Tim Duncan Not in the Top 20 Players of All Time?

It's one thing if you don't think Tim Duncan is a top-10 player.  I'm sure there are many people that would not rate the Spurs' big man that high, but to dispute his place as a top-20 player as Dan Shaughnessy did is absolutely ridiculous considering he is widely regarded as the greatest power forward of all-time by most of his peers, past players and league personnel.  

Here's some of what Shaugnessy had to say:

Off the top of my head I'd take Wilt Chamberlain (always No.1, the guy averaged 50.4 points a game during the 1961-62 season), Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Bob Cousy ahead of Duncan.  There's a quick 10 without as much as a three-second violation.

Nothing against Duncan, but you could also give me Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Julius Erving, Elgin Baylor, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Kevin McHale.  Oh and let's not forget Bob Pettit, Moses Malone, John Stockton and Isiah Thomas.

Dan wants to know "who would you take out of my top-10?"

Thanks for asking Dan, because it's fairly easy.  Bob Cousy revolutionized the game with his showmanship, flashy ball handling and passing.  He's absolutely a Hall of Famer and deserves to be mentioned as one of the greatest point guards for helping to advance the game, but are you kidding me?  Top-10 all time?  Forget Duncan for a second, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas and Jason Kidd all have a better case for such distinction than Cousy.  If you are placing him on such a list because of his impact on the game, than George Mikan also deserves a place for forcing the league to widen the lane and create the shot clock due to his dominance in the early years of the NBA.  

I'll admit that the more I scour Duncan's numbers, the better he looks.  He's a 7-footer who plays great defense, makes the perfect outlet passes and uses the glass like no one else his size.  He's won his whole career and he's done it quietly.  Too quietly for his own good, maybe.  Playing in a small media market has disguised some of his own greatness.

Seems like a good reason to rank him outside of the top-20 players.  I didn't know the size of the media market in which a player played was a criteria for this debate.  In that case I guess we should also get rid of Oscar Robertson from the list since he played for Milwaukee.  

He then rates Karl Malone and Charles Barkley as having been better than Duncan.  Malone played with one of Shaughnessy's top-22 players of all time in John Stockton and failed to win a ring, losing in the Finals twice in 6 games to the Bulls.  

Barkley made one NBA Finals appearance during his career, also losing to Jordan's Bulls in 6.  

I don't hold the lack of championships against either of them considering they happened to play during the Jordan era.  Many great players didn't win rings during that time, but Malone and Barkley combined won as many conference titles as Duncan (4), with Malone's last one coming as a role player on a Shaq/Kobe Lakers team.

Duncan has won four NBA titles and had one Hall of Fame worthy teammate during that time in David Robinson, though that was only for his first two championship runs.  During that time Robinson's game was also in decline as he neared the end of his career, retiring in 2003 after winning his second ring alongside Duncan.  It is important to note that Duncan took home Finals MVP honors in both of those title runs and was also selected as the regular season MVP during Robinson's last season.

Duncan has arguably been the greatest defensive big man of his era, with Kevin Garnett in the mix.  That's something nobody would ever say about Shaq who comfortably made Shaughnessy's top-10.  Shaq's offensive game was more dominant than anybody else before or after, but defensively the Big Diesel left much to be desired.

Shaughnessy would find supporters in his belief that Duncan should not be considered a top-10 player in the history of the league and understandably so, considering the limited scope such a number allows.  The issue is that he doesn't provide a valid argument to support his belief and simply ranks players ahead of Duncan that few would regard in a better standing than him without any justification.  

He may be right in that playing in a small market has hampered how Duncan is viewed by many in the context of all-time great players.  He has never been as aesthetically pleasing as Kobe or as dominant as Shaq in his prime and never received the universal praise they have, though having won more NBA MVP trophies, All-NBA first team selections, All-Defensive First Team selections and as many championships as both players.  Only if you ignored such facts could you dismiss Duncan's credentials as a top-10 player without any thought as Shaughnessy has done.

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