by Lang Whitaker

Two summers back, Sam and I had the brilliant idea of ranking the 50 best players in the NBA. Full disclosure: We were at lunch at Outback Steakhouse at the time, and I really think this idea was birthed by too much Bloomin’ Onion. Well, it was either the onion or the reality that we had a long summer ahead of us and we needed to figure out an interesting way to pass the time on SLAMonline.

We grabbed a notepad and started making a list of the best players, then started ranking them. We didn’t run this by anyone else, we just made our list and then got writers from around the Internets to tackle each player. We posted them each here on the site, with the thought being that if nothing else our list would probably generate conversation.

Did it ever. By the time we got to the top five, our comments section was buzzing like never before. And when we announced Kobe as the best player in the NBA, we got over 300 comments, a record at the time.

Then, on July 17 of this year, Myles and Russ sent out an email with their own Top 50 list, which they were planning to run down on their blogs. Of course, everyone on their email started arguing with each other, and before long all your favorite SLAM writers weren’t speaking. (OK, it wasn’t that bad, but it was close.) Ryne had just started a week or two before, so he gamely waded in and, a couple of thousand emails later, we had a ranking that we all (more or less) co-signed.

Over the next few weeks, SLAMonline is going to roll out our new ranking of the 50 Best Players in the NBA. A huge thanks go out to Russ and Myles for getting this whole thing off the ground. (And if you disagree with any of the rankings, blame Russ and Myles.)

Oh, and at number 50? Kevin Durant. Discuss.

This is going to be a wild ride…