By: Opinionated Reezy
There was a discussion on ESPN First Take where the discussion was whether LeBron James is in the Top five all-time NBA Players. This is because LeBron James hit another landmark this season by surpassing Moses Malone in the all-time scoring list, putting him at eighth. He is also currently sixteenth in assists.
Steven A. Smith gave a very poor answer to the question as there really is not an “it depends” to this questions. To paraphrase he said:
LeBron James is Top five for 46 minutes
LeBron James is not Top five for the remaining 2 minutes
Now, before we continue let me state for the record that I DO NOT believe LeBron James is a Top five NBA Player of all time YET, but he has earned the right to be in the conversation.
Let me explain why I feel Steven A. Smith’s answer was poor and then I’ll comment on the Top Five list in general.
After Michael Jordan’s real retirement in 1998 the NBA has been on an unhealthy pursuit to find the heir apparent. Every time you saw a player that could dunk and exhibit some leadership skill they were measured against the legacy of Jordan. There have been on two players who have really survived that high mark of excellence, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Of the two ONLY Kobe Bryant can truly be compared to Michael Jordan. He was the heir and overall, we overlooked his greatness until he gave all he could give. Kobe lives for those final two minutes like Michael Jordan did, Kobe has ice in his veins, Kobe is the one kids today should look at if they “wanna be like Mike”, be like Kobe. LeBron James lives for 36 minutes. He wants to play the game in such a way where he can prepare for the next one, and that means building the lead and letting the team finish the job. Amongst those are expected to score who are not point guards, he is deliberately on the all-time assist list as he is better suited as an all-around team player. That sounds more like Magic Johnson, than Michael Jordan. I would imagine for LeBron James, if he must take the last shot then win or lose the game would be considered a failure to him.
I find Steven A. Smith’s answer to be poor because it is, once again, viewing the world only through the lens of Michael Jordan.
I will repeat Lebron James is not a Top five all-time NBA Player yet. For me he hasn’t achieved enough moments that would cause pause, He hasn’t really garnered a signature trait that would make you say “uh oh”. It is coming though.
So, who is currently listed in the Top Five? Per Bleacher Report:
Michael Jordan (SG)
Bill Russell (C )
Magic Johnson (PG)
Kareem Abdul-Jabar (C )
Larry Bird (SF)
LeBron James (SF)
Wilt Chamberlain (C )
Tim Duncan (PF)
Shaquille O’Neal (C )
Hakeem Olajuwon (C )
Here is where I have an issue. Where is Kobe? For all the reasons, I listed above, here is how I would change the list:
Remove Wilt Chamberlain – Great Player, but others have achieved more with less.
Insert Kobe Bryant into the Number 5 spot – symbolic that his airness and rightful heir would end cap the top five.
Drop Larry Bird to 6 and Lebron James to 7.
I am not a fan of lists that heavily laced with Centers so that is my bias however, I believe the list with the adjustments is fair.
What do you think?