Since Bean snagged his fourth title, there’s been a lot of conversation about where he ranks among the game’s all-time greats. During the postgame, the ABC panel took it as a given that he was in the top 10. But I’m not so sure.
In my absolute top 5 (and not necessarily in any order): Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain.
Is Kobe better than Erving or Tim Duncan? Maybe. But better than Kareem West, Robertson, Olajuwon or Shaq (all of whom would probably pop up uncontroversially in someone’s top 5)? I just don’t know.
Also, for all the hand-wringing over how the prep-to-pro cohort was ruining N.B.A. basketball, it bears mentioning that the NBA’s final four teams this year had high schoolers in major roles. Dwight, Kobe and LeBron are all among the league’s very best players, and J.R. Smith might yet get there. (And the Celtics, on the outside looking in, are anchored by a high schooler of their own.) Even the high schoolers without the crazy upside of those guys have mostly managed to be solid contributors who have stayed out of trouble.