Happy 63rd Birthday NBA! The 63 Greatest

Isaiah MontoyaCorrespondent IJune 8, 2010

25 Nov 2001: Hakeem Olajuwon #34 of the Toronto Raptors waits on the court durng the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Raptors defeated the 76ers 107-88. TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright 2001 NBAE Mandatory Credit: Dave Sandford /Getty Images
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

With a competitive 2010 Finals upon us 63 years have gone by since 1947 when the Philadelphia Warriors and their MVP 'Jumpin' Joe Fulks beat the Chicago Stags in the first ever finals.

Remember in 1997, when the 50 greatest players were named after 50 seasons of NBA action? You know; the NBA 50 for 50.

This is my quick list of the NBA 63 for 63:

#63 - 'The Human Highlight Film' Dominique Wilkins - the high flyer soared and powered his way into NBA fan memories. One of the greatest scorers ever, he was at times, like poetry in motion. Sadly, he never won a ring.

#62 - Kevin Johnson was a little man with a huge heart and a good public attitude; but on the court he was cutthroat. The little guy was really fast and exciting and made the Finals but lost in 1993. Nevertheless he is one of the most underrated and least mentioned great players ever. He was also an assist machine.

#61 - An overlooked legend was George McGinnis. He was a two-time ABA champion with the Pacers in the early 70's, and when he got to the NBA he helped Dr. J get to the Finals in 1977, where they lost to Walton and the Blazers. The 6'8" power foward's #30 jersey is retired by the Pacers.

#60 -  Nate Thurmond was an early center who is completely overlooked by today's fans but not by legends like Chamberlain and Russell who had to play against him. He held his own, especially on defense, on the court and earned their respect; why can't he earn ours?

#59 - It is amazing in the first place that Dirk Nowitzki even made it to the NBA, after all he grew up in Germany. He turned out to exceed all our expectations playing the Euro-style to it's peak level in the U.S. Nice stuff Dirk; now can you win a title sometime soon?

#58 - Adrian Dantley was a bad dude, a seriously tough and powerful 6'5" player who made it to the line so many times a game because he took it to the hole. He was traded by the Pistons for Mark Aguirre right before they won a title in 1989, and he blames Isiah Thomas, but on his own he was great and he was on the 1988 Finals team that lost to the Lakers.

#57 - Connie Hawkins was as smooth as silk with his jumper and finger rolls. back in the day this was the guy all the kids tried to emulate, and the players too. He was so dope that in the final game of his rookie season, Connie had 44 points, 20 rebounds, eight assists, five blocks, and five steals.

#56 - An amazing defensive player was Alonzo Mourning. At a little over 6'9" Mourning competed in an era of huge and great centers and he held his own and made a name for himself. Mourning won a title as a defensive backup with Miami in 2006.

#55 - Marques Johnson is an unknown legend who was simply great. He became one of the first point-forwards ever as the offense ran through him back in 1983 when the Milwaukee guards all got injured. He told coach Don Nelson, "So, I'm a point forward," and history was made. He could do it all, especially score, but was never on a Finals team.

#54 - Simply by potential and making the Finals in 2009 vs. the Lakers, Dwight Howard is making his way up there. His physical presence alone assures it. His defensive skills are admirable.

#53 - Bob Lanier was a big, big man at 6'11". He played for Detroit and Milwaukee and was loved by fans in both places. He encompassed all that is important in a pro center. He never won a title though.

#52 - Alvan Adams was an undersized center who could, and did, do everything on the court. He was undersized at 6'9" but he led Phoenix to a great Finals vs. Boston in 1976. He is probably the most underrated center ever.

#51 - Kevin McHale was almost unstoppable and could score down low with a grace and fluidity that led to three championship rings. At 6'11" he looked like Frankenstein but he was extremely intelligent and a nice guy. 

#50 - Mark Aguirre was a fantastic scorer who could hit from anywhere and a wide-body who frustrated offensive players. He was on two title teams and always came through in crunch time, with a calm on-court attitude.

