The Top 10 Most Underrated Big Men in Basketball History

Steven ResnickSenior Writer IAugust 6, 2010

The Top 10 Most Underrated Big Men in Basketball History

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    Basketball has had a number of dominating big men in its history.

    The players you hear about the most like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bob Pettit, and David Robinson are definitely deserving of the praise that they receive.

    But, there are other big men who haven't gotten anywhere near the attention of these players. Surely they deserve the respect because of the tremendous numbers throughout their careers. 

    But, when that happens some players get overlooked, so here's a list of 10 big men that have been underrated. 

10. Bob McAdoo

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    Bob McAdoo played his entire 14-year career in the NBA. He averaged 22.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, a steal, and 1.5 blocks. 

    He was a tremendous rebounder and scorer. His best season proves that when in 1974-1975 he averaged 34.5 points, 14.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 2.1 blocks, on 51.2 percent shooting, and 80.5 percent from the free throw line.  

    Career numbers were 18,787 points, 8048 rebounds, 1951 assists, 751 steals, 1147 blocks, on 50.3 percent shooting, and 75.4 percent from the free throw line. 

    He made five all-star teams, he won a Rookie of the Year Award, he was a All-Rookie First Team Selection, has one First Team All-NBA selection, one Second Team All-NBA selection, ranks 32nd in scoring average, and 65th in total rebounds. 

    McAdoo also contributed on two championships teams as well. 

9. Otis Thorpe

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    Otis Thorpe tends to go under the radar with fans. For his career he scored 17,600 points, grabbed 10,370 rebounds, dished out 2730 assists, had 840 steals, 501 blocks, shot 54.6 percent from the field, and 68.7 percent from the free throw line. 

    His average for his career was 14 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, .7 steals, and .4 blocks. 

    Part of the reason why his points and rebound numbers seem not so good is that during the latter part of his career he was a role player. He played a total of 17 seasons in the league. 

    His best year came in 1987-1988 when he averaged 20.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, .8 steals, and .7 blocks. 

    Thorpe had seven seasons of averaging nine or more rebounds per game. He won a championship ring as a member of the Houston Rockets, he made one All-Star game, he ranks 16th all-time in field goal percentage, and 36th in total rebounds.

8. Buck Williams

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    Buck Williams for his entire career was underappreciated; he did the dirty work and his rebounding numbers reflect that.

    Williams wasn't much of a scorer, but he certainly  made a mark defensively and had a fine career in the NBA. 

    For his career Williams scored 16,784 points, grabbed 13,017 rebounds, dished out 1646 assists, had 1080 steals, 1100 blocks, on 54.9 percent shooting, and 66.4 percent from the free throw line. 

    Per game he averaged 12.8 points, 10 rebounds, 1.3 assists, .8 blocks, and .8 steals. 

    Williams' best season came in 1986-1987 when he averaged 18 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, a steal, and 1.1 blocks. 

    His accolades include three All-Star teams made, he won the 1981-1982 Rookie of the Year Award, Named as a First Team All-Rookie selection, was a First Team All-NBA Defense twice, a Second Team All-NBA Defense twice, and a Second Team All-NBA selection once.

    Ranks 11th all-time in games played with 1307, 14th in field goal percentage, 13th all-time in total rebounds, and 46th all-time in rebounds per game.   

7. Jack Sikma

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    Jack Sikma played 14 years in the NBA and put up tremendous numbers.

    For his career, he scored 17,287 points, grabbed 10,816 rebounds, dished out 3488 assists, had 1162 steals, 1048 blocks, while shooting 46.8 percent from the field, and 84.9 percent from the free throw line.

    His numbers from the field aren't spectacular, but for a big man, he made you pay if he was fouled. It's not very often that a big man will lead the league in free throw percentage but Sikma did with a 92.2 percent mark in 1986-1987.

    He averaged 15.6 points per game, 9.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, a steal, and .9 blocks.

    In 1981-1982 Sikma had his best season when he averaged 19.6 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.3 blocks, 1.2 steals, on 47.9 percent shooting, and 85.5 percent from the free throw line.

    Sikma made seven All-Star teams, was a All-Rookie First Team selection, he had one Second Team-All NBA selection, and ranks 30th all-time in total rebounds.

6. Zelmo Beaty

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    Zelmo Beaty played a total of 12 seasons: eight in the NBA and four in the ABA. 

    Beaty was a solid rebounder and a decent scorer. In the NBA he averaged 16 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, on 46.9 percent shooting, and 75 percent from the free throw line. A majority of his career was played before steals and blocks became an official stat. 

    In the ABA he averaged 19.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, on 53.6 percent shooting, and 80.7 percent from the free throw line. 

    Combined in his career, Beaty averaged 17.1 points, 10.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, on 49.4 percent shooting, and 77.1 percent from the free throw line. 

    His best season in the NBA was 1965-1966 when he averaged 20.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, on 47.3 percent shooting, and 75.8 percent from the free throw line. 

    Beaty's best ABA season was in 1970-1971 when he averaged 22.9 points, 15.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, on 55.5 percent shooting, and 79.7 percent from the free throw line. 

    Beaty participated in two NBA All-Star Games, three ABA All-Star games, was an ABA Playoff MVP, was on a ABA Championship team, was a ABA All-Rookie selection, and a two time Second Team All-ABA.

    He ranks fourth in ABA history in field goal percentage at 53.6 percent, ranks 25th all-time in ABA history in total rebounds, ranks 41st in total rebounds when combining ABA and NBA total.

    His rebounds per game average of 11.8 ranks eighth in ABA history, his 10.4 rebounds per game ranks 32 in NBA history, and combined his 10.9 rebounds ranks 32nd. 

