Futebol, política, religião, cultura, história e outros assuntos interessantes

NBA (basketball)

The best basketball player of all time according to NBA legends

From Bill Simmon's "Book of Basketball". Taken from: http://www.basisdesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/TBOB-Poster.jpg Can you name all the legends?

Share Button

Undoubtedly, the great Michael Jordan is considered by most fans the greatest basketball player of all time. Even the NBA official website claims that: “By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time”. A complete player, offensively and defensively, legendary in the clutch, winner of all 6 finals he has played in, global icon; worthy of being called the king of basketball.  

Despite agreeing that Jordan was the greatest, I think that many folks forget that there are other players worthy of that crown.  It would not be absurd to say that others athletes were just as good or even better than MJ, people like: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Bill Russell (incredible 11 titles in 13 years in the NBA and arguably the best defensive player ever); Wilt Chamberlain (50.4 points per game in the 61-62 season – 18.8 more than the second place player – and all time NBA leader in rebounds); Magic Johnson (9 NBA finals in 13 seasons and all time leader in assists per game); Larry Bird (3 MVP’s and 3 titles in the 80’s, the most competitive and exciting NBA era); Kobe Bryant (the closest player to Jordan in terms of style – recently passed the Bull’s legend in total points); and Lebron James (4 MVP’s at age 30, only one less that Jordan in his entire career).

For example, one can make a case for Kareem over jordan Jordan with the following arguments: superior longevity (final’s MVP at 38); winning the same 6 titles as Jordan; NBA all time leading scorer; most MVP’s in NBA history (6, one more than MJ); had the skyhook in his arsenal, the most effective and unguardable shot in basketball’s history (not perfectly emulated to this day; even a great shooter and legendary player like Dirk Nowitzki has stated how tough the skyhook is to master).

With that subject on my mind, I’ve decided to research something that I have not found elsewhere online: the opinion of 21 of the greatest NBA legends themselves (only retired and still living players) about who would be the greatest ever. Do they agree with fans? Next all the statements I could find:

Michael Jordan – Himself (Jordan).


Bird – Probably Jordan.

In 1985, Bird called the rookie Jordan the best ever. When MJ retired in 1998, he said: “Is he the greatest? He’s in the top two.” Recently he said that“and obviously everyone thinks that [Michael] Jordan was the best player ever”.

Magic Johnson – Jordan

According to Magic, Jordan is the greatest player and Bill Russell, the greatest winner in NBA history.

Wilt Chamberlain (added here in 09/03/2016, thanks to a comment by reader Marcel Pilatti) – Meadowlark Lemon.

“In one of the last interviews of his life, Wilt Chamberlain spoke of regrets, his history with women and the man he thought was the best basketball player of all time.Believe it or not, Meadowlark Lemon. ‘Meadowlark was the most sensational, awesome, incredible basketball player I’ve ever seen,’ Chamberlain said. ‘People would say it would be Dr. J or even (Michael) Jordan. For me it would be Meadowlark Lemon’.

Bill Russell – Jordan. 

“I cannot imagine anyone playing any better.”

Oscar Robertson – Did not pick one. He thinks several players are in the conversation. Does not think Jordan was the greatest.

Oscar Robertson does not think Jordan was the greatest:

“Everybody looks at what you’ve done. Sure he won six championships, Russell won eleven. There are other players on these teams when they play. They don’t play by themselves. Michael Jordan is a great player. Was he the greatest? Ask Kobe that. Ask Bill Russell. Ask Oscar Robertson. Ask Wilt Chamberlain. Ask Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, ask those guys.”

“The media now has anointed Michael Jordan the greatest of all time. Is he greatest of all time? No, I don’t think he is. I think he is a great player. There have been other great players as well, great players before I played.”

Oscar probably has Lebron over Jordan, because when asked about them, he said that “Lebron is in a class of his own”.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – He does not choose one player in particular, but he thinks Oscar Robertson was superior to both Jordan and Lebron; and he has Wilt Chamberlain as undoubtedly the greatest scorer ever.

Isiah Thomas – Kareem Abdul Kabbar (updated in 06/01/2017, thanks to reader Marcel Pilatti; updated again in 06/02/2017)

Thomas has changed his mind for some times  already. He used to consider Jordan the best ever. Then, he changed to Kareem. At 06/01/2017, he chose Lebron James as the greatest ever:

“LeBron James has always used his platform and his voice to shine it on communities and on the powerless in our society,” Thomas said. “… In this moment right here, he has moved — in my opinion — into the greatest ever.

“Why? Because what he’s done in the game and what he’s doing outside of the game. … What LeBron James just did today for this generation and generations to come, on this day, what he just stood for and what he just did socially with that press conference, he’s the greatest player to ever play the game.”

Just one day later, at the show “Undisputed on FS1”, Isiah once again said Kareem is the greatest player of all time (starts at 6:13):

“But the greatest player to ever play this game is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And we are dismissive of Kareem, because every single stat that you throw up, he’s at the top. So when we talk about the greatest to ever do it, you know, Kareem is the one who is at the top of the bar”.

Karl Malone – Wilt Chamberlain.

“I’d have to say Wilt Chamberlain was my all-time greatest ever player.”

John Stockton: Can’t pick just one.

In an interview at ESPN with Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith, Stockton said that that are a lot of players that fit in the conversation for best ever like Jordan, Chamberlain, Bird, Magic and Elgin Baylor.


Charles Barkley – Jordan

Barkley argues that Jordan was the greatest, since he was the best offensively and also the best defensive player of his era.

