50 Most Underrated NBA Players in History

Joseph FafinskiCorrespondent IMay 10, 2011

50 Most Underrated NBA Players in History

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    Throughout the NBA's history, there have been many overlooked and underrated players.

    These players tend to make their presence felt different than your average superstar, whether it be a quiet demeanor or a flat-out underachieving status from everyone in the league.

    Regardless, these players can either be a sidekick, or they can be someone whose teams needed them come the crunch time phase.

    Since this was a tough topic to research, I'd like it if I was given suggestions in case I missed one.

    Without further ado, this is my list of the 50 most underrated players in NBA history.

50. Antwan Jamison

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    Antwan Jamison will always be underrated in my eyes, and the main reason lies within the fact that he was ninth in scoring during the 2000s among all players.

    Huh? I'll bet not many of you knew that.

    He is above decade mainstays like Ray Allen, Shawn Marion, Shaquille O'Neal and Pau Gasol.

    It's a travesty that the 6'9" 34-year-old wasn't mentioned as one of the league's best scorers during his prime.

49. Doug Christie

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    Doug Christie was the heart and soul of the Sacramento Kings' defense.

    During their glory days, the Kings were widely considered a top team in the West, and Christie was part of the reason why.

    However, he remained in the shadow of stars Peja Stojakovic, Mike Bibby and Chris Webber during his tenure, but that didn't seem to bother the man who prided himself on his forceful defensive prowess. He was a member of four All-Defensive teams and made it his forte in the league.

    A Pepperdine graduate, Christie averaged 11.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists in his 827-game career. He also swiped an amazing 1.9 steals per game.

48. Clyde Drexler

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    Clyde Drexler is known as one of the NBA's greatest shooting guards ever, but that's not to say he wasn't underrated during his playing days.

    Like a few other notables on this list, Drexler's career was overshadowed by that of Michael Jordan's.

    He was selected to the All-Star Game 10 times throughout this duration, and he had seasons that reflect (26.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and seven assists in 1991-92) current superstar LeBron James' (26.7, 7.5, seven in 2010-11) campaigns.

    He should have gotten more recognition during his career, and it is for this reason that he is vastly underrated.

47. Lou Hudson

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    "Sweet" Lou Hudson came out of the University of Minnesota in the 1966 NBA Draft and followed up his fourth overall selection by having a solid 13 seasons in the association.

    He had a smooth and very effective jump shot that helped propel him to six All-Star Games.

    The 6'5" Hudson turned in a career that saw him tally 17,940 up on the scoreboard.

    His No. 23 jersey has been retired by the Atlanta Hawks.

    I'll bet you didn't even know who he was before reading this, either.

46. Marques Johnson

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    Selected third overall in the 1977 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, Marques Johnson's best years would come with the club whose uniform he donned first.

    In 524 games with the Bucks, Johnson averaged 21 points, pulled down better than seven boards and dished out nearly four assists per game. He was also a five-time All-Star.

    So how come he isn't more widely recognized as the phenomenal small forward he was? He did, after all, coin the phrase "point forward" when he was discussing his abnormal role in the 1983 playoffs with the press. Johnson, at 6'7", seemed out of place playing point guard during that postseason, but injuries had taken down all their other guys and he was forced to take a greater role.

    All in all, he helped revolutionize the small forward game and should be better known amongst NBA cliques.

45. Chauncey Billups

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    How Chauncey Billups did not make an All-Star Game until 2006, when he was 29, absolutely boggles my mind.

    This guy has really developed into a force on both ends of the floor throughout his illustrious career, and his resume will definitely make him a possibility to become a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame when all is said and done.

    In 14 seasons in the association, he has averaged 15.5 points, 5.6 assists, three rebounds and has shot 39 percent from downtown to go with an incredible 89.4 percent clip at the line.

    He helped lead the Detroit Pistons to a championship in 2004, and he collected the Finals MVP award in the process.

    Toss in three All-NBA selections, and I'd say he's got a real good chance to join Springfield's finest.

44. Kevin McHale

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    Kevin McHale played under the shadow of the great Larry Bird during his career, and it is for that reason that his numbers don't necessarily tell the entire story.

    He was tougher than nails during his career as a Celtic, most notably playing through the 1987 postseason with a broken foot.

