The Next 14: NBA Players Deserving To Be Added to the All-Time Team
NBA fans were treated to a special show during the halftime of the 1997 All-Star game at Gund Arena in Cleveland.
As the 50 greatest players in gathered together (minus absentees Shaquille O'Neal, Jerry West, and the late Pete Maravich), never before has the NBA seen a more impressive collection of talent standing together.
Fourteen years have passed since that historic moment which made me thinking about all the great players that have graced the game ever since.
If the NBA were to put together a Top 64 team right now, who would deserve to be on that list?
In order to come up with 14 players deserving to be on a Top 64 list, I put in place a few ground rules:
1. Every player on the Top 50 team would still be on the Top 64 team.
2. Players that weren't originally on the Top 50 team but perhaps deserved to be were eligible players to use.
3. Any current players added to the list had to be in the NBA a minimum of five years...and even then had to have some major accomplishments on their resume already.
To sum up their careers, I have listed stats and individual honors. Numbers in parentheses indicate an all-time ranking.
With that said, here are the worthy NBA players, in no particular order, deserving to be on the Top 64 Team.
Did I miss anyone that should have belonged on the list? Let me know whether you agree with the 14 players mentioned.
As one can imagine, there were many great players that could have been on the Top 64 Team. In the end, decisions had to be made that left a few players off.
Here are five players that almost made the team:
Reggie Miller, SG
Those who have seen Reggie Miller in his prime know he was one of the all-time greatest shooters, holding the NBA record for 3-pointers made with 2,560.
Throughout his career Miller scored over 25,000 points. He was known for his killer instinct, savvy basketball moves, clutch performances, and his loyalty to the Indiana Pacers franchise.
One of his best moments was scoring 8 points in the final 8.9 seconds against the Knicks in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals, leading his team to a 107-105 win.
Overall, Miller was a five-time all-star, made the third Team All-NBA three times, won gold at the 1996 Olympics, and had career averages of 18.2 ppg, 3,0 rpg, and 3 apg.
Adrian Dantley, F/G
Adrian Dantley had a career spanning seven teams, but put up an impressive resume with six all-star appearances and twice leading the league in scoring.
One of the premier scorers in the 1980s, he averaged over 30 ppg between 1981 and 1984.
He also shares the NBA record for most free throws made in a game at 28 with Wilt Chamberlain.
Dantley was an Olympic gold medalist in 1976 with career averages of 24.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, and 3.0 apg.
Bernard King, SF
Bernard King is a legend that was a prolific scorer throughout his career. Leading the league in scoring in 1985, he also put up back-to-back 50 point games in 1984.
King suffered a torn ACL in 1985 that severely hampered what could have been an even more impressive career.
Still, he was a four-time all-star and made the All-NBA team four times, including two times on the first team. Overall, King had career averages of 22.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, and 3.3 apg.
Chris Paul, PG
Chris Paul suffered through injuries in the 2009-2010 season, but before that he put together some of the best statistical season for any point guard of all-time.
Paul was runner-up for the MVP award in 2008, was NBA Rookie of the Year in 2006, a Olympic gold medalist in 2008, and has been an All-Star three times.
He has made the All-NBA team two times (including 1st in 2008) and the All-Defensive Team two times (including 1st in 2009).
He already holds the NBA record for most consecutive games with a steal (108) and has career averages of 19.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 10 apg, and 2.4 spg.
Chris Paul has only played five years in the league, but if he keep up this impressive resume for the rest of his career, he will deserve to be added to the All-Time Team.
Carmelo Anthony, SF
Nicknamed "Melo," Anthony has also had a standout career so far. One of the top scorers of the past five years, he has led the Denver Nuggets to some of their best years in franchise history.
Carmelo Anthony has made the All-NBA Team four times and has played on three All-Star teams.
He is also one of the premier clutch players in the league who shares the NBA record for most points in a quarter with 33.
