Earl Watson reveals his list of the 5 most influential NBA players of all-time

COLIN COWHERD: So Earl Watson’s most influential players of all time, and I’m just going to let it go through it, and give a sentence or two on why. So you start with MJ.

EARL WATSON: MJ, for the culture. He was the first to kind of bring the swag to the NBA– winning dunk contests with gold chains, he had the wristband, he had the knee sleeve– the knee sleeve that went around his calf. He flipped it down for the red to show. Every kid in the world was doing that. And then the Jordans speak for itself.

That’s culture. That’s basketball culture. That’s the birth of basketball culture.

COLIN COWHERD: He made apparel– basketball apparel, global.

EARL WATSON: Global.

COLIN COWHERD: All right, number two, LeBron. Why?

EARL WATSON: LeBron– everything he’s doing beyond the court. He’s making movies. He and MJ are the only two superstars that you can say that’s never been injured. And the wear and tear, the athletic ability, and what they bring to the court is beyond trendsetting.

LeBron can touch everything around the globe and the atmosphere and make it come to life. And his team is very powerful, his vision is very powerful, and he was once knocked for what he was doing, like a young Lonzo Ball.

So LeBron, to me, is a definite trendsetter, and he’s kind of taking it, elevated MJ’s level.

COLIN COWHERD: Now Iverson’s very interesting. Because I mentioned him yesterday. You have him third. What– how does– why?

EARL WATSON: So the evolution of basketball and hip hop has always been parallel. Like, that con– which is why you see musicians at every NBA game. It’s– it’s an attraction there. Basketball is played with the rhythm, hip hop has a certain rhythm.

So hip hop then evolved to gangster rap. It evolved to the edgier type of music. And Allen Iverson was that first kid–

COLIN COWHERD: Edgy.

EARL WATSON: Edgy. To come in with tattoos, to come in with the corn rows, to come in and just bring a gangster rap element to the NBA in a polished kind of a way, and became a trendsetter for culture alone. The inner– he birthed the inner city culture in the NBA.

COLIN COWHERD: Yeah, that’s really interesting. By the way, I had him on the couch here about six months ago, and he just blew me away. He was just so– he was so interesting. Like, it was the Allen Iverson– because I didn’t cover him in Philadelphia, and I– I never– you know, I– I covered him in seven or eight games. But really interesting.

Now this is interesting. You have Magic at four. I was talking to a friend about this last night. I said, Magic’s great, but when I was a kid, he was a 6′ 9″ point. No little kid thought, I can be Magic. He was built like a power forward. I just thought he was great. I didn’t think he was influential. I actually think he’s influential as a businessman out of basketball. But you have a number four.

EARL WATSON: I think because if you look at Magic and what he brought to the team, the Showtime Era, the champion the smile, the– the– the guy that got on the court, and he brought– everyone who entered the arena –he brought them a new perspective on life and sports.

Pushing that fast break, making passes, foreseeing things happening. He was the first, to me, that I can remember, was a fluid thinker. He didn’t need to be a pattern thinker. He could play the game, see the game, change the game, take a coaching plan, and elevate it.

And then what he dig– what he did outside of sports, guys are still trying to do it, but the world is changing to more tech-savvy guys, right– tech-savvy opportunities. So Magic was the first to do it, and he still touches the game. He’s touched every player, from Russell Westbrook, all the way down to James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, Kobe Bryant. All these young guys still follow his path, and has kind of networked, and kind of became a web for younger players, even players who are dominant of today.

COLIN COWHERD: By the way, I was at the Lakers game the other night, and my son was watching– it’s absolutely remarkable. So we’re sitting watching the game. We’re behind the Laker bench, and the entire end zone stands up. We– I thought it was a fight. Like, sometimes, if there was a fight in the stands at a game, the whole thing– the whole crowd stood up, kind of layered. And we looked over, and I’m like, oh, Magic’s entering the building.

All these years in Los Angeles– 20, 30 years –he walks into the Staples, and the crowd rises. It’s really godlike. I mean, it is incredible. And this is a city, Los Angeles, where you can see, you know, an actress on every corner, and Magic still, inside the building in which he played, the crowd rises, fascinated with Magic Johnson.

OK, number five. What in the– I mean, come on Earl Watson. Westbrook is your fifth most influential player?

EARL WATSON: We’re talking about changing the game, and influencing the game of basketball.

Russell was the first to bring fashion to the sport. When Russell started wearing fashionable, questionable, interesting clothing, everyone was knock– locker rooms were knocking him, laughing. They thought it was a joke. Russ brings this– this new fashion, and every player has now– have copied it. It’s– it’s now, you tune in early to NBA games, just to see what players are wearing because of Russell Westbrook.

And he’s the first villain that has a– an impact on pop culture. You can get his cologne, you can buy his clothes, he goes and tours Europe about fashion shows, and he’s– you know, he’s invited to– he has an influence on culture, fashion, and sports.

And Russ is so dynamic, and he’s playing that villain role. Because truly, Russ is truly one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve seen the evolution of Russ. At UCLA he was wearing– he would go into games at UCLA, and he would, like, put UCLA, and different basketball logos in his haircut.

So Russ have always been– he has always been trendsetting. And for culture, and what we’re doing today in basketball in the NBA, he’s definitely top five.

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