Thoughts on categorising the All-Time Greats.

Well, it's the dead of the night, I'm very bored waiting for today's coverage (seriously, I'm starting to get addicted to SSR. Somebody help?), and for some reason thoughts of how to rank all-time greats are racing through my mind, primarily due to taking a look at this very interesting article on the topic, as well as looking at linkbacks and noticing some forums that were discussing Tucker's work, with obviously very varied results.

Personally, I think it is impossible to develop a definite ranking of these players, because different people have different opinions and preferences, and everyone is guilty of bias. It's too subjective to ever work. However, it is in human nature to try and rank, to compare, to categorise, and to that I propose the idea of simply using a tier system, with Tier 1 being the highest, and then proceeding in descending order. None of these tiers have truly set rankings within the tier, so all the players in the Tier are considered more-or-less comparable in skill, success, and impact upon the game.

There's no set size for each Tier, nor is there is definable value, as in 'Tier x players would be the greatest in the League at any era you place them in' while 'Tier y players would be career All-Stars in any era' etc. Nor is there set requirements for each tier in terms of achievements or statistics. I'll try to be even across the eras, but obviously my knowledge of players from earlier eras is not as thorough as that of modern-day players, so I'll inevitably miss a few past stars.

Some of the Top Tiers, after the Jump:

Michael Jordan
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Bill Russel

Magic Johnson
Larry Bird
Kobe Bryant
Wilt Chamberlain
Oscar Robertson
Jerry West
Bob Cousy
John Havlicek
George Mikan
Isiah Thomas

Scottie Pippen
Elgin Baylor (only player without a Championship ring in the Top Three tiers, but his skill was too high to place him any lower)
Hakeem Olajuwon
Shaquille O'Neal
Tim Duncan
Bob Petit
David Robinson
Willis Reed
Sam Jones
Robert Parish
Clyde Drexler
Gary Payton
Kevin Garnett
Kevin McHale
Julius Erving

John Stockton*
Moses Malone
Karl Malone*
Charles Barkley*
Pete Maravich
Clyde Lovellette
Walt Frazier
Bob McAdoo
Tom Heinsohn
LeBron James*
Patrick Ewing*
Nate Thurmond
Dwyane Wade
Steve Nash
Jason Kidd
Ben Wallace
Alonzo Mourning
Dwight Howard
Dikeme Mutumbo
Pau Gasol
Ray Allen
Reggie Miller
Paul Pierce
Allen Iverson*

Note: Players with an asterisk (*) next to their name deserve to be higher, but are stopped by the lack of a Championship ring)

Wes Unseld
K.C. Jones
Bill Walton
Gail Goodrich
Vince Carter
David Thompson
Alex English
James Worthy
Adrian Dantley
Nate Archibald
George Gervin
Carmelo Anthony
Kevin Durant
Chris Paul
Chris Bosh
Deron Williams
Amar'e Stoudemire
Dominique Wilkins
Chris Webber
Shawn Kemp



Some notes:

  • Generally, to make the Top 3 Tiers, you have to have at least one Championship Ring.
  • While players can advance ranks, players may never drop ranks .
  • Rankings are NOT based whatsoever on potential for active players, hence why many youngsters are yet to make the list.
  • For current players, it's assumed that their current career stats will continue through for the rest of their career (an imperfect method, I know), no additional NBA Championships, MVPS or DPoYs will be won, and All-Star and All-NBA appearances will continue at current rate.
  • Using that method, many current players actually stack up very favourably to players from previous eras - interesting considering how many claim that modern basketball is lower-quality compared to that of the '80s and '90s, particularly those who use that as defense for Kobe being 'nowhere near' Michael.
  • Team success and Playoff Appearances/Performance play a significant part in rankings.
  • ABA contributions do not hold as much weight as NBA contributions.



Assessing Kobe

Kobe Bryant, in my opinion, is currently in the Second Tier, having been propelled there with his last Championship defining him as the undeniable Greatest Player of His Generation (if you want to know how I think Kobe advanced chronologically: Threepeat took him up from unranked to Tier 4, stuff like 81 and 35.4 took him to the border of Tier 4 and Tier 3, '09 took him to the border of Tier 2, and '10 has him near the top of Tier 2). By the end of his career, if we assume production similar to his career average (which his below his average in recent years, due to being influenced by his rookie and sophomore years) for 5 more years, plus about 19/4/4 for another 3-4 years after that, and 1 more ring, he'll be right at the top of Tier 2, ahead of Bird. Magic and Wilt but still not on the level of Russel, Kareem and Jordan. If, however, he wins 2 more championships, 1-2 more Finals MVPs, and breaks the 35k point-plateau, his sheer body of work means that he has to be put in the first Tier and thus expand it from a Triumvirate to a foursome. Think about it, he'll have scored more than anyone with more championships than him, and he'll have more rings than anyone with better stats than him. But he'll never be the GOAT, simply because his averages aren't as high or efficient, and his first three championships did come as an option 1A to Shaq's 1.

Importantly, I'm not saying that Kobe will overtake Jordan, Russell or Kareem, just that he will join their company. Those players are too good to EVER be bumped off the top Tier, but other greats may join them on the Top Tier, as it is possible for Kobe to do.

Also, anyone note Pau's appearance in Tier 4? Career stats of 19/9/3/2, 2 rings, European Player of the Year? Hell yes, he's on there. And, if the Lakers do indeed win 1 or two more rings, while Pau maintains or improves on his current level of production, he'll move into Tier 3, easily; and if it's two rings, one Finals MVP, and stats mirroring his 2010 Playoff numbers, then he could quite possibly move into Tier 2, especially if he plays into his mid-30s.




DISCLAIMER: This whole piece is opinion, and solely that of my own. I do not attempt to pass it off as fact, nor do I assume to represent the views of SSR in voicing my opinion. 

Also, these tiers are not all-inclusive, they're just a guide of the sort of players I'd put in each tier. There may very will be players missing that should be in a Tier, in which case point them out in the comments.

Anyways, what do you guys think of my ranking system? Agree, disagree, think I'm a fucking moron? Feel free to discuss in the comments, just don't insult me too harshly. =]]

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