Expanding NBA’s 50 Greatest Players to 65 | Part 1

by Patrick ‘Rey’ Reynell

At the 1997 NBA All-Star weekend, the league introduced its 50 greatest players in commemoration of its 50th anniversary. The selection process had actually been completed several months earlier by media personnel, former players and coaches, and former and current general managers and team owners.

As its web site boasts at NBA.com, the list – at the time of its release – consisted of “one hundred and seven NBA championship rings. More than 400 hundred NBA All-Star Game selections. Nearly one million points scored.”

Some of its members reach back to the late 1940s such as George Mikan and Dolph Schayes. Others were more recent retirees such as Larry Bird and Isaiah Thomas. The list also included active players at that time such as Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing. Even Shaquille O’Neal, though only playing in his fifth NBA season, found a place amongst the 50 greatest.

The list rightfully spans both the foundation, innovation and modernization of the game.

No true guidelines exist for its compilation. For one, the names were presented sans-position, which allows only the best on the list. Secondly, statistics dominate the selections but can differ greatly from player-to-player.

32,172 points separate the list’s top and bottom scorers (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 38,327; Bill Walton 6,215).

44 MVP awards appear, but 33 of those awards have gone to just 9 of the players (Jabbar 6, Jordan 5, Russell 5, Chamberlain 4, Magic Johnson 3, Bird 3, Moses Malone 3, Karl Malone 2, Bob Pettit 2).

Of the over 100 NBA championships on the list, 9 of those players never won (Gervin, Ewing, Thurmond, Maravich, Baylor, Barkley, Karl Malone, Bing, Stockton).

The reasons various, the accolades vast, the selection venerable.

Thirteen NBA seasons have now passed since the 50 greatest were chosen. Two more NBA seasons will complete the NBA’s 65th year, so why not start thinking about adding 15 players to expand the greatest list to 65 – one for each year of the NBA’s existence.

Now, this is not a novel idea and has been done at the 60th anniversary by TNT. If you so choose, you can view their 10 additions at Hoopedia. That list, however, is not an official addendum to the NBA’s, so don’t feel obligated to include any of their picks should you decide to take a gander.

And because 15 is a lot to keep track of, let’s do this in three parts, 5 players at a time.

For this first part, pick the 5 players who you think absolutely, 100%, indisputably must be added. And remember: these players may still be active, or you may feel that someone long-retired just missed the cut the first time in 1997 and finally gets his due.

After a few days of discussion, we’ll tally the votes and move on to the next 5. As always, explaining your picks is a welcome form of discussion.

Here are my first 5 additions:

Bob McAdoo – Hall of Fame, 2X NBA champion, won an MVP in 1975 with Buffalo with whom he also won Rookie of the Year in 1973. An innovator at the post position because of his ability to shoot from the outside consistently (at 6’9″ tall). Though his total points and rebounds put him near the middle of the list of 50 greatest, remains the last player to average 30 points and 15 rebounds in a season.

Kobe Bryant – 5X NBA champion, three of those as the team’s No. 2 guy and the last two as the No. 1. Won a regular season MVP and last two Finals MVPs. Scoring champion twice who averaged just over 35 ppg in 2005-2006. Has over 25,000 career points, which would put him at eleventh on the 50 greatest list.

LeBron James – Over 15,000 career points in just seven NBA seasons. Back-to-back MVPs in that time. Averages 27.8 ppg, 7 assists and 7 rebounds (just a note: his playoff averages in each category are better). 34 career triple-doubles with 6 of those coming in the playoffs (had a triple-double in first career playoff game).

Tim Duncan – 4X NBA champion, 3X Finals MVP, 2X MVP. Only other plays to win multiple MVPs in regular season and Finals are Jabbar, Bird, Jordan, Magic. Great passer (3.2 apg) for a big man and even better defender (2.3 bpg). Easily a double-double for career (21.1 ppg, 11.6 rpg).

Allen Iverson – In less than 1,000 career games: 24,368 points (26.7 ppg), 5,624 assists (6.2 apg), and over 2 steals per game. Won MVP award in 2000-2001. Helped modernize the game today by creating an east-to-west style of play that opened the floor and encouraged ball-handling and penetration like never before. Today’s point guards break down defenses with crossovers Iverson mastered at Georgetown and the NBA. Uncanny ability to score around the basket despite often being smallest player on floor.

