Here is a picture from my service of the 2010 Los Angeles Lakers and it got me thinking. Who will eventually be considered the “better” player by NBA and/or fan standards?
Pretty much no matter what happens in the future, I think I gotta go Kareem on this one. Kareem often gets forgotten in the ‘best ever’ debate. Kinda like Henry Aaron in baseball. Kareem was so good for so long, we sorta just took him for granted. At 39 (for two more glorious weeks), I’m too young to remember Kareem at UCLA or Milwaukee. I only recall him first as an older statesman with thinning hair from the early 80’s, who wore those John Jefferson-esque goggles, and who loped up the court a few steps behind a dazzling kid named Magic. Yet, it was for him, the actual rules of college basketball were changed because he was so dominant and other-worldly. Yes, in 1967, the NCAA outlawed dunking a basketball because of Lew Alcindor, as he was then known. Kareem was ‘next-gen’ before that was even a term. In 1971 Kareem brought a title to America’s red-headed step city, Milwaukee, for god’s sake, that town’s last ever professional sports championship.
Here are some of Kareem’s NBA stats:
1969-70 NBA Rookie of the Year; 6 (1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977 & 1980) NBA Most Valuable Player awards; 2 (1971 & 1985) NBA Finals MVP’s; 10 times All-NBA 1st Team; 5 times All-NBA 2nd Team; 5 times NBA All-Defensive 1st Team; 6 times All-Defensive 2nd Team; 19 time All-Star; NBA Career Leader in Points Scored (38,387); NBA Career Leader in Minutes Played, Field Goals & Field Goal Attempts; 2nd overall in Games Played; 4th overall in Rebounds; 3rd overall in Blocks; The Most WINS by any player ever and 6 NBA Championships as a player + 1 as an assistant coach.
That’s pretty freaking impressive.
Kobe Bryant might be great, but he will never match that kind of utterly shocking dominance. I remember about 10 years ago, a good buddy of mine who works in the pro basketball industry predicted Kobe would eventually be considered better than Jordan. And while that probably won’t come true, Kobe is much closer than I thought he’d be back then, when I scoffed at the notion. Kobe still needs to win 2 or 3 more rings to be seriously considered in the discussion.
But, even 20+ years since Kareem retired, he still virtually stands alone.