Implied Dissent

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Who's no. 1?

Tyler Cowen says Shaq is the greatest NBA player, ever. Shaq is a great player, and if he had an average NBA work ethic, he probably would be the greatest ever, but I have to disagree with both Tyler's conclusion and his arguments. First, the players who can be seriously considered for greatest ever are Jordan, Bird, Magic, Kareem, Wilt, and Russell. LeBron may one day be in the discussion, Dr J and the Big O are just a bit short of inclusion, if Walton had been healthy he'd probably be in the running, and that's about it at this point. Second, he seems to be judging Shaq on different standards than others; MJ didn't have a jump shot at first, so he can't be the greatest, but we should just ignore Shaq's lifelong struggles at the line? Point 1 about Russell is defendable I suppose, but I disagree, think Ben Wallace with a handle, great passing, solid scoring, team leadership, and better understanding of the intricacies and psychology of the game than just about anyone else. I agree that Shaq leaving LA is (by far) the biggest reason the Lakers are bad, but there is more to it than that. I agree that Shaq is (by far) the biggest reason Miami is so good now, but there's more to it than that. I agree Chicago's impressive performance sans-MJ in 1994 muddies the picture (tho it was the semi-finals, not the finals, T), but anyone who understands the Ewing Theory and how the '92 and '93 offseasons affected things knows it doesn't muddy it as much as a naive reading suggests. Shaq has been swept out of the playoffs many times; I believe it's happened it each of the four rounds of postseason play. He doesn't take care of his body/conditioning very well, and so has missed about 15% of his various teams' games over his career. Despite his generally laziness, he is a good team player, but wasn't particularly one early in his career, tho he wasn't a bad teammate either.
So who's my no. 1? Well, if I had an awful team, Jordan would be my second choice after Wilt as the one player to add to improve it the most. If I had a good or better team, he'd be my third choice behind Russell and Bird as the guy to improve it's championship chances the most. Combine that with his sustained excellence and durability, and MJ's the one.


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