Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The King and Dirk. What a win will do for their legacy

Russel and Magic won the titles in their rookie season. Kareem, Larry, Time Duncan, Kobe, and DWade all won titles before they were 25 years old. Some of the greatest players in NBA history get the taste of a championship when they are young.

Other legends had to pay their dues. It took Michael and Wilt 8 years. It took the Oscar Robertson 11 years. It took Jerry West 12 years. Right now LeBron James is in his 8th season while Dirk Nowitzki is in his 13th season. Both have led their teams to the finals before but came up short. Dirk's Mavs lost to the Heat in 2006 while LeBron's Cavs lost to the Spurs a year later. Dirk is still on the Mavs while King James has relocated to Miami. The two men will lead their respective teams in the NBA Finals. One man will become a champion while the other will come up just short again.

If LeBron wins he will solidify himself as a top 10 player all time. If Dirk wins, it will be very hard to argue that he is a top 15 player all time and the second best power forward ever behind Tim Duncan.

Here is my all time NBA player rankings 1-13
1. Michael Jordan-SG-Simply the greatest ever
2. Bill Russell-C-11 titles in 13 seasons as the best player on his team. WOW
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-6 titles over an incredible 20 year career, NBA's all time leader in points and games.
4. Magic Johnson-PG-The greatest playmaker ever, 5 rings and 8 title appearances.
5.Wilt Chamberlian-C-Only 2 titles but still the most unstoppable force in NBA history
6. Larry Bird-SF-3 titles, 3 MVP's. 2 Finals MVP's he and Magic help re-define the NBA in the 80's.
7. Tim Duncan-PF-4 rings with an average supporting cast, the best PF ever and the best player in the post Jordan era.
8 (tie) Shaquille O'Neal-C
8 (tie) Kobe Bryant-SG-Shaq won all 3 Finals MVP's when he played with Kobe then won another title in Miami and led Orlando to a finals appearance when Kobe was in high school.
Kobe has one more ring than Shaq but is still in his prime and should eventually surpass his former teammate on this list but as of now, I call it even.
10. Hakeem Olajuwon-C-2 titles, 2 Finals MVP's, 1 MVP, 2 time Defensive player of the year 9 time all defensive selection
11. Jerry West-SG-The leagues logo. 1 title, only Finals MVP on a losing team (1969), led the Lakers to 5 title appearances without Wilt and another 3 with Wilt. 12 time all star. 10 first team All-NBA. 29.1ppg in the playoffs (still 3rd all time). 27, 6.7, and 5.8 career averages.
12. Oscar Robertson-SF/PG-1 title, 1 MVP (1964), 12 time All Star, 9 first team All-NBA, only player to average a triple double in a season (1962). Was the first point forward ever paving the way for guys like Magic and Lebron. 25.7, 9.5, and 7.5 career averages.
13. Moses Malone-C/F-1 title, 1 Finals MVP, 3 league MVP's. 13 time All-Star. 20.3 and 12.3 career averages.

If LeBron wins he will solidify himself as a top ten player all-time. He will have done what West,the Big O and Moses Malone did. Win one title along with a future another future Hall of Famer. LeBron has Wade, West had Wilt (and Elgin Baylor all those other years before Wilt, imagine if they all played together in their prime, talk about a Big 3), the Big O had Kareem (when he was still Lew Alcindor) and Moses had Dr. J.

However LeBron has better career regular season and playoff numbers (27, 7 and 7 in the regular season and 29.7, 8.5 and 7) than any of those 3 men and already has won 2 league MVP's. He has also been selected to 3 All-Defensive 1st teams in the past 3 years. So at the very least a win will put him at #11 all time. However I would put him over Hakeem as well. A LeBron win this year will also show that he is clearly the best player on the planet at this time. Hakeem needed MJ to leave the game for 2 years to win his titles and when MJ came back it was Jordan not Hakeem who was the best player on the planet. So at the very least LeBron will move into the top 10 all time with a NBA Finals victory.

He will need a few more rings and some more MVP awards (finals and regular season) to move up the charts to pass Kobe, Shaq, Duncan, Larry and Wilt. That shouldn't be too hard to do in the next few seasons. The King is only 26 years old so a move into the top 5 by the end of his career is still very likely and pretty much expected.

Dirk on the other hand has a ceiling on how high he can get on the list. Right now he is in a big cluster with Bob Petit, Charles Barkley, Kevin Garnett, and Karl Malone in discussion as the 2nd greatest power forward ever. All of those men along with Elgin Baylor, John Havlicek, Scottie Pippen, Dr. J and Isiah Thomas can all make an arguement as being the #14 player all time in league history. Baylor, Barkley, and the Mailman never won a title. Pippen and Havlicek were the two of the greatest complimentary players on many title teams. KG needed the big 3 and unlike Dirk who seems to get better with age has significantly fallen off. Isiah led the Pistons to two titles but his 19 and 9 career averages are solid at best. Petit was the Dirk of the 50's and 60's a power forward that could step outside and shoot but in today's NBA he would be a Kevin Love clone not Dirk.

If Dirk wins I would put him right there as a solid number 14 over all of the players I mentioned above. he has now led 2 different supporting casts to the title game and has put up both great career and playoff numbers
career- 23 and 8.4
playoffs- 26 and 10
That right there shows you that the great shooter from Germany has always been clutch when it counted. The only thing missing on Mr Nowitzki's career resume is a championship.

This series hopefully will be a classic!

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