Now we are getting into the meat of it all, where there are some timeless and unique players in the mix that were (and are) among the elite of their various generations. Of the 10 players in this section there are six scoring champions, with more than 10 total titles between them. There are a total of 19 championship rings between this group, yet there are several of the greatest players who never reached the pinnacle of the sport. However, amongst those that are ringless, there is a total of 4 MVP awards between them, so did they really get shortchanged?
Basically, this is just a showing of how real its about to get in the rest of this countdown, as this is the first section in the lower 30. There are players that aren’t just average “greats”, but there are some of the best players that ever picked the ball up, including the first star in League history and one of it’s most phenomenal talents now.
I won’t delay any further, but just know it’s getting down to clutch time in the CHEAP SEATS’ countdown here.
30. ALLEN IVERSON-Shooting Guard-1996 to 2009-Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons
THE NUMBERS: 26.7 ppg, 6.2 apg, 2.2 spg, .425 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: MVP (’01), 11 x All-Star, 3 x All-NBA, 3 x All-NBA 2nd, Rookie of the Year (’96), 2 x All-Star MVP
THE +/-: The greatest small scorer ever….who never played with quite enough to make it over the top
Despite standing six feet on a tall day, Iverson was one of the most dominant scorers in the history of the game. Perhaps no player ever played with more heart than Iverson, who routinely did in much larger players, and often at the expense of his own body. His career points per game stand at sixth all-time, and he increased that average to 29.7 in the playoffs, good for second all-time. Using his blazing speed and fearless, unrelenting attack, he won four scoring titles. Far from a one trick threat, he averaged over seven assists in seven different seasons, and has the 12th most steals in history.
29. LeBRON JAMES-Small Forward-2003 to Present-Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavs
THE NUMBERS: 27.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 7 apg, 1.7 spg, .479 FG %
THE HONOR ROLL: 2 x MVP (’09, ’10), 7 x All-Star, 4 x All-NBA, 2 x All-NBA 2nd, 2 x All-Defense, Rookie of the Year (’04)
THE +/-: Incomparable guard/forward athlete….that has not been able to close what he starts yet
He is powerful at 6’8 and 270 lbs, yet possesses the speed and court vision of a guard, LeBron James is truly unlike any player to date. An unprecedented amount of attention heralded his road to the NBA, and wasted no time in making an impact. His all-around skill set has allowed him to compile 34 triple-doubles at age 26. No other player has averaged 27 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists per game in their career, as he is currently doing. He has set several “youngest ever” records for his career achievements thus far, including being the youngest player to ever reach 15,000 points. His controversial move from Cleveland to Miami has been a highly debated move that will put a high level of pressure on him to continually deliver on the promise he has shown.
28. DAVID ROBINSON-Center-1987 to 2003-San Antonio Spurs
THE NUMBERS: 21.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 3 bpg, 2.5 apg, 1.4 spg, .510 FG %
THE HONOR ROLL: 2 Championships, MVP (’95), 10 x All-Star, 4 x All-NBA, 4 x All-Defensive, Rookie of the Year (’89), Defensive Player of the Year (’92)
THE +/-: Quick for a big man and amazing shot blocker….that could never win the big game as the primary guy
“The Admiral” had his NBA debut delayed for two years due to real military service, but when he arrived in the league in 1989 he made up for lost time in a hurry. As this career progressed, Robinson used his combination of quickness and left-handed deceptiveness to dominate on both ends of the court. He once scored 71 points in a single game, and also had 10 games where he blocked ten or more shots. Displaying his all-around talents, he notched a quadruple-double with 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 blocks in 1994. He is also one of 2 players to ever lead the NBA in points, rebounds, and blocks at a point in his career.
27. ELVIN HAYES-Power Forward-1968 to 1984-Houston/San Diego Rockets, Baltimore/Washington Bullets
THE NUMBERS: 21 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 2 bpg, 1 spg, .452 FG %
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, 12 x All-Star, 3 x All-NBA, 3 x All-NBA 2nd
THE +/-: First high scoring pure power forward in the game….but rarely gave much more than was needed
Great scoring big man who was too fast for centers to stick with, yet too big for most forwards as well. He scored 54 points in November of his rookie season, which remained a career high. For the rest of that rookie season he averaged 28.4 points and 17.1 rebounds. He became the first player to lead the NBA rebounds besides Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain since 1957 when he averaged 16.9 in his second year. Later, Hayes joined Wes Unseld in Baltimore and formed one of the most dominant front court combos ever, leading the Bullets to three Finals. His 27, 313 points are the 8th most in history, and his 16,279 rebounds are the fourth most in history.
