Additions to All-Time Team more than their statistics
Posted: Monday February 13, 2006 5:12PM; Updated: Thursday February 16, 2006 1:41PM
This Saturday night at 6 p.m. ET, in honor of the NBA's upcoming 60th anniversary, TNT will present 10 additions to the league's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. The 10 new players, whittled down from a list of 36 nominees, will be voted on by the station's on-air talent -- a group made up of NBA legends and coaching luminaries, alongside the best and brightest minds in sports telejournalism. SI.com helps get the debate going by offering our unique look at the potential selections.
With three titles and the type of single-minded determination seldom seen in someone not named Jordan, Kobe Bryant has drawn as many fans as he has detractors.
John W. McDonough/SI
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Inexplicably, I've been asked to offer my opinion on who should join the NBA's original 50 greatest players for SI.com (TNT's corporate partner), despite the fact that my basketball career never made it past college intramurals, my coaching skills would turn the 1967 76ers (68 wins) into the '73 Sixers (nine wins), and my on-air resume consists of a fleeting camera shot of the bottom of my jeans from a public Yao Ming tryout a few years back. Hopefully, this mea culpa will be ultimately disarming enough to fend off hate mail from all points between Boston and Los Angeles.
Forging ahead, I decided to rank the 36 players in three categories:
Influence: Did the player contribute anything beyond points and rebounds to the game as a whole? If your legacy can only be surmised by your stats, then you didn't stand a chance with me.
Production: Through times of storm and stress, bettering bad coaches and substandard teammates, did the player come through with the numbers?
Contribution to winning teams: If there's any bias to my rankings, it came in this category. At some point, you have to play meaningful minutes of playoff basketball. And as it is within the game itself, more than anything, defense matters.
Even after the three-pronged breakdown, it still was quite the task to limit the list to 10. And with that in mind, fans should understand that both this list and TNT's final group should have no bearing on how you rank these players on your own. Each legend should have a special place in your heart, a feeling that cannot be diminished by arbitrary lists about who is better than whom.
(This is, of course, another way of saying that my list is better than yours.)
Herewith, the next 10 (followed by analysis of the 26 fellows who didn't make the cut) ...
The Next 10
Kobe Bryant: Our list's first entry has wowed both spectators and opponents alike with his potent all-around play and scoring exploits, but his greatest contribution might be a result of the attitude that has earned him so many detractors. More than any other player you'll read about here, Kobe's steely demeanor and dogged determination give him an on-court edge that wins games and turns off onlookers at the same time. But who can argue with these results? A three-time NBA champ, the 27-year old Bryant has played in eight All-Star games and averaged 23.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.4 assists -- numbers sure to rise as he enters his prime.
Tim Duncan: When the NBA's initial Top 50 list came out in October '96, Tim Duncan was preparing to play his junior season with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, and hardly concerned with his own potential place among the likes of Bob Pettit and Karl Malone in the legendary big forward strata. Nearly 10 years later Duncan may have eclipsed them all, winning three rings and two MVPs while ensuring that the San Antonio Spurs boast the best winning percentage in sports in the time since his rookie season. His offensive touch remains deft, his demeanor steady and his defense underrated in spite of eight appearances on the All-Defensive team. Duncan boasts career averages of 22.3 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.5 blocks per game.