Originally Posted by D-Fence
I vote for Bob Pettit again.
I talked about some of Pettit's strengths last time, so this time I'll mention some more about the other candidate's weaknesses. That's how the politicians do it, so why not.
Julius Erving's best years were in the ABA. This list is called the 100 greatest NBA players of all time. And, the ABA was an inferior league. Erving pulled down huge rebounding numbers in the ABA (12.1 per game over 5 seasons); in the NBA, he averaged a more modest 6.7 boards per game over 11 seasons. Erving shot a .322 3-pt percentage with the lightweight ABA ball and .261 in the NBA. The ABA was generally poorer defensively, which is how Erving, otherwise generally considered a weak man-to-man defender, was awarded once for defense.
In the NBA, Erving had some great years. He was awarded an MVP in 1981 and was in the top 5 voting for MVP another 3 seasons from 1980 to 1983. But, here's what I find difficult to accept: Erving isn't the best player from his era not yet picked. Moses Malone joined the NBA the exact same season as Erving (1976-77 when the NBA absorbed the ABA players). Malone was awarded MVPs in 1979, 1982 and 1983. That's 3 to 1.
Moreover, Malone and Erving eventually played on the same team. In 1983 they won the title together and Malone was the regular season and Finals MVP. Erving admitted as much that Malone was the best player on the 76ers, although it's obvious anyhow.
Okay, but Erving was old. It's somewhat unfortunate that Erving didn't play out his whole career in the NBA, although he was still young at 26 when he did join the league. Anyhow, it's not as though Malone didn't have longevity, too. He compares very favorably to Erving there as well. So, how is Erving ranked above Moses?
Influence? Fans, fueled by ESPN and wanting to be entertained, overrate dunking. We all do. Erving's best dunking days were in the ABA, as well. Even so, he doesn't stand out in the history of dunking as much as some seem to suggest. Players like Elgin Baylor and Connie Hawkins had paved the way for Erving, and Erving played with several other great dunkers in his own time, so he wasn't the singular inventor of stylized dunking.
Okay, I've kind of built Moses Malone up now, but here goes. Compared to the other centers we've ranked thus far and some of the other greats we haven't thus far, Malone wasn't much defensively. He wasn't much of a shot blocker. Not bad defensively, I suppose, but when ranking the greatest centers, that's a handicap. And, one has to consider his responsibility in not keeping the 76ers a top in the NBA. They won a title, but things went south rather quickly.
Elgin Baylor by most accounts was a bad defender. He was awful at dribbling the ball with his left hand. Charley Rosen said "he would have starved to death if forced to eat with his left hand." It's apparent in the footage available, too, if you look for it. He seemed to be able to make one good dribble move to his left after faking right, but no further. And, his dribbling down the court looks amateurish as a result.
And, of course, where's the title? It's not as though he didn't have opportunities, as he played in 8 Finals'. And, the season he retired, Jerry West and the Lakers finally won it. Doesn't one have to hold some of that against Baylor? Him and Chamberlain crowded each other, but the Lakers needed a big man to get over the hump, so it should have been expected tha Baylor would have to adjust and move out. And, some have said that Baylor wasn't disciplined enough or have the work ethic for Sharman's extra practices.
On Baylor's dunking influence, I'll only say that he played much of his career with out the highflying because he was playing on a bad knee. So, the influential, above-the-rim play was only for part of his career.
Kobe Bryant has no MVPs and no Finals' MVPs. He has 3 titles, but wasn't the best player on those teams. He has scoring titles and is a good defender. He's like Mike, but isn't that close to Jordan, although many who apparently haven't seen Jordan's career, nor understand the history of basketball, seem to think he is close. And, don't forget, unless you're a psychic, you're not sure how Bryant will finish his career. Someday maybe he is this high on the list, but is he today, is what should be considered.
Like Baylor, Karl Malone has no title. He had opportunities, too, and was fortunate enough to have a long career and play with John Stockton. Some of that has to be held against him, especially considering he did have some poor games in the clutch, especially problems involing his FT shooting and turnovers. His playoff resume doesn't favor very well compared to Pettit's in my opinion.