Who did Curry and Durant not pick? Contenders for Top 5 ever!

April 03, 2019 - 4:33 pm

After Steph Curry listed his top 5 players ever (Jordan, Wilt, Shaq, LeBron, Magic), Durant followed suit with his own top 5: Jordan, Kobe, Shaq, Hakeem, and Magic. To be clear, neither of their lists are terrible. The 7 guys listed are top 15 players of all-time. But who else would've warranted a spot? Here's a quick case for the four biggest contenders for top 5 status (in no particular order):

Larry Bird

Larry Bird was MVP 3 times, making him one of only 9 players ever to win 3+ MVP awards. Additionally, he won 2 Finals MVPs (one of only 11 players to do that). He was a phenomenal scorer, rebounder, and passer. He has the most seasons in history averaging 20+ points, 10+ rebounds, and 5+ assists per game; which he did five times. Bird was also a prolific shooter. He won the 3-point contest a record 3 times (a record he shares with Craig Hodges) and he is one of only two players in history to have multiple 50-40-90 seasons (50% FG, 40% 3-pt, 90% FT). As far as career totals, Bird was one of only six players in history to tally 20,000+ points, 8,000+ rebounds, and 5,000+ assists (Kareem, Karl Malone, KG, LeBron, and Havlicek are the other five). And due to his back problems (which would eventually end his career), he did that in fewer than 900 career games. The other five guys played over 200 more games than Bird. If he hadn't had back problems, it's likely that Bird would've accumulated over 7,000 assists, which no one on that list, except LeBron, would match. Going beyond stats, Larry was a ruthless competitor and a savage trash talker. If you were an opponent, you wouldn't have wanted him to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game.


Bill Russell

11. That's really his case for top five. The man won 11 titles. And he did that in a career that lasted 13 years. It's unbelievable. Yes, there were many Hall of Famers on those Celtics teams, but the only one on every team was Bill Russell. Before Russell arrived, Boston had never won a title. Then they won 11 in 13 years. After that, it would be five more years before they won another title. What's more is that for the last three years of his career (and two titles), Russell was the coach! How many players could have simultaneously coached the team and win titles doing so? Larry Bird eventually won Coach of the Year, so maybe he could do it. Of any current player, the next person on this list might have been able to do it. But both of those are GIANT question marks. The only person who actually did it in NBA history was Bill Russell. If team success (which is matched by no one) isn't enough for you, he's also one of only three players ever to win 5 or more MVP awards. Individually, collectively, Bill Russell's greatness is virtually unparalleled. P.S. He never lost a game 7. If you don't know the story of game 7 vs. the Lakers in 1969, look it up. That story gives you some insight into just what made Russell so great!


Tim Duncan

Kobe, Shaq, and LeBron dominate the media space for great players in the years after Jordan, but it's possible Tim Duncan should be ranked higher than any of them. Part of the reason that Duncan gets seemingly overlooked is because his success is probably viewed under the umbrella of "the Spurs." The Spurs currently have a franchise record of 2,537 wins and 1,681 losses. That's a winning percentage of .601! That's a great record! But how does it look with and without Duncan? With Duncan, the Spurs were 1001-391 for a staggering .719 win percentage. Without Duncan, the Spurs are 1,536-1,290 for a win percentage of .544. While that's still respectable, that's the difference between a 45-win team vs a 59-win team. That's pretty substantial. Here's another fact to consider: the Spurs have never won a title without Tim Duncan. Not only that, they've actually never even been to the Finals without Duncan! This man walked into the NBA, almost immediately became the best player on a team that included David Robinson (who was only three years removed from his MVP season), and in his 2nd year took a franchise that had never been to the Finals and won it all! The Spurs dynasty as we know it began, and at least temporarily ended, with Tim Duncan. Team success isn't his only claim to being included on this list either. Duncan won 2 regular season MVP awards and 3 Finals MVP awards. The only other players to win at least 3 Finals MVP awards are Jordan, Shaq, LeBron, and Magic (Finals MVP didn't exist until Russell's last year, so it's possible he'd be on that list if it existed during his time). Also, his 15 All-Defensive team selections (8 first-team and 7 second-team) are the most by any player ever! His 15 All-NBA appearances are the most all-time as well, where he is tied with Kareem and Kobe. Favorite Duncan story? In 2007-2008, Tim Duncan attempted four 3's and didn't make a single one. The first playoff series was against Phoenix. The game was in OT and the Spurs were down by 3 with the clock winding down. Tim Duncan catches the ball and launches a 3. He drains it with three seconds left! His first made three ALL YEAR was to send a playoff game into double OT (a game the Spurs eventually won). That's just what Tim Duncan does: win! P.S. He finished that game with 40 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists, something he accomplished in the playoffs three times (something only Wilt and LeBron have done).


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

While these were in no particular order, let's be real, this is the biggest oversight in Curry's and Durant's top 5. If anyone, other than Jordan, deserves unanimous inclusion in any top 5 list, it's Kareem. 1st all-time in total points, 4th all-time in total rebounds, and 3rd all-time in total blocks. 4th all-time in All-Defensive team selections (after Duncan, Garnett, and Kobe) and tied with Kobe and Duncan for most All-NBA appearances ever with 15. Jordan has the most total MVPs of all-time with 11 (5 regular season and 6 Finals). Kareem is second with 8 total (6 regular season - most ever - and 2 Finals). More titles than anyone Durant and Curry listed, other than Jordan, and more total MVPs than either listed (once again, with exception of Jordan). Plus, he's arguably the greatest high school and college player of all-time. Not only does Kareem absolutely belong in anyone's top 5, he has arguably the best case to challenge Jordan for the number one spot of all-time (if you're so inclined to rank that specifically). His legacy is set in stone.


Again, Curry and Durant lists weren't terrible. They at least listed top 15 players of all-time. But they did have one major oversight, because while you can make a case for Magic, Wilt, LeBron, or Shaq, or Bird, Russell, or Duncan, you absolutely must include Kareem. Leaving him off the list is like his skyhook: it's indefensible!

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