As he is wont to do, Draymond Green caused a bit of a stir within the basketball world with his recent comments regarding his personal ranking amongst the pantheon of the NBA’s all-time elite defenders. As a guest on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Dubs Talk podcast, Green was asked to elaborate on which current players he finds to be the best defensive stoppers throughout the association. After lightly praising one of his peers (Ben Simmons) and further claiming that there are solid defenders all around the league, Green chimed in with an opinion that rivals but ultimately dwarfs LeBron James’ “hardest championships” take as the hottest take of the NBA season:
"“I think I’m the best defender to ever play this game… One-hundred percent, that’s my opinion. But I also think I view the game a lot differently than most people view the game. I think I just see it from a different perspective. I think when you look at the things that make a great defender: reaction time, toughness, being able to see the picture long before it develops, and most importantly, in order to finish a defensive possession, you’ve got to rebound. And I think I rebound well. And so when I look at all the facets that make up the defensive side of the ball, I’m think I’m great in every facet. So I’m think I’m the best defender to ever play in the NBA. I’ll stand by that. I’ll put myself up against anyone.”"
Naturally, as Twitter users are similarly wont to do, many dragged the five-time All-NBA defender into a social media maelstrom upon the publishing of Draymond’s dogmatic comments. After all, nobody is safe on the bird app—especially when it comes to the NBA’s tiny island within the sprawling digital world.
Yet amongst the many social media marauders, the most notable came in the form of another All-NBA defender. The heart and soul of the Memphis Grizzlies’ ‘grit and grind’ era, Tony Allen was widely revered as the best perimeter defender in the NBA for at least a handful of seasons. Allen, like Draymond Green, has equally never been one to muzzle a bark, so upon catching wind of Green’s comments, the all-too-experienced Allen chimed in as only the most confident of trash-talkers know-how:
After a swift reply from the Warriors stalwart—one in which Draymond wisely clapped back at Allen before unnecessarily mentioning his first championship victory because, well, I don’t really know why, exactly?—Allen doubled down on his comments by toe-tagging and stuffing Green into a proverbial body bag:
Following Draymond Green’s lofty self-praise and Tony Allen’s blazing response, we rank the five best defenders in NBA history. Sorry in advance, Draymond.
While the two alpha dogs certainly provided an afternoons-worth of entertainment via their through-the-fence snarling, the question that started it all still remained:
Who really is the best defender in NBA history?
The question, though so concise, is not an easy one. There are simply too many factors. From wingspan to athleticism, from versatility to IQ, from motivation to sheer tenacity, the list of coveted defensive characteristics is seemingly boundless. Unsurprisingly, each player on the Mount Rushmore of defenders mantles most of these characteristics, if not all of them. So, with a practically unlimited Rolodex of defensive demons to choose from, let’s kick off the (open to interpretation) list of the five greatest defenders the NBA has ever known.
Disclaimer: This is my personal list and is not in any way affiliated with my coworkers’ opinions. If you find yourself personally disparaged because our lists are different (God forbid), feel free to start a conversation with me on Twitter @craigtalkshoops!