Having career averages of 24.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, and 3.1 apg, Carmelo Anthony can make a future All-Time Team if he keeps up his excellent play over his career.
Gary Payton, PG
16.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 6.7 apg, 1.8 spg, 47% FG, 32% 3FG, 73% FT
21,813 points (24th), 8,996 assists (7th), 2,445 steals (3rd), 8,708 FGM (18th)
All-Defensive 1st Team 9x
NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1996)
All-NBA Team 9x (including 2x on the 1st Team)
1 NBA championship, 2 Olympic gold medals
The player nicknamed "The Glove" was simply one of the best point guards of all-time.
He was best known for his defense, being the only guard since Michael Jordan to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Along with Jordan, he has the most selections on the All-Defensive first Team with nine.
At 6'4", he was great at posting up opposing point guards. His most dominant years were during the 1990s leading the Seattle Supersonics to multiple 60-win seasons.
During that reign, he formed one of the top duos in the league with forward Shawn Kemp.
Payton had a tremendous work ethic and seemed to step up in big games, including hitting some clutch shots in pursuit of Miami's 2006 championship.
Some critics point out that Gary Payton did not lead any of his teams to an NBA championship.
Perhaps he could have silenced his critics if a guy named Jordan wasn't around in 1996. He acted as a journeyman towards the end of his career, playing for Milwaukee, Boston, and the LA Lakers.
While in LA, he teamed with Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone, and Kobe Bryant to form a formidable collection of future Hall of Famers.
While Payton struggled to fit into the triangle offense and injuries led to the team's eventual defeat to Detroit in the Finals, he was able to play a key role and redeem himself while playing for Miami.
In considering his ability to dominate both offensively and defensively, Payton is a natural choice for the Top 64 Team.
Jason Kidd, PG
13.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 9.2 apg (5th), 2.0 spg (16th), 40% FG, 35% 3FG, 78% FT
16,142 points, 7,853 rebounds, 10,923 assists (2nd), 2,343 steals (4th), 1,662 3FGM (5th)
NBA Rookie of the Year (1995)
All-NBA Team 6x (including 5x on 1st Team)
All-Defensive Team 9x (including 4x on 1st Team)
2 Olympic gold medals
Jason Kidd is one of the most complete players in the history of the game. One of the best rebounding point guards, his versatility has led to a career total of 105 triple doubles, third most in NBA history.
Although not a premier scorer in the league, Kidd has been one of the best pure point guards—simply one of the best ever at setting his teammates up.
Like Payton, he has excelled on the defensive end and is constantly among the leaders in steals.
His 6'4", 210-pound frame allows him to defend both point guards and shooting guards effectively .
Perhaps one of the most telling stats is that while playing with Team USA, Jason Kidd's record is 56-0.
Kidd had his best years as a member of the New Jersey Nets where he took his team to two consecutive NBA Finals before falling short.
Now, Jason Kidd is in the twilight of his career, attempting to win a championship before hanging up the laces for good.
While a title would be icing on the cake, Jason Kidd's already legendary career warrants a place on the Top 64 Team.
Allen Iverson, SG
26.7 ppg (6th), 3.7 rpg, 6.2 apg, 2.2 spg (8th), 43% FG, 31% 3FG, 78% FT
24,368 points (17th), 3,394 rebounds, 5,624 assists, 1,983 steals (12th), 8,467 FGM (22nd), 6,375 FTM (10th)
All-Star 11x, All-Star MVP 2x
Scoring Champion 4x
All-NBA Team 7x (including 3x on 1st Team)
NBA MVP (2001)
NBA Rookie of the Year
Allen Iverson is perhaps the best scorer ever among small players. Standing only 6 feet tall, Iverson used his speed and skill to score around bigger and taller players throughout his career.
He came into the league as a sensation, displaying his killer crossover move on premier defenders including Michael Jordan.
Iverson's career perhaps peaked in 2001 when he was named the league's MVP and took the 76ers to the NBA Finals.
