Can anyone topple Michael Jordan?
Not us, though. With the NBA season less than three weeks away, and after LeBron James skyrocketed up the all-time list with his epic Finals performance this summer, it’s time to debate the 25 best players to play the game. I’ll explain my criteria here.
If everything else is equal, dominance matters to me above everything else. It’s not enough to have reached your peak for just a season or two, but a decent stretch of destroying the competition means more to me than maintaining an elite level of play that never quite reached that next stratosphere. In that same vein, versatility is the second-most important quality for an all-timer. If you were able to do it all, you’ll rank higher on this list.
Then comes longevity, which is absolutely important. In fact, being able to put together an extended run of dominance trumps everything else. Next comes defense, because it wins championships. Coincidentally enough, rings fall in line behind defense. Titles matter, of course, but I won’t hold it against a player if he came up short of a championship — not too much, anyway. Winning a ring is difficult and takes a team effort. Last but not least is 3-point shooting. The league is just now realizing how important spacing the floor is, but that doesn’t mean 3s are more valuable now than they were 30 years ago.
Got it? Good. Now, get ready to yell and scream about these rankings.
With the caveat that I never watched Wilt Chamberlain, however, Shaq was the single most dominant player I’ve seen. His ability to pulverize the opposition makes him one of the very, very best in my book. Photo: FotoWare FotoStation/Andrew D. Bernstein