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Determining the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History

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Determining the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Who are the 25 greatest players in NBA history? I asked that question in an informal poll of several—and a few former—B/R Featured Columnists. I took the responses and awarded 25 points for a first place vote, 24 for a second and so on.

Why do that? Because in one sense "greatness" is not a singular achievement. I might think I have the world's greatest dad, but that's just me. To determine the actual "world's greatest dad," there would need to be "professional"/nominated examples and some sort of consensus opinion on them. The same goes for the greatest NBA players of all time. 

Dozens of factors come into play, and prioritizing wins, stats, rings, MVPs, playoff stats, scoring, rebounding and so on. The general value of the various things vary from person to person as some attribute more to winning and others to personal play. 

All of these different priorities, stats and so on get jumbled together into a giant nebulous of ambiguousness called "greatness," and we end up with the prevailing opinion of greatness. Then, of course, we determine whether people are "overrated" or "underrated" concerning our own personal opinion of where the rest of the world is wrong. 

Absent more of a collective opinion, how can you even say who is overrated or underrated? That's why I took to the email machine to poll our Featured Columnists. By compiling an actual list of a collected opinion, it gives some room to consider where people are generally rated in the first place. 

Then too, the larger the consensus opinion the more it might cause one to reconsider their own positions. If it doesn't it might mean a closed mind. If a number of reasonably informed people share a similar position and yours differs, it might be possible that the one "overrating" or "underrating" is the minority.

However, because this is more of a consensus process, I will stipulate one thing. If there are at least a net 10 mentions that a player should be higher or lower, I will move them up or down one spot. 

What I received in response were a number of lists. On these lists there were a total of exactly 50 players named, so my top 25 became a top 50. In some ways there was a great deal of continuity on the lists and in some ways there was a variety, as the 50 names might suggest. 

Following are the 50 names in the order of the votes they received in reverse order. In cases of ties I used the HOF Rating from basketball-reference to serve as the tie-breaker. 

Thanks to Ethan Norof, Chris Houston, Matthew Brown, Will Danielson, Faizon Quarashi, Brian Chapatta and Andrew Bock for submitting their top 25. 

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