The NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team is still causing waves despite being released a month ago. The latest player to weigh in on a snub is the Golden State Warriors’ Andre Iguodala.
Last month, Iguodala tweeted out rather incredulously that the Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving, who did not make the 75th anniversary team, is in fact worthy and should be Top 20!
So y’all saying @KyrieIrving ain’t top 75? I agree… he top 20 at least…
— andre (@andre) October 21, 2021
Naturally this caused some uproar and #NBATwitter went into a frenzy debating the merits and worthiness of Irving.
As usual, fans were just yelling at each other over keyboards, thinking their point would be salient and silence the critics. But this is the internet and social media; that’s not possible.
Iguodala expanded on his reasoning for including the mercurial point guard on the list of greats in a sit-down interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic. He went as far as ranking Irving fourth all-time among point guards, in addition to top 20 overall.
“Name 20 guys better than him. I’ll wait. I’ve got time.”
This is an interesting discussion and diction is very important here. These types of lists and rankings elicit all types of arguments, discussions and barbershop debates. But what is actually being debated?
When challenged for saying Irving ranked top 20 overall, Iguodala responded “name 20 guys better…” That word “better” is what is at the core of these debates. What do we mean by “better”? What is the criteria we are looking at?
Iguodala and many players tend to view “better” very differently than media members and fans.
For three consecutive NBA Finals (2015-2017), though Irving got hurt early in the 2015 Finals, Iguodala played against Irving on the biggest stage in the highest leverage games. He saw the barely 6’2″ Irving do some incredible things, sometimes directly against his stellar defense.
Then of course there was the shot in 2016.
In the heat of competition, what a player can do against his peers is held in extremely high regard.
Irving was sensational in the 2016 Finals and is among the most skilled players to ever play NBA basketball. That is not hyperbole. He is a wizard with a basketball in his hands, and his basketball IQ is genius level.
As a peer, Iguodala has been on the floor with Irving. As smart a player and as excellent a defender that Iguodala is, he trusts his basketball knowledge, instincts, and IQ more than the arbiters of any list.
For Iguodala, that’s what “better” means.
Thing is, most fans when they make the “better” arguments, want to talk about MVPs, All-Star appearances and championships. Those things matter. But when a player is talking about “better” he isn’t talking career resumé.
Iguodala’s three-point guards ahead of Irving (4th) in order are: Magic Johnson, Steph Curry and Isiah Thomas.
(They’re) the only guys that I will allow you to say are better than Kyrie. CP (Chris Paul), I’m not mad at, but I’ve got Kyrie. But people will argue that Kyrie hasn’t played enough games.
What about Irving’s current head coach and former two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash?
It’s not even nowhere close to Kyrie, and I like Steve. When I’m done playing, I’m going to unleash my basketball knowledge wrath on all these guys. I’m going to unleash it.
I don’t care about MVPs, because I can argue Chauncey Billups is better than Steve Nash. I can argue Mark Price was better than Steve Nash. Go back. We can watch some film. Steve Nash was nice, though.
When talking with players and the ones that are called “real hoopers,” MVPs and accolades are not the measuring stick they use. That’s for people like us to debate when we are writing the history of this great game and making anniversary teams.
Players respect the ability in between the lines on the hardwood, regardless of accolades earned.
People forget because they look at, you know (accolades). Kobe Bryant only had one MVP. Is Steve Nash better than him because he had two? So that’s the accolades part, you know? … Nah man, that doesn’t make you better.
Next time you’re engaged in a friendly debate about who is “better” make sure you’ve defined what “better” means.