparently all he could do was rebound, and was not worthy of the Hall of Fame. I would talk about the energy he created to change crowds and games nightly.
Hakeem and his Rockets still don’t get enough credit for their back to back titles in the mid 1990’s, because Mike was playing baseball.
Even from people who hated MJ, his reputation became inflated. It’s like he never missed a shot, never lost a game, and never failed in the clutch. The idea was “Air Jordan” couldn’t possibly have a flaw or have done anything wrong on the basketball floor. As a Washington Wizard, he was still a legit All-Star (top 24 to 30 player). He was viewed as a mythical figure, even as he now had cracks. I had to bring up the mistakes, and the failures. Jordan was not perfect, he’s just the closest thing to a perfect player I have seen.
Now its two decades later and a shift has occurred. Time has passed and new greats have emerged. Many lovers of the game did not see MJ at his apex (1990-93). Jordan has actually become, underrated. I never thought I’d see it. I never thought I’d say it.
Kobe was a sobering figure in some ways. Not only did he play like Michael, he came awfully close to being as good. His career reminded us, legends keep coming and number 23 was probably a human being. LeBron James is the real deal. He is worth the noise he creates in sports. He also has legions of fans (who never saw prime Mike) making up lies and trying to alter the narrative on Jordan.
All of the sudden in 2018, being undefeated and never being pushed to seven games in the Finals is not that big of a deal.
There is now this hilarious take that “Jordan never beat great teams in the Finals.”
Some TV personalities say with a straight face that Michael had help on his early Chicago teams, and underachieved.
The once ultra criticized Scottie Pippen is now said to be among the VERY BEST to ever play, and MJ could never do anything without him.
There is this idea brewing that Michael was mostly a scorer, and may have lacked a complete game.
I’ve heard his numbers somehow have flaws compared to others.
I saw Jordan. He was the most complete, fundamentally sound player I have watched (he hit his free throws too). He was the most fierce, the most athletic, and creative. His ability to close games and choke teams out was THE KEY to his biggest victories.
No Michael could not average 50 points if he wanted, and he could not win games simply by using the force. If you are invested in LeBron’s climb up the ladder, put your focus on him. If you are trying to diminish who Jordan was, you are playing the fool.
I just finished watching LeBron play a string of 20 straight games. It’s late in his fifteenth NBA season, and something hit me like a ton of bricks today. I think it’s time to say “King James” is the second best basketball player of all time. I could not be more objective on this subject. I’m not a “LeBron guy.” My buddy Russ used James as a weapon in arguments against my favorite players. I was built to hope LBJ did not succeed. Modern commentators (Nick Wright) that lie about Jordan, to build up James also annoy me to no end. If you saw Michael Jordan play in real-time at his apex, it would likely be obvious to you HE is the “GOAT.”
I’m a Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant fan. I have no horse in this race. I do not cheer for LeBron. If anything, I’d be the guy pointing out James said he would hit 80 percent of his foul shots for the first time this year, and that he’s currently at 72.6.
King was already in the argument as the second best ball player to live….then this season happened. He’s 53,000 total minutes into his career, and actually getting better. It’s not like he’s still an all-star or a superstar. LBJ is the best player in the world and it’s not close (and I AM a KD guy)! He’s adding onto his brilliance every single night. His turnaround jump shots have conviction, and they often resemble MJ and Hakeem. He feels himself from the three-point line. He’s thriving in odd team circumstances. James footwork is better, and his fakes have fakes. His post game is growing. I see more and more of his left hand. Even his missed shots are popping me out of my seat. If he’s lost foot speed or elevation, it’s a non issue. Coach Gordon Chiesa says he has “jack hammer power.” That muscle and finesse are a wonderful marriage. LeBron reminds me of Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, and Clyde Drexler. He is better than an amazing basketball player at this point, he’s a walking parade of greatness.
His level most times this season felt similar to Michael Jordan late in his Bulls career (1997-98 window). He’s abusing teams in the clutch, and doing it in a variety of ways. He will sometimes point to his pretend watch as if to say, “It’s time for me to close things down.” King is taking what he wants and his creativity and court vision are outrageous. He’s aware of his legacy and enjoying the ride. He’s smiling and laughing a lot. LeBron should be getting heavy legs, instead he’s somehow been reborn.
Let’s mention the guys we are all thinking about.
Jabbar remains more accomplished than James, but I would now put Kareem third all time.
I know you are the games greatest winner Mr. Bill Russell.
Wilt was so legit, I’d guess he would average 32/15/5 in today’s game.
Earvin had the perfect nickname in “Magic.” I’d trust him to make a goofy trick shot in pressure, more than I’d trust James to knock down a free throw.
Larry Bird. Larry freaking Bird!
It’s not that Kobe Bryant bailed LeBron and his teammates out in crunch time in the Gold Medal Game….it’s that James fans were texting me “give it to Kobe” when the game was on the line. Bryant was the “Killer” on the “Redeem Team.”
Shaq was that guy for a handful of years.
Hakeem was this level for a minute. Oscar? West? No.
Tim Duncan won a “few games.” He’s not LeBron.
I’ve seen enough. LeBron is second! His sustained excellence with what’s to come is a tough package to beat. While there are aspects of other players gifts I prefer more, James will have a resume that will look like it’s own mountain. I can no longer deny just HOW great the king is. I’m factoring in that I expect him to dominate for another half decade and win one to three more titles.
