When it comes to sports, one debate that is often never solved is the one comparing players from different generations. Would the old school guy beat the new school guy? Would Player X beat Player Y in a one on one game? What if Jordan played under today’s rules, or could Lebron handle the more physical game of the 80’s and 90’s? 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 the past.
Rules of evaluation are as such: Individual statistics, individual awards, fan following (jersey sales etc), team success (wins, championships etc) are based on their time with the specific team, not their complete career. The other important factor is how long the player has been with the team. It is 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. Part one takes a look at the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division.
Boston Celtics – Bill Russell (13 seasons 1956-69, Hall of Fame, 11 championships, 5 MVP’s, 12 All-Star Games, member of NBA 25, 35 and NBA 50 Team, No. 6 retired) and Larry Bird (13 seasons 1979-92, Hall of Fame, 3 championships, 3 MVP’s, 2 Finals MVP’s, Rookie of the Year, 12 All-Star Games, member of NBA 50 Team, No. 33 retired) vs. Avery Bradley (6 seasons 2010-present)
*Honorable Mention – Kevin McHale, Bob Cousy
With all respect to Bradley, the only reason why his name is included in this piece is because he is currently the longest tenured Celtic, slightly edging out Jared Sullinger. It’s a toss up if he is even the most popular current player on the Boston roster. With so much turnover and rebuilding going on in Beantown, it is going to be a while before the C’s produce another great player. Fans are better off arguing between Russell and the Hick from French Lick.
Brooklyn/New Jersey Nets – Jason Kidd (6 seasons 2001-07, 5 All-Star Games, 2 NBA Finals appearances, #5 retired) vs. Brook Lopez (8 seasons, 2008-present, 1 All-Star Game)
In Kidd’s first two years with the team, the Nets found themselves in the NBA Finals, unfortunately falling to the Lakers and Spurs. The Nets continued to have relative success, making the playoffs the following four years, but failed to return to the championship round. Lopez has been a pillar that the Nets have tried to build with over the past few years, whether it was in New Jersey or currently during the Brooklyn rebuild. While Lopez provides the team with solid numbers, chances are slim he will find the same popularity and success that Kidd did.
New York Knicks – Patrick Ewing (15 seasons 1985-2000, Hall of Fame, 11 All-Star Games, Knicks all time leading games played/points/rebounds/blocks/steals, 2 NBA Finals appearances, Rookie of the Year, member of NBA 50 Team, #33 retired) vs. Carmelo Anthony (6 seasons, 2010-present, 4 All-Star Games)
*Honorable Mention – Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Bernard King
Ewing was the epitome of what New York fans expect from their team. Hard working, gritty, playing through injury. The other was born in New York but hasn’t seemed to show that New York state of mind. While Melo has been one of the most popular players in the league since the 2003 draft, he has also been considered somewhat of a diva, something one would never associate with Ewing. Melo has been to the playoffs three times with the Knicks, but never really amounted to anything. Like many of his other accolades as a Knick, the title of Greatest Knick is still safe with Mr. Ewing.
Philadelphia 76’ers – Julius Erving (11 seasons 1976-87, Hall of Fame, 1 NBA Championship, 1 MVP, 11 All-Star Games, member of NBA 35 and NBA 50 Team, #6 retired) and Wilt Chamberlain (9 seasons 1959-68, Hall of Fame, 1 NBA Championship, 4 MVP, 9 All-Star games, Rookie of the Year, member of NBA 50 Team, #13 retired) and Allen Iverson (12 seasons 1996-06 and 00-10, Hall of Fame, 1 NBA Finals appearance, 1 MVP, 9 All-Star games, Rookie of the Year,#3 retired) vs. ???
*Honorable Mention – Charles Barkley, Moses Malone
Let’s face it, the current version of the Sixers stink. With 18, 19 and 34 victories in the last three seasons, the team has been a revolving door of vagabond players. The last Philadelphia player that could have even had a sniff of being part of this conversation was Andre Iguodala and with all respect to Iggy, he would be far down the list. Like the Celtics, the Sixers illustrious history is being tainted by the current wave of players.
Toronto Raptors – Vince Carter (1998-04, Rookie of the Year, 5 All-Star Games) vs. DeMar DeRozen (2009-present, 1 All-Star Game)
*Honorable Mention – Chris Bosh
During the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Vince Carter was Canada basketball. Sure he was from Florida, but based on his nightly highlights alone, Half Man/Half Amazing could have run for Prime Minister and won in a landslide. Unfortunately for VC, the Raptors made questionable decisions and choices and moved their most popular and at one point their most hated player. DeRozen has put together a solid career in Toronto but has yet to capture the country the way “Vinsanity” did. If and it is a big IF, DeRozen can help lead the Raptors to a championship appearance, he may have a chance to unseat Carter, but until then…