So there are my first 5 additions. You can agree, refute, or (in the spirit of Mt. Otsego) just add your ‘splinters.’

Part 2

46 Responses to "Expanding NBA’s 50 Greatest Players to 65 | Part 1"

  1. Casey   July 23, 2010 at 10:36 am


    Thank you for starting a hoops discussion in July. Ahhhhhhhhhhh……

    I just realized Chet Walker is not on the original list. I went and looked at his stats. Do you think there is any coincidence that when “Chet the Jet” was traded from Philly to Chicago his ppg increased? All of sudden, in his thirties he’s averaging 20. Funny how someone’s ppg can increase when he is no longer feeding Wilt. That is not a knock on Chamberlain. But Walker chose to make the most out of his supporting role. That might have hurt his legacy.

    Question for Pete – how much would have Walker’s ppg increased had he the benefit of the 3pt. arc?

    I’ll go with Duncan, Bryant and McAdoo.

    Iverson makes my stomach turn. There is no questioning his ability. But look what he did with his God-given gifts. He decided to use them for his own personal gain and his recent struggles to sign with a team show that. At the age of 34, AI could not find anybody willing to take him on a team. At age 34, Chet Walker started 82 games for the Bulls and averaged just less than 20. And that was in 1974 when players rode buses and trains and stayed in second-rate hotels.

    No to Iverson.

    This is going to seem like a complete contradiction, but Dennis Rodman goes in for me. 2 time defensive player of the year. 8-time first team all-defense. 7 consecutive years he led the league in rpg – he is 11th all-time. He played on 5 championship teams.

    Ray Allen is on my list. Allen is the best example of passing the “eye-test.”

  2. Rey   July 23, 2010 at 10:57 am

    You have 6 right now, Casey. Allen, Rodman, Walker, Duncan, McAdoo, Bryant.

    He may not be in your top 55 or top 60, but Iverson has to be there by the time you’re done. I agree; he was not always putting his team before himself, but as you said, there is no questioning his ability. I can’t compare Iverson at 34 to Walker at 34 because who’s to say that Iverson hadn’t endured more bumps and bruises in his younger years as the No. 1 guy for his team. Plus, with his size, once you lose a step you have lost your whole arsenal. He can’t reinvent his game like an MJ or what Bryant is doing. No amount of pump fakes and pivots will create a fade away for him. And I don’t think we should his recent failings against him. The guy is a jerk, but statistically you have to admit he was one of the best scorers in the game. And his assists are not that bad!

    Rodman, to me, is a great choice though many might not see it that way. Should greatest mean well-rounded? The guy couldn’t score. Let me put it to you this way and I know you’re going to hate this: put the fifty greatest in a one-on-one tournament. How does Rodman do? I know team merits are huge here, but he’s so lacking in the offensive department. What was his FT%, too? I don’t even think he could hit those. Again – I like the choice, but this s how some will look at this – with individual merits weighing heavily.

    The thing that sells me on Rodman is the championships with two different franchises. I know he had good players around him, but how do the Piston do without him? Do the Bulls win 72 without him?

    As far as Ray Allen, how do you justify him over Reggie Miller at this point? Not challenging, just asking…

  3. Rey   July 23, 2010 at 11:16 am

    As Chet Walker goes, can we compare him to Tom Heinsohn? He never got to get away from Russell and still averaged nearly 19ppg.

  4. Casey   July 23, 2010 at 11:45 am

    My bad – sorry for the confusion. I did not actually put Walker in my 5. I was bringing him because I noticed he was not on the NBA’s 50 list.

    My five – Duncan, Kobe, McAdoo, Rodman and Allen

  5. Casey   July 23, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Heinsohn and Walker are a great comparison with Heinsohn getting the obvious advantage in rings.

    Good point as far as Miller and Allen go. Reggie unfortunately was out of sight out mind for me when I posted. Since you bring him up, how do you choose Iverson over Miller?

    Believe it or not, Rodman led the league in FG% one year. He didn’t score much, but when he shot he made it count. Rebounds and put backs…rebounds and put backs – I love ’em. The best play in hoops.

    You are right. I do not like a one on one tournament as a gauge. Depending upon where you start with the ball Moses Malone, Bill Russell and Wilt might drop off the list. 🙂

  6. Rey   July 23, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Haha – very true about Malone, Wilt and Russell.

    Miller played in 475 more games than Iverson yet only outscored him by 911 points. Cut the assists in half even though AI was considered a PG. Iverson even averaged more rebounds than him in a career. He really doens’t have any hardware to brag about. Never even finished in the top ten in MVP voting. He was a great shooter, clutch performer. But I don’t think Reggie even cracks my top 65 when we’re finished here.

