FreeDarko Player Rankings 2010-11 + BOOK TIME!


Today is a momentous day, so of course I slept three hours more than I meant to. The book is out! Starting today, FreeDarko Presents: The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History is available everywhere, and ready to ship from the web. Also pay a visit to our store, where we've just added the much-requested MJ "long shadow" print, and check out our Q&A on NYTimes.com (and in print last Sunday). Also, PLEASE LEAVE AMAZON REVIEWS. They help our cause tremendously.

But as much as I would love to dwell in the past -- the above photo of a 1969 Connie Hawkins basketball camp in Pittsburgh is boss -- the present is once again here! With the 2010-11 NBA season about to jump off and get all frisky in your lap, for the second time ever, we present our FD Player Power Rankings. These were last conducted in October 2006. My, how the world changes, and doesn't. Don't ask about the method, or who was involved. Just know that, based on a far-reaching survey of FD associates, you have this list to guide you.

1. Kevin Durant
2. Rajon Rondo
3. John Wall
4. Russell Westbrook
5. Amar’e Stoudemire
6. Brandon Jennings
7. Anthony Randolph
8. Carmelo Anthony
9. Kobe Bryant
10. DeMarcus Cousins
11. Josh Smith
12. LeBron James
13. Monta Ellis
14. Gerald Wallace
15. Serge Ibaka
16. Rodrigue Beaubois
17. Tyreke Evans
18. Ron Artest
19. Steve Nash
20. Gilbert Arenas
21. J.R. Smith
22. Nicolas Batum
23. Chris Paul
24. Blake Griffin
25. Lamar Odom
26. Andre Iguodala
27. Stephen Jackson
28. Pau Gasol
29. Dwyane Wade
30. Derrick Rose
31. Andray Blatche
32. Terrence Williams
33. Larry Sanders
34. JaVale McGee
35. Joakim Noah
36. Brandon Roy
37. Francisco Garcia
38. Kevin Garnett
39. Stephen Curry
40. Tyrus Thomas
41. Deron Williams
42. Jrue Holiday
43. Danny Granger
44. Trevor Ariza
45. Ersan Ilyasova
46. Thaddeus Young
47. Amir Johnson
48. Hassan Whiteside
49. J.J. Hickson
50. Paul George

Discuss. We love you!

P.S. Like many of you, I freaked out early over the new LeBron ad. Here's my multi-layered reading of it; ignore the AOL comments. However, since last night, I've wondered about the last line. To me, the genius of the ad is that it suggests that LeBron himself wasn't always sure, or at least acknowledges that after a point, this summer had become a mess that no one man could make sense of. I like my "defiantly rhetorical" description.

The last line, though, seems to chip away at that fine balance. Asking the audience "should I be what you want me to be" sets up a you/me binary, as if the only complexity came when everyone tried to tell LeBron what to do. The admission that LBJ himself found himself sucked into the pit of confusion -- that it wasn't just nasty fans and media telling him what to do -- is a far more subtle, and charitable, version of events. I guess it can still be read that way, if others try and define/own James by telling him what he should do from afar. Still, it totally removes him from the equation, and suddenly it feels like blame is being assigned. The problem becomes us, not the all-encompassing clusterfuck I describe in my post. If you go with that interpretation of the ending -- perhaps added as a hook -- the whole ad is weakened, I think.

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At 10/26/2010 12:29 PM, Blogger j_d_hastings said...

I am on record as hating ranked lists (That record being a deposition for an obscure land-use trial somewhere in Idaho).

However, participating in such activities without any clear methodology or admitted participants succesfully undermines the task to the extent that I accept it as a work of conceptual basketball list making performance art.

I took the last line of Lebron's ad to be a reference to the second verse of NWA's "Express Yourself."

However, it needs to be noted that he probably didn't write the ad copy. He's reading someone else's words crafted for the mouth of Nike's spokesperson. When he did the decision, he lined his bookshelves with Vitamin Water. When he was eliminated from the playoffs, at his press conference he removed all Gatorade props in deference to his sponsor. The Decision wasn't his idea so much as either ESPN or LRMR's.

I won't say he goes further towards these ends than any other pro athlete (though I don't remember seeing others go to quite these length), but he can't really claim rugged self-determination either.

