ESPN's Scoop Jackson recently wrote an article that absolutely mystified me. It's called Seeking Out The 10th Man
, and it's a moving story about how hard it was for him to pick the tenth best center in NBA history. His list already included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaq, Moses Malone, George Mikan, Bob McAdoo, and Patrick Ewing. After some lengthy consideration, he put Bill Walton in the ten spot ahead of David Robinson.
It wasn't the that he chose Walton over The Admiral that got my hackles up. It was the fact that the list includes Patrick Ewing. I just don’t understand how anyone could seriously put Ewing on a "10 Best Centers" list ahead of Robinson. That's ridiculous, and I’m here to tell you why. First, let's review their career stats:
Statistically, it's almost a dead heat, with The Admiral owning a slight advantage in every category. Now let's consider their relative accomplishments.Rookie of the Year:
They were both named Rookie of the Year (in 1986 and 1990, respectively). Edge: Even.League Scoring Title:
Ewing never won a scoring title; Robinson led the league in scoring during the 1994-95 season. Edge: Robinson.All-Defensive Teams:
Ewing made the All-Defensive Second Team three times; Robinson made the All-Defensive First Team four times and he made the Second Team another four times. Edge: Robinson.All-NBA Teams:
Ewing made the All-NBA First Team once and the Second Team six times. Robinson made the First Team four times, the Second Team twice, and the Third Team four times. Edge: Robinson.Defensive Player of the Year:
Robinson won the award in 1992. Ewing never won it. Edge: Robinson.MVP Awards:
Ewing never won the MVP; Robinson was the league's Most Valuable Player during the 1994-95 season. Edge: Robinson.Championships:
Ewing left the game ringless; Robinson won titles in 1999 and 2003. Edge: Robinson.
So Robinson was (slightly) better statistically, has the edge in every major recognition/award category (save for the ROY tie), and can boast two world championships to Ewing's none. How is putting Ewing ahead of Robinson even remotely defensible? Jackson's argument against boils down to this:
"David Robinson never got to the NBA Finals until Tim Duncan got there and even when he did get that first ring he did it against the Knicks when Patrick wasn't playing."
Your biggest gripe about Robinson is that he didn't win a title until Tim Duncan came along. And...? That's not an argument, it's a copout. After all, Kareem didn't win a title until Oscar Robertson came along, and he didn't win another one for almost a decade until Magic Johnson came along. Does that take the shine off of Kareem’s six rings? I doubt it.
For a better example, let's consider Dr. J. He was "The Man" on the 76ers for years, and the team couldn't win the title. They coughed up a 2-0 series lead in the 1977 Finals, failed to capitalize on Kareem's injury in the 1980 Finals, and just plain lost in the 1982 Finals. They didn't win The Big One until 1983, when they added the reigning MVP Moses Malone. Dr. J accepted a secondary role on the team that year, and he played caddy while Moses won the Finals MVP in a 4-0 sweep of the Lakers. The same finger you're pointing at Robinson could just as easily be pointed at The Doctor, so let me ask you this: Would you leave Erving off a list of the Top 10 Forwards of All Time? You'd have to, based on your Ewing-over-Robinson reasoning.
And by giving all the credit to Duncan, you conveniently overlook how instrumental Robinson was in the Spurs' titles. In the 1999 Finals, he averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 blocked shots per game. Duncan was named the Finals MVP, but Robinson was, without question, the second-best player on a championship ball club. And they wouldn't have won without him.
Robinson was less of a factor in the 2003 Finals, averaging 11 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 blocks over six games. But his defense on Shaq was absolutely crucial to the Spurs dethroning the Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals. He was also a steady, stabilizing force in the pivot throughout the year and the playoffs.
Scoop's other criticism was that Hakeem Olajuwon dominated Robinson 1995 Western Conference Semifinals. What he neglects to mention is that this occurred during that amazing two-year stretch where Hakeem domainated everyone
...including Ewing (in the 1994 Finals) and Shaq (in the 1995 Finals). So, as far as I'm concerned, that evidence is inadmissible.
Look, Robinson should get Ewing's place on that list. Not only does he win out in every category you can think of, not only was he a force on both ends of the court, not only was he an MVP and a champion, he was able to sublimate his ego and accept a lesser role on what had been "His Team" for years. That is something that (by all accounts) Ewing wasn't willing to do with the Knicks, which resulted in the trade that sent him to Seattle and, eventually, a sad end to a hard-fought but ultimately frustrating career. That ending is a stark contrast to The Admiral’s final game, a 13-point, 17-rebound, turn-back-the-clock performance in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
Labels: David Robinson, ESPN, Patrick Ewing, Scoop Jackson