I envision James carrying the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals this summer. Once there, against a better TEAM I give him a coin flips chance to win it all. I think he can actually do it. He scares me that much. James is a little over celebrated for getting to Finals series and losing (he should get a complete pass for 2007). LeBron wants to be the best ever. We need to be stricter at holding him to “AirJordan” standards.
It’s hard for me to put him over Kobe and Magic. It is just a Sunday in late March when the Cavs won a road game in New Jersey. I don’t want to be right, I want to get it right. I also don’t want to be late. This LeBron storm is coming. If you can’t beat em, join em. James performance will back up my words, so it’s an easy claim to make.
Now, what will it take to catch that “ghost” Michael Jordan? Let’s talk about that after this season comes to an end.
I get it. You are probably in your mid twenties and have heard about Jordan your entire life. You respect the idea of him, but also maybe feel like he’s been pushed on you as the greatest by your Father, and ESPN. It’s a new day, and different narratives are being created about what Jordan was or was not. Many of these voices were too young to have seen Mike play in real-time. I’m here to help by telling you the truth. Jordan was even better than the hype. MJ is not a romantic idea people over 42 can’t get over because they are sentimental. He really happened, and it wasn’t that long ago. He’s not the name in the sport because of a cool logo and a wildly popular shoe. Michael’s that big, because the level he attained was that stunning. Jordan played basketball as well as anyone has ever done anything. He mastered his craft. He was Michael Jackson on stage, good.
These 40 points will help deliver my message.
#40- IN ELEVEN COMPLETE SEASONS WITH THE BULLS, JORDAN LED THE NBA IN TOTAL POINTS ELEVEN TIMES.
#39- OVER THE LAST 53 YEARS, ONE MAN HAS SCORED 3,000 POINTS IN A SEASON. MIKE!
#38- 40 POINT GAMES? THE GREAT SHAQUILLE O’NEAL HAD 49 OF THEM IN HIS CAREER. MJ HAD 37 OF THEM…..IN 1987.
#37- “I’M NOT SURE PEOPLE REALIZE HOW GOOD THIS GUY WAS. HE WAS THE BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER, THE BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER, THE BEST COMPETITOR. IF THERE IS EVER GOING TO BE SOMEONE GREATER, WE WILL ALL BE SCRATCHING OUR HEADS.” (Jerry West)
#36- MOST 30 POINT PLAYOFF GAMES (109), MOST 40 POINT PLAYOFF GAMES (38) AND MOST 50 POINT PLAYOFF GAMES(8).
#35- MANY PLAYERS FROM THE JORDAN ERA HAVE SAID IT WAS COMMON KNOWLEDGE THROUGH OUT THE NBA, TO NOT RILE MICHAEL UP. THE UNWRITTEN RULE WAS TO NOT TALK TO HIM. SOME WENT AS FAR AS AVOIDING LOOKING HIM IN THE EYES.
#34- MJ IS ONE OF THE ELITE SHOT BLOCKING GUARDS OF ALL TIME. AT 6’6″, JORDAN HAD 261 BLOCKS FROM 1986 to 1988 ALONE.
#33- HE WAS DURABLE. JORDAN NEVER MISSED A PLAYOFF GAME (179). HE SCORED 20 POINTS PLUS IN 97 PERCENT OF THOSE CONTESTS.
#32- OVER A FOUR GAME STRETCH OF THE 1993 FINALS…MICHAEL SCORED….42….44….55….AND 41 POINTS. HATERS WILL SAY HE WAS SHOOTING MORE THAN OTHERS….NO. THE RIGHT GUY WAS SHOOTING.
#31- SUGGESTION? “YOU TUBE” HIS PASSING SKILLS. HE WAS 8TH IN THE NBA IN ASSISTS IN 1989.
#30- JORDAN WAS THE BEST MID RANGE JUMP SHOOTER I’VE EVER SEEN.
#29- WITH HIS FIRST CRACK AT A FINALS IN 1991, MICHAEL PUT ON A PASSING CLINIC AND AVERAGED 11.4 DIMES IN THE SERIES. IN GAME 2…HE MADE 13 SHOTS IN A ROW.
#28- OVER HIS FIRST SEVEN YEARS, HIS LOWEST FREE THROW PERCENATGE WAS 84.0%
#27- HE AVERAGED 8 REBOUNDS A NIGHT IN 1989. NOT BAD FOR THE BEST IN GAME DUNKER OF ALL TIME (If you prefer Vince, it’s all good).
#26- JORDAN HAD HUGE HANDS. THE ADVANTAGE WAS CATCHING BETTER, PASSING BETTER, AND BEING A PUMP FAKING PUPPETEER. HE COULD TAKE THE BALL DIRECTLY FROM THE DRIBBLE TO ATTACKING THE RIM.
#25- NO OTHER PLAYER HAS AVERAGED OVER 30 POINTS IN THE PLAYOFFS FOR A CAREER. MJ AVERAGED 33.4
#24- JORDAN TOOK THE BALL AWAY CONSTANTLY. HE LED THE LEAGUE IN STEALS THREE TIMES, CAME IN SECOND TWICE, THIRD TWICE, AND FOURTH TWICE.
#23- HIS FOOT SPEED, QUICKNESS, AND HANG TIME WERE INSANE.