Elgin Baylor – Jordan

“Not only do I admire Jordan’s accomplishments and his phenomenal basketball ability, but also the way he has conducted himself on and off the court. I don’t think there will ever be another player to have the same impact on the game of basketball as Michael Jordan. If you look up the definition of greatness in the dictionary, it will say Michael Jordan.”

Bob Cousy – Jordan

“He’s by far the best since Naismith hung up the basket. He touches every base. He could play three, maybe four positions and maybe even center, too. He has no discernible weakness. The keys to basketball, despite the emphasis on big men, is still speed and quickness. He has them in abundance. When I jumped as high as I could, I got to the bottom of the net. When he jumps as high as he can, he’s over the backboard. He’s the best, without question.”

Shaquille O’Neal – Jordan

“Michael’s definitely the best basketball player of all time. He’s the greatest offensive weapon to ever play, and probably the best defensive player we’ve ever seen.”

Julius Erving,  Dr. J –  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

” For him  to that (being the best ever). for me, he (Lebron) has to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He is the best to ever play the game.”

Jerry West – Jordan

“I have to think he’s the greatest player ever. Not because of his ability to score, but because of his total game. To me he’s the best offensive player and the best defensive player in the league for a number of years. To be the defensive player of the year with all the other things he had to do, to me, he’s a marvel. He has separated himself from the rest of the good players as far as I’m concerned. He’s the modern day Babe Ruth.”

Scottie Pippen – Jordan

“We all know that he’s (Jordan) the greatest player that ever played the game.”

 Bill Walton – Kareem Abdul Jabbar

“Without question, no hesitation, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the best player I ever played against. Not just the best center, he was the best player, period. He was better than Magic (Johnson), better than Larry, better than Michael (Jordan). He was my source of motivation. Everything I did was to try to beat this guy. I lived to play against him, and I played my best ball against him. No matter what I threw at him, though, it seemed like he’d score 50 against me. His left leg belongs in the Smithsonian. And it wasn’t just offense. He was a great defender and rebounder, a great passer, a wonderful leader. He was phenomenal.”

Hakeem Olajuwon – Probably Jordan.

Olajuwon said that Lebron is among the all time greatest players, but Jordan was much superior to him.

Bob Pettit – Bill Russell

“I think he’s the greatest player who ever walked on the court. There are a lot of guys you could say that about, but in my mind, I would start my team with Bill. In his prime, he was the best I’ve ever seen. He had a great desire to win and to destroy you. And his defense and his rebounding – his defense was incredible. They say [with 11 championship rings] he’s the great winner of all time. Why don’t they just say he’s the greatest player of all time? That’s what the game is about.”

George Gervin – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

In a 2014  interview with Bill Simmons, Gervin claimed Kareem is the greatest ever:

“But the greatest of all time to me, because you know, that’s who I played against, is Kareem. You know, his dominance, his acurracy, you know, was almost next to none”.

Ricky BarryMaybe Wilt Chamberlain.

He thinks it is impossible to compare players of different positions, but thinks you have to start a team with the big men, that’s why he would choose Wilt.

About Jordan:

“I keep hearing he’s the greatest and that upsets me. It’s not fair to other players. You can’t compare a 2-guard to a center. There are five different and distinct positions. He’s the greatest 2-guard I ever saw and the most exciting player.”

About Wilt:

He’s the greatest big man in the history of the game, and you win with big men,” 

Walt Frazier (added in this post on 02/19/2016) – Wilt Chamberlain.

“If I had to pick a guy it would be Wilt Chamberlain, because if you look at his records, it’s hilarious, nobody will approach any of his records. So he would be my guy. Bill Russell would be behind him. A guy who is always overlooked is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — the leading scorer in the history of the game. The skyhook is the most lethal weapon the game has ever seen, but when people talk about the greatest player he’s not even in the top five.”

FINAL RESULTS (updated in 06/02/2017).

Out of the 23 legends, 11 (if you count Bird and Olajuwon) have Jordan as the greatest. Kareem is at second place with 4 votes. Wilt at third with 3.  Bill Russell, and Meadorwlark Lemon both received 1 vote each. Don’t forget that 3 (Stockton, Oscar and Kareem) did not pick one specific player. Other were mentioned (like Oscar, Lebron, Magic, Kobe, Bird, West and Baylor), but not really voted as best ever.

Therefore, most legends seem to agree with fans that Jordan was the greatest ever.

If you find a legend’s opinion that is not here (specially by top 20 and 30 all time greats), please leave a comment and the link to the statement, and I will update the list.

Share Button


  1. The opinion of top players who played against each other should be weighed more heavily than it usually is in the discussion of who the top NBA players of all time are. With all the talk of top 100 players from ESPN and elsewhere going on right now, this is a great take on some of those top players.

    Also, John Stockton is a class act, so complimentary to other great players.

    • Comment by post author

      Otávio Pinto

      I agree, James.
      Stockton is a class act indeed.
      Thanks for the comment.

      • I agree. If it isn’t Wilt then it’s Kareem. These guys were ” franchise ” players in its truest sense. You put either Kareem or Wilt on any and I mean any team and that team was instantly a playoff team. You can’t say that about Jordan. In fact, if Magic had not retired I am sure he would have won a couple more championships. Things have to fall into place for a player to win a championship and Jordan was the beneficiary of many breaks. People often talk about Jordan’s”will” to win. Well, I think that he had that same will to win prior to winning his first championship yet it took about 7 years for him to get over the proverbial”hump”. Now why is that?

