Friday, September 17, 2010

All Time Top 12

A couple weeks ago I posted my top 5 players of the past decade (and made a sporcle quiz!). I've since gone back all the way through 1955 (when data becomes scarce) with results that will get posted at some point. I began wondering if I could use the numbers to create a list of the top players ever to play. Just adding up totals like in the players of the decade post gave an unfair advantage to long careers like Karl Malone and Kareem. So I combined total top 5 points and average position in years ranked (I had a minimum of 5 years, so Kevin Durant who's only been ranked for 1 year has an average of .8). The rankings aren't great, but they bring up interesting ideas.

1 Jordan
2 Abdul-Jabbar
3 Chamberlain
4 Robertson
T5 K. Malone
T5 O'Neal
7 James
8 Pettit
9 Robinson
10 Duncan
11 Bird
12 West

There's also a top 12 using just years being the best in the NBA

Player Years Consecutive Ties
1 Jordan 10 7 2
2 Kareem 7 4 0
3 Chamberlain 7 3 0
4 James 4 3 0
5 Bird 3 3 0
6 K. Malone 3 3 2
T7 M. Malone 3 2 0
T7 Pettit 3 2 0
T9 Robinson 2 2 0
T9 Shaq 2 2 0
11 Duncan 2 2 1
12 Nowitzki 2 1 0

There are a few interesting things to notice here:
First, it's clear the Michael Jordan is the best player of all time, followed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar then Wilt Chamberlain. This is a very believable thing without numbers to back it up, and it's solidified here.
Second, Bill Russell and Magic Johnson are missing from both lists. Each suffers from playing in a loaded era (Russell was always stuck behind Robertson and Chamberlain, Magic had Bird and Kareem/Jordan). Both probably also suffer from a lack of plus/minus data for their years because they set a unique style of play for their team. What their absence does indicate though is that both may be over-rated. While each was definitely a top-20 player top 5 may be a little bit of a reach.
Finally, Lebron James is ranked impressively high on both lists, 4th and 7th. It puts him in serious danger of challenging Karl Malone for best player ever to not win a championship ( something which could change this year). Just halfway through his career this is an amazing achievement. He had the highest average score of any player not named Jordan, and is on his way to possibly dethroning our current top 3. It will be an interesting next few years to watch.

Also for funsies, here's where a couple other top-40 players rank in the first ranking:
Tie 16th- Garnett and Nowitzki
18th - Magic
19th - Kobe
Tie 27 - T-Mac
29 - Bill Russell
30 - D-Wade
Tie 34 - Chris Paul

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