UPDATED: Top 50 NBA Players Countdown Criteria

Well folks, I hope you’ve all been preparing yourselves to do quite a bit of reading over the next two-ish months. I’m about to drop an entire season’s worth of NBA-related words, stories, memories, knowledge, factoids, tidbits, nuggets, questions, answers, riddles and opinions on you, as we, together, embark on my fourth annual Top 50 NBA Players.

Yes, you are indeed in this with me, and you guys actually have the easy job. I do all the research: re-watching of games and highlights, re-reading of past columns, articles, box scores and hot takes, agonizing over the list AND several thousands words-worth of writing. You guys read. That’s it. We, as humans, learn to do this shortly after we get a firm grasp on how to use a toilet, so I’m not asking too much from you here. If you want to share these columns and pass them along to your friends, it’s obviously greatly appreciated. If you want to leave nasty comments questioning my perceived biases, knowledge of the game, my manhood or anything else really, go for it! I have thick skin, so don’t worry about me. At least it means you cared enough to read what I had to write.

Then again before you go off on any tirades in the comment section, please remember:

A: I’ve never claimed to be an expert (at least not in writing, or to anyone who would think “Wow, he’s an arrogant jackass” if they heard me say it) … I’m simply an NBA fan who cares way too much about the league for his own good.

B: Everyone has an opinion, and that’s all this list is… my opinion. Remember, if there weren’t differing opinions about sports it wouldn’t be nearly as fun to discuss it. I’m not trying to tell you my opinion is better than yours. I’m just expressing my opinion while also trying to encompass as much of the previous NBA season as I can. If this countdown proves anything it’s just that I’m a complete and total NBA nerd. I have an irrational love for the NBA and the game of basketball in general. In a roundabout way, that makes me very similar to a lot of you readers.

C: Just so there isn’t any confusion to how I came to my rankings, I will gladly show you the exact criteria I used during this process. I know it is my opinion, but still it wouldn’t be fair to you if you didn’t know what logic went into my decisions for the upcoming list. Think of it like the Declaration of Independence. That written document legitimized the beliefs of our Founding Fathers that the 13 colonies should be an independent nation of their own, completely separate from Great Britain. I wasn’t there, but when King George III received the Declaration, I imagine his reaction was something like, “I don’t like this, but I absolutely feel where these Patriots are coming from. I appreciate that they explained this to me in a written format. I’m thirsty, I want some tea… Someone get me some tea damn it!!!” Again, I wasn’t there so I wouldn’t swear to this. Anyway, think of this as my Declaration of Independence, that way you don’t think I am disrespectfully forcing my rankings upon you. Feel free to enjoy some tea while reading my criteria.

1: Last Year and This Year

-The first thing to remember is that these rankings are based both on how good the player was last season and how productive I expect him to be this coming season. Every player is judged based on both. I’m not concerned with how good Dwight Howard was in 2010 or how good Andrew Wiggins might be in 2020. It’s a two season sample size that I’m looking at, and because one of those seasons is yet to be played, I have to put on my clairvoyant cap when ranking these players. No wonder it turns out to be so damn difficult.

2: Individual Statistics/Accolades

-What were the players’ averages in the major (and thanks to NBA.com, not so major) statistical categories? (NOTE: Any career best or Playoff career best notices in resumes are for players with who have played 5 NBA seasons or have 3 postseason appearances). Did they win any individual awards? Did they make an All-NBA team, All-Defensive Team, or any teams that I made up on my own but are relevant and probably should be actual end of year accolades?

3: Status

-What is the players’ role on the team? How significant is that role? How well do they fit their role? A good non-NBA example: Imagine I was ranking the all-time best TV characters, and assume that I was using the same sort of criteria to rank them as I am here with NBA players. You know, like show success, command of the screen, best scenes, best story arc, etc. Someone like Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad would rank really, really high on that list even though he wasn’t the main character or even the best character on his own show. In fact, he’d rank ahead of quite a few lead characters from other great shows because he was so damn good in his role. Jack Shephard from Lost is a good example. He was probably the most important character on his own show, but he wasn’t the best character. Other complimentary characters from other TV shows easily top him. My point is this: A great role player who consistently delivers and means more to their team than most people believe could very easily be ranked ahead of a good lead player who shoulders a larger burden on a nightly basis than said role player.

4: Team Success

-How much of an impact does the player have on the win/loss record of his team? Did he make significant contributions outside of statistics that led to team success? Is he an empty stats guy, or a good stats/bad team guy?

