Ask a former NBA player about the best the game has ever seen, and they naturally gravitate to players from their own era. For proof, look no further than Inside the NBA, where weekly NBA legends like Shaq and Barkley thrash the modern game and players (in a way you never see on NFL or MLB broadcasts, but that’s another topic for another day).
So it shouldn’t be a shock that when Hall of Famer Julius Erving went on the Posted Up Podcast with Chris Haynes and they talked all-time greats, Erving leaned toward guys from his era.
Still, this list is a little shocking (hat tip NBC Sports Boston):
Dr. J’s all-time starting five is Robertson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Chamberlain and Bill Russell…
His second team? Jordan, Magic, Larry Bird, Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
After the shock of Jordan being on the second team, what jumps off the page is no LeBron James. Even his critics will concede he’s a top-10 player of all time, but Dr. J had an answer.
“He was a guy who led the charge in terms of ‘super teams’ being put together,” Erving said, citing James pulling strings to assemble talent in Miami, Cleveland, and Los Angeles to win championships. “He can pick his own team, I ain’t going to pick his team,” he said with a laugh.
Haynes rightfully noted that superteams always existed — what else are you going to call the ’60s Celtics with Russell or the Showtime Lakers? Erving argued those were put together by management.
That speaks to an often generational difference of opinion: It’s okay for white guys in suits behind closed doors to put together superteams, but if the players have the power to do it themselves it’s now wrong? There are a whole lot of societal changes and implications that go along with that discussion, ones that could fill a book and are more than we will get into here. That said, there are plenty of fans who feel the way Erving does.
It’s Erving’s opinion, and while my list or your list may differ (why does nobody put Tim Duncan on these?), there are no weak links on Erving’s list. Those are all-time players across the board. It’s his list and if he wants to snub LeBron, he can. It just speaks to his biases.