#22- IN THE SPRING OF 1989, MICHAEL PLAYED POINT GUARD AND HAD 10 TRIPLE DOUBLES IN AN 11 GAME SPAN. ESSENTIALLY HE HAD 36 PERCENT OF HIS CAREER TRIPLE DOUBLE TOTAL IN THREE WEEKS, BECAUSE HIS COACH ASKED HIM TO.
#21- HIS PLAYER EFFICIENCY RATING IS THE BEST EVER IN THE REGULAR SEASON, PLAYOFFS, AND FINALS.
#20- “WATCHING HIM AND PLAYING AGAINST HIM WERE MUCH DIFFERENT. I LEARNED A LOT THIS GAME….HOW TECHNICALLY SOUND HE WAS. HIS FUNDAMENTALS AND TECHNIQUE WERE FLAWLESS.” (Kobe Bryant after his first matchup with MJ).
#19- HE WAS THE REAL KING OF NEW YORK. THE BULLS HAD A HEATED RIVALRY WITH THE KNICKS. IT WAS SO PERSONAL AND PHYSICAL. MICHAEL WON ALL FIVE SERIES HE PLAYED AGAINST THEM. JORDAN WAS A DREAM KILLER.
#18- MIKE DIDN’T HAVE THREE POINT PROBLEMS. THE SHOT WAS NOT NEAR AS CALLED FOR IN HIS ERA. HE WON REGULAR SEASON, PLAYOFF, AND FINALS GAMES WITH THREES. HE HIT SIX TRIPLES IN A FINALS HALF, WITHOUT A MISS. TIMING MATTERS.
#17- IN 1996, ON A 87-13 TEAM (OVERALL), MICHAEL WAS 11TH IN THE NBA IN THREE POINT SHOOTING PERCENTAGE(42.7%). HE WAS EVEN GOOD AT THE THINGS PEOPLE SAY HE COULDN’T DO.
#16- NOBODY HAD BETTER STYLE AND CREATIVITY THAN JORDAN. IT’S NOT JUST THAT HE WOULD SCORE 10 QUICK POINTS, IT’S THAT EIGHT OF THEM WERE ELECTRIC SHOWTIME.
#15- MJ SCORED 51 AND 45 IN BACK TO BACK GAMES….AS A WASHINGTON WIZARD.
#14- “MICHAEL WAS SO DOMINANT, PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY, I ALWAYS GOT THE SENSE EVERYONE WAS AFRAID OF HIM. THE OPPONENTS, THE REFEREES, HIS TEAMMATES. HE WAS JUST SO DOMINANT WITH HIS PRESENCE.” (Steve Kerr)
#13- THE MIAMI HEAT RETIRED JORDAN’S NUMBER. HE DID NOT PLAY FOR THE HEAT. HE WAS JUST THAT BAD ASS.
#12- IN EACH OF HIS COMPLETE SEASONS BETWEEN 1987 AND 1997 MICHAEL LED THE NBA IN WIN SHARES. HE WAS ALSO SECOND TWICE. HE LOOKS THE SAME UNDER COOL MODERN STATS AS WELL.
#11- A BIG TIME NBA SCORER MAY SCORE OVER 50 POINTS, THREE OR FOUR TIMES IN A CAREER. “AIR JORDAN” DROPPED 50 PLUS…39 TIMES. HE SCORED OVER 60, FIVE TIMES.
#10- VERY FEW WOULD ADMIT IT THEN, BUT JORDAN WAS BETTER THAN MAGIC AND BIRD EVEN BEFORE HE WON BIG. THAT SAID….IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE HOW GOOD MAGIC AND BIRD WERE.
#9- EVERY GAME THAT JORDAN PLAYED, HE WAS EXPECTED TO LIVE UP TO HIS OWN MASSIVE STANDARDS. I ADMIRE HOW OFTEN HE ROSE TO THE OCCASION. HIGH STAKES EXPOSED HIS GREATNESS.
#8- HE HAD POWER, SUPREME FOOTWORK, AND A DYNAMITE POST GAME.
#7- MJ DID THE DIRTY WORK TOO. HE DID ALL THE SMALL THINGS THAT ANY GUY ON THE END OF THE BENCH WOULD DO. WHEN HIS SHOT WAS NOT FALLING, HE WAS GOOD AT SIMPLIFYING THINGS.
#6- IN THE FINALS HE WAS A 33.6 POINT, 6 REBOUND, 6 ASSIST GUY. HE DOMINATED ON DEFENSE AND MADE BIG PLAY AFTER BIG PLAY….THAT’S ALL.
#5- NOBODY HAD ENERGY LIKE JORDAN. HE WAS THE MOST RELENTLESS, AGGRESSIVE PLAYER IN THE WORLD. THE LATER THE GAME GOT, THE MORE JUICE HE HAD.
#4- MJ SEEMED TO OFTEN TAKE WHAT HE WANTED WHEN HE WANTED. HE PLAYED WITH FURY AND LASER FOCUS. HIS WILL AND SKILL LEFT HIM THE BEST I’VE EVER SEEN. SEVEN OR EIGHT GUYS HAVE BEEN CLOSE TO AS GOOD….JORDAN WAS THE CLOSEST TO BEING A “TEN”.
