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I'd agree with Jordan as the best of the best:   I'd suggest adding a few more names:

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

Bird and Johnson's careers overlapped in the pro's, covering the 1980's.  One reason neither matched either Michael Jordan or Bill Russell in championships is that their teams often played one another in the finals:  Magic and the Lakers won 5, Bird and the Celtics won 3.   Both had their careers cut short as they hit their 30's.  Bird by back injury, Magic by HIV.  Both were of a type and size and had attributes that suggested they could have played for a far longer time and racked up huge all time totals had they not been hit by those problems.

In many efforts to name the top 5 starters of all time;  the shooting guard would be Michael Jordan, the point guard Magic, the small forward Bird, the Center would be any one of the 3 referenced above, Russell, Chamberlain, or Kareem, and then the big forward would probably be Tim Duncan.

But the Small Forward spot is usually owned by Bird (will that change by the end of the LeBron era?) and the Point Guard spot owned by Magic.

How good were these two???   They are easily arguable as two of the greatest team players in the history of the game. (there are only a handful and they are at the top of that list)  They made their teams and their teammates better--Good enough to be multiple champions.  Before Magic joined the Lakers, Kareem was their starting center but they were without a championship during those years.  When Bird joined the Celtics he led them to the largest turnaround in Wins in a season to that point.

They accomplished this with their own outstanding, extraordinary play, and an understanding of the game in every facet.  During the bulk of their careers and while they were healthy they won 8 NBA championships between them.  Their individual exploits are extraordinary and they garnered amazing statistics while playing.

When Bird finished his career he said something along the lines of...."  Magic was better.  He made his teammates better than I made mine".    Maybe, Those two deserve to be among the highest rungs of all time along with the players you mentioned, Don.

Then there are some others worth noting, at least in my book:

Tim Duncan probably goes down as the greatest power forward, still playing at a strong level after so many years of excellence and so many championships.  Shaq dubbed him "The Big Fundamental" which is what Duncan is, and is still doing at the highest level of play.

I'd put Shaq at a level of the best centers.  Shaq played for a very long time, I think 19 years, one less than Kareem and many more than Chamberlain or Russell.  He came into the NBA after 2 years in college, not at all as developed as Chamberlain, Russell, or Kareem when they entered the league.  Over his last years he was dramatically diminished...but at his peak he was entirely unstoppable in a vein similar to Chamberlain.  In fact, who could have matched him besides Chamberlain.  He was a mountainous human being of height and girth and had good athleticism, especially with quick spin moves.   It was astonishing to watch that much humanity spin so quickly.

I'd also put Julius Erving up there.  (Its my post).  I saw Erving play in the ABA for the Nets.  He was at his most astonishing in the ABA.  What did he do?  EVERYTHING.   He was at one or more times, top ten in the ABA in the following categories:  Scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocked shots in one year (or more).  I'm not sure if he set up the scorers table or handed out towels, but he truly did everything and led his team to an ABA championship (and then an NBA championship).  Seriously if there was one player who dominated every facet of the game for his team it was Erving while in the ABA.

Of course he dunked!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   He more or less "invented" the sweeping dunk coming from any an all angles of the court, starting in the backcourt, the sides, the top of the court, or where ever and sweeping by players with astonishing moves and then some astonishing shot.  I don't think he exhibited the all the time all court awareness of a Bird or a Magic, but he was freaking amazing.

Oh, yeah.  LeBron James.  He has now played roughly as long as Bird or Magic and he still has years to go.  I'll let others extol his skills.  As time goes on and people keep creating all time lists with a preferred starting 5, he'll probably replace Bird on some of those lists.  Nuff said.

One could list quite a few others, but I'll sign off with my suggestions.

But to go back to the title:  yeah, Michael Jordan.

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...and then there is Jordan.

With references in this thread to various sports notables, there is one athlete who is both generally recognized as the greatest basketball player of all time, and is usually considered among the greatest athletes of all time.  (okay...can one really compare the greatness of a swimmer or skier to a basketball player or tennis player or a race car driver??  --Another discussion, perhaps)

Michael Jordan is overwhelmingly accorded status as the greatest basketball player of all time. An astonishing scorer, an athletic phenom, a tremendous winner and competitor.  He exhibited both excellent individual and team oriented skills.

His defensive abilities are often referenced, usually noted as among the greatest of the great.  I was enthralled when seeing them in real time and find the highlight films extraordinary.

Here are two video's showcasing Jordan's defensive abilities:

The first showcases endless Jordan leaps and blocks and then endless steals...turning them into two points at the other end:

I really like the 2nd short video:  An older thicker Jordan has his shot blocked!!!!...and then he retaliates!!!!  (and it was when he played for the Washington Bulltets:)

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