    Again – for me, Iverson brought something to the modern game that hadn’t really been perfected. Isaiah, DJ, Magic were great transition guards. They went north-to-south and made things happen. Iverson could practically create a transition game on the offensive end in the half court. Imagine if he ever played with a reliant shooter out on the 3.

    Great point about Rodman. Makes me like that pick even more. He knew his strengths and when to shoot.

  7. Chas   July 23, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    I’m voting for Adrian Dantley, Bernard King, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Bob McAdoo. I’m definitely more of an “eye test” guy when it comes to basketball.

  8. Casey   July 23, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    I’ll be the first to admit Rodman got lucky landing with Detroit and Chicago. He needed someone like MJ or the contingent of Bad Boys to keep him in line. I would be hard pressed to find a guy with better instincts for a rebound.

  9. Casey   July 23, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Iverson actually played with some guys known for knocking down threes – Stackhouse, Kukoc, McKie and Rex Walters.

  10. Casey   July 23, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Adrian Dantley is a good eye test. Too bad Wally is moving this weekend. He could add to that nomination.

  11. Rey   July 23, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Chas – I have another high-scoring guard instead of Adrian Dantley; although now that you’ve brought him up, I wonder about the validitiy of my pick. The other guy is Alex English for me. Great call!

    Someone will have to help me out with Bernard King. As a forward, how does he always creep into the greatest ever conversations?

  12. Rey   July 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Casey – Rex Walters really played one season with AI. Stackhouse – I don’t know. He played one season with him and shot just less than 30%. Aaron McKie was pretty good from the outside and had a lot of attempts. Kukoc only played one full season (two different stints) with him.

    He still averaged 6 assists! That’s not too bad considering he was their best scoring option every year. Who did he have to dish to, Theo Ratliff???

  13. Rey   July 23, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Who is the most comparable to Iverson’s career? Walt Frazier?

    He was a PG and during their title run in 1973, led a GREAT team in scoring and still managed 6 assists per game. Way more rebounds, but also 4 more inches in height.

  14. Casey   July 23, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    That Nuggets team he played on was pretty friggin’ good, and they looked better with Chauncey running the point.

  15. Casey   July 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Do you think there is any coincidence that Philly struggled to bring in guys to play with Iverson? Or when they did get guys, they didn’t want to stay long?

    Paul Pierce just took a pay cut to stay with Allen, Garnett and the Celtics. How many guys would line up to take a pay cut to play with Iverson?

  16. Rey   July 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Denver was never going to work; bad situation for him. I don’t doubt guys did not want to play for him, but I don’t think that takes away from his career in Philly. Who’s to sayt what could have happened if there were different moves, GMs, etc. I don’t like the guy’s character or his concept of team basketball. I guess it depends on how you’re looking at it. I’m looking at his career as an individual. Other guys, their team impact weighs more heavily for me (like a Rodman or current members Worthy, Pippen).

    We’re going to need someone else to chime in on the Iverson debate…

    Right now the 3 voters agree on Duncan, McAdoo and Kobe Bryant as shoe-ins for the next 5.

  17. Chas   July 23, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Rey, the eye test for me pushes Dantley over English. It’s not really the eye test as much as it’s the memory test. Dantley just evokes images of being more dominant, but I could be completely wrong. They’re probably really close.

    Bernard King is one of those guys who is rated much higher by people who saw him play vs. people who just have stats to go on. In his absolute prime, which admittedly was short-lived, he was the best player in the game. That’s right, better than Bird and Magic, but injuries cut into his prime, so I’m probably over-emphasizing that. But, so what. 🙂

  18. Casey   July 23, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    If nothing else, this has caused me to look at the career of Alex English. I, honestly, can not give English the “eye test” because I might seen him play once. He spent the majority of his career with Denver, and the Nuggets did not get too much tv coverage in Upstate NY. He is 10th all-time in field goal attempts AND he hit 50% of the time. Geez…

  19. crossword pete   July 23, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Chas, a gutsy (but maybe true) statement on King. Dantley was such a good college player that his pro career was almost disappointing to me, but maybe a take over English. two players I don’t see mentioned are English’s Denver teammate, Dan Issel, and Russell’s “glue” KC Jones. BTW, maybe Rodman wasn’t the lucky one, maybe the Pistons and Bulls were the lucky ones. His rebounding and defense made it easier on everyone else to play their game. If you win wherever you go, there must be a reason connected to you. With all that, I still can’t pick 5. Sorry!