Like many great players who couldn't lead a team to an NBA championship, Iverson has become a journeyman over the past few years and has slowly accepted being a role player.
Although few, if any teams continue to want his services after having several bouts with other players and coaches, Allen Iverson's ability to produce has led to his inclusion on this list.
Alex English, SF
21.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.6 apg, 51% FG, 22% 3FG, 83% FT
25,613 points (13th), 6,538 rebounds, 4,351 assists, 10,659 FGM (8th)
All-NBA 2nd Team 3x
NBA Scoring Champion 1x
Alex English is one player that should have been on the original Top 50 team. He was the first player ever to string together eight straight 2,000 point seasons and ended the 1980s as the decade's leading scorer.
English had his best years while playing for the Denver Nuggets where he led the franchise to nine consecutive playoffs.
During those years, the Nuggets were known as a high scoring team that fed off of Alex English's style. He liked playing in an up-tempo style that was described as smooth and elegant.
What's especially amazing was that English accomplished all this scoring while playing in the mile high city, where players often struggle due to the lower oxygen levels.
Although neither English nor his Denver teams were known for their defense, his offensive accomplishments were too great to leave off the Top 64 list.
Dominique Wilkins, SF
24.8 ppg (13th), 6.7 rpg, 2.5 apg, 46% FG, 32% 3FG, 81% FT
26,668 points (10th), 7,167 rebounds, 2,677 assists, 9,963 FGM (10th), 6,031 FTM (16th)
NBA Scoring Champion 1x
All-NBA Team 7x (including 1x on 1st Team)
The Human Highlight Film, Dominique Wilkins, was one of the faces of the NBA during the 1980s. Known for his high flying act and signature windmill dunks, he twice captured the slam dunk title.
His battle with Michael Jordan in the 1988 Slam Dunk Championship is legendary. Yet, Dominique Wilkins was one of the premier scorers of his generation with a reliable mid-range jump shot.
Similar to Alex English, Wilkins was unfairly left off the NBA Top 50 team. Like English, he was not a premier defender and never led his teams to an NBA title.
However, his constant appearances on SportsCenter's highlights made him one of the most popular players during an era when the NBA was starting to become a global brand.
And like English, Dominique Wilkins is just too good to be left off the next Top NBA team.
Dirk Nowitzki, PF
22.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.7 apg, 47% FG, 38% 3FG, 88% FT (14th)
21,111 points (27th), 7,802 rebounds, 2,465 assists, 1,131 3-pointers, 5,284 FTM (25th)
NBA MVP (2007)
All-NBA Team 10x (Including 4x on 1st Team)
Dirk Nowitzki is the best shooting big-man of all-time. Never before has the NBA seen a 7-footer able to make 3-pointers with such ease.
Nowitzki has had a memorable career, breaking many Dallas Mavericks' records while becoming the first European player to win the NBA MVP award and score 20,000 points.
Nowitzki proves to be a difficult matchup for most forwards because he moves quick like a small forward, yet is tall enough to shoot over most other forwards.
Critics have assailed Nowitzki for blowing a comfortable lead in the 2006 Finals and then having the top-seed Dallas suffer a first-round loss to the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors.
However, the best shooting big-man of all-time is an obvious choice for the Top 64 team.
Paul Pierce, SF
22.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.5 spg, 45% FG, 37% 3FG, 80% FT
19,899 points, 5,417 rebounds, 3,401 assists, 1,349 steals, 1,467 3-pointers (14th), 5,422 FTM (20th)
NBA Champion and Finals MVP (2008)
All-NBA team 4x
Paul Pierce, nicknamed "The Truth", has proven himself to be one of the top players for one of the league's most storied franchises. Even more impressive is how Pierce has become one of the top players in the league after being stabbed 11 times in 2000.
Known for his all-around ability, Pierce is moving up the record books for the Boston Celtics. He forever put himself into Celtic lore for his performance during the 2008 NBA Finals.
Pierce's signature move is the step back jumper, which is nearly unstoppable near the top of the key.
