Welcome back to the CHEAP SEATS for part 2 of my take on the top 60 players in NBA history. As explained in part 1, this list is going on a variety of criteria surrounding the player’s presence in the NBA based on several factors. One factor that cannot be denied is the evolution of the game, and it’s ever changing history.
Since 1996 when the NBA released it’s official list of it’s top 50 players in history to commemorate it’s 50th year, that group of players has been considered the benchmark for whether a player was truly great, especially if he was retired. However even at that time, some of the inclusions raised question marks about their validity (which is guaranteed anytime such an effort is undertook). This list is no different, as it will reflect a mix of what I agreed with the first time, who should have been in initially and who has made a substantial enough impact in the 15 years since to garner such an honor. The expansion of this list to include 10 more players helps to ease that effort, but there will still be some exclusions I couldn’t justify including even with the expanded listing.
To speak to this, there are four members of the original 50 that will not appear on this list: Dave DeBusschere, Lenny Wilkins, Bill Sharman and Paul Arizin. No slight to what they were and their legacy, but there have simply been greater players that have come after them that forced them out. Overall, there will be a total of 15 players who made the list who make this countdown who were not on the initial list because either there careers hadn’t started yet or were left out for one reason or another in ’96. 7 of the 10 players in part one were examples of this, and there are more to come below.
Just know it’s going to get interesting, especially with ranks playing into the game as well. This will be a far from consensus list as it continues. And with that, I present numbers 50 through 41…
50. SAM JONES-Shooting Guard-1957 to 1969-Boston Celtics
THE NUMBERS: 17.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.5 apg, .452 FG %, .801 free throw %
THE HONOR ROLL: 10 Championships, 5 x All-Star, 3 x All-NBA 2nd
THE +/-: Clutch finisher for the greatest dynasty in NBA history….who was a solid guy in the right place
Known as a clutch scorer, and as a wingman on 10 of the Celtics dynasty of the 60’s he got plenty of opportunities to to build that reputation. He won a title in 10 of his 12 seasons, the second highest total ever to teammate Bill Russell.
49. JAMES WORTHY-Small Forward-1982 t0 1994-Los Angeles Lakers
THE NUMBERS: 19.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.2 spg, .521 FG %
THE HONOR ROLL: 3 Championships, 7 x All-Star, 1 Finals MVP, 2 All-NBA 3rd
THE +/-: Explosive finisher for the Showtime Lakers….who’s rings make numbers much better.
An athletic, strong finisher at the rim, “Big Game James” made his living as the high flying wing option for the Showtime Lakers. Was at his best in pressure moments, raising all of his career averages in Playoff action. 1988 was his greatest example of this, when he notched a 36 point, 16 rebound and 10 assist triple-double in Game 7 of the Finals, securing another Laker win.
48. HAL GREER-Shooting Guard-1958 to 1973-Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers
THE NUMBERS: 19.2 ppg, 5 rpg, 4 apg, .452 FG %, .803 free throw %
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, 10 x All-Star, 7 x All-NBA 2nd, 1 All-Star MVP
THE +/-: Highly active scorer….who never could climb to elite level over great peers solo.
Considered to be the third best guard of the 60’s behind Jerry West and Oscar Robertson. Greer averaged 27.7 points 15 playoff games in 1967. That season he was the lead guard for the 68-win Sixers team that went on to win the Finals. No regular season slouch, his 21,586 points are good for 22nd all-time.
47. DAVE COWENS-Center-1970 to 1983-Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks
THE NUMBERS: 17.6 ppg, 13.6 rpg, 0.9 bpg, 3.8 apg, .460 FG %
THE HONOR ROLL: 2 Championships, MVP (’73), Rookie of the Year (’71), 7 x All-Star, 3 x All-NBA 2nd 1 x All-Defense
THE +/-: Rode hard work ethic to elite level….but was the best in a ABA watered down 70’s NBA
One of the most intense players ever, Cowens hustle his way to becoming one of the toughest post presences ever. His efforts showed the Celtics their first post-Russell championships. During his MVP season of 1973, the Celtics came within one win of the record for most single-season wins all-time. He is one of five players to ever lead his team in points, rebounds, blocks, assists and steals in one season (1977-78).
