Speaking at an event to promote his forthcoming Facebook Watch Original Series, “Stephen vs. The Game,” Curry listed Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Magic Johnson as his five greatest players of all time.
Jordan, LeBron and then who?
Jordan is the slam dunk here. Most people will name him as the greatest basketball player ever. Everyone will have him in his top five, unless you are Karl Malone (who lost his two best shots at a title to MJ) or Julius Erving (who was Jordan before Jordan and might also harbor some resentment about MJ’s prominence as a result).
LeBron is a gimme, too. There aren’t many who will still leave him out, save for Charles Barkley, who has repeatedly dropped LeBron down his list. Again, that may or may not have something to do with LeBron saying, “Screw Charles Barkley.”
Then, Curry’s list begins to unravel a bit. Chamberlain is a legend, no doubt, and his statistical production was unparalleled, but he may not even be the greatest center ever. That distinction could belong to Bill Russell, who won 11 championships to Chamberlain’s two and dominated the head-to-head meetings in terms of victories, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won six league MVP awards to Chamberlain’s four and was considered by many the greatest player ever upon his retirement in 1989.
The same can be said for Shaq, who might be the most dominant physical force in NBA history. There is no shame in Curry naming Wilt and Shaq to his top five. Likewise for Magic. They are all on the short list of players who could possibly make the list, along with Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Oscar Robertson. Hakeem Olajuwon, Jerry West and Dr. J might even have arguments.
There is no one correct answer to this question. I am not sure Curry got this right, but you would not be sure I got it right, either. (I have not done all the math, but off the top of my head: Jordan, LeBron, Russell, Kareem and Magic.) If you want an idea of how difficult this is, just pose the same question to everyone on Curry’s list.
Stephen Curry’s top five’s top five
To the best of my knowledge, Jordan has never presented his list, although we know he gives bonus points for rings, since he has Kobe ranked ahead of LeBron. He has listed the four other players he would pick to run the pickup floor in perpetuity: Magic, Hakeem, Scottie Pippen (his Chicago Bulls teammate) and James Worthy (his University of North Carolina teammate). This team is a matchup nightmare, both offensively and defensively, but it is by no means a top-five list.
Chamberlain died before all-time greats were asked this question on an annual basis.
LeBron once listed his top three: Jordan, Dr. J and Bird. And we know he considers himself the greatest of all-time. These are hotly contested takes, for what it’s worth.
When even the greatest players ever cannot come to a consensus on the greatest players ever, you know there is no right answer. I still think Curry might be wrong.
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