It wasn't too long ago when the NBA released its 50 Greatest Players for its anniversary team. At the time the list included 11 active players including the G.O.A.T. (Jordan) and the G.P.T.N.W.A.T., which is short for Greatest Players To Never Win A Title (Barkley, Malone, Stockton & Ewing). Since that season, a few players have toed the Association's hardwood courts, thus Slam Magazine's recent edition of its 50 Greatest Players.
Slam's list of greats includes several active players including Shaq, LeBron, Kobe, Timmy, A.I. and that Canadian point guard. There is no doubting Bryant and Duncan's induction in the Top 12 as their fingers have more rings than all of Donald Trump's wives combined, but it is the inclusion of Nash and Iverson that should have life-long NBA fans scratching their heads like they forgot to use shampoo.
Like the aforementioned quartet of 90s stars above, neither Nash nor Iverson has a title, and that should be one of the first criteria to base their inclusion on. Sure, scrubs like Adam Morrison, Scot Pollard, Melvin Ely and Darko Milicic have their names etched on the back of NBA Championship apparel, but none of those guys will ever be confused with greatness. Luckily (for them) they were able to ride the coattails of some of the NBA's elite en route to a title. Therefore, it is a given that being associated with a NBA title does not make you a great player.
But doesn't it diminish a career just a bit if it does?
Truth be told, Iverson's career is written like a Hall of Famer's should be. A MVP trophy in 2001 sits proudly on a mantel with a 2005 points scored (2,302 points), overall steal titles in 2003 and 2005, not to mention leading the league in free-throws made in 2005 and 2008. Couple those achievements with four scoring titles (1999, 2001, 2002, 2005) and being the leader in steals per game from 2001 to 2003 and all Iverson needs is a speech and a plane ticket to Springfield, Mass.
But lately, a little bit of Iverson's luster has been lost. Most of it stems from his lack of a championship. Granted, it's not Iverson's fault lottery picks such as Larry Hughes and Jerry Stackhouse failed during his run in Philadelphia. Nor is it his fault that his best sidekick was Eric Snow? Kyle Korver? Theo Ratliff? But it says something that when traded from Denver to Detroit, the teams went in opposite directions, doesn't it?
Adding A.I. to the Pistons would surely would catapult the Pistons past the Celtics and back to the NBA Finals while sending Mr. Big Shot home to Denver was a nice story for a columnist to pen or for the fans back in Colorado. Instead, the Pistons fell out of one of the NBA top spots, past mediocrity and turned into a punch line down the stretch, taking a cue from its pro football bretherin and its auto industry, falling apart like an old Ford P.O.S. Meanwhile, the Nuggets had a resurgence that brought John Elway out of your old Madden '98 game and back into being a relevant figure. Jay Cutler could not be reached for comment.
As for Nash, he garnered a back-to-back MVP awards in 2005 and 2006 averaging 17.1 points and 11 assists per game while leading the league's most explosive offense. Again, it is not entirely his fault that his teams could not put together a defensive stop to save their backsides.
You know who suffered a similar fate and was better? Reggie Miller. That's who.
Like Barkley, Malone, Ewing and Stockton, Miller was virtually cock-blocked by Air Jordan's domination of the 1990s. When it came to breath-taking, shot-making heroics, The Reginald built an aura around him that only Jordan could surpass during his 18-year career. He single-handedly killed the Knicks.
Eight points in 8.9 seconds. Cherry poppers last longer than that.
He scored 25, 279 points (12th on the all-time list) with 7,680 coming by way of the 2,560 career 3-point buckets (NBA record) and 6,237 coming from the charity stripe. And don't forget about the 320 career playoff 3-point bombs he banged in over his career. He led the NBA in free-throw percentage five times (7th on the career percentage list with 88.8 percent connection rate), and while that sounds easy, ask Shaq, Dwight Howard and Nick Anderson how they feel about the importance of drilling a pair of clutch free throws.
There are more than a dozen players who deserve to be on that Top 50 players list. But where is the love for the guy that some said couldn't beat his sister in a one-on-one match-up?