The battle over the best players in NBA history spans generations. While many fans will debate Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James, there’s also a neverending discussion about whether or not the pioneers of the NBA should count when it comes to compiling the list of best players in league history.

While players like Georgia Mikan, Bob Pettit, Oscar Robertson, and Jerry West are considered some of the greatest to play the game, many wondered if those players would be considered good had they played the kind of game that modern NBA stars contend with. Specifically, if they had to measure up with the NBA players of the 1980s, 1990s, or today’s game, would they still be great?

That was at the heart of today’s discussion on First Take when JJ Redick joined Stephen A. Smith and Chris Russo on the topic of Chris Paul and where he ranks among the best point guards in NBA history. Russo, an admirer of the old NBA days, brings up Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy, who played in the league from 1950 to 1970, winning six champions with the squad.

While Cousy is fondly remembered as one of the pioneers of the NBA and one of its best all-time players, Redick was not buying what Russo was selling.

“Let’s celebrate Bob Cousy in his era, but you cannot compare pre-1980 with the modern NBA,” said Redick.

“Oh yes you can,” responded Russo, who then laid out his bona fides, specifically citing one stat that he thought might sway the former NBA player.”

“He also had 29 assists in an NBA game,” said Russo.”

“Well, he was being guarded by plumbers and firemen,” Redick chided him and smirked.

“That is true,” chimed in Smith, who had been watching all of this play out from the sidelines.

One of the most interesting parts of the way NBA folks reacted to the clip is that many of them saw themselves siding with Redick, which felt strange considering he was among the many Duke basketball players that so many people loved to hate. And they noted that in their reactions.

JJ’s stock keeps growing amongst NBA and, seemingly, in the eyes of ESPN. And it’s appearances like this that will keep him in everyone’s good graces, except many Russo.

[First Take, AA]

About Sean Keeley

Sean Keeley is the creator of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and author of 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and many other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle. Send tips/comments/complaints to