At 10/26/2010 12:32 PM, Blogger Greg. said...

Absolutely zero Houston Rockets. Thanks.

At 10/26/2010 12:32 PM, Blogger NateBowman said...

Got to assume that Larry Sanders hits #33 simply to encourage Jon Brockman to change his name to Hank Kingsley.

At 10/26/2010 1:41 PM, Blogger TB said...

Like most of this list, but Ellis over Curry....?

At 10/26/2010 1:45 PM, Blogger Charlie said...

Greg> I noticed the same thing. Not that this list really means anything at all, but tons of rookies and not a single Rocket. A shame.

At 10/26/2010 2:43 PM, Blogger JTExperience said...

Um, if you don't see Ellis over Curry, you don't get it.

I was just shocked to see Amir so low. Is it because he's been exiled to Canada? Proximity to Bargnani? The fact he is below Dwyane Wade blows my mind.

At 10/26/2010 4:09 PM, Blogger Maddie Hayes said...

Love that two Blazers are on there. And T-Will from my alma mater will do some damage this year for the Nets.

At 10/26/2010 4:12 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

No specifics of the balloting will be disclosed, lest anyone pick up on what a bad job I did making sense of them all. But I did want it known that two voters had Batum top 5.

At 10/26/2010 4:55 PM, Blogger Charlie said...

Though I guess the love for Hakeem in the past few weeks is enough to almost supplant that lack of love for the current Rockets here.

At 10/26/2010 5:22 PM, Blogger Joey said...

Stanley Robinson is #1 in absentia.

wv: rights--couldn't be more apropros for Sticks.

At 10/26/2010 6:08 PM, Blogger walrusoflove said...

check the scenario: booz gets healthy, the heavens align, bulls win the east, noah's an mvp candidate right? riiiiiiight.

loved bron's commercial. made me feel like a loser for even giving a crap about the decision - which was the point. he wins. but tonight he loses to the celtics.

At 10/26/2010 6:11 PM, Blogger Bastian said...

I'm guessing this is a combination of talent, funnest players to watch and most likable to root for. I like it. I don't feel bad about reaching for AR, Serge and JJ on my fantasy team now. I'm Ready for big things from Air Congo!

At 10/26/2010 10:20 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...


At 10/26/2010 11:47 PM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

I think it's time to kick Javale McGee off the list. He's officially just suck.

At 10/27/2010 3:04 AM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Since I don't think LeBron is actually talking to the viewer at the end, I don't think he's trying to separate himself from the audience or put the blame on them. It seems to me more like an internal monologue and thus a question aimed at himself about how to construct the future in light of the past. What happens when you ask yourself a rhetorical question?

At 10/27/2010 6:00 AM, Blogger Tosten Burks said...

The entire idea that LeBron is asking these rhetorical questions to either express confusion or a complex personal character crisis just seems off to me.

The commercial presents these possibilities well, but I just don't think it's genuine.

To assume that LeBron is confused or complexly self-conscious is to assume that he has even the slightest doubts about the path he's chosen for his career.

LeBron is as decisive as anyone. He made his decision boldly and unashamedly. He doesn't care what people think he should do. If he did, he would have stayed in Cleveland, or gone somewhere that would have put him in a better position to build his legacy as a legend rather than a central piece of the Miami puzzle.

I can't buy into reading the commercial's questions as genuine. I could see them being critical. The spot pokes fun at a lot of the suggestions. I think that more closely correlates with the thesis of LeBron right now.

"Should I be what you want me to be?" LeBron doesn't give a shit. He gave that option up months ago.

At 10/27/2010 8:41 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

A few things:

-Before the game, TNT ran a brief quote from James (from an earlier interview?) where he said the commercial was "to let people know how I was feeling this summer"

-Not all those things are roles others want him to play, or suggestions he would laugh at. The history of himself, the villain role, Cleveland ... these are things that he did think about over the summer. Maybe some others (legacy), too. That a commercial uses humor doesn't mean it's a full-on assault on its subject matter. It means it has to find a way to address a heavy topic while appealing to a popular audience over and over again.

-The last line doesn't work exactly because these aren't all roles, or identities projected onto him. The construction of the final sentence doesn't cover everything encompassed by "what should I do?" And I'm just talking grammatically. It's two different kinds of "what".

