In a recent ranking of the top 50 players in NBA history, Bleacher Report listed six noteworthy San Antonio Spurs in some interesting locations.
Ranking the greatest players of all-time is no easy task, especially when considering the vast changes that we’ve seen throughout the history of basketball. Judging the likes of Bill Russell and Jerry West, two great legends of the past, against the modern talent of today is extremely difficult.
In the winning history of the San Antonio Spurs, many players of different styles and archetypes have helped to build a reputation of excellence that’s been enhanced over the team’s 22-year playoff streak. Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey comprised a list of the 50 greatest players of all-time, which included six noteworthy Spurs: Pau Gasol (46), George Gervin (45), Kawhi Leonard (42), Manu Ginobili (37), David Robinson (12) and Tim Duncan (7).
The omission of floor general Tony Parker in favor of someone like Gasol was interesting to say the least – the six-time All-Star was pivotal to four championship runs including the 2007 title which saw him earn the Finals MVP trophy.
For as influential as Gasol was for European big men and the post-Shaq era of the Lakers with Kobe Bryant, Parker exemplified winning tactics at an incredibly difficult position of point guard. Personally, I’d put Parker above Gasol on the All-Time rankings, although Bailey makes a compelling case by listing the Spaniard’s wins over replacement player stat.
Just four spots ahead of Gasol is one of the most controversial players to rank: the Klaw himself, Kawhi Leonard. Setting aside the difficulties that the Spurs and Leonard had in his departure, it’s not outlandish to suggest that Leonard deserves a spot well beyond the forties. He’s consistently been one of the top defenders the sport has ever seen while developing an all-around offensive game that brought championships to multiple organizations. He’s still got time to grow his legacy, and very well may coming off of his second Finals MVP, but Leonard’s talent speaks volumes.
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Ginobili goes unrecognized by many in the All-Time rankings, so seeing the dynamic Argentinian was a pleasant surprise. While his stats and accolades may not represent it, Ginobili was one of the best players at his position for well over a decade and was the catalyst in Gregg Popovich’s system as a playmaker, scorer, slasher and clutch performer. Bailey made it clear that he wouldn’t count Ginobili’s limited role against his ranking, which is admirable considering his importance to the history of the sport both on and off the hardwood.
Robinson’s ranking above the likes of Kobe Bryant, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin Durant is going to make people angry, but his utter dominance of the sport was undeniable. There’s an argument to be made that Robinson was both the most gifted offensive and defensive big man for a stretch of time in the mid-nineties.
Last, but certainly not least is Tim Duncan at seven. Duncan was one of the most consistent players to ever play and made a drastic impact on his team’s capability to win from the moment that he stepped into his first NBA game to his final game in 2016. I’d slot him above the likes of Shaq and Larry Bird because of the duration of his effectiveness and the influence that he had on his team during his sustained playoff success.
All-time lists are always subjective, but Bailey did a decent job of giving the Spurs credit where credit is due.