46. ROBERT PARISH-Center-1976 to 1997-Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls
THE NUMBERS: 14.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.5 bpg, .530 FG %
THE HONOR ROLL: 4 Championships, 9 x All-Star, 1 All-NBA 2nd
THE +/-: Finesse big that could just as easily get gritty….”great” when surrounded by greatness
One of the best shooting centers of all-time, he stretched defenses away from the basket with his spot up jumpers. For as finesse of an offensive presence as he could be, he was a rugged defender and rebounder, and his 14,715 rebounds are good for eighth all-time. “The Chief” was the centerpiece of a three-headed Hall of Fame front court for the 80’s Celtics with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale.
45. EARL MONROE-Shooting/Point Guard-1967 to 1980-Baltimore Bullets, New York Knicks
THE NUMBERS: 18.8 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3 rpg, 1.9 spg, .464 FG %, .807 free throw %
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, 1 All-NBA, 4 x All-Star, Rookie of the Year (’67)
THE +/-: Breath taking showman….who’s highlights made him more memorable than his stats.
Went by the nicknames “The Pearl” and “Jesus” to explain his unpredictable, yet breathtaking ball handling skills. He went from playground legend to NBA All-Timer using his still unequaled ability to weave both styles of play together. He was an impossible individual match up, and when he paired with Walt Frazier in New York in 1972, it became a rare instance of two future Hall of Famers playing together in the same backcourt.
44. DOLPH SCHAYES-Power Forward-1949 to 1964-Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers
THE NUMBERS: 18.5 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.5 spg, .541 FG %
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, 12 x All-Star, 5 x All-NBA, 5 x All-NBA 2nd, All-Star MVP
THE +/-: Early pioneer of the forward position….was out of the game before the comp picked up
One of the early impact players of the young NBA, Schayes was the first penetrating/shooting scorers, that was also tall and a presence on the boards. When his career ended in 1964, he was the all-time leading scorer in league history, and led his club to the playoffs in 15 of his 16 campaigns.
43. JASON KIDD-Point Guard-1994 to present-Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, New Jersey Nets
THE NUMBERS: 13.4 ppg, 9.2 apg, 6.5 rpg, 2.0 spg, .408 FG %
THE HONOR ROLLS: 10 x All-Star, 5 x All-NBA, 4 x All-Defense, 5 x All-Defense 2nd, Rookie of the Year (’95)
THE +/-: Tremendous court vision and amazing creator….who has played for more playoff teams that have never won a Finals
Has an uncanny court vision and finds guys open that don’t even know they are. Is also stronger than some forwards, and is an active rebounder as well. Due to this combo of talents, he has the third most triple-doubles of all-time (107). Has led his various teams to the Playoffs for 14 consecutive seasons, most notably the 2002 Nets, who reached the Finals after a 26 game turnaround after Kidd joined their ranks.
42. CLYDE DREXLER-Shooting Guard-1983-1998-Portland TrailBlazers, Houston Rockets
THE NUMBERS: 20.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 5.6 apg, 2.0 spg, .472 FG %
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, 10 x All-Star, 1 All-NBA, 2 All-NBA 2nd
THE +/-: Overall dynamic athlete on both ends of the court….but never get over the hump as the #1 guy
One of the great overall talents at the guard position, there was nothing he couldn’t do above average. Drexler finished in the top 30 all-time in points and assists for his career, and sits at 12th in steals. Known as “The Glide” for his vertical game and athleticism, he is one of three players to total 20,000 points, 6,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists for his career.
41. BILL WALTON-Center-1974 to 1987-Portland TrailBlazers, San Diego Clippers, Boston Celtics
THE NUMBERS: 13.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 3.4 apg, .521 FG %
THE HONOR ROLL: 2 Championships, MVP (’78), 2 x All-Star, 1 All-NBA, 2 x All-Defense, Sixth Man of the Year
THE +/-: Gifted shooter and passer from the post….who’s best years were shortened by injuries.
A great start to career that followed a legendary college run, Walton took home both a title and an MVP in his first five seasons before multiple foot injuries derailed his career. However he later redefined his career as a bench player in Boston, taking home Sixth Man of the Year honors in 1986. At his best, he was a uniquely athletic big man, who was one of the great passers of the rebound in the history of the game.