10 Most Underrated Scorers in NBA History
It's too much to ask any NBA fan to remember every single player that has ever picked up an orange ball, laced up his sneakers and played basketball at the sport's highest level. As a result, some players, even prolific scorers like these 10 players, get lost in the shuffle.
When people think about scorers, they tend to remember Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Allen Iverson and quite a few others. However, they tend to overlook the offensive contributions of quite a few players, some of whose omissions are more egregious than others.
These 10 players stand out above the rest in that sense. All 10 of them were incredible scorers who share one thing in common: They don't get as much credit as they deserve.
Welt Bellamy, a 6'11" center from the University of Indiana, first entered the league with the Chicago Packers in 1961.
Bellamy spent 14 seasons in the NBA, and his time was split between the Packers (who became the Chicago Zephyrs and then the Baltimore Bullets), New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Jazz.
During his rookie season Bellamy averaged a career-best 31.6 points per game. After that phenomenal first year, his scoring average dipped year after year until he retired in 1975 with a career average of 20.1 points per game.
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The long and lanky Adrian Dantley entered the league with the Buffalo Braves when he was drafted at No. 6 in the 1976 NBA draft.
After balling for a few teams during his first couple seasons, Dantley found his home with the Utah Jazz. He would spend 1979-1986 with the team, compiling quite a few impressive seasons.
Dantley actually broke the 30 PPG mark in four consecutive seasons, with the two middle ones bookended by years in which he led the entire league in scoring.
When he retired as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, Dantley had a career scoring average of 24.3 points per game.
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Alex English was one of the absolute best scorers in the 1980s, but he still doesn't get enough recognition for his work. I mean, English managed to popularize the Nuggets jersey that he's wearing in the picture to the left. That takes talent.
From 1981-1989, the longtime Nugget averaged over 25 points per game in each and every season, topping out at 29.8 and leading the entire NBA in scoring once.
With a career average of 21.5 points per contest, English is one of the league's all-time greats in the scoring department. It's time that he's treated as such.
The Iceman is universally regarded as one of the great players and scorers in NBA history, but he still doesn't get quite as much ink as he deserves.
George Gervin played out his prime in San Antonio with the Spurs and actually managed to lead the league in scoring four times in his career. He managed to average 26.2 points per game throughout his NBA career.
That average is good enough to place him eighth in NBA history in terms of career points per game. He's surrounded by players like Allen Iverson and Oscar Robertson but receives far less credit than either of them.
If it wasn't for his rookie season and the last two of his NBA career, Hal Greer would have put together an even more amazing scoring average.
Playing with the Syracuse Nationals and Philadelphia 76ers, Greer scored with amazing consistency during the middle portion of his career. From 1960-1971, Greer's average ranged from 18.6 to 24.1. That said, the majority of those years were much closer to the latter than the former.
When he retired after 15 years in the Association, he did so with a career scoring average of 19.2 points per game.
I recently wrote an article called "The All-Time Face of the Franchise for Every NBA Team" and called Elvin Hayes the face of the Washington Wizards franchise thanks to his contributions back in the days of the Washington Bullets.
That was met with a bit of disagreement, and a little part of me died.
Elvin Hayes is one of the best scorers that the NBA has ever seen, but he's notoriously absent from the minds of most modern NBA fans.
The Big E scored 28.4 points per game during his rookie season, the highest average in the league, and only posted sub-20 marks in two seasons prior to his 35th birthday, when he experienced a bit of a decline at the end of his career.
Hayes' 21.0 points per game during his career places him quite high up on the historical leaderboard.
The man whose game Carmelo Anthony fashioned his own around was named Bernard King.
Back in the day, the day being the 1980s and early 1990s, King was a fantastic scorer for a number of teams, most notably the New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors and Washington Bullets.
King's finest season came in 1984-1985 with the Knicks, when he averaged a league-leading 32.9 points per game. Even more impressive, though, might be the fact that the scoring star managed to average 28.4 points per contest during his penultimate season in the NBA, one in which he played for the Bullets at age 34.
He retired with a career scoring average of 22.5 points per game.
Bob Lanier is remembered more as a defensive player with great rebounding skills than as a scorer. That's a pretty unfair legacy for the Hall of Famer, who spent his 14-year career with the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks.
After all, Lanier put together an incredible string of seasons during the beginning and middle portions of his career where he simply couldn't be stopped on the offensive end of the court. From his second season, the 1971-1972 campaign, to his 1978-1979 season, Lanier never averaged below 21.3 points per game and was usually right around 24.
The combined force of the switch to Milwaukee and the ill effects of old age caused Lanier's scoring prowess to drop off, but he still retired with a career average of 20.1 points per game.
I recently published a debate with a fellow Atlanta Hawks writer about whether Bob Pettit or Dominique Wilkins was the greatest Hawk of all time. Regardless of overall greatness, 'Nique gets the credit for scoring prowess while Pettit is largely forgotten about.
Simply put, he shouldn't be.
As I wrote in the article:
The 6’9” power forward and center from Baton Rouge, Louisiana retired with career averages of 26.4 points and 16.2 rebounds per game. Pettit was the first player to hit the 20,000-point milestone and was the second-leading rebounder in NBA history when he hung up the sneakers and short shorts. To this day, his rebounding average trails just [Bill] Russell and [Wilt] Chamberlain, buoyed no doubt by his incredible 20.3 per game average during the 1960-1961 season, one that allows him to join the exclusive five-member club of players to average more than 20 boards per game for a season.
But now comes the real doozy. Only two players in NBA history have ever averaged more than 20 points per game during every single season of their career. One is Alex Groza, but he only played two seasons. The other is Pettit.
To be fair, Michael Jordan falls just short of the requirements because he averaged exactly 20.0 points per game during his final season in the NBA and thus fails to meet the "more than 20 points per game" requirement.
Recognize this pose, anyone? If you think it looks like the NBA logo, that would be because the silhouette is modeled after the Logo himself: Jerry West.
Mr. Clutch, as he was known to his peers for his incredible scoring prowess at the end of games, was a fantastic all-around player who specialized at putting up points in bunches. Unfortunately, though, he's been lost in the shuffle of all the incredible players that have donned the purple and gold Los Angeles Lakers uniforms.
However, West actually managed to average over 30 points per game on four separate occasions, leading the league once in the category and failing to top the 20-points per game mark in only his rookie season. When he retired, West did so with a career scoring average of 27.0 points per game.
That number places him fifth all-time in career points per game, trailing only Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James and Elgin Baylor.
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Adam Fromal is a syndicated writer and Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.