My Take on the NBA 75 List

After lots and lots of speculation, voting, arguing, and hours of suspenseful waiting, the NBA released its list of the 75 greatest players. While these players are not ranked in order, it still is fun to see what the NBA thinks of their all-time greats. Sportswriters, former players, active players, and others deeply involved in the NBA community got to vote, and this is the list they came up with:

  1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  2. Ray Allen
  3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  4. Carmelo Anthony
  5. Tiny Archibald
  6. Paul Arizin
  7. Charles Barkley
  8. Rick Barry
  9. Elgin Baylor
  10. Dave Bing 
  11. Larry Bird 
  12. Kobe Bryant 
  13. Wilt Chamberlain
  14. Bob Cousy 
  15. Dave Cowens
  16. Billy Cunningham
  17. Stephen Curry 
  18. Anthony Davis 
  19. Dave DeBusschere 
  20. Clyde Drexler 
  21. Tim Duncan 
  22. Kevin Durant 
  23. Julius Erving 
  24. Patrick Ewing 
  25. Walt Frazier
  26. Kevin Garnett 
  27. George Gervin
  28. Hal Greer 
  29. James Harden
  30. John Havlicek
  31. Elvin Hayes
  32. Allen Iverson
  33. LeBron James 
  34. Magic Johnson 
  35. Sam Jones
  36. Michael Jordan 
  37. Jason Kidd
  38. Kawhi Leonard
  39. Damian Lillard 
  40. Jerry Lucas 
  41. Karl Malone
  42. Moses Malone 
  43. Pete Maravich 
  44. Bob McAdoo
  45. Kevin McHale
  46. George Mikan 
  47. Reggie Miller
  48. Earl Monroe 
  49. Steve Nash 
  50. Dirk Nowitzki 
  51. Shaquille O’Neal
  52. Hakeem Olajuwon 
  53. Robert Parish
  54. Chris Paul 
  55. Gary Payton 
  56. Bob Pettit
  57. Paul Pierce
  58. Scottie Pippen 
  59. Willis Reed
  60. Oscar Robertson
  61. David Robinson 
  62. Dennis Rodman 
  63. Bill Russell
  64. Dolph Schayes
  65. Bill Sharman
  66. John Stockton 
  67. Isiah Thomas 
  68. Nate Thurmond 
  69. Wes Unseld 
  70. Dwyane Wade 
  71. Bill Walton
  72. Jerry West 
  73. Russell Westbrook 
  74. Lenny Wilkens
  75. Dominique Wilkins
  76. James Worthy 

Objectively speaking, this is a solid list of the NBA’s 75 greatest players. Except… you’ll notice that there aren’t 75 players, but 76, because there was a tie in the voting. There couldn’t have been a tiebreaker of any sort? On this list, you’ll see all time legends like Bill Walton, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird… in essence, all of the guys that made the NBA’s 50 greatest players list in 1996 are here. They stuck with the original 50, and voted on 25 extra guys to add in here.

Personally, I don’t like this decision, because you just can’t narrow down 25 more years of basketball to only 25 players. There are some guys on this list that were good in their era, but don’t hold a candle to the guys in the league now. I’m not saying this because of recency bias, but by simply looking at their resumes and what they accomplished. However, I do understand that lots of people have a recency bias, and the NBA wants to keep some of its oldest stars on the list in order to remind people just how good they were.

The way that the NBA revealed its list was also frustrating. Instead of giving it all to us in one day, they rolled it out over three different days, to drag out the suspense and agony as best they could. Next time, just drop the whole list on opening night.

There were a fair amount of players I didn’t expect to be on this list, and some that easily should have been added to the list. Let’s look at some of the biggest snubs from this NBA 75 list, and some players that could have been removed from this list in order to make room for others.

*Note: This is my opinion, and my opinion only*

Credit to Sam Greenwood of Getty Images for Picture

The players’ names that I have bolded above are the 26 players that were added on to the original 50. These are a great group of players, but you can’t tell me that Dwight Howard shouldn’t have been on this list. For example, Damian Lillard is a six-time All-Star, six-time member of the All-NBA, and the 2012-13 Rookie of the Year. Dwight Howard, on the other hand, is an eight-time All-Star, eight-time member of the All-NBA, led the NBA in blocks for two years, led the NBA in rebounding for five years, was named to five All-Defensive Teams, and has three Defensive Player of the Year awards. Howard also finished top five in MVP voting for four different seasons. Importantly, he also has a championship ring, from his 2020 title run with the Los Angeles Lakers. Some will argue that this ring doesn’t mean anything, but at the end of the day, a ring is a ring. Plus, in only his 5th season and with no real help, Howard led his Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals (beating the big three Boston Celtics and the Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers along the way). They may have lost, but he at least took the team that drafted him there, something Lillard has never done. It’s clear that Howard overall has had the better career of the two.

