NBA Saturday: Rankings, Lists, and Reporters Aren’t All That Bad

With lists and reporters credibility under fire, it’s important to remember that these are just subjective opinions.

Dennis Chambers profile picture
Updated 12 months ago on
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Every year when the NBA season is just around the corner, major media outlets look to drum up the conversation heading into opening night by releasing a list of the top players in the league for the upcoming campaign.

Nobody usually has any qualms with the very top. It most likely follows in some order of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, and then the rest of the league’s brightest stars follow suit.

However, every so often, an aging star will begin his fall from grace in a particular list, and people will rant and rave about the ridiculousness of where that guy landed.

Obviously, that’s the point.

Carmelo Anthony landed No. 64 on ESPN’s Top 100 Players list earlier this week, and Twitter lost its collective mind. It certainly didn’t help that rookie Lonzo Ball came in just one place ahead of Anthony, either. At this stage of his career, Anthony isn’t what he once was. It doesn’t help that the New York Knicks are somewhat of a dumpster fire, but nevertheless, Anthony is certainly on the back nine of his career. That being said, there still probably aren’t 63 better players than Anthony in the entire league. When push comes to shove, you know Melo is more than capable of getting your team a bucket.

But, again, that’s the point of these lists. To get people talking.

As soon as news of Anthony’s misplacement hit social media, everyone was up in arms. Players were scoffing at the disrespect on Twitter, writers and analysts chimed in as well, and even Melo had his own piece to say on the matter.

Amid all of the usual water cooler banter that takes place whenever a hot-button topic rises up like this one, Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum added his interesting two cents.

Granted, McCollum has a point that throughout the vast landscape that is sports reporting, there are definitely some watered down voices that all too often get their say, and in turn, diminish the reputation of the whole. But just because a vague ranking system that produced a hot-take list took over the news cycle on that particular day doesn’t automatically warrant the complete dismissal of what NBA reporters do.

Despite the obvious imperfections of ranking lists, there are some positive, and well thought out, pieces floating around the internet. Among these, Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 features the joint effort of Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney. Instead of just slapping on a fancy graphic and using some cherry-picked statistics like the list that had everyone on Twitter irate, Golliver and Mahoney take a deep dive, multiple paragraphs deep, into each player’s ranking and why they land where they do. Yes, while the position each player lands on the list is still subject to the opinion of Mahoney and Golliver, the two reporters take a sound approach to reach their conclusion and then relay that to the reader. It isn’t just, “Here’s the player, deal with it,” like the ESPN list tends to do, more or less. Another step further, Mahoney and Golliver attach their initials to each player they rank, ultimately holding themselves accountable for when someone on the internet digs up the list retroactively with 20/20 vision.


When a certain level of disagreement comes from a particular opinion of a reporter, or media outlet in this case, those in the accused or offended field always take immediate refuge behind the idea that their accusers’ opinion holds no weight because they’ve never competed at the highest level like the targeted athlete.

Yes, that is true, for the most part. Most reporters aren’t world class athletes. That’s probably why they’re reporters. But the narrative that they can’t be educated, or provide insight on whatever they’re reporting, is nonsense. At that rate, should felons be the only ones allowed to report on a crime beat? How about politicians reporting on the White House? Should we just let rain tell us the weather report every day?

See how ridiculous that sounds?

Boiled down to their core, rankings and lists are the epitome of subjectivity. Not everyone will always agree on every given opinion, that much is obvious. But in this day and age, there are still countless individuals and outlets that produce thoughtful opinion; seek them out. Griping over the differing judgement of a bad few, and in turn condemning the whole, helps no one.

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Dennis Chambers is an NBA writer in his first season with Basketball Insiders. Based out of Philadelphia he has previously covered NCAA basketball and high school recruiting.

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