In line with Sporting News’ rollout of the “75 Greatest Heights in NBA History,” in connection with the NBA’s 75th Anniversary season, there is a lot of talk about where the great players of all time deserve to be ranked among their peers.
The first part of the list of “75 Greatest Highs in NBA History” debuted Tuesday, ranking players who have gone from 75 to 51. Yesterday we looked at players ranked 50-26. Today we launched Part 3 of this list, dropping from 25 to 11.
When evaluating the top 65 players on the roster, one thing came out – there is a lot great leaders.
Tony Parker, Bob Cousy, Pete Maravich, Derrick Rose, Walt Frazier, Kyrie Irving, Penny Hardaway, Gary Payton, Damian Lillard, Jason Kidd, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash, Luka Doncic, Chris Paul, John Stockton, Allen Iverson, Isiah Thomas , Stephen Curry, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West all find their names on the first 65 players revealed.
It got me thinking: if you were to build the perfect playmaker using pieces from some of the best players of all time in this role, what would creating a player look like?
Building the perfect NBA point guard
Size: Magic Johnson
Decisions don’t get much easier than this one.
Standing at 6ft 9in and 215lb with a 7ft 5in wingspan, Johnson was a leader unicorn in the 1980s. It’s not that 6ft 9in leaders grow on our trees. days, but back then no one had ever seen a player of his size and length be able to handle the rock, get up and down the pitch and see the ground the way it should. Magic did it.
His size made him one of the most versatile players the NBA has ever seen, successfully playing all five positions throughout his career. He even started an NBA Finals game at center as a rookie in 1980, replacing injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and producing a breathtaking performance with 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Lakers to a NBA title.
Magic’s size is a great starting point for the perfect playmaker.
Sustainability: John Stockton
You know what they say: the best capacity is uptime. Stockton was one of the most available players in NBA history.
In 16 of his 19 seasons in the NBA, Stockton appeared in all 82 Jazz games. If you include the 1999 lockout season, where teams only played 50 games, then Stockton had 17 (!) Seasons where he didn’t miss a single game.
Load management? He never heard of it.
Stockton missed just four games in his first 13 professional seasons before preseason knee surgery saw him miss the first 18 games of the 1997-98 season. So far, from 1990 to 1997, Stockton had appeared in 609 straight games, the eighth longest streak in NBA history.
His 1,504 games played rank fifth all-time, but it should be noted that he has played fewer seasons in the league than the four players ahead of him – Robert Parish, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Vince Carter and Dirk Nowitzki.
As the league’s all-time assists and steal leader, Stockton could easily have been used elsewhere on this creative player, but his durability was the most valuable and irreplaceable asset.
Athletics: Russell Westbrook
No playmaker in NBA history can tip the rim like Westbrook does.
At 6ft 3in and 200lb of muscle, Westbrook is like a runaway freight train as it descends a hill. With a lightning-fast first step, electrifying explosiveness, broad and powerful shoulders, and a killer instinct, you’d better step aside once Westbrook gets big.
It’s all-out war when he attacks the hoop, and more often than not Westbrook wins this battle.
Basketball IQ: Chris Paul
They call him the “Point God” for a reason: Paul is one of the most savvy players the league has ever seen.
Paul sees the ground and understands the game on a different level. It’s as if he can sometimes see the future, the way he navigates the defenses to prepare himself or his teammates for easy buckets. He has become the king of sneaky plays that cause the masses to question his sense of the game, being labeled a dirty gamer by some. But others attribute it to his desire to win, doing whatever he can to give his team an advantage.
I mean, how many players can say they helped their team win a game on a skill in the rulebook? Paul can.
His brain is the key to building the perfect playmaker.
Swagger and Confidence: Allen Iverson
Before there was LeagueFits, there was Iverson rocking what he wanted, when he wanted it, bringing his own swagger to the NBA. And as much as we could get into her off-court style or her on-court trends like the braids, headband, loose shorts and uniform, sleeves and headbands, I’m talking more about her demeanor when I say “Boast and confidence.”
Iverson is the walking definition of “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog”. That’s why players like LeBron James and others have called Iverson “pound for pound” the best player in NBA history.
Whether it’s a rookie AI crossing over Michael Jordan, Tyronn Lue in the 2001 NBA Finals, to his signing calling for more info on opposing crowds, you could argue that no player in league history no one has played with more swagger and confidence. than Iverson.