#3- COMPARE HIM TO TODAY’S GREATEST WHERE IT MATTERS MOST. LEBRON JAMES…A TOP 5 PLAYER EVER….WHO IS STILL ROLLING….HAS PLAYED 3,300 MORE MINUTES THAN JORDAN….AND HAS THREE LESS RINGS AND FINALS MVP’S. IN A LONGER CAREER, CHANGING TEAMS TWICE IN HIS PRIME, SOMEONE AS ELITE AS JAMES, HAS HALF OF MIKE’S BEST JEWELRY.
#2- PEOPLE UNDER DOING 6-0 IN THE FINALS IS SICKENING. HE PLAYED IN THE 1990’S YOU JOKERS. LET’S JUST SAY THOSE BASKETBALL TEAMS AND TALENT HOLD THEIR OWN COMPARED TO ANY DECADE. HE TOOK DOWN THE 90’S BEST. HE WON 69 PERCENT OF HIS FINALS GAMES. HIS TEAMS WERE GREAT. DON’T GET IT TWISTED…HIS BRILLIANCE AND SYMPHONY OF CLUTCH PLAY….IS WHY….HIS TEAMS WON 25 OF THE LAST 26 PLAYOFF SERIES HE WAS A PART OF.
#1- MJ IN THE LOCKER ROOM….SITTING WITH SCOTTIE PIPPEN AFTER THE 1998 FINALS IN SALT LAKE CITY….”SIX….SIX…..SIX OF THEM…(raising his voice)…SIX OF THEM! YOU ALL CAN SAY WHATEVER YOU WANT…THEY CAN’T WIN UNTIL WE QUIT.”
Trying to compare LeBron James to another player I’ve seen is impossible. There has never been anyone quite like him in pro basketball. He’s so unique it took these six great players to explain how I see him.
KARL MALONE (25%) Have you ever seen the 6’9″, 260 lb. Karl Malone filling the outside lane on the fast break? Scary! His body was a weapon and nobody delivered at the rim like “The Mailman”. When you look at LeBron in transition you see something similar. He’s a freight train and it might be smart to move aside. I watched Karl score 37,000 points and many of them were playing “bully ball” like James has. They each seal defenders off down low, and guys bounce off their muscles. They both hit about 74% of their foul shots. LeBron is durable and sometimes seems bionic. He will get hurt, and will be running full speed a few minutes later. Malone played 80 or more games an incredible 17 times.
EARVIN “MAGIC” JOHNSON (30%)
Among the greatest passers, my favorite was Magic. He was the ultimate conductor and it seemed like he had four guys on a string. LeBron, like Magic before him is obsessed with making his teammates better. They both lead with joy and a brain for the game. James was a share first guy from day one, and is one of the elite passers in his own right. He comes up with crafty stuff, especially getting the ball cross court. The King and Magic are also a perfect match as rebounders. LeBron seems to go the Finals every year, a place Johnson found himself 9 times over 12 seasons.
SCOTTIE PIPPEN (15%)
It’s the point forward thing. Mostly it’s that Scottie Pippen was a defensive terror with athleticism and length. He could matchup all over the floor. LeBron can check anyone in the league in a pinch. His defensive versatility is arguably his most impressive trait.
MICHAEL JORDAN (20%)
Michael Jordan took what he wanted when driving to the hole. He’d pull up and go glass, go around you, over you, and even through you. LeBron James is unstoppable driving to the basket. Finesse and power come together in harmony. Nobody had energy like Jordan. He only slept four hours a night during his prime. Dropping 22 in the final quarter, while shutting down his man was just another Tuesday night for Mike. King James is producing a new kind of energy. He has a body and a skill set that has him on pace to be great at an older age than anyone in NBA history. In his 15th pro season, LBJ is slapping father time in the face.
Jordan is the greatest player I’ve ever seen. It was not because he was 6-0 in the Finals….He actually just played basketball better than everyone else has. As LeBron ages, he reminds me more of Michael now than ever.
CLYDE DREXLER (5%)
LeBron also has a smooth side. I think of Clyde “The glide” at his best. Drexler would spin and lay it in pretty. He may dunk it from 10 feet out, or swoop in for a timely finger roll.
DWYANE WADE (5%)
On a professional and personal level LeBron and D Wade are close and share a lot of beliefs and history inside the game. Both guys are explosive scorers. Their similar styles were evident in the alley-oop connection they displayed in Miami. King James is a much better clutch player than his reputation suggests.
When Tim Duncan said goodbye to the game of basketball two summers ago, the focus should have been on his brilliant career. Instead, it was an opportunity for the media to take shots at Kobe Bryant. Both players are now retired after a combined 10 NBA titles and 33 All-Star games. Many claimed “Duncan was the best player of his generation.” They said it so nonchalant, as if it was common knowledge. I heard “at least Tim didn’t take 50 shots in his last game.” There was, “Duncan retired with so much more class than Kobe.” Everyone kept bringing up the amount of money Bryant was paid his last two seasons. These takes are meaningless to the argument. You not liking Kobe, doesn’t change that he’s exactly, on the Tim Duncan level.
MY TAKE ON BRYANT
Kobe had as much skill, balance, and competitive heat as anyone who has played the game. His desire to be a student, ability to make difficult shots, and fundamentals were as good as it gets. He had Hakeem Olajuwon trained footwork and his handles have gone under the radar. Above all else, “the black mamba” was a spectacular performer. He excelled in pressure. Scoring 50 in a game is a dream for most guys. Kobe once dropped 55 in a half. The Lakers star poured in 50 plus points ten times….in one season. I remember a week and a half stretch where he hit the game winning bucket each night. Kobe not only bailed out Team USA in the clutch for a gold medal, the best players in the world were begging him to do it. He was close to “Michael Jordan good.” Let that sink in.