26. GEORGE MIKAN-Center-1946 to 1956-Minneapolis Lakers
THE NUMBERS: 23.1 ppg, 13.4 rpg, 2.8 apg, .404 FG %
THE HONOR ROLL: 5 Championships, 4 x All-Star
THE +/-: The first great player in NBA history….that never played against anyone who could match his ability
George Mikan is the pioneering figure in the beginning of the NBA. He innovated many post moves and tactics that have continued to be utilized underneath the rim. He was a fierce competitor who used his size to aggressively make his presence felt over mostly undersized comp. Presence around the rim was so great that it forced several rule changes that now define the game, including a widened key, the goaltender rule and the shot clock. Later as commissioner of the ABA, he created the three-point line. He was three-time scoring champ and was voted the greatest player of the first half-century.
25. ISIAH THOMAS-Point Guard-1981 to 1994-Detroit Pistons
THE NUMBERS: 19.2 ppg, 9.3 apg, 1.9 spg, .452 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: 2 Championships, 12 x All-Star, 3 x All-NBA, 2 x All-NBA 2nd, Finals MVP (’90), 2 x All-Star MVP
THE +/-: Hard-nosed leader who defined some of the toughest teams ever….but was often over the “dirty” borderline
Known for both being a dazzling ball handler and distributor, as well as the leader of the some of the toughest teams in NBA history in the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons of the late 80’s/early 90s. His 9,061 assists are the seventh most of all time, and his 9.6 average is fifth best ever. “Zeke” is one also one of the greatest scoring point guards ever, he averaged over 20 points five consecutive times and only once did less than 15 points per night.
24. KEVIN GARNETT-Power Forward-1995 to Present-Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves
THE NUMBERS: 19.5 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.5 bpg, 1.3 spg, .498 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, MVP (’04), 14 x All-Star, 4 x All-NBA, 3 x All-NBA 2nd, 8 x All-Defense, Defensive Player of the Year (’08)
THE +/-: Multi-talented seven footer with rare intensity….that wasted many of his best years with terrible teams
He has the height of a center, the athleticism of a small forward and rolls them both into skills no other power forward has had. He is one of the best defenders to ever play the game, and long disruptive presence all across the floor. He led the resurgence of high school-to-pros draft picks when he came in to the league as the first such player to do so in 20 years. He has since gone on to become the only player to average 20 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists for nine consecutive seasons, as well as being the only player to reach 20,000 points, 11,000 rebounds, 4,000 assists, 1,500 blocks, and 1,200 steals in his career.
23. RICK BARRY-Small Forward-1965 to 1979-San Francisco/Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets
THE NUMBERS: 24.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.9 apg, 2 spg, .456 FG%, .893 free throw %
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championships, 8 x All-Star, 5 x All-NBA, Rookie of the Year (’66), Finals MVP (’75)
THE +/-: Propelled several underdog teams to overachieve….but was often too will to do it all himself
An elite forward who made a seamless transition from high scoring shooter to ball distributing point forward. Over his first 9 seasons he only averaged less than 25 points once, with a high of 35.6 in his second year. On the flip side, he averaged better than six assists a night 5 of his final 7 seasons. He is one of the most accurate shooters of all-time, and is especially regarded for his underhand free throw shooting style, that was still highly successful (second most accurate free throw shooter ever). In the 1967 Finals, he averaged 40.8 points per game, including a 55-point performance.
22. SCOTTIE PIPPEN-Small Forward-1987 to 2004-Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers
THE NUMBERS: 16.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.2 apg, 2 spg, .473 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: 6 Championships, 7 x All-Star, 3 x All-NBA, 8 x All-Defense
THE +/-: The greatest defensive forward of all-time….who could never get out the shadow of Jordan himself
While he may be known as the greatest “sidekick” in basketball history, not many lead men have been better than Pip was. Matter of fact, during Jordan’s brief retirement, he made two of his three consecutive All-NBA first teams. Capable of guarding any position on the floor, he was named to 10 consecutive All-Defensive teams, with 8 being first teams. He was the primary ball handler on offense for the lethal Chicago Bulls triangle offense, and often deferred points to set up teammates. He has more steals (2,037) than any forward ever, and is one of three players to have 200 steals and 100 blocks in one season.
21. CHARLES BARKLEY-Power Forward-1984 to 2000-Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets
THE NUMBERS: 22.1 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.5 spg, .541 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: MVP (’93), 11 x All-Star, 5 x All-NBA, 5 x All-NBA 2nd, All-Star MVP
THE +/-: The best undersized power forward ever….who never could get the ring as the star or contributor
With a personality that was bigger than even his waistline, it’s easy to forget how much of a killer Chuck was on the court. But make no bones about it, despite being barely 6’5, he is one of the greatest overall forwards of all-time. He was especially dangerous on the offensive boards, which he led the league in for three consecutive seasons in Philly. He could run the floor, create on the move and finish hard at the rim. He average less than 10 rebounds a game once in his career, and from 1987 to 1996 he averaged less than 23 points per game once. There was a lot of action backing up those loud words.
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