Being drafted number one overall was a dream that I’m sure anyone reading this post had at least once. The camera’s flashing, suits, jewelry, women watching, money to be made, ensuing sneaker deal (some of us are still seeking these things today) are all the fruits of the work that you put in to get there, but very few, actually only 36 have been blessed with this distinction since 1979. So yea all of those things are secondary and come with the territory, but the actual labor put in AFTER the draft is what separates the GOAT’s from the average pretending cats. Simply put, this list takes what and who we already know and arranges it in a concise way so as to see who is the best since the league cleaned up it’s act and became the global phenomenon that it has evolved into today.
10. Chris Webber (’93): If it wasn’t for those refs in the ’02 WCF (allegedly) CWebb would actually be more revered in hoop circles and the media. As it stands, the Fab Five superstar is the only member on this list to never make it to the NBA Finals. But in an era of dominant power forwards out West (KG, TD, Dirk, Sheed, even old man Malone) CWebb didi his thing and lead one of the better teams out there over a 5 year span. The numbers at his peak are there, he had a ton of game, and was as good of a passer at the 4 position as we have ever seen.
Chris makes it by a hair over some # 1 legends past and present (Yao, Derrick Coleman, Grandmama, DRose, Blake, John Wall, Ant Davis).
9. James Worthy (’82): The goggles are world class. Honestly I wanted to put Big Game James a little higher on this list but I had to pump my brakes. While rings do mean a lot in the league past and present James was a third, maybe even second option during the Showtime era, he was never the man, not with Magic and Kareem on the team. While I may be downplaying James because most of his work was done before I was alive I won’t ignore the ’88 Finals MVP and the numbers that he threw up in Game 7 (36pts, 16rebs, 10asts). That’s a line similar to what Bron throws up and we praise him for, let’s give Big Game James some props.
8. Allen Iverson (’96): The smallest member of this top 10 ranking hailing from Newport News, VA. Culturally AI is right up there with the Mike’s, Penny’s, and Bron’s so he tends to get boosted rankings on these kinds of lists but this is really as high as Bubba Chuck could ascend on this totem. Pound for pound we know that Allen I is the realest and that trip to the (’01) Finals however short lived will always be etched in our memories for this moment (because after this it was all what we expected).
While AI’s legacy is short of chips and now being marred by the media day in and day out, he is undoubtedly one of the greatest guards to ever live to suit up and the reason that half of us had cornrows between the years of ’98 and ’05.
7. Patrick Ewing (’85): The OG of the NBA Draft Lottery. Uncle Pat was the first first pick of the lottery era which began some 30 years back. Ewing deserved a ring, but so did Barkley, Malone and Stockton. Playing in an era where he had to get past Scottie’s Bulls just to sniff the Finals just wasn’t fair. Hell, you trade in a forgettable Game 7 in the ’94 Finals from Starks and Uncle Pat probably climbs a rung on this ladder. At his peak (in THE Golden Era for NBA centers) Pat more than held his own with 1 All-NBA First Team and 6 All-NBA Second Team berths as well as carrying New York and Madison Square Garden on his back season after season and Playoff run after Playoff run without another true All-Star to boast on the team. It hurt my soul when we had that fake appearance in ’99 when Pat was dealing with the torn Achilles tendon and couldn’t play, karma wouldn’t let the city of New York win it that way.
This has got to bring smile to Knicks fans everywhere!!
6. David Robinson (’87): If it weren’t for the other Twin Tower arriving in South Texas before the 97-98 season The Admiral may have slid a spot here. Nonetheless, Timmy arrived and 2 rings later here you have yet another giant from that Golden Era for centers. But really though, even before Timmy arrived The Admiral was the man, Rookie of the Year, MVP, and a Defensive Player of the Year award during that early to mid 90s generation, those accolades are no laughing matter. His ’95 MVP season always will have an asterisk next to it for reasons discussed later on in this post though. I never really gave The Admiral his due credit back in the day because it was hard for me to say that there were legitimately 3 centers liver than Uncle Pat, but in hindsight he really was and I got to respect that. Though I will never respect that fade that he wore deep into the baggy tee and cornrow era.
Son threw up a humble quadruple double, I’m quiet.
