"Game Changing" or "Champion"?

Shanoff poses an interesting argument on his blog . Is Kevin Durant, the next David Robinson or the next Dirk? Problem is, even Robinson needed Duncan before the Spurs won a title, and Dirk could have used Nash last year to get over the hump in the Finals.

Point is, either "position defining" player comparison is, in itself, incomplete until a championship is produced. And with Durant we won't know that for at least, I say, 3 or 4 years... because that's how long it will take the Celtics (er, NBA draft lottery winner) to: a) Fire Doc Rivers (the coach), b) fire Danny Ainge (the president), c) re-build a team and d) succeed with Durant in the middle of the team's new system. I argue the biggest piece of that puzzle is not drafting Durant, but actually the drafting/trading/free agent signings around him.

Remember, great players are defined by championships- Shaq/Kobe/Wade, Duncan/Robinson, Bird, Jordan, Magic in hoops. Brady, Montana, Elway and (gasp) Manning in football. And all of those superstars had a teammate or 2 to take some of the burden/pressure off their shoulders. Quick run-down:

  • Kobe had Shaq
  • Shaq had D-Wade
  • Robinson had Duncan
  • Bird had McHale and Parrish
  • Jordan had Pippen
  • Magic had Kareem and Worthy
  • Brady had Vinatieri (and Belichick)
  • Montana had Craig and Rice and Taylor and Walsh and... (stop me at some point)
  • Elway had TD
  • Manning had Rhodes/Addai (and an inspired postseason defense that was invisible in the regular season)
Everyone agrees the "also-rans" were great players, game changers even. Guys like Barkley and Malone or Marino and Barry Sanders were fantastic HOFers who made their teams better. But I think it is unfair (maybe an injustice) to compare those players with the aforementioned champions.

Call it splitting hairs if you will, but I think that is a fine line that needs to be defined. No matter how great those non-champs were, and they were G-R-E-A-T, there is almost a societal class system that should be enforced between champs and also-rans.

Stats are nice (Marino, et al.). But it's all about the rings.

The jury should be out until then on Durant.

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