Re-Ranking ESPN’s Top 74 Players Of All-Time

NBA Top 74

Recently, ESPN gathered together an “expert panel” to determine who the top 74 players are in league history. They did this via total career value and peak performance when comparing one player to another and then ranking them. From 74 all the way down to one I will contest some of the comparisons and rankings made. When I make these reactions, it is admittedly a combination of objective truth and subjective thought. I also want to note than JUST BECAUSE I RANK ONE PLAYER OVER ANOTHER, I MEAN NO DISRESPECT. THESE ARE ALL-TIME GREATS REGARDLESS OF WHO IS IN FRONT OF WHO! I also will not be including the best of the rest of the players who were left off the list. Maybe that can be for some other time… Without further ado, the first issue I have is…

Bob McAdoo behind Manu Ginobili

McAdoo in his prime was the second-best player in the league when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was present. He also once bested Jabarr when he won the 1974-1975 MVP award averaging 32-13. Ginobili while still great and a top 74 player for his patented Eurostep and longevity, never averaged over 20 points per game in his entire career over the course of the season. McAdoo also has 2 championships on his resume so you can’t argue that the gap between the two in chips is significant enough to warrant this ranking.

Clyde Drexler behind Ray Allen

Drexler was the guy on the Trailblazers’ teams that went to the championships. Allen was never the number one option on a championship contending team. Allen has hit some of the most clutch shots in NBA history but overall, I don’t quite think his career accolades stack up to the 10X All Star. Drexler was a better defender and the gap of championships of 2-1 in favor of Allen does not blow me away as much because of how much more successful the late 2000s Celtics teams should have been.

Paul Pierce behind Gary Payton

The Glove is one of the best defenders of all time and was an electrifying point guard in his era. His peak was not enough however as his only chip came as a reserve on a deep Miami team while Paul Pierce secured a Finals MVP and was one of the most electrifying postseason scorers of his era and that’s The Truth. Pierce also successfully beat his legendary rival of LeBron more than once while Payton can’t say the same having only been the premier guy on one championship appearance.

Tracy McGrady, James Worthy, Reggie Miller, and Dominique Wilkins behind Anthony Davis

Finals MVP, scoring titles, one of the highest rated offensive players of all time, and the list goes on of accolades of these legends of the game. These are all things AD does not yet have. I will not shut the door on AD becoming an all-time great player, but I feel that it is straight up disrespectful to these legends to rank them behind Anthony Davis. 3 of the best scorers in the game were put behind him and one of the best Finals’ performers in James Worthy deserve more respect for their contributions to the game than AD at this moment in time.

Isiah Thomas behind Steve Nash and Allen Iverson

The two ranked ahead of Thomas both have MVP trophies that Thomas does not have, and I believe that might have been the logic behind this assessment. However, Thomas has 1 MVP trophy the other 2 don’t have and that’s a Finals MVP. While Nash and Iverson were both amongst the best in the league at their jobs/positions, they were inevitably squashed by the giant of their time being Kobe Bryant. Isiah Thomas on the other hand, was a giant killer. In the span of 3 consecutive Championship appearances (and 2 wins), Thomas and the Bad Boy Pistons managed to beat Jordan’s Bulls 3 times, Bird’s Celtics twice, and Magic’s Lakers once for a ring. Iverson may have been a more prolific scorer, and Nash an ever more prolific passer, but Thomas is one of the games’ best defenders and winners in an era ruled by legends, he wrote his own story.

The aforementioned guards and John Stockton behind Giannis Antetokuonmpo

Giannis will end up being one of the best basketball players of all time but is not the only MVP in this conversation. He has not been able to get it done in the postseason yet having been stopped by Kawhi in his best chance while the other guards have MVP awards, Finals Appearances and one even has wins. I feel like this is a direct reflection on the undervaluation of the point guard position. I acknowledge that Giannis should and will overcome these players, but for the time being I cannot rank him ahead of the others and the all-time leader in steals and assists.

John Stockton behind Kawhi Leonard

Leonard has 2 things that Stockton will never have and those are championship rings. However, I feel that John Stockton’s place in the NBA is disrespected. Stockton sits atop lists that include Nash, Kidd, Paul, and all of the great point guards of all time by miles in steals and assists. I don’t see Kawhi becoming the career leader in anything but a few more years at the rate he plays, and he should pass Stockton. Just not yet.

Dirk Nowitzki behind Karl Malone

These two are comparable in almost every category. Both are members of the 30,000-point club, both have over 1,000 blocks, over 10,000 rebounds, and the list goes on. While Malone holds an edge in a handful of categories like points and MVP, off the court matters. Malone’s character is one of, if not the most suspect of any superstar in NBA history. Dirk’s character was never in question and he also got the one thing Malone never did: A Finals trophy and a Finals’ MVP trophy to go with it. Both are integral to their franchise, but Dirk won his chip as the bona-fide star on his team against his generation’s best player. Malone could not do the same in his era having lost to Jordan twice in consecutive years.

Moses Malone behind Karl Malone

Something about one more MVP award and one more Finals’ win and MVP holds some serious weight in the consideration of one Malone to another. Moses narrowly missed out on the 30,000 club but made up for it with rebounds being the 3rd-best rebounder in NBA history and once again was not questionable off the court. The late legend helped cement the Sixers’ franchise amongst the greats and made it a birthing ground for future legends to blossom.

Tim Duncan over Larry Bird

Both are all time greats and huge contributors to the game as we know it today. Both have nicknames that transcend most and accurately reflect their games. The honest truth is that Tim Duncan outpaces Larry Bird in almost every category: Points, rebounds, wins, Finals’ wins, All-NBA teams, All-Star games and plenty more. Bird only outpaces Duncan in assists and edges Duncan with one more MVP award (which Duncan can compensate with one more Finals’ MVP). The biggest argument I could see against Duncan is the older he got the less he played but in reality, his usage percentage for his career is higher than Larry Bird’s so even at the height of their powers Duncan was more of a centerpiece than Bird. Duncan’s game will never be as flashy as Bird, but longevity is something to consider and Duncan is the most long-lasting, reliable player to ever play the game. The Big Fundamental is better than Larry Legend.



Written by Kodey Stauffer

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