Expanding NBA's 50 Greatest Players To 65

Patrick LairdCorrespondent IJuly 31, 2010

8 Feb 1997:  The 50 Greatest Players in NBA History pose before the All-Star game. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr  /Allsport
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

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. Their ten additions can be viewed at Hoopedia . That list, however, is not an official addendum to the NBA’s.

This has also been previously discussed right here on Bleacher Report .

I would like to discuss adding fifteen players to the already 50 greatest list. Such discussions can and will be biased, especially for those, like me, that may be limited in which players they have been able to actually see play. Regardless, the point here is to discuss and not necessarily determine a "correct" addendum.

My fifteen additions would be as follows (in no particular order):

Bob McAdoo - Hall of Famer. 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 (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 good 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. Uncanny ability to score around the basket despite often being smallest player on floor (6'0").

Tom Heinsohn – Hall of Famer. 8X NBA champion with Bill Russell’s Celtics. All-NBA second team for four straight seasons (1960-1964). Career averages of 18.6 ppg and 8.8 rpg in nine seasons.

Maurice Stokes – Hall of Famer. Career averages: 16.4 ppg, 17.3 rpg, 5.3 apg (as a F/C, mind you). Played in only three NBA seasons (two with the Rochester Royals), yet his total rebounds would actually be better than six other players on the 50 greatest list. Scored over 1,000 points in each of his seasons (202 career games, only eclipsed 70 games in a season once when he played in all 72). Led the league in rebounds per game in 1955-1956 as a rookie and won rookie of the year. Finished fifth in MVP voting twice. Finished third in assists the following two seasons. Made all-star team and second team all-NBA each season he played.

Kevin Garnett - 2004 MVP. Finished in top 5 in MVP voting six times, finishing as the runner-up twice (to Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 and Tim Duncan in 2003). NBA champion with the Celtics in 2008. 19.8 career ppg and 10.8 rpg. Great passer for a post player at 6′11″ with 4.2 apg in career. His 4,719 career assists would make him seventeenth on the 50 greatest list. Nearly a career 50% shooter, which is remarkable when taking into account that he takes a lot of mid-range shots and likes to face up to the basket.

Dominique Wilkins - Hall of Famer. Over 26,500 career points. Put up a lot of shots but was a relentless scoring threat. Averaged over 30 ppg twice (one scoring title) and 29 ppg three times with a career average of 24.8 (could be higher if he hadn’t returned to the league at 37 and 39). Chosen for nine consecutive all-star game appearances. Played during an era of Eastern Conference dynasties (Celtics, Pistons, Bulls) on an average team. Eliminated every year by either the Bulls, Celtics or Pistons except for Bucks in 1983-1984 and 1988-1989.

Dennis Johnson – Hall of Famer. 3X NBA champion (twice with Boston and once with Seattle). Won Finals MVP in 1978-1979 season with the Sonics. All-NBA first team in 1980-1981, second team in 1979-1980. 6X first team All-Defensive, 3X second team All-Defensive. Perhaps one of the greatest perimeter defenders of all time.

Artis Gilmore – Career averages: 18.8 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 2.3 apg (combined 5 ABA seasons, 12 NBA seasons). His 16,330 career rebounds would be fourth on the 50 greatest list, behind only Chamberlain, Russell and Jabbar. Led NBA in field goal percentage for four straight seasons (shot 67% in 1980-1981 season). Shot nearly 60% for his career in the NBA which remains first all-time.

Alex English – Hall of Famer. 25,613 career points. Career 50% shooter with over 21,000 field goal attempts (makes him eighth all time in attempts). Only players to shoot over 50% with more attempts are Chamberlain, Jabbar and Karl Malone.

Adrian Dantley – Hall of Famer. Over 23,000 career points in less than 1,000 games. Finished in top three of scoring title five times (scoring champ in 1980-1981, 1983-1984). Averaged 30 points or more in four straight seasons. Sixteenth in NBA history for field goal percentage at 54%.

Gary Payton – Fifth all-time in steals (2,243) and seventh in assists (8,966). 9X first team All-Defensive; 1995-1996 defensive player of the year. Finished in top-10 for MVP voting for eight straight seasons. Won 2006 NBA championship with Miami Heat. *Note: I would place Alvin Robertson in Payton’s place, but I just can’t based on his recent troubles with the law. The guy could flat out play though. Maybe one of the best all-around players ever in the NBA. His playoff numbers are excellent even though his teams never advanced. Against San Antonio in the first round in 1988, he averaged 23.3 ppg, 9.3 apg, 4.7 rpg and 4 spg.

Steve Nash – Back-to-back MVP in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 (top-10 finisher five times). Ranks eighth all-time in assists with 8,397. Excellent free throw shooter with career 90% average. Thirteenth all-time in 3-point field goals made. Hard time putting him on this list because he is a defensive liability on and off-the-ball, but only eleven other players have won multiple MVPs.

Yes, there are some glaring omissions that I know some will be adamant about including. So let's hear it whether you want to agree, refute, or just add your fifteen players you deem worthy of such enshrinement.