NBA's Best Players of the Decade: 1970s Edition

Tim MorelandContributor IIMarch 8, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  Former NBA player Kareem Abdul Jabbar arrives to the T-Mobile Magenta Carpet at the 2011 NBA All-Star Game on February 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Like the 1950s and '60s, the NBA of the '70s was dominated by centers and forwards.  

Unlike those decades, the 1970s were not dominated by one team.  While the Lakers and Celtics did manage to win the NBA Championship during the '70s, so too did six other teams.

As a result of increased parity in the 1970s, this top ten list includes players from a more-diverse range of teams.  

10. Chet Walker - While Chet Walker was better than some of the players ranked above him, he played only six seasons during the 1970s.  All six seasons were for the Chicago Bulls.  Chet the Jet retired following the 1975 season, at the age of 34.

As a 6'6" guard/forward, Walker scored over 19 points per game and five rebounds per game every season of the '70s.  In the best season of his career, the 1972 season, Walker recorded 22 points and 6.1 rebounds, while shooting 51 percent from the field.

In recognition of his skill, Chet Walker was a four-time All-Star during the decade. 

9. Bob Dandridge - Like Chet Walker, Bob Dandridge was a 6'6" guard/forward.  However, Dandridge was an important part of two championship teams during the decade.

During his sophomore year in 1971, Bob Dandridge earned his first ring with the Milwaukee Bucks.  He was part of a Big Four that also included Jon McGlocklin, Oscar Robertson and, most importantly, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Dandridge scored 18.4 points per game and grabbed eight rebounds per game during the season.  

After signing with the Washington Bullets as a free agent in 1977, Dandridge helped deliver an NBA Championship in his first season.  This time, he was part of a well-balanced team that featured three players on this list.  

During the 1970s, Dandridge was selected to four All-Star Games, a First-Team All-Rookie team and a First-Team All-Defensive team.

8. Dave Cowens - Big Red was a 6'9" big man for the Boston Celtics through all of the 1970s.  This meant two championship rings for Cowens.  These came in 1974 and 1976, with Cowens as arguably the best player on both teams.

The 1970s was a time where Cowens accumulated an impressive number of accolades.  He was a seven-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, NBA MVP and a First-Team All-Defensive selection.  

7. Wes Unseld - Unseld was a career Bullet, winning the NBA Championship with the Washington version of the Bullets in 1978.  He was awarded the Finals MVP for his performance.

The 6'7" big man was not much of a scorer, never averaging more than 16 points per game in his career.  However, he was one of the best rebounders to ever play the game.  Unseld finished in the top five for rebounds per game six times during the decade, leading the league once.  

Unseld was a four-time All Star during the 1970s.  

6. John Havlicek - Hondo was a 6'5" guard/forward for the Boston Celtics during most of the 1960s and 1970s, helping them to win eight NBA Championships during his career.  Two of those championships came during the 1970s.  Havlicek and Dave Cowens were the two best players on both winning teams.  However, Havlicek won the Finals MVP for the first of the two, in 1974.  

During the 1970s, Havlicek was one of the most dangerous scorers in the game.  He averaged between 23 and 29 points per game for the first half of the decade.  During that same time, he finished in the top 10 in assists per game each season.  

Havlicek made the All-Star Game in all nine seasons he played during the '70s.  As well, he was selected to the All-NBA First Team four times and the All-Defensive First Team five times.   

5. Elvin Hayes - Hayes played most of the 1970s with the Bullets, winning the 1978 championship with teammates Bob Dandridge and Wes Unseld.  While all three were great players, Hayes was the best player on that squad during both the regular season and the playoffs.

Hayes, at 6'9", led the league in rebounding twice during the decade.  He also averaged two blocks per game over the course of his career, ranking in the top 25 of all time.  

In all ten seasons of the decade, Hayes was named to the All-Star Game.  He was also awarded with three All-NBA First Team selections.

4. Bob McAdoo - McAdoo did not start his career in the NBA until the 1973 season, but his play deserves the number four spot on this list.  Within his first four seasons, McAdoo led the league in scoring three times, scoring over 30 points per game in each of those years.

While his career quickly declined in the 1980s, McAdoo was good enough to win the Rookie of the Year and the 1975 NBA MVP in the prior decade.  On top of this, he was a five-time All-Star and an All-NBA First Team selection during the 1970s.

In addition to his three scoring titles, McAdoo ranked in the top 10 in rebounds per game five times during the decade.

3. Walt Frazier - Frazier, the best pure guard of the decade, was one of the best all-around players in NBA history.  He was amongst the best at passing, stealing and shooting.  That is the recipe for a valuable guard.

During the 1970s, Frazier was a seven-time All Star, six-time All-Defensive First Team member, and four-time All-NBA First Team member.  

With Frazier as their leader, the New York Knicks won the 1970 and 1973 NBA Championships.

2. Bob Lanier - Lanier used his 6'11" body to grab 10 rebounds per game and block 1100 shots in his career.  In addition to rebounding and shot blocking, Lanier averaged 20 points per game in his career.  

While Lanier averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds per game in the playoffs during his career, he was never quite able to win a ring.  

Bob Lanier was selected to seven All-Star games during the decade, winning the MVP in the 1974 game.  In the game, he shot 11 of 15 from the field, scoring 24 points and snagging 10 rebounds.

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - No player has ever stood above the competition for an entire decade like Abdul-Jabbar did during the 1970s.  Neither Wilt Chamberlain, nor Michael Jordan, created such a large gap between the best player and the field.

Kareem's awards strongly support that claim.  He was an All Star nine times during the decade.  He won the Rookie of the Year, a Finals MVP and five NBA MVPs in the 1970s.  He was a six-time All-NBA First Team selection and three-time All-Defensive First Team selection.  

Abdul-Jabbar would go on to win five NBA Championships with the Lakers during the 1980s, however he was able to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a championship in 1971.  On a team with Oscar Robertson, Bob Dandridge and Jon McGlocklin, Abdul-Jabbar was far and away the best player.

Amongst his many all-time great statistics includes first in fields goals made and points scored, third in rebounds and blocks and eleventh in field goal percentage.  While he was a 7'2" center, this did not stop him from recording the 35th most assists of all-time with 5660.