    McHale and Bird were the two main catalysts of the 1980s Celtics' teams that won three championships. The former had post moves to die for; the latter had the complete game that led to him becoming a top-five consensus player in league history.

    McHale's best season included an input of 26 points and 10 rebounds per game. Overall, the former Minnesota Golden Gopher averaged better than 17 and seven during his legendary 13-year career. He also drained an incredible 55 percent of his field goals.

43. Shane Battier

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    Shane Battier has, as long as he's been in the league, been a corrupt defensive force. Time after time, he is asked to guard the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant, and time after time, he lives up to the task.

    His two inclusions to the All-Defensive teams do not do this man justice.

    A former Duke-e, Battier is also not only solid on D but is a viable shooter as well, most notably beyond the arc, where he has shot 38.5 percent from deep.

    The 32-year-old is also, according to teammates of the past and present, a locker room presence who is a joy to play with.

42. Maurice Cheeks

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    Before Maurice "Mo" Cheeks was an NBA head coach and a "Star Spangled Banner"-concluder, he was one of the 1980's best floor generals with the Philadelphia 76ers.

    He was a prime example of a team player throughout his career, and he had the prototypical game of a point guard—he could shoot, pass, steal and play defense. He shot nearly 53 percent and averaged 12.2 points. He dished out 7.3 assists and snagged 2.3 steals per game.

    His defense was great in regards to the perimeter, leading to his four inclusions on the All-Defensive team on four separate occasions.

    He won a title with Philly and had his No. 10 jersey retired.

    Why exactly isn't he underrated again?

41. Michael Cooper

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    Michael Cooper was the essential quaternary option on the 1980's Laker teams.

    He played behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy and was often overlooked and forgotten by opponents. That's not to say they didn't recognize his presence, though. Larry Bird was once quoted as saying that Michael Cooper was the best defender he had ever faced.

    Chants of "Coooop" surfaced whenever the 6'5" guard touched the ball, and even though he wasn't anything special offensively, he made his presence known on D, a testament to his eight All-Defensive selections.

    Like I said, he made his impact better known with his ferocious defensive skills, but he still averaged 8.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals over his 13-year career, a window in which he helped win five titles.

40. Dikembe Mutombo

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    Dikembe Mutombo is widely considered one of the best centers in NBA history.

    Mutombo's skills were not limited in the least bit, as he could score (he averaged 16.6 points per game in his rookie season), he could rebound (averaged 14.1 in two separate campaigns) and he could block (he once swatted an absolutely amazing 4.5 blocks per game during a season) better than almost anyone to ever play the game.

    He was also an eight-time All-Star and a jaw-dropping four-time Defensive Player of the Year award recipient! The only other player to snag that many trophies is Ben Wallace.

    Apparently, these numbers and records aren't enough to get him much Hall of Fame consideration.

    Maybe we should rethink this whole voting thing.

39. Gerald Wallace

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    Gerald Wallace is one of the few players in the NBA today who get it done on both sides of the floor, yet he is the one that gets the least attention out of the bunch.

    In fact, Wallace's 2007-08 season, a campaign where he averaged 19.4 points, six rebounds and 3.5 assists was not even recognized as an All-Star bid-worthy year.

    I guess voters would rather have an all-offense, no-defense guy like Carmelo Anthony instead.

    Although last season was his first All-Star appearance, Wallace in reality should have a handful. He's definitely one of the most underrated players in the present NBA.

38. Artis Gilmore

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    Artis Gilmore is the absolute best example in NBA history of a fabulous individual talent that played on otherwise dismal teams.

    He played for the Chicago Bulls before they were anything as a franchise and took on the role as "best player in franchise history" before a fellow by the name of Michael Jordan came along.

    It wasn't like he was bad or anything either. He still is the NBA's all-time leader in field goal percentage at an astounding 59.9 percent. He also was a six-time All-Star and a two-time All-Defensive selection.

    Plus he made Bill Simmons' All-Afro team, so what's not to like?

    He did finally get some well-deserved recognition, though, when he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame this April.

37. World B. Free

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    Lloyd Bernard Free effectively changed his name to "World B. Free" as the NBA's most prolific, high-risk shot-taking and flamboyant scorer of the time.