Additionally, he has proven to be one of the top clutch players in the league by being the go-to player in fourth quarters on a team with other greats such as Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
With his all-around dominant game, Paul Pierce will be remembered as one of the all-time greats.
Kevin Garnett, PF
19.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg (29th), 4.2 apg, 1.6 bpg, 1.4 spg, 50% FG, 28% 3FG, 79% FT
22,267 points (22nd), 12,188 rebounds (20th), 4,719 assists, 1,790 blocks (19th), 1,513 steals, 8,904 FGM (17th)
All-Star 13x, All-Star MVP (2003)
NBA MVP (2004)
NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2008)
All-NBA Team 9x (including 4x on 1st Team)
All-Defensive Team 10x (including 8x on 1st Team)
Olympic gold medalist
Kevin Garnett changed the game when he entered the NBA. Jumping straight out of high school and having considerable success, he paved the way for other players that were drafted out of high school.
The best part of Garnett's game is his versatility, equally adept at both offense and defense. One of his signature moves is his turnaround jumper in the post.
Capable of playing any of the frontcourt positions, Garnett has also proven effective during his career at defending all five positions on the floor.
After spending most of his career in Minnesota and unable to find considerable playoff success, Kevin Garnett was traded to Boston where he finally won his coveted title.
His intensity, team play, and defensive focus has had a profound effect on his Celtics team. Due to his all-around dominance and impact in the game, Kevin Garnett is an obvious choice for the Top 64 team.
Kobe Bryant, SG
25.3 ppg (11th), 5.3 rpg, 4.6 apg, 1.5 spg, 46% FG, 34% 3FG, 84% FT
25,790 points (12th), 5,410 rebounds, 4,766 assists, 1,554 steals (28th), 8,972 FGM (16th), 1,303 3FGM (23rd), 6,543 FTM (9th)
NBA Champion 5x, Finals MVP 2x
All-Star 12x, All-Star MVP 3x
NBA MVP (2008)
All-NBA Team 12x (Including 8x on 1st Team)
All-Defensive Team 10x (Including 8x on 1st Team)
Olympic gold medalist
Kobe Bryant followed Kevin Garnett's success out of high school into the NBA. Like KG, he has developed an all-around game where he has dominated both offensively and defensively.
While many players were billed as the "Air Apparent," Kobe is the only one who has lived up to the hype. When considering all-around play and winning, Kobe is the closest to Michael Jordan that the NBA has ever seen.
Like Jordan, Kobe has built a reputation around winning and clutch play. Also like MJ, one of Bryant's signature plays is the fadeaway jumper.
The greatest player of his generation and a likely Top 5 player of all-time, Kobe Bryant is a no-brainer to make the Top 64 team.
Tim Duncan, PF
21.1 ppg, 11.6 rpg (21st), 3.2 apg, 2.3 bpg (16th), 51% FG, 69% FT
20,641 points, 11,335 rebounds (25th), 3,093 assists, 2,235 blocks (11th), 7,937 FGM (30th)
NBA Champion 4x, Finals MVP 3x
NBA MVP 2x
All-Star 12x, MVP (2000)
NBA Rookie of the Year
All-NBA Team 13x (including 9x on 1st Team)
All-Defensive Team 13x (including 8x on 1st Team)
Olympic gold medalist
Tim Duncan has been nicknamed the "Big Fundamental" because he executes his play near flawlessly. Similar to Garnett and Bryant, he has an all-around game.
He has proven to be among the game's greatest winners, leading the San Antonio Spurs to their only four championships.
His signature play is the bank shot from the high post. Decent in clutch situations, Duncan has somewhat sacrificed his scoring to be more of a team player.
About the only negatives on his resume include getting knocked out of the playoffs four times by the Lakers and his inability to make free throws in some of his best years.
Nevertheless, Tim Duncan simply put is the greatest power forward the game has ever seen. That alone merits inclusion in the Top 64.
