Originally Posted by fpliii
Just curious...where do you have the Big O and Dr. J? I'm trying to rationalize your placing KAJ at 6 (not that I have a problem with this; I don't subscribe to the idea of GOAT lists anymore, but my last list slotted Cap at 5...it's just that putting him there is a minority view).
BTW I know the typical what if regarding Bird regards his bad back, but how about his finger? In 'When the Game Was Ours', IMO there are two interesting points of contention regarding the Bird/Magic comparison (I'm going off of memory, apologies for any inaccuracies):
• Before reporting to the C's training camp, Bird was playing softball with one of his brothers, and his finger was severely damaged (I believe he noted that he'd completely lost his shooting touch thereafter, but obviously he was still extremely effective). You gotta imagine that, although he was one of the great shooters in league history, that he could've been even better in that regard.
• During the end of their college careers, the word on Bird was that he was Magic with a jumpshot (though to simulate playing against Indiana State, Magic did his best Bird impression and sank jumper after jumper, from distance, against his teammates, almost automatically...one shot was from far enough from the basket that his coach called him out of bounds).
(FWIW I had Magic as one of three potential GOAT candidates, with MJ and Russ being the other two, in my last rankings before giving up on the concept...both he and Bird were legendary players.)
I don't think I'd heard of the finger thing until reading your post. You're saying he hurt it before even playing a professional game? I can't try to imagine how much better he would have been. As far as his back goes...the guy played 12 seasons worth of basketball and he was a great player every single season. He was a top 10 player in eleven different seasons. Hard to ask for more, especially in that era.
There is a lot of recent revisionism with Kareem. I'm sure there were people talking him up 10 years ago and even earlier (as far as his GOAT candidacy) but it was never like this. Thru high school I hardly ever saw a list where he wasn't ranked below Wilt and Russell, for starters. Magic was often #2, tho I sometimes saw Wilt at #2, as his numbers were just stupid. I was surprised when I saw Bird below the other 5 on the ESPN list of greatest athletes (tho I guess they could take into consideration that Wilt and Russell were all-around athletes, and KAJ is the best college player ever). A lot of different (and random) magazines would compile their list of the greatest athletes and I often saw Michael, Magic, Larry as the top 3 basketball guys. But, regardless, it was rare that I saw Kareem ahead of either Russell or Chamberlain. And I think the somewhat recent obsession with ranking him #1 is a great example of people looking toward a list of checked-off accomplishments that justify some new movements on the list. Also, people are still looking for the Air Apparent. They'll even go back in time.
As far as Dr. J and Oscar...I'm not sure. Robertson was a perfectionist whose game was far from what perfection in basketball should be about. It's like when LeBron often tries to do everything...except that James did a better job of actually leading teammates. He also does so much in transition. Robertson played like he was in the movie Victory and had to lead a bunch of bowlegged 9year-olds in order to regain his freedom.
I'm overstating it a little, but I saw a lot of that in his game. And really, why should I take him over Isiah? I remember watching a lot of old Isiah games on ESPN Classic and he was just dirty and did everything to win. I didn't see that in Robertson's game.
Erving...he was great. I think Havlicek may or may not have been better. Charles, LeBron, Duncan, KG, Malone, Malone, Shaq, Admiral, Ewing, Wade...I think all these guys have a legitimate argument over him, along with Isiah and Robertson. I read a lot of books when I was younger. Maybe I just need to do a mini-review by season. But I'd need to actually watch old games. Or large portions of old games.