HOOP Top 50: 40-31

By Josh Eberley #41Jabari Davis #24Jaime Oppenheim #7

Recently, HOOP’s Hot Takes and Shot Fakes podcast launched their Top 50 All-Time players discussion.

Hosts Josh Eberley and Jabari Davis, along with super producer Jaime Oppenheim each compiled their own list and spent the majority of the podcast going over the merit and inconsistencies of each pick.

If you missed it, you can catch the banter on iTunes here or on SoundCloud here.

Below is a summary of selection 40-31 from each guy and some justification for the selection. Click here for part 1: picks 50-41

Jabari Davis Josh Eberley Jaime Oppenheim
40. Russell Westbrook Kevin McHale Bill Walton
39. Kawhi Leonard Gary Payton Scottie Pippen
38. James Harden Willis Reed George Gervin
37. Ray Allen Russell Westbrook Kevin McHale
36. John Havlicek* Patrick Ewing Steve Nash
35. Reggie Miller Jason Kidd Walt Frazier
34. Allen Iverson John Havlicek Jason Kidd
33. Walt Frazier James Harden Allen Iverson
32. Elvin Hayes Isiah Thomas Bob Cousy
31. Dennis Rodman John Stockton Kevin Garnett


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Davis: Russell Westbrook

Westbrook may ultimately go down as this generation’s AI in terms of how his greatness is viewed and dissected, but his production and manner he goes about getting said production are pretty undeniable. He may not fit everyone’s favorite style of player or even teammate for that matter, but I don’t think that should preclude him from being acknowledged as one of the greats by the time he’s done.

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Eberley: Kevin McHale

Starting as the sixth man on a championship team and becoming a star in his own right by the third title, McHale’s career could serve as a what-if for James Harden had he remained a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. One of the most polished post players of all-time and a 6x All-Defense member.

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Oppenheim: Bill Walton

Injuries robbed Walton of his prime, but he made the most of his time on the court, compiling two All-Star appearances, two All-NBA selections, two All-Defense selections, an MVP and the 1977 NBA Championship in his first four seasons…despite never playing more than 65 games.


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Davis: Kawhi Leonard

Tell me it is too early to consider him for this conversation and while you’re likely going to be ultimately proven to be wrong. Consider the fact that it took him a few years of development before reaching the peak of what we’ve seen thus far. Yes, he loses some points for the injury that cost almost all of last year and the burnt bridge on the Alamo. That said, if he can return to form in Toronto and anywhere else beyond there if he were to move on, that means will have returned to being in the running for the League’s best two-way player at a time with the NBA is literally chock full of supreme talent.

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Eberley: Gary Payton

Payton’s Sonics gave the Bulls the best fight of any Finals opponent. He won Defensive Player of the Year as a point guard (still the last player at that position to do so) and he led the League in offensive box plus-minus despite his purely defensive reputation. Payton might be a tad underrated at this point, a menacing perimeter force who could alter the game at both ends every night.

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Oppenheim: Scottie Pippen

There are 38 players in NBA history that I’d rather start a team with than Pippen, but Pippen’s the guy I’d be most eager to see as the centerpiece of his own team. Would his placement on this list go higher or lower with a roster built around him? Would he even make the list?


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Davis: James Harden

Another guy that if you were to say it is too early or have strong feelings about the necessity of guys being more complete players, it would be understandable. Even with all of the legitimate concerns, Harden is that special of an offensive player that he will ultimately wind up in this list. Setting aside some of the popular social media narratives so many of us enjoy using against or even in support of players, and while his preferred style of offense isn’t exactly a favorite, he is able to impact so many things on that side of the ball so effectively and relatively efficiently that he’ll go down as a great.

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Eberley: Willis Reed

Reed’s 1969-70 campaign is one of the best individual seasons ever: All-NBA first team, All-Defense first team, All-Star MVP, MVP, Finals MVP, a championship and an iconic moment in Game 7 of the Finals limping out of the tunnel. The Captain is the most important Knick of all-time.

