The numbers are misleading, and so is the hype. The truth is that too many "good" players are wrongly celebrated as being all-time greats. To set the record straight, here's an alphabetical list of the most overrated NBA players ever.
So who's underrated?
Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman made Charley Rosen's list of the all-time underrated players.
See who else is on the list
The Round Mound of Rebound was never in acceptable game shape. But reporting to one Houston training camp 20 pounds overweight didn't prevent him from chastising his teammates for not being serious about challenging for the championship. Also, he only played defense when the spirit moved him — which was very seldom. These days, he complains about not having played with top-flight teammates — left unsaid, however, is the fact that Barkley's self-involved style of play did nothing to compliment whatever talents his teammates did have. Over the course of his career, Barkley's selfishness and total lack of discipline made him a chronic underachiever.
He was lazy, sloppy, soft, selfish, defenseless, and useless in the clutch. The media called him "Big Bells," but his fellow players had another name for him — "Tinker Bell". His career averages of 20.1 points and 13.7 rebounds per game notwithstanding, what's Bellamy doing in the Hall of Fame?
Patrick Ewing wasn't exactly his best when the game was on the line. (Otto Greule Jr. / Getty Images)
Had he played out of the spotlight in someplace like Orlando or Salt Lake City, Ewing would be remembered as a jump-shooting center who worked hard. Period. With the adulatory New York fans and media filtering their perceptions through the lens of their need to have heroes to celebrate, Ewing was celebrated as being far better than he really was. In truth, he couldn't handle, pass, move laterally, and do anything worthwhile when an important game was on the line. Moreover, his dim apprehension of what the game was all about precluded any thoughts of being unselfish. Except for the early days of the Mets and the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York sports fans rarely hitch their devotion to a loser like Ewing.
Double-G was a great scorer, smooth and virtually unstoppable. And that's all, folks. He couldn't (or didn't) pass, defend, or rebound. Gervin's idea of team basketball was when a teammate passed him the ball. Of necessity, his San Antonio teams played high-octane offense and flat-tire defense. That's why Gervin never played in a championship series.
He could finish in spectacular ways, and he could make both plain and simple passes. Otherwise, he couldn't shoot, rebound, run, or play defense. How bad was the Hawk's defense? The first time he played in Madison Square Garden, the Suns tried to hide Hawkins' atrocious defense by matching him up with Dick Barnett. Too bad Barnett was so insulted by the ploy that he lit up Hawkins for 35 points. Also, nobody ever accused Hawkins of having a passion to play basketball: He once told the Suns that he couldn't play that night because he had a fever. A doctor was summoned, and Hawkins' temperature registered at 98.9. As a result, Hawkins felt justified to sit on the bench in his civvies. Hawkins was all flash and very little substance.
He could do three things — rebound, block shots, and shoot a high percentage on turnaround jumpers from the left box. He couldn't pass, handle, play honest defense, or hit a clutch shot to get into heaven. In addition, he paid no attention to the basketball alphabet of Xs and Os. All he cared about was "me-ball-basket."
I've been on this guy's case many times before, and for the same reasons. He found various ways to choke in the 1996 Conference finals and in the 1997 and 1998 Finals — missed free throws, damaging turnovers, ill-advised shots, losing gambles on defense, and so on. In addition, his passing skills and his defense were both overblown, and his assist-turnover ration was a horrendous 5:4. There are only two reasons why Malone is deemed to be an elite power-forward — John Stockton, and longevity.
Here's all anyone needs to know about McAdoo's game: When he played against the Celtics, McAdoo was usually defended by Dave Cowens. Now Cowens was a legitimate tough guy who always played with intensity, power, and courage, and whose rough-house tactics on defense would often approach minor felonies. At the start of McAdoo's matchups with Cowens, B-Mac would assume his favorite position on the left box. Perhaps he'd even get a shot off. Perhaps he'd even get fouled. But Cowens would definitely assault him with elbows, knees, hips, forearms, and fists. By the middle of the first quarter, McAdoo would post-up five feet beyond the box. By the end of the fourth quarter, he'd be looking to receive the ball near the 3-point line. Anything to avoid contact. In other words, McAdoo was nothing more than a big, quick, soft, jump-shooter deluxe.
A one-man circus who wouldn't throw a pass unless it was behind the back or through the legs or in one ear and out the other. And his completion rate was barely above .500. His ball-hogging made him unpopular with his teammates, but scored big-time with the media. It's no accident that his teams were always pretenders and never contenders. It also says here that Maravich was the worst defender in NBA history.
G.P. has always been a shoot-first point guard, favoring post-ups, open middles, and high-and-low screens to locate his shots. He was also a confrontational player, demanding perfection form his teammates and his coaches, but never from himself. Payton's reputation for playing outstanding defense gained him All-Defense honors for nine seasons, and a famous nickname, "The Glove." Even so, during the 1996 Finals, the Chicago Bulls set out to prove something that they already knew — that Payton's rep was mostly bogus. In lieu of playing solid contain defense, Payton routinely gambled for steals at every opportunity, and when he failed he put his teammates in jeopardy. The Bulls limited Payton's room to maneuver by posting Michael Jordan, who had little difficulty catching, shooting, driving, and generally having his way against G.P. Payton's game was, and is, less than meets the eye.
This guy was a cream puff. He could come from the weak-side to block shots, but he couldn't guard his own man. He could rebound, but rarely in a crowd. He could score, but only on foul-line jumpers, or only if a defender bought a head fake after he drove his left hand into the middle. He couldn't pass or handle. He couldn't stand his ground in the paint. And, according to one of his ex-coaches, he never worked on his game in the off-season simply because he really didn't like playing basketball. Had he not played alongside of Tim Duncan, The Admiral would have been lost at sea.
Charley Rosen, former CBA coach, author of 12 books about hoops, the current one being A pivotal season — How the 1971-72 L.A. Lakers changed the NBA, is a frequent contributor to FOXSports.com.
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