Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time?

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Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time? 

Post#1 » by No-more-rings » Sun May 2, 2021 2:20 pm

It seems Bird is pretty universally regarded as the superior player. Bird is the better passer obviously, but West is a really good passer himself and is easily a better playoff scorer and reputation wise is better on defense. I don’t see a meaningful difference in longevity either. Are rings and narrative the main reason Bird is seen as better?
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Re: Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time? 

Post#2 » by HeartBreakKid » Sun May 2, 2021 2:30 pm

Rings and he played in a more commercial era.
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Re: Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time? 

Post#3 » by 70sFan » Sun May 2, 2021 2:30 pm

Yes, I do think West has reasonable case over Bird. He's better defensive player and comparable offensive player with higher playoff resiliance. West main problem is durability, but Bird isn't clearly better in this aspect. I also like post-prime seasons from West.

That said, I usually rank Bird slightly higher.
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Re: Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time? 

Post#4 » by migya » Sun May 2, 2021 4:38 pm

Jerry West is comparable with most of the usually top ten rated players. He didn't get that many championships but got to the finals many times so he had team success. Really is arguably at Bird's level.
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Re: Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time? 

Post#5 » by Dutchball97 » Sun May 2, 2021 4:41 pm

It's not insane to argue for West over Bird but I do have Bird a couple spots ahead on the All-Time list.
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Re: Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time? 

Post#6 » by Odinn21 » Sun May 2, 2021 5:40 pm

I think we're a bit too swamped with arguing over the usual 11 suspects. However the players right near those 11, especially West and Oscar are incredibly close and I feel like even though their rankings are still quite high, in terms of tiers and recognizing actual sustained level over time, we've started to underrate them for a while. The 2 have pretty solid cases to be top 10 ever, that means they also have good, reasonable cases over Magic and Bird.
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Re: Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time? 

Post#7 » by Doctor MJ » Sun May 2, 2021 5:42 pm

No-more-rings wrote:It seems Bird is pretty universally regarded as the superior player. Bird is the better passer obviously, but West is a really good passer himself and is easily a better playoff scorer and reputation wise is better on defense. I don’t see a meaningful difference in longevity either. Are rings and narrative the main reason Bird is seen as better?


To your title: Yes, West absolutely has a reasonable case over Bird.

Now, I have to acknowledge that I've literally always ranked Bird over West, but the more I've come to know about West, the tougher thee debate has gotten.

Re: Rings and narrative the main reason? I suppose you could say that, but I think it's important to try to understand what the people saw that led to the narrative. Simply put: The moment Bird arrived in the NBA, people started saying he was the best to ever play the game.

Now, we of an analytical bent scoff at such praise because we can see the weaknesses in Bird's game, but what were they getting so excited about? Well, if you haven't watched some Bird highlights in a while, it's never a bad time to watch Larry Legend.

To me he's perhaps the most unique player of all time. Hyper-aware, hyper-fast mental reaction time, profound ability to see "what will happen next", great motor when he's young, natural passer, perhaps the most natural shooter of all time...and works primarily off-ball. WTF?

I'd argue we've never really seen anyone in the same category as Bird just as a type of player. He just played the game his own way.

Not to leave out West:

With the Logo, I see a guy who is forever making me think, "Wow, he's got that going for him too?!". To me he's a coaches dream. Many, many different skills, a very quick study, hard worker, willing and able to adapt to a new coach's scheme, willing to take something of a backseat, but always able to carry the offense when the duty calls, and defensively, arms for days.
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Re: Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time? 

Post#8 » by Cavsfansince84 » Sun May 2, 2021 6:06 pm

I think there's a few guys in the 11-15 range with a case for the 9-10 spots. West definitely being one of them. More specifically as it pertains to Bird, I think West's playoff performances make it sort of easy to get behind him(though I still have Bird higher). I recently watched that 1969 finals game 7 4th quarter video that someone posted in some thread and the Lakers came back from being 17 pts down and West just took over that game while the Celtics really almost choked that 17 pt lead away. Jones fouling out early in the 4th seemed to really take the wind out of their offense. West with a 3 pt line is probably enough to win a couple more titles for his teams.
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Re: Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time? 

Post#9 » by Jaivl » Sun May 2, 2021 8:24 pm

Sure, but I don't think it's a very convincing one (if talking about career).
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Re: Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time? 

