I don't think it's that hard to pinpoint the players that made unique contributions to he game, while standing out as legends in their own time.
Russell defined the way the game gets played in ways that still apply today.
Bird and Magic and Oscar were all just so highly skilled in so many areas.
Wilt, Duncan, Shaq, Hakeem and Kareem all had such big immediate impacts, and they put up the numbers to show that. It is less of a big man's game today, but it's still hard to think about even thinking about picking any guards or small forwards outside of Bird, Magic and Oscar over any of those guys, if you're building a team.
Do Jordan and Kobe get included in that group of smalls? I think the two do have similarities. Jordan without Phil's influence might not have quite warranted consideration. Phil was able to get him to play less selfishly, so that his own efforts would be magnified. He gave MJ a little bit of Bill Russell. Phil didn't have quite the same effect on Kobe, to where you could see him clearly understanding and buying in. He would sometimes appear to understand without fully buying in, and other times just putting team principles aside and playing selfishly. Much of his career has been about the degree to which his selfish tendencies have been reigned in, and to me therein lies the difference between the two players. Let MJ and Kobe trade places. Does Kobe win 72 games in Chicago? I just don't think he would do the same job of maximizing what was there. Meanwhile Jordan and Shaq would likely equal the success in LA, if not surpass it. You might not even need to consider Jordan in his prime, but just let MJ play with Shaq at his current age in 2000.
From there I think you could go in a lot of different directions, that become a little hazy, but I think there are ten players that are hard to question.
Last edited by LX; 10-21-2012 at 11:12 AM.