This has the feel of a post that gets me negged a ton, but do understand that I'm putting Tim in the arguement for the spot, not the spot itself.
Should the Spurs win the title this year, doesn't that put Tim Duncan in the discussion for the sixth best player ever? The top 5 are (in some order) Jordan, Russell, Kareem, Magic and Larry, with Wilt's lack of team success knocking him out of that, but he, Oscar Robinson, Kobe, Dr. J, Hakeem, Shaq, and West in the discussion for that sixth spot (am I missing anyone obvious?). Duncan with a fifth title matches up reasonably well with all of them.
First, barring Hakeem, he's the best defender on the list by far. He managed more team success than Hakeem, however, and carried a plenty mediocre 2002 team to the title, just as Hakeem did for his first title. 3 extra titles gives him the nudge over Hakeem, where I'm not sure 2 does. I already have both above Shaq for reasons outlined ages ago (defensive versatility, durability, effort). Shaq had a higher peak, but in my opinion, he's already below Duncan on the list.
West was incredible, but lacked the team success, as did Dr. J, unless we count the ABA, which is just an insane can of worms I can't touch. Dr. J was, however, comprable to Elgin, so I have little trouble keeping each below Duncan on the strength of defense and success.
That leaves Oscar, Kobe and Wilt, the three strongest, to me, contenders for that six spot. Wilt's game impresses me less and less the more I see of him. Everyone was just so much smaller than he was, and guys like Kareem who matched up in size ate him up, though he was old. Wilt also managed to be thoroughly dominated by his rivals, while in his career, no one's dominated Duncan for any length of time. Wilt, despite popular belief, also had great teammates, a function fo a league so small. Oscar has insane numbers, but with a game that doesn't translate to the modern NBA at all and with numbers that appear much more human once pace is normalized. He was still incredible, but with only one ring, he isn't topping Duncan there.
And then there's the Mamba. I don't think there's really a wrong answer between the 2 at this point, but I've felt Duncan did more with less. Both had Hall of Fame coaches and players around them, but Shaq, Pau, Bynum, the first two in their absolute primes, beat out an aging Robinson, Parker and Ginobli, especially given that Parker is truly just hitting his prime during Duncan's decline. Duncan is also, inarguably, the greater defensive presence. As great a wing defender as Kobe is, except in the most extreme of circumstances, a dominating defensive big tops one. Kobe is a better scorer, though, a great defender, and fully matches the team success. It's a coin flip. With the title, I'd take Duncan, but wouldn't argue someone who disagreed.
So, 5 titles, dominating defense, dominating offense, long-term success, great head-to-head numbers, clutch skills, the ability to fill multiple roles... Duncan with another ring might just be the sixth best NBA player ever.
If Duncan wins this championship against a healthy Heat team, he could be knocking on the door of Larry Bird. Larry Legend was amazing, but Duncan already has more titles than Bird, had worse teammates than Bird, was a better defender than Bird, and competed against all-time greats playing his position during his prime (Garnett, Nowitzki).
It's really hard to say one is better than the other, I'd be much more comfortable saying that Duncan, Olajuwon, Bryant and O'Neal are level, with Bird/Magic/Kareem/Russell too hard to split, and Jordan alone at the top.
My list would look more like this:
11. Chamberlain/West etc etc.
Duncan is without question top 10, and in my opinion he is already a top 5 player. One more title would solidify him, but the reality is with the exception of Jordan in the top spot, the order of the remaining top 10 really comes down to preference. Duncan is my favourite player ever, so obviously he's gonna be higher on the list for me than for say a huge Kobe fan.
I feel duncan should be 6th even without a title this year. Since he entered the league the spurs are one of the most successful franchises in all of sports. He has every award that matters in the NBA except 6th man lol and unlike Kobe I've never felt like anything about him is overrated he has played different styles and adjusted to them perfectly so that his team will always be good and he has done all of this in a small market at the same time. He has also dominated from the moment he stepped on the court
If you look at his generation of players (guys who entered 1990-1999 or thereabout), it is him and Kobe in some order 1-2. Making these all-time arguments is tough because of the constant evolution of the sport and league, but he would certainly make the argument even stronger that he is the best by winning a fifth title in fifteen years while never missing the playoffs. It would be quite the accomplishment seeing as how he would have always been clearly the best player and also the only player with San Antonio to be a part of the team for the entire run. It is a different era from Magic getting five titles and nine Finals appearances in twelve years, Jordan winning six titles in eight years (seven seasons in which he played), and certainly from when Russell and Wilt played. Regardless, his greatness is going to be beyond reproach.