Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
They Were Great, But Not <i>That</i> Great: The 10 Most Overrated Players In The NBA Since 1990

They Were Great, But Not That Great: The 10 Most Overrated Players In The NBA Since 1990

Let’s clear up a couple of things here before anyone starts calling for the heads of any of the writers who put together this list:

  1. We appreciate that many players on this list hold a special place in the hearts of many fans. We know that many of you will disagree. But you’ll get over it.
  2. We also understand that all of these guys are/were among the greatest basketball players on the planet, and, at any point in their adult lives, could stumble into any gym in the world and put up 85 points against any assortment of weekend warriors and wannabes – without even changing into shorts and sneakers.
  3. It’s also understood that there are many more important things happening in the world right now. This is simply an attempt to help take our minds off of that for just a little bit.

But with all that said, and in the very narrow context of NBA greatness, since 1990, these 10 have all still been overrated by fans and pundits, alike. Here, in no particular order other than alphabetical, is why we think so:

Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony
Photo: Getty

CARMELO ANTHONY

I love Melo. I loved him from the first time I saw him play in college. And he’s been a really good NBA player. It’s just that he entered the league getting compared to LeBron, and even as King James ascended to GOAT status, Anthony still was looked at as a superstar. But superstars make the second round of the playoffs more than twice in their NBA career. Part of the problem with the Knicks trying to build around Anthony was that they’re the Knicks, but part of it also was that, as star stature goes, Anthony was really closer to Chris Bosh than he ever was to James.

– Jesse Spector

KOBE BRYANT

Let’s separate the emotion and tragedy from the issue and look objectively at this: Kobe was an incredible, dynamic, otherworldly talent, the complete package, with an incredible work ethic and high basketball IQ. But he’s not a top 5 player all-time.

Top 20? Sure.

He filled the hole in the public spotlight left by Jordan, and in that role, as the public face of the NBA, he fulfilled his promise. But he wasn’t as good as Jordan or LeBron James. We certainly shouldn’t be talking about making his silhouette the NBA logo.

You can make a good argument that Kobe isn’t even a Top 5 all-time Laker, which sounds sacrilegious, but there’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Shaq and Wilt Chamberlain.

Who do you kick out? And that’s not even considering LeBron.

– Chris Baud 

DEMAR DEROZAN

There is no denying that DeRozan was a key factor in the Raptors’ success for years, but fooling ourselves into thinking he could be the best player on a championship team was ludicrous. DeRozan is essentially a one-dimensional player whose best attribute is shooting mid-range jumpers.

He’s never shot more than 33 percent from three-point range and has only had two seasons where he simultaneously averaged over five assists and five rebounds. DeRozan is a good player, but nothing will illuminate the gap between him and the league’s true elite more than Kawhi Leonard taking his spot and leading Toronto to the 2019 NBA title.

– Donovan Dooley

Kevin Love
Kevin Love
Photo: Getty

KEVIN LOVE

In the summer of 2012, Kevin Love was gifted the privilege of playing in the 2012 London Olympics on a U.S. Men’s basketball team that featured all the heavy-hitters: Kobe, KD, LeBron, CP, Russ and Melo. It came on the heels of a season where Love averaged 26 points and 13 boards, made his second straight All-Star Game and was selected to his first (and only) All-NBA second team.

I still thought he was a bum.

So imagine my irritation when he started bumping his gums about being “frustrated” with the lowly Timberwolves squad he led.

“My patience is not high,” he declared to a Yahoo! Sports reporter.

Man, shut up. No one cares.

“Would yours be, especially when I’m a big proponent of greatness surrounding itself with greatness?”

Man, shut up with rhetoricals. And who told him that he was great?

The Timberwolves finished 26-40 that 2012 season — the fourth-worst record in the Western Conference. Yet, he somehow finished sixth in MVP voting. How was that possible when no player on a 26-win squad can hold much value at all?

He was the Empty Stat King, but got showered with love because he came across as the kind of “guy you could watch The Simpsons with.”

Get the entire eff outta here.

He’s going to be inducted in the Hall of Fame one day. Maybe even first-ballot. How do I feel about this?

Denzel, take it away.

– Vince Thomas

STEPHON MARBURY

First things first: Where Marbury has been a star, other than China where he won three CBA titles and is so revered they built a statue of him, is off the court. He has donated millions of dollars to first responders, victims of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina and teachers. And as athletes engage in a war of escalating sneaker costs, Marbury put out a line of affordable shoes for under 15 bucks. And this week he’s set to deliver 10 million needed N95 masks for hospital workers.

But that’s not what we are talking about here.

Despite being considered one of the game’s elite point guards over the duration of his 13-year NBA career, here’s all you need to know about how overrated Stephon Marbury is: The record of his teams (Timberwolves, Nets, Suns and Knicks) in his final season with them (and in the case of midseason trades, we’re talking about full seasons) is the following: 103-189. After Marbury left, those teams were a combined 196-132.

His team’s winning percentage in his final year with them is .353. After Marbury left those four teams (and we’re not counting his final NBA season in Boston where he came off the bench) their winning percentage soared to a remarkable .600. Well not that remarkable if you understand how overrated “Starbury” is. And for the record, just because a nickname rhymes does not make it accurate. And other than his season with the Celtics, he made the playoffs just four times and never got his team out of the first round.

The Nets were 30 games under .500 Marbury’s last year with them (’00-’01) yet went to the NBA Finals the next season behind Jason Kidd, the player they got in return from the Suns for… you guessed it.

Marbury.