Post#10 » by Cavsfansince84 » Sun May 2, 2021 8:48 pm

migya wrote:Jerry West is comparable with most of the usually top ten rated players. He didn't get that many championships but got to the finals many times so he had team success. Really is arguably at Bird's level.


I think the whole narrative of close but not quite in terms of his finals record and mvp voting(he was 2nd like 4-5 times in that as well) really made him take a backseat to Wilt and Russell in his career which carries over to how we view him now. Had West won 3 rings instead of 1 I think the perception of him changes a lot.
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Re: Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time? 

Post#11 » by jamaalstar21 » Sun May 2, 2021 9:06 pm

On most rankings that I think are smart, West usually pops up anywhere from 9-15, and Bird anywhere from 5-11. On these list (the smart ones!), out of the consensus top 10 (Bird, Wilt, Jordan, Lebron, KAJ, Magic, Shaq, Hakeem, Bird, Duncan), Bird is the one who I most see getting kicked out for someone's favorite player (West, KG, Big O, Kobe). Injuries negated any post-prime Bird years that probably would have been great, and some people don't like his on-ball scoring durability in the playoffs.

I think any of those cuspy top 10 guys (Kobe, KG, West, Big O, Dr. J, Dirk, David Robinson, Malone, Curry) deserve at least a fair case against Bird. The back injury kind of stopped his resume from being ironclad. But I don't find it offensive to take anyone from the second group and make a case over the first group. Maybe Karl Malone over Jordan might be a stretch, but I'll listen lol. Anyone who played before the 80s is a little punished in some ways.

The same thing I value highly in Bird's game (scalability, skill, versatility, smarts, toughness) are things I value about West. They'd both benefit from the 3-point line. Bird was so much bigger, and an insane passer (West was a very good passer, but I don't think this is a contest). West was quicker, and didn't have Bird's defensive limitations (though both were demons on that end in terms of helping and mucking things up). West was a more physical force in terms of getting to the line, and that made him a more durable playoff scorer.

Overall, I think most of these elite players have "a reasonable case" over each other.
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Re: Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time? 

Post#12 » by lebron3-14-3 » Sun May 2, 2021 10:16 pm

Yes, I think he absolutely does, I also consider West to be the most underrated all time great player ever in usual rankings. He's probably the best offensive player of the pre 3 point era and one of the best defenders of the 60s/best defensive guards ever, he was incredible in the playoffs, and, compared to bird, he was even more longeve adjusting for eras. I think that he has a good above larry, hakeem, magic and duncan, between guys who are always put above him, and maybe also wilt
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Re: Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time? 

Post#13 » by LukaTheGOAT » Mon May 3, 2021 7:51 pm

Yes, yes, I have been preaching the idea of West>Bird for a few months now. I just have West one spot ahead of Bird all-time, so I think they are close.

I think Bird peaked higher probably in 84 and 86, when he was healthy and I think his scoring was on point. The era Bird played in I think was potentially more conducive for offense and the value of playmking really started to arise based on studies that Ben Taylor has done.

However, they both had their issues with injuries, but I think West was a much more consistent PS performer. He had nutty volume efficiency for his time. He reminds me of a Steph who was an All-NBA level defender (not an exact comparison but you get the idea).
I think West is a top 6 scorer ever, and that mixed with defense, and good passing, is enough to take him over Bird all-time. But once again, I think it can go either way.
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Re: Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time? 

Post#14 » by Tim Lehrbach » Tue May 4, 2021 1:43 am

I always appreciate questions like this here because they call attention to the truth about all-time rankings and tiers: they are very hard to definitively defend. We should always consider the placement of players on GOAT lists to be tentative, unavoidably subjective, and necessarily open to revision.

Jerry West and Larry Bird are two of the greatest players to ever lace 'em up, and anything more definite than that about their standing vis-a-vis each other and amongst the other greats is just really hard to agree upon.
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Re: Does Jerry West have a reasonable case over Larry Bird all time? 

Post#15 » by Outside » Tue May 4, 2021 3:57 pm

I'm in the same boat as several others here. There is absolutely an argument for West over Bird.

Clear advantages for West over Bird are defense and playoff performance. Advantages for Bird are titles, MVPs, and narrative (Bird-Magic, 80s Celtics-Lakers "saving" the league). West probably also gets downgraded for era, where, rightly or wrongly, most people don't consider the quality of play as good during the 60s.

Like most others, I have Bird slightly higher on my list, but if I'm allowed to follow my preference and group players in tiers, they are both in the my 1A tier, just below the GOAT tier.

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