Carmelo Anthony and the 50 Most Overrated Stars in NBA History
Ah, the dreaded "overrated" tag. Which of the many stars who have populated the NBA universe over the past decades have earned it?
These 50 have more than any others as the perception of their greatness has managed to surpass their actual ability to produce on the basketball court.
But before we move on, please read a few of my warnings carefully.
Warning No. 1: There will be many current and recent players because of the media's increased ability to hype players up to unnatural levels.
Warning No. 2: It's necessary to do more than just look at the titles and pictures in some cases. You'll know why.
Warning No. 3: You won't see Blake Griffin, so don't bother trying to convince me that he's overrated in the comments. Griffin has been called overrated so many times recently that he's now back to being slightly underrated.
The namesake of these rankings, Carmelo Anthony might be one of the best players in the NBA right now, but he doesn't deserve to be mentioned alongside historical greats, and he most certainly doesn't deserve the top-five status in the current landscape of the league that some give him.
Melo is a tremendously talented scorer, but he's also a ball-stopper who disrupts the flow of the offense and doesn't exactly try on defense.
Vin Baker "earned" some monstrous contracts, but he was never the same player after his first four years in the NBA.
He was making well over $10 million per season once he wound up with the Boston Celtics, but by that point, alcohol had started to destroy his career.
As a player, no, Charles Barkley was not overrated.
But as an announcer, I think we give him one too many free passes. Chuck's witticisms are occasionally brilliant and always humorous, but we assume that everything he says has merit now because we're conditioned to believe that it's all awesome.
It wouldn't surprise me if we soon started seeing people overrate Barkley's career because of his legacy in the TNT studio.
As a quick caveat, Shane Battier is not a "star." He never has been. That said, he's too overrated for me to think of leaving him off of this list.
Throughout his career, Battier has been heralded as a glue guy—a player whose defensive contributions and three-point shooting were supposed to bring a team together and make them into a bunch of champions.
Battier's defense has always been slightly overrated, but my biggest gripe is that the man who's heralded as one of the better glue guys of all time just gets a bit too much credit overall.
Walt Bellamy may have put up gaudy numbers in the points and rebounds category, but that was about it.
The big man was a selfish scorer who made sloppy passes, never seemed to truly put forth effort on a daily basis and flat-out refused to play defense. In fact, Bellamy is the player who best displayed why Bill Simmons' hierarchal rankings of players was necessary.
The following is a quote from The Book of Basketball:
Note: Bellamy's career exemplifies why we need the Pyramid. He averaged a 29-17 during his first three seasons—1961-1963, before the league changed color and got bigger—and never made another All-Star team after '64. He's one of nine players to finish with 20,000 points and 14,000 rebounds, only Wilt owned him to the degree that the Dipper once shook his hand before an opening tip, promised Bellamy that he would get demolished, destroyed him for an entire half, then told him before the second-half tip, "Okay, now you can score." His teams never won—in fact, Bellamy's teams won just two playoff series and dealt him twice in his prime. When the '68 Knicks traded Bellamy and Howie Komives for Dave DeBusschere, the deal quickly turned them around and ushered in a six-year run of contention. The great Goerge Kiseda even wrote, "Walt Bellamy is the skeleton in the closet of the 20,000-Point Club." Clearly, Bellamy missed his calling—if he'd come along thirty years later, he would have been revered by fantasy owners...
And this guy is in the Hall.
I think this one speaks for itself.
Chris Bosh may get a little more hatred than he deserves because of his role on the Miami Heat.
He's still a great player, but he was never deserving of the superstar status that was bestowed upon him while he was the best player in Toronto and getting ready to take his talents to South Beach.
Basketball-Reference.com's formulas came up with the following players in their "Similarity Scores" section for Bill Bradley: Jim Washington, Jerome Williams, Tom Gugliotta.
In fact, I can think of two things that were better than Bradley's NBA career. Those would be his book, Life on the Run, and his career at Princeton.
Kobe Bryant is one of those players who is simultaneously underrated and overrated thanks to his vast amount of supporters and detractors. There really is no middle ground with the Black Mamba. And remember, simultaneous underrating and overrating does mean that a player can be called overrated.
The truth of the matter is that Kobe is a top-10 player in this wonderful sport's history. He still has quite a few years left and may work his way up into the top five, but he's just not there yet. That said, he won't finish his career ahead of Michael Jordan in most people's rankings.
