Analysts and fans can often differ when it comes to ranking all time greats.
Sometimes they align, like when it comes to Jordan and Lebron, analysts and fans generally agree that these two players are at the top.
However, other times there may be a lot of disparity.
The most obvious example is Kobe Bryant (overrated by fans).
Kobe has usually been ranked in the 8-12 range by analysts. Fans usually rank him in the top 5.
This is because analytics are heavily weighed towards efficiency, and Kobe was infamously an inefficient player. Advanced analytics are not kind to him at all.
One of the websites I follow the most is BoxScoreGeeks ^ who uses a Win Produced formula. In each of Kobe’s seasons, he has NEVER been a top 5 player in any of his seasons. This is contrary to what fans think – that he was the best player in most of his seasons and robbed of MVPs etc. From the analyst perspective, there’s at least 5–10 better players than Kobe in any season that he played in.
Amongst players often considered in the top 25, Kobe has the lowest WS/48 (0.17) out of any of them except for John Havlicek. He also has the lowest PER (22.9) out of any of them except for John Havlicek and Bill Russell. (add Bob Cousy, Rick Barry and Scottie Pippen to those lists if you think they are top 25). Kobe also has the lowest TS% out of any guard in the top 25 except for once again, John Havlicek.
This, combined with his 1 MVP, contributes to why analysts have him ranked often far below where fans rank him. Fans rank him highly based on their emotional connection to him and his popularity beyond the basketball court, analysts just look at his how productive he was on the court.
Let’s look at some other players that have a big disparity between fans and analysts:
George Mikan (underrated by fans) – ranked quite highly by analytics actually. Did you know that Mikan’s PER of 27 is higher than any player except Michael Jordan and Lebron James? Did you know his 0.249 WS/48 is higher than any player except Michael Jordan and David Robinson? Mikan is dismissed by the general public because well, he played in the 50s. But put it this way.. Mikan was basically the Wilt + Russell combined during his era. He absolutely dominated. He was averaging 28 PPG in a pre-shot clock era where teams only scored like 50 total, and he had 5 rings in 6 seasons.
Artis Gilmore (underrated by fans) – for a man with a TS% of 62.3% (higher than anyone except Steph Curry), a PER (21.4) higher than Bill Russell, more points (25k) than Kevin Durant, more rebounds (16k) than Tim Duncan, he really doesn’t get talked about much does he?
Chris Paul (underrated by fans) – CP3 is a player that fans don’t like very much because of his perceived choking in the playoffs (actually more due to injuries and bad luck), and his perceived attitude. The man has a TS% (58.2) higher than Dirk Nowitzki, a PER (25.7) higher than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and a WS/48 (0.241) higher than Lebron James. Advanced analytics love CP3. I think he’s one of the biggest examples of a player that had his career gone a bit differently, would have been considered greater than Curry and Oscar but because of certain circumstances like not being on the right teams or being injured at the wrong times, often accepts a much lower ranking than he probably deserves.
Dwight Howard (underrated by fans) – Obviously don’t need to say much about why fans underrate him. He’s not a well liked player. He even got snubbed from the NBA’s 75 list because of his reputation. Advanced analytics like him. His TS% (60) is higher than Kareem, his PER (21.7) higher than Bill Russell, His WS/48 of 0.172 is higher than Kobe’s. I mean that’s just wild isn’t it? By the analytics, he adds more wins to his team than Kobe does per game, and you won’t find a person on earth that would say that Dwight is better than Kobe.
David Robinson (underrated by fans) – Fans still think Robinson is great, but not as great as Hakeem. But according to the analytics, he is. His 58.3% TS% beats Hakeem by a healthy 3% and his 26.2 PER beats everyone not named Jordan, Mikan and Lebron. His 0.250 WS/48 is tied for the highest all time with Michael Jordan. So yeah according to the analytics, he’s one of the top 10 greatest players ever. That’s a big discrepancy from the common perception.
Allen Iverson (overrated by fans) – Well we all knew this was coming. Iverson is not liked by analytics. He’s not very efficient. In the top 50 players, only Isiah Thomas, Bob Cousy and Jason Kidd have a worse TS% (51.8%). Even Westbrook beats him out in TS% (ouch). His PER of 20.9 is good but not outstanding.. George Gervin edges him out here. His WS/48 of 0.126 is actually pretty atrocious. players like Chauncey Billups, Kyrie Irving.. even freaking Tiny Archibald edges him out in this category. Why do fans love Iverson? Similar to Kobe. They have a legacy beyond the basketball court and fans have an emotional connection to him, more relatable, etc
Isiah Thomas (overrated by fans) – Similar to Iverson, Isiah isn’t an efficient player and thus not well liked by analytics. He has a similar TS% to Iverson (51.6%), and his PER of 18.1 is just slightly above average. Guards like Sam Jones and Tony Parker have a higher PER – nobody would put them over Isiah. His WS/48 of 0.109 is abysmal and even worse than Iverson’s. It is hands down the worst out of all the consensus top 50 players. I have to go all the way down my list to Jo Jo White to find a hall of fame guard that has a worse WS/48. Why is he rated highly by fans? I think it’s the whole ‘leader of the Bad Boy Pistons’ thing where they give Isiah the lion’s share of the credit on that team, which beat Jordan, Magic and Bird so they attribute most of that success to Isiah (probably in error but oh well). And oh yeah, the whole Stockton vs Isiah thing isn’t close according to the analytics. Stockton is 10% more efficient and has double the WS/48.
Neil Johnston (underrated by fans) – Welcome to a player next to no one on here probably even heard of. He was the best center in between George Mikan and Bill Russell. He led the league in scoring three times. He was the second best player on a championship team (alongside Paul Arizin on the 1955 Warriors). He also has a ridiculous WS/48 of 0.241 which bests everyone in the top 50 not named Chris Paul, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and George Mikan. Interesting right? And fans dont talk about him because he’s from the 50s and thus virtually unknown.
Pete Maravich (overrated by fans) – fans always credit his amazing scoring and flashiness but he has a TS% of 50% which is low for a guard – only guards from the 50s like Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman would have worse. His PER of 18.4 is only slightly above average, just like Isiah’s. His WS/48 of 0.092 is crazy low and matched only by Dave Debusschere out of the NBA top 75 players. It’s notable that Pistol Pete’s teams never won when he scored in a high volume, not even when he was in college averaging those crazy scoring numbers.
Jason Kidd (TS%, PER, WS/48 all lower than Tony Parker), Bill Russell (47.1% TS% is lower than any non 50s all time great, PER of 18.9 only slightly above average, WS/48 is good but not top 10 level good), Elvin Hayes (also comically low TS%, PER and WS/48 for a player of his caliber), Elgin Baylor (great PER but low TS% and WS/48), Bob Cousy (he played in the 50s.. only a handful of players had better than 45% TS% in that era), Dave Cowens (low TS%, average PER and mediocre WS/48), Dave Debusschere (low TS%, PER and WS/48 across the board) and John Havlicek (mediocre TS%, PER and WS/48) are other players on the NBA 75th anniversary team that analytics don’t seem to like very much.
Now I’m not saying analytics should be 100% the factor into making any ranking – as you can see it’s very biased towards efficient players and doesn’t account for defensive value well, which explains why guys like Bill Russell, Jason Kidd, Dave Debusschere, Dave Cowens, Elvin Hayes, John Havlicek etc are not well liked by analytics, but it’s just something interesting about how they affect some of these all time players.