  2. BEEP

    First of all basketball is a team sport. A team wins championships, not an individual. Wilt was the most dominant basketball player of any era. He lost most of the time to the Boston Celtics which had the best team. Doing his early years Boston won 8 in a row, 59-66. When he got better teammates in Philadelphia and LA he won 2 titles in the next 6 years. Remember the Philly 66-67 team and the LA Lakers 71-72 teams had the best regular-season record before the Bulls went 72-10. The 71-72 Lakers team also holds the record for 33 consecutive wins. Now let’s go through Wilt’s stats: most points in a game (100) most rebounds in a game (55) against Russell. The only man in NBA history to record a double triple double. That’s 20 in 3 different categories. He did it in points, rebounds, and assists in 1 game. He is the only Center to lead the league in assists 1968. His first seven years in the league he averaged 40 points and 23 rebounds. He is 3rd in career triple doubles only behind Oscar and Magic. He is by far the greatest player. He cannot help the era he played in. He could not help because he was athletic, strong and skilled for his size. The decade of the sixties has the most Hall of Famers. I rest my case.

    • Comment by post author

      Otávio Pinto

      Good arguments, Beep. Wilt certainly can be considered the greatest ever.

    • Kristjan


      Wilt Chamberlain is by far the most dominant player in NBA history, who as someone once said: “…didn’t just break records, he destroyed them.”

      When you look into the NBA record book, Wilt is dominating it. Even though the league didn’t record blocked shots at the time, which Wilt was amazing at.

      Wilt was the one man wrecking machine and contrary to popular belief did everything he was asked to do in order to win games and championships. But one man, no matter how dominant he is, can not win a championship by himself. Wilt was unfortunate to play in the era of the greatest NBA team in history. The great Boston Celtics, who were led by the great coach, Red Auerbach and the greatest champion in NBA history, player-coach Bill Russell.

      Bill was good enough to slow Wilt down enough for Boston to win most of games, because he had a greater team most of the time. Which was his credit too, because he actively helped his team mates to improve.

      But Wilt was far greater player and he dominated Russell one on one, which was best seen in the 1967 NBA playoffs, when Wilt finally had as good team mates as Russell did and Wilt absolutely slaughtered Bill and nearly averaged a monster quadraple double in the series.

      Wilt dominated the NBA like nobody else in it’s history.

      He led the league in Points per game in his first 7 seasons, where he averaged over 39 PPG (would have led the league in scoring as many years as he wanted, but was asked by his coaches to focus on team defence, rebounding and passing instead and Wilt sacrificed his scoring, which is amazing, considering that he was the greatest scorer ever)

      He led the league in Rebounds 11x

      He led the league in FG% 9x

      He led the league in Minutes per game 9x

      He led the league in PER (Player efficiency rating) 8x

      He led the league in Win share 8x

      He led the league in TS% (True shooting %) 3x.

      He would have led the NBA in blocked shots
      many seasons, if they recorded them at the time. He and Russell would have led the league in blocked shots per game.

      He even led the league in total assists in 1967/68 season. The only center to do so in NBA history.

      Wilt was an amazing player. He was a giant, who was extremely athletic and coordinated and was capable of dunking FTs from the FT line (which was banned), sprinting as fast as anybody in the league’s history (he ran 4,6 seconds 40 yard dash in a test for NFL-barefoot while weighing nearly 300 pounds), jump as high as anybody (he could take a quarter from the top of the backboard), he was a very smart player and was so skilled that he had a bunch of go to moves (was famous for his fadeaway jumpers and finger rolls) and could even lead the fastbreak. His strength was legendary and he could lift 2 200+ pounders, one with each arm, among other crazy feats. What is crazy is that he didn’t abuse his power and size (like Shaq) to break records, but prided himself on doing it with skills.

      His haters like to trash Wilt’s competition, but he actually played against the toughest center competition out of any other player. Especially in the playoffs.

      Here is Wilt’s playoff center competition: Number of series vs starting centers: Red Kerr (2 series), Swede Hallbrook (1 series), Bill Russell (8 series), Wayne Embry (1 series), Connie Dierking (1 series), NateThurmond (3 series), Zelmo Beaty (2 series), Walt Bellamy (2 series), Jim Fox (1 series), Tom Boerwinkle (1 series), Kareem Abdul Jabbar (2 series), Clifford Ray (1 series), Willis Reed (2 series), Jerry Lucas (1 series), Denis Awtrey (1 series)

      20 series out of 29 were vs Russell, Thurmond, Beaty, Bellamy, Jabbar, Reed and Lucas. Amazing.

      Then the haters trash Wilt’s playoff numbers, which are worse than his regular season numbers, but the haters inore this: Wilt faced the great Boston in the vast majority of his playoff games when he was the first scoring option on the team (in his first 7 seasons. which was 52 playoff games games out of 160 playoff games he had in his career). He still averaged 32,8 PPG in the first 6 playoff runs, even though he played Boston most of the time (which of course had an awesome defence). After that, he was asked to focus on rebounding, passing and being a defensive anchor. He played the remaining 108 playoff games like that. He wasn’t the nr. 1 scoring option on the team at all. He was asked to do other things more. Not to mention that he played 20 series out of 29 were vs these great centers: Red Kerr (3 series-11 games), Russell (8 series-49 games), Thurmond (3 series-17 games ), Beaty (2 series-12 games), Bellamy (2 series-10 games), Jabbar (2 series-11 games), Reed (2 series-12 games) and Lucas (1-series-5 games). That’s 122 games out of 160 vs great centers.They were measured barefoot. Wilt also didn’t use his size and strength like Shaq did, because they’d probably ban scoring inside of the paint, if he had. Wilt scored with skills and he had to do it vs awesome phisically gifted centers and defenders like Russell, Thurmond, Jabbar, Bellamy and Reed in 99 out of 160 playoff games.

