Top 75 players in NBA history
1. Michael Jordan — probably literally “wanted it more.”
2. LeBron James — just holding this spot down for Bronnie.
3. Bill Russell — was eating an ice cream sandwich when I met him, and what kind of a jerk interrupts a grown man’s ice cream sandwich lap? No wonder Russell hates the media.
4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — heard I interrupted Russell’s ice cream sandwich, blocked me on Twitter.
5. Wilt Chamberlain — Wilt, in 1972:
“I read that McDonald’s has sold eight billion hamburgers. That means every person in the country would have to eat 25. And I’ve never had one, so some guy would have to eat 50.”
Obsessed with hamburgers, Wilt later went on to anticipate the home delivery conversion upon opening his own hamburger outlet. Here is its restaurant review from 1995:
I like the food at Wilt Chamberlain’s Restaurant in Boca Raton but I don’t like the “bring-the-kids” atmosphere. Not that I’m anti-family. Kids are fine. But not while I’m eating.
“Now, trust me to talk about kid food.”
Wilt Chamberlain’s offers delivery if you live west of the Florida Turnpike via the Home Delivery Network. (You also can pick up your food at the restaurant but for delivery, HDN requires a $10 minimum order and tacks a 15 percent service charge onto your food bill.)
I ordered the grilled turkey burger ($5.95) served on a soft, fresh whole-wheat bun with lettuce, tomato, onions, alfalfa sprouts and raspberry ketchup ($5.95). The thick burger was made even better with this special ketchup, which added moisture and a pleasant sweet flavor. I recommend asking for a little extra of it. You also can select from eight optional toppings (50 to 75 cents each) including cheeses, sautéed mushrooms, bacon and grilled onions. I got Cheddar cheese (50 cents) and was glad I did. The burger came with a generous portion of greaseless french fries. The food arrived hot and aromatic in its foam container.
6. Magic Johnson — I would pay five dollars a month to read Magic Johnson review hamburger restaurants.
Help me pay for sixty percent of that subscription:
7. Larry Bird — so good that hours ago thousands of YouTubers paid all of September’s rent solely off income derived from Larry Bird reaction videos.
8. Tim Duncan — it’s not so much that he has all those swords, it’s just, what’s the endgame? Although “Dad left me all the swords except for the one they buried him with” is surely a cool thing to say while dragging a seat up to the bar.
9. Shaquille O’Neal — earlier this week I found out Shaq endorsed a cinnamon-flavored brand of sugar flake cereal so I bought a box and ate all the flakes that were in it, by myself, handful by handful. I probably care about Shaq more than anyone on this list.
10. Kevin Garnett — angry media will tell you he delayed postgame interviews longer than any showering NBA superstar in history, legendary wait times.
11. Dwyane Wade — you know he can beat any player this list one-on-one because you don’t have to get back on defense in a half-court game.
12. Kobe Bryant — there would be no more NBA record books if Shaq had stayed in Orlando.
13. Kevin Durant — the greatest basketball player ever.
14. Stephen Curry — not his fault he found the hole in the fence before everyone else.
15. Oscar Robertson — cut the hole in the fence.
16. Hakeem Olajuwon — or, as I like to call him, “the gentle giant.”
17. Bob Pettit — beat Bill Russell at basketball. In the NBA!
18. Dirk Nowitzki — how weird is it that he’s the best saxophone player on this list.
19. Julius Erving — was friends with a saxophone player but didn’t play the instrument so Dirk gets the nod for taking the creative risk (also ABA stats don’t count on my lists).
20. Jerry West — sorry, Jerry, ABA stats don’t count.
21. Elgin Baylor — the first injury casualty to retain top tier ranking.
22. John Havlicek — etch an NBA player out of stone, if you don’t end up with Havlicek you’re screwing up. Especially if you’re being paid to build a John Havlicek statue.
23. David Robinson — they should make submarines but just for tall guys and film it.
24. Moses Malone — ABA stats don’t count, but that’s fine, Moses is the NBA’s ninth-leading scorer.
25. George Mikan — do I know Geo. Mikan singularly codified the appeal or pro basketball? Yes. Do I think he’s better at basketball than Moses Malone? No.
26. Charles Barkley — He was like the player you chose to control in a video game. Size and rating and context didn’t matter, this is the character that gets the rebound and brings the ball up court and probably scores.
27. James Harden — He was like the player you chose to control in a video game, etc. I’m noticing none of this control extends to the hours spent away from the gym.
28. Chris Paul — Constancy dulls his brilliance. Points deducted because the insurance company he endorses kicked me off because deer love running at red hatchbacks.