MY TAKE ON DUNCAN
It was memorable to watch Tim Duncan be so poised and capable of being the best, on the biggest stage, as just a youngster. He later grew up battling Garnett, Webber, Rasheed Wallace, and Elton Brand every night. Duncan was the man among those men. His brains, his array of post moves, back to the basket game, cool use of the glass, and unselfishness stand out. Tim had terrific hands and was a precise passer. He is likely one of the five best defensive players of my lifetime. The guy was still protecting the rim well as an older player. “The big fundamental” was a winner his entire career. His teams won 50 or more games in 17 straight seasons. Tim was the face of consistent, humble dominance.
SO WHO WAS BETTER?
It’s close! It’s a real debate. Their careers are equal. Taking each guy at their very best, it’s Kobe. His greatness was more jaw-dropping. Choose Duncan for the work on the floor. Don’t be clouded by him being the guy who should lead boy scouts, while Bryant is the teeth grinding villain. This is how we would go back and forth. You’d say Timmy has one more MVP than Kobe. I’d tell you Bryant has been the Western Conference player of the month 16 times to Duncan’s 3. You’ll say Duncan has one more Finals MVP. I’ll bring up Bryant averaging 29/7/7 on a record-setting 15-1 playoff run where Kobe was not MVP. You’ll say Kobe had Shaq. I’ll say the Spurs were awesome and Shaq had Kobe. You’ll say Duncan was a better teammate. I’ll say Kobe had the aggressive confidence of a lion. You’ll say Duncan had a better regular season winning percentage. I’ll add Bryant played in one more NBA Finals than Tim. You’ll bring up the big mans tremendous defense. I’ll agree, but we all know Kobe was a super defensive player. You’ll say Duncan took less money to give back to his franchise. I’ll say Bryant was more compelling and helped globalize the game. If you think Tim Duncan was the best player of his generation, it’s a legit take…It’s just not a fact.
I’M ONLY RANKING THE PLAYERS I HAVE SEEN IN MY TIME OF OBSESSIVELY WATCHING NBA BASKETBALL (1987-2015). The years noted next to the players are the span of time they played, not necessarily the exact seasons. Guys that are active are still climbing an ever-changing list like this one. There are a handful of players I saw play, but count them for this list. I did not see them enough or at their best.
PLAYERS I WATCHED THAT I DID NOT COUNT FOR THIS LIST: Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Moses Malone, Adrian Dantley, Bernard King, Mark Aguirre, Alex English, Dennis Johnson, Robert Parish, Rolando Blackman, Fat Lever , Ricky Pierce, Xaiver Mcdaniel, Tom Chambers & Larry Nance.
HONORABLE MENTION: Gilbert Arenas, Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Tim Hardaway, and Derrick Coleman.
THE 60 BEST PLAYERS I’VE SEEN AS OF JULY, 2015:
#60- ANTHONY DAVIS (Active) I’m giving Davis an early ticket on this list. Like Shaquille O’Neal being voted a “top 50 player” too early, sometimes you can give credit for upside. Most NBA insiders think Davis is THE next guy. It’s obvious he’s going to be in the conversation.
#59- JAMES HARDEN (Active) For all that he has yet to do, it’s clear Harden’s impact level is here to stay. His step back jumper allows him to get shots off with little space. James is a master at drawing contact. I did not think he would ever end up second on an NBA MVP ballot.
#58- KEVIN JOHNSON (1987-2000) Many think of the images of the 6-foot-1 Johnson hammering it on Hakeem Olajuwon and Mark Eaton. The mayor could ball! In 105 playoff games KJ averaged 19.3 points and 8.9 assists per game.
#57- DERRICK ROSE (Active) Derrick is the youngest player to ever be named NBA MVP (22). It may be difficult for Rose to get back to that level again. I’ve seen enough to know he’s one of the most explosive, determined guards to play the game.
#56- LARRY JOHNSON(1991-2001)If healthy, Larry Johnson would have been a Hall of Fame player. He had elegance in his power game. Johnson hit one of the biggest shots and free throws in New York Knicks history.
#55- RUSSELL WESTBROOK (Active) Russell charging at a defense makes me think of back peddling in a panic. Former player Antoine Carr described his reason for liking Westbrook, “He seems to play angry every night man.”
#54- CHRIS BOSH(Active) After his last season in Toronto, I thought Chris peaked as the 12th best player in the NBA. His contribution was a huge reason the Heat went to four straight Finals and brought home two rings. Bosh plays outstanding pick and roll defense.
#53- MANU GINOBILI (Active) The 57th overall pick of the 1999 draft has become an unforgettable gem. Manu is the perfect combination of showtime and grit.
#52- CHAUNCEY BILLUPS (1997-2014) Basketball people love Billups. He went from a hard-working journeyman to a five time NBA All-Star and a Finals MVP. With a name like “Mr. Big Shot” we can assume this guy did alright.
#51- BUCK WILLIAMS(1981-1998)Before I saw him play Buck had five 1000 plus rebound seasons. I remember when he competed in 58 playoff games with the Blazers over a few year stretch. He could bang with someone like Karl Malone and make it a fair fight in the toughness category.