    Free's best years came as a Cavalier in the mid-80s, a time when he averaged better than 28 points per game on two separate occasions.

    He was also vastly underrated due to his ability to drain shots all around the World (no pun intended; oh wait, it's capitalized, so it is a pun).

36. Randy Smith

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    Randy Smith was easily the hardest name on this list to compile information for.

    What I did find is that Smith had the longest "iron man" streak in basketball, a 906-game run that was eventually surpassed by A.C. Green. He also was a great swiper, routinely nearing the top of the league leaders in total steals.

    In Buffalo, he teamed up with Bob McAdoo to form a formidable one-two punch.

    He made an All-NBA team and was selected to two All-Star Game appearances, and before about a month ago, I had no idea who he was.

    It's a shame that ballers like Smith, whose afro was legendary when he played in Buffalo, go unnoticed for such a long time.

35. George Gervin

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    George Gervin went about his business night after night, scoring point after point with no remorse and no defense.

    Standing at 6'7" and weighing in at 180 pounds, George Gervin was a stick-thin, deadly shooter from all angles.

    The sad part is that the "Iceman" didn't even have a three-point line to work with; otherwise, he'd average upwards of 40 points per game in some selected seasons.

    Gervin was a nine-time All-Star and a seven-time All-NBA selection, but that's about as far as he'd get in regards to team and individual success.

34. Jerry Sloan

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    Everyone knows Jerry Sloan as the former Utah Jazz coach nowadays, but what some don't understand is that he was the first great Chicago Bull.

    He was a mainstay in Chicago's program for a decade from 1976 on, and he was the first Bull to get his jersey sent into the rafters.

    The 6'5" Sloan was a two-time All-Star and a six-time All-Defensive guard who was tenacious in his ways on both sides of the court.

    He averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, the latter clip being unusually high for a guard his size.

33. Ben Wallace

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    Ben Wallace is essentially the poor man's Dennis Rodman—a guy whose defensive prowess is obviously the number one priority to his game.

    For a short while, Wallace was widely considered the game's top center, but those days have come and gone like the wind.

    However, during his prime, Big Ben was a force in the paint that even Michael Jordan would have a tough time scoring on him and his legendary afro.

    And even though he never averaged more than double digits in points per game, he still made his impact and presence known and felt throughout the league. After all, he won a record-tying four Defensive Player of the Year awards!

    He was always underrated, especially playing under the stars with guys like Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace. He was, at his best, a top three post defender of all-time.

32. John Havlicek

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    Every time someone mentions an all-time great, rarely is John Havlicek's name brought up, and it's a darn shame that is the case.

    "Hondo" won eight championships with the Celtics, was a part of the All-NBA teams 11 times and was an eight-time All-Defensive player.

    So why isn't he mentioned with the best?

    He obviously scored enough (26,395 points in all), he rebounded adequately (8,007) and he could even dish the ball when needed (6,114).

    This guy should be a top 15 player of all-time, and there is no excuse whatsoever from any sort of related omission.

31. Tiny Archibald

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    Nate "Tiny" Archibald is one of basketball's best point guards.

    The 6'1" Archibald was the main catalyst of the Royals and Kings in the 70s, and he finally won a title with Larry Bird in Boston in the year 1981.

    All in all, he averaged almost 19 points and more than seven assists per game. He was selected to six All-Star Games and five All-NBA teams.

    His No. 1 jersey was and still is floating in the rafters, retired by the Sacramento Kings.

    But somehow, he still doesn't get the recognition he deserves.

30. Oscar Robertson

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    Why is Oscar Robertson so low on this list?

    Well, as time has progressed, so too has Robertson's legacy in the league.

    If you were to ask, say, 20 years ago, it wouldn't even be a question—Big O would be top 10.

    For a guy who averaged a triple-double over an entire season, Oscar doesn't get much credit at all. In my opinion, he's the second best point guard ever, after the great Magic Johnson.

    Big O was way ahead of his time (emphasis on "way"), and the 6'5" quarterback averaged 25.7 points, 9.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds per game over his illustrious career.

29. Tim Duncan

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    Maybe it's his quiet demeanor, maybe it's the fact that he's such a boring player to watch.

    Whatever it is, it makes Tim Duncan one of the more underrated players in NBA history.

