ATLANTA – Please join me as I take a step down fantasy lane wearing hi-top Converse and also a sleeve on my shooting arm. Yes, this is about combining the old with the new and coming up with the Ultimate All-Star Game, pulling players from the past and present.
Not every great player makes a good All-Star Game participant, though. I put a premium on the entertainers: the passers, the leapers, the dunkers of course and the improvisers. There are dozens of Hall of Famers that I don’t want near the game. Mainly, the gravity-challenged centers. I’d want Bill Russell, for example, if I’m trying to win a championship, but wouldn’t even give him a ticket to watch my Ultimate game, let alone play in it.
That said … here are my two squads, with some choices fairly obvious.
Pete Maravich. The Pistol is, quite simply, the model All-Star Game guy, worth any price of admission. It would be fun just watching him pull up his floppy socks.
Magic Johnson. How about Pistol Pete and Magic on the break together? That’s a match made in YouTube heaven.
Kobe Bryant. It’s the only game where Kobe passes the ball.
David Thompson. Perhaps the ultimate finisher the sport has ever seen.
George Gervin. Because that’s how we finga-roll.
Connie Hawkins. Here’s the progression: Hawkins>Dr. J.>Michael>everybody else.
Barkley’s new list: Kobe is one of the five greatest ever. Just Charles being Charles?
David Aldridge: For that to be true, one of the following would have to go: Russell, Jordan, Magic, Wilt, Kareem. I’ll let the Chuckster choose.
Steve Aschburner: I’ll bet that a thorough search of the TNT archives would turn up tape of Barkley naming 13 different guys among his “Top 5″ ever. I can’t put Bryant that high on any all-time list, not when the top spots are already clogged with the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Jerry West and Julius Erving. Kobe could shove aside half of those guys and still not crack the Top 5. Counting rings is way too restrictive and an NBA peculiarity – no one obsesses over championships won when ranking the best ever in football or baseball, not to the degree employed by many hoops fans. So Bryant’s five are great, but that doesn’t give him “cuts” on Robertson or Baylor, for instance. I’d have him in my second five – and I’ll let you figure out who gets bumped down.
Fran Blinebury: If he’s picking his all-time team by position, it means, of course, that Chuck is bumping his buddy MJ to fit in Kobe at SG. Does he really want to go there? Kobe’s case for being top five regardless of position is becoming stronger each season and cannot be simply dismissed out of hand, especially if he picks up ring No. 6 and a completes a second three-peat this season. But the real beauty of Chuck being Chuck is that he firmly believes everything he says today…until he changes his mind tomorrow.
Art Garcia: MJ undervalued so the Chuckster naturally went overboard. Not surprising considering the unfiltered Barkley’s penchant for saying anything, no matter how outlandish. And most of the time he even seems to believe it, even if Round Mound backed off a bit and dropped Kobe to sixth. There’s no question Jellybean’s son belongs in the jar of all-time greats and all-time winners. How many other pieces belong in that jar is always a tasty debate.
Scott Howard-Cooper: If it is Charles being Charles, it’s not by much. I think Kobe is absolutely in the top 10, and found that a lot of readers who don’t think much of Bryant on a personal level agree with the ranking. From there, it’s easy to build a case for top five. Bryant has been great on offense, great on defense, great in the clutch, is the ultimate competitor, and has learned to become much better as a leader.
Shaun Powell: I respectfully disagree with the Chuckster for now, and reserve the right to agree with him later, with more evidence of Kobe’s career. The best five all-time are Russell, Magic, Jordan, Bird and Kareem. Not only were they so great for so long, they didn’t play against the watered-down competition of today. Oh, and for those who say Chuck has a big ego, notice he didn’t include himself in the top-5.
John Schuhmann: I don’t know how you would compare players of this era to those who played 40 or 50 years ago. Can you really say that Kobe Bryant is better or worse than Wilt Chamberlain or Oscar Robertson? The game was played so differently and the league was so much smaller. Here’s a better question: Who’s the best player from the late 90s until now, Bryant or Tim Duncan? You could make good arguments for both.
Sekou Smith: No, it’s more than just “Charles being Charles.” Kobe certainly belongs in the discussion. I just think that’s an unbelievably tough top five to crack for Kobe and a lot of other all-time great players. Without knowing how his career ends, I can’t put Kobe in that top five ahead of (in no particular order) MJ, Magic, Oscar, Bird, Kareem, Wilt, Russell, West and Hakeem. If we were to break it down to specific positions then Kobe is top five easily. But he still has to fight his way into that top five. What I’d love to know is who Charles thinks must drop out of the top five to make room for Kobe?
Have you ever seen those beef jerky commercials where the campers mess with Sasquatch? That’s Phil Jackson and the Miami Heat.
The Zen Master took out his stick yesterday and poked the bear a bit, suggesting more than talent goes into winning a title. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? That’s nice, but might not be enough.
“They got great talent. There’s no question about their talent they have. But, talent doesn’t always win. The team that shows the best teamwork will win it. We think we have established something. But, if [the Heat] can unite — and build quickly — they might be able to do it.”
The Lakers, of course, have demonstrated the best teamwork for two years running. Their championship defense figures to get a stiff challenge from the South Beach Super Fiends, though the man with more rings than fingers further illustrates the Heat’s undertaking with a bit of Lakers’ history.
“I always refer to when Wilt Chamberlain was traded from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and that put Baylor, West and Chamberlain together — three of the top scorers in NBA history — and they never won a championship together the four years they were together. It’s not always scorers and talent that wins it. But it’s teamwork that does it.”
Let’s be honest, Phil, talent comes in handy. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol. Still, we get it. Lesson over … for now.