Spurs: ESPN fairly ranks Duncan as 8th best all-time ahead of Kobe

SAN ANTONIO - JUNE 18: Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs celebrates with the 2003 NBA Championship trophy during the SBC 2003 Spurs Championship Celebration (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO - JUNE 18: Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs celebrates with the 2003 NBA Championship trophy during the SBC 2003 Spurs Championship Celebration (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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ESPN ranked San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan as the 8th best NBA player of all-time, ahead of guys like Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant

You can tell a lot about a person’s basketball knowledge by where they rank Tim Duncan in their all-time list. For example, if you have The Big Fundamental outside of your top-ten I’m automatically tuning the rest of your takes out. If you can’t put the greatest member of the San Antonio Spurs in your top-ten greatest players of all-time you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.

Thankfully the staff at ESPN made the right choice in their recent ranking of the top-ten NBA players of all time and included Timmy in their top-ten. They ranked Duncan as the eighth-best player of all-time, ahead of fellow Hall of Famers Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal but behind Larry Bird and Wilt Chamberlain.

Ranking NBA players is tricky, it really comes down to the individual and what they value, how they weigh the level of competition the player faced, if they give more credit to individual awards or team awards, and personal preference. Personally, I think the top-two on any list should be Michael Jordan and LeBron James, they’re interchangeable at one and two in my mind, three should be Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and then from four through eight, it’s really a mixed bag.

San Antonio Spurs all-time great Tim Duncan belongs in everyone’s top-10

How you rank those five positions is really up to you, and I don’t believe there’s a definitively correct answer. Again, it all comes down to what you value.

If rings are your thing you have to give Bill Russell his due, the man has 11 NBA Championships for crying out loud! But those came in the 1950s-1970s when the level of competition across the league was unquestionably lower than it is today, or even ten years ago. You can lump Wilt Chamberlain into that category as well. Yes, he has his famous 100 point game, but he only won two championships in a weaker era of play so how high can you really rank him?

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Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, and Kobe Bryant are the most interchangeable of the group In my mind. They’ve all got relatively equivalent resumes. Regular season MVP trophies, NBA Championships, Finals MVP’s, more All-Star and All-NBA selections than you can count on two hands. But Duncan does have an edge on them in one key category.

He somehow never won a Defensive Player of the Year but he racked up 15 All-Defensive Team selections throughout his career. He was indisputably one of the best defensive players in the history of the game and he played against some of the best power forwards and centers of all-time. He locked up Shaq, Chris Webber, Kevin Garnett, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Dirk Nowitzki on a regular basis as the Spurs dominated the Western Conference for much of the 2000s.

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You can credibly rank Duncan in your top-three, or you can have him at eight as ESPN did. That’s one of the most fun and frustrating things about ranking all-time great NBA players, everyone’s ranking is likely to be different and there are many ways you can stack them up and still make a solid argument. What do you think San Antonio Spurs fans, where do you have Duncan on your all-time list?

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