    "The Big Fundamental" is the greatest power forward in the game's history, winning everything both individually and with the Spurs during his extensive career.

    While he is still in the league, we need to sit back and enjoy who we are witnessing, because this guy undoubtedly has a top 15 spot sealed for him in the future.

28. John Starks

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    John Starks is, without a question, one of the fiercest competitors to ever play the game of basketball.

    He is best known among the NBA world by this dunk, a play that perhaps presented hope of beating the almighty Bulls.

    During his eight-year run with the Knickerbockers, Starks was a beloved player who didn't get the credit he deserved outside of the Big Apple.

27. Moses Malone

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    Did you know Moses Malone won three Most Valuable Player awards? Did you also know he's seventh on the NBA's all-time scoring list?

    Malone was a solid power forward throughout the 1980s and beyond, totalling 29,580 points and 17,834 rebounds.

    It seems to me like there should be a reason for him being swapped three times during the prime of his career, but maybe it had something to do with his mumbling. Whatever the reason, he's still extremely underrated for how good he actually was.

26. Sam Cassell

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    Sam Cassell of the Houston Rockets was an afterthought heading into the 1994 NBA Finals.

    It was there that he established himself as an instant spark of electricity and a solid shooter off the bench, two tags that followed him throughout his dozen-year long NBA career.

    He won two well-deserved championships in Houston, albeit at the hands of Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets, who were taking full advantage of the absence of Michael Jordan.

    Cassell has been a vital part of just about every team he's suited up for. His one All-Star and All-NBA selection should not be overlooked, but the fact of the matter is that he was much better than that fact.

25. Dolph Schayes

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    Dolph Schayes played all 16 years of his storied career as a member of the Syracuse Nationals (who then became the Philadelphia 76ers).

    A 6'7" power forward from New York City, Schayes was one of the NBA's first great members of the frontcourt. During his career, he averaged 18 points, 12 rebounds and three assists for the Nationals.

    He was a 12-time All-Star, one-time NBA Champion and a 12-time member of the NBA's All-Team.

    Schayes was routinely among the leaders in points, rebounding and assists, apexing each category at second, first and sixth on separate occasions.

    So why is it that Paul Arizin is the only star we hear about now from the 1950s?

24. Grant Hill

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    NBA fans forget this now, but there was a time long ago when Grant Hill was LeBron James before LeBron James.

    Hill once averaged 26 points, seven rebounds and five assists over a full season when he played for the Pistons.

    Forget the Grant Hill of the last 10 years, though—I'm specifically focusing on the one we could've seen over the last decade of a half. If it weren't for poor Hill and his injury prone-ness, he would be considered one of the best small forwards ever.

23. Mark Eaton

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    Mark Eaton was the ultimate "guy-you-wouldn't-expect-to-be-a-hero-but-somehow-ends-up-one". When he graduated from UCLA in 1982 after seeing limited playing time his senior year, he became an auto mechanic.

    Three years later, the 7'4" Eaton was given an NBA tryout with the Utah Jazz and instantly became the best shot blocker in the association.

    He won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 1985 and again in '89. One season, he averaged an incredible 5.56 number—for blocks! Overall, he averaged 3.5 throughout his 12-year career, all of which was spent in Salt Lake City.

    I'm not asking for Eaton to be considered an all-time great, but at least give this guy his due. 

22. Mark Aguirre

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    During his time in Dallas, a tenure that lasted eight seasons, Mark Aguirre averaged better than 24 points, six rebounds and four assists.

    He is the Mavs' second-best player in franchise history behind the great Dirk Nowitzki, and just about no one outside of Texas knows that.

    All in all, averaging 20 points and five rebounds per game isn't necessarily something to be upset over, especially when you were selected to three All-Star Games as well.

    People tend to forget that, as a member of the Detroit Bad Boys, Aguirre helped win the Pistons back-to-back titles in '89 and '90.

    Shouldn't that help him out somehow?

21. Elvin Hayes

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    Elvin Hayes, although never mentioned in the same breath as the best the NBA has ever seen, should certainly be brought up in the power forward debate. Alas, his name never seems to find its way into a "greatest" conversation.

    He played alongside Wes Unseld in our nation's capital to form one of the best frontcourts the NBA has ever seen. Hayes would grab almost 13 rebounds per game during those years, and he would score far more than Unseld, routinely reaching the 20s. He also would block more than two shots per game on average.

