Larry Bird And The 9 Greatest Basketball Players of All Time

Larry Bird And The 9 Greatest Basketball Players of All Time

It’s time for Britannica, or at least one editor there, to enter the never-ending debate over the “greatest ever in [insert sport here]”. Although this editor (hey!) hasn’t been debating about sports with pals for almost as long as he has been following them avidly for almost thirty years, we’re still not officially a sports website. Naturally, this list is highly subjective, so it’s best not to take it too seriously. Unless you happen to agree with me, in which case this was my most profound writing to yet.

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    How come? How come the top scorer in NBA history is only ranked as the tenth best player of all time? Yes, indeed. Even though Kareem scored an incredible 38,387 points when he was on the court, I find it impossible to ignore the reality that the two greatest point guards of all time, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson, passed to him frequently throughout his career. In addition, the fact that he played in the NBA for almost 10,000 years increased his career totals. (Or twenty. Whatever.) Still, he was a formidable force that ruled the game for twenty years and developed the sky hook, one of the most exquisite shots in history. Moreover, he fought Bruce Lee in Game of Death and was hilarious in Airplane!, thus he has the highest cool factor of all the people on our list.

  • Tim Duncan

    I must admit that, despite my lifetime devotion to all Seattle sports teams, I had fantasies about the San Antonio Spurs teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Yes, they played a slow-paced style of basketball that left most fans to sleep by the third quarter, but Tim Duncan’s bank shot was frequently a sight to behold among the tire-fire of a 78-71 final score. Known by none other than Shaquille O’Neal as “The Big Fundamental,” Duncan was one of the greatest players of all time during his peak. Even though he didn’t have the same cultural influence as the other greats due to his infamously bland playing style and reserved personality, his four championships, fourteen All-Star Games, and two NBA MVP awards are undeniable proof of his extraordinary talent.

  • Shaquille O’Neal

    Shaquille O’Neal is at the other extreme of the “attractive play” range from Duncan. Shaq would frequently use his exceptional bulk (7’1″ and 315 pounds) to bully his way to the basket, while Timmy would use his excellent footwork to work his way around an opponent in the post. Once there, he would seal the victory with a forceful dunk—a tried-and-true tactic that helped O’Neal lead the NBA in field goal percentage ten times during his playing career. O’Neal, however, possessed more than just raw strength; for a man of his size, he was remarkably agile and had a fine touch when making close-range jump shots. Conversely, his free-throw shooting…

  • Larry Bird

    Be not deceived by his modest background from a small college and his moniker as the “Hick from French Lick”; Larry Bird was one of the most competitive and savage orators in NBA history. The ultra-confident Bird frequently informed his defender that the shot was going in as soon as it left his hands. He possessed what is likely the fastest release of any basketball player in history. In a 13-year career cut short by injuries, he amassed three championship rings and 12 All-Star appearances. Furthermore, in the 1980s, he developed a rivalry with Magic Johnson (who, spoiler alert, you’ll see a little later in this list) that propelled basketball to a never-before-seen degree of national prominence.

  • Bill Russell

    In NBA history, Russell emerged victorious in the end. During his 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, he was the league’s champion in all but two of them. Although there were only 8 to 14 teams in the NBA at the time, making it statistically easier for a single franchise to win a championship, Russell’s historical achievements are still undeniable. Before Russell joined the team, the Celtics had played for ten seasons and had never advanced to a championship series. However, Russell fundamentally altered the direction of the squad in his rookie season, making the Celtics the NBA’s most successful team. But he didn’t achieve any nebulous, ethereal “winningness” to merit a spot on our list. In addition to being one of the greatest defenders of all time and averaging an amazing 22.5 rebounds per game throughout his career, Russell also changed the meaning of shot blocking.

  • Oscar Robertson

    This dude, oh my god. Despite the fact that I am too young to have witnessed him play, his stats are so astounding that I wish I could travel back in time to witness him in action. “The Big O” averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists per game in 1961–1962—a triple-double. Not only that, but the 12-time All-Star’s historic antitrust complaint helped bring true free agency to the NBA, which is an accomplishment on par with his incredible on-court feats.