But there are always going to be those diehard Kobe fans who insist that he's a top-three player no matter what and that he's the best player in the league right now. (Hint: he's not)
Those fans are so loud and so outspoken that they drown out the sane ones who don't let their biases affect them too much.
So to all of you complaining about Kobe's inclusion here, you probably have yourselves to thank for it.
His legend as one of the greatest dunkers of all time is well-deserved, but Vince Carter never actually became a truly great basketball player.
To do that, you actually have to try.
Wilt Chamberlain was quite possibly the most statistically dominant player of all time.
What makes The Stilt overrated was that he cared more about those stats than anything else. He would pass up open shots for the opportunity to rack up assists and set records, for example.
Wilt is arguably the greatest athlete to ever play the sport, and he was a tremendously hard worker, but he didn't have the mentality of a champion, yet there are still a select few who claim he's the greatest player of all time.
I have one hyphenated word to say here: whoop-de-damn-doo.
Dave Cowens is unquestionably a great player. There's no doubt about that.
But he shouldn't have an MVP in his awards section.
As you're going to see throughout this list, one moment or one extended spurt can often make a player overrated throughout his entire career.
Baron Davis, back when he was actually motivated to play well and not eat donuts, enjoyed a tremendous start to his career—one that peaked well down the road when he led the Golden State Warriors to an upset over the Dallas Mavericks in the 2007 NBA playoffs.
The series was highlighted by this play, which lives on in NBA fans' minds, even if Davis will never live up to the moment again.
Being a great scorer doesn't necessarily mean you're a great basketball player.
Tyreke Evans is one of the rare players who doomed himself to being perennially overrated thanks to a fantastic rookie season.
The combo guard averaged over 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game during his first year out of Memphis, putting him in an exclusive club that was previously populated by only Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
He's struggled to match that season ever since, which makes the current perception of his play surpass the actual level of play by a fair margin.
Patrick Ewing was a great player, and I'm not going to discredit him for his failure to win a championship in an era dominated by Michael Jordan and a slew of great centers.
But I am going to point to Ewing himself as the reason he's overrated. He was way too prone to guaranteeing victories.
For example, take Game 6 of the 2000 Eastern Conference series against the Indiana Pacers. After calling a victory, Ewing missed his final six shots of the game, and the Knicks fell by 13 points.
This was not the only time such an event occurred.
Derek Fisher is going to be a great coach one day, but has he ever been a good basketball player?
Fish's career-best PER is 14.0, well below the league average, and his career mark is a putrid 11.8. With a career field goal percentage of just 40.0 percent and an everlasting lack of defensive presence, I'd have to say no to the question I posed above.
His legacy should simply be that he rode the coattails of Kobe Bryant to five NBA titles.
A nickname like Stevie Franchise says it all.
Penny Hardaway's last name and the Michael Jordan comparisons when he entered the league created a reputation that Penny could never hope to live up to.
How many of you knew that he averaged over 20 points per game only three times during his career?
Perhaps, this would have been different if he simply went by Anfernee—either that or staying healthy.
Elvin Hayes never made any attempt to actually learn the strategic aspects of the game but was instead content to rebound, block shots and hit his patented turnaround jumper for the left side of the court.
I don't think he ever made an effort to pass, dribble or play defense that involved more than swatting shots away.
Robert Horry was never a star, but he's another player who I couldn't leave off this list in good conscience.
The following is taken from a previous article I wrote about why the concept of "clutch" doesn't exist as we currently define it:
Here's where I have to address Robert Horry, or "Big Shot Bob." Horry was by no means a star, yet he has multiple supposedly clutch shots. If you go back and watch the tape though, all of his game-winning three-pointers were of the catch-and-shoot variety.
He would stand in the corner, receive the ball without a defender in sight and drain the shot. What goes overlooked is that those were shots he could have hit in his sleep thanks to the lack of hands in his face.
We remember Horry for the handful of game-winners he hit. Why don't we remember that he shot 227-for-634 from downtown in his playoff career, good for just 35.8 percent? It wasn't like Horry knocked down every big shot he took.
But if you don't want to believe me, believe Horry himself. Here's what he said after making a game-winner against the Sacramento Kings back in 2002: "If I hit it, we win; if I miss, y'all are going to blame the stars for losing the game anyway. There's no pressure on me."
Allan Houston was a great scorer for the New York Knicks until knee problems forced a premature end to his career.