#50- DIKEMBE MUTOMBO(1991-2009)Mutombo made his name with smothering defense and a cool finger waggle. He was an eight time All-Star and four-time Defensive Player of the Year.
#49- AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE (Active) Amar’e was an exotic talent. He was a better Blake Griffin. Stoudemire was at his best during the Western Conference Finals versus San Antonio in his second season. He dropped 37 a game in dominating fashion. I thought then he was the third best player on the planet.
#48- SHAWN KEMP (1989-2003) Kemp was the first player I ever thought of as a “man child”. Even raw and young, he would explode off of the television. Shawn helped the 1996 Seattle Supersonics to 64 wins and the NBA Finals. As an older player in Cleveland he started burying the outside shot from the elbow.
#47- RASHEED WALLACE (1995-2013)Rasheed had great extension on his shot and range that stretched deep. Wallace was unstoppable when he was aggressive. He is the most gifted, reluctant player of his time (Odom is number two).
#46- TONY PARKER (Active) The longer Tony keeps his dribble alive, he seems to get more dangerous. His 17 foot jumper and his floater are staples that have helped his teams win four World Championships.
#45- CARMELO ANTHONY (Active) The media loves to talk about the holes in Carmelo’s game. I gained my respect for Melo watching his Olympic play in 2008. When he’s on your side it’s easy to see his scoring prowess. His mid range game is butter, and he can be trusted in crunch time.
#44- VINCE CARTER (Active) Vince was an aesthetically pleasing player to watch. His aerial game left you waiting for his next new move. Carter became a weapon from the three-point line and has a 50 point playoff game to his credit. His transition to excellent role player in his later years is a the bow on his Hall of Fame caliber career.
#43- JOE DUMARS (1985-1999) Rolling with a group of “bad boys”, Joe was the face of class and integrity. He shot it well, passed with precision, and was cool late in games. Dumars deserves the label of “combo guard.” Michael Jordan admired the challenge Joe presented him.
#42- PAU GASOL (Active) His mix of length and skill are transcendent. Gasol was the lead guy in Memphis on a 50 win team. He was the difference maker for Kobe’s Lakers teams that played in three straight Finals series. As a Chicago Bull in the 2015 campaign, he had the most Double doubles in the NBA with 54.
#41-DWIGHT HOWARD (Active) Dwight has become so overrated, hes underrated. His body and athleticism have aided him in being a historic defender. Howard has been the league leader in blocks five times. For all of those that dump on him the last few years, don’t forget Dwight is a 19.5 point, 14.1 rebound, and 2.6 block guy in 84 playoff games.
#40- MITCH RICHMOND (1988-2002) Richmond’s great play was a little under the radar in Golden State and Sacramento. Mitch finished strong at the cup. He scored 21 points per game or more in 10 straight seasons and hit 85 percent of his career free throws.
#39- CHRIS MULLIN (1985-2001) Chris watched the 1988 All-Star game from rehab. A year later he was playing in the 1989 All-Star game in Houston. He went from 30 pounds over weight to being part of “Run TMC” and leading the league in minutes twice. Mullin had super vision.
#38- DENNIS RODMAN (1986-2000) Rodman made hustle sexy. His energy seemed tangible and it drove his teams and his home crowds. Dennis led the league in rebounding over seven consecutive years, pulling down an eye-popping 16.7 a night.
#37- RAY ALLEN (1996-2014) When Ray Allen was in town I would always show up early to watch his pre game shooting routine. It was more than spectacular. It was a front row seat to the reminder that being great does not happen on accident.
#36- CHRIS PAUL (Active) He wears how bad he wants to beat you on his sleeve. Chris has led the league in steals per game five times in his 10 seasons. Although CP3 has not advanced to a Conference Final, the shot he hit to beat the Spurs in game seven (2015) should validate him the same.
#35- PENNY HARDAWAY (1993-2008) Penny had it all in his game. He was a big guard who had hops, could post, and was a suburb show passer. On a desperate Orlando team in 1997, Hardaway scored 42 and 41 points in back to back playoff wins.
#34- REGGIE MILLER(1987-2005)His constant motion was as much his staple as his long distance shooting. He was so difficult to chase it consumed teams. Miller would embrace pressure. He was always willing to dare the moment, which made for great theater in the clutch.
#33- TRACY MCGRADY (1997-2012) In his Orlando days, Tracy was an athletic phenom. He was like “Kobe East.” As a Rocket he remained a scoring expert, while his ability to pass the ball cross court was on full display. McGrady was a two-time scoring champion.
#32- ALONZO MOURNING(1992-2008)After a December 2007 game in Salt Lake City, I asked Mourning “what is the number one thing you have learned about yourself over the last few years?” He took his time cutting his last toe nail, looked up and said, “that I’m a tough son of a bitch.”
#31- GRANT HILL (1994-2013) Grant burst onto the scene as the new age point forward. He was a smooth and dynamic ball player. Late in a career full of injuries, Hill developed a reputation as a good defensive player.
#30- JAMES WORTHY(1982-1994)He would wave the ball above his head, palming it like a grapefruit. If Worthy didn’t get you with his first step, he would feel the defenders and quickly spin to the rim. “Big Game James” went 15 for 22 from the field in game seven of the 1988 NBA Finals.