  20. Rey   July 23, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Pete – I’ve heard people say the exact same thing about Maravich in regards to your comment on Dantley. Dan Issel is a GREAT addition. I had to check the list and make sure he wasn’t in there. A lot of forwards though, so easy to see how he’s overlooked. Just pick your 5, Pete! You’ll have 10 more picks to go in case you leave someone out.

    Chas – I’m at a huge disadvantage on Bernard King. I could not pick him out of a lineup, let alone recall his playing days. But his name always comes up in these types of conversations.

  21. Wally   July 23, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    AD … Adrian Dantley! Yes, he’s got my endorsement. I like a lot of the nominees for the next 5. Kobe, Duncan, McAdoo … absolutely. Bernard King was kinda like the Billy Sims of the NBA … Short but pretty spectacular career. He and Chet Walker would get my vote if we’re going to 15. Rodman too … that guy could rebound and defend … and we won titles!! Here’s some more names to think about off the top of my head:

    — Jerry Sloan
    — Manu Ginobili
    — Steve Nash
    — David Thompson
    — Bill Laimbeer

  22. BS   July 23, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    LeBron James is 25 years old. He has played seven seasons — 548 regular-season games and 71 playoff games. There’s a feeling that he can still get better and, with better teammates, maybe he could. But fundamentally, to paraphrase Bill Parcells, he is what he is at this point — a gregarious, larger-than-life, supremely gifted basketball player who’s better at making us say “WOW!” than anything else. If he owned that cutthroat Jordan chromosome, or Magic’s leadership chromosome, it would have surfaced by now. In Wednesday’s column before Game 6, I mentioned how there comes a point in every great player’s career when you have to pour the cement, let it harden and see what you have. We poured the cement for LeBron in this series. It hardened last night. We know what we have.

    And last night, LeBron’s DNA finally made sense to me. Throw Jordan out. Throw Magic out, too, except for the “controls sections of a game with passing/rebounding” part. Keep Bo. Now, add this guy … Julius Erving.

    I will explain.

    Doc was one of the 20 best NBA players of all time. (In my book, I ranked him 16th.) Like LeBron, he did things on a basketball court that nobody had ever seen before. Like LeBron, he made the court shrink with a full head of steam. Like LeBron, his peers revered his talents. Like LeBron, he was articulate and thoughtful. Like LeBron, you watched him from afar and thought, “He seems like a good guy.” Like LeBron, he was a small forward who rebounded bigger than his size (at least the first few years). Like LeBron, his durability was almost unparalleled. (Doc played in 1,277 of a possible 1,395 games, including seven seasons of 95-plus games). Like LeBron, women and children loved him. Like LeBron, he was extremely savvy about his image (and how to cultivate it). Like LeBron, he was an incredible, once-in-a-generation athlete. Like LeBron, his faulty outside shooting plagued him, so teams laid off him, packed the middle and prayed he would miss 20-footers. And, like LeBron, he was a nice guy.

    (Hold that last thought for a second.)

    Doc at age 26 (ABA, 1975-76 season, his fifth): 29.3 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, 50.7% FG.

    LeBron at age 25 (this year, his seventh season): 29.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 8.6 APG, 50.3% FG.

    Doc in the ’76 playoffs (13 games): 34.7 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 4.9 APG, 53.3% FG.

    LeBron in the ’10 playoffs (11 games): 29.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 7.6 APG, 50.2% FG.

    The big difference: Doc captured two ABA titles (in ’74 and ’76). LeBron hasn’t won anything. Of course, the ABA played right into Doc’s wheelhouse: The league didn’t have enough big guys, nobody played defense, a school-yard-type game carried the day, and the league was diluted enough that someone as gifted as Doc could run roughshod. When the ABA and NBA merged in the summer of 1976, Doc switched teams (to Philly) and the big question became, “When will Dr. J win an NBA title?”

