ESPN, well known for ranking players prior to the start of the season, is posting Top-10 players of all-time at every position and started with point guards on Tuesday.
In the list of Top 10 were the following, starting from the best: Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, John Stockton, Stephen Curry, Isiah Thomas, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Walt Frazier and Bob Cousy.
Having Curry on that list will obviously raise questions for some due to the fact that he’s still an active player who is only in his seventh season in the league (that said, he’s simply too revolutionary to leave off the list). Paul is also active, but his entrance is more understandable given that he has a ton of accolades and this is his 11th season.
Where it gets tricky is with players like Frazier, Cousy and Robertson – at least for this generation – due to the fact that they played in such a different era. The most we can really do with these players is to look at the statistics and go by reputation since it’s not as if we grew up watching them play. In other words, it’s almost impossible to distinguish who is better between, say, Cousy and Nash. Sure, you can say Cousy is the pioneer of point guard play and won six titles, but he did so during a time period when there were only eight teams in the league alongside a center who is widely recognized as one of the greatest players of all-time in Bill Russell. Some statistics, like steals and turnovers, weren’t even counted back in those days.
Still, no list in the history of Top 10 point guards have players like Cousy and Frazier been omitted, so it’s hard to simply leave them off the list. That means some of the great point guards in recent memory have to be omitted, and there was no greater absence on the list than Gary Payton, the man simply known as “The Glove”. Jamal Crawford, who usually isn’t overly vocal about things like this, couldn’t believe Payton wasn’t on the list:
No Gary Payton on top ten pg’s ever list? #cantbeserious
— Jamal Crawford (@JCrossover) January 13, 2016
One could arguably make the case that Payton belongs on the list more so than guys like Nash, Kidd, Paul and even Curry due to his ability to play shut-down defense. Heck, he even has a championship on his resume.
Again, though, such is the case when you’re doing these lists: someone deserving is going to get left off and it is going to tick off a lot of folks.
Jim Park is a blogger and Tweet of the Night author of Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on twitter @SheridanBlog.