So, the NBA finals are upon us...with the Spurs currently leading the Heat 1 game to 0.
Not only is this finals one of great anticipation and contrasts, it also contains two of the greatest players in the History of the League. LeBron James and Tim Duncan are not only great players now, and great players of this generation, but arguably, they are among the greatest to ever play the game.
When LeBron won his 4th MVP this season, you heard all the discussions and talking about how he compares to Michael Jordan, as the all time greatest player. To me, that's a ridiculous argument, as they play different positions, at a different time in NBA history. We can't possibly know who would be considered had they played at the same time.
So, in the interest of discussing some of the all time greats, a friend and I got to talking the other day about who we'd have on our all time first team, all time second team, etc, etc...
I decided to break them down, officially, sports doofus style. As usual, I am using my own personal specific set of standards to apply to this list... more specifically... my opinion.
So, without further adieu... the All-Time All NBA Team!
Today, we are starting with the 3rd team. This was a difficult list to decide but I feel confident in my selections.
Starting off with:
Isiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons, Point Guard
-Although Isiah has become known for negative things, such as running the NY Knicks into the ground, and destroying the CBA, most people forget how good of a player he actually was.
Isiah played 13 season with the Pistons, winning 2 NBA championships, making 12 All Star teams, he averaged 19 points and 9 assists a game in his career.
He was named the All Star game MVP twice (1984 and 1986) and was named the NBA Finals MVP once (1990).
Jerry West, Los Angeles Lakers, Shooting Guard
-I didn't want to put Jerry on here, because I want to avoid this list being too "Laker Centric" (with me being a Lakers fan), but I just couldn't do it.
Jerry West was nicknamed "Mr. Clutch" and became the NBA Logo. He played 14 season with the Lakers averaging 27 points per game in his career. He was an all star game selection all 14 seasons he played in the league, winning the All Star MVP once, and the NBA finals MVP once as well.
Last Winter I read this book about Jerry West by Roland Lazenby, and was blown away by the man. Not just his accomplishments and his wondrous talents, but by how dedicated and his insatiable desire to succeed. It was a tremendous book for any basketball fan.
Scottie Pippen, Chicago Bulls, Small Forward
This was a tough call, I could have picked Dr. J, or Dominique Wilkens, or James Worthy, or Elgin Baylor...but in the interest of great "all around" play... I had to go with Pippen.
Scottie played 17 seasons (12 with the Bulls) and won 6 championships as Michael Jordan's "Wingman". However, Pippen was much more than just the "2nd best player" on the Bulls. He was their best perimeter defender and also their best ball handler...this is according to their coach Phil Jackson in his new book, "Eleven Rings". Scottie was at his best in the open floor, but was able to adjust his game to run Jackson's famous "Triangle Offense"...which is not an uptempo system.
Scottie played in 7 all stars games and won the MVP award in that game once. He did not win a finals MVP, as he had Mr. Jordan on his team. He made the All NBA Defensive Team 10 separate occasions. He's also a true "team player" and would do whatever was needed for his team to win. He'd fit right in with this team.
Karl Malone, Power Forward, Utah Jazz
-The "Mailman" was a constant pain in my side throughout many, many seasons of NBA action. As a Lakers fan, I was always worried about the Jazz, and Karl Malone going off on my team (as the Lakers were usually weakest at his position).
Malone played 18 seasons (17 with the Jazz), won the MVP award twice (1997 and 1998), played in 13 All Star games (winning the ASG MVP twice), and made 11 "All NBA First Teams".
He averaged 25 points and 10 Rebounds per game throughout his illustrious career. A true Power Forward, Malone played in an age where the big guys patrolled the middle...dominated the paint, and basically made life miserable for any little guy who wanted to go inside. Not only a great defender and enforcer, Malone presented an intriguing display of offensive talents with a variety of post up moves, power drives to the hoop, and a pretty consistent jumpshot from the 18 foot area. He was a true matchup nightmare.
Wilt Chamberlain, Warriors/Sixers/Lakers, Center
I suppose this could be considered "under ranking", because Wilt Chamberlain was one of the all time greats. I can't possibly list all his accomplishments and awards, but I suppose I'll have to name a few.
In 16 seasons, Wilt won 4 Most Valuable Player Awards, 1 NBA Finals MVP, and made 9 All NBA Teams. He averaged 30 points and 22 rebounds a game for his career. Let me repeat that... he averaged 30 points and 22 rebounds, every time he took the court, for 16 seasons.
Wilt was a force of nature that had never been seen before, and has never been seen since. Let's put it this way, because he led the league in scoring 7 times, in rebounding 11 times, and just to show he could do everything... in 1968, he led the league in Assists!
He's most famous for his 100 point game, and probably 2nd most known for losing to Bill Russell's Celtics in the NBA finals, and 3rd most known for the fact that he NEVER fouled out in a single game.
So why isn't he higher? Why isn't he first? Or perhaps 2nd to Russell? Well, it's because Wilt was kind of a flake. I don't mean that in a bad way, just trying to tell the truth. What 7'1" beast that can score at any time leads the league in assists? Wilt, that's who. How can you play defense in the middle...locking down the paint, and never foul out!
As great as he was... and believe me.... I don't think there's ever been a player to dominate the game as much as Wilt. He could have been better. For all his accomplishments and accolades, he only won 2 championships. How can you be THAT dominating... and continually come up short? That's why Wilt is 3rd team. Now if this was strictly "talent based" rankings.... I'd rank Wilt 1st all time, even above Jordan. The things he could do were bewildering. He was the biggest man in the League, but with small forward skills. Don't believe me, watch this Youtube clip. He just made it look so easy.
I like this team. I think they would "hold their own" in any era of the NBA. You've got Isiah running the point looking to penetrate, and if you help off he can dump it off to Wilt, or kick it out to West or Pippen. Let's not forget about Isiah and Malone running the pick and roll with West on the Wing and Wilt patrolling the weakside of the pain... try to defend THAT. And don't even think of trying to score on this team.... Yes, Wilt was a bit "soft" as a defender (never fouling out", but we've got The Mailman on weakside help, and West and Pippen on the wings, cutting down passing lanes, getting out in transition.
In fact, there are only two imaginary teams I could imagine beating them, and they are coming up next!
However, I would be remiss if I left out our "Honorable Mentions" for the guys who almost made the 3rd team.
Point Guard-Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Oscar Robertson, John Stockton, Chris Paul
Shooting Guard-Allen Iverson, Clyde Drexler,
Small Forward-Julius Irving, Dominique Wilkins, James Worthy, Elgin Baylor
Power Forward-Dirk Nowitski, Elvin Hayes, Charles Barkley
Center-Shaquille O'Neill, Hakeem Olajuwan
Stay tuned... we'll be unveiling the 2nd and 1st teams in the coming days.