The reality is everyone has an opinion but when someone’s opinion is so far off-base it deserves to be pointed out. Take Kyrie Irving’s ridiculous assertation that the World is flat as a prime example of a statement that could easily be corrected by 99.9% of people who live on this round planet. Well, earlier in the week TNT’s Kenny “The Jet” Smith caused all sorts of controversy when he placed the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James 10th on his All-Time Top 10 list. A list that doesn’t include Kobe Bryant.
It all went down during an interview on the Load Management podcast where he revealed his All-Time Top 10 list. Stunned is the best way to describe the hosts of the show who were clearly caught off guard when he ranked LeBron James 10th. Smith didn’t say where he’ll put Bryant, but he’s confident that he is not in his Top 10 list.
I get that everyone deserves to have their own opinion about who belongs in their top 10 list which got me thinking what does my top 10 look like? Well, here it is:
Acceptable players left off my list include Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, and Tim Duncan who like Rodney Dangerfield never gets any respect. Currently, I have LeBron at 5, but I certainly reserve the right to move him up the list if he wins a few more rings.
Disrespecting LeBron James has become a cottage industry for a variety of members of the sports media. But he did go to 8 consecutive NBA finals and has been to a total of 9 finals so far in his 15-year career. Sure he has only won 3 rings, but if you consider how incredibly difficult it must have been to go to 8 consecutive finals, you can see why I have him just slightly ahead of Kobe.
Now I grew up watching Magic, Kareem, Bird, and Jordan and I know how great Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlin, and Bill Russell were during their respective eras. If you’re wondering why I have Wilt and Oscar at the end of my list its because Wilt has 2 rings and Oscar only has 1. Look in the NFL you can be one of the greatest players of all-time and never win a ring, but in the NBA the most important stats are the number of times you made the finals and the number of rings you can put on your fingers. Magic Johson for example went to 9 finals and won 5 rings in his 13-year career and is 2 spots ahead of James on my list.
But Wait There’s More
Smith then attempted to explain why Kobe Bryant isn’t in his top 10 by saying it’s gotten so much easier to score in the NBA.
“It’s so much easier to score now that it makes it hard to judge guys’ ability,” Smith said. “I was a good scorer, not even a great scorer. I averaged 17 points a game. At my highest, I think 18. In that year I probably would’ve averaged 25, 26. He’s great, but for me… he’s NOT in the top five of all-time.”
The MIGHTY Line
The reality is Kenny “The Jet” Smith is in the entertainment business and over the years has proved that he is willing to make statements that defy logic. I’m not saying that he doesn’t believe what he is saying, but if he truly believes James is the 10th best NBA player then I hate to say it, but someone needs to administer a drug test.
Not having LeBron in the top 5 or 6 players is flat out crazy when you consider the impact he has had on the modern-day game. Plus his 9 trips to the NBA finals makes it statistically hard to keep him out of anyone’s top 6 players in NBA history.
Smith also tried to claim that it is easier to score in the NBA today, then it was back in the ’80s and ’90s. On Thursday, Colin Cowherd corrected Smith by pointing out the NBA scoring averages of 3 eras.
* 2019-20 111.4
* 1984-85 110.8
* 1965-66. 115.5
As Cowherd points out during his Fox show “The Herd” it’s actually not easier to score today then it was in other eras.
Clearly, the game has changed as teams now have a few 3-point snipers on their rosters who tend to never play defense. Then there’s the evolution of the center position which no-longer requires players to only post-up. Centers are now free to move around the court like point-guards and hang out at the 3 point line. But as the stats point out it’s not actually easier to score, it’s just different.
I enjoy watching Kenny Smith on TNT, but I’m not sure how he can justify LeBron James coming in 10th when he has already won 3 rings and been 9 to NBA finals.