Debates over who's the NBA GOAT or the NBA's second GOAT or even the third often seem to involve a distinct lack of respect for the league's elders. Feel free to field your own theory about that (or decide it's completely warranted). That's the whole point of debate. 

But somebody who does not (repeat does not, italics for emphasis) carry that lack of respect for said old-timers is player-turned-analyst Kenny Smith, who recently made it clear on our own Load Management podcast that he holds players of generations past in high esteem.

To provide evidence to that point, Smith opted not to engage in the exercise of deciding where he'd put Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in his top five, instead deciding that both of those 21st century stars are on the periphery of the top 10 (with Kobe actually landing just outside of it). 

"LeBron James is in my top 10" Smith emphatically said after being asked why he omitted James from his top five. "But he's 10, possibly."

That comment elicited a "woooo" noise and a follow-up question asking if Shaquille O'Neal lands in Smith's exclusive list. The answer to that? Yes Shaq does. 

In a segue that feels very natural, considering their dynasty run and all, Smith was then asked if Kobe is in his Top 10. After a brief pause to think about it, the answer was "no." 

"Kobe's like 11," Smith answered. Cue to him running down a set of names for those who made his list. Those included: Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, and Nate Archibald, among others (obviously). 

As one might expect with a guy who's been an analyst since the late '90s, Smith then provided a reason for Bryant and James' low(ish) spots on his list.

"It's so much easier to score now that it makes it hard to judge guys' ability," Smith said of the modern game. "Because it's so easy to score. I was a good scorer, I wasn't even a great scorer. I averaged 17 points per game, and I think my highest was 18. In that year I probably would've averaged 26 [now]."

He then made the all important note that this is just his opinion. Again, feel free to disagree. 

As we wrote earlier of the newest Load Management:

Adam, Chopz, and Zion are joined by two-time NBA champion Kenny Smith to talk about this new virtual hoops camp, JetAcademyCamp.com, working with Charles Barkley and Shaq on Inside the NBA, his thoughts on the NBA restart, his NBA Mt. Rushmore, why he doesn't have LeBron James and Kobe in his top 10, and more. Later, Yahoo Sports Senior NBA Insider Chris Haynes joins from Orlando to talk about life in the NBA bubble, if it will all work, if Damian Lillard might get traded at some point, and more.

Listen to the whole episode below:

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