This is it….well almost. Although you’ll have to wait on the order of the Top 10 players in NBA History via the CHEAP.SEATS, you can now deduct who it will be after chopping through this amazing group of players below. To remember many of these guys careers and to think they still aren’t in the upper 10 of all-time is amazing, as their accolades will soon show. This is the last section where there are players that never won a title, yet were so outstanding that they continued to rise above their more accomplished peers from all eras.
To give an indicator of how amazing this fifth set of legends and icons is, each of them failed to make AT LEAST 10 All-Star teams. There is no shortage of jewelry here however, as 23 NBA titles are honored on the hands of this group, and a staggering 15 MVP seasons as well.
This is where battle lines are drawn before the final showdown next week. Here are some of the best “Who’s Better” and why debates of all-time. Where career marks or weighed for the last time solely against career hardware.
Get ready folks, its getting real.
20. MOSES MALONE-Center-1974 to 1995-Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, Buffalo Braves, Washington Bullets, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs
THE NUMBERS: 20.3 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg, .495 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, 3 x MVP (’79, ’82, ’83), 13 x All-Star, 4 x All-NBA, 4 x All-NBA 2nd, 1 All-Defense, Finals MVP (’83)
THE +/-: Tremendously athletic post scorer….that hung around way too long and added to stats
A commanding low post presence on both ends of the floor, who spread his talents around (only player to average 20 points/10 boards for four different squads) over his long career. He was the most successful prep-to-pro player of his era, and the prototype for what would become a brief norm in the NBA 20 years later. He was the first quick, yet high-power dunking center that just physically inserted his presence against a variety of types of defenders. Moses was the first player to win five consecutive rebound titles, and won two MVP’s in Houston before moving to Philadelphia, winning another one along with a title in 1983.
19. JOHN STOCKTON-Point Guard-1984 to 2003-Utah Jazz
THE NUMBERS: 13.1 ppg, 10.5 apg, 2.2 spg, .515 FG%, .826 free throw %
THE HONOR ROLL: 10 x All-Star, 2 x All-NBA, 2 x All-NBA 2nd, 5 x All-Defense 2nd, All-Star MVP (’93)
THE +/-: Greatest distributor and thief of all-time….but couldn’t orchestrate any team to a title.
While he is widely known as the set up man of the most productive offensive duo of all-time with Karl Malone, Stockton made his own way as well. He is the all-time leader in assists (15,806) and steals (3,265), and both numbers are by large margins (over 750 steals and 4,220 assists). Along the way he lead the NBA in dimes a record nine times, with his 14.5 per game mark in 1990. Overall, his 10.5 per game mark is the best ever as well. He is one of three players to ever reach 1,000 assists in a season….but he did it seven times. Stockton was remarkably durable as well, missing only 22 of the 1,526 games the Jazz participated in during his career.
18. JOHN HAVILCEK-Forward/Guard-1962 to 1978-Boston Celtics
THE NUMBERS: 20.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.2 spg, .439 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: 8 Championships, 13 x All-Star, 4 x All-NBA, 7 x All-NBA 2nd, 5 x All-Defense, 1 Finals MVP (’74)
THE +/-: Lockdown defender who linked two eras of Celtic championships….but was the ultimate compliment player ever
One of the most versatile players and toughest defenders of all-time due to his non-stop motor. His eight championships are the third most in history, and he played in more games than any Celtic ever. He was the first player to score at least 1,000 points in 16 consecutive seasons. His pedigree however was his defense, which sealed many close games in route to two eras of Celtic dominance. There was no area of the game that he couldn’t make a substantial impact in, with career single game highs of 43 points, 20 rebounds and 16 assists. His career high on the scoreboard came appropriately in the playoffs in 1973, with a 54 point outburst.
17. BOB COUSY-Point Guard-1950 to 1970-Boston Celtics, Cincinnati Royals
THE NUMBERS: 18.4 ppg, 7.5 apg, 5.2 rpg, .375 FG%, .803 free throw %
THE HONOR ROLL: 6 Championships, MVP (’57), 13 x All-Star, 10 x All-NBA, 2 x All-Star MVP (’54, ’57)
THE +/-: First great point guard in league history who kick started Celtics dynasty….who’s contributions have been outdone over time
The first great showman and major mainstream star in NBA history, “The Houdini of the Hardwood” pioneered a style of point guard play that has become the norm at all levels of basketball, yet few have reached the level of success the originator had with it. An amazing ball-handler and creator, Cousy had outstanding court vision, as his eight consecutive assist titles can attest to. He once made a record 30 free-throws in a game, in route to a 50 point performance in the NBA Finals. He was the first guard to win MVP honors, and remains one of only four PG’s to receive the honor.
16. KARL MALONE-Power Forward-1985 to 2004-Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers
THE NUMBERS: 25 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 3.6 apg, .516 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: 2 x MVP (’97, ’99), 13 x All-Star, 11 x All-NBA, 3 x All-Defense, 2 x All Star MVP (’89, ’93)
THE +/-: Finisher on the most successful offensive duo ever….best player of his era to never win a championship
One of the most complete front court scorers ever, he combined a powerful frame with a quick jumper to reach the second most points in NBA history with 32,928. Along with John Stockton, he made the pick-and-roll an art form. As a result of being around the rim so often and in the right place, he took (and hit) more free throws than any player in history (9,787). One of the most effecient scorers in history, He scored 2,000 points for a record 11 consecutive seasons, and in 1990 scored 60 points in only 33 minutes of game time. Far from a one-dimensional player, he also has more defensive rebounds ever, which he often used to start fast breaks, which he was one of the best floor running and finishing big men ever.