  23. crossword pete   July 24, 2010 at 12:47 am

    Dr J is not on the list? He’s one of my 5. And to respond to Rey’s request; here we go: Erving, Rodman, Issel, James, AND from tiny St. Francis, Pa…. Maurice Stokes (of Rochester/Cincinnati Royal fame). I am not adverse to early selection of James. Several players on the Top 50 did not win championships. I would never deny Jerry West or Elgin Baylor a spot. I do not think Bob Pettit won a championship (wait, he did). Nor did George Gervin. I’m not sure about Jerry Lucas, but I would not take any of them out of the top 50. Lebron may NEVER win a championship; that does not mean he is not one of the most gifted basketball players ever. And I am not adverse to selection of Stokes on a meager 3 year career. That’s like thinking Roy Campenella was not a great one because his career was cut short by injury. Stokes was the James/Bryant or Magic/Bird of his time. I don’t know why he is not in Top 50! The one I can’t include as a must at this point is Kobe.

  24. Casey   July 24, 2010 at 7:35 am


    Great call with Stokes!!!!!!!!

    Dr. J is on the original 50 list. BS was just using him as a point of comparison.

  25. crossword pete   July 24, 2010 at 7:48 am

    I missed Dr J’s name. Hence my 5 will include Chet Walker.

  26. crossword pete   July 24, 2010 at 7:52 am

    You know what; Walker goes to my second 5. I have to (reluctantly and with grave reservation) go with Iverson.

  27. Rey   July 24, 2010 at 9:14 am

    BS – No one would dispute that James hasn’t gotten it done during playoff time. But his numbers do go up and he plays in a league that can zone him up on the perimeter. There is just no way that his lack of playoff success in any way lessens what he has done on the court in 7 years in this type of discussion. What were John Stockton’s numbers in the playoffs? Pete Maravich?

    Pete – Stokes is the coolest pick yet. I don’t think it is too far-fatched. Bill Walton made it and he is no where near what some of the other guys, though he willed Portland to a title. I think for making such a cool pick, your Iverson vote should count twice 🙂

    Wally – I was wondering when Steve Nash would come in. I’m interested to see where people put him. Who was your fifth guy? I have you for Dantley, Duncan, McAdoo, and Kobe.

    We do have 5 guys tied right now and need someone to come in to advance the other 2. Like I said, McAdoo, Kobe, and Duncan are through.

  28. Casey   July 24, 2010 at 9:31 am

    To understand more about Stokes (taken from espn.com):
    Stokes’ life a tale of tragedy and friendship
    By Bob Carter
    Special to ESPN.com

    “To see the way he conducted himself, I just stood in awe of him. It got so bad, when I would be having a bad day myself, I would go to see Maurice, selfishly, to say, I want to get pumped up. And he never failed to pump me up,” says Jack Twyman.

    In the 1950s, his ability to beat opponents to rebounds with his muscular body, quickness and positioning was nearly unparalleled. He averaged more than 20 rebounds per game in college, more than 17 in the NBA. He passed well, too, good enough to be among the NBA’s assist leaders, and averaged double figures in scoring.

    Maurice Stokes was one of basketball’s best forwards then, one of its least-known stars now. Stokes, 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, wasn’t around long enough to be remembered like many of his peers. In the final regular-season game of the 1957-58 season, his third year as a pro, the Cincinnati Royals all-star fell to the floor, hit his head and was knocked unconscious.

    Three days later, the 24-year-old went into a coma and was permanently paralyzed, his career over. His life, however, wasn’t over, thanks mostly to teammate Jack Twyman, who helped to raise money for his medical expenses and became his legal guardian. Twyman started an exhibition game in Stokes’ honor and established the Maurice Stokes Foundation to defray hospital costs.

    In 1973, three years after Stokes’ death, his story was told in the film “Maurie,” which starred former football player Bernie Casey. Though few of today’s NBA stars know much about Stokes, mid-century players appreciated his game. Bobby Wanzer, who coached and played with him, said, “If things had worked out differently, Maurice would have become one of the top 10 players of all time.”

    Said Twyman: “No one had seen a guy with that combination of strength, speed and size.”

    Stokes, who was born on June 17, 1933 in Rankin, Pa., just outside Pittsburgh, and Twyman had connections early on. They were high school basketball contemporaries in Pittsburgh, and both showed late development on the court.

    The Stokes family – Maurice, his parents, two brothers and twin sister – moved to the Homewood section of Pittsburgh when he was eight. At Westinghouse High School, Stokes was a two-year starter and the team won back-to-back city championships, but he often was overshadowed by teammates. Though he received 10 basketball scholarship offers, some college coaches thought he was too slow.

