With the baseball list, I didn't really take era into consideration too much: old timers were considered right alongside new timers. Old timers will be slightly penalized in this one just because the game has changed SO much (not that baseball hasn't, but it's a different degree). And I'll still be doing the greatest in all of franchise history, and then the greatest in the franchise's current iteration.
Atlanta Hawks: The greatest Hawk ever is Dominique Wilkins, with all due respect to Bob Pettit. This one's pretty close, so since Wilkins is the more current player, he gets the nod. Tough one right off the bat though.
Boston Celtics: This one's gotta be Bill Russell. As great as Larry Bird was, and as much as Bird is more recent, Russell was basically the best player on 11 championship teams. ELEVEN. Think about that. Geez Louise.
Brooklyn Nets: It kind of goes to Jason Kidd by default: the best player during the team's best era. Buck Williams has an argument, but it's gotta be Kidd.
In their current iteration as the Brooklyn Nets, their best player has probably actually been Joe Johnson. It's pretty much a toss-up between him and Deron Williams.
Charlotte Hornets: You guys remember the Bobcats? They're the Hornets now. WEIRD. I remember this team being good with P.J. Brown, Jamal Mashburn, Baron Davis, David Wesley...that was a cool team. I'm gonna go with Dell Curry, though, as their best ever player. Most points as a Hornet and one of the original dead-eye 3-point shooters.
Chicago Bulls: Despite that painfully corny commercial with Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan obviously.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Absolutely no contest. LeBron James now and forever. Second would be like Mark Price and I'm not kidding.
Dallas Mavericks: This team basically has one era of relevance, and it's the Dirk Nowitzki era. What a great player.
Denver Nuggets: A few guys could lay claim to this, but there's actually a pretty clear answer in my book: Hall of Famer Alex English. 25/6/4 for 10 seasons as a Nugget. Pretty great.
Detroit Pistons: Lots of great players but one stands heads and shoulders above the rest: Isiah Thomas. He's actually the leading scorer in Pistons history and obviously the top assists guy. Good.
Golden State Warriors: OMG STEPH CURRY IS TRANSCENDENT shut up every basketball blogger. Rick Barry's ornery underhand free throw ass is a reasonably safe pick for this. Wilt Chamberlain has a great case actually, and Paul Arizin might really deserve it. But Rick, in my opinion, accomplished the most as a Warrior. This one's tough though.
Houston Rockets: Lots of great players made significant stops in Houston in their careers, but Hakeem Olajuwon is the only one who stayed for long enough to be the greatest. My favorite non-Celtics player of all time.
Indiana Pacers: He's a bit overrated because he had MOMENTS, but Reggie Miller is the very clear winner here. I loved Reggie as a player, but he's easily the worst commentator. Ugh.
Los Angeles Clippers: Is there something to be said for being the best player on a consistently bad team? Or should these go to the best players on the best versions of these teams? This is a tough one. None of the players in the running have spent more than 7 years with the team. Bob McAdoo killed it for 4 years on the Buffalo Braves, but they were mostly pretty bad. Randy Smith played well for the team for 9 years, but again, during an era where they mostly sucked. The same can be said for Elton Brand's seven-year tenure. I'm gonna go with Blake Griffin. The team has been good, he's an excellent young player, and he's not likely to go anywhere. Boy oh boy.
Los Angeles Lakers: It's either Kobe or Magic. Sure, there's Kareem to consider, and even Jerry West doesn't have a terrible case, but Kobe or Magic are your choices. I'm going with Magic Johnson for a couple of reasons. Kobe was not the best player on the Lakers for the first three championships, and Magic was the best player for all 5 of his. Magic also always made everyone around him better, and I'm sorry, Kobe has not. Kobe's definitely the better scorer, but Magic's the better player. And I'm sticking to it.
Memphis Grizzlies: This is a relatively new team, and its current run of being good is its longest. The best player for this organization, however, was Pau Gasol. He is their all-time leading scorer and the guy who finally led them to the playoffs. Maybe Mike Conley will take this crown eventually, but Pau was that good when he was there.