15. BOB PETTIT-Power Forward-1954 to 1965-Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks
THE NUMBERS: 26.4 ppg, 16.2 rpg, 3 apg, .436 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, 2 x MVP (’56, ’59), 11 x All-Star, 10 x All-NBA, 4 x All-Star MVP, Rookie of the Year (’54)
THE +/-: First great power forward in league history….who was the Celtics most frequent Finals victim.
A finisher on both ends of the floor, Pettit put up prolific numbers in every area. His 16.2 rebounds per game is the third best average ever, and only the other end of the court he became the first player to top 20,000 points in his career. He never averaged less than 20 points/12 rebounds combined in his career, and is one of only two players to average better than 20 point per game in every season he played. Between 1957 and 1966, the heart of the Bill Russell-led Celtics dynasty, only his Hawks defeated them in a Finals series, in 1958.
14. JULIUS ERVING-Small Forward-1971 to 1987-Philadelphia 76ers
THE NUMBERS: 24.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.7 bpg, .506 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, MVP (’81), 11 x All-Star, 5 x All-NBA, 2 x All-Star MVP (’77 and ’83)….3 x ABA MVP and 2 x ABA Champion
THE +/-: Revolutionary high flying scoring that was well before his time….but lost many of his best years outside the NBA
Pioneering high flyer who ushered in a style of play that the game has never turned back from. Dr. J owned two leagues in his prime, starting in the ABA before continuing to have his way with the NBA once the leagues merged. All in all, he totaled four MVP’s and 3 titles between the two leagues, and is one of the most enduring images in basketball history for the highlight creating style he used in the process. He is most well known for his slam dunk highlights, but his total of 30,026 combined professional points (the 5th most all-time) better tell the story of the clinic he put on over his career.
13. ELGIN BAYLOR-Forward-1958 to 1971-Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers
THE NUMBERS: 27.4 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, .431 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: 11 x All-Star, 10 x All-NBA, Rookie of the Year (’59), All-Star MVP (’59)
THE +/-: Revolutionary overall front court presence….who is the greatest player who never won a championship
An acrobatic penetrator and finisher at the rim, that also used his ahead of it’s time leaping abilities to reach amazing rebounding totals. Baylor is the greatest undersized forward of all-time, standing at 6’5, who could impose on guards and centers with equal ease. Baylor won the Rookie of the Year honors while still serving part time in the military, mid season. He exceeded 40 points 87 times in his career, with a high of 71 in 1960. He also averaged 19.8 rebounds a night in 1961 and surpassed 15 rebounds a night four different seasons. Injuries ended his career early, during the same season his Lakers club won their first championship in LA, which he couldn’t participate in.
12. SHAQUILLE O’NEAL-Center-1992 to present-Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando Magic, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavs, Boston Celtics
THE NUMBERS: 23.7 ppg, 10.9 ppg, 2.3 bpg, .582 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: 4 Championships, MVP (’00), 15 x All-Star, 8 x All-NBA, 3 x Finals MVP, 3 x All-Star MVP (’00, ’04, ’09), Rookie of the Year (’93)
THE +/-: The most unstoppable post scorer of all-time…who lost a world of points at the free throw line
A more undeniable match up problem than any other player before him, Shaq is the most physically dominating player ever. With a mixture of low post moves that made it nearly impossible to stop him from reaching the rim, he has imposed his way to two scoring titles and casualty list of broken backboards. His field goal percentage is the second best of all-time, and the highest of any player that has surpassed 25,000 points. He holds the NBA record for most seasons leading the NBA in field goal percentage, with ten. His brick wall presence hasn’t been limited to when he’s going to the rim, as his 2,732 blocks are the seventh most of all-time.
11. HAKEEM OLAJUWON-Center-1984 to 2002-Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors
THE NUMBERS: 21.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 3.1 bpg, .512 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL:
THE +/-: The best mixture of big manfinesse and defensive dominance ever….who won while never overcoming the most dominant team of his era.
Perhaps the most versatile center in the history of the game, “The Dream” used his freakish combination of size and athleticism to become one of the greatest rim protectors, floor defenders and most complete offensive centers ever. He was a match up nightmare for bigger centers and forwards, because he could pull them away from the rim and drive past them. However, for the rare guy that could move with him, his footwork and “Dream Shake” got him past them to finish at the rim. He is also arguably the second greatest defensive center ever, and is the only seven-footer to finish in the top ten all-time in steals. When he retired, he had the most recorded blocks of all-time as well, and is the only player to reach 200 blocks and 200 steals in one season. In 1994, he became the only player to win MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP in the same year, as he led his Rockets to their first of two back-to-back titles.
The Top 10 is upon us….who you got? follow me on Twitter for more on this and anything else I may fall across at @CheapSeatFan