Stephon Marbury Declares Derrick Rose on Same Level as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistSeptember 10, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 12: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls drives past LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat at the United Center on April 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Heat 96-86 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Stephon Marbury believes in Derrick Rose.

Excitement continues to mount with each passing day. Every sunset brings the NBA one day closer to Rose's actual return, to the Chicago Bulls regaining contender status.

One day closer to Rose being seated at the right and left hands of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Come again?

While on Twitter, Marbury placed Rose in the company of Kobe and LeBron. Erring on the side of caution before making a bold declaration, he said that Rose would be one of the best players in the NBA if he was healthy next season. Then he said that puts Rose between Kobe and LeBron.

I'm honestly not sure what to make of this. Of course Rose will be one of the best players in the league if he's healthy. That's a given. But top three? That's debatable.

And what does Marbury mean by "between" Kobe and LeBron? Taken literally, it seems he's suggesting Kobe is the best player in the NBA, followed by Rose, then LeBron.

My brain won't let me accept that explanation, though. I'm going to assume LeBron is his No. 1. There's no way a hobbled 35-year-old has the edge on him right now.  No one in the Association does. LeBron is the greatest player in the world, and it's not even close.

Looked at in that sense, I still have trouble believing Rose is the second-best player in the league, even if he's 100 percent healthy. Placing him ahead of Kevin Durant and Chris Paul just seems weird. And wrong.

Cases can easily be made for a top-five finish—if he's healthy—but I'm not prepared to ignore either of the previous two. Penciling him in as No. 4 feels a bit better, though Tony Parker, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and a healthy Kobe are all in play there as well.

There's no doubt Rose is a superstar. I've got no bones about mentioning him in the same breath as LeBron or Kobe. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

LeBron is still the unchallenged No. 1 while both Kobe and Rose have questions to answer and expectations to crush if they wish to make it within the top three.