The Five Biggest Misconceptions in NBA History

Marcel SmithSenior Analyst IJune 14, 2009

ATLANTA  - JANUARY 21:  Scottie Pippen #33 of the Chicago Bulls shoots a free throw during the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on January 21, 2004 in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Hawks won 97-87.  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: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

5. Bill Russell Being Better Than Wilt Chamberlain

Nearly every time I look at an all-time centers list or an all-time players list, I see Bill Russell being put ahead of the great Wilt Chamberlain.

I completely disagree with that belief. Russell was better than Wilt in only one category: the record 11 rings compared to just two rings for Wilt. 

Wilt was a much better offensive player (Russell never averaged 19 points per game for a season, while Wilt's career scoring average was 30.1), an equal rebounder and defender, a better passer (he even led the league in assists once) and a much more efficient player shooting 54 percent from the field while Russell shot a bad 44 percent.

Russell was just fortunate to have Hall of Famers John Havlicek, Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, Frank Ramsey, Tom Heinsohn, Bill Sharman, Bailey Howell, and Clyde Lovellette.

For every season of Russell's career, he had at least three other Hall of Famers with him and in two seasons he had as much as seven with him.

Had it not been for the Hall of Fame-filled Celtics, Wilt would've won many more rings and would be a unanimous pick for the greatest player of all time. 

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4. The Celtics Being A Better Franchise Than The Lakers

Most of the people in the basketball world consider the Celtics to be the best NBA franchise ever, but that is absurd as the Lakers have been more successful.

The Lakers will have two less titles in a few days after they win number 15, but they have been much more consistent than the Celtics, who dominated in really just two eras: the 60's and 80's (the Lakers were dominant during the 50's, great during the 60's, good in the 70's, legendary in the 80's, solid in the 90's and great in this decade).

Also, the Lakers have more wins, a much higher winning percentage, more conference titles and many more playoff appearances than the Celtics do as well as having arguably eight of the 25 greatest players ever in Magic, Kareem, Wilt, Shaq, Kobe, Baylor, West and Mikan, while the Celtics have three in Russell, Bird and Havlicek.

Finally, the Lakers are the most popular NBA franchise, even with commissioner David Stern saying that his dream Finals matchup would be the Lakers vs. the Lakers. 

3. The 90's Being A Strong Decade

I have heard numerous times how the 90's were a strong decade, mostly because of the dominant Bulls led by Michael Jordan. However, that is completely false.

The 90's, in reality, were one of the two weakest decades in the league's history, along with the 70's.

The league was watered down severely by numerous new expansion teams as the league wanted to grow and expand in cities teams didn't play in, such as Miami, Minnesota, Charlotte, and Orlando, who were all created in either 1989 or 1990. 

Besides the Bulls, who were still really good without Jordan, there wasn't another great team. The Rockets were good with Hakeem as they won two titles, but he never had a great cast and won purely on his greatness and the weakness of the era.

The Jazz had Stockton and Malone, but no one else and were average defensively. The Sonics were pretty good for a couple of years, but they needed more than just Payton and Kemp.

The Knicks never surrounded Ewing with a good supporting cast as well as San Antonio for Robinson until the very late 90's after Duncan became a superstar. 

2. The 1995-96 Bulls Being The Best Team Ever

The majority of people consider the 1995-96 Bulls team to be the best NBA single season team ever because they won a record 72 games that season.

While that team was amazing as it had Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc, Steve Kerr, Ron Harper and Luc Longley, it wasn't as great as the 1971-72 Lakers, the 1985 Lakers and the 1984 Celtics, who all had great big men, which would've dominated the weak centers the Bulls had. 

Personally, I think the 1985-86 Lakers is the greatest team ever. That team won 62 games, but in a much harder era and had Magic, Byron Scott, Worthy, Kareem, Bob McAdoo, Michael Cooper, Mitch Kupchak, Kurt Rambis, Mike McGee and Jamal Wilkes.