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Oppenheim: George Gervin

One of a plethora of innately gifted scoring wings throughout the course of the game’s history, Gervin’s style always set him apart from the crowd—hoop is the only sport where you it’s OK to award bonus points for being cool. Gervin might not have the ring, but his nickname and signature finger-roll are enough to cement his legacy.


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Davis: Ray Allen

There’s a chance the younger crowd may only recognize Allen from his time in Miami, but please understand he was absolutely more than merely a catch-and-shoot guy for the bulk of his career. It just so happens he may also be one of the greatest shooters the game has ever seen and currently leads in all-time three-pointers made. It was also great to see his name on the list of 2018 Hall of Fame inductees, so the 2x champion and 11x All-Star can add that to an already impressive résumé.

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Eberley: Russell Westbrook

On the podcast, I talked a lot about weight. Westbrook, whether you’re a fan or not, has carried weight the last four seasons. You’ve likely heard many people talk about how Oscar Robertson benefited from a fast-pace game with extra possessions and that his triple-double season would be easier to achieve today. Well, who else has done it other than him and Westbrook? Over the last four years Westbrook is averaging 27 PPG, 9 RPG, and 10 APG—are you kidding me?

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Oppenheim: Kevin McHale

Some fun facts: McHale, a 6-11 power forward, started just 41 percent of his games over his NBA career, and never averaged double digits in rebounds. And that matters not a lick, because no one playing the game of basketball has been as good with his (or her) back to the basket.


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Davis: John Havlicek*

So, forgive the error on the podcast, but this should have been John Havlicek. Beyond being a 13x All-Star and 8x champ, Havlicek was also a Finals MVP (’74) and is widely considered to be one of the greatest sixth-men to ever play.

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Eberley: Patrick Ewing

The playoff moments weren’t always great and he didn’t get that title, but he was a pillar of strength and consistency for a team constantly overmatched. Ewing’s Knicks reached the pinnacle twice and came up empty but by rights, they shouldn’t have been there at all. Ewing’s accolades don’t do him justice either. Stuck in the greatest era of NBA big men, he’d have racked up awards left, right, and center in any other decade.

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Oppenheim: Steve Nash

It’s hard to argue against two MVP awards, but Nash feels a little out of place here, doesn’t he? Owner of the most unexpectedly great post-peak career, Nash was a machine shooting the basketball for the “seven seconds or less” Phoenix Suns, but could he hang with the rest of the guys on this list?

* In the podcast, Davis listed Moses Malone at No. 36, but retroactively amended it.


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Davis: Reggie Miller

Like a relative contemporary in Ray Allen, Miller was definitely in the mix of being one of the greatest three-point shooters the League has ever seen. Each of them may be pushed slightly down the list by a few of the current trigger-happy shooters, but neither of them will be very far from the ultimate conversation. It was, initially, a bit surprising to see he only had five All-Star nods given his exploits throughout the ’90s, but that’s also a testament to how loaded the Eastern Conference was with viably great swingmen during his era. Which, to a certain degree, makes what he was able to do that much more impressive.

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Eberley: Jason Kidd

Kidd was a hotly contested name during this undertaking. A transcendent player who made teams better everywhere he went, Kidd’s primary flaw was an inability to score consistently and stretch the floor when he surrendered the rock. Kidd, unlike many other players on this list probably played in the right era. Being able to push the pace and bully other guards on the block led him to the All-NBA and All-Defense teams a combined 15 times.

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Oppenheim: Walt Frazier

Willis Reed had the biggest moment for the ’70s Knicks, but Walt Frazier was that team’s best player. As stylish on the floor as he is off the court, Frazier added seven All-Star appearances and 7 All-Defensive First Team nominations to his two rings.


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Davis: Allen Iverson

This may be our first bit of controversy as it appears one of us (me) clearly ranks AI higher than the others, but here we are. Iverson may be the player most impacted by the transition in not only how we view and consume the League, but particularly how we break down the actual coverage of the game. Obviously, some of the advanced stats, especially when it comes to efficiency, don’t weigh in his favor. But part of me wonders why some of us are so eager to question and criticize his style of play but aren’t as punitive when judging the guys that played in the late-’50s and throughout the ’60s for the level of competition that existed?