29. Kawhi Leonard — No. 29 is for the amount of games he misses per year.
30. Steve Nash —Fully admit he’d be way higher if he weren’t Canadian.
31. Patrick Ewing — gave everything:
32. Dave Cowens — doesn’t get extra points for being only 6-9, but he may have gotten extra rebounds that way.
33. Rick Barry — this is the part of the evening
34. John Stockton — where you don’t want to bring up politics.
35. Wes Unseld — craftsman with touch, imagine if Bob Ross played basketball.
36. Dennis Rodman — defense is half the game so frankly he should be higher on the list.
37. Elvin Hayes — gentleman scorer dug in for buckets and it took quite a bit to dig him out.
38. Allen Iverson — the unlikeliest NBA guy every morning (or afternoon) he woke up, still 30 a game.
39. Karl Malone — consistent scorer, rebounder.
40. Scottie Pippen — choosing any other NBA legend as a sidekick would be foolish.
41. Walt Frazier — a modern NBA player. Defense, wit, scoring from the point.
42. Hal Greer — bucket machine had the same five defenders all year and it never mattered.
43. Ray Allen — could still play right now isn’t bashful reminding us about it.
44. Sam Jones — correctly determined that it is easier to smash a basketball into a plate of glass than it is to deftly arc it over the lip of a rim. Bank shots, kids, it all spends the same.
45. Bob Cousy — Made $12,275 total in his NBA career but that’s not counting those single-blade shaver and wood burning kit endorsements.
46. Jason Kidd — not quite the most unlikable point guard in NBA history.
47. Isiah Thomas — See?
48. Kevin McHale — I don’t know what we expected from Kevin when this is how he began his retirement:
“I don't plan on being one of those bitter old guys who lie on the couch and talk about how much better the game was when we played it. But there are several things that started bothering me in my final seasons.”
I don’t plan on not-left.
49. Dominique Wilkins — always was top 50.
50. Paul Arizin — I was surprised too but the dude pivots.
51. Artis Gilmore — had the advantage of being several feet taller than the rim.
52. Dave Bing — was the mayor of Detroit when the Pistons walked out on/laughed at John Kuester, a demonstration of worker empowerment I’ll credit to Mayor Bing.
53. Bob McAdoo — looking back on the other stuff they taught me growing up, you know, I’m going to take Bob McAdoo’s side.
54. George Gervin —so good they used to send Michael Jordan to interview him:
55. Dolph Schayes — averaged 18 and 12 for ages and literally took the train to work.
56. Lenny Wilkens — proto-Harden. To the point where teammates wondered if they ever saw him use his right hand, they’d crowd him at the lunch counter during airport layovers while he read the newspaper and drank coffee, bringing strangers up to introduce themselves and hold onto a handshake long enough to see of Lenny would use his right hand to ash the cigarette or pull up his coffee. You know, locker room stuff.
57. Pau Gasol — two-way 7-footer gave more than he got back.
58. Chris Bosh — you saw him, he was that good in that short amount of time.
59. Clyde Drexler — famously: Clyde the Drexler.
60. Paul Pierce — won a title and stayed healthy so now he gets to rub our noses in it.
61. Willis Reed — somehow still underrated.
62. Nate Thurmond — hardly a George Gobel amongst the giants of his era.
63. Bill Sharman — would absolutely get that George Gobel joke.
64. Earl Monroe — twirler dialed his points per game back to win a championship with the Knicks.
65. Anthony Davis — hurts himself twice a year but dominates for the rest of it.
66. Kyrie Irving — I’d rather watch him take 30 shots more than anyone on this list.
67. Giannis Antetokounmpo — nobody ever talks about how Antetokounmpo was just a pretty-good player until ʻOumuamua whirled by and suddenly Giannis can’t stop flying over people.
68. Shawn Marion — sterling two-way player that burdened opposing teams just by showing up, you couldn’t stop thinking about Marion, he was Havlicek-y.
69. Carmelo Anthony — you can’t stop thinking about Carmelo Anthony because he’s held the ball for the last 12 seconds but, watch, he’s about to do something cool after two more jab-steps. Fooled you! Four more jab-steps.
70. Nate Archibald — nobody ever talks about the time he led the NBA in scoring and assists in the same season in two different states at the same time.
71. Pete Maravich — averaged 24.8 points per game in the 1970s, two points at a time.
72. Reggie Miller — the mouth the NBA needed to convince itself that three counted for more than two.
73. Billy Cunningham — injuries and three ABA campaigns dug into his NBA service but 21 points per career is nothing to sniff at.
