NORTH CAROLINA — Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, “Magic” Johnson and of course Michael Jordan. No matter where you go, who you talk to, NBA basketball fans alike have an opinion on these great gladiators.
From the sports bars to sporting events to sports radio and TV to the office chatter at the water cooler. These are players whose legend will live on for all eternity and have been the topic of the question Basketball fans always seem to ask about these Hall of Famers: “Who is the best player in the NBA”?
Every decade seems to be a new group of players who are perceived to be the best or one of the best in the Association and today’s players are no exception. I recently had an animated discussion with several friends, family and colleagues of all races and walks of life.
We discussed lots of players past and present who entered the NBA in the last 10-15 years and developed a criteria based on championships, does he make his team better, defensive and offensive skills, individual accomplishments and his attitude on and off the court.
We narrowed it down to six players currently playing in the NBA. Some are veterans and some are deemed “new to the league” but all are very talented. The following are info on each player, their accomplishments and comments compiled for you to decide at the end of this article.
The players are not listed in any particular order.These are not my opinions, they weregathered for friendly debating purposes only.
SHAQUILLE O’ NEAL, HEAT
Titles won: four .
All-Star selections: 11 (nine starts).
Individual statistics: 26 ppg, 12 rpg, 2 bpg. (Playoffs: 25.5 ppg, 12 rpg).
Career shooting percentage: 58% (field), 52% (line).
Strengths: Possesses strength and ability in the low post to score at will. Commands double even triple team defense which allows his teammates to get open shots. Still possesses low post moves in the paint which allows him to score. Is a good rebounder and intimidater inside. Has a great personality and is a great teammate and leader on the teams he’s played on.Usually steps up and plays well in the post season. He is an unselfish player and wants to win.
Weaknesses: Sometimes doesn’t play hard every game. Has had lots of injuries over the past few years. Lacks motivation during the regular season games. Is a poor free throw shooter. Doesn’t train in the off season and usually out of shape and overweight for the start of the season. Not a great defender.
TIM DUNCAN, SPURS
Titles won: four .
All-Star selections: nine (eight starts) .
Individual statistics: 22 ppg, 12 rpg, 2 bpg (Playoffs: 24 ppg, 13 rpg).
Career shooting percentage: 50% (field), 68% (line).
Strengths: Has a great low post game. Can score on most defenders. Demands double and triple teams which allows his teammates to get open shots. Is a solid defender. Is agile and versatile on offense. Is a great passer. Great knowledge of the game. Is a solid and sound fundamental player. Has great intensity on the court. He’s a great rebounder and shot blocker. He is a great leader on and off the court. He has the great ability to take over a game when his team needs him. He is an unselfish player who wants to win. Has great work ethic.
Weaknesses: Has had some injuries over the last few years. Is a poor free throw shooter, but tends to shoot better in the postseason.
KOBE BRYANT, LAKERS
Titles won: three.
All-Star selections: nine (all starts).
Individual stats: 25 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 apg (Playoffs: 23 ppg, 5 apg).
Career shooting percentage: 45% (field, 83% (line).
Strengths: One of the most gifted basketball players since MJ (some would argue more talented, athletic and gifted). Has great range, quickness and versatility. Can score on anyone in the league and can score as many points as he wants. Is a solid defender and has great awareness of where he is on the court and game situations. Can beat a defender off the dribble, in the post and from the perimeter.Is arguably the hardest working player during the season and during the off season. Has great basketball intelligence.
Weakness: He is very selfish. Lacks social skills off the court. Doesn’t seem to be a good teammate. Doesn’t understand he has to get all of his teammates involved in the game. He seems to be very paranoid and envious of other players.
ALLEN IVERSON, NUGGETS
Titles won: none (appeared in one final) .
All-Star selections: seven (all starts) .
Individual statistics: 28 ppg, 4 rpg, 6 apg (Playoffs: 23 ppg, 6 apg).
Career shooting percentage: 42% (field), 77% (line).