      The haters also love to call Wilt a choker, but here are the available stats of his final playoff series of each season as well as the numbers of his opposing centers: 1960 6 game playoff series vs Boston: 30,5 PPG (74/148 FG (50%), 35/75 FT (46,7%)); 27,5 RPG; 2 APG; 2,2 FPG; 49,3 PP% (% of points made as opposed to the point he would have made, if he hit every shot he took, FGs and FTs) – He injured his hand in game 2.
      Opposing center (Russell) numbers: 20,7 PPG (54/121 FG (44,6 %), 16/21 FT (76,2 %)); 27 RPG, 2,8 APG; 4,3 FPG; 47,2 PP%
      Personal battles win: 4-2 for Chamberlain

      1961 3 game playoff series vs Syracuse: 37 PPG (45/96 FG (46,9 %), 21/38 FT (55,3%)); 23 RPG; 2 APG; 3,3 FPG; 48,3 PP%, Wilt’s team mates shot 33,2 % from the field in this series.
      Opposing centers (Red Kerr and Swede Halbrook) numbers: Red Kerr: 8 PPG. Halbrook: 11,3 PPG.

      Personal battles won: 3:0 for Wilt.

      1962 7 game playoff series vs Boston: 33,6 PPG (88/188 FG (46,8 %), 59/92 FT (64,1 %)), 26,9 RPG; 2,9 APG; 2,3 FPG; 50,2 PP%
      Opposing center (Russell) numbers: 22 PPG (59/148 FG (39,9 %), 36/51 FT (70,6 %); 25.9 RPG; 4,6 APG; 4 FPG; 44,4 PP%

      Personal battles won: 4-2-1 for Chamberlain.

      1964 5 game playoff series vs Boston: 29,2 PPG (62/120 FG (51,6 %), 22/53 FT (41,5 %); 27,6 RPG; 2,4 FPG; 49,8 PP%
      Opposing center (Russell) numbers: 11,2 PPG (22/57 FG (38,6 %), 12/25 FT (48 %); 25,2 RPG; 6,3 APG (data from 3 games); 4 FPG; 40,3 PP%.

      Personal battles won: 4-1 for Chamberlain.

      1965 7 game playoff series vs Boston: 30,1 PPG (81/146 FG (55,5 %), 49/85 (57,7 %); 31,4 RPG; 3,3 APG; 2,9 FPG; 56 PP%
      Opposing center (Russell): 15,6 PPG (46/103 (44,7 %), FT 17/36 (47,2 %)); 25,3 RPG; 6,7 APG; 4,1 FPG; 45 PP%

      Personal battles won: 6-1 Chamberlain.

      1966 5 game playoff series vs Boston: 28 PPG (56/110 FG (50,9 %), 28/68 FT 41,2 %); 30,2 RPG, 3 APG, 2 FPG; 48,6 PP%
      Opposing center (Russell) numbers: 14 PPG (25/59 FG (42,4 %), 20/36 FT (55,6 %)); 26,2 RPG; 5,6 APG; 3,3 FPG (data from 3 games); 45,5 PP%

      Personal battles won: 4-1 Wilt

      1967 6 game playoff series vs Warrirors: 17,7 PPG (42/75 FG (56%), 20/72 FT (27,8 %)); 28,5 RPG; 6,8 APG; 2,7 FPG; 10,2 BPG; 46,9 PP% – wasn’t a scorer anymore on coaches request to do other things more. Led Philly to the title.
      Opposing center (Thurmond) numbers: 14,1 PPG (34/99 FG (34,3 %), 17/31 FT (54,8 %)); 26,7 RPG; 3,3 APG; 3,3 FPG; 37,1 %PP

      Personal battles won: 6-0 for Chamberlain.

      1968 7 game playoff series vs Boston: 22,1 PPG (58/119 FG (48,7 %), 39/91 (42,9 %)); 25,1 RPG; 6,7 APG; 2 FPG; 12,6 BPG; 47,1 PP% – crippled with many injuries (whole team was crippled), was limping from game 2 on. Russell said: »A lesser man wouldn’t have played.«
      Opposing center (Russell) numbers: 13,7 PPG (37/84 (44,1 %), 22/37 FT (59,5 %)); 23,9 RPG; 4,1 APG; 3,9 FPG; 46,8 PP%.

      Personal battles won: 4-2-1 for Chamberlain

      1969 7 game playoff series vs Boston: 11,7 PPG (29/58 FG (50 %), 24/66 FT (36,4 %)); 25 RPG; 3 APG; 3 FPG; 45 PP% – Coach hated him and didn’t want to use him in offence. He excelled in game 7 but got injured 6 minutes until the end and needed a break, the coach didn’t want to let him in, when Wilt asked him to, because he wanted to win without Wilt. The Lakers lost by 2 points.
      Opposing center (Russell) numbers: 9,1 PPG (25/63 FG (39,7 FG%), 16/24 FT (66,7 %)); 21,1 RPG; 5,1 APG; 4,1 FPG; 44 PP%

      Personal battles won: 3-2-2 for Chamberlain.

