In the never-ending GOAT debates we all engage in, one of the basic go-to moves is to focus on the quality of the sidekicks a certain star enjoyed to build up your case and bring down somebody else’s.
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But can you quantitatively determine how good the teammates of a superstar were?
Well, we have tried.
We looked up the star sidekicks of the 74 players on ESPN’s all-time list and awarded three points for each MVP teammate, two points for each teammate making All-NBA 1st or 2nd Team and one for each All-Star teammate. We only took into account accolades while playing with those legends. (So Shaquille O’Neal gets points from playing with LeBron James, but LeBron gets none from playing with way-past-his-prime Shaq in 2009-10).
Some considerations before we go ahead.
The election of All-Stars, All-NBA team members and MVPs is based on people’s opinions (more often than not from those pesky pawns in the media) and thus somewhat arbitrary. Some undeserving players win those accolades and some deserving players don’t. Overall, there’s no denying such recognitions say a lot about the stature of NBAers. Super high-quality players are bound to receive such accolades.
Legends from the NBA’s earlier days were more likely to play with All-Stars since the number of players and teams was significantly smaller back in the day. Only 96 NBA players played in the 1959-60 season and 20 of them were selected to the All-Star Game. That’s 20.8 percent of the league. Last year, 529 players took part in games. Only 25 were named All-Stars. That’s 4.7 percent.
Meaning? Old-school legends are more likely to be at the top of our Star Company ranking since back then it was easier to team up with other stars. (Especially if they had long careers).
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Some takeaways from our research:
* Celtics players from the franchise’s glory days top the ranking. Bob Cousy is at No. 1 having played multiple years with stars like Bill Sharman, Ed Macauley, Tom Heinsohn, Sam Jones and Bill Russell, who himself played with star-studded Boston teams for many years and is at No. 2.
* Only two of the players in the Top 26 are ringless. One is Elgin Baylor, largely because he had to compete against those stacked Celtic squads we mentioned above. The other one is John Stockton, who could never get over the hump even though he spent 18 years next to perennial All-NBA and occasional MVP Karl Malone.
* Twenty-three of ESPN’s Top 74 NBA players have never won the title. Eleven of those (almost half) are in the Bottom 14 of our Star Company ranking.
* The Top 14 players in the ranking combine for 55 NBA championships. Those at the Bottom 14 (including Allen Iverson, Reggie Miller and Patrick Ewing) combine for just four rings.
* Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Tim Duncan are the only players in the Bottom 25 with more than two titles.
* There are no active players in the Top 36. You can find recently retired Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker near the top, though.
* Don’t show this to Milwaukee Bucks fans: Giannis Antetokounmpo is dead last in the list with just two All-Star selections for teammates (both for Khris Middleton). Of course, it’s early in Giannis’ career and he should move up in the ranking. But still.
The overall and unsurprising pattern is that legends surrounded by star-caliber talent typically rack up NBA championships. Those who were/are not struggle to win big. Something to consider before we call some superstars “winners” and others “losers”.
You can check the full ranking below. MORE:
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