What is sports without debates? What is it without rankings? For as much as the game and its outcome matters, the idea on who is the best at doing it adds fuel to third fire more than anything. It can make two lifelong fans of the same club turn against each other like they swapped to their rival. It’s that serious.
So when you take that idea and apply it to every player that ever played, then not simply list them, but rank them as well, its bound to light multiple fires.
So that’s exactly what I did.
With a mixture of statistics, accomplishments, historical significance and flat out talent, I’ve compiled the Top 60 players in the history of the NBA, from all eras, starting here today with 60-51.
There will be different intro articles to each list, so we’ll cover details as the list unfolds, so here it is. Enjoy and you know where the comment box is.
60. STEVE NASH-Point Guard-1996 to present-Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks
THE NUMBERS: 14.6 ppg, 8.5 apg, 3 rpg, 0.8 spg, .49 FG%, .903 free throw%, .429 3 pt %
THE HONOR ROLL: 2 x MVP (’05 & ’06), 7x All-Star, 3x All-NBA 1st, 2 All-NBA 2nd
THE +/-: Innovative high speed creator….who has never led a team to the Finals
Had one of the more remarkable mid-career shifts ever, moving from a talented compliment player, into one of the most success creators in the history of the game. Known for his uncanny knack to get the ball in just the right places (5-time assist champ), but is also one of the most accurate shooters ever as well (all-time free throw percentage leader).
59. DENNIS RODMAN-Power Forward-1986 to 2006-Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks
THE NUMBERS: 13.1 rpg, 7.3 ppg, 1.8 apg
THE HONOR ROLL: 5 x Champion, 2 x Defensive Player of the Year, 7 x All-Defensive 1st, 2 x All-Star
THE +/-: Best rebounder of his era….who was one moment away from a technical, at least.
One of the greatest catalysts in the history of the game. His work on the glass, despite being the smallest guy under the rim, made his teams tremendously better, and arguably was one of the greatest psychological advantages ever for them as well. From 1992 to 1998, he won every rebounding title, with a high of 18.7 per game in ’92, the highest season total since 1972.
58. REGGIE MILLER-Shooting Guard-1987 t0 2005-Indiana Pacers
THE NUMBERS: 18.2 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg, 1.1 spg, .471 FG%, .888 free throw %, .395 3pt %
THE HONOR ROLL: 5 x All-Star, 3 x All-NBA 3rd
THE +/-: Huge clutch producer and great shooter….who gave little else
Great shooter who always found a way to get open, and became even greater under pressure. Held the all-time 3 point record for six seasons. Made his biggest impact during Playoff basketball, especially his 8 point outburst in 8 seconds versus the Knicks in 1995.
57. ALEX ENGLISH-Small Forward-1976 to 1992-Denver Nuggets
THE NUMBERS: 21.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.6 apg, .507 FG %, .832 free throw %
THE HONOR ROLL: 8 x All-Star, 3 x All-NBA 2nd
THE +/-: Top scoring guard of a decade….but never broke into the spotlight with the big win
Prolific scorer in the 1980’s, where he lead the decade in total points. First player to score 2,000 points in eight consecutive seasons, and his career total is 13th most all-time. Over a nine year stretch starting in 1980, he never averaged less than 24 points per game, and took Denver to the Playoffs each season.
56. RAY ALLEN-Shooting Guard-1996 to present-Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle Sonics
THE NUMBERS: 20.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.2 spg, .452 FG %, .399 3 pt %, .893 free throw %
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, 9 x All-Star, 1 All-NBA 2nd
THE +/-: Top three point shooter ever….who’s never been an absolutely elite player
Has perhaps the most picture perfect jumper ever, and it has led him atop the all-time list for most threes ever (2612). Took his status to another level once he joined the Celtics and helped shoot them to their first title in 22 years. Two years later he set the record for most three pointers in one Finals game with 8.
55. DOMINIQUE WILKINS-Small Forward-1982 to 1999-Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs
THE NUMBERS: 24.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.3 spg, .461 FG %, .811 free throw %
THE HONOR ROLL: 9 x All-Star, 1 All-NBA 1st, 4 x All-NBA 2nd
THE +/-: One of the most exciting scorers ever….couldn’t outplay the other top stars of his era
The “Human Highlight Film” was one of the most exciting high flyers in NBA history. He made many of the most memorable attacks on the rim ever, especially in the Slam Dunk Contests (which he won in ’85 and ’90). However he was far from a one trick pony, and had many memorable performances, such as his 47-point outburst in game 7 of the 1988 Eastern Semifinals vs. Larry Bird. His 30.3 led the NBA in 1986 and he had seven seasons of averaging 28 points or better
54. NATE ARCHIBALD-Point Guard-1970 to 1984-Cincinnati Royals, KC Kings, New York Nets, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks
THE NUMBERS: 18.8 ppg, 7.4 apg, 1.1 spg, .467 FG %, .810 free throw %
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, 6 x All-Star, 3 x All-NBA, 2 x All-NBA 2nd, 1 All-Star MVP
THE +/-: Nearly un-guardable ball handler…..who pushed numbers over results at times
The only player to lead the NBA in points and assists in the same season (1972-73). Has the 20th most assists all-time, and became a great off the bench player with the 80’s Celtics, helping them to become one of six future Hall of Famers on the club at once.
53. BILLY CUNNINGHAM-Power Forward-1965 to 1976-Philadelphia 76ers, Carolina Cougars (ABA)
THE NUMBERS: 21.2 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 4.3 apg, .452 FG %]
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, 4 x All-Star 3 x All-NBA, 1 x ABA MVP
THE +/-: Great rebounder and workhouse….who was never “the guy” for any team in the NBA
Crucial part of the 1967 Sixers club that set the long time record for wins with 68. His efforts contributed to that team ending an 11 year streak of the Celtics being in the Finals. He briefly played in the ABA, where he won the league’s MVP honors in 1973, before returning to the NBA again. His winning ways continued as a coach in Philly, where he won the 1983 Finals and reached 200, 300 and 400 wins faster than any coach ever.
52. JERRY LUCAS-Power Foward-1962 to 1974-Cincinnati Royals, San Francisco Warriors, New York Knicks
THE NUMBERS: 17 ppg, 15.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, .499 FG %
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, 7 x All-Star, 3 x All-NBA, 1964 Rookie of the Year, 1 All-Star MVP
THE +/-: Great tall shooter who also could rebounder….but was never a #1 option
The first true jump shooting big man, he teamed with Oscar Robertson in Cincinnati to become a highly/successful inside-outside combo in the early 60’s. He later moved on to win his only title with the 1973 New York Knicks. He is fourth all-time in rebounding per game, and his the first player to win championships at the high school, college, Olympic and professional levels.
51. DIRK NOWITZKI-Power Forward-1998 to present-Dallas Mavericks
THE NUMBERS: 23 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1 bpg, .471 FG %, .381 3 pt %
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 MVP (’07), 9 X All-Star, 4 x All-NBA, 4 x All-NBA 2nd
THE +/-: Became the prototype for tall shooters….has had multiple big game failures
Redefined what tall shooters can be, becoming one of the great shooters of all-time at 7 feet tall. Of all the European imports to the NBA, is has been the best of the lot, and a player that many teams have sought to duplicate, unsuccessfully. Became the first (and only) European-born MVP, and led the Mavs to their first Finals appearance in the 2006.