Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The 75 Greatest NBA Players of All Time

During the 1997 All Star Weekend, the NBA came out with their list of the greatest 50 players of All Time. I agreed with most of the players they chose, but I feel that some players got ripped off (Dominique Wilkins, Maurice Cheeks, Gary Payton). Ever since then, I have wondered what criteria should be used to determine the greatest players. Is it winning championships, being an All-Star, holding league records or just having a long and successful career?

As suspected, many of the old timers no longer qualify for the top 50 spots since it has been 14 years and younger players have climbed the ranks and taken their place since then. I don't mean to disrespect any of the legends who had previously been voted in, but some of them simply did not belong to begin with. Billy Cunningham and David Bing? Come on! I also thought Shaq was awarded the honor prematurely, but has obviously earned it by now.

In an attempt to measure the great players, I've messed around with formulas that give credit for how long someone played in the NBA, every year they were selected as an All-Star, each championship they earned, each MVP, and for being in the top all time leaders for Points, Rebounds, Blocks, Assists, and Steals.

After compiling my spreadsheet results I still did not agree with some of the rankings because there are just some intangibles that are hard to quantify. Kareem actually came out with the highest total of all players according to my formula. So I have listed my "gut' version of the 75 All time greatest NBA players. The players highlighted in yellow were not listed in the NBA's original top 50 players list.

1. Michael Jordan *
2. Wilt Chamberlain *
3. Bill Russell *
4. Kareem Abdul Jabbar *
5. Magic Johnson *
6. Shaquille O'Neal *
7. Oscar Robertson *
8. Larry Bird *
9. Hakeem Olajuwon *
10. Kobe Bryant *
11. Moses Malone *
12. Julius Erving *
13. Karl Malone *
14. Charles Barkley *
15. Elgin Baylor
16. Elvin Hayes
17. Bob Cousy *
18. John Havlicek
19. John Stockton
20. Bob Pettit*
21. Jerry West
22. Tim Duncan *
23. Lebron James * 
24. David Robinson *
25. Patrick Ewing
26. Dave Cowens *
27. Allen Iverson *
28. Scottie Pippen
29. Wes Unseld *
30. Hal Greer
31. Rick Barry
32. Dirk Nowitzki *
34. George Mikan
34. Kevin Garnett *
35. Clyde Drexler
36. Isiah Thomas
37. Kevin McHale
38. Willis Reed
39. George Gervin
40. Walt Frazier
41. Sam Jones
42. Pete Maravich
43. Bill Walton *
44. James Worthy
45. Lenny Wilkins
46. Dominique Wilkins
47 Alex English
48. Nate Thurmond
49. Robert Parrish
50. Bob Mcadoo *
51. Earl Monroe
52. Nate Archibald
53. Walt Bellamy
54. Jerry Lucas
55. Jason Kidd
56. Gary Payton
57. Dennis Rodman
58. Maurice Cheeks
59. Dwayne Wade
60. Steve Nash *
61. Reggie Miller
62. Alonzo Mourning
63. Dave DeBusschere
64. Paul Arzin
65. Bernard King
65. Dolph Schayes
67. Paul Pierce
67. Dikembe Motumbo
69. Adrian Dantley
70. Ray Allen
71. Kevin Durrant
72. Chris Paul
73. Bill Sharman
74. David Bing
75. Billy Cunningham

I'm sure many people would disagree with some of these rankings. I'd love to discuss any suggestions you might have for this list.

* Named as league MVP at least once.


  1. Dr J much to low should be top 5,KG to high maybe 67 to 61, don't understand LaBron, even in the top 60, to young, J Kidd 74 maybe,#58 The Pearl are you joking top 15, two things stand out, 1 your basketball knowledge is limited and #2 you've never seen the older players play, today's players couldn't play with the older guys, they don't call traveling, few know how to shoot free throws and Pistol Pete is top 25

  2. i agree with most of the highlighted ones and lebron definitely will be a hof but not yet but overall great job

  3. Eddie, Thanks for the comments. Dr. J is one of my all time favorite players. He spent much of his prime in the ABA so his NBA stats are not a fair reflection of his career, or I would have rated him higher.

    I agree KG, Lebron, and Kidd are ranked too high, but if I've never seen the older players then there is no way guys like George Mikan, Nate Thurmond, and Walt Bellamy would be on my list. Instead I'd have people like Vince Carter, Carmello Anthony, and Derron Williams on the list.

