How do we figure out the Greatest Basketball Player of All Time?
Last October and November I started working on a question that has bothered me for years. Who are the top fifty NBA players of all time? Who is the GOAT? I worked on it so much my fiance said, “you better do something with this.” So now in my small way I am.
People seem to have opinions that match up with their ages me included. LeBron is the GOAT and Jordan couldn’t play in this era. In 1988 that sentence read like this. Kareem is the GOAT Russell couldn’t play in this era. 1998. Jordan is the GOAT Kareem couldn’t play in this era.
Recency bias seems to rule the day this has probably always been the case. I’m reminded of a time, not long ago, after Miami won it’s the first title in the mid-2000s. I went into Borders books because I am a sad person and read a book just published that said Shaq was the greatest player of all time. I don’t think anyone feels that way now, but aughts were a wild time when everyone was into the Flaming Lips and 50 Cent. We like to think that what we were watching now is the best thing that has ever happened.
I have a personal bias against Shaq O’Neil being better than Hakeem Olajuwon. Because in 1995 Hakeem dominated Shaq in finals. I know it feels like I’m picking on Shaq that is coincident, I don’t hate him with passion or get mad every time I see his stupid face.
The point is that everyone is biased. So we need a system. So I’ve tried to create one. I have scored players in eight categories career peak, playoff success, box score stats, longevity, ERA, playoff success, stats advance, ABA, and all time states. Below I will explain the scoring of these categories. In the coming weeks, I will post fifty to forty, then forty to thirty until we get to number one. So let’s get this nerdy
Career Peak: This is where I measure individual awards first/second all NBA appearances, MVP, MVP runner-up, defensive player of the year, first team defense, and all stars appearances. I counted for both the NBA and ABA. I don’t subtract in this category for the two leagues or for ERA. I will do that a little later.
Every ABA/NBA MVP gets forty points, first team/DPOY ten points, first team Defensive/MVP RU five points, and second team/All Star Appearances get one point.
The MVP is the most important regular season career achievement for a professional player. I think it’s forty times more important than making an all-star team.
Playoff Success is the individual measure of success in the playoffs. The best player on the championship team get’s sixty points. That is most I give to any single accomplishment. Best Player on a losing finalist team and Second-Best Player on a championship get ten points. Best Players on a losing conference finalist and third best player on a champ five points. Four to six best players on the champs get three points.
Deciding who is the best player on a championship was one of the hardest things to do in this process.
Stats: The top player in assists, rebounds, and points per game for each season gets ten points all the way down to the tenth best player who gets one point. Blocks and steals, the top player of the season get five points to the fifth player who gets one point. Easy peasy.
Advanced stats: Again, simple, the top player in VORP, Box +/-, win shares, and PER for each season gets ten points all the way down to the tenth best player who gets one point.
Should I have had different advanced stats or more? Maybe but I didn’t for this round.
Longevity: This is simple, for each prime season the player gets ten points, every non-prime five points, and if they played less than twenty games zero.
Stats, Advanced stats, and Longevity are all capped at 100 points each.
All time stats: Again super simple, all the advanced stats, assists, scoring, and rebounding the best all time gets ten points down to one point for number ten all time. Steals and Blocks go from five to one.
ERA Bonus: Each year a player in 40’s and 50’s they got zero points, 60’s and 70’s six points, 80’s and 10s nine points, the 90s and 00s eight points.
Super simplistic I know.
ABA ERA penalty: NBA players lose three points per season during ABA Era. ABA players lose five points per season during ABA Era.
I did this because it bothered me that in other lists it seemed like ABA players did not get any credit for playing in the ABA. Players in NBA who played during the ABA ERA did not get penalized. I think that is how someone like Bill Simmons can put John Havlicek over Dr. J that and he is an incredible homer.
I gave everyone credit for all ABA/NBA stats and awards but deduct points because of a deluded league. I deducted more for ABA players because it was a weaker league.
So if you have read this far thank you next week I will reveal fifty to forty. It’s going to be a crazy ride.