In what will become a daily entry over the course of the next month, Waiver Wire writers Greg Kaplan and Vinny Ginardi will release a list of the the 25 players who they believe to be the best in NBA history. Players were judged on their careers as a whole rather than short stretches of dominance (for example, Bill Walton didn’t make the list due to injuries cutting his career short).
Vinny Ginardi: To take straight from Kareem’s Wikipedia page (yeah, I know, really reliable): “At the time of his retirement, Abdul-Jabbar was the NBA’s all-time leader in points scored, games played, minutes played, field goals made, field goal attempts, blocked shots, defensive rebounds, and personal fouls.” Translation: Abdul-Jabbar was really good for a really long time.
In addition, to this day Kareem has also won the most MVP awards, taking the hardware home six different times. The fact that he won his first MVP award in 1971 and his last in 1980 shows just how long Kareem dominated the game for. Outside of his individual accomplishments, Abdul-Jabbar was also a member of six NBA championship teams, though several of them did come at the back end of his career while playing alongside Magic Johnson. Still, Kareem earned two NBA Finals MVP awards and impressive 14 years apart (1971, 1985).
Kareem is well-known for his iconic sky hook. Given his length and efficiency, there wasn’t much defenders could do when he got the ball a few feet in front of the hoop. But people also forget that Abdul-Jabbar was a defensive presence too, making 11 All-Defensive teams (five first) in his career. In all, Kareem could score at will, rebound with the best of them, and protect the rim. What more do you want from a center?
Greg Kaplan: A long time ago in what feels like a galaxy far, far away, I once spoke of how a monumental skill or signature shot would always speak louder in how an individual is remember in the annuls of time. I’ve mentioned it with the bevvy of moves Kevin McHale had inside. Vinny and I talked about the kiss-off-the-glass-from-the-baseline Tim Duncan has perfected.
However, nobody except Jerry West being known as “The Logo” is more famous for one thing while playing basketball. No, I’m not talking about KAJ’s cameo in Airplane.
Its the sky hook. Everybody that has seen one basketball game or highlight reel has come across somebody talking about the sky hook. It was unstoppable and perfectly constructed. Opposing players and managers literally would slam clipboards against their heads trying to come up with new, inventive ways to try and stop it. And nothing could. It was basketball genius.
Its funny that both Vinny and I love the work of Bill Simmons and made The Book of Basketball a summer bible and still have this high of a regard for Kareem. I mean, you can’t go three pages in the book without the Sports Guy slamming Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in some way, shape or form. However, it is worth regurgitating the accolades that KAJ amassed. Six, six, MVP awards. Six NBA Championships. Points leader at the time of his retirement.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the best center to ever play the game. If that doesn’t get you into the Top 5, well, then nothing will.