During the 2006-2007 season, well after he retired, Houston was still paid $20.7 million by the Knicks—the second-highest salary in the league.
Even if he had been healthy, Houston would be receiving waaaaaay too much money.
Mark Jackson was always viewed as one of the better point guards in the league when he played, and his shimmies were a poorly received sight if you were going up against the New York Knicks.
The floor general may have been one of the better passers that the game has introduced to us fans, but he was also a turnover machine with a low-usage rate.
I really hesitated to put LeBron James on this list, but as long as people are still comparing him to the greatest player of all time, I have to out of fairness.
James is the best player in the league now without any doubt. His issues in crunch-time are overblown, and he's having one of the greatest seasons anybody has ever put together.
But leave it to guys like Scottie Pippen and the diehard James fans to still make him overrated.
Thanks to his playoff performances, high-flying, dunk-machine ways and the Grandmama Converse commercials, Larry Johnson was always in the spotlight just a little bit more than he should have been.
Seriously, how did Christian Laettner make it onto the Dream Team?
Bill Laimbeer is only included here because I don't believe that dirty play should lead to your name being remembered down the road in a positive light, especially when your basketball skills were anything but great.
An incredible player who is well deserving of his Hall of Fame spot and placement in the top 20 basketball players of all time, Karl Malone is overrated because some people are willing to overlook his faults and put him in the top 10.
Despite the fact that he was given the nickname "The Mailman" because he always delivered, Malone managed to succumb to the pressure in the playoffs each and every year.
He failed to ever win a title despite a great supporting cast around him and one of the greatest point guards of all time running the show.
Pistol Pete Maravich is in the Hall of Fame because of his college basketball prowess, not because of his brief tenure among the elite players in the NBA.
Stephon Marbury was always bickering with coaches, shot just 35.5 percent from the field during the playoffs and 43.3 percent during the regular season, constantly played selfishly and decided that his talent was too great to waste by expending energy on defense.
Yet, he was still a star, or rather a Starbury, because of his flashy offensive contributions. He was shipped off by multiple teams during his career once they realized just how overrated he really was.
Just in case you haven't noticed the theme, selfish scorers who don't contribute much are generally overrated in the mind of this writer.
Bob McAdoo was a great offensive big man with a soft jumper, but soft could describe just about every other part of his game as well, except this time, it wouldn't be used as a compliment.
In February 2010, Sports Illustrated ran a poll asking current NBA players who they thought was the most overrated player in the game.
Tracy McGrady led the results with nine percent of the votes.
I've always been a huge Kevin McHale fan, and I'm firmly convinced that only Hakeem Olajuwon has ever had a better set of post-moves, but he's still a bit overrated.
After all, it's a lot easier to put up numbers and win championships when you're playing alongside Robert Parish and Larry Bird on a nightly basis.
George Mikan is an interesting player from a historical standpoint because of his dominance in the infancy of professional basketball. He was the first true superstar and the player most commonly ranked highly in all-time lists from his era.
But does anyone actually think that Mikan could compete today? Would he have won titles if the league had consisted of more teams and more good players?
I respect his place within the history of the sport, but he's overrated as a player.
Was Reggie Miller truly a superstar, or was he a great player masquerading as a superstar because he was always the best player on his Indiana Pacers squad?
There's no denying the second-leading three-point shooter of all time had a knack for coming up big when it counted, but I personally don't think his offensive greatness can completely cancel out his total lack of defensive presence.
Just for those of you who are curious, Miller is the guy I would leave off this list if I cut the number down to 49 instead of 50.
In researching for this article, I came across an awesome thread from InsideHoops.com that went through all of the players who dunked on Alonzo Mourning at some point during his career and joined the not so exclusive "I Dunked on Alonzo Mourning" club.
According to the forum, the members of the IDOAM club are:
Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Caron Butler, Vince Carter, Baron Davis, Tim Duncan, Patrick Ewing, Pau Gasol, Joey Graham, Grant Hill, Lebron James, Richard Jefferson, Michael Jordan, Shawn Kemp, Desmond Mason, Jamaal Magloire, Antonio McDyess, Darko Milicic, Yao Ming, Shaquille O'Neal, Tayshaun Prince, J.R. Rider, Malik Rose, Josh Smith and Stromile Swift.
To be fair, he rejected far more players, but I found it hilarious that there was a list of the posterizations and the conversation devolved into a debate about how overrated he was.