5. Dolph Schayes

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    Dolph Schayes is another one of the big men who get overlooked. His numbers for his career are impressive, averaging 18.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, on 38 percent shooting, and 84.9 percent from the free throw line. 

    Just a note in the era that Schayes played in getting to 40 percent shooting was an accomplishment in and of itself. That's why he's not further down on the list. 

    He scored 18,438 points in his career, grabbed 11,256 rebounds, and dished out 3072 assists. 

    Schayes' best season came in 1957-1958 when he averaged 24.9 points, 14.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, on 39.8 percent shooting, and 90.4 percent from the free throw line. 

    Also, he was elected to 11 All-Star games, he was a First Team All-NBA Selection six times, a six time All-NBA selection, won one NBA Championship ring, he's 17th all-time in rebounds per game at 12.1, and  27th all-time in total rebounds.

4. Dan Issel

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    Dan Issel played a total of 15 years nine of those years were in the NBA and six of those years to start of his career were in the ABA. 

    In his ABA career which came first he averaged 25.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, a steal, on 49.1 percent shooting, and 78.6 percent from the free throw line.

    The nine years in the NBA saw him average 20.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, a steal, on 50.6 percent shooting, and 79.7 percent from the free throw line. 

    Combined he averaged 22.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, a steal, on 49.9 percent shooting, and 79.3 percent from the free throw line. 

    Issel's best season in the ABA came in 1970-1971 when he averaged 29.9 points, 13.2 rebounds, 2 assists, on 48.5 percent shooting, and 80.7 percent from the free throw line. 

    His best season in the NBA came in 1977-1978 when he averaged 21.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.2 steals, on 51.2 percent shooting, and 78.2 percent from the free throw line. 

    Issel played in six ABA all-star games, one NBA All-Star game, he was the ABA Rookie of the Year, he has a selection to the All-ABA Rookie Team, one First Team All-ABA team selection, four Second Team All-ABA selection.

    He ranks second in ABA in field goals made,  third in ABA history in field goal attempts, combined ranks 11th in field goals made and 12th in field goals attempted, ranks fourth in free throws in ABA history and combined ranks ninth

    He ranks fifth in ABA history in free throw attempts and 12th all time in free throw attempts when combined, ranks sixth all-time in total rebounds in ABA history and 28th all time when combined. 

3. Elvin Hayes

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    Elvin Hayes does get some recognition, so that is why he's not number one or two on the list.

    His career numbers are outstanding, as he put up 27,313 points, 16,279 rebounds, 2398 assists, 1771 blocks (part of his career was before blocks were counted as a stat), on 45.2 percent shooting, and 67 percent form the free throw line. 

    Hayes' career wise averaged 21 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 2 blocks. With his best season coming in his rookie season of 1968-1969 when he averaged 28.4 points, 17.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, on 44.7 percent shooting, and 62.6 percent from the free throw line. 

    He made 12 All-Star teams, was a member of one championship team, was a First Team All-Rookie Selection, a three time All-NBA First Team Selection, a three time All-NBA Second Team Selection, and a two time Second Team All-NBA selection. 

    Rankings include third in minutes played, fourth in field goals attempted, sixth in total rebounds, seventh in field goals, ninth in total points, 12th in games, 14th in minutes per game, 14th in rebounds per game, and 18th in free throws.  

2. Nate Thurmond

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    Nate Thurmond was often overshadowed by the fact that he played in an era that had Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.

    Thurmond was teammates with Chamberlain for a brief period  of time. He's also the perfect example of a player who stayed a little too long in the NBA, but even so his numbers are still impressive. 

    Career numbers for Thurmond were 14,437 points, 14,464 rebounds, and 2,575 assists. 

    For his career, he averaged 15 points, 15 rebounds, on 42.1 percent shooting, and 66.7 percent from the free throw line. His best season came in 1967-1968 when he averaged 20.5 points, 22 rebounds, 4.2 assists, on 41.1 percent shooting, and 64.4 percent from the free throw line. 

    He was selected to seven All-Star games, he was a First Team All-Rookie selection, twice selected as a First Team All-Defense, three times a Second Team All-Defense selection, ranks fifth in rebounds per game, and ninth in total rebounds.

1. Artis Gilmore

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    I wrote an article a while back found here about Artis Gilmore and why he hasn't been enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He was a tremendous force both in the NBA and ABA. 

    To me, there is no question that he is one of the most underrated big men in basketball history. 

    His numbers speak for themselves. For his career combined with the NBA and ABA he averaged 18.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.4 blocks, on 58.2 percent shooting, and 71.3 percent from the free throw line. 

    Gilmore played five years in the ABA before joining the NBA. His best season in the ABA was 1971-1972 when he averaged 23.8 points, 17.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 5 blocks, on 59.8 percent shooting, and 64.6 percent from the free throw line. 

    For his best season in the NBA it was in 1977-1978 when he averaged 22.9 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.2 blocks, on 55.9 percent shooting, and 70.4 percent from the free throw line. 

    When combining the total numbers he had 24,941 points, 16,330 rebounds, 3050 assists, and 3178 blocks.

    He was a five time ABA All-Star, six time NBA All-Star, ABA Rookie of the Year, ABA MVP, ABA Playoff MVP, five time ABA First-Team Selection, four time ABA All-Defense First Team selection, and  a one time NBA Second Team All-Defense selection.

    Was part of one ABA Championship team. 

    Gilmore combined ranks first in field goal percentage, fourth in blocks, fifth in total rebounds, eighth in minutes played, eighth in free throw attempts, 10th in games played, 16th in free throws, 19th in field goals, and 20th in points.