-Kenny made a good point last night. This was a far better way for him to tell his side of the story than a press conference, since it will last and spread. Yes, it's got Nike's corporate stamp on it, but at the same time, he knows W+K telling this his side of the story isn't subject to criticism -- much less vulnerable to it -- in the same way his own words are.

At 10/27/2010 10:15 AM, Blogger Deckfight said...

this list begs the question---
what hastened the fall of marquis daniels from '06?

At 10/27/2010 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

51. Delonte West

At 10/27/2010 11:48 AM, Blogger roadkiller said...

I remember being kinda mad that Smush Parker made the list in 2006, albeit at #50. Thank god that ingrate disappeared.

Anyway, when I read the bit on the Lebron ad I wanted to point out that it had little, if anything, to do with what Lebron actually thinks and everything to do with selling shoes, but then j_d-hastings basically beat me to it. I'll just say that it's convenient now, of course, for Lebron to claim that the ad is deeply personal, but I think it's obvious that Nike approached him with a script, he read it and decided "Yeah that's kind of what I feel" and/or "Yeah that will improve my image," and so he agreed to it.

In any event, why the hell won't he directly address "The Decision," the television special? At least for me, that's what needs explaining, not his actual decision to leave Cleveland. I don't give a crap what he wants to be or whether he listens to what other people want him to be. I want to know the justification for televising his "eff you" to Cleveland. I guess Lebron better tell Nike to start working on the script...

At 10/27/2010 11:50 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Yeah, it is interesting that while it references "The Decision" with the set and that shirt, he only deals with the free agency decision he made. Not the decision to have "The Decision", which is what I think made everyone so angry about his free agency decision.

At 10/27/2010 12:14 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

I think he did address The Decision decision: "Should I stop listening to my friends? They're my friends."

Coupled with asking, while sitting on that set, "Should I admit that I've made mistakes?"

I think that's as close as anyone is going to get to an admission that he at least has some reservations about The Decision decision. (Or at least I hope that's as close as we get; I'd rather that LBJ never say another word about it.) And that's actually one of the things I like about the ad: it's defiance. It's willing to concede the possibility of past error without the surrendering the right to make future mistakes. He's still going to listen to his friends, but listening isn't the same as taking their advice.

At 10/27/2010 12:42 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

If I ran things around here, spanish bombs would be banned for life! How dare you question JaVale McGee, aka the seventh round pick of my fantasy league? Have you no imagination? Have you no access to NBA summer league highlights?

At 10/27/2010 12:53 PM, Blogger Ben said...

The commercial was also successful in addressing questions about Lebron's legacy, in my opinion. He makes direct reference to Chuck and sort of makes a veiled reference to Jordan with the "should I just disappear" line. The Barkley reference to me is Lebron being put in historical context--he's still a successor to all the great players who came before him. And the Jordan thing points out that even the best players can make confusing decisions, but those decisions will ultimately only be remembered as curious footnotes to great careers.

At 10/27/2010 2:03 PM, Blogger Tom Doggett said...

Ode to self-indulgence - here's my list:

1. Kevin Durant - his destiny is clear: he was put on this earth to throw basketballs through the hoop. The fact that he does it so beautifully is just a bonus.

2. Pau Gasol - Carry 'em, Pau!

3. Deron Williams - the Anti-Stockton.

4. Greg Oden - the NBA's Benjamin Button. Five years from now, he'll look like a middle-schooler, and he'll be controlling the paint like Shaq on the prep circuit.

5. John Wall - his presence should prove Arenas marginal, at least as far as the actual game of basketball goes. Wall will never top ole Gillie in the media circus, though. Probably a good thing.

6. Derrick Rose - Starbury with heart.

7. Joakim Noah - hated him at Florida...something happened along the way to Chicago.

8. Rajon Rondo - not even sure if I like him, but as a fan of the sport, I can't deny his singularity.

9. Andre Igoudala - stuck in purgatory...trade him to the Suns already! The Anti-Marion.

10. Dejuan Blair - all of a sudden, he's moving like a guard. I remember reading a stat that, at Georgetown, he got an offensive rebound on 25% of his team's possessions while he was in the game. Now he's svelte, and playing for Pop. This could get interesting.

