When we think of the great scorers in the NBA's history, names like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant come to mind. There is a list compiled by the NBA, in fact, of the league's all-time leaders in scoring where MJ and Kobe sit 5th and 4th, respectively. Ahead of the two greats are LeBron James, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, rounding out the top five. These five players have scored the most points of everyone who has dawned an NBA jersey, but according to some, this list may not precisely reflect the most skilled offensive players in NBA history.
One such believer in this theory is former Brooklyn Nets guard Mike James, who took to Twitter to give his take on who belongs on the Mount Rushmore of "skilled offensive players." The graphic suggests that the top four in the category are Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant, which is certainly nothing to cause an uproar of basketball fans. However, James decided to put in a good word for his two other Brooklyn teammates and throw their names in the hat.
"I can't lie to y'all. Kyrie Irving prolly deserve to be on this list James Harden got an argument too."
Mike James via @sidelinesources
Mike does have a point, as Irving and Harden are some of the most gifted scorers the game has ever seen. Irving can get any shot he wants in a one-on-one situation with his ball-handling and ability to finish creatively around the rim. Harden is also virtually unstoppable with his ability to hit a variation of step-back threes and exceptional control going to the hoop; he and Kyrie are both just a joy to watch with the basketball. However, as with all-star snub conversations, you must take someone off if you want to add someone to the list. In this case, who are you going to remove in favor of Harden and Irving? LeBron James? The King has a career average of 27 points per game on 50% shooting and a total of 35,367 points in 18 seasons, which is proof of being a "skilled" offensive player. As for Kobe, Durant, and MJ, I don't see anyone trying to argue their spot on the Mount Rushmore of scorers.
Mike then took it a step further by getting into a brief debate with a fan who thought the former Nets guard made one glaring omission from his suggestions for the list. The fan called James' seemingly biased opinion out, with James putting Kyrie Irving ahead of Steph Curry, a comment that prompted James's interesting defense on his view of both players.
"Kyrie more skilled than Steph. Steph just shoot better. Everything is in favor of Kyrie skill wise. But whatever you say fam."
Mike James via @sidelinesources
There are things that Kyrie can do with the ball that no other player can, but does that amount to being a better offensive player overall? Mind you, Steph can consistently make threes with a degree of difficulty that may never be matched, and that takes immense skill. Also, Steph has done all this while being the focal point of a championship-caliber offense; Kyrie cannot say the same for himself. Kyrie has moves that are some of the best in the game, but would he succeed the way he did on the offensive end of the ball if he were not playing with LeBron James or Kevin Durant? Probably not.
As for Steph, the reigning NBA scoring champion averaged 32 points for the Golden State Warriors while virtually dragging the team across the regular season and into the play-in tournament. Curry is so good that he took the LeBron-AD Los Angeles Lakers to the last possession of their play-in game, coming very close to putting the Lakers out of their inevitable misery in last year's injury-riddled season. Curry also shot 48% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc while hitting a league-best 337 three-pointers.
On the other hand, Kyrie averaged 22 points per game on 47% from the field and 39% from three. Irving also had many opportunities to be the primary scoring option, with Kevin Durant missing a significant number of games due to nagging injuries throughout the regular season. Irving's scoring numbers are nowhere near Steph's, and while Kyrie is a great player, no player strikes more fear in the hearts of defenders today than Wardell Stephen Curry. Yes, no other player, not even Kevin Durant. Sure, one could argue that KD is on Steph's level in terms of shooting, which is impressive given that he is seven feet tall. However, Steph forces the defense to commit so many errors using the dribble in pick and roll situations or his impeccable off-ball movement. If we are talking offensive skill, getting open shots should just be as valuable as being able to shoot over any defender because you are bigger, especially when the results are virtually the same.
Shooting is an essential part of a player's offensive repertoire, and while it isn't the only deciding factor of one's prowess on offense, it seems odd to exclude the greatest shooter ever to play the game from this list. Also, we know Kyrie has a sick handle but is he any better than Steph at shaking defenders off when he has the rock? Steph can handle the ball with the best of them and can use his dribble to get to his spot with the best NBA players ever, Kyrie may have more flash to his dribbling, but that does not mean he is better than Steph in that department. Steph's offensive genius has generated more winning results than Kyrie's, and I believe that should automatically make Curry the more skilled offensive player. Curry is just as good with the ball as Kyrie, is a better passer and off-ball threat, and is much better at shooting the ball. This one is a no-brainer.