    Twyman, during the same span, failed to make his Central Catholic High School team three times and played only one season before going on to the University of Cincinnati, where he turned into a superb shooter.

    At St. Francis College in Loretto, Pa., Stokes became a small-college All-American. He averaged 23.3 points and 22.2 rebounds in his junior year as St. Francis went 22-9 and played in the National Invitation Tournament. As a senior, he led the Frankies to fourth place at the 1955 NIT, where he scored 43 points in a 79-73 overtime loss in the semifinals to Dayton and was named the tournament’s MVP. In 1997, a media panel voted him to the all-time NIT team.

    The NBA, Harlem Globetrotters and industrial teams pursued Stokes after his senior season. The Rochester Royals chose Stokes No. 2 overall in the 1955 NBA draft – after Milwaukee picked Dick Ricketts of Duquesne – and selected Twyman in the second round. Along with Niagara’s Ed Fleming, the Royals’ No. 3 pick who was a Westinghouse teammate of Stokes, they drove from Pittsburgh for their first pro training camp.

    Stokes made an immediate impact, getting 32 points, 20 rebounds and eight assists in his NBA debut. He went on to average 16.8 points in 1955-56 and a league-best 16.3 rebounds, snatching a franchise-record 38 in one game, and was voted the NBA’s Rookie of the Year.

    “The first great, athletic power forward,” Bob Cousy said years later. “He was Karl Malone with more finesse.”

    Twyman also became a rookie starter for the Royals and averaged 14.4 points and 6.5 rebounds.

    In Stokes’ second season, he set an NBA record by grabbing 1,256 rebounds (17.4 per game), ranked third in the league in assists with 331 (4.6 average) and scored 15.6 points a game.

    The Royals moved to Cincinnati before the 1957-58 season, and Stokes finished second in rebounding average (18.1) to Bill Russell, third again in assists (6.4), behind only guards Cousy and Dick McGuire, and scored 16.9 points a game.

    A 35-percent shooter in his three seasons, he averaged 16.4 points, 17.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists. Playing 37 minutes a contest in his 202-game career, he was named second-team all-league each year.

    “Competitive, hard-nosed, tough,” former NBA player and coach Gene Shue described Stokes in 1992. “He was a coach’s dream.”

    The dream career ended tragically on March 12, 1958 in Minneapolis when Stokes drove to the basket against the Lakers, drew contact and fell awkwardly to the floor, hitting his head. Knocked out for several minutes, he was revived with smelling salts and returned to the game.

    Three days later, the Royals lost their playoff opener at Detroit, and after a 12-point, 15-rebound performance, Stokes became ill on the team’s flight back to Cincinnati. “I feel like I’m going to die,” he told a teammate.

    When the plane landed, he was taken to a nearby hospital in Covington, Ky., where he remained unconscious for weeks, a quadriplegic. He later was moved to a Cincinnati hospital, his home for six years.

    Stokes’ illness was first diagnosed as encephalitis. Soon, it was traced to the head injury he suffered against the Lakers. The final diagnosis: post-traumatic encephalopathy, a brain injury that damaged his motor control center.

    When Stokes’ family could not afford the medical bills, stepping up to take charge was Twyman, who lived in Cincinnati. “Things had to be done immediately,” he said, “and no one was there to do them but me.”

    Twyman worked feverishly. He applied to become his friend’s legal guardian and a judge granted the request, enabling Twyman to control Stokes’ $9,000 bank account and pay some bills. He filed applications so that Stokes received work injury compensation, which helped with his hospitalization, care and medicine.

    Later in 1958, Twyman worked to organize an exhibition doubleheader that raised $10,000 for Stokes’ expenses. He handled Stokes’ mail, including his bills. And though he had a family of his own, Twyman spent countless hours at the hospital with Stokes, who after regaining consciousness could not speak.

    Twyman communicated by going through the alphabet, letter by letter, until Stokes, who was mentally alert, blinked in recognition. Slowly, the process spelled out words.

    The brain injury had robbed Stokes of his speech, mobility and independence, but not his spirit. He took on a painful regimen of physical therapy, gradually gaining minimal movement in his limbs and joints. His body sweating, Stokes spent hours receiving treatment from therapists and eventually took small steps down the hospital hallway in braces, his large frame supported by nurses.