Steve Nash, PG
14.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 8.3 apg (7th), 49% FG, 43% 3FG (5th), 90% FT (2nd)
14,773 points, 3,025 rebounds, 8,397 assists (8th), 1,484 3-pointers (13th)
NBA MVP 2x
All-NBA team 7x (including 3x on 1st Team)
Steve Nash is simply one of the best of all-time at playmaking, ball-handling skills, and shooting.
He has put up five seasons of shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point territory, and 90 percent from the charity stripe. Only three other players have hit the 50-40-90 club: Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, and Mark Price.
While not one of the premier scorers in the league, Nash is one of the best pure point guards with excellent decision-making skills.
Critics sometimes have pointed out Nash's subpar defense. Although Nash may not be the best individual defender, he is a smart team defender who uses plenty of savvy veteran tricks to try to create an advantage.
As one of the premier shooters and playmakers in NBA history, Steve Nash gets a rightful place among the Top 64.
LeBron James, SF
27.8 ppg (3rd), 7.0 rpg, 7.0 apg (21st), 1.7 spg, 48% FG, 33% 3FG, 74% FT
15,251 points, 3,861 rebounds, 3,811 assists
NBA MVP 2x
NBA Rookie of the Year
All-Star 6x, MVP 2x
All-NBA Team 6x (Including 4x on 1st Team)
All-Defensive 1st Team 2x
Olympic gold medalist
LeBron James' popularity may have taken a hit this offseason with how he handled his departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But James' all-around game has thus far been so dominant in his seven years in the league that he deserves a place on the Top 64 Team.
Never before has the NBA seen a player the size of a power forward have the athleticism and quickness of a guard.
James has continued to improve his game each season by working on outside shooting, free throw shooting, and defense. It is possible that now teaming with superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, LeBron might turn into more of a playmaker role, similar to Magic Johnson.
Regardless of people's opinions about him, James remains a highly effective and talented player. If he can win multiple championships and come up big in clutch playoff moments, then he will quickly climb up the all-time great lists.
Dwyane Wade, SG
25.4 ppg (10th), 4.9 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.0 bpg, 1.8 spg (28th), 48% FG, 29% 3FG, 77% FT
11,967 points, 2,298 rebounds, 3,126 assists
NBA Champion (2006), Finals MVP
All-Star 6x, MVP (2010)
All-NBA Team 5x (Including 2x on the 1st Team)
All-Defensive 2nd Team 3x
Olympic gold medalist
Dwyane Wade is the only current player that has played less than 10 years besides LeBron James that makes the Top 64 Team. Dwyane Wade has a great all-around game, and is capable of playing both guard positions.
He is one of the best at drawing fouls and earning trips to the line, as well as converting difficult layups.
Like other great players, he has been able to improve different parts of his game over the years, such as his post-up game and outside shooting.
Wade's career highlight so far was his clutch performance in the 2006 Finals. He also led the 2008 US Olympic team in scoring, despite coming off the bench.
Like James, Wade has the chance to move up the all-time rankings if he can lead Miami to win multiple championships over the next 5-6 years.
Ray Allen, SG
20.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.7 apg, 45% FG, 40% 3FG, 89% FT (5th)
20,965 points, 4,434 rebounds, 3,755 assists, 2,444 3-pointers (2nd)
NBA Champion (2008)
All-NBA 3rd Team 1x
Ray Allen barely beats out Reggie Miller for the last spot on the Top 64 Team.
He makes the team after having almost double the amount of all-star appearances and playing a significant role in earning an NBA championship.
One of the best all-around shooters in league history, Allen also has a more complete game than Miller.
Known for having one of the quickest releases on his jump shots in the league, Ray Allen brings a smart veteran presence to his team.
His performance in game 2 of this year's Finals was legendary in making a record 8 3-pointers, which ultimately helped Boston make it to a Game seven versus the Lakers.
When his career is done, he will likely surpass Reggie Miller as the all-time leader in 3-pointers made.