  • Wilt Chamberlain

    Although Chamberlain played during a period when post players were considerably smaller and basketball wasn’t attracting the same kind of athletic marvels as it does now, the man was so dominant that he should be in the top five regardless of the situation. Throughout his first four professional seasons, Chamberlain amassed the four highest NBA single-season scoring averages in history. Among his many scoring achievements, the most remarkable was on March 2, 1962, when he scored an NBA record-setting 100 points in a single game. Apart from his unparalleled ability to score baskets, Chamberlain was the only player in league history to pull down more rebounds per game than Bill Russell (22.9), all the while having the most number of minutes played per game (45.8). During his 14-year career, Chamberlain was only an All-Star in 12 regular season games due to an injury, but he still led his club to the NBA Finals after his comeback. That one season, however, he was not an All-Star.

  • Magic Johnson

    One of the liveliest characters to have ever played in the NBA, Johnson’s appeal had a significant role in the dramatic rise in the league’s profile in the 1980s. But his beauty was far from what he was. The “Showtime” L.A. Lakers teams, who won five titles in Johnson’s 13 years with the team, were made possible by his unexpected departure. In addition to recording the highest assists-per-game average (11.2) in league history, the 6’9″ Johnson—who is currently the tallest point guard in the NBA—also had an outstanding all-around performance. Known for playing center in the 1980 NBA finals title-clinching game six, he was a 20-year-old rookie who filled in for the injured Abdul-Jabbar. Oh, and it’s still really amazing and remarkable that he has successfully fought off HIV for more than 20 years, contributed to the de-stigmatization of AIDS through his high-profile advocacy, and started a second career as an entrepreneur who primarily opens businesses in impoverished areas in an effort to promote urban revitalization—all of which have nothing to do with his ranking on this list. Okay, so Magic Johnson is a cool guy.

  • Michael Jordan

    For daring to imply that His Airness isn’t the greatest player ever, well, I know I could get run out of my beloved Chicago on a rail, but, well, I just don’t think he is. The most well-known player of all time? Indeed. The most significant player of all time? Very likely. Most intensely competitive to the point of never being able to have a normal relationship with anyone?

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    Yes, oh my. With his unwavering drive to be the best, the guy has won six championships, five MVP honors, been named to the All-Star team each of his full playing seasons, and is arguably the greatest defender of all time. In addition, he leads the NBA in career scoring average with 30.1 points per game. However, during his most fruitful years, he was coached by the strategic wizard Phil Jackson and played with another top-25 player in Scottie Pippen. He was brilliant, but he also had a lot of assistance—at least more than the person after him on our list. To be quite honest, it’s kind of enjoyable to make fun of all the Chicagoans who are shockingly defensive about their athletic achievements. Related: Did you realize that the NFL’s finest defense in history was that of the Seattle Seahawks in 2013 history?

  • LeBron James

    Yes, the player that a lot of fans (ignorantly) think is the league’s most overrated choke artist is, in fact, the greatest player to ever step on a court.LeBron James simply does feats beyond the scope of human possibility. Even though he is larger than most NFL players, he nevertheless moves with the grace of the league’s best agile guards. In addition, he not only had to deal with the immense strain of being hailed as “The Chosen One” by Sports Illustrated when he was a teenager, but he also outperformed the high standards that were set for him. Even while past players were fantastic, they were never faced with the constant pressures of media in the twenty-first century, which James handles with ease. James had averaging a Robertson-esque 27.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 steals per game through the publishing of this list, and unlike the Big O, he was doing it against teams full of great athletes rather than players who smoked cigarettes at halftime. When he was criticized for not winning titles in his early career, they failed to mention that, at the age of just 22, he nearly single-handedly led the Cleveland Cavaliers, an overwhelming favorite, to the 2007 NBA Finals. Of course, since then, while playing for the Miami Heat, he has won two titles (and counting?). He not only regularly accomplishes things that I have never seen before, but he has also continuously improved his technique to address the relative flaws in which he was previously chastised. Not bad for the greatest of all time, isn’t it?

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