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Jerry West

We are missing sports. Now that we have no live sporting events, the national networks are filling the time by showing old games. They are also making lists.

Every network and publication is stimulating sports conversation by listing the “best of this” and the “best of that.” Earlier this week I saw a post on social media asking people to rank the best NBA ball-handlers of all time. Former Kanawha Valley basketball star Jason Williams was on the 10-player list along with names such as Pete Maravich, Chris Paul and Isaiah Thomas.

Recently in honor of the NBA’s 74th year, the NBA came out with a list of the 74 best players in NBA history. The list includes current and former players. Judging from emails and phone calls that I have received, ESPN’s ranking is not very popular in the Mountain State.

The top 20 looks like this:

1. Michael Jordan

2. LeBron James

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

4. Bill Russell

5. Magic Johnson

6. Wilt Chamberlain

7. Larry Bird

8. Tim Duncan

9. Kobe Bryant

10. Shaquille O’Neal

11. Oscar Robertson

12. Hakeem Olajuwon

13. Steph Curry

14. Kevin Durant

15. Julius Erving

16. Jerry West

17. Karl Malone

18. Moses Malone

19. Dirk Nowitzki

20. Kevin Garnett

Most in our state do not feel the ESPN ranking gives enough credit to West Virginia’s favorite son Jerry West. The fact that West is ranked 16th, and not in the top 10, seems to rankle most Mountaineers.

Like many in our state, I grew up in the 1960s idolizing Jerry West and the L.A. Lakers even though they were 3,000 miles away. However, if I am being objective, I am not sure who West would replace on this list. The level of talent and accomplishments of the players are unbelievable.

Many older fans might also feel that West’s contemporary, Oscar Robertson, might also be ranked too low. I am guessing the panel put a great deal of weight to numbers of championships won. West’s Lakers kept running into the Celtics dynasty in the finals, and he only won one championship as a player. Robertson’s Cincinnati Royals ran into the same Celtics in the Eastern Conference playoffs and he also only won one NBA title. That came with the Milwaukee Bucks after they drafted a young Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

One of the issues with this list is that not much respect is given to the older players. The NBA’s first great forward, Bob Petit, was only ranked 38th. The league’s first great point guard, Bob Cousy was ranked 41st. Cousy played on six NBA championship teams. The NBA’s first great “big man” George Mikan is ranked 34th, but there is no mention of older legends such as Gus Johnson, Walt Bellamy, Hal Greer or Sam Jones. All four players are in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Contact Frank Giardina at