When it comes to NBA all-time top-fives, everyone has their list, including ESPN’s Stephen A Smith.
Smith may have covered the league for decades, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have his own personal list from what he has witnessed over the years.
The familiar names.
Although subjective, the top-five lists are usually consistent with the familiar names we have come to know and love throughout the years. Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, and Magic Johnson are just a few of the household superstars that find their way into the majority of all-time lists in NBA history.
On occasion, however, a name is thrown into the conversation that sparks a debate on their worthiness and deservingness to rank that high. Often, it is a top-ten player who absolutely has a case but isn’t usually associated with the top five. Names like Larry Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon, or Tim Duncan occasionally do. The reasoning always lies in the individual’s perspective of what it takes to truly be great in the league.
Spots are limited.
Further to that, debates typically grow the loudest for the Hall of Famers who are omitted from the top-five lists. With so many greats to choose from throughout the decades, there are always going to be a few all-timers that fail to make the limited selections available.
Recently, Stephen A Smith caused a stir with one of those omissions as he sat down and gave his all-time NBA top-five, which left out Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.
“Top-five players of all time. Michael Jordan number 1, LeBron James number 2, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar number 3. I don’t want to leave out Bill Russell. See a lot of people talk about Wilt Chamberlin, but Bill Russell had 11 titles, Wilt Chamberlin had 2. Even though Wilt was dominant, I cant give it to Wilt when the man you were going up against primarily got 9 more titles. So I have to put Bill Russell up in there, and I’m going to have to go with Earvin Magic Johnson. Kobe was a better individual talent, but Magic was the dude that got everyone else better,” Smith said.
Bryant was great, but was he top-five?
Smith has built a reputation in the media through his out-of-the-box personality and charismatic demeanor. In addition, he has often rattled feathers throughout the league due to his outlandish takes.
While some of his opinions may be highly debatable and sometimes wild, his top-5 is quite solid. Bryant’s inclusion or exclusion is always a hot topic of conversation when it comes to the very best individual players of all time, but Smith was reasonable in his justifications for leaving Bryant off the list.
It’s safe to say these debates will rage until the end of time, and unfortunately for NBA fans, we will never have a definitive answer due to our criteria and rationalizations.