They beat the Celtics in six games to win the championship and they would've definitely beat the 72-win Bulls team as Kareem would've dominated Longley and the Bulls' other big men and the Lakers were deeper than the Bulls. 

The 1985 Lakers team averaged an amazing 118.2 points per game, while allowing an average 110.9 points per game, a 7.3-point differential.

They shot an unheard of 54.5 percent from the field as a team, ranking first in offensive rating for the season and seventh in defensive rating.

Overall, they would've dominated the Bulls inside, but they still had enough perimeter scoring from Magic, Worthy and Scott to form a balanced attack, too good for the great defensive Bulls to match. 

1. That Michael Jordan Is the Greatest Player of All Time

I am in the minority that believes that MJ is NOT the best player ever. While Jordan was a legend, brilliant at both ends of the court, and won six titles, I don't believe he is the best basketball player of all time.

First off, I think his legacy was greatly enhanced by the weakness of the era as he would've never won six rings had it not been for the fact that there wasn't another great team in the 90's besides his Bulls. 

Second, he never really made his teammates better, even though the media and all of his lovers will make it seem like he did. Jordan's best teammates during his run with the Bulls were Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, B.J. Armstrong, Toni Kukoc, and Dennis Rodman.

Pippen's two best seasons came in the two seasons when Jordan retired in the mid-'90s. In the 1993-94 season (the first year after MJ retired), Pippen finished third in the MVP voting, averaging 22 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and one block while shooting 49 percent from the field. 

The year after Jordan retired was when Grant made his only All-Star appearance, as he averaged career highs in points (15.1), rebounds (11), and assists (3.4). Armstrong's two best seasons also occurred in the two seasons that Jordan retired. 

And while Rodman had very good seasons with Jordan and the Bulls during their second three-peat, he never improved at all by playing with MJ. Finally, Kukoc's best season came in the 1998-99 season, which was the season after Jordan's second retirement.

So, the perception that Jordan made his teammates better is false, as most of his best teammates played better without him than with him.

Third, Jordan was a terrible teammate. Jordan punched teammates Steve Kerr and Will Perdue during practice and he ran coach Doug Collins out because he was upset that Collins was trying to instill a more team-oriented system, rather than too much one-on-one play by Jordan.

However, the most obvious thing to show how bad of a teammate MJ was is to see how he treated Kwame Brown when he was with the Wizards.

Jordan was still a very good player, but he was past his prime and he was in a situation where he could lead a young and rebuilding Wizards team with a talented, first overall pick in Brown. 

However, instead of supporting and trying to lift up Brown's spirits after some struggles that were going to happen as he was coming out of high school, Jordan called Brown "a flaming faggot," and he used several other derogatory words towards him, which obviously destroyed Brown's confidence, as he idolized Jordan.

This shows that even after his prime, MJ only cared about himself and his attitude towards Kwame is a major reason why Kwame became a bust: he has never been a confident player because he couldn't handle all of Jordan's insults and the pressure of a franchise on him. 

Finally, the last reason why MJ isn't the best player ever is how successful the 1993-94 Bulls were without him. The Bulls didn't replace MJ with a great player as Pete Meyers (who the hell is that?) started at shooting guard for him, yet they were still able to win 55 games, just two less than the year before with MJ.

The team was better defensively than the year before, even though they lost one of the best defenders in Jordan and would've at least advanced to the East Finals had it not been for the worst call in NBA history. 

It was Game Five of the East semifinals between the Bulls and Knicks with the series tied at two. The Bulls were up by one in New York with just seven seconds left and Hubert Davis missed a long two with his foot on the line with two seconds left.

But the ref called Pippen on a shooting foul for contact after the shot was released, which was never called then like it is now. Davis made the two free throws, the Knicks won the game and the series in seven games.

Had the Bulls won the series, which they would've if it wasn't for the call, they would've most likely defeated the Pacers in the next round, who they were 3-1 against in the regular season and matched up very well with.

Overall, Jordan was a great player, but not the greatest of all time. He didn't make his teammates better, he dominated an extremely weak era, he was a terrible teammate and the Bulls were still very successful without him after he retired.