5. Lebron James (’03): The only player drafted after Y2K on this list, premature? Hell fuc**** no. By the time Bron has officially retired the headband x hairline he may very well creep into the top 3 on this here list but we won’t jump the gun (though it is inevitable). Truthfully there’s not much left to say about Bron that we can’t turn on ESPN and hear. The 2-3 Finals record is a slight blemish, then again 5 trips to the Finals in 11 years is an extraordinary feat. There has been some speculation that Bron’s peaked out in terms of greatness but at 29 years old I find that hard to fathom. It should be said that in a league known to be dominated by big men there have only been a handful of smaller (relatively in this case) cats who have stood toe to toe with common hoop logic and defeated it, Bron just being the latest.
5. Shaq (’92): The 4-3 battle was the toughest on this entire list. For many of us Shaq is the greatest center that we can vividly recall. In his prime the elbow-dropstep-banger was unstoppable (ask Smits, Mutombo, and McCullogh plus all the centers out West he ran through) . And even when we speculated that Kobe ran him into a scene where he’d never truly flourish again, he won another one, this time aiding then Flash now Three to a chip in Vice City. While I could definitely do without seeing any more colorways for the Shaqnosis sneak, The Diesel is the only center who had a shoe that someone under 6’8″ would proudly don. Nowadays The Big Aristotle has taken his talent for comedy to TNT and NBA TV, chances are that we will be hearing from Shaqtus for another 20 years.
3. Hakeem Olajuwon (’84): Yea, nah I had to do it, sorry Shaq. But let’s look at the tape.
No for real let’s look at the tape.
Yes this is The Dream handing out substantial amounts of work to three others on this list. And these weren’t chump games, two Finals and snatching the ’95 WCF title from the hands of David Robinson after The Admiral was awarded the league MVP (Olajuwon won it the prior season). Yes, it does seem accurate to say anybody gets it when going up versus Hakeem. Hakeem was the one who took full advantage of Mike’s retirement, not Chuck, not Pat, not Reggie, not Shaq, not The Admiral. He still remains the all time blocks leader and ranks 8th all time in steals. In the wide open, athletic age that exists today in the NBA The Dream would easily be the best player around, sh** it it wasn’t for Hoop Earring he would’ve been the man then too. Let’s not forget the work that he is doing now, in transforming cats into elegant beasts in the paint (Kobe, Bron, STAT, Dwi…..). Personally, I have Olajuwon as the greatest center of all time regardless of this….
2. Tim Duncan (’97): Tim is really the Ron Isley of hoop. These last two trips to the Finals were like when Ron put Kells in the spital in the Down Low video.
2K even hit Timmy off with a 90 rating on the latest version. It’s gonna be debated forever about who’s the greatest since Jordan retired (Timmy, Kobe or Bron), it’s close but as of the end of the 2014 season I got to give it to the Big Fundamental. He’s never truly wowed us with the athleticism of The Admiral, the grace of Olajuwon, the power of Shaq, or the touch of Uncle Pat, but there’s this humble confidence, A+ foot/post work and ever so ageless bankshot that he’s always had that are yet to fall victim to the wrath of Father Time. Even though Kawahi was rewarded with last season’s Finals MVP, Tim was still the Spurs best player (17 years and running). Give Pop much credit for cutting Duncan’s minutes for the past 6 or so seasons because it has helped prolong his career and propel him into many top 5 lists and rankings worldwide.
1. Magic Johnson (’79): Could we honestly put any other player here? The NBA as we know it began with the first pick of that 1979 Draft where the Lakers scooped the talented big point guard from Michigan State. So many players have come along being touted as the next Magic (see Penny, Grant Hill, Shaun Livingston) and none have come close, because just as there is and was only one MJ, the same sentiment must be shared for Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson. How many players could come in as a rookie on a team with Kareem and lead it to an NBA Championship? Only one. Only Magic. Over all of the highlights I’ve seen of Magic I don’t recall there being much of a challenge out West for LA once Magic hit the scene, think about that. Running skyhooks, 5 rings, assists titles, crazy furs, and women, Magic truly had the world in the palm of his hands. His flair for the game created waves that are still trying to duplicated to this day. You talk #1 picks and the list is grand but there will probably never be a player to come along and overtake Magic Johnson on this ladder.