    He also was great in Houston, where he put up better than 20 and 12 in eight seasons.

    I'm still not sure why he isn't ever brought up in those debates.

20. Jack Sikma

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    Since when does a 6'11" center lead the NBA in free throw percentage?

    Enter Jack Sikma.

    Sikma shot an extremely prolific 92.2 percent from the charity stripe during the 1987-88 season and accumulated better than 84 percent throughout the course of his 14-year career.

    Along with his solid shooting, Sikma's name was routinely at the top of the league leaders in rebounds.

    He was a seven-time All-Star, an NBA champion and a defensive stud.

    Thus, he is one of the most underrated players in the history of the NBA.

19. Dave DeBusschere

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    One of the toughest competitors the New York Knicks franchise has ever seen, Dave DeBusschere had the heart of a champion.

    He was never going to wow you with a vast array of offensive moves, but his defensive prowess and intensity caused him to become one of the most feared players in the league.

    After six solid seasons as a member of the Pistons, DeBusschere won two titles as a Knickerbocker with Clyde, the Pearl and Willis.

    He routinely would average a double-double and seems to never get his due in helping the Knicks' run to relevancy.

18. Alvin Robertson

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    Alvin Robertson's legacy was cemented by just his second season.

    In 1985-86, he recorded the league's second quadruple-double when he registered 20 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals. Later that year, he was named recipient of both the Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards.

    His three All-Star nods in San Antonio are only surpassed by George Gervin, Tim Duncan and David Robinson.

    His quad-dub was (and still is) the only instance where steals, not blocks, was the fourth category.

    He was a multi-dimensional player who once recorded a steal in 105 consecutive games, a then-record.

    How's all that for underrated?

17. Hal Greer

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    I'm not entirely sure why Hal Greer isn't more well known among basketball junkies. He was, after all, one of the NBA's first great guards.

    Named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary Team, Greer was widely considered the third best guard during the 1960s decade, trailing only Jerry West and Oscar Robertson.

    He was chosen to 10 All-Star Games, being chosen MVP in one (1968). The Huntington, West Virginia native accumulated more than 20,000 points throughout his career.

    Greer was also known for his odd free throw technique. It was known throughout the league that the 6'2" shooting guard would actually jump when attempting a foul shot.

    He still ranks 29th on the all-time scoring list, so why isn't he more widely accepted as a legend?

16. Bob Love

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    How many true NBA fans outside of Chicago know who Bob Love is?

    "Butterbean", as Love was known, had a prolific and consistent NBA career. As soon as he was given a starter's role in the Windy City, he took advantage, averaging 21 points and eight rebounds in his first full season.

    He picked up three consecutive All-Star appearances, starting in 1971, as a member of the Bulls. He averaged at least 19 points and six rebounds in every season he played there.

    He was the second true Bull, after Jerry Sloan, and his No. 10 jersey currently hangs in the rafters of the United Center.

    People seem to not know who Love is, so you might as well call me teacher, as I just gave you this important lesson.

15. Bob McAdoo

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    Bob McAdoo's career got off a phenomenal start, when he averaged 28.2 points and 12.7 rebounds per game in four seasons for the Buffalo Braves. In fact, he won the MVP in his third season (1974-75).

    When he played with the Lakers, he was a vital bench player for two championship teams.

    The main knock against McAdoo until he got to L.A. was that he played well for bad teams, and it is for that reason that he may never be considered one of the greatest centers of all-time.

    However, he still is very underrated and deserves to be treated as such.

14. Sidney Moncrief

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    A defensive whiz, Sidney Moncrief isn't one of the more well-known ballers on this list, but he is very deserving.

    Moncrief was known for his tenacious D, a stingy attribute that led to him being named Defensive Player of the Year in the first two years the award was handed out.

    Offensively, the 6'4" Moncrief was as versatile as anybody on the court and had one of the game's best jumpers. He finished his career with a solid 15.6 points per game average. His No. 4 jersey was released into the rafters of the Bradley Center shortly after his retirement.

    Sidney was a great ballplayer, and it's about time he is recognized for his efforts.

13. Zelmo Beaty

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    Zelmo Beaty was a center for the Atlanta Hawks during the 1960s.