Miami Heat: YOOOOOO TOUGH ONE. I guess you gotta pick Dwyane Wade. Wade has been a huge part of all 3 championships, but arguably the second-best player on all those teams. But you can't pick LeBron. Can you? I guess you can't.
Milwaukee Bucks: This one goes to big Lew, Kareem Abdul-Jabar. When I think of great Bucks I think of Ray Allen or even Michael Redd, but that's too much recency bias. This is a really easy one.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Garnett and it ain't even CLOSE SON. And now he's back. He'll always be a Celtic to me. Stay crazy KG. But don't kill anyone.
New Orleans Pelicans: I mean, this used to be the Charlotte Hornets, right? This is so confusing. Because like...yeah idk. Let's just go with Chris Paul and say we're starting from when this team moved to New Orleans.
And the greatest Pelican has been Anthony Davis.
New York Knicks: Another classic case of a team having a clear heyday but also having a great player outside that heyday. But since none of the heyday guys are that close to Patrick Ewing, that big sweaty ass pig gets the nod.
Oklahoma City Thunder: I think it's a testament to how great Kevin Durant has been that no one from the Sonics really surpasses him. Gary Payton definitely has a case, but with all due respect, Durant's been unbelievable.
Orlando Magic: Sort of by default, this is Dwight Howard. He's a defensive monster and actually the team's all-time leading scorer. Hard to argue for a guy like Shaq or Penny Hardaway or Grant Hill over that.
Philadelphia 76ers: This one comes down to Iverson or Dr. J. I think just from playing a lot more games, I have to go with Allen Iverson. I feel like a EDGY BLOGGY BLOGGER doing that, but it's probably actually true. I'm definitely not giving enough props to Hall of Famer Hal Greer, and that's definitely because of recency bias, but also because, for real, he wasn't the best player on his team for a lot of the time. Wilt Chamberlain was his teammate. So yeah, AI it is. I guess.
Phoenix Suns: I can't just give this to Steve Nash because I like him. This one is actually The Mayor, Kevin Johnson. While Nash certainly had a higher height than Johnson, KJ is actually the third-all-time leading scorer for the Suns, and has more assists per game as a Sun than Nash does (certainly this is because Nash didn't really play much in his first two years in the league as a Sun, but still true).
Portland Trail Blazers: The temptation here is to give it to Bill Walton, and there's absolutely a case to be made for him. I have to go with Clyde Drexler though. At his height as a Blazer, he was having years that look like LeBron James's career line, which very few guys can claim. 11 seasons as a Blazer and 8 times an All-Star with Portland. As talented and great as Walton was, Drexler really has to take this one.
Sacramento Kings: That team that lost to the Lakers is still, I think, one of the best teams I've ever seen that didn't make a Finals. Just so stacked. But I can't go with that era. This one goes to all-time great Oscar Robertson of the Cincinnati Royals.
The best Sacramento King is Chris Webber, though Mitch Richmond has a sneaky good case.
San Antonio Spurs: No debate here: Tim Duncan and nobody's surprised.
Toronto Raptors: As sexy of a pick as Vince Carter would be, it really is Chris Bosh. Crazy that all of Miami's Big 3 are the greatest players in different franchise's histories.
Utah Jazz: John Stockton has the most assists ever by far, but they gave out assists back then like Oprah gives out cars (probably the worst simile in blog history). And someone's gotta put the ball in the basket. It's Karl Malone. Sorry white people who love assists.
Washington Wizards: This is a team that's never really had a heyday. I'm torn between two Hall of Famers that no one thinks about too much anymore: Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld. I'm gonna go with Wes Unseld because he was with the Bullets for longer, and he's one of the handful of guys who has a legitimate claim to the title of greatest rebounder ever (Bill Russell, Dennis Rodman, Moses Malone, and maybe a couple of others are also in the running).
And the greatest actual Wizard? John Wall is nice, but it's Gilbert Arenas people. For real.
This was not easy. I gotta be honest with you. This was not easy. Let the flame wars begin.