      1970 7 game playoffs vs Knicks: 23,3 PPG (70/112 FG (62,5 %), 23/67 FT (34,3 %)); 24,1 RPG; 4 APG; 2,6 FPG; 56 PP% – just came back from severe knee injury and surgery and wasn’t at his best, logically.
      Vs MVP Reed: 19,7 PPG (50/85 FG (58,8 %), 18/53 FT (34 %)); 23,7 RPG ; 4,2 APG; 2,5 FPG, 52,9 PP%
      Opposing center (Reed 6 games): 23 PPG (Reed averaged 23,7 PPG in the whole playoffs, which means he averaged 24,1 PPG against other teams) (59/122 (48,4 %), 20/34 FT (58,8 %), 10,5 RPG, 2,8 APG, 2,5 FPG, 49,6 PP% ).
      Bowman (1 game): 18 points (9/15 FG (60%) 0-1 FT (0 %), 8 REB, 1 AST, 5 PF, 59,1 PP%

      Personal battles won: 4-2 for Wilt vs Reed (Reed was injured in 2 of Wilt’s wins, but Wilt was coming from a serious knee surgery). 1-0 for Wilt vs Bowman.

      1971 5 game playoff series vs Milwakee: 22 PPG (46/94 FG (48,9 %), 18/42 FT (42,9 %)); 18,8 RPG; 2 APG; 2,8 FPG; 5,75 BPG (data from 4 games), 47,8 PP%
      Opposing center (Jabbar) numbers: 25 PPG (52/108 (48,2 %), 21/33 FT (63,6 %); 17,2 RPG; 4,2 APG; 2,8 FPG; 3,7 BPG (data from 3 games) 50,2 PP%

      Personal battles won: 3-2 Chamberlain

      1972 5 game playoff series vs Knicks: 19,4 PPG (39/65 FG (60%), 19/35 FT (54,3 %)); 23,2 RPG; 2,6 APG; 3,6 FPG; 58,8 %PP – finals MVP- led the Lakers to the title.
      Opposing center (Jerry Lucas) numbers: 20,8 PPG (46/92 FG (50%), 12/15 FT (80 %)); 9,8 RPG, 6,2 APG; 4,2 FPG; 52,3 PP%

      Personal battles won: 3-2 for Chamberlain.

      1973 7 game series vs Knicks: 11,6 PPG (22/42 FG (52,4 %) 14/38 FT (36,8 %)), 18,6 RPG; 3,8 APG; 3,2 FPG; 47,5 PP% – last season season.
      Opposing center (Reed) numbers: 16,4 PPG (37/75 FG (49,3 %), 8/9 FT (88,9 %)); 9,2 RPG; 2,6 APG; 4 FPG; 51,6 PP%

      Personal battles won: 3:2 for Wilt.

      Wilt gets trashed for “only” winning 2 championships, even though he was by far the best player, but he did everything he was asked to do to win and led his teams to 2 rings and many NBA finals.

      Great players haters love to bring up the number of rings won in these discussions, but the rings are TEAM ACCOMPLISHMENTS. All a great player can do, is do as much as he personally can to win and NO ONE DID MORE THAN WILT.

      • Cy Tab

        Great post. Another point: Wilt’s teams lost four 7th games in the playoffs to Boston…by a COMBINED 9 points. Almost all of those games came down to pure luck and had little to do with any heroics from Russell. A different bounce here and there, and Wilt could have had 6 titles, and Russell just 7.

  3. Tom

    Both James Worthy and Michael Cooper have said Kareem is thr best player ever. Look it up. Should be easy to find videos of both

  4. Shaq recently said he thinks Dr J was best: http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/news/shaq-shaquille-oneal-dr-j-julius-erving-lebron-james-michael-jordan-nba-best-ever/1jxy0j584n9ue1912sejs41rzg

    Dr. J gets forgotten, spent his most spectacular days in ABA. Led his team in all 5 major categories in 1976 ABA finals, similar to what LeBron did this year. Against a Nuggets team with 2 future HOF’ers and Bobby Jones, one of best defenders ever.

  5. Mark

    Forgot to say: great article, thanks.

  6. Through the article, the opinions of both Kareem and Barry are mentioned as not certain when it comes to defining the greatest ever.

    But both of them have declared ‘de facto’ that Wilt Chamberlain was the geatest.

    Kareem — ”MJ has to be appraised in perspective. His incredible athletic ability, charisma and leadership on the court helped to make basketball popular around the world — no question about that. But in terms of greatness, MJ has to take a backseat to The Stilt.”

    Barry — ”Michael is the greatest 2 Guard in the history of the game, and one of the most entertaining players who ever put on a jersey. But saying that he is the greatest of all time, or that he is a better player than Wilt Chamberlain is just ludacrious!”

    Larry Bird — the article says ‘maybe Jordan’, but there are many sources on the internet which quote him with the saying ”Let me tell you something: for a while, they were saying that I was the greatest. And before me, it was Magic who was the greatest. And then it’s Michael’s turn now. But open up the [Basketball] record book and it will be obvious who the greatest is.”.

    It is also mentioned by Wilt Chamberlain himself in the book ‘A view from above’ [which is from 1991, so after one of the it-is-Jordan claims the article mentions].

    Oscar Robertson — true that he puts a few guys as the greatest ever, but he also mentioned that Wilt is probably the one: he was asked about him being the greatest and said: ”Books don’t lie”. However, in terms of skills, he said Elgin Baylor was the greatest.

