Cohen: Comparing the Best

By Josh Cohen
December 1, 2011


ORLANDO -- Aside from our obsession of sports franchise architecture – which suggests our unbounded imagination to visualize trades and/or free agent signings that significantly impact the landscape of a professional sport – we also adore arguments related to comparing the best of all-time.

While at a bus stop, next to an office water cooler, on a holiday-demented shopping line or at your desk during those seemingly inconsequential minutes of high school homeroom, the quarrel is destined to happen.

After arguing why Team A should trade Player X, Y and Z to Team B for Player J, K and L, expect flames and fireworks to spark the room.

Over the last few years, NBA fanatics have probably spent at least half their existence debating who is the better player, Kobe or LeBron? Then, some guy from left field enters the conversation and poses the query, who you got, Kobe, LeBron or Jordan?

The more personalities involved in the banter, the more likely it is the dispute will be more impassioned, intense and enduring.

You may even get some outlandish comments from extremists who claim complete opposites from the norm or simply defend their biases. Like, for instance, in football circles in Florida, you tend to collect all of the predisposed arguments from Miami Dolphin fanatics that Dan Marino is indisputably the greatest NFL quarterback of all-time.

Marino was spectacular, but can anyone honestly, definitively imply he is categorically and absolutely better than, for example, Joe Montana, John Elway, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, etc. etc.?

It’s essentially the same eternal argument in the NBA.

We tend to erroneously try to compare and contrast players from different generations in an effort to come to some kind of reasonable conclusion. It’s, unfortunately, an impossible feat.

However, there is one way to judge competition from dissimilar generations at least somewhat fairly.

For instance, if you want to compare Jordan and Kobe or Malone and Duncan or Magic and Rose, it’s imperative to evaluate each of them based on the type of competition they compete with.

I have grouped the best players at each position from two different eras, today’s cohort and the paramount from 1996.

My purpose comparing players from these two generations is to come to some type of conclusion which era included more talent.

It’s very subjective, but I tried to pick out the top five players at each position in 1996 and 2011. You be the judge on which set of five was collectively more talented.



POINT GUARDS


2011
Chris
Paul
Deron
Williams
Derrick
Rose
Steve
Nash
Russell Westbrook
1996
John
Stockton
Gary
Payton
Penny Hardaway
Tim
Hardaway
Jason
Kidd



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SHOOTING GUARDS


2011
Kobe
Bryant
Dwyane
Wade
Joe
Johnson
Manu Ginobili
Ray Allen
1996
Michael
Jordan
Reggie
Miller
Allan
Houston
Mitch
Richmond
Clyde
Drexler



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SMALL FORWARDS


2011
LeBron
James
Carmelo
Anthony
Paul
Pierce
Kevin
Durant
Andre Iguodala
1996
Scottie
Pippen
Grant
Hill
Glen
Rice
Sean
Elliot
Chris
Mullin



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POWER FORWARDS


2011
Amar'e Stoudemire
Pau
Gasol
Dirk
Nowitzki
Kevin
Garnett
Chris
Bosh
1996
Karl
Malone
Shawn
Kemp
Charles
Barkley
Vin
Baker
Larry
Johnson



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CENTERS


2011
Dwight
Howard
Andrew
Bynum
Tyson
Chandler
Nene
Joakim
Noah
1996
Hakeem
Olajuwon
Patrick
Ewing
David
Robinson
Shaquille
O'Neal
Arvydas
Sabonis



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