Imagine 80-year-old Bob Cousy sitting in his living room watching the recent NBA All-Star game, when his 12-year-old grandson (I made up his grandson’s age) jumps up on his lap at halftime, and says, “Grandpa, here is my list of the 25 greatest basketball players of all time.”
Cousy looks with earnest at his beloved grandson, who has been watching and following basketball for a grand total of two years, and says, “Let’s see it kid.”
After seeing his grandson’s list, which has Bob Cousy No. 1, followed by Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, and then a slew of current players.
Cousy smiles, and says lovingly to his sports-crazy grandson, “Pretty good. Would you like to see my list?”
Cousy grandson’s eyes light up and he says, “Sure grandpa, whatcha got?” Cousy pulls out his list and it has Michael Jordan at No. 1 (this is actually true based on an interview that I read), followed by a ton of mostly non-current players (only Kobe, Shaq and Duncan made the list), half of whom his grandson never heard of.
Now, even without looking at the lists, do you have a guess about which list is more accurate?
Very few people, actually almost no one, have ALL the necessary information they need to produce such a list accurately and with complete certainty.
Cousy is, of course, is an exception.
He was born in 1928, and he was a superstar in the league. From what I have read in his interviews, he still follows basketball. In other words, he is very knowledgeable, he has seen all the best, and played against a whole generation of the best.
Maybe a handful of people fit that description of the 6.7 billion people still alive on the planet—I just thought that he was the best example.
Now, does that mean that we should take Cousy’s list as definitive? Of course not. After all, it is just an opinion and more importantly, only one opinion.
Should you listen and give a lot respect to his opinion? Well, unless you think that he has turned senile, I would hope so if you want your top-25 list to be accurate (if there is such a thing).
After all, he is very knowledgeable on playing basketball and has probably seen every player in the history of the NBA play and you haven’t. I would think you would want to hear what he has to say.
I am 49 and started watching basketball when I was 10 (note the similarity to Cousy’s grandson’s experience level) in 1969—the year Jabbar came into the league and unfortunately, the year after Russell left the league.
I will forever be at a disadvantage to Cousy in evaluating the greatest basketball players of all time since I did not see all of them play.
Of course, everyone has his or her own biases and prejudices, so that does not mean that Cousy’s list is more accurate than mine. However, when someone like Cousy talks about the greatest basketball players of all time, I at least listen.
And even if you are 21 and now know everything (like I did when I was 21), when someone likes Cousy gives his opinion about the greatest basketball players of all time, maybe you should listen, too.
Then, and only then, should you tell everyone why your list is the most accurate in the world, and that anyone who disagrees with you does not know basketball!
That being said, Cousy is right. Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time and anyone who disagrees with us does not know basketball.