    Bill Russell — it is easy to find him mentioning Wilt. The quote on Jordan the text mentions is from the mid-90s, and it is not clear that the ”I can’t see anyone playing better” refers to the history of the game, but to that era. Well, there are interviews in which Russell mentions Wilt in such a high level, and he hardly ever mentions MJ.

    There it goes one of his greatest claims on Wilt [and it suggests he sees Wilt as GOAT] — “I hear guys say that he couldn’t have played in a different time, done the things that he did then today. That’s bull shit. The reason people don’t believe that is because Wilt’s numbers were so big, they seemed so impossible that they almost don’t seem real. So they try to diminish the era and those he played against. People can’t comprehend numbers like that, things that he did every night in just about every game. So they try to find a way to dismiss them or devalue them and try to make them not real”.

    Bill Walton — here is a quote of his book: “When I look back at Wilt’s numbers, they dwarf everybody else’s. So much so that when I point out to the new guys, who weren’t there, they shrug and say that they didn’t count — because he’s Wilt. He did the impossible. It may be the case that he’s not the greatest basketball player ever — how can you ever say who that one person might be? But there has NEVER been a single conversarion about the greatest basketball players ever that didn’t have Wilt Chamberlain at the center of it all. Right where he belonged.”

    Other legends and great personalities that go with Wilt: Connie Hawkins, Dan Issell, KC Jones, Norm van Lier, Nate Thurmond, Jerry Colangelo.

    To conclude, here is who Wilt Chamberlain considered to be the greatest ever: Meadowlark Lemon.

    • Comment by post author

      Otávio Pinto

      Thanks, Marcel. Great information there. Wilt has a case to be considered the greatest.
      About your quotes, I think the quotes you transcripted by Kareem and Rick Barry also do not show certainty about who they think is the greatest. Kareem says MJ has to take a backseat to Wilt, but does he think he was greater than Russell? Barry also only compared Wilt and MJ and talked about positions again. The Bird one is interesting. I will look it up. Others there like Walton didn’t really call Wilt the greatest ever.
      Meadowlark Lemon? That’s a surprise. Thank you very much. I will add it in my original post (with credit to you).

      PS: Are you Brazilian? I’ve clicked on the facebook link and it was all in Portuguese. I’m Brazilian. There’s a Portuguese version of every article I post here. http://otaviopinto.com/index.php/2015/11/11/o-maior-jogador-de-basquete-da-historia-segundo-as-lendas-da-nba/

      • Hey man! Yes, I am Brazilian — on my Facebook page I always post both in English and in Portuguese. Go there and like the page, if you may!

        As for Rick Barry, he clearly Góes with Wilt — http://youtu.be/MSTt_TxoFVo

        As for Kareem, I agree with you: he probably would put Russell 1st and Wilt 2nd.

        Two legends of the game I forgot mentioning that Go with Wilt are: Mark Eaton and Clyde Drexler.

        The last one said that on a Quick interview during 1997 All Star Game. The other said that during a lecture or motivacional speech he was guest of honor.

        Both vídeos can be found easily on YouTube.

        PS: don’t forget changing the final results at the end of the article.

        And that Larry Bird quote can be found.

        Look for “just open the record books Wilt Chamberlain Larry Bird”

        All the best,
        Vai Corinthians!

        • Comment by post author

          Otávio Pinto

          Thanks, Marcel! I’ve seen that O’neal one. Frankly, I was not convinced, considering what he has said about MJ in the past. Seemed more like Dr.J is his favorite player, not that he really thinks he was greater than MJ or the greatest ever. I will look at all of those later on.

          All the best to you too!
          rsrs Bora, Bahêa! rs

  7. Ps2: Hasn’t O’Neal Recently said it was Dr J the greatest?

  8. Andrew Havass

    Good article buddy . Getting the opinions of all of those NBA All Time Greats as to who was the best NBA player of all time was a great idea. Really enjoyed it .