Future Steve Nash
Steve Nash is not overrated right now. Let me make that perfectly clear.
I'm including him here because I'm worried that down the road, he'll be viewed as much more than what he was.
Thanks to his two MVPs (neither of which he truly deserved in my opinion), his gaudy offensive statistics and the lack of attention the casual fan pays to defense when evaluating players of the past, Nash's legacy is only going to grow as time marches on.
A six-time All-Star while he was in an Indiana Pacers uniform, Jermaine O'Neal was absolutely a dominant force on both ends of the court during his prime.
The problem is that he just couldn't ever get it done in the playoffs. As a power forward, O'Neal's regular-season, true shooting percentage of 51.5 is pretty decent, but that mark drops dramatically to just 48.4 in his 90 postseason appearances.
"Here comes Willis!" was a great moment, but it made Willis Reed into far more of a legend than he ever deserved.
For all of the scoring that Glenn Robinson did early in his career, he only piled up a career offensive rating of 102. Excluding his nine-game season with the San Antonio Spurs in the twilight of his career, his highest single-season mark was only 103.
Big Dog was supposed to be one of the best scorers in the league during the 1990s and early 2000s, but his low field goal percentage and turnovers kept him from being one of the best offensive players.
Rajon Rondo may be one of the most unique point guards in NBA history, but that doesn't make him one of the best. He still has a long way to go to earn that distinction.
It annoys me to no end when people try to claim that Rondo is a better current point guard than someone like Russell Westbrook, just because a certain type of production is supposedly required from each position.
A three-point marksman and a fiery player, John Starks' career received a major boost from playing in the city that never sleeps.
His dunk over Horace Grant and Michael Jordan will live on in history, but the rest of his playing days will subsequently receive a bit too much credit.
This may be a popular opinion, but I've always thought that John Stockton was just a tiny bit overrated.
His passing numbers are absolutely incredible, as are his steal totals (though those are no doubt added by his chippy, dirty style of defensive play), but they were also boosted by quite a few things:
1. Stockton was in the perfect offensive system thanks to the brilliance of head coach Jerry Sloan.
2. Stockton was lucky enough to play with one of the better power forwards of all time, Karl Malone, whose skills happened to complement his perfectly.
3. Stockton played in an era that notoriously was looser with its definition of an assist.
Amar'e Stoudemire is an offensive force, but he was only an unstoppable offensive force with the Phoenix Suns because he had Steve Nash feeding him the ball, and he was playing in the fast-paced, seven-seconds-or-less offense employed by Mike d'Antoni.
The big man gets compared to quite a few all-time greats, but his career hasn't been that special yet and never will be unless he plays at least a little bit of defense here and there.
Antoine Walker is the very definition of a player who shoots too much.
Yes, he averaged 17.5 points per game during his career, but he did so while shooting 41.4 percent from the field. He actually managed to average over 20 points per game while shooting under 40 percent in consecutive seasons, yet made the All-Star team both times.
I'm going to stop before my head explodes.
Bill Walton was almost guaranteed a spot in the Hall of Fame thanks to his dominance for John Wooden at UCLA, but he wasn't dominant in the NBA for very long at all.
The big man had a great first four years in the Association, culminating in an MVP during the 1977-1978 season. But, injuries plagued him throughout the rest of his career, and his production quickly fell off a cliff from it's high (pun intended) point.
It never appeared as though Chris Webber cared enough to battle under the basket for rebounds and defensive positioning. That was just one reason why C-Webb failed to ever make the actual transition from very good to great, even if he was perceived as doing so.
That, coupled, with his constant injuries, make him overrated in my mind. A top-100 player of all time is supposed to average more than 55.4 games per season.
As an Atlanta Hawks fan, I am required to absolutely love Dominique Wilkins.
That said, he's gotten a bit too good of a reputation because of his high-flying ways. Wilkins truly was the "Human Highlight Film," but he didn't have the all-around game that a true superstar needs to possess.
The small forward wasn't a terrific rebounder, and his defense was so-so at best. It's moments like his playoff shootout with Larry Bird and the many times he flew through the air that boost his rep a little too much.
James Worthy was an amazing player who happened to be drafted into the perfect situation with the Showtime Lakers.
That, coupled with his prowess in big games (see nickname of Big Game James), is enough to make him slightly overrated.
Worthy is well deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame, but saying he's a top-50 player of all time may be pushing it.