Pau Gasol leaned back in his chair and ran his hands over his t-shirt that read “Kobe, 24,” the two-time NBA champion the Lakers now quipped from his conversation about his induction into the Hall of Fame “Kobe” had to switch his top 10 list of the best NBA players of all time.
After Gasol was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, he was certain to be among the greats of the game. He will join these legends of the game at a ceremony Saturday in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Now Gasol has been asked to comment on who he thinks are the greatest players among the NBA’s all-time greats.
He smiled before answering and collected his thoughts.
“That’s a tough question,” Gasol said. “It’s very personal, subjective or both I think.”
A few seconds later, Gasol presented his top 10 list of the greatest NBA players of all time, in no particular order.
Kareem Adbul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James, Stephen Curry.
Yes, that’s 11, Gasol was told. He just shrugged and smiled.
He then explained why he had chosen this group.
He started with Abdul-Jabbar, who won five of his six NBA championships with the Lakers and was the league’s most valuable player six times, and Russell, who won 11 NBA championships with the Boston Celtics.
“They were two very, very special players,” said Gasol. “I think they’ve stood out from the rest over their time.”
Next in line were Johnson, who won five titles and three league MVP awards with the Lakers, and Bird, who won three titles and three league MVPs with the Celtics.
“I think Magic and Larry also changed the game in very unique ways,” Gasol said.
Gasol went on to explain why he chose Jordan, who won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, and Bryant, who won two of his five championships with Gasol as a teammate.
“I think Michael and Kobe had a huge impact on the game,” Gasol said. “They’re also two of my favorites.”
As for Duncan, who won five titles with the San Antonio Spurs, Garnett, who won one title with the Celtics, and Nowitzki, who won one title with the Dallas Mavericks, Gasol said he admires them because they pushed him to get one better power to become forward.
“They were my top three power forwards that I modeled my game with and tried to beat to become one of the better power forwards in the league,” Gasol said. “Those have been references as I’ve played throughout my years. So you are very special. And Dirk is probably on this list because he is also an international player. The way he changed the game is very unique and I think that’s meaningful and has an impact on European and international players.”
James, who won one of his four titles with the Lakers, and Curry, who won four NBA championships with the Golden State Warriors, were Gasol’s favorites.
“You have to acknowledge LeBron’s contributions to the game of basketball,” Gasol said. “He’s been playing for over 20 years and what he’s accomplished is quite remarkable. And it’s fair to say that Steph is another player that I would put in the category of greatness and uniqueness when it comes to changing and evolving the game.”
“I think these players deserve a special mention because all they’ve done is make the game grow, open more doors, and bring a better reality and presence to today’s NBA players.” And you have to boys be thankful.”