It is the conversations no media pundit or analyst wants to have publicly for fear of the backlash and personal attacks. Yet, the question itself is as innocent as there is in sports; “Who is the best player in NBA history?” The answer, regardless of who you are, is sure to include one of the following individuals: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain.
The question is not who are the participants in the “Best Ever” conversation, but rather the order in which they rank. While ranking a player is always about preference and then performance, the
consistency in which QUALIFIED minds agree with you is what gives credence to your rankings.
No thing and no one in life is perfect, which makes it virtually impossible to have an undisputed greatest of all time. Who was the best at the particular facet of the game on which you place the highest importance will always place higher than those who struggled in that area. For instance, if you believe scoring and gaudy numbers reign supreme, then Wilt and Jordan will certainly rank higher than Magic and Russell.
However, it is the compilation of skills that made these 11 superior. It was their perfect blend of skill and desire that made them the game’s best.
Championships, while well-deserved, are never a true gauge of greatness. Robert Horry and Jack Haley enjoy the spoils of victory, but are not the victors of, say, LeBron James or Karl Malone. This is a list for sustained individual greatness, with "sustained" being the key cog.
While a championship provides a moment of immortality, it is a singular moment of achievement that can simply interrupt consistent complacency.
A career’s worth of dominance, a complete repertoire, on-the-court leadership and impact on the game are the four factors considered. This is a simple formula for quite possibly the most complex of topics.
Many of the game’s transcendent fighters will be omitted from this list but are worthy of mentioning here. The omittance of Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, Bob Pettit, Rick Barry, Isiah Thomas, David
Robinson and Jerry West is more about the minuscule deficiencies in their games than disrespect for their talent level. These differences, minuet in the symphony of an NBA career, were monumental in the creation of this classical piece.
While the subject matter is written with confidence, there is no wrong answer to this question. The answer, no matter how emphatically it is stated, is based on a personal preference disguised in the form of exact science.