  9. If Wilt is not rated often too as the greatest basketball and Michael Jordan is and Dr.J for a lot to known him a very good basketball player and can do this and show his moves to anyone etc. And M.J. dos a lot for the team or his moves and from running and trying to keep his distance jump and something from their and do it right “!” and come with those team.plays too from passing and one on one or maybe two team plays before to score and Wilt does more and is a taller and stronger basketball player and of the center position or from the other positions players plays of as well and whatever position or more sometimes and ehdt is done and he plays and position there to play and dos a whole lot more than any center to reb and block and score and yhr total of one catehory of the rest and one that centers usually do on a game one the run is pass and them players to score and for him to get assists. Shaq was pretty close of his style and strong plays but certain thingsbto do in the game of defending and is a lot to a lot of centers will do but not a lot or close as Wilt Chamberlain gets or can do ! Bill Russell gets so many blocks and Rebs too and close or ?, then to Wilt from his one way stand and height but what he gots is expected after seeing or he had been doing and he takes his run for a center of a tall 6’9″.. feet ball player and he uses jid muscles and abilities with his skills and hands etc and he’s like a skinny built size man with not the muscles built out to shown really and some kind of tall 6feeter tall man of his moves can do and Wilt a taller and stronger scorer and in all around physical too but Bill has the good thin body and yo.play his defense if his blocks and hands.
    Elgin Baylor was a close rated player to Michael Jordan of a 6′ etc inches tall forward or guard scorer and a good runner on the court etc. And its something that a player to do different moves in the air and movements of a acrobatic dunker and that what’s M.J. is known and Elgin was a good acrobatic dunker or jumper from underneath.the net and gets his moves their and a dunk ! Kobe or M.J. tried to score asubh he can a lot and more than 30 to 33 pts but they did not get to play to score from their running and dunks and a little more help from the 3 pt given too add etc pts and from the team plays and team passes and plays they are required to do with the othet players if theit their to.play the positions and to get a pass or take the ball and be there to score in close or hard playing !Kobe has a different way and did it around from then offensive plays and scoring and has his years too and those top scoring or performances . And Oscar Robertson csn.move anf run good enough or nice any where on the court to get open or around the players and set his position and steps and etv and of the pose position he gos to make a play.like if to do and Wilt has he dos to get the ball and put in the basket from a higher play of the center position and a lot of players do as well.on their own runs and.moves too but of their physical strenghths or abilities. Lebron could run around or by many of the basketball players on the court and gets the ball to the baskets and scores to on a strong basketball playing and he gos for the all around moves from the basics or regular plays and his style or way and has the one other move to show than his scoring etc and its the extra move to do something different of dunking of height or a kind of high three pointers of one he dos than any and like the others dos all around and of the moves they got to get a basket and those totsl different three’s they got there any where ! And as the players who has their throw ready for a long three pointers usually ir more often.
    If its one or two usually to be mention and what players to be name and of the NBA and is a title or two name the best basketball.player their was another pro league a players known to be the best skilled or best kind of players and their was other basjrtball.players to be known one of the best and before a number of the players who played decades after the other players retired or one first decade thst they had played too and their last years too. And the basketball plsyers known who played for the Harlem Globetrotters and people who played basket and only usually in real games of the street andb they got it take to be great players too . There was the NBL too and George Milan played for the league or for…and is one of the very strong players too and can top a scoring mark on those days too
    The Rens team playef in the Pro NBL tournaments and basketball players or stars were Charles “Tarzen” Cooper and Wee Willie Smith and E. Satch and William “Pop” Gates can.play basketball and it is said etc they had some real talents and can make fine passess and moves tobthe basket and dunk too and higher than over the rim and dunk too and they got the skills to play great ball “!”. Smaller players of other leagued pro and college like John Beckwith and Chuckovit and Hank Luisette were all around ball players then and for their positions too and to name other all around basketball.players who played later duringbthe 1960’s and to the 1990’s and the 2000’s and its the performance and the players today to keep aggressive moves in plays or “!” and to dunk and of that ! Etc.

  10. Harry Houghwas known as a greatball handler or dribbler and the ball was probably heavier and has the less of the off bounce or high speed off bounce and spin too.
    And number two comment or reason of something about him is writers or studiers calls him ” The Michael Jordan of his days”. Etc…!

  11. Jd

    He just said you win with big men? LOL yes until Jordan came Along. What an idiot to obviously not think about his reasoning.

    Those Bulls teams weren’t winni g because of Cartright or Longley?

    • K

      Jordan won titles without a big man because the level of play in the 1990s was mediocre. The Bulls were a very good time in a decade when that was enough. Move those Bulls back ten years they don’t win a single championship.
      But the greatest , most dominant player of all time was a big man. Wilt. If you ignore super slow mo highlights and dont penalize Wilt for playing when hardly any games were televised, he sticks out like a sore thumb as the GOAT.

  12. gene c

    Earl Strom, the greatest NBA referee of all time, said the greatest player he ever saw was The Big O……

  13. Roy Hobbs

    Larry Bird did NOT say that Michael Jordan was the greatest player of all time. Not even when Jordan scored 63 in a Double OT loss in the 1986 Playoffs. Bird’s line then was: “That was God disguised as Michael Jordan”—and it was a tip of the cap for a great performance in ONE game. There is absolutely no way Larry Bird believed that Michael Jordan, after 100 career regular season games (in which Jordan was 47-53) and 6 career post season games (in which Jordan was 1-5), was the greatest player of all-time. Bird himself was about to win his 3rd World Championship and be voted League MVP for a 3rd straight year (after finishing 2nd three straight years). To that point, Jordan hadn’t even been named to a single All-NBA 1st Team. On the other hand, Bird was about to be named to his 7th All NBA 1st Team in 7 seasons.

  14. Sage

    Bird says it’s Wilt. This is wrong.

  15. Mick

    I have even more respect for West, Baylor, Cousy and Hakeem than I already did. And it was high to begin with. They mention how MJ could dominate on both ends as no one else . I may add at such at high level as well.

  16. test

    Rings shouldn’t count. It should be STATS alone. Championship is a TEAM EFFORT including coaching.

  17. Jerry Watson

    Jordan didn’t win until Dr. J, and Kareem retired. Most people who picked Jordan are his friends. They probably didn’t pick Dr. J as the greatest because he dunked on them and they still mad about it. If Jordan is the greatest he would have won championships with the Wizards. Dr. J won in the NBA and ABA. I would have picked Dr. Jas the greatest until I saw the man who kept him from winning more championships. That man is Kareem! I agree with Dr. J. Kareem is the greatest, then Dr. J.
    For the ones who picked Jordan who won the games between Dr. J and Michael Jordan when they played?

  18. Marcel Pilatti


    During the NBA 70 by Esporte Espetcular, George Gervin said ”when people tell me ‘Michael Jordan’, I tell’em ‘Wilt Chamberlain”’ as a reference to ‘who is the greatest’.

