Many sports pundits believe the NBA is in an era of positionless basketball. But some don’t realize this took place earlier in the days as well.
On Aug. 23, a video from Gilbert Arenas’ podcast Gil’s Arena went viral. During the video, former Washington Wizards star talked about the point guard position and made a case that Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James could be the greatest point guard of all time.
"“Magic [Johnson] was a small forward, shooting guard coming into the NBA,” Arenas said. “In his four years, he was the shooting guard. Norm Nixon was the point guard. When they moved Norm, they gave the ball to Magic because it was better played by a guy that size. So, he was your small forward who guarded the small forward but had the ball in his hands. And because he did what he did like Joker, they called him the point guard. That’s where the point forward comes in. So if you’re going to use Magic as the best point, I’m going to use LeBron. Now LeBron’s the number one point guard. Then they’ll be like ‘LeBron ain’t the point’. Well, he led his team in assists every year. So, you know, he has to be the best point guard of all time.”"
Arenas has echoed what many folks stated in the past.
James is primarily a small forward but due to his all-around abilities, he has played all five positions in his career. During his first year in the league, he played the shooting guard position and excelled in it as he averaged 20 points. In the 2019-20 season, he took over the point guard position for the first time in his career and averaged a league-best 10 assists. It goes to show how he can excel as a point guard as much as he does playing the forward position.
However, to say James is the best point guard of all time is a stretch. He is the fourth all-time leader in assists behind point guards John Stockton, Jason Kidd, and Chris Paul. But he’s also the league’s all-time leader in turnovers. During his career, he racked up a total of 4,966 turnovers but that’s a testament to how dedicated he is to getting his teammates involved.
Of course, James isn’t the only player to display positionless basketball.
When the Lakers drafted Magic Johnson in 1979, Norm Nixon was their official point guard. Because of that, head coach Jack McKinney placed Johnson in the shooting guard position, where he spent his first four years. In 1983, the Lakers decided to trade Nixon to the Los Angeles Clippers, giving Johnson full point guard responsibilities. Obviously, he succeeded as he averaged 12 assists a game, leading the league in that category three times. He is currently the NBA’s seventh all-time leader in total assists with 10,141.
This topic comes up two days after an interview with Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry. On Aug. 21, another video went viral from the Gil’s Arena podcast. In this video, Arenas asked Curry if he was the greatest point guard ever.
“Yes,” Curry simply said. “It’s me and Magic, that’s the conversation.”
While some would agree with Curry, most had an issue with it, including NBA legend Michael Jordan. On Wednesday, ESPN’s First Take host Stephen A. Smith reportedly got a text from Jordan, stating Johnson was the greatest point guard ever.
It’s safe to say Johnson holds the No. 1 slot in the “greatest point guard ever” debate. The only question is, who is No. 2?