Are we also going to say that Howard’s career was less impressive than Carmelo Anthony‘s? Howard’s biggest problem was that he played the game to have fun, not to win. Anthony’s problem was that he was a selfish ball hog who had no faith in his teammates, and it’s easier to make someone want to win then it is for them to stop being selfish. Regardless of that, Anthony is a 10-time All-Star, six-time member of the All-NBA, and led the league in scoring once. He still does not have a championship ring. Compare that to Howard’s resume above, and it’s once again clear who the better players is.

After Howard left the Magic and his career went downhill, he refused to take a role off the bench or not as a star player until he reached the Lakers, and his longevity probably hurt him in a way… he hasn’t made an All-Star appearance since 2014, and recency bias took hold of some of the voters. But, Howard still did a lot in his NBA years, and almost no one could stop prime Orlando Magic Howard.

Credit to Belly Up Sports for Picture

While Howard was the most notable snub, Vince Carter definitely should have made this list. The NBA put a lot of recent players on this list, and many recent players that were added, such as Harden and Lillard, were surprised to be put onto this list. I don’t think either of those players should have been put on this list over Carter (actually, maybe Harden, but that’s a debate for when his career ends). If we are going to swap one NBA player that was put on this list for a snub, I would swap Howard in for Lillard, and Carter in for Anthony.

We already viewed that Anthony’s career legacy isn’t that great when stacked up to players like Howard, but when put up against Carter, it is kind of close. For his career, Carter was an eight-time All-Star and two-time member of the All-NBA. However, what this doesn’t account for is Carter’s impact on the game of basketball. Carter single-handedly saved the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, as it was removed during 1999, but reinstated in 2000, when Carter did a 360 windmill and put his whole arm in the rim. People love wearing Toronto Raptors throwback Vince Carter jerseys more then they do Denver Nuggets Anthony jerseys, and Carter was the perfect stereotype of a shooting guard. Carter was in the same group of 2000s stars as Pierce, Bryant, Allen, Iverson, and Garnett, inspiring the next generation of hoopers after Jordan left the game. I will always view Carter as a better player than Anthony.

Credit to Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Another change I would make is that I would put Pau Gasol on this list, as he was a clear and obvious snub. I would put Gasol on this list over Anthony Davis in a heartbeat, and hear me out. Davis definitely has a better resume, as he is an eight-time All-Star, four-time member of the All-NBA, three-time NBA block champion, and four-time member of All-Defensive teams. Gasol, on the other hand, was the 2002-03 Rookie of the Year, is a six-time All-Star, and four-time member of the All-NBA. However, this pick once again comes down to the impact of the game. Along with Garnett, Nowitzki, and Duncan, Gasol was one of those incredible power forwards in the late 2000s, and some might even argue the best power forward in the NBA from 2008-10. Without him, Bryant would not have won his two championships in 2009 and 2010, and his legacy would have been completely different. Davis forcing his way out of a small market by not playing also rubs me in the wrong way, and makes me think of Ben Simmons a bit1. Gasol also played for multiple teams, but he didn’t force his way out. In 18 years, Gasol also has many more win shares than Davis. I understand that Davis has only played in the NBA for 10 years, but this is an all-time greatest list, and in 25 years he may have more win shares. But, if we are talking about the 75 greatest players in NBA history as of right now, that should definitely count for something.

There are a few other players that come to mind when thinking about snubs on this list: Tony Parker, a key member of the Spurs dynasty and the only point guard to ever lead the NBA in points in the paint… Joe Dumars, the man who won Finals MVP for the Pistons during their first ever championship and the man Michael Jordan himself claimed was the toughest defender he ever played against … Alex English, who scored the most in the 1980s when the league was dominated by Bird, Magic, and a young Jordan. However, I simply don’t think that these players could take another player’s spot who I haven’t mentioned yet. I think that this was an ok list, but in the future, the NBA needs to find different people to vote than players and coaches, as they will have a clearer bias towards players they are friends with or coached.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!



1When… If Ben Simmons is traded, I will do a blog showing a timeline of this ridiculous drama, from start to finish



One thought on “My Take on the NBA 75 List

  1. Enjoyed reading this Blog, especially your description of the various players. The list covers just about everyone I would include so I’m probably neutral when it comes to the list. However, I am looking forward to reading your Blog regarding Ben Simmons and his ridiculous actions and stupid comments. As always, keep writing your Blogs, you are a wealth of Basketball history and player information.


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