When it comes to sports, one debate that’s often never solved is the one comparing players from different generations. Would Old School Player X beat New School Player Y in a one-on-one game? What if Michael Jordan played under today’s rules? Or could LeBron James handle the more physical game of the 80s and 90s? Let’s put a bit of a different spin on the conversation and take a look at whether today’s greatest star for each team could overtake the greatest star from his team’s past.
Last time out, we took a look at the Northwest Division in which Nuggets, Blazers and Jazz Hall of Fame talent appears to have ongoing longevity, while an iconic Timberwolves forward has no fear in losing his grip on the greatest player in Minnesota. The best argument however came down to a strong debate between Gary Payton and Kevin Durant.
Factors for evaluation are: individual statistics, individual awards, fan following (jersey sales, etc.) and team success (wins, championships, etc.). Considerations are based on the player’s time with the specific team, not their whole career. The other important factor is how long the player has been with the franchise. It’s not fair to say that Jordan was the greatest Washington Wizard (Bullet), even though he was arguably the greatest/most popular player in league history. So to fairly evaluate, individuals must have put in a minimum of five years with the team. Now, let’s look at the Pacific Division.
Golden State Warriors – Wilt Chamberlain (6 seasons 1959-65, Hall of Fame, 1 NBA MVP, Rookie Of The Year, NBA 35 Team, NBA 50 Team, 6 All-Star Games, Warriors All-Time Points leader, #13 retired) and Rick Barry (8 seasons 1965-67 & 1972-78, Hall Of Fame, 1 Championship, NBA Finals MVP, Rookie Of The Year, NBA 50 Team, 8 All-Star Games, #24 retired) vs. Steph Curry (7 seasons 2009-present, 1 Championship, 1 NBA MVP, 2 All-Star Games)
*Honorable Mention – Run TMC (Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond)
Despite being able to fill buckets from anywhere on the floor, it took a while for Chef Curry to become a league wide household name. Over the past couple of seasons, the “run and fun” Warriors have brought Curry into the spotlight, or maybe it is the other way around. Either way Curry is now must-see-tv. Chamberlain and Barry aren’t just your run of the mill basketball stars, these two in their own special way left their mark on not only the Warriors record books, but the entire NBA. Despite his successes, it may take #30 a couple more highlight seasons to take over the title of the greatest Warrior.
LA Clippers – Bob McAdoo (5 seasons 1972-77, Hall Of Fame, 1 MVP, Rookie Of The Year, 4 All-Star Games) vs. Blake Griffin (6 seasons 2010-present, Rookie Of The Year, 5 All-Star Games)
Statistically McAdoo was a monster during his time with the Clippers (then the Buffalo Braves) and was part of a team that made three straight playoff appearances before a fifteen year drought. Griffin on the other hand has not only provided the Clippers with numbers, but also nightly SportsCenter highlights. Aside from his rookie season, Griffin has been a big part of the Clippers attempt to take over LA from the Lakers. Chances are that more fans are going to relate more to the current Clippers forward than the latter.
LA Lakers –Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (14 seasons 1975-89, Hall Of Fame, 5 Championships, 3 NBA MVP, 1 Finals MVP, NBA 50 Team, 11 All-Star Games, Lakers All Time Blocks leader,#33 retired) and Magic Johnson (13 seasons 1979-91 and 95/96, Hall Of Fame, 5 Championships, 3 NBA MVP, 3 Finals MVP, NBA 50 Team, 12 All-Star Games, Lakers All Time Assists leader, #32 retired) vs. Kobe Bryant (19 seasons 1996-present, 5 Championships, 1 NBA MVP, 2 Finals MVP, Lakers All Time Points/Steals/Games leader , 17 All-Star Games)
*Honorable Mention – George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal
In all honesty, picking the greatest Laker of all time is next to impossible. You couldn’t go wrong with any of the above. Mikan was the league’s first great big man, so good in fact that they even named a fundamental basketball drill after him. Chamberlain, Baylor and West gave the Lakers their first super team. Abdul-Jabbar, Magic and Worthy teamed up to bring Showtime to LA. Shaq and Kobe were so dominant together that their successes amounted to their greatest failure. There is absolutely no way to single out one individual and declare him the greatest Laker ever.
As for next generation players, second-year Lakers Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle along with rookie D’Angelo Russell have a long way to go to even have a hope of being mentioned in this conversation.
Phoenix Suns – Steve Nash (10 seasons 1996-1998 & 2004-12, 2 NBA MVP, 4 times 50/40/90 club, 6 All Star Games, Suns All-Time Assists leader) vs. Markieff Morris (5 seasons 2011-present)
*Honorable Mention – Kevin Johnson
After starting his career behind point guard greats Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd for two years, Nash finally found his way in Dallas before returning to Phoenix and taking over the Mike D’Antoni “Seven-Seconds-or-Less offense that reinvented the NBA. On and off the court, Nash brought the best out in his teammates and community, ranking third all time in the NBA for assists, Nash also provided help through his charitable donations and foundation. Often referred to by many as one of the great teammates in league history. Morris honestly has no shot at dethroning Nash in this conversation, but chances are the Canadian point guard could have turned the current Suns forward into a star.
Sacramento Kings – Oscar Robertson (10 seasons 1960-70, Hall of Fame, 1 NBA MVP, Rookie Of The Year, NBA 35 Team, NBA 50 Team, 10 All-Star Games, Kings Points/Assists leader, #14 retired) and Chris Webber (6 seasons 1998-05, 4 All-Star Games, #4 retired) vs. DeMarcus Cousins (6 seasons 2010-present, 1 All-Star Game)
Considering how much he originally despised the trade from Washington, Webber’s best portion of his career came during his six seasons in Sacramento, and in turn was part of the Kings greatest era. The Big O was one of the most prolific players during his NBA career and while he found team success in Milwaukee, his personal achievements took place with the Kings (then Cincinnati Royals) when he averaged a triple double for the entire 1961-62 season and nearly did it again in 63-64. Cousins is one of, if not the most talented big man in the league at the moment and while he has posted some impressive individual numbers, like Robertson and Webber, he has yet to taste any team success.