Strengths: He is a warrior. Has a heart of a lion and Champion. Has great offensive skills. Can score at will and can takeover a game at any point during the game. Has quickness and great court awareness. He is a great passer. He steps up when his team needs him.He a great defender and has the ability to steal the ball at a moments notice. He is a team leader, he is unselfish and is a great teammate.
Weakness: He has the tendency to shoot too much. He is not as durable anymore due to all the bumps and bruises over the years. He is a poor perimeter shooter. His age and durability is a factor in how well he will play for the rest of his career. He’s had some off the court issues which has led to a bad image with the public.
LeBRON JAMES, CAVALIERS
Titles won: none (appeared in one final).
All-Star selections: three (all starts).
Individual stats: 23 ppg, 7 rpg, 6 apg. (Playoffs: 27.8 ppg, 8 rpg).
Career shooting percentage: 46% (field), 73 (line).
Strengths: The most athletic player in the league who can only get better. Has the rare combination of size, strength and quickness. Can play up to four different positions on the floor. Can beat you off the dribble, has a good low post game and has good range from the outside. Can be a streaky shooter. Can take over a game and lead his team to a victory and a championship. Has great intensity and determination on the court to win. Has speed, quickness, good basketball knowledge and is a solid defender. Is a great team leader and a even better teammate. Definitely a franchise player who can win multiple Championships for years to come with the right complimentary players surrounding him. Seems to be a great guy, great person and fun to be around. He is beloved on and off the court.
Weaknesses: Has a propensity to try too hard to get his teammates involved which leads to disastrous results sometimes. Sometimes doesn’t “finish games” in situations when needed. He is an inconsistent free throw shooter especially during crunch time. Needs to be more tenacious on the offensive and defensive boards. Needs to continue to work on his perimeter game. Needs to get stronger and more durable to endure the physicality of the NBA
DWYANE WADE, HEAT
Titles won: one.
All-Star selections: three (two starts).
Individual stats: 24 ppg, 5 rpg, 6 apg (Playoffs: 24 ppg, 5 rpg).
Career shooting percentage: 48% (field), 77 (line).
Strengths: He is a very versatile and athletic player with great basketball skills, intelligence and intuition. Was as much apart of why the Miami Heat won the NBA Championship two years ago as Shaq. He is a natural leader on the court and seems to be a great teammate. He has great offensive ability and great court awareness. He gets his teammates involved and can take over a game on the offensive end. He is a solid defensive player and is a great team defender as well. He can take a defender off the dribble and is very creative in getting his own shot. He seems to be well liked by his teammates including “Shaq” and is well-loved and respected on and off the court.
Weaknesses: He is an inconsistent shooter. He lacks range from the outside. He is often injured. Needs to get stronger and more durable to endure the physicality’s of the NBA. Right now, it seems Wade is primarily getting by on instinct and athleticism but at some point he will have to turn that into the polish top notch player utilizing all of his skills and dominating the NBA in the process.
There you have it. A breakdown of six highly skilled players both from the recent past and present. All with unique skills, diverse abilities and talents and similar weaknesses and skills.
Some of them have tasted the ultimate prize of the NBA Championship while others have made it to the promise land only to find out winning a championship was not a promise fulfilled.
Now it’s time for you to choose who is the best player in the NBA today. Some may pick Shaq, Duncan or Kobe, while others may look to Wade, Iverson or Lebron as the Champion of this debate.
Some of you may even have your own best player you consider “the best of the best”. Whomever the “BEST” is really is contingent on the body of work on and off the court.
Someone who is well-liked and respected. A player who has a short term goal of winning a Championship and a long term goal of staying healthy and leaving the game better than it was when he arrived. A man of great character, passion for the game and is a mentor to those who come after him.
So let the debating and choosing begin. Who do you think is the best in the game now? Maybe only time will tell. Or maybe time will be used as a vessel to disqualify most because of what they don’t do or should do which ironically would make the choice the “best of the worst” rather than the “worst of the best”.
In the meantime, my choice is obvious and it’s the one and only……