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.’