  4. It's hard to rank so many players. I find that my personal preferences get in the way of their statistics and accomplishments. I don't like Tim Duncan, but he is a great player and probably deserves to be in the top 25

  5. There are so many things wrong with this list, I don't know where to start.
    How do you, in all good conscience, put Shaq ahead of Larry Legend? Have you seen him play? In his prime, I mean. How do you put Kobe so high? He won his rings off of other guys backs and his numbers aren't even that good, as much of a nut as he is. You have Kobe, Malone, Barkley, and Hayes over Dr. J and Elgin Baylor? Really? Why do you have Stockton, Havlicek, and Cousy so high? And how do you put Stockton over Havlicek? You've got Jerry West kind of low, don't you think? And Isaiah Thomas right next to Jerry West? Are you crazy? You've got Pippen and Drexler too high and Iverson and Wilkins way too high (I don't think they should even be on the list). You've got LeBron way too low (George Gervin next to LeBron? LeBron is waaay better than Gervin was). I think you've got #37-41 too high and they probably shouldn't even be on the list in the first place. This guy Eddie said that Pistol Pete should be in the top 25, but I ask why. He never led his team to a championship, or even to a respectable point in the playoffs. He shot too much and didn't even put up good numbers. In the NBA that is (this is an NBA list). So I say that you have him too high, if anything. You've got Walt Fraiser kind of low. You've got George Mikan real low. I don't even know why you've got Mo Cheeks or Rodman or Mutombo even there, was it because of your bullcrap formula, or your gut? But putting them ahead of Lucas tells me that you really don't know what you're doing. You've got McAdoo way too low (check out his stats before he got injured). And Mark Jackson shouldn't be there (sorry Mark).
    How about Bob Lanier, or Maurice Stokes? Do you even know who he is? If so, don't penalize him just because he got injured. The people who added Petrovic to the top 50 list didn't penalize him for dying.
    As for the newer players. CP and Howard are better than many players you have there and I know that Griffin, Rose, and Durant are only 22, but yeah, they're better than a lot of those guys.

  6. Hmm, you changed your list around, but you still got it all messed up. You've still got Kobe at #10 and you've got too many guys ahead of Elgin Baylor. I see you've put Cousy ahead of Stockton, but not Havlicek, why? You've still got them all too high if you ask me. You've still got Jerry West and Bob Pettit too low and Isaiah Thomas way too high. Not to mention Scottie Pippen, Clude Drexler, Allen Iverson, and Hal Greer. You have George Gervin too high, as well as Pete Maravich and Lenny Wilkins. As a matter of fact, I think you raised Pistol Pete's rank from the last time. Why would you do that? You have LeBron James too low still (Iverson over LeBron? Pippen? Wilkins? Thomas...what are you on?). Robert Parish and Sam Jones weren't all that, lower them. James Worthy isn't worthy of being mentioned in the top 75 of all time, neither is Gary Payton, Reggie Miller, or Jason Kidd...maybe Kidd. Take Mo Cheeks off the list, move George Mikan up, and reconsider Steve Nash altogether. Wait a minute, you've got Mo Cheeks above George Mikan?! You don't really know what the hell you're doing. Take Ray Allen and Mutombo off. Move Jerry Lucas and Bob McAdoo up. Take Dennis Rodman off. Take out Pierce, Dumars, Jackson, Sharman, and Bing. And add Bob Lanier, Artis Gilmore, Chris Paul, and Dwight Howard.

  7. Thanks for the feedback. It's worth getting some of these insights even if I'm called a crazy guy on drugs who doesn't know what he is talking about. I think it's kind of funny that I'm criticized for some of my choices, and then later criticized for making changes for your suggestions.

    I give a lot of credit to long term career numbers. Shaq is #5 all time scoring, # 12 in rebounds, and #7 in blocks with multiple rings and an MVP. Stockton is #1 all time leader of assists and steals by a long shot. Payton, Kidd, and Cheeks are also in the top 10 all time leaders in these categories.

    I know there are current younger players that may be more talented and exciting to watch with more potential, but I won't put them on the list until they have had a longer career.

    I'm going to make some changes to the list again per your requests and insights, so don't bash me for updating it with some of your suggestions. There are some players who I don't think belong on the original list, but I am going to keep them in the top 75 for comparison purposes.