– Eric Barrow

Steve Nash
Steve Nash
Photo: Getty

STEVE NASH

Steve Nash is one of 11 NBA players to win consecutive MVP awards. The others: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mose Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, LeBron James and Steph Curry.

It’s ridiculous that Nash is on such a rarified list. He didn’t deserve to win MVP one season let alone two.

In 2004-05, Nash edged out the Heat’s Shaquille O’Neal (which is a joke unto itself, as Shaq wasn’t even the most valuable on his own team; that was Dwyane Wade, who finished eighth in the vote). But the award should have gone to either Dirk Nowitzki or Allen Iverson. I won’t get into stat comparisons here, because comparing stats of pass-first point guards to shoot-first guards and forwards is meaningless, but Nash’s much-more-talented Suns team (Shawn Marion, Amar’e Stoudemire in their primes, etc.) won 62 games that season. Nowitzki led a less-talented Mavs squad (Michael Finley, Jerry Stackhouse, etc.) to 58 wins. Iverson propelled the Sixers with what was otherwise a lottery team (aging Chris Webber, aside) to 43 wins and the playoffs.

Same thing happened the following season when Nash, on essentially the same stacked Suns team, beat out LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, both of whom led playoff teams whose second-best players were Larry Hughes and Lamar Odom, respectively.

In a mostly black league, it feels like Nash benefited from the Great White Hope Syndrome. Especially in 2005-06.

– Jim Rich

TONY PARKER

Parker’s name being on this list is less about his resume and more about people’s lack of vocabulary. The Frenchman is properly rated, but fans’ affinity for overestimating his accomplishments, which present a false narrative about him, are what lands him here.

His numbers are really good, but when you look at the other top point guards from his era, Parker isn’t better at basketball than any of them.

Better resume? Yup.

But a better basketball player than Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Gilbert Arenas, Baron Davis, and Deron Williams? Hell No.

Besides, any dude that cheats with his teammate’s wife should always be considered overrated.

– Carron Phillips

Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons
Photo: Getty

BEN SIMMONS

Every time Simmons walks on a basketball court he willfully wastes his God-given talents. And it’s going to stay that way until he stops being scared to shoot jump shots.

In an era in which the three-ball is valued more than anything, Simmons refuses to shoot them, and this is a guy who plays for a team that values the trey so much that it has a 4-point line on their practice floor.

Simmons is 2-for-23 from deep for his NBA career. The guy who refuses to play any other position except point guard is so mentally weak that he’s afraid to miss.

It’s pathetic.

– Carron Phillips

RUSSELL WESTBROOK

Westbrook’s main flaws have always been his outside shooting and decision making. He is a career 30 percent three-point shooter and averages the most turnovers per game in league history. His domineering style of basketball has been over-glorified by fans for years, only because he plays in a “softer” and more skilled era. But that aggression doesn’t make Westbrook an all-time great yet, especially without a championship.

In many ways, it’s made him inefficient in some of the biggest moments of his career. For example, the last three games of the 2016 Western Conference finals where he had the lowest plus-minus of any Thunder player.

– Donovan Dooley

DERON WILLIAMS

Injuries are part of the picture, but Williams became a star with a great first two seasons in Utah, followed by an Olympic gold medal, and flattened out in a big way just as he was supposed to be hitting his prime. So much of watching him with the Nets consisted of, “Really? This is the guy they’re building around?” A guy who was viewed on the same level as Chris Paul wound up with something much closer to a John Wall performance. Not every good player is a franchise player, and it’s silly that Williams was treated like one for so long.

– Jesse Spector

HONORABLE MENTIONS

ALLEN IVERSON

This is painful to say because Allen Iverson is my favorite player in NBA history, and he was a great player. In his prime, a lot of Sixers fans used to make really bad arguments for why he was better than Kobe Bryant (yes, the same one I argued above was overrated, as well, but, we were wrong. Iverson just wasn’t.)

Iverson had the most devastating crossover in history and was relentless in attacking the ball on defense. He had the most heart in the history of the game.

But when people talk about great NBA players, people say stuff like, “There was Jordan, then Iverson, then Shaq...”, and Iverson just doesn’t belong in a conversation with those guys. He was an inefficient shooter, and if there’s something CurryBall has taught us, it’s that three is better than two. And three is A LOT better than a long two, which was often The Answer’s speciality.

– Chris Baud

SHAQUILLE O’NEAL

Shaq had basically one move: Get the ball on the low block, use the force of his gigantic ass to knock the defender into the first row of seats (an offensive foul that was rarely called against him), spin and throw down an uncontested dunk.

That’s not greatness, it’s bigness.

At 7-1, 350 pounds, most nights during his career Shaq outsizes his opposing center by upwards of 100 lbs. People criticized Wilt Chamberlain for having an unfair size advantage (which he did), but Chamberlain converted that advantage into numbers that were not seen before or since.

Shaq? Not so much.

Most criticism of the Big Diesel comes way of his woeful 52.7% free-throw shooting, but for me, the tell on O’Neal has always been in the rebound column. A man his size should roll out of bed in the morning with 15 boards in his pocket (Chamberlain averaged 22.9 for his career!). But Shaq averaged just 10.9 and never more than 13.9 in a year. Guys half-a-foot shorter and/or 100 pounds lighter regularly put up the same or better rebound numbers as Shaq did (see Dennis Rodman and Charles Barkley).

In the end, Shaq benefited from a size the NBA has rarely seen, at a time when centers in the league were beginning to get smaller and move away from the basket. With all that, he never led the league in rebounds or blocks, and led in scoring just twice.

– Jim Rich

Share This Story

Get our newsletter