Recently I had an argument, no, no, a discussion with one of my friends on who the best all-around player in the NBA. We both agreed without argument that it is LeBron James. I chimed in that the next closest player to him is on his team in Dwayne Wade. Both players are the two best two-way players in the league today by far. Then I took the conversation even further in asking who does he think is the best all-around player ever. Hmmm, that’s a tough one he says and then almost instantly says LeBron James. What about Oscar Robertson? Larry Bird? Magic Johnson? Michael Jordan? We can cross Dwayne Wade out because we both agree LeBron is better all-around than him and I’m going to contribute that to LeBron’s size. So we both ponder for a moment to really see who’s the best all-around player to ever play the game. Here’s what we come up with.
I’m only 24 years old so it’s safe to say that I’ve only got to “witness” LeBron play in the entirety of his career thus far. I’ve caught the latter days of Jordan’s career, but not enough to say I really got to watch him and when I did he was winning his last two NBA championships. At about 8 years old you don’t know too much about basketball, not the way you would when your older and understand the game better. Then I watched Jordan comeback playing for the Wizards, not nearly as good as he used to be, but if you’re anybody else those numbers are still pretty good. I never got to see Larry Bird play although you hear stories, see some clips, and you know that the guy was a prolific player. Unfortunately I never really got to see Magic Johnson play. When he came back during the 95-96 season, it was like Jordan playing for the Wizards, a good player but a shell of what he used to be. I mentioned Oscar Robertson and I wish I could have seen him play. He is the only player in the history of the NBA to average a triple-double in a season and has come very close several other times. The Big O also played during an era in which not all statistics were kept like they are today. Steals, blocks, and turnovers were not tracked and he also played in a league that did not have the 3-pointer as part of the game.
Before I make our case for why LeBron is the best all-around player I would like to argue the other players cases first, with the best of my knowledge. First, I want to say that it’s possible we left out a candidate that deserves consideration. You might be thinking where’s Kobe Bryant? Well in our eyes Kobe is purely a scorer and while he can do other things very well nobody really looks at him as a true two-way player. While Kobe is probably one of the best players to ever play the game and has the championships to back it up, his career numbers are actually comparable to Dwayne Wade’s and Wade is a much better defender than Kobe. While I’m not counting rings as a sign of individual success, it should be noted that Kobe had Shaq for three of them, and had a very good team for the next two rings. Dwayne Wade leads all active guards in blocks with 610. Kobe has 594 and 7 years more playing time than that of Wade. Sorry Wade’s my guy and I’d take him over anybody in the league, but were not arguing over popularity here.
Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double. That’s an amazing feat being that the best players today don’t even come close to that. Maybe LeBron does, but if you think that only getting 2-3 more assists and rebounds is easy, think again. I never got to see him play and only get to hear what others say about him. He might have been the original all-around player. In terms of stats he’s the best. I don’t know how well he played defense although I hear he was never really known for his defense, but I’m sure his triple-double status overshadows that. Either way the guy could score in bunches, dished out dimes, and grabbed boards all in the same game. He has to be up for consideration right?
Larry Bird was one of the most prolific scorers ever. He could score at will. He averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. He is by no means the best defender to ever play the game, but he did play defense and made three 2nd All-Defensive teams in his career. He made 10 All-NBA teams, won 3 NBA championships, 3 NBA MVPs, and 2 Finals MVPs. He is the only player on my list that is strictly a forward. He is an underrated defender even though most would agree he played good defense, he is not an elite defender, but you wouldn’t want him guarding you.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson redefined the point guard position. At 6’8 his athleticism and court vision were uncanny. Magic averaged 19.5 points, 11.2 assists, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.7 steals a game. He has 5 championship rings, 3 Finals MVPs, and 3 NBA MVPs. He is probably the least defensive minded on this list, but that is by no means an insult. This is an elite list and not a list of best ever, but best all-around ever. His ability to pass, rebound, and score are what some would say as being ahead of his time. Most young point guards in the league today model their game after his.
Michael Jeffrey Jordan is regarded by most as the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball. His talents are second to none. His competitive spirit and willingness to win is second to none. He is a true competitor in every sense of the word. He is the best player in the biggest games. He might be the best scorer the league has ever seen. His stats back it up too. He averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.3 steals a game. Mind you his two years with the Wizards brought those numbers down. He is the proud owner of 6 NBA championships, 6 Finals MVps, and 5 NBA MVPs. Oh yea he also won defensive player of the year once, the only player on this list to do so. He is the player that players today dream to be. Kobe wishes that he was Jordan. Kobe changed his number to 24 to signify that he was better than Jordan, but that’s the only thing Kobe has on Jodran, 1 number on his jersey. Jordan was the best all-around player to ever play the game. That is until October 29, 2003.
LeBron James made his NBA debut on October 29, 2003 with the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first pick in the draft. LeBron James is a combination of the previous four players. He has the triple-double capability of Oscar Robertson, the scoring ability of Larry Bird, the court vision of Magic Johnson, and the two-way mindset of Michael Jordan. Here’s why LeBron is the best all-around player to ever don an NBA uniform: he got to watch and learn from these players. If Jordan came after LeBron he would be the better all-around player. Players today have the ability to watch previous greats and take a part of their game and incorporate it into their game. My friend brought this to my attention and then I thought, wow, he’s right. Michael Jordan was considered the best dunker in NBA history, but then a kid named Vince Carter came along. Vince Carter got to watch Jordan display his panache and then add that to his own arsenal. It’s only right that new players have the ability to be better than former players.
LeBron James averages 27.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. He has yet to reach his full potential which is even more scary. He has the ability to play the 1-4 positions. Something that none of the other players were able to do. He can bring up the ball or play the 3, you could even play small and fast and put him at the 4. Something that makes him stand above the rest is his ability to also defend the 1-4. We saw it last year in the Eastern Conference Finals, when he guarded Derrick Rose and took him off his game. He guards other small forwards and sometimes power forwards like he did Pau Gasol earlier this year. No other player in the league can do that, not with the success that LeBron would have. That’s what sets him apart from any other player in the history of the league. He is one of the 5 category players in the league today along with Dwayne Wade. The other players I mentioned before him had the ability to put up stats in 5 categories as well. Did I Mention that LeBron is only
LeBron may never have won a defensive player of the year award, but I think this year he should have a really good consideration because of his ability to guard 1-4. He should also win the NBA MVP for the third time in his career this year, despite talks that Durant could potentially be the MVP. LeBron’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is above 30, no other player in the league has that. He might have another MVP candidate on his team in Wade, but of all the elite teams in the NBA they have the weakest team. They have no depth, and after Wade and Bosh there are no real scoring options. Durant has a better team as a whole than LeBron. Durant is really the only threat to take the MVP honors away from LeBron.
LeBron is highly criticized for his late game meltdowns as of late. This team has only been playing for a little over a year and when you have 3 players who are used to taking the last shot now playing on one team it’s going to take a while to gel. Personally I’m sick of the media coming up with stories about how un-clutch LeBron is. Ever heard of believe none of what you hear? Well it’s true. Since LeBron has come into the league, he leads the league in shots made to tie or take the lead with under 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter. If that’s not clutch I don’t know what is. Ok, so he’s not Robert Horry. He passes in situations he should shoot, but that’s the right basketball play. Isolation plays are the least successful in terms of scoring, so the media would rather him have a lower chance of scoring than setting up a teammate with a better chance to score? That doesn’t make any sense to me. Listen, I understand why he is being criticized, but let’s not make up stories about the BEST ALL-AROUND PLAYER EVER.