The Greatest Of All Time: A Term That Should Not Be Used In Team Sports


Over the last two to three decades, sports pundits have been on a quest to determine which athlete is deserving of the moniker greatest of all time. For instance, Emmanuel Altenor formerly of Bleacher Report stated that we’ve seen many great players throughout NBA history “but which players in the game’s history stand out above the rest?”. However, one can argue that it is impossible to determine who is the greatest of all time because a substantial amount of players were subjected to different systems and responsibilities. Those responsibilities fundamentally altered how they approached their respective sport. A perfect example of this is Jason Kidd and Chris Paul; they are regarded as two of the greatest point guards in NBA history. Unfortunately, it is impossible to accurately compare them because they spent the majority of their careers in two different systems.

Jason Kidd

Throughout the NBA career of Jason Kidd, he had to play in offensive systems centered around ball movement. During his tenure with the New Jersey Nets, Kidd would bring the basketball up to the three-point line and passes the basketball to a big man in the high post area. Once this happened, the big man would analyze the defense to determine the next course of action. For instance, if the defense double covers the player posting up in the low post, he would enter a dribble handoff with a perimeter player. On the other hand, if the defense single covers the player posting up in the low post, he would dump the ball into the low block to start the process of shooting the ball. Another example of this is his tenure with the Phoenix Suns, Kidd would bring the ball up to the three-point line and pass the basketball to a teammate. Once this happens, the teammate will analyze how the defender chooses to defend him. If the defender gives him space, he will shoot the mid-range jumper.  On the other hand, if the defender plays him tight, the teammate will give the ball to another player who is going to restart the process of analyzing the defender. The process would continue until they found an open shot or the shot clock wound down. Due to this, Jason Kidd found himself standing behind the three-point line as a bystander or running all over the court trying to get open. The only time Jason had an opportunity to dominate the game was when the opposing team missed a shot. Once this happened, his team got the rebound and gave the ball to him to start the process of a fast break. During the fast break, Jason Kidd threw an outlet pass down court or ran down the middle of the court to get the attention of the defense. If this occurs, he will look to kick the basketball out to one of the players running down the wing.  On the other hand, if it doesn’t happen, he will continue driving to the basket looking to get around the defender for an open shot or draw a foul.



Chris Paul

On the other hand, Chris Paul got the opportunity to play in offensive systems centered around the pick and roll as well as post ups. For instance, Paul would bring the ball up to the three-point line and then a big man would set a screen. Once the pick was set Paul would pay attention to his defender to determine the next course of action, for instance, if the defender went under the screen, Paul would go over it and take the wide open shot. On the other hand, if the defender went over the screen, Paul would go over it as well and drive towards the basket where he would score or pass the ball to the player next to him or to the perimeter depending on whether he was double teamed or not. However there were instances where Chris Paul would throw the ball into the mid to low block for a post up. For instance, Chris would bring the ball up to the three-point line and passes it to another perimeter player. The second perimeter player would immediately give the ball to him to dump it into the low post.  Once that happens, the big man will attempt to back down the defender with one of his shoulders to get within comfortable range to shoot a jump hook. Another example of this is when Paul would bring the basketball up to the three-point line and passes the basketball to a big man in the high post area. Once this happened, the big man would analyze the defense to determine the next course of action. For instance,  If the defender gave him a few feet of space, he would pull up to shoot the wide-open mid-range jumper. On the other hand, if the defender played him tight, he will attempt to drive towards the basket for an easy basket, to draw a foul or attract a double team.


Due to the difference in systems, Chris Paul has averaged more points and assists per game than Jason Kidd during his career. According to Basketball-Reference,  Paul averages 18.7 points per game and 9.8 assists per game. On the other hand, Kidd averaged 12.6 points per game and 8.7 assists per game. As a result, people should only compare great players who played the same position in the same system.