The top NBA players of all time have been selected by the fans of the sport, and can be considered to be their personal picks. But they are not always the best players of their generation. Michael Jordan is considered to be one of the greatest players ever, but so is Wilt Chamberlain. The great Bill Russell was five times NBA champion, and a player that many consider to be the best center ever.
That’s why we created this blog. It is our intention to make it number one in its category by providing interesting basketball facts that will attract readers from around the world.
The NBA season is over, and the finals are coming up. Here’s my list of the top 5 players of all time.
1. Michael Jordan
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
3. LeBron James
4. Kobe Bryant
5. Bill Russell
All stats are listed either as “career”, or by year, or in per minute averages for their careers (for example, this is how I do it).
This isn’t a real ranking, just a personal opinion based on
Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, a blog about the NBA, has a section called “Top 5.” Their five players are Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and LeBron James.
The top five players in any statistical category is not necessarily the best five players ever: Babe Ruth was a better hitter than Joe DiMaggio; Tim Duncan is a better rebounder than Kevin Durant; Stephen Curry might be a better shooter than Ray Allen; and Kobe Bryant might also be a better leader than LeBron. The criteria they use is “the history of basketball.” That means they don’t choose on present performance; they choose what has been historically most important.
But that’s not the only way to do it. The New York Times has an annual list of 100 people; their top 10 are Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Babe Ruth, Frank Sinatra, Jackie Robinson, Bob Dylan, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson and Gandhi.
This blog is about basketball, not about the NBA. It is a fun way to measure how well individual players have performed in their careers, and it can be used to compare players from different eras. The focus is on the top players of all time, not on current stars.
Over the years there have been many books – some fairly good and some excellent – that rank the best players of all time. This blog is intended as an alternative to those books.
The first thing to understand is that any list of basketball greats depends on what you mean by “great.” There are many ways to judge greatness, but there are two that are particularly popular in sportswriting: wins and championships.*
The game of basketball has become far more popular than it was when these lists were first created. That means that today’s players are usually better than today’s fans think they should be. And since these lists were compiled before statistics were widely used in sportswriting, they will often tend to favor older players who played against tougher competition, or younger players who had the good luck to make their debuts when no one knew quite what they could do yet.
I use the NBA as a shorthand for the modern world. It’s not my job to make predictions about what will happen in the future, but it’s my job to understand what happened in the past. And the history of the NBA is fascinating.
The present day NBA is a league of superstars. It doesn’t have a single dominant player like Michael Jordan or LeBron James, although these days we casually talk about “the best player in the game.” (I don’t want to be held responsible for that.) But it does have five players who are arguably the best ever: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen and LeBron James.
But what about before MJ? Let’s look at individual stats for each year.
In his rookie season Michael Jordan scored more points than anyone else. Magic Johnson was second, with Bird third and Pippen fourth. If you add up their points per game you get 2494, which is a lot more than anyone else had ever scored.
But there was no such thing as a triple-double; they weren’t invented until 1972. So let’s see how they did compared to all time assists leaders:
Magic is first by far; Bird is second; Larry is third; and Scott
We may find it odd that the NBA doesn’t have a website with a list of greatest players. We may also find it odd that basketball doesn’t have a better rating system.
But maybe there is a simple explanation. Maybe basketball is just too hard to play. Maybe there are so many variables, and so little reliable information, that it is not worth rating anything but individual games. Maybe if the NBA had ratings for all players, then you could calculate the rating of each one over the course of an entire season, and then rank them. But without ratings how can you compare?
In fact, I am pretty sure I can figure out what they should be. A player’s value depends on his performance against other players; that is its only variable. So the only number that really matters is whether a player has more points in a game than another player did in another game. If you could measure this accurately, then you could rate players by comparison to each other.
A good title will hook people and make them want to read the post. The title should tell you what the post is about, and it should be interesting to read. If the title is bad, no one will read your post.
If you’re writing a post that is not a blog post or an article, make sure there are very few words in the title that tell you exactly what it is. Some titles are not very good: “Smoke Does Not Kill People,” “Life of Pi,” “The Hobbit.”