  19. Marcel Pilatti

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThKh21yETl8 [go to 6min10 to see Gervin].

    on the same video, dr. j says ”bill russell is the best”.

    • Comment by post author

      Otávio Pinto

      Thanks, Marcel! Wasn’t Gervin talking about the “greatest scorer”, not exactly the greatest player?
      I wonder if Dr.J wasn’t just being polite. He has said and explained multiple times on video why he thinks Kareem is the greatest of all time.

  20. Fred

    the author cherry picks, making the outcome the way he wants to be. maybe he grew up with nike promoting air jordans. i do not say this is mean way, but it’s just the way it is. we are all influenced.

    i won’t write about chamberlain because there is nothing else to add but right now, May 2017, everyone is saying that lebron might be the greatest player ever. these are people that have forgotten not only russell and chamberlain, but also have forgotten jordan too! LOL

    here’s something that will show you how good russell was. at 6’10” in bare feet, he rebounds, leads the fast break, and jumps over a guy while finger rolling it in.


    and another time, the center takes one dribble and jumps over a guy while dunking. kind of like what carter did in the olympics.

    phil jackson watched russell, played against chamberlain, and coached kobe and jordan.

    when asked, about who be his first pick in starting a team he said this regarding kobe and jordan:

    “In my estimation, the guy that has to be there would be Bill Russell. He has won 11 championships as a player,” Jackson said. “I think that’s really the idea of what excellence is, when you win championships.”

    And if he had to pick between Bryant and Jordan?

    “I would flip a coin and whichever one came up heads or tails, I’d take that person. They were that good.”

    • Comment by post author

      Otávio Pinto

      “the author cherry picks, making the outcome the way he wants to be. maybe he grew up with nike promoting air jordans. i do not say this is mean way, but it’s just the way it is. we are all influenced”.
      Thanks for your comment, Fred. I’m a Lakers fan. If I was that biased, it would be in favour of guys like Magic/Kobe/Kareem, not Jordan. As I said, guys like Russell and Wilt can have strong cases to considered the GOAT as well. I don’t deny it.

  21. Really good compilation of material. I’ve got Jordan #1 and LeBron now fighting with the rest for #2 personally, but I can see how people can vote various ways.

  22. I consider Larry the Cable Guy to be the ultimate basketball player!

  23. Jeff White

    Jordan is the most spectacular player of all time but Kareem is the greatest. When you can dunk without even jumping everybody takes you for granted. And everybody has.

  24. TA

    Does it really matter? All these players were or are great . If u go by just stats it’s wilt. If u go by rings it’s Russell. If u go by mvps it Kareem. The latest is in many minds always the greatest .. hence LeBron. Funny how few mention Kobe since he has five rings.

  25. Stefan (Toronto)

    1. Jordan 2. Kareem 3. Kobe 4. Lebron 5. Shaq (You can include Bill Russell in any of the top 5 and you wouldn’t be wrong).

  26. John Barnes

    Magic Johnson

  27. Can we stop with the silly, “look at how smart I am — I am not agreeing with the obvious — that Jordan is the greatest player ever. Anybody that doesn’t see that has some kind of personal agenda or just doesn’t like Jordan. Great offensively and defensively, eventually became better than anyone else in history at making players around him better, great passer, great rebounder for his position, and easily the best clutch player ever. (If you have any doubt about that, go watch the last 5 minutes of every playoff game he ever played in.) For Pete’s sake — what more could you want in a player?

    As for what other legendary players thought about him, Hubie Brown did an informal survey when the 50 greatest players ever (at that time) got together and here is what he wrote: ”

    But nobody in the history of the game has dominated at both ends of the floor like Michael Jordan. Therein lies the difference. Michael Jordan simply leaves the game as the best player ever to play, and I don’t think there is any argument over that. At the 1997 NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland when they celebrated the top 50 players in NBA history, it was interesting because it was nearly unanimous among the players was that this guy is the greatest player to ever play. To me that thought is interesting because of its absolute nature. “

  28. Very quickly this website will be famous
    among all blogging people, due to it’s pleasant articles

  29. Pablo

    Jabbar doesn’t say who is best all-time (says can’t know, didn’t see other play, e.g. Mikan). But best player he ever played against is Larry Bird.

    Best Defender [that he played against] was Nate Thurmond. Wilt said the same, not Russell, but Nate Thurmond.



  30. James "Lannie" Thomas

    Well to me basketball was played in era! So The best Player in the 60’s Wilt Chamberlain, best Player in the 70’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, best Players in 80’s Magic Johnson & Larry Bird, best Player in 90’s Michael Jordan, best Players in 2000 – 2005 Shaquille O’Neal, best Player in 2006 – 2011 Kobe Bryant, best Player 2012 – 2016 LeBron James, best Player 2017 – Present Kevin Durant

  31. Denty

    I think wilt Chamberlain’s the greatest athlete and player. For example if you truly know wilts speed strength etc. It’s gonna be a bad bet for your life. Betting on anyone, in NBA history but wilt. So to me it’s dumb to pick anyone else. I only have Meadowlark above Wilt. Meadowlark is the greatest shooter ever.

  32. Thanks for the interesting article! It’s great to see the legends weigh in on the GOAT debate. While Jordan is definitely the most popular pick, it’s interesting to see how Kareem’s longevity and Wilt’s dominance measure up. For fans of today’s game, it would be interesting to see how these legends would view LeBron’s well-rounded stats.

Leave a Reply

Loading Facebook Comments ...
//inicio clever