#29- STEPHEN CURRY (Active) He’s only a puppy, and showing us things we have never witnessed before. His handles and shot are arguably the best we have seen. His ability to shoot off the dribble and the pass is seemingly effortless. This makes him the leading man in the long distance shooting era.
#28- JASON KIDD (1994-2013) Kidd was the unselfish play maker of the day. His ability to pass and hit the boards made him a triple double threat every night (his 107 is 3rd all time).
#27- PAUL PIERCE (Active) Pierce thrives in pressure moments. He is in the closer’s club. Paul is a Boston Celtics legend whose playoff career will be the roots of his legacy. Defensively Pierce created a hurdle for LeBron James. His nickname “The Truth”, was given to him by Shaquille O’ Neal.
#26- GARY PAYTON (1990-2007) When I think of “the glove”, I picture him in his defensive crouch. His palms out, his head rocking side to side, and chewing his gum like the cockiest man alive. Gary Payton was also awesome at basketball.
#25- KEVIN MCHALE(1980-1993) His odd framed body combined with all of his pet moves made McHale a back to the basket wizard. Charles Barkley said about Kevin, “He was almost an impossible cover. I would just stand there with my arms raised up as high as I could get them. Then you just hoped he missed.”
#24- KEVIN DURANT (Active) He has the unique physical tools, the strong mental makeup, and the drive that makes him a lock for greatness. KD will begin his prime years of play this winter. Durant has already been the league MVP. He has finished in second place in the voting three times.
#23- DOMINIQUE WILKINS (1982-1999) Dominique Wilkins was left off the NBA’s 50th Anniversary Team in 1996. Wilkins became the popular name missing from the top 50 list. Magic, Bird, and Jordan quickly made the point Nique deserved the same honor that they did. His 1988 playoff performance with 47 points remains a record for a game seven.
#22- CHRIS WEBBER(1993-2008)In my opinion, Webber was the top player in the NBA for the first half of the 2000 NBA season. Chris had good patience under the rim. He had amazing hands and caught everything. At the time C Webb was the best front court passer since Larry Bird.
#21- SCOTTIE PIPPEN (1987-2004) Pippen is the most disrespected star of my lifetime. He is perceived as a player that was carried to his success. The reality is, Scottie won six Championships while ranging between the 3rd and 12th best player on earth. He was a lock down defender and as well-rounded as they come.
#20- PATRICK EWING (1985-2002) He was the prize of the 1985 draft and did not disappoint. Patrick had all of the rugged traits with an iconic turn around shot from the baseline. Ewing was named “Player of the Month” 5 times.
#19- ALLEN IVERSON (1996-2010) Iverson destroyed defenses with his relentless play and blinding quickness. He was constantly on the floor sacrificing his body. Allen led the league in average minutes seven times. A guy that scores 30 points in the opening half of his first NBA Finals game, is obviously not scared.
#18- STEVE NASH (1996-2014) Steve had excellent balance and footwork. He was a degree of difficulty shot maker, and did it shooting elite percentages. His style could seem chaotic but Steve was in complete control. Teams were built around his unique abilities.
#17- DIRK NOWITZKI (Active) I’ll never forget his 2011 Finals performance. It was among the greatest efforts where one man carried a group. You could see his experiences paying off in the fourth quarter. Dirk slowly out matured the Miami Heat when it mattered the most.
#16- CLYDE DREXLER (1983-1998) I can see Drexler dribbling full speed ahead with his head down. Clyde was traded to the Rockets in 1995. Some teammates resented him because they missed Otis Thorpe. After dropping 41 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists in a playoff game down two games to one to Utah, ended questions over the trade. Kenny Smith said, “we remembered quickly he was special.”
#15- ISIAH THOMAS (1981-1994) Isiah played the game like he knew he was being watched. He was a crowd pleaser and was a difficult player to upstage. His 1,123 assists remain an Eastern Conference record that will be hard to touch.
#14- KEVIN GARNETT (Active) KG was an animated character. At his best, he could guard every player on the court. Garnett was so wound up in his early years, he would not let the ball go in his teams hoop even after the whistle had blown.
#13- DWYANE WADE (Active) The self security Wade showed in how he handled James and Bosh in Miami was vital to the bond and the winning. His hesitation dribble sets up his beautiful drives into the paint. The 6-foot-4 Wade has 717 blocks in only 781 games.
#12- CHARLES BARKLEY (1984-2000) There was nobody quite like Charles. For his size, his rebounding numbers are epic. He shot 58 percent from the floor over his first six seasons. Being the standout player on the original “Dream Team” is his coolest accomplishment.
#11- JOHN STOCKTON(1984-2003)Stockton was so good at making decisions he made me think and guess the game as a viewer. John scored 19, 711 points shooting 51.5 percent on field goals. On the side, he was busy crushing opponents physically in the pick-setting part of the game. Only three players have produced a 1,000 assist season. John accomplished that feat seven different times.
#10- DAVID ROBINSON (1989-2003) “The Admiral” was chiseled, mobile, and cat quick. The last quadruple-double in the NBA was February 17th, 1994. Robinson had 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 blocks against the Pistons. After the height of his individual glory, he tutored Tim Duncan which paid off with two Championships.
