But what you can look at somewhat more objectively is this - who had the best career? Based upon what people thought of him at the time and the championships he won, what do the numbers tell us.
You need to set some arbitrary cutoffs. One good starting cutoff point I have found is 10-times all-NBA. You were great, and you were great for over a decade or more.
You can use the list I have cut and pasted below of guys to see the guys who were all-NBA at least 10 times. Admittedly the list leaves off George Mikan (short career) but you have to do some cutting somewhere. There are 22 guys who were on the all-NBA 1st, 2nd or 3rd teams at least 10 times.
At this point, you arguably have the top 22 careers of all time. Then you need to create some rule to cut down from 22.
It makes sense to me that you would next cut loose the guys who never had an MVP season, since the voters during their time as a player never viewed them ever to be the best player in the league even once. (Or at least, as was the case with Karl Malone, voters never felt that even though the guy wasn't the best player that he "deserved" the award anyway). So - we lose Schayes, West, Havlicek, Stockton, and Baylor.
17 left. Then you have to find some way to cut down the list further. Admittedly, here I am just creating an arbitrary rule, but I will eliminate the guys whose First Team all-NBA selections plus MVPs do not add up to 8. This eliminates Dirk, Hakeem, Barkley, and David Robinson. (these names seem to justify my arbitrary rule - outstanding players, just not top 10 guys).
13 left. Here are those 13 with their "First Team+MVP" number:
Karl Malone 13
Those are the 13 greatest careers in NBA history just using a numbering system and not actually watching them play.
Now, that only gets you to the 13 best regular season players, so you would have to evaluate the playoff performance of each guy and see how he did in the playoffs. One way to do that would be to give 2 points for each title won.
This would hurt Karl Malone (0 points) and Pettit and Oscar (2 points each). Everyone else has at least 4 points added, Russell has 22 added.
So, your best 10 NBA careers of all time would be:
10. Wilt 16 points
9. Shaq 17 points
8. Bird 18 points
7. Duncan 19 points
6. Kobe 21 points
5. Magic 22 points
4. Bob Cousy 23 points
and your top 3, with a signifcant margin over the rest:
3. Michael Jordan 27 points
2. Kareem 28 points
1. Bill Russell 30 points
So - 5 Lakers, 2 old Celtics, Bird-MJ, and Tim Duncan.
Creating actual "teams" by position would be hard:
Kareem, Russell (PF), Bird(SF), Jordan (SG), and Cousy (PG)
Shaq (C), Duncan, no small forward, Kobe, and Magic (PG).
Wilt is your 10th man, and you would probably pick Oscar and Pettit off the bench to get to 12 guys. (Sorry, Karl).
Where would LeBron's career rank? Well, assuming he is 1st team all-NBA twice more, that would get him on the regular season list. He would have a First Team plus MVP number of 11 (8+3) and would be a top 11 all-time regular season player. But without a title he falls out of contention for a top 10 overall career spot. LeBron, even with two more First Team wins, would have only 11 points in the scoring system. To reach Wilt's 16 points, James would need either 5 more First-Team-Plus-MVP points (a very hard thing to do, even for him) or he needs to start getting titles.
The chart referred to above (from Wikipedia).
|#||Player||Total||First Team||Second Team||Third Team||Most valuable player|
|&100000000000000010000001||Abdul-Jabbar, KareemKareem Abdul-Jabbar*||15||10||5||0||6|
|&100000000000000020000002||Bryant, KobeKobe Bryant^||14||10||2||2||1|
|&100000000000000030000003||Malone, KarlKarl Malone*||14||11||2||1||2|
|&100000000000000040000004||O'Neal, ShaquilleShaquille O'Neal||14||8||2||4||1|
|&100000000000000050000005||Duncan, TimTim Duncan^||13||9||3||1||2|
|&100000000000000060000006||Cousy, BobBob Cousy*||12||10||2||0||1|
|&100000000000000070000007||Nowitzki, DirkDirk Nowitzki^||12||4||5||3||1|
|&100000000000000080000008||Olajuwon, HakeemHakeem Olajuwon*||12||6||3||3||1|
|&100000000000000090000009||Schayes, DolphDolph Schayes*||12||6||6||0||0|
|&1000000000000001000000010||West, JerryJerry West*||12||10||2||0||0|
|&1000000000000001100000011||Barkley, CharlesCharles Barkley*||11||5||5||1||1|
|&1000000000000001200000012||Havlicek, JohnJohn Havlicek*||11||4||7||0||0|
|&1000000000000001300000013||Jordan, MichaelMichael Jordan*||11||10||1||0||5|
|&1000000000000001400000014||Pettit, BobBob Pettit*||11||10||1||0||2|
|&1000000000000001500000015||Robertson, OscarOscar Robertson*||11||9||2||0||1|
|&1000000000000001600000016||Russell, BillBill Russell*||11||3||8||0||5|
|&1000000000000001700000017||Stockton, JohnJohn Stockton*||11||2||6||3||0|
|&1000000000000001800000018||Baylor, ElginElgin Baylor*||10||10||0||0||0|
|&1000000000000001900000019||Bird, LarryLarry Bird*||10||9||1||0||3|
|&1000000000000002000000020||Chamberlain, WiltWilt Chamberlain*||10||8||2||0||4|
|&1000000000000002100000021||Johnson, MagicMagic Johnson*||10||9||1||0||3|
|&10000000000000022022||Robinson, DavidDavid Robinson*||10||4||2||4||1|