ESPN’s all-time ranking of the best NBA players ever left Denver Nuggets’ great Alex English in the low 60s. Was it too high or too low?
Alex English remains one of the more unheard of names in NBA annals. Throughout the 1980’s however, English was consistently among the most dynamic and productive scorers in the entire basketball world. He ranks behind a number of players that don’t quite have the same resume as him, and as a result, his ranking is a bit too low.
- 8x All-star (1982-1989)
- NBA scoring champion (1983)
- 3x All-NBA second team (1982, 1983, 1986)
- #2 retired by Denver Nuggets
During his playing days, English was possibly the best scoring small forward the league had ever seen to that point. As a career 21.5 point per game scorer, English’s effectiveness on the offensive end carried the Nuggets throughout the 1980’s and pushed the Nuggets to the brink of the NBA finals in the 1985 playoffs, when his team lost to the Lakers in the western conference finals.
During that postseason, English averaged a remarkable 30.2 points per game, notably in an era where the long ball was barely ever taken. English had to leave that series against the Lakers in game four, further jeopardizing his team’s chances. But, had English remained on the floor, he was of the belief his team could have sneaked past the Lakers and into the Finals. English said in a 2006 interview, “I think that if I had not broken my thumb […] we had a chance to beat the Lakers.”
On ESPN’s full list, English is ranked criminally low compared to his contemporaries in his era and others. Only two spots ahead of him is Pau Gasol, whose career scoring average is considerably lower at 17 points per game. English also made two more All-Star teams than Gasol, who played with Kobe Bryant throughout the most successful parts of his career.
Somehow, Manu Ginobili sits nine spots ahead of English. While undoubtedly one of the league’s best global ambassadors and a tremendous clutch player for 16 years, Ginobili doesn’t even compare to English as a pure player. Ginobili hung up the cleats after averaging 13 points per game, and four assists per game, which are hardly even All-Star numbers, let alone enough to be ranked ahead of Alex English.
Ginobili made two All-Star appearances, which is not quite enough to warrant such a high ranking on this list. However, the most egregious underrating of English came at number 51. James Worthy ranks 16 spots ahead of English. Come again?
Worthy’s spot on this list has less to do with the individual accomplishments between the two players, and has more to do with the high-profile market that Worthy played in. Worthy’s stature in NBA history has been amplified by his performance in game 7 of the 1988 finals, in which he logged 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists on 15-22 shooting.
It would take until the sun burnt out to list the amount of great players Worthy was surrounded by, and it would take about five seconds to do the same for English. While the Nuggets have never appeared in the finals in 49 seasons in two different leagues, English quite literally saved the team from complete obscurity throughout the 1980’s.
Perhaps it was English’s poor season in 1990-1991 with the Dallas Mavericks that bumps him down a little, but after ten straight dominant seasons, his last year in the NBA for a doormat franchise while coming off the bench is hardly a blemish on his career resume. English should be ranked substantially higher, and far higher than James un-Worthy.