Tuesday, 16 August 2011


My recent top 100 players in NBA history article has raised some interesting discussion on various internet message boards and in the comments section of this very blog about the ranking of stars from the 1950s. For example, reader 'JoeKnows' commented:

"A pretty fantastic job. [However] I think you are still underrating guys from the 50's and before. Mikan and Fulks should be higher, you forgot Bob Davies etc. Overall though, a very solid list. The top 8 is exactly right IMO, the top 25 is pretty much spot on (save for Mikan who I have at #9 all-time)".

Meanwhile, over at HobbyKings, a member known as 'bdrr' had this to say about Bill Simmons' rankings (which, amongst others, were analysed in the production of my own rankings):

"[Simmons'] judgements of greats from the past are simply judgements of the raw numbers. His low rankings of Joe Fulks and George Mikan should be evidence enough."

I tend to agree with both 'JoeKnows' and 'bdrr'.

Most basketball fans - myself included - are too young to have ever seen the likes of Bob Davies or Joe Fulks play. Meanwhile, we have a fresh memory of recent and current NBA stars.

Although ranking the best players of all-time is a fun exercise, it is of course impossible to compare someone like George Mikan to Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq would eat him alive. But that shouldn't be held against Mikan. After all, you can only beat the players put in front of you, and Mikan did just that on his way to becoming arguably the most dominant player of the 1950s.

Therefore, in my opinion, when comparing players from different eras, we should give greater weighting to achievements such as All-NBA 1st Team selections, i.e. indicators of a player's dominance during his era. Mikan (who is ranked 31st in my article), for example, has more All-League 1st Team selections than Scottie Pippen, Dwyane Wade, Walt Frazier, David Robinson, John Stockton, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley, Dirk Nowitzki, John Havlicek, Moses Malone and even Bill Russell... all of whom are ranked above Mikan.

In other words, you could argue that Mikan was more dominant in his respective era than any of the players I just listed.

That has to count for something.

To conclude, I believe that some authors of all-time rankings are too quick to dismiss the accomplishments of players from the 1950s. Instead, they give players like Mikan and Fulks arbitrary rankings based on an acceptance of the fact that, yes, the players dominated their eras, but, no, they wouldn't dominate today.

I personally think that is unfair. After all, you can only beat the players and teams put in front of you. Mikan and Fulks did just that. They were the Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Jordan of their era.

Lets not forget.

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