NBA General

Is That Really Your "Top Ten Centers List"?

By Trevor Freeman

So I finish up my weekly podcasts yesterday and I’m settling in to watch a little Wright State versus Butler.  Because there was a berth into the NCAA Tournament at stake, I decided to honor the moment with a Yuengling.  The conversation in my head where I convinced myself that this game was worth drinking for is a different story for a better time.  I boot up my e-mail and in it I find this gem from my friend LeAndre…..
“Trevor, did you see ESPN’s Top Ten Centers list.  I demand an article ripping them to shreds.  Bill Walton?!?!?!?”

Ask and you shall receive.  First off, this does not surprise me in the least.  The people they currently employ to cover the NBA over at ESPN should have gotten “Next” and moved over to analyzing the New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks two years ago.  I mean when your NBA Draft “expert” (the venerable Chad Ford) is posting a 2007 NBA Draft Big Board that currently has Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez and Spencer Hawes ahead of Acie Law IV, then quite frankly you have handed over credibility in terms of evaluating the game of basketball.  Ranking those three ahead of Law IV is like arguing that Selma Blair, Lisa Kudrow and Ashlee Simpson have better breasts than Jessica Biel.

I could argue the whole list (for those who have not had a chance to read it, feel free to click on the link in the appendix below).  And boy are there some controversial calls.  Kareem over Russell.  Willis Reed not making the list.  However I am going to focus strictly on the worst announcer to ever announce a professional basketball game.  The guy who has openly forced people to watch games on mute with music on the background.  The “Big Know It All”…..Bill Walton.  

Ranking Walton amongst the top ten centers is like arguing that “Joe Versus The Volcano” is one of the best ten movies Tom Hanks has ever made.  Let’s take a test shall we.  I’m going to line up Center A, Center B, Center C and Center D and I am going to let you rank them.

Center A
15 seasons               
13.2 ppg.                   
 6.3  rpg.                     
 0.7  blks per game                 
12,713 career points           
6,106 career rebounds           
3 NBA Championship Rings       

Center B
14 seasons
12.9 ppg.
 9.7 rpg.
 0.9 blks per game
13,790 career points
10,400 career rebounds
2 NBA Championship Rings

Center C
10 seasons               
13.3 ppg.                      
10.5 rpg.                         
 0.7 blks per game                 
6,215 career points           
4,923 career rebounds           
2 NBA Championship Rings       

Center D
15 seasons
14.8 ppg.
 6.1 rpg.
 1.3 blks per game
12,871 career points
5,277 career rebounds
0 NBA Championship Rings

Wouldn’t you rank Center B first overall due to longevity and durability with Center A, Center C and Center D all about the same?  Well Center B is Bill Laimbeer, Center A is Bill Cartwright, Center C is Bill Walton and Center D is Rik Smits.  The only way Cartwright and Smits get into the Hall of Fame is if they A) Purchase a ticket or B) Smash in a Window.  In my opinion, Bill Laimbeer is a Hall of Famer as you can make an outstanding argument that the Pistons do not win the NBA Championship if he is not on the team.  He was Isiah Thomas’ personal bodyguard.  The Marty McSorley to Isiah’s Wayne Gretzky.  

Now I am sure the argument will be………but Bill Walton was a dominant player even if it was only for a couple seasons while Laimbeer was at most a great complimentary player.  However this is a disingenuous argument, which is not based on fact.  If you compare Bill Walton’s peak years versus Bill Laimbeer’s the difference is not significant.  Here is a look at what each player did over their best three-year stretch.

Walton                                             Laimbeer

1976-1977  16.6 ppg. 13.4 rpg.        1984-1985    17.3 ppg.  12.3 rpg.
1977-1978  18.6 ppg. 14.4 rpg.        1985-1986    17.5 ppg.  12.4 rpg.
1978-1979  18.9 ppg. 13.2 rpg.        1986-1987      16.6 ppg.  13.1 rpg.

If the goal of this list was to choose the best ten NBA centers of all-time then Bill Walton not only shouldn’t have been on this list, he should not even have been considered.  His peak year numbers are only marginally better than a guy like Bill Laimbeer who probably wouldn’t even get consideration on a Top Twenty Centers of all-time list.  Plus his career numbers do not come close to Hall of Famers that were omitted like Willis Reed or Robert Parish.

Bill Walton was what he was.  A great college center.  Perhaps the best college center of all-time.  Let’s just keep it at that.  The NBA’s Daily Dime Top Ten Center rankings……..the phrase one big swing and a miss comes to mind…..

If you have any questions or concerns feel free to contact me at [email protected].


Top Ten Centers of All-Time According ESPN  

ESPN Greatest Centers

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