    He averaged better than 17 points and 11 rebounds during his days with the Hawks, a time that saw the 6'9" center take his talents to the All-Star Game on two separate occasions.

    Hopefully we can appreciate the NBA's original "Big Z" for what he was—one of the NBA's first dominant big men.

    I think the reason he's underrated is obvious. I mean, have you ever heard of him? The only reason I had has to do with a series I did about a month ago, but prior to that, you could have stumped me easily.

12. Bob Pettit

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    Bob Pettit won the NBA's inaugural Most Valuable Player award in 1958. It's not altogether silly to think he could've collected more previously had the trophy existed.

    It was that year that he led the Hawks to their first (and still, only) title in franchise history.

    He played out the duration of his 11-year career with them, and during that time, he averaged 26 points, 16 rebounds and even dished out three assists per game.

    Throughout a full season, the 6'9" Pettit never averaged less than 20 points or 10 rebounds.

    Now that is impressive!

11. Adrian Dantley

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    Adrian Dantley was another guy whose impact was made mostly in the 1980s.

    It was then that he was a member of the Utah Jazz and high-flying his way to two scoring titles (in 1981 and again in '84).

    He tallied over 23,000 points in his career and sported a 24.3 career average. For some reason, however, he was only elected to six All-Star Games, an unfair testimony to the awesome career he had.

    During his last two seasons in Utah, he helped mentor two young guys with potential by the names of John Stockton and Karl Malone. Perhaps you've heard of them.

    Unlike those two, Dantley was vastly underrated.

10. Jerry West

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    Jerry West is one of basketball's most polarizing figures in its long history. Did you know that the NBA logo is actually a silhouette of West himself?

    "Logo", as he was sometimes called for that reason, was an All-Star in all 14 seasons he played with the Lakers. During that time, he was selected All-NBA on 12 occasions and All-Defense on five more.

    He is still fourth among retired players with his 27 points per game career scoring average.

    So why was he so underrated?

    Perhaps it was the era he played in, or maybe it was that he won "only" one title.

    Whatever the reason, Jerry West deserves more credit than this.

9. Dennis Rodman

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    Some might argue with the inclusion of "the Worm", but really, there should be no argument necessary.

    When you win back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards in perhaps the toughest era in all of NBA history and have to wait to hear your name inducted by the Hall, you are obviously underrated.

    It doesn't hurt that Dennis was the most versatile defender ever and formed a formidable trio with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen while in Chicago.

    He won five titles in 15 seasons and was a true winner.

8. Alex English

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    Who was the top scorer in the 1980s? Was it Magic Johnson or Larry Bird? Was it Adrian Dantley or Dominique Wilkins?

    Nope; that feat belonged to a fellow by the name of Alex English.

    During that decade, English averaged 21, 24, 25, 28, 26, 28, 30, 29, 25 and 27 points per game in each season.

    He was a product of Doug Moe's high-flying offense that featured English, Fat Lever and David Thompson (for the first part of the decade). English was the unquestioned leader of the crew, and he rattled off eight consecutive All-Star appearances starting in 1982 with the team. He was the first player in NBA history to score more than 2,500 points in eight straight campaigns.

    For his efforts, they retired his widely popular No. 2 jersey.

    Poor English was so underrated, and it's even sadder when you consider he was sixth on the NBA's all-time scoring list at the time of his retirement.

7. Nate Thurmond

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    Nate "the Great" Thurmond was one of the NBA's best centers during the era of Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.

    He holds many distinctions in the NBA's history. He was the first player to ever record a quadruple-double, a feat he accomplished on October 18, 1974 against the Chicago Bulls. During the game, he totalled 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 blocks. Another record he holds is the most rebounds in a quarter with an astounding 18.

    He was also a ferocious defender, a guy who made five All-Defensive teams during his career as well as eight All-Star Games.

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure he's underrated.

6. Fat Lever

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    Fat Lever is the most underrated point guard in NBA history.

    The 6'3" Lever routinely led the Denver Nuggets in assists and rebounds during the 1980s.

    He was a triple-double waiting to happen, a guy who could defend and swipe balls unlike many other "top" point guards of the decade. His best season occurred during the 1988-89 campaign, when he averaged 19.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 7.9 assists. This was also the year that he accumulated nine steals—in one quarter.

