Upon Further Review: The Best Players in NBA History, #10
In what will become a daily entry over the course of the next month, Waiver Wire writers Greg Kaplan and Vinny Ginardi will release a list of the the 25 players who they believe to be the best in NBA history. Players were judged on their careers as a whole rather than short stretches of dominance (for example, Bill Walton didn’t make the list due to injuries cutting his career short).
Vinny Ginardi: Tricky Tricky Tricky.
It’s very possible that when it’s all said and done that LeBron will leap frog into the top three, if not the top two all time. In fact, I believe that LeBron is a better player than many of the players that we have listed ahead of him. But by evaluating his career up to this point, I think that 10 is fair spot for the King.
Right now, James has three MVP awards and is entering his prime (and realistically, he should have won two years ago over Derrick Rose). At three MVP awards, LeBron is tied with Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Moses Malone and trails only Wilt Chamberlain (four), Michael Jordan (five), Bill Russell (five) and Kareem Abdul Jabbar (six). Outside of Kevin Durant and maybe Dwight Howard, I can’t see any player realistically challenging LeBron in the MVP race for the next three. It’s very possible that James will retire as the player with most or tied for the most MVP awards in NBA history.
LeBron has already been named to eight All-NBA teams (six first) and four All-Defensive teams (all first). If he were to retire today, he’d retire with career averages of 27.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 rebounds per game. He also won the Rookie of the Year award in 2004 and got the monkey off his back by winning his first championship and NBA Finals MVP award in 2012. Once again, if LeBron follows a normal career arc, he should be entering his prime now.
When James’ career comes to an end, we will remember him as one of the few players who can do it all. He can get to the basket at will, crash the boards, get teammates involved, and defend almost any player in the league. There’s a good chance that when he retired he will be remembered as the most versatile player the game has ever seen. I am looking forward to looking back on this list when his career is over and thinking that at only age 27, we weren’t giving LeBron enough credit having him ranked 10th.
GK: We’ve projected before on this list, and we’re not ready to do it again for a potential top 10 player in league history. If LeBron James never played another game in the league, he would go out as one of the best to ever play the game as his career currently sits. The three MVP awards, the NBA championship, two Olympic gold medals, all at the age of 27 is literally out of this world.
We’ve often looked for “the next Jordan” when evaluating league stars. Its just our culture. We always want the next and the best thing in whatever we’re doing. However, Jordan isn’t the right comparison for LeBron. Instead, King James is more along the lines of a Magic Johnson 2.0. I mean, just look at his numbers. For his career, he averages 27.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.9 assists. If there is ever going to be another player to average a triple-double for a season, its going to be LeBron. Twice already in his career, LeBron James has averaged 30+ points in a season.
Deservedly so, LeBron got a lot of criticism for “The Decision”. Nobody liked the fact that James was seemingly taking the easy way out, teaming up with two other stars in the league in search of a title. His first season in Miami, as we all remember, didn’t go according to plan, and James disappeared when it matter most in the playoffs. Many around the league started to believe that James would never fulfill his incredible potential, and continue to be a guy that puts up a lot of big numbers, but never becomes “the guy”.
Well, that was until this year. Very clearly, LeBron James became “the guy” in Miami. He put the Heat on his back whenever Miami needed him to the most, including a ridiculous Game 6 performance in Boston in an elimination game. He also did it in Indiana when the Pacers had a brief series lead, and again in the NBA Finals, his original career kyrptonite, after the Thunder won Game 1.
And just to back up all of that, LeBron went to the London Olympics and, once again, proved to the world that he is easily the best player in basketball today. He was the first American player to record a triple-double in the Olympics, which is remarkable considering the level of talent Team USA has put out in the Olympics throughout the years. He was also the guy that would take over games late in order to put away the opponent, and he did it in the two games that were the most in doubt for Team USA, against Lithuania in the prelims and again against Spain in the gold medal game.
If we wanted to project LeBron James, we probably could’ve put him into our Top 5. Should his career continue down the same path, that’s where this guy is going to end up. But, I think its even more incredible that, at age 27, LeBron James is already a Top 10 player in the history of the league.
And he could potentially play for another 10 years. I’m so excited to see how high this guy can climb. But, why does he have to do it in Miami…