This attitude is the key to this creation of a player.
Shooting: Stephen Curry
Remember when I said “decisions don’t get any easier” than picking Magic for size? I’m bringing the same statement back here for Curry and the shoot.
I mean, who else would be the greatest shooter in basketball history?
He’s not yet the all-time 3-point leader, but barring an injury cut short in his 2021-22 campaign, Curry (2,832 3 points scored) will catch up to Ray Allen (2,973) this season.
He was the fastest player in NBA history to reach 2,000 3s. Its 402 3 produced in 2015-16 are the most ever recorded in a single season. During that season, he became the only player to average over 30 points while joining the exclusive 50-40-90 club. He is the only player to score 50 points out of 10 3 or more in a game on multiple occasions – which he has done four times. Its 21 games with 10 or more 3 are from afar the most in NBA history, with teammate Klay Thompson’s five games of this type coming in second.
And these are just a few of Curry’s endless list of filming records. All this to say that it did not take a lot of brainpower to make this selection.
Nickname: Kyrie Irving
Irving is a basketball magician. It’s like watching poetry in motion when it gauges a defender, creates separation, and gets shot.
Nothing Irving does with basketball is predetermined. He is the most responsive ball handler I have ever seen. If a defender unexpectedly cuts a pass, he has countermovement in his bag to adjust. The basketball term “ball on a string” could not be more applicable.
Irving is as fluid as he can get when it comes to handling the ball and confusing the defender in front of him.
Passage: Steve Nash
Nash’s vision for the pitch and playing ability were elite. How else could you win back-to-back MVPs while averaging less than 20 points per game? As good as he was as a goalscorer himself, he was even better at uplifting his teammates around him.
Nash has won five assists titles in his career and has led the league in assists six times. He’s had seven different seasons in which he averaged over 10.0 assists per game, solidifying himself as the NBA’s top passer from 2004 to around 2012. On fastbreaks, pick-and-rolls, in traffic on the lane, behind his back, behind his head, gazeless passes thrown all over the field, Nash could whip up a dime of any shape or form.
Even when it looked like a passing lane had closed, Nash would find a way to squeeze the ball towards his target for a basket.
His 10,335 career assists are the third in NBA history and it’s the perfect skill set to add to that perfect playmaker.
Defense and Endurance: Gary Payton
There’s not much more lock-in from the guard position than Payton.
No one was more proud of the defensive side than “the Glove”, who never shied away from a mission. He was aggressive, physical and straightforward the second his clash crossed half the pitch. Its intensity paired perfectly with a sturdy 6-foot-4, 180-pound frame with some of the fastest hands to grab anyone’s pocket. He’s only led the NBA once in interceptions, but averaged more than 2 interceptions per game in eight different seasons over his career.
Payton won nine All-Star Defensive All-Star caps and was the last goalie to be named Defensive Player of the Year when he won the award in 1996.
Clutch Gene: Damian Lillard
It’s got to the point where if Lillard gets a shot with a chance to tie or win the game – whatever defense is around him – you should expect the ball to come in.
He has undeniably been the most eye-catching player in the NBA over the past few seasons. Last season, he led the league in clutch goals while shooting an unfathomable 51.1 percent from the field in those situations. (For what it’s worth, Lillard shot 45.1% from the field last season, so he actually got more efficient when the stakes were at their highest).
There is no better proof of his clutch gene than being the only player in NBA history to have landed two decisive buzzer-beater shots in the NBA Playoffs, sending the Rockets back to the buzzer in 2014 and the Thunder in 2019.
With the game in play, this creative player needs Lillard’s steady hand under pressure.
Wow Factor: Luka Doncic
It’s much more intangible than anything else on this list, but “Luka Magic” feels real, isn’t it?
Whether he distorts opposing defenses with his gravity, flips the clutch, scratches 3 points, masters the air of dirty passes across the pitch or cheats his clash with fake balls to unlock playing opportunities, Doncic has a way to “wow” your audience.
At just 22 years old, he has already convinced the masses of his all-time greatness, proof that he has already reached the 75 greatest peaks in NBA history just three years after the start of his career. The best is yet to come for the phenomenal keeper, jaw-dropping games and all.