    Though his body suffered spasms and his fingers didn’t always go where he wanted, Stokes learned how to type again and how to paint. In a wheelchair, he accompanied Twyman to some of the annual exhibition games in his honor, an event kept alive by Milt Kutsher, who offered up his Catskills resort as a game site. Somehow, after accepting his situation, Stokes kept his sense of humor.

    “Stokes lived as a symbol of the best that a man is, despite the terrible things which can happen to him,” wrote New York Post columnist Milton Gross. “He was a beautiful man who believed that surrender was not the way, even though he couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk except agonizingly. And he laughed when he should have cried.”

    On April 6, 1970, Stokes died of a heart attack. At his request, he was buried at St. Francis. Maurice Stokes was 36.

    In September 2004, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

  29. Casey   July 24, 2010 at 9:37 am

    I just changed my picks: Duncan, McAdoo, Kobe, Rodman and Stokes

    Pete – HELMET STICKER!!!!!!

  30. crossword pete   July 24, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Stokes always stuck in my mind because he came from such a small school. He was a hero of sorts long before I came to the Rochester area. Duncan is a popular choice, and while I consider him one of the finest PEOPLE in basketball and know that he has several championships, I still relegate him to my second 5, along with McAdoo and Bryant (and Walker). I’ll have to return to this post when we get to THAT discussion. And Rey; DON”T YOU DARE COUNT MY IVERSON VOTE AS 2! I had enough trouble giving him 1 vote!

  31. Rey   July 24, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Haha – Ok, Pete. Just one vote for Iverson.

    Where’s Smitty?

  32. Casey   July 24, 2010 at 11:15 am


  33. crossword pete   July 24, 2010 at 12:21 pm


  34. Casey   July 24, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Pete – too many helmet stickers in one day!!!! 🙂

  35. Rey   July 24, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    I was ready to let go of the Iverson thing, Casey, but you had to give Pete insight of the week for his Iverson comment.

    Was he or was he not almost single-handedly responsible for the major changes to defense around 2000 (a serious question, not a condescending one)? It was 1999 when they said no hand-checking in the backcourt. Then I think it was 2 years later that they completely threw out illegal defense.

    They change the hand checking rule and he nearly wins three scoring titles in a row (he won 2 from 2000-2002 seasons). Then suddenly, illegal defense is thrown out and guys can sit around and pitch a tent wherever they want. His average drops 4 points the following season. Then he wins another scoring title and goes on to average 33 a game after that!

    Am I crazy, or was Allen Iverson’s name brought up a WHOLE heck of a lot when they were discussing these defensive rules changes? He changed the game. Guards are the way they are today because of him. I’m not saying he’s the consummate PG or teammate, but he was a scorer. He had to be the alpha dog and that’s why he put up 50 shots a game. I still contest that he played with nobody worth a darn offensively (which may be his own fault) except for Aaron McKie, who was an okay player.

    If I’m wrong, I can take it.

  36. crossword pete   July 24, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Rey, I for one concede that Iverson was indeed a very good player – top 65-worthy (like Elaine Benis sponge-worthy?). I just don’t like him as a person, hence my plea not to have 2 votes counted. I know all that was in jest, but I just want to go on the record as saying I give him the label “good player”. BTW, I believe Kobe is too 1-dimensional, and Duncan is too quietly good. Both of them, for very different reasons, make the players around them better, but I am not sold on their pure basketball talent, and yes, I hear the whispers – “How can he say that about Kobe?”

  37. Rey   July 24, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Concerning Kobe (in the words of Kramer): “Surely you jest” I don’t question picking Kobe whatsoever. I also think he used to be 1-dimensional but is far from that now. I hate the guy, but he’s one of the greats.

    Iverson is indeed sponge-worthy. He cut his corn rows, remember? Elaine doesn’t even like sideburns, so he used to be at a huge disadvantge.

    On second thought… Maybe he isn’t. He’s got all those tatoos and she hates body paint

  38. Casey   July 24, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Imagine the Costanza “I’m doing something serious” look. That’s me in the hotel lobby.

  39. Wally   July 26, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    I’m back in the swing of things now down in Houston. A few putbacks here:

    — Rey asked who my 5th nominee was … it’s Chet “The Jet” Walker

    — If you ignore carrying the ball on every trip down the court, maybe Iverson is in. He changed the game because the refs thought it would be more exciting to ignore the basic rules. I’m having none of it.