#9- KARL MALONE (1985-2004) One of the most impressive sights in modern basketball was the 6-foot-9 inch, 260 pound “Mailman” running the outside lane on the fast break. Backing his guy down in the paint, Karl would seal the player on his hip and it was over. Nobody was stronger and he was not going to be outworked. Malone made the ALL-NBA First Team 11 times.
#8- HAKEEM OLAJUWON(1984-2002)At his apex (1993-97), Hakeem had the most impact on offense and defense in harmony than anyone else I’ve seen in the NBA. He mowed down beasts of the game to win his two titles. “Dream” remains the only player with over 200 blocks and 200 steals in the same season.
#7- LEBRON JAMES (Active) James is the finest combination of power and finesse the game has seen. He is as unselfish as an elite scorer can be. His defense is wildly versatile. LeBron’s on the level where being the best ever has to be his goal.
#6- SHAQUILLE O’NEAL (1992-2011) Phil Jackson coaching Shaquille O’Neal in his prime created a monster. The motivated, refined version of Shaq was so dominant, it made us all think of Wilt. O’Neal was the most automatic bucket in the NBA. He led the league in field goal percentage 10 times.
#5- TIM DUNCAN (Active) Tim is arguably the best player during his time in pro basketball. Duncan is a five time NBA Champion whose teams have won 50 or more games in 16 straight years. He’s everyone’s favorite model of poise and consistency.
#4- LARRY BIRD (1979-1992) Bird had an intimidating swagger about himself. He seemed to be playing cat and mouse with his opponents. He made an art form out of crafty play. Larry was the leader of arguably the greatest team of all time, the 1986 Boston Celtics (40-1 at home).
#3- KOBE BRYANT (Active) I believe Bryant is the greatest, fundamentally sound offensive player in the history of the game. His footwork and tough shot making ability are incomparable. Kobe once out scored the Dallas Mavericks 62-61 through three quarters. Dallas had played three more minutes than him.
#2- MAGIC JOHNSON (1979-1996) Magic smiled while he humiliated people. He always seemed to have his four offensive teammates on a string. Johnson had an incredible feel for what his team needed. He played in 9 NBA Finals. If you needed a 50 foot shot to win the game, Magic would give you a solid chance. He has the most fitting nickname in sports.
#1- MICHAEL JORDAN (1984-2003) Jordan is the best team sports athlete I’ve ever seen. He often owned the game and seemed to take what he wanted on the floor. He was asked to live up to “Jordan standards” every night. It’s amazing how often he would match or exceed those expectations. Michael scored 40 or more points in a game 37 times…in 1987 alone.
Because of LeBron James great play in a losing effort, the voters got confused and picked the wrong player for this years Finals MVP. Andre Iguodola was the “x factor”, not the Most Valuable Player. Stephen Curry was the athlete who should have been given the award.
IT WAS CLOSE: Going into game six I thought of a couple scenarios in which LeBron and his Cavs could lose, and he would still capture the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP. For five seconds I considered a way in which Iguodola could come out on top. The way the final game played out ensured to me neither of those guys would take home the hardware. Curry was the best choice. I was a bit shocked when Andre was being handed the trophy. I accepted it for a minute as I knew his contribution was huge. It took half an hour before I was annoyed. I’d guessed the previous 27 winners correctly, and I felt like it should be 28. It’s not a huge sports robbery, but it’s one worth bringing up. The 11 voters gave Iguodola seven votes and LeBron four. Curry not receiving a vote is inexcusable.
WHY I CAN’T ACCEPT VOTING FOR JAMES: LeBron would have been my clear second choice. A legendary player carried this group to an Eastern Conference title. LeBron had to lift a lot in this championship battle and he did an awesome job. His versatility, leadership, and ability to physically consume the game were on full display. His all around numbers were glowing as always. His lack of help also contributed to him shooting 34 percent from the field in the fourth quarters and overtimes. For the level James is on (chasing Jordan) he came up flat in games four and six in Cleveland. If the King would have won, it would have been the greatest one man show in NBA history considering the roster. The Cavaliers lost. I could not justify choosing LeBron.
THE WARRIORS DON’T WIN WITHOUT IGUODOLA: The difference Andre made was obvious. He defended LeBron admirably. He had a super performance in the close out game. He hit open jumpers and made a ton of key plays. Andre was so vital, we don’t need to bring up his awful free throw shooting. Nobody would have expected Iguodola to be in the conversation for Finals MVP going into the series. His standout play muddied the race. He ended up being graded on the curve. The voters got cute. They thought out of the box instead of keeping it simple.
CURRY WOULD HAVE MADE THE MOST SENSE: Through the first three games Steph was a little bit under the Cavaliers thumb. He would dominate in spurts compared to his usual most of the time. The bigger the games got, the more I saw the 2015 NBA MVP. Remember that guy that is shooting the ball on a different level than we have ever seen? How about that dude with some of the sickest handles ever who dominated the Western Conference all season? That same guy played in the NBA Finals. He still made incredible shots and passes. He provided space to his team on offense and rose to the occasion late in games. He averaged 26 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds. He darted and danced to 37 points in game five, and played every bit as good as Iguodola in game six. The best player on the best team equals logical choice.
SUMMARY: Andre Iguodola should have been a distant third in the final tally. This came down to the worlds two best players. LeBron playing on a “9.2” level and losing, is not as good as Curry playing “8.65” and winning. I do see why those that voted messed up. They needed a half an hour to let it sink in like I did.