    Lever should be considered a top five Nugget, but just about no one outside of the Rockies gives the guy any respect.

    Perhaps a previous column I wrote in March can persuade you to call Lafayette "Fat" Lever one of the NBA's most underrated.

5. Bernard King

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    Bernard King is easily one of the most underrated players in the NBA's long history.

    He averaged 22.5 points (try naming five active players who've done that) and six rebounds per game and was the most explosive offensive player of (dare I say it?) the 1980s for a short time.

    His most dominant days came as a Knick, where he averaged better than 28 points on three separate occasions. All in all, he averaged better than 20 points in nine separate seasons, playing as a member of four different teams.

    Basically, no defender could contain the 6'7" King during his heyday.

    And for reasons unbeknownst to me, he is not in the Hall of Fame.

4. Sam Jones

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    Sam Jones, simply put, is the ultimate champion.

    His 10 championship rings fall second to only the greatest champion in the history of professional sports, Bill Russell. Jones, like Russell, was a tremendous teammate who would rather work with his team than work individually.

    He was as quick as they came in the '70s, and he hit big shots whenever the time was right for the Celtics.

    He is recognized as one of the NBA's Greatest 50 Players Ever, but do fans treat him as such nowadays?

    I wouldn't even say it's a close call—this man deserves more respect.

3. Scottie Pippen

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Everybody knows who Scottie Pippen is and what defines him—championships.

    They can easily look up the numbers, which tell part of the story. He averaged 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists and an astounding two steals throughout the course of his 17-year career.

    What casual basketball fans might not know is that he is widely considered one of the two or three best defensive forwards to ever play the game along with Dennis Rodman, his teammate from 1995-98 with the Chicago Bulls. You know you're on a great team when Michael Jordan is easily the third best defensive player.

    He was so clutch with his defense come crunch time, most notably when he was able to contain the great Magic Johnson in the 1991 NBA Finals.

    People tend to point to how many championships Scottie won without Michael—zero. What they don't realize is that Michael never won a title without Scottie. He is the ultimate underrated player.

2. Dominique Wilkins

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    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    "The Human Highlight Film" was a sight to see and perhaps the best in-game dunker the world has ever seen. He won the dunk contest in 1985 and then again five seasons later and scared just about everyone off when he penetrated in the lane in games.

    Dominique Wilkins was a tremendous offensive player, a guy who averaged 25 points per game over the course of his career, a number that certainly places him among the best.

    He once hit 23 of 23 free throws in a single game, an NBA record. He also is one of six players to average better than 25 points per game in 10 consecutive seasons. The other five? Jerry West, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Shaquille O'Neal and Allen Iverson. That's some pretty crazy company to be in; it's a shame his name sticks out from the rest for the wrong reasons.

    Sadly, 'Nique's Hawk teams could never go very far in the postseason, and it is for that reason that he is so overlooked by junkies and cliques alike.

    One of the biggest travesties in the game of basketball is Wilkins' omission into the NBA's 50th Anniversary Team. There are at least 20 guys on that guy that 'Nique is superior to.

1. Dennis Johnson

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    While Larry Bird and Kevin McHale were dominant in their respective own ways during the 1980s, Dennis Johnson was the glue that kept everything stable in Boston.

    He could guard anyone at anytime, and he could score and chip in his best effort at both sides of the floor at any time. In his career, he averaged 14.1 points, five assists and nearly four boards per game.

    Additionally, Johnson was as clutch as anyone, coming up big in decisive moment after decisive moment. His smothering defense was a main catalyst factoring into D.J. and the C's winning  the 1979 title.

    How many casual NBA fans know who D.J. is just 20 years after his retirement?

    Johnson (may he rest in peace) is the NBA's most underrated player ever because of his willingness to give up individual glory for the better of the team. He complimented what Bird and McHale lacked and took a back seat to the two in the process. This ultimately decided his fate as the most underrated player in the league's history.

     

    Joseph Fafinski is currently a freshman at the University of Missouri. Originally from Chaska,Minnesota, Joseph is an NBA and Minnesota Timberwolves Featured Columnist and a frequent writer on all things NBA, NFL and MLB.

    You can email Joseph at jef3m8@mail.missouri.edu or follow him on Twitter at @JosephFafinski.