  8. Lol. I didn't really call you a crazy guy on drugs, I asked if you're crazy and what are you on. you'll have to excuse me, but sometimes I get impassioned when I see something I consider so blatantly farfetched, it borders on rudeness. Like when you originally put Cheeks ahead of Mikan. Mikan is a legend, one of the very few creators of the game as we know it. Cheeks was just a passing phase. As cool as a guy Cheeks is, he absolutely, most certainly, does not belong anywhere near Mikan. I know most things are debatable opinion, but this is one of those things I consider indisputable: Mikan is greater, much greater, than Cheeks. And when I saw that you had Iverson, Pippen, Wilkens, and Isaiah, etc over LeBron, I just couldn't let that just go like that. I admit that LeBron hasn't played as long as those guys, but he can't help that. You shouldn't decry his talents just because of that. He's better than any of those guys, at their best.
    Moreover, Dwight Howard has been in the league only 1 year less than LeBron and CP has been in the league only 1 less year than Howard. So I figured if you mentioned LeBron, you might as well mention Howard and CP. They are all still quite young, but they have proven, at least to me, to be some of the best ever.
    I understand you have a formula, but I'm afraid your deference to it may be causing a lot of the errors. If you're going to go with your gut, then do it; abandon the formula. That is why you have guys like Mutombo, Rodman, Allen, Cheeks, etc. there, because they were quite strong in a particular function. But you give them too much credit and discount the overall strong players in the process. This is why you discount guys like LeBron, whose adept at every facet of the game, and exalt guys like Kobe, whose primarily a scorer, even if he missed most of his shots; that counts. Yes he also has 5 rings, but he was fortunate enough to be teamed with Shaq in his prime, who would've won those rings with any # of players with an above marginal amount of talent. And Pau; if you think he would've won those last 2 rings without Pau, then you're just wrong. He would've barely made it out of the 1st round, if that. Does being teamed with Shaq and Pau perse make Kobe a better player? No.
    Speaking of Shaq, he played 19 seasons, of course his career numbers are going to be high. Just imagine if Bird was healthy enough to play 19 seasons, imagine what his career numbers would be. You can't blame him for getting injured, that in itself doesn't make him a less better player. It makes him perform not to the extent he could had he not got injured, obviously, but you know from seeing him in his day how great of a player he really was.
    Take Jordan, you didn't penalize him for retiring, twice. Had you did, you'd probably put Wilt, or Russell ahead of him. But we all know, at least I do, that had Jordan never retired in the 90's, he'd have won every championship that decade; except for 1990, of course. So don't penalize others for having truncated careers, especially if it wasn't under their control.
    I'm going on, but I still see what I consider a lot of errors in your list. I already made my opinion known and I wouldn't criticize you for making corrections based on my opinions, but for what I believe are flaws in your list.
    Thanks for your consideration and I strongly urge you to look up Bob Lanier. I figure if you have David Bing, then you might as well have Bob Lanier. Omitting him in Bings stead is like including Magic, but not Kareem; only not to that extent.

  9. Anon- Thanks for the clarifications. You make some excellent points. I am a Lebron fan too and am shocked at how many Lebron haters there are out there. He is the youngest guy on my list, but as an MVP and complete player I see where you are coming from.

    It's kind of the same way with Kobe. You get knee jerk reactions from people when you bring up either of their names. I have respect for Dwight, Lanier, Gilmore, Stokes, and others. I will strongly consider your suggestions. It's nice to have input from someone like you who has a comprehensive understanding of the players as opposed to a young kid who only knows players from the last 10 years.

  10. Kareem is better than Bill Russel as a player, the reason he has more rings than Kareem is because he had 6/7 fall of famers on his team. Also Bird is better than Shaq. And Kobe is better than Shaq. Kobe is the best player since Jordan. Kobe was voted player of the decade by ESPN. And shaq wouldn't of won 3 rings without Kobe. Also Tim Duncan is way to low, he is consideredthe greatest power foward by almost all the big nba fans and the nba analysts.Duncan should be #11-14. And also James Worthy was such a talented playerhe should be #30-38. And Kobe is better than Hakeem, Kobe has 2 finals Mvps just like hakeem, kobe also a MVP award like Hakeem, and Hakeem played 18 seasons and kobe's played 15 and yet Kobe has made more all-star games and has been in more All-NBA First teams, and heck even more all-defensive first teams. Kenny Smith a former teammate of Hakeem has said Kobe is better and also Charles Barkley (another teammate of Hakeem) has said Kobe is better. Also Kobe has more rings. And Tim Duncan should be higher than Karl Malone because they both each have 2 Mvps but Duncan has 4 rings and Karl Malone has 0 even will playing with the third best point guard ever (after Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson).

  11. I like your list it not asinine like some of these morons whom believe MJ is not top 10 player all time. Here is my list

  12. I have respect for Dwight, Lanier, Gilmore, Stokes, and others. I will strongly consider your suggestions. It's nice to have input from someone like you who has a comprehensive understanding of the players as opposed to a young kid who only knows players from the last 10 years.

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  26. Great list. All NBA players are good. If the list would have been based on just performance the it would be a tough job.