There’s been a lot of talk lately involving different current players breaking into the NBA’s all-time top five. Mainly Tim Duncan and some other guy. To that I say, um, what?
Look, those guys are great players. No question. But do you really understand how good you need to be to be top five all-time? How RIDICULOUSLY talented and accomplished you need to be? Check it out:
• MICHAEL JORDAN. Six titles, six Finals MVPs. Five regular-season MVPs. 14-time All-Star. 10-time ALL-NBA first team. Nine-time All-NBA Defensive first team. Three-time steals leader. Rookie of the Year. Defensive player of the year in 1988. 10 scoring titles. The highest scoring average in NBA history. Anyone else win 72 games? Sold a lot of shoes. The most dominant player on both sides of the ball in NBA history.
• BILL RUSSELL. 11 rings. ELEVEN. Five regular-season MVPs. Three-time all-NBA first team, eight-time All-NBA second team (thank you, Wilt Chamberlain). 12-time All-Star. Four-time rebounding leader (averaged 22.5 for his CAREER). All-time playoffs leader in rebounds and rebounds per game. Essentially invented the concept of defense as an offensive weapon. One of only two players in NBA history (along with Chamberlain) to grab 50 rebounds in an NBA game. The greatest winner of all-time. In 11 deciding games (10 Game Sevens and one Game Five), his teams went 11-0. Survived virulent racism and Tommy Heinsohn.
• WILT CHAMBERLAIN. Two titles. Four regular-season MVPs. 13-time All-Star. 11-time rebounding leader. Seven-time scoring leader. One-time assist leader. The only player in NBA history to average 50-plus points in a season and score 100 points in a game. Averaged 37.6 points and 27.0 rebounds per game as a rookie, winning both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards. He was also the All-Star game MVP that year, with 23 points and 25 rebounds. Had sex with every female on the planet at least once. Averaged 30.1 points and 22.9 rebounds for his career, 20/20-plus for his first 10 seasons. Unstoppable offensive force.
• OSCAR ROBERTSON. One NBA title. One regular-season MVP award. 11-time All-NBA. 12-time All-Star (three-time MVP). Rookie of the Year. Only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season (1961-62, 30.8 points, 11.4 assists and 12.5 rebounds). First player in NBA history to average 10-plus assists a game, first guard to average 10-plus rebounds a game (which he did three times). He actually averaged a triple-double over his first FIVE seasons if you take them all together. Averaged 25.7 points, 9.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds for his career. Hoosiers lies.
• MAGIC JOHNSON. Five titles (three-time Finals MVP). Three-time regular season MVP. 12-time All-Star. 10-time All NBA. Four-time assists leader. Averaged 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists as a rookie and DIDN’T win Rookie of the Year (it went to Larry Bird). But his Lakers won 60 regular-season games and the NBA title. When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was injured in Game Six of the Finals, Magic started at center in Game Seven and went for 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. The Lakers won the game and the title, Magic was named Finals MVP. Second all-time in triple-doubles with 138. Along with Bird, helped revitalize the NBA.
• LARRY BIRD. Three titles (two Finals MVPS). Three-time regular-season MVP (all consecutive). 12-time All-Star. Rookie of the Year. Averaged a triple-double in the 1986 NBA Finals, and had 59 regular-season triple-doubles. Hit more clutch shots than anybody. Once choked by Dr. J (and returned the favor). Worst mustache-and-mullet combination in NBA history, barely beating out Steve Stipanovich. Career averages of 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists. Averaged 20/10 his first six seasons.
• KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR. Six titles (two Finals MVPs). Six regular-season MVPs. Two-time scoring leader. All-time leading scorer in NBA history (38,000-plus points). 15-time All-NBA. 19-time All-Star. 11-time NBA All-Defense. Rookie of the Year (after averaging 28.8 points and 14.5 rebounds). Broke his hand on Kent Benson’s face. Studied martial arts with Bruce Lee. Was brilliant in Airplane. Shot 56 percent from the floor, 72 percent from the line. Finished career with over 17,000 rebounds (third most in NBA history).
And that’s just seven. You can put Shaquille O’Neal and Karl Malone up there as well. Right now Duncan may slip in the top 10 behind those nine. The other guy? We’ll see.