74. Manu Ginobili — every team needs someone off the bench.
75. Bill Walton — perhaps the most put-together performer to ever play his position, ironically.
Did you click the offer? Are you outraged? Please be outraged.
I’m trying to get canceled. I’ve read — well, I didn’t read all of it — but I’ve surmised that becoming canceled draws readers, which makes you money. So, as the second dude to ever dude a Substack, I’ve been aiming for the cancel.
Not through that weed bust but through other, apparently too-subversive, ways. And it’s not working. All this shit’s gone wrong and nobody knows that it’s my fault.
Last fall I visited baseball’s winter meetings — the hot stove — working the bar where the media get two free drink tickets.
I’d spot baseball play-by-play guys easily, they all have tight side parts on haircuts they’d just received in Orlando. I’d wait until the boys lifted wrists on their second freebie and get to talking about the juiciest pitches to hit. The rarest choices, even if announcers prefer things well done.
April hits and I tune into a few baseball games and every announcing chud spits out the horrific phrase “center-cut” any time a pitcher tosses a fat fastball down the white plate. Baseball announcers say it all the time, it sucks, and I’m the reason why.
What else. A while back I started using “penultimate” a lot and I really regret it. Please cancel me, my rent is obscene.
I’m not, I’m not a good person.
When I encourage you with the conversational phrase “that makes sense,” it is because you are making zero sense, and in a way that is more harmful to you than me. And because there is no threat to me personally I’ll let you go on, because when’s the next time we’re both going to be at the same police auction?
I blinked at your cat during your party and now he’s in love with me. Sorry. Learn how to communicate better with your cat.
I called your middle-aged dog a “puppy” and I know your dog is not a puppy and I know calling your dog “a puppy” doesn’t flatter you and your dog, it only reminds you of your shared mortality and I know this and still call the dog a “widdle puppy.”
I mean the phrase “great set” a little less than 80 percent of the times I say it. All of you are mostly funny, and I mean that.
If I’m in the right lane going the speed limit + 10 percent of the speed limit via cruise control and I spy someone in the left lane going the speed limit + 25 extra miles per hour I’ll surreptitiously crank that cruise control up while he (it’s always a “he”) gears passing torque beside me in order to make his eventual arrest all the more easier. The extra five-to-ten MPH this move adds to the F-150’s gait is typically the difference between a ticketed citation and handcuffs.
(Just kidding they never pull those guys over.)
I called your baby “it” until it, I mean, Henderleigh, started talking. It’s going to school, right? Henderleigh is in school? Home-schooled, my bad. OK. How’s Brycen.
Sometimes after stopping to only use a gas station for its bathroom I will wander the aisles for half-a-minute before throwing my hands up and declaring loudly enough for the employees to hear, “ah, I’ll just stay with the gas” but I’m not buying any gas, either. They know this and don’t care.
For the final week of November in 1991 I was completely in character as Rob Schenider’s copy-room guy, though in my defense I did not insist people refer to me as “Richmeister.”
I took all the corner pieces. Not some of them. Each of them.
I never use hyperbole or flattery with your children. That’s not an act, I think they’re cooler than you now.
I also invented cancel culture, in 2002, I set up a message board for how to sell your old baseball cards and it was mostly populated by dudes born between the years 1974 and 1982 and one afternoon Josh started complaining about how hard it was to revoke his Beckett subscription back in the days before internet and then someone brought up Bush and before long nobody could tell what cause either side was shouting for even with the clarity of the fascism accusations. I’m sorry. I didn’t know any of the guys had comic books. The afternoon I saw 18 of them picketing on Kevin Federline’s behalf outside his child custody hearings, I knew it had gone too far.
I did not eat the leftovers of the dish I took home from the opening week at your husband’s old restaurant. The styro didn’t even make it to our place, I dumped it in a garbage can in an alley on the walk home and it wasn’t even our alley.
I never went through your medicine cabinet when you let me crash there on my trip but I did eat that entire box of peanut butter crackers you stashed way the hell back in the pantry, and I had to really dig around for them. Package of six, didn’t leave one. Only sweet thing you had in the whole kitchen.
Also, I’m leaving in a minute to attend a St. Louis Cardinal game. Two of them. To root for them.
For the Cardinals.
Cancel me and subscribe.
You know that guy I always re-tweet? This is his note-perfect Yacht Rock album from the 1990s.
There’s no way I’m wearing a Cardinal hat to the game, don’t worry. I don’t even own one. Subscribers get to talk baseball cards and Ben Simmons this afternoon.
Thank you for reading. I had so much fun doing these. Basketball rules.
(More to come.)