5: Late Game Chops

-How good are they when the game is on the line? Do they play better in big games or tend to disappear? Do they have the eye of the tiger or look more like a deer in the headlights?

6: Reputation

-How good of a teammate is the player in question? Do guys enjoy playing with him or is he not too popular with his peers? Does he do little things that make his team better or is he just out for himself? Is he known as a hard worker and leader, or someone who, for the most part, doesn’t give a crap?

7: How Does He Stand Out

-Does he have any memorable games or moments? Is there something unique about his game? Do you absolutely have to watch him play when his team is playing on National TV? Do you gravitate towards his teams games on NBA League Pass? Would you pay money to see him play in person? Does he have some sort of ‘It Factor’?

8: Talent

-It’s a fairly simple concept: how good is he at the game of basketball?

Let the 50 day countdown begin!

 

2015 NBA Playoff Preview Podcast

The NBA Playoffs begin today, and to celebrate the big event my cousin Gianni Zambito and I conducted a massive two-part NBA Playoff Preview Podcast.

Part 1: We discuss who should win the NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and other end of season awards. Then, we discuss the Eastern Conference 1st Round match-ups. Which team poses the biggest threat to LeBron James’ return to the NBA Finals? Are the Atlanta Hawks being underrated? Is there any team less entertaining than the Brooklyn Nets?

Part 2: We dive in Western Conference 1st Round previews and discuss how close Anthony Davis is to being the best player in the NBA. Are the Grizzlies and Blazers both too banged up to make a legitimate postseason run? Is this the Spurs last hurrah, and are San Antonio and Golden State locks for the Western Conference Finals?

Check it out! We’ll be back every week to discuss the biggest postseason narratives.

Super Bowl XLIX Preview Podcast

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, and if you get tired of listening to all of the so-called “experts” dissect the game, you should definitely check out two informed fans discussing Super Bowl XLIX. Paul Clark and I talk all things Super Bowl, including how Seattle got here, how silly “DeflateGate” is, if this is the most important Super Bowl ever, the keys to the game, and of course, Prop Bets! And at the end, we even manage to touch on some WWE thoughts really quickly.

Excited to listen? Of course you are! All you have to do is click here!

2014-15 NBA Season Preview Podcast

Looking for two NBA fans talking about the upcoming NBA season for an absurd amount of time?

Hey, you’ve come to the right place! If you’ve got some time to call, be sure to check out the two-part NBA Season Preview Podcast that my cousin Gianni Zambito and I conducted last weekend. In the two parts we predict every teams record for the upcoming season and tackle all of the major storylines. Can the San Antonio Spurs repeat? What will the Cleveland Cavaliers look like? Will the Philadelphia 76ers set the NBA record for most losses in a season? How many shots will Russell Westbrook attempt per game while Kevin Durant is out? Is Anthony Davis due for another breakout season? Will the Phoenix Suns regress? How bad will the Indiana Pacers offense be?

So pour yourself a glass of wine–or just do what I’d do and grab a beer out of the fridge–and get comfortable. And definitely don’t feel obligated to listen to all of it at once. Take a listen for a while, mark your spot, come back later. Even we got a little woozy towards the end.

Part One (Eastern Conference)

Part Two (Western Conference) 

Updated: Top 50 NBA Players Countdown Criteria

After a three month writing sabbatical I’m happy to say that I’m back and ready to unleash a several thousand word, nearly two month long odyssey counting down the best players in the NBA. I bet you’re just as excited as I am!

I’m different than most people my age. For example, after finishing up his last semester of college my friend Weston went on a two week vacation in Europe over the summer. He went on bar crawls, slept on floors of hotel lobbies, smacked a phone out of a European man’s hand… all of the stuff I imagine you’d do when you go to Europe.

I took a different approach. I helped my parents move. I played multiple hours of basketball every day. I took my girlfriend Maria on a trip back to the homeland (Elba, NY). And in my spare time, I crammed in several hours of NBA research; watching game highlights and player scouting videos, re-reading box scores and articles, talking with friends and family about my potential rankings. I did all of this just so I could confidently put together an NBA anthology that will in all likelihood be critiqued and ripped to shreds by everyone who tracks my countdown at The Runner Sports.

