Following Sunday night’s victory over the Miami Heat, talk began of where Dirk Nowitzki’s place is on the all-time list. His coach thinks he is in the top 10 all time and I have heard others whose opinions I respect say he is firmly in the top 20. So where does he rank on the all-time great pantheon list? In honor of my number 1, I figured I would bust out my top 23 players of all-time to help facilitate the discussion.
23) Kevin Garnett
Garnett is a beast on the both ends of the court but especially on the defensive end of the court. He constantly plays like a mother trying to grab her child who is lodged under an 18 wheeler. Teaming with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, they each got their first ring of their careers in 2008.
22) LeBron James
21) Dwyane Wade
I put the teammates together and had Wade over James due to Wade having a ring and also convincing James to play with him in Miami.
20) Charles Barkley
19) Karl Malone
The forwards seem inseparable as they both had dominant careers in the late 80s and into the 90s but they also never won a ring as their teams lost to Jordan in the Finals each time. Malone gets the nudge as he played longer and finished number 2 on the all-time scoring list.
18) Julius Erving
17) Elgin Baylor
Dr. J and Baylor had similar games. In fact, in the 60s Baylor may have been the inventor of hangtime in the NBA. Dr. J got a ring thanks to Moses Malone and Baylor sacrificed a sure ring because he felt he would be a hindrance on the ’72 Lakers.
16) Dirk Nowitzki
With Dirk’s performance in the playoffs and leading his team to the championship, he jumped from the lower 20s all the way to 16 in my book.
15) Isiah Thomas
14) John Havlicek
Both guards led their teams to victory on numerous occasions and have the rings to prove it. Havlicek may seem out of place on this list but when you look at his numbers, they stack up remarkably well and he won titles without having Bill Russell as well.
13) Oscar Robertson
12) Jerry West
Just as Malone and Barkley seem inseparable, these two are the same. West gets the nudge for being the leader of the 72 Lakers team than when the Big O got his title with Kareem. Plus, West is the logo for the NBA.
11) Moses Malone
No player is more forgotten amongst the greats than Moses. Moses was created to rebound and he used his rear to move you out of the way to get the ball.
10) Wilt Chamberlain
9) Shaquille O’Neal
These two players have been compared historically and both players seemed to underwhelm based on what they were blessed with. In my lifetime, I loved to watch Shaq play but he was the one player who left me wanting more. (Side note, LeBron is creeping onto this list)
8) Hakeem Olajuwon
Olajuwon (v.) — To respond to an opponent’s MVP trophy with a show of force so overwhelming that it leaves no doubt who the more valuable player really is.
His Rockets won the two titles while Jordan was playing baseball.
7) Tim Duncan
Duncan has led his Spurs to 4 titles and done it with class and dignity. Like all superstars, his personality and fingerprints are all over the franchise.
6) Kobe Bryant
Kobe is creeping up the list as he now has 5 titles and seems to be showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, he has Jordan in his sights and wants to get more rings.
5) Larry Bird
4) Magic Johnson
These two brought the NBA out of the dark ages and engaged in some heated battles with the two most storied franchises, the Celtics and the Lakers, during the mid 80s. In every single NBA Finals series during the 1980s, either the Lakers or the Celtics were present.
3) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The most automatic two points in the league with his sky hook. Truly unguardable and he leads the league in points and finished with 6 titles in his career.
2) Bill Russell
He won 11 titles and at one point in time won 8 straight rings.
1) Michael Jordan
No player gets compared more favorably to Hannibal Lecter and I mean that in the most positive way possible. Jordan would do anything to win or get an advantage over his competition. Best player of all-time.