Granted, Blair is the only one who isn't a borderline All-Star, but that's kind of how I see it. Dominance equals FreeDarko-ness, at least how my mind defines it.

Here's to a beautiful season, in which KD continues to disrespect the idea of a ceiling, and Oden returns, stays healthy, and fulfills his promise as a wizened, cooler version of Mutumbo.

And since my Sonics are barely a memory, I'll have to pull for the Heat, because they are dismantling the very idea of fan identification. It's always been about the players...now if I could somehow dislodge KD from that hateful place he plays in, I would finally be happy.

At 10/27/2010 5:40 PM, Blogger spanish bombs said...


In fact, I live in the Wizards' home market! Let's just say I think the clock is ticking on whether Javale should still be deemed to have potential. Remember Keon Clark?

To the person wondering about Marquis Daniels, I imagine that he was also removed for sucking too hard.

At 10/27/2010 11:44 PM, Blogger RT said...

I'm wondering if there's something about Blake Griffin--maybe the incipient Karl Malone-ness out there on the horizon, maybe just the incessant Karl Malone comparisons--that makes him UnFreeDarko. Are you watching this (timestamp: 2:16 left in 2nd qrter)? Maybe the greatest first half (I mean FIRST first half) in NBA history.

At 10/27/2010 11:52 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I take it you aren't on Twitter.

People, if you like me, you should follow me on Twitter. I say stuff like I write pretty much every ten minutes.

At 10/28/2010 12:08 AM, Blogger RT said...

Ah. Just checked it out. Okay. Phew. I live in San Francisco, am a Giants fan, and switched over to Clippers permanently after first dunk. By the way, probably not the right forum, but I don't understand twitter at all. I want to come to the internet (honestly, no pun intended) I don't want the internet to come to me...

At 10/28/2010 3:04 AM, Blogger chris said...

Um Randolph at seven. you are kidding right? Two Knicks in top ten, another joke? I can live with Amare in top ten but not five, ahead of Kobe/LeBron/Wade/Gasol. Come on!

At 10/28/2010 9:50 AM, Blogger Joey said...

There is no effort to make an equitable distribution among teams, or to account for quirks of karma that place Amare alongside Anthony Randolph. Would people have interceded and stopped Calipari from putting Wall and Cousins on the same team? What about not allowing Lamar to introduce Ron on Tuesday night?

wv: inseste--exactly what I am talking about!

At 10/28/2010 2:59 PM, Blogger devin said...

I thought the commercial was aesthetically and formally a blatant rip-off of the opening montage to Michael Mann's "Ali". (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STDo6Z5YJa4) Albeit not necessarily successful in creating the kind of angst inducing momentum that the sam cooke laced montage gets to, I felt like the commercial was an attempt to purvey experiential immediacy of the sort that is present in defining moments (an extention of the marketable brand of existentialism that nike has been capitalizing on for years). I think it would've been successful if Lebron were able to tap into what that meant. But I don't feel like he did, and I sincerely question his capability to. I don't necessarily think he embodies the creative or dynamic spirit necessary to interface with this concept.

Maybe I don't get it though.

At 10/28/2010 5:02 PM, Blogger VH said...

I don't think there is anything Karl Malone about Blake Griffin short of some vague physical characteristics. After seeing one game, do you have any interest in moving him up higher? Has a rookie ever led the league in rebounding?

At 10/28/2010 8:24 PM, Blogger spanish bombs said...


Would be completely shocked if neither Chamerlain nor Malone did so.

At 10/28/2010 8:29 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I wish everyone in the world could hear the phone conversation Joey Litman and I had immediately following that first flurry of dunks.

At 10/29/2010 1:19 AM, Blogger RT said...

My first thought after the first dunk was that the man's knees might literally not be able to support the man's ferocity.

At 10/29/2010 9:23 AM, Blogger Dave M said...

John Wall #3, Kobe #9. Hahahahahaha! Yeah and in my fantasy world, FD readers leave witty comments on Searching for Slava and somebody remembers to bring sugar for the coffee at work.

At 10/29/2010 12:40 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

@spanish bombs: Javale McGee is 22 years old, and he no longer has potential? A lot of 22 year olds still live with their parents, but McGee is already washed up?

Speaking of McGee's potential and his parents: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcBPv3xEqDw.


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