Randy Smith: Who's Better?

Monday, June 11, 2018 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

I have nothing personal against Lebron James. I think he is a great player, easily one of the best to ever play the game of basketball. But I cannot say that I believe he is the best of all time. I have seen in person players like Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Michael Jordan and many more who can be considered as the best ever. I have seen on television others like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. I have also stated many times that it's really impossible to compare players from different eras. That's true for any sport whether it's basketball, football, baseball or horseshoes. It's all subjective, and it's all based on opinion. 

When I was a kid everyone debated who was better, Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays? My personal choice back then was Mantle, but looking back, it was probably Mays. You can more easily compare players from the same era than you can from twenty-thirty years apart. So, if I'm comparing players from the current era in the NBA I just might choose Kevin Durant over Lebron James. James is a great player, but with Steph Curry and Durant, the Golden State Warriors have won two NBA titles in a row over Lebron and the Cleveland Cavaliers and this year, it was a 4-0 sweep. Durant has won back to back NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Awards even though that award could very easily have gone to Curry both years.  

I'm not declaring Durant to be the best ever, but he has as much in his favor as James. Lebron has more career points and assists but Durant has as many titles. I've said all of that to say this; my personal choice for the best basketball player I ever saw was Pete Maravich. Notice I didn't say the best NBA player ever, but the best basketball player I ever saw. He had more pure skill than anyone else. He could shoot the ball from any place on the court and it would have a great chance to go in the basket. He was an amazing passer and ball handler and had he not had so many personal problems when he became a pro, he would have been even better as an NBA player. 

It's easy to see that Steph Curry is the best shooter in NBA history, that's hardly even debatable. Curry was a great shooter in college but not nearly as dominant as he has been in pro basketball. As far as Michael Jordan is concerned, he was a great player in college but an even greater player in the NBA. It's hard to knock his six NBA Championships and when his Chicago Bulls needed a basket, MJ delivered. No one could guard Michael Jordan. Some player may have been able to stop him every now and then but nobody could do it consistently. Plus, MJ was never as moody as Lebron can be and he was never a big "crybaby" like Lebron is from time to time.  

Looking further back, players like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor also must be considered when you talk about the greatest players ever. More recently, you can add the names of Tim Duncan  and Shaquille O'Neal to the conversation, and maybe even Charles Barkley. It might be more accurate to determine the best player from each decade. So, from the 1960's I choose Wilt Chamberlain. In the 1970's I pick Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson tie for the best from the 1980s, and Michael Jordan gets the nod from the 1990s. In the 2000s, my choice is Kobe Bryant, and for the current decade, I choose Lebron James. That would make a nearly unbeatable all star team.  

Not everyone will agree with my picks, but I don'r expect that at all. Again, it's all subjective. Remember, opinions are like noses. Everybody has one.  

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Randy Smith can be reached at rsmithsports@epbfi.com


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