In the aftermath of the report of Kobe Bryant saying he’d beat LeBron James in a game of 1-on-1, I figured I’d begin my NBA greatest of the greats list naming the 10 best 1-on-1 players in NBA history.
The video you’ll see by clicking on the link above dates his comments back to May 2, 2010 in London. So this is old news, but let’s get back to the list. I’m going to go from 10 to 1.
Just so it’s known right now, these 10 guys didn’t make the final cut: James, Dwyane Wade, George Gervin, Paul Pierce, Dominique Wilkins, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
Had to cut somewhere.
Before revealing the list, I ask that you voice your opinions on the list by leaving comments. Tell me I suck. Tell me I hit the money. Tell me I look sharp of silly in my blog photo. Let’s get some chatter chatter going here.
Here we go.
10. Earl Monroe. The guy averaged 41.5 points a game in college at Winston Salem State in leading the historically black college to an NCAA Division II title. Most people know him from when he helped the New York Knicks win an NBA title, but he was unstoppable with the then Washington Bullets. Had the spin move that left defenders in his dust.
9. Hakeem Olajuwon. He was a 7-footer who had guard handles, for one. He had an array of post moves, could face up a big man and go around him. With the “Dream Shake,” Olajuwon would show the defender the ball, pull it back and then make a move. He didn’t have the brut strength of O’Neal, but Olajuwon had his way with big men because he was quicker, more athletic and was always a step ahead of them.
8. Adrian Dantley. Don’t sleep on A.D. While at Utah, he averaged 30 points for four straight seasons. He was 6-5, 210 pounds and just rough with it. Made his way into the lane and was always getting to the line. He averaged up to 10 free throw attempts a game for five straight seasons.
7. Oscar Robertson. Was really the first powerful guard that had the upper body strength to make his way in the lane and finish. He was ahead of his time, which made him even harder to guard. He’d hold the ball with one hand and power it over people.
6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Truth is, this guy should be No. 1, but I’m a guard guy. However, this 7-footer had the most indefensible shot in the game’s history in the sky hook. The only thing that stopped it was age. I mean, they banned dunking in college primarily because of he was so dominant at UCLA.
5. Isiah Thomas. The best ball handler I’ve ever seen, which allowed him to get anywhere he wanted on the court. He didn’t lose possession of the rock. Add the fact he was super quick, could get to the rim, knock down the J, hit the runner and lead the fast break? Come on. Thomas had the complete offensive game.
4. Kevin McHale. First off, no one got greater post position than the former Boston Celtics great. Second, he had so many moves in the paint and third, he just had a relentless nature in the post that frustrated his opponents. Plus he was rather unorthodox and had those long arms. Just a handful.
3. Kobe Bryant. He’s the Michael Jordan of this era and like Jordan, Bryant is fundamentally unmatched. So he has counters to anything the defense wants throw at him. He’ll hit you with the ball fake, reverse pivot and beat you off the dribble. Has the rainbow jumper over bigger defenders and can flat out stroke it from deep. Plus he loves a challenge, which makes him even harder to stop
2. Michael Jordan. These three words say it all. “The Jordan Rules.” The Bad Boy Detroit Pistons had to devise a strategy to stop this man because they, along with the rest of the NBA, had no one who could guard him. Early in his career, Jordan just beat you off the dribble and dunked on you or went to the reverse. As he got older, he perfected the ultimate fade-away jumper. Plus he had the killer instinct. Confront Jordan and it was even more on.
1. Allen Iverson. The fact that as a rookie he shook Jordan speaks for itself, but what Iverson did was change the game. His crossover dribble is now a mainstay in the NBA. If you’re a guard and don’t have a crossover dribble, then you’re not someone we can say has handles or can get to the rim. Iverson not only had the crossover, he had an array of shots in the paint, could nail the 3 and did it all with such a flair and excitement like no else has ever done in the NBA.