By Dave Smith, Sports Columnist
With ESPN currently airing “Last Dance,” chronicling the final championship run of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, they also held a discussion on ESPN.com, entitled “NBA GOAT Debate: Big Questions on Michael Jordan and the greatest players ever.”
They decided to ask a panel of “experts,” many of whom I’ve never heard of, for their opinion of who are the greatest players of all time.
Right away I was skeptical, because in my 25 years of covering the NBA as a reporter and sports-talk radio host one thing has been abundantly clear: Most of these “experts” have no idea what they’re talking about and know less than the average sports fan walking down the street; but they’re presented as basketball savants.
I’ve spent countless hours with NBA beat guys and reporters and while we’ve chatted in the media room, during games or having a beer, I was always taken aback with how little they knew about the game and wondered how in the world they could make a living covering a sport in which they have very little knowledge.
I remember mentioning to an NBA beat guy that more coaches should try a zone defense to contain great players and talked about various zones and how they could be effective. But the blank, confused look on his face said it all: He’d never played a game in his life and had no idea what I was talking about.
But you’d think Bobby Marks, a former Vice President and assistant General Manager with the Brooklyn Nets would be different, because here is a guy who was in the upper echelon of NBA management and you can’t reach that level without a good understanding of the game. But then again, this is the Nets we’re talking about.
Marks is also described as a “Front Office Insider,” which immediately raises red flags. Because “Experts” and “Front Office Insiders” usually have basketball I.Q’s in the double digits.
So when Marks was asked to list his 10 greatest players of all time, here was his answer:
“I’ve got 10 on my list for discussion: Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James.”
After reading this, one name Marks inexplicably left out jumped out at me; arguably the greatest player of all time. So I read it again carefully, because nobody who worked in an NBA front office and calls himself an “NBA Front Office Expert” could possibly be this stupid. But alas, there was one name conspicuously absent.
I don’t take issue with saying Kareem isn’t the greatest player in history, because in my opinion there are a group of players you could make a case for: Michael Jordan, Kareem, Wilt, Magic, Larry Bird and Bill Russell. And once LeBron retires he’s in the conversation as well. But leaving Kareem out of the Top-10? That’s blasphemy and any credibility Marks had is now gone.
When Marks was also asked what traits and accomplishments he valued most in determining the NBA’s greatest player of all time, he said the following: “The same three characteristics that should be used when determining the MVP: Wins, longevity and the impact that player had on his team.”
So I guess being the NBA’s all time leading scorer, six time NBA MVP, six time NBA Champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, 19-time All Star, the greatest high school and college player of all time and an unprecedented 20-year career doesn’t fit Marks criteria of “Wins, longevity and the impact a player had on his team.”
So I rest my case on the credibility of these so called “NBA experts.”
SPORTSGOD’S FAST BREAK: Don’t you love how these NFL “experts” issue team-by-team grades the night of the draft? Nobody has any idea how these players will perform, but these draft analysts, who are wrong far more often than they are right, issue grades like elementary school teachers… I looked in the mirror today and after six weeks of no haircuts and not working out, John Candy looked back at me…I said before the draft that Jordan Love was going to be an NFL star, but never saw the Packers taking him. Aaron Rodgers days are numbered…Just saw “Once a Time in Hollywood Again” and it’s magnificent. The way Quentin Tarantino transformed Hollywood Blvd into 1969 and captured the era was amazing…Interesting to hear Andy Ruiz wants to hire Eddy Reynoso as his new trainer. Reynoso, the long time trainer of Canelo Alvarez, is a no nonsense guy who will not tolerate Ruiz being fat and out of shape…No more partying, alcohol or late night fast food runs or this isn’t going to last long…Listen to my show on SB Nation Radio, Wednesdays from 5-7 PM and Saturdays and Sundays from 6-10 PM.