Fill in the blank below:
” [One of the top point guards ever]….was an efficient passer and an outside shooter with great range. His quickness and swooping passes made him difficult to guard in the open court, and he was a potent triple threat with his penetration, passing and shooting.”
Who do you think this Wikipedia entry is referring to? Could be Steve Nash.
But it’s not. It’s Nate (Tiny) Archibald, the former Celtics playmaker who led the league in scoring and assists in 1972, and won an NBA title in 1991.
Is Nash Better than Tiny?
To me? No. Despite Nash’s back-to-back MVPs. Not over their entire careers.
That prompted , me to wonder, as I watched Nash and the Suns get eliminated from the NBA playoffs tonight, at the hands of the Lazarus-like San Antonio Spurs, where Nash will be remembered in the pantheon of point guards once his career is done.
At 34, and after another stellar season, Nash isn’t likely to retire soon. But the question of his place on the list of the greatest point guards of all time is worthy and intriguing fodder for debate. Here’s how one former NBA exec responded to the question:
The best point guard of all time is still Oscar Robertson.He’s the most intimidating guy I ever met, averaged triple doubles, made everyone around him better, great leader, efficient,could play D. He taught Jabbar how to run a pick and roll by hitting him in the back of the head with a pass and lecturing him all the way down the court. Got the ring.
Magic is next with a much sunnier disposition. More fun and Showtime.
John Stockton’s a tough little sucker with no ring.
Isiah Thomas is better all around and has the rings.
Maurice Cheeks is maybe better. Certainly a better defender. Has a ring.
So Nash is probably in the group with Mark Jackson, Jason Kidd, and Lenny Wilkins (Ring. Hall of Famer) – right after them.
That makes him top 10 or so.
Off the court and head hurt Gary Payton,( better defender for sure), and Rod Strickland. So he’s better than them.
Where do Pete Maravich, Derek Harper, Dennis Johnson or Terry Porter go?
A way back reach is Bob Cousy. Lots of rings and defined the position. In his era probably better but not today.
I mentioned a few names the former exec may have missed: Gus Williams, Tiny, Kevin Johnson and Walt (Clyde) Frazier. The exec replied:
Gus Williams- good one too bad he sat out. (My note: Williams missed an entire season over a contract dispute)
Tiny was better, good one
KJ’s not better
Clyde may have been better. Surely better defender, better dresser and waaaaaay cooler.
I also threw out the question to some of my boys. Some of their responses:
Guy No. 1:
Definitely a late bloomer. His first stint with Phoenix he was near invisible. His initial performance in Dallas did not draw good reviews. But he has had an unbelievable run in Phoenix the second time around. With all due respect to his wonderful talents, the system in Phoenix, allowed him to flourish. I don’t think his success is reproducible in another system. And it appears the lack of Shaun Marion and the addition of Shaq has curtailed his performance.
Guy No. 2:
Circumstance and fortune play a large role in championships. John Stockton was a great point guard. Nash is even better. But B.J. Armstrong, nowhere in their league, has 6.
Guy No. 3: He’s up there, for sure, with Oscar, Cousy Magic and Isaiah.
Guy No. 4:
Having just lived in Phoenix I am a BIG fan. He is one of my favorites, but not top 10 best of all time.
Top 20 of all time.
Guy No. 5: Great court vision, formerly great speed, never a great defender, up tempo guy – not a great half court PG. Magic is the standard by whom all PGs should be measured. Four rings, would be assist leader if he had not had to retire early. Improved every year and brought excellence from day 1. Magic, Stockton, Kidd, Nash, Isiah.
I have been a fan ever since he torched my Terps in the NCAAs. However, he looked exposed. It is hard for a point guard to win a championship without others, no matter how good he elevates his team so I don’t think they have to be defined by a ring but I need to see sustained performance longer and defense would help. Also I used to see him as a feared scorer but not seeing that this year (could be me).
It’s not just you, but for me championships matter when it comes to best of all time. That’s because there have been plenty with talent. Plenty even with talented teams. But being the maestro who brings it all together for the ultimate reward speaks volumes about that quality that separates the great from the elite.
Nash is gifted, no argument. And he may have been the best in the league when he won back-to-back MVPs. Yes, there was some fascination with him by voters, but I won;t argue with his selection either year. That said, should he retire without winning an NBA titles, here’s how I rank him:
6) Lenny Wilkens
7) Stockton (at least he reached the Finals)
8) Gus Williams
9) Walt Frazier
10) Dennis Johnson
There you go. Tony Parker, with rings aplenty already and after watching him make Nash look like me tonight, may already deserve to be considered better.
A ring for Nash could rattle my rankings, but until then …