I’ve dealt with my fair share of mean comments over the last two years doing this countdown. Two years ago I had a few readers question my NBA knowledge and my ability to be an unbiased writer because I ranked Dwyane Wade 9th. This made me laugh because I ranked Wade only one spot lower than ESPN writers and analysts had ranked that same year. Last year one reader launched a profanity-laced tirade on me because I had DeMarcus Cousins ranked 39th. It was so bad that my cousin Gianni—a frequent contributor to the rankings, and someone who throughout the whole process suggested that I move Cousins up in the rankings—responded in the comments telling the reader that he shouldn’t be so mean.

The moral of the story is don’t get too wrapped up in this. Just remember:

A: In no way, shape, or form have I ever claimed to be an expert. I’m just an NBA fan who cares way too much about the league for my own good.

B: Everyone has an opinion, and that’s all this list is… my opinion. Remember, if there weren’t differing opinions about sports it wouldn’t be nearly as fun to discuss. I’m not trying to tell you my opinion is better than yours. I’m just expressing my opinion while also trying to encompass as much of the previous NBA season as I can. If this countdown proves anything it’s just that I’m a complete and total NBA nerd. I have an irrational love for the NBA and the game of basketball in general. In a roundabout way, that makes me very similar to a lot of you readers.

C: Just so there isn’t any confusion to how I came to my rankings, I will gladly show you the exact criteria I used during this process. I know it is my opinion, but still it wouldn’t be fair to you if you didn’t know what logic went into my decisions for the upcoming list. Think of it like the Declaration of Independence. That written document legitimized our Founding Fathers beliefs that the 13 colonies should be an independent nation of their own, completely separate from Great Britain. I wasn’t there, but when King George III received the Declaration, I imagine his reaction was something like, “I don’t like this, but I totally feel where these patriots are coming from. I appreciate that they explained this to me in a written format. I’m thirsty, I want some tea… Someone get me some tea damn it!!!” Again, I wasn’t there so I don’t know this for sure. Anyway, think of this as my Declaration of Independence, that way you don’t think I am disrespectfully forcing my rankings upon you. Feel free to enjoy some tea while reading my criteria.

1: Last Year and This Year
-The first thing to remember is that these rankings are based both on how good the player was last season and how productive I expect him to be this coming season. Every player is judged based on both. I’m not looking back at how good a player was in 2009 or how good he will be in 2019. It’s a two season sample size that I’m looking at, and because one of those seasons is yet to be played, I have to put on my clairvoyant cap when ranking these players. No wonder it turns out to be so damn difficult.

2: Individual Statistics/Accolades
-What were the players’ averages in the major statistical categories? (NOTE: Any career best or Playoff career best notices are for players with who have played 5 NBA seasons or have 3 postseason appearances). Did they win any individual awards? Did they make an All-NBA team, All-Defensive Team, or any teams that I made up on my own but seemed relevant?

3: Talent
-Simply put, how good is he at basketball?  

4: Status
-What is the players’ role on the team? How significant is that role? How well do they fit their role? A non-NBA example: Matthew Fox played Dr. Jack Shephard, the main protagonist on the show Lost. I would go as far as saying that Jack was a good lead character but he certainly wasn’t great. What made Lost interesting other than the fact that it was so incredibly unique was its depth of awesome supporting characters. I asked my friend Collin—another frequent contributor to my rankings—which characters were more interesting than Jack on Lost… we agreed that John Locke and Ben Linus were more interesting, and he acknowledged that my choices of Sawyer, Kate and Desmond were all potentially more interesting.  So if I were counting down the best television characters of all-time, Locke and Ben would be ahead of Jack even though Jack was billed as the lead character. My point is this: A great role player could very easily be ranked ahead of a good player who shoulders a larger burden on a nightly basis than said role player.

5: Team Success
-How much of an impact does that player have on the win/loss record of his team? Did he make significant contributions to the team that led to more wins? Is he an empty stats guy?

6: Late Game Chops
-How good are they when the game is on the line? Do they play better in big games or tend to disappear? Do they have the eye of the tiger or look more like a deer in the headlights?

7: Reputation
-How good of a teammate is the player? Do guys enjoy playing with him or is he despised? Does he do little things that make the team better or is he out for himself? Is he known as a hard worker and leader, or someone who doesn’t give a crap?

8: How Does He Stand Out
-Does he have any memorable games? Is there something unique about his game? Do you absolutely have to watch him play on NBA League Pass? Would you pay money to see him play in person?

Be sure to check out The Runner Sports for a ton of good sports content, plus the continuation of my NBA Player Rankings over the next fifty days!