In my lifetime, the most revered athlete to experience a fall from grace may be either Lance Armstrong or Tiger Woods. After seeing the downfall of the greatest cyclist and golfer of this generation (and perhaps ever), I wondered if any sports hero could survive heightened public scrutiny. Of note, I thought Derek Jeter and Peyton Manning might be the only superstars beyond reproach. Jeter rode off into the sunset with his reputation intact. On the other hand, Manning may not be as fortunate. In particular, the five-time NFL MVP allegedly used HGH when recovering from neck surgery several years ago. At the same time, we can’t overlook the “mooning” incident. Whether true or not, these accusations may lead to his removal from the already-small list of “squeaky-clean” superstar athletes.
If NBA games were only five minutes long, Acie Law may have been an all-time great. Well, they’re not, so he’s not. As a senior at Texas A&M, Law was named 1st Team All-American and won the Bob Cousy Award as the best point guard in the country after averaging 18 points and five assists per game. Despite being a clutch performer in college who elevated his game at the most critical moments, Law never elevated beyond backup duties in the NBA. During his four-year NBA career, he averaged less than four points and two assists per game while playing for five different teams. As previously established, any player taken after the first ten overall picks is exempt from being declared a Top 10 Bust. But for this restriction, Law would have been a prime candidate. Instead, he earned an Honorable Mention and an eponymous exemption.
Like it or not, the nerds have changed how we look at sports. Thanks to sabermetricians, statistics like OPS and WAR are as recognizable as HR and RBI. Similar to WAR (wins above replacement) for baseball, WiSh (win shares) is an all-encompassing statistic for basketball. Ranked by WiSh, the Top 5 players in NBA history are: 1) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; 2) Wilt Chamberlain; 3) Karl Malone; 4) Michael Jordan; and 5) John Stockton. Without a doubt, each one of those players is a legend of the game. As an all-time NBA ranking, however, it’s just doesn’t work.
Alternatively, the Top 5 players ranked by total MVPs are: 1) Michael Jordan; 2) Bill Russell; 3) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; 4) LeBron James; and 5) Wilt Chamberlain. Aaahhh, much better. Arguably, MVP awards provide a better proxy for all-time greatness than win shares. Regardless, WiSh still can be useful to establish a threshold above which a superstar can be defined. Similarly, it can determine a threshold below which a bust can be defined.