ESPN's Page 2 has ranked the top ten point guards of all time, and to no one's surprise, Magic Johnson heads the list followed by Oscar Robertson and Isiah. Here's the full rankings:
1.) M. Johnson
2.) O. Robertson
3.) I. Thomas
4.) J. Stockton
5.) B. Cousy
6.) W. Frazier
7.) J. Kidd
8.) T. Archibald
9.) S. Nash
10.) G. Payton
It is hard to argue with that logic at the top of the board. During an era when 6'9" pigeon-holed you as a power forward, Magic changed the point guard position forever.
You hear the Big O's name mentioned in the same breath as "Best Player Ever", so even though I never saw him play, it's obvious he deserves to be at or near the top. (Whether or not you discount him for the inflated rebounding numbers of the 1960s, Oscar still messed around and averaged a triple double... for five years. That's just silly.)
And Isiah was quite simply the best little man ever to play the game.
Now normally a subjective ESPN list like this would barely merit a link, let alone a lengthy post, so why am I teasing it out here (other than the NBA's curious decision to put four days between games 2 and 3)? Well, this topic happens to be a rather sensitive one for both Matt and me. See both of us -- unbeknownst to each other at the time -- have had to take up defense of Isiah against friends who argued that Stockton was the better point guard. I've heard from friends here in D.C. that nationally Isiah did not have nearly the icon status he did in/around Detroit, and that Stockton -- while not flashy -- was universally known as great.
Regardless of our previous arguments (ESPN's listing is yet further proof that Matt and I are right) I ask still, is John Stockton even the #4 point guard of all time?
I'm sure the case can be made: he was fundamentally sound and amazing in Jerry Sloan's pick-and-roll; he was fearless, regularly delivering sharp little elbows to men who outweighed him by 100 lbs.; and he was the last of the old-school NBA fashionistas, wearing his shorts waaay up high, as if they were a leotard. But I've always thought that -- between Malone and Stockton -- Stockton was the one that benefitted most from their pairing. I reserve some hatred for the Mailman as well (for the elbow to Isiah's eye), but Malone was amazing for such a long time. Isiah never had that kind of help on the inside. And I'd even venture to say that Jason Kidd could have achieved similar success aside Karl Malone for two decades. Yes, even with the slow-down system, and yes, even with the lower carreer shooting numbers. I just never saw Stockton as dominant.
[And, just for the record, this entire paragraph was written in an attempt to rationalize my extreme hatred for Stockton after his usurping of Isiah's spot on the 1992 Dream Team. I've hated him ever since, even though the slight was Jordan's fault.]
Another interesting tidbit: if you follow the link to ESPN's list, they show the rankings given out by each of the 13 ESPN contributors polled. Things I noticed:
1.) John Hollinger. In his never ending quest to pimp his made-up "PER" stat, Hollinger ranks Isiah as the #8 point guard of all time, below the likes of Stockton (#3), Gary Payton (#4), and Jason Kidd (#6). Looks like that formula could use a bit more tweaking.
(Also, the only one to rank Isiah lower in the poll was Chris Sheridan, who had Isiah ranked 9th, behind all but Payton.)
2.) The consensus was amazing, with Payton at #10 receiving 23 points, and Jerry West getting only 7 points to top the "others receiving votes" list.
3.) It's still early in his career, but Chauncey has already garnered a couple votes in this list. He's played fewer seasons than any of the players mentioned and will only climb as he racks up titles.