    — Artis Gilmore averaged a solid double-double for his NBA career and shot 60% from the field. Was also a force in the old ABA

  40. crossword pete   July 26, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    I was always impressed with what Gilmore did in college, basically single-handedly leading Jacksonville to the Final Four.

  41. Wally   July 26, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    After a stellar career with the Kentucky Colonels, Gilmore really played well for the Chicago Bulls … led them to the NBA semi-finals one year where they ended up losing to Bill Walton’s Portland Trailblazers (eventual champ). So how do we explain this:

    Despite an ABA career in which he averaged 22.3 points and 17.1 rebounds per game, NBA career averages of 17.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, ranking in the top ten in rebounds, blocked shots, games, and minutes played, among the top 25 all-time in points, and first overall in field goal percentage, Gilmore has yet to be elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

    No other player with comparable statistical accomplishments has been omitted from the Hall. For the past three years, he failed to receive even a single vote of support from a panel of nine anonymous members serving on the North American screening committee. He remains ineligible for enshrinement until 2012.

    How is Artis Gilmore not in the HoF??????

  42. Rey   July 26, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Wally – I got your 5th. Thanks.

    And great call on Gilmore. I’m ticked that he slipped my mind. He’s definitely going to be in my top 65 before we’re done here.

    You elder statesmen may know the answer to this: Is Gilmore plagued by his years in the ABA? It seems like he dominated so much there, yet never won anything in the NBA. Did NBAers just look at him as “non-sponge-worthy” because he didn’t play in the NBA to start with? Just seems fishy to me.

    In regards to carrying, yeah – he got away with it a lot. But watch the guys now-a-days on a pick-and-roll. They look like a tailback going between the tackles. Kobe is the WORST for it.

    Casey – Talk about rebounds and put-backs?! Gilmore’s FG% is ridiculous.

  43. Rey   July 26, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Smitty? Bill?

    We need some input to help us get to the next five. Got a couple guys with the same amount of votes….

  44. Casey   July 26, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Gilmore was awesome – a conspicuous omission from the HOF. This discussion has been great.

  45. Casey   July 26, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Carrying the ball is supposed to be a point of emphasis this year by the referees.

  46. Joe   February 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Quite the interesting and subjective discussion. Comparing eras is difficult. I am not sure all of the 50 greatest belong (Dave Bing for example) Kobe and Duncan are no brainers right now. James will be. Iverson. to me, is not. Tremendously exciting and talented, but problematic and not team oriented. A guy that could carry a not so good team, but not good enough to win it all.
    I agree on McAdoo. Incredible player early and a contributor on championship team later in career. A 30/15 man and how may of those are there? Gilmore I could be convinced of, also.
    Another important distinction is who had the most career value vs. who was the best in his “peak” (say best five) years. To those who never saw or don’t remember, Bernard King, for about three years (before the injury) was an unstoppable force and clearly one of the best ever, but his career value is lower. Ironically, the same argument could be made “against” Bill Walton, who is on the list. He probably had less “great” seasons than King. But, in my opinion. belongs. In his prime, he is clearly one of the greatest players and a winner all his life.
    There are many who could be argued, for and against. However, the guy I would propose is “The Hawk”, Connie Hawkins. The original forerunner of the aerial artist, long before Dr. J and Jordan. Unfortunately, his best years were behind him before he ever got to the NBA. (and he was still pretty darn good then. All NBA his first season) To quote one of the guys who played with him back in the day after seeing him in the NBA: “The Hawk can’t fly no more”. But, in his younger, healthier days, undoubtedly one of the best ever. And, besides being an incredible talent and the original “schoolyard legend”, Hawkins was a winner.
    Hawkins at Boys High in Brooklyn, undefeated junior and senior years, player of the year. Hawkins first season in the ABL (1962) Mvp of league and playioffs, team wins title. 1968. First ABA season. MVP of league and playoffs, team wins title. First NBA season. All NBA first team and Carries a very mediocre Suns team to seven games against the great Laker team of West, Cahmberlain, etc..
    Chamberlain, who played against Hawkins early and later in his career, said of Hawkins. “The hardest guy I ever had to guard”.
    Also, I think Billy Cunningham, (on the 50 greatest list) who played against Hawkins quite a bit in the schoolyard and NBA, would probably admit that Hawkins was the better player.

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