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Eberley: John Havlicek

Perhaps an earlier model of Scottie Pippen, Hondo’s do-it-all game anchored the Celtics towards to eight titles through two eras. Hard-nosed defense and equal parts scorer and facilitator, Havlicek may never have been the best player on a title team but he is one of the premier second options to ever play the game.

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Oppenheim: Jason Kidd

Few—if any—players in League history were able to impact the game without scoring as much as Jason Kidd. The 2001-2003 New Jersey Nets were utterly bereft of offensive talent, but Kidd found a way to lead them to back-to-back NBA Finals by creating offense out of defense. Only a few of us watched those teams every night, but we enjoyed every minute of it.


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Davis: Walt Frazier

So maybe Knicks fans won’t completely hate me for leaving Patrick Ewing out of my top 50 when they realize I am going to show some love to some of the folks that were around the last time they were actually a title team. Frazier is a guy that must be acknowledged as even though many of us currently know him as a member of the Knicks broadcast team with a penchant for flashy suits and exciting calls. But make no mistake about Frazier’s game, the Hall of Famer is a 2x NBA champ, 7x All-Star, 7x All-Defensive member and a former All-Star MVP.

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Eberley: James Harden

Like Westbrook, Harden’s stats are barely believable: 27.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 7.7 APG in six seasons with Houston. He’s been in the MVP discussion three of the last four years and despite some bad playoff blips and an unaesthetic play style, he’s been consistently great since becoming a featured player in Houston.

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Oppenheim: Allen Iverson

It’s true that the romanticism propping up Iverson’s legacy vastly overshadows his statistical merits, but intangibles have to count for something, too. A.I.’s fearlessness and grittiness rubbed off on his Philadelphia teammates and his ability to score, whether efficiently or not, made the game easier for them.


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Davis: Elvin Hayes

Hayes is another old-school player that simply didn’t get the benefit of being seen and marketed nearly to the degree of those that have followed. YouTube and Basketball Reference can help with those that want to check out some of his exploits a bit further, but The Big E’s resume is tough to dispute: Hall of Famer, 12x All-Star, NBA Champion (1977-78) and scoring champion (1968-69).

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Eberley: Isiah Thomas

Back-to-back titles, three straight trips to the Finals, and commander-in-chief of a team that sent Michael Jordan home thrice. Thomas’ Bad Boy Pistons didn’t mess around and encapsulated the physical and gritty era of basketball in which they played. The 12x All-Star had one heck of a career.

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Oppenheim: Bob Cousy

Cousy doesn’t pass the eye test in any era but his own, but it’s hard to argue against a guy who was that much better than his peers. Cousy has six rings, 13 All-Star appearances and 10 All-NBA nominations. He must be on this list.


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Davis: Dennis Rodman

Rodman is another guy we have to be careful not to discredit due to his antics and obvious struggles he’s endured during and clearly following his playing career. Make no mistake, he was an absolute madman on the court, and some of that certainly ties into his current perception, but I can’t ignore the fact that he is a 5x champion that played a pivotal role in each, a 2x DPOY who could literally guard all positions during his peak years and a 7x rebounding champ despite standing a wiry 6-7. I might be in the minority with this panel, but the Worm deserves the love.

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Eberley: John Stockton

Stockton’s résumé is just missing a ring. Seriously, his sustained success and play at the highest level is unmatched by any other point guard. Safely the all-time leader in assists and steals, Stockton was a two-way stud for over a decade. Nine (!) straight years leading the League in assists and a 39 percent shooter from deep over his 10-year peak, Stockton could do it all. It’s a shame he and Karl Malone kept bumping into Jordan at the summit.

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Oppenheim: Kevin Garnett

Garnett was impossibly skilled and athletic for his size, but it turned out to be the little things that made him great. Few players in NBA history communicated as well on defense as Garnett, a talent that instantly transformed the Paul Pierce-led Celtics into NBA champions.