With basketball still on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, ESPN has given readers something to chew on with a fresh set of All-Time NBA rankings.
The number 74 may feel random at first, but it’s representative of the league’s 74 years, and three players from the Portland Trail Blazers franchise have made the cut.
No. 72: Damian Lillard (2012-13 – Present)
Damian Lillard’s time in Portland could land him the title of greatest Trail Blazer of all time. That’s a debate we’ll save for a future date, but for now, ESPN has him just inside their historic leaguewide rankings at No. 72.
In ESPN’s own words:
“Not many players are talented enough to end a team’s season with a 37-foot buzzer-beater and bye-bye wave to the crowd, and then go drop a fire hip-hop track in the studio with the same swagger. Lillard is making a strong case to become the greatest player in Blazers history, with many years seemingly ahead of him. The Oakland, California, native already has a Rookie of the Year trophy, a first-team All-NBA selection and five All-Star appearances among his career accomplishments. — Eric Woodyard”
No. 57: Clyde Drexler
Without studying ESPN’s list too closely, I’m tempted to call Clyde Drexler a Top 50 snub. Keeping him outside doesn’t quite feel right, but let’s see what the folks at the network have to say.:
“Drexler had the misfortune of being compared to his contemporary Michael Jordan, most famously in the 1992 Finals. Still, Drexler’s career stands out in its own right. The star player on Blazers teams that averaged 60 wins and made Finals appearances in 1990 and 1992, Drexler was an All-NBA first team pick in ’92 and a 10-time All-Star. He won a long-awaited championship after rejoining college teammate Hakeem Olajuwon with the Rockets in 1995. — Pelton”
No. 48: Bill Walton
Rip City often thinks about Bill Walton and the what-ifs—at least as they both pertain to the franchise. And why not? On the brink of a dynasty, it all unraveled with the injury, recovery and eventual departure of Walton and the team hasn’t won a title since 1977. But think about Walton as a player for a second. Had the stars aligned throughout the entirety of his career instead of for a relatively brief moment, he could have been one of the household-name bigs we talk about today among the league’s GOATs. All of that is just to say that his placement in the top 50 is a huge testament to how good he was in his brief prime, and it could have been a lot higher had injuries not largely defined his career.
“Despite being named to this list, Walton’s career is one of the ultimate NBA “what-ifs.” He was the hub of one of the iconic teams in NBA history, the 1977 champion Trail Blazers, and he won an MVP award the following season, but a series of foot injuries robbed him of a chance to be one of the truly all-time great players. The stretches when he was able to stay on the court — both early in his career with Portland, and then later with the Celtics, with whom he won the 1986 title — were enough to merit inclusion here. — Bontemps”
ESPN’s Top 10 has yet to release as of this writing, but it’s safe to say Rasheed Wallace, Bonzi Wells and Ha Seung-Jin likely aren’t in the NBA’s all-time top 10.