#49 - Walt Bellamy had a stellar 14 year career and was named the ROY in 1962 after having one of the greatest rookie seasons in NBA history. He averaged 31.6 points and 19 rebs per game and also led the NBA in field goal percentage in his rookie season!

#48 - The 'Chief' Robert Parish is a four time champion center who was highly integral to the first three title wins. The seven-footer was a consistent low post threat who kept his mouth shut and just played the game at an extremely high level.

#47 -  Bobby Jones was a great complimentary player who won a title in 1983, but his tenacity and multi-faceted skills were always ready at any moment and he took games over. This guy used his intelligence and team focus to make it in the NBA; they all should; if only they all did.

#46 - Bernard King is one of the baddest players ever. He was just naturally sick and if you ever saw him play one game you would know what I mean. He scored in every way and was truly unstoppable but he never won a title.

#45 - Gary Payton went from one of the best little defenders ever to a champion in 2006 as a steady guard. His numerous career highlights could fill a book and he had a great competitive attitude.

#44 - Jerry Lucas was the biggest star in the basketball world back in the day and he was seen as unstoppable. His pro career produced proof of his greatness. His role was crucial for New York's title win in 1973, as he played center often for an injured Reed.

#43 - Steve Nash has used everything he has to become everything he is. The little juggernaut truly had defied expectations and become one of the greatest scorer/passers ever.

#42 - As a sports announcer Bill Walton was so annoying, but as a player he was too; to defenders. This guy was probably the best passing center ever, but he could score and play defense with the best of them. he was 6'11" and won a title in 1977 with the Blazers.

#41 - Scottie Pippen grew up under the perfect mentor, Michael, and then be became almost like MJ. Pippen actually became one of the greatest defensive players ever and could rebound, pass and score too. he won six championships.

#40 - Paul Westphal has been a good NBA coach but he was a great player. The guard was all tenacity and effort. He did everything possible for his team to win and was a great passer, defender and exceptional scorer. If you don't know, well... your NBA knowledge is severely lacking.

#39 - Alex English scored more total points than any player in the 1980's. The 6'7" forward scored like crazy but could play defense. He was basically an unstoppable scoring machine.

#38 - Spencer Haywood won a title with the Lakers in 1980 but was a star before that, especially with Seattle. Overall, during his five seasons with Seattle, Haywood averaged 24.9 points per game and 12.1 rebounds per game.  

#37 - Dave Cowens was 6'9" and a center, so, many might think he was too small. He was, but he made up for it with great effort in every facet of the game. He made the 1974 and 1976 Celtic titles possible.

#36 - 'Pistol' Pete Maravich was a true basketball wunderkind. Maravich seemed as if the basketball was part of himself. He moved on the court like a slithery snake who could fool anyone. When passing and scoring he was bar none.

#35 - Bob Cousy was called the 'Houdini of the Hardwood' for a good reason. He was like a basketball alchemist who saw visions of court action, seconds before everyone else on the court did, and he took advantage of it to win titles on the highest level.

#34 - The 'Kangaroo Kid' Billy Cunningham hopped, skipped and jumped through and around the league for years and he could score, rebound, play defense and pass, and jump. He was exciting and all that modern fans want in a player, but they don't know him, and it's sad.

#33 -  Patrick Ewing was a 7 footer with great defensive skills and powerful yet smooth and sultry shooting abilities. In short, Ewing was a prototypical center that is easily one of the greatest ever players without a ring.

#32 - Nate Archibald came from UTEP and made it easily in the pros, as he is still the only player ever to lead the league in scoring and assists in the same season! He was small but needed as the point man for the Celtics 1981 title win.

#31 - George 'Iceman' Gervin was smoother than any player ever, as a scorer at least. He never won a championship but he won scoring titles and could score 30 on any team at any time and he did it by always shooting over 50%, unlike...let's see...uh... Kobe.

#30 - Garnett is back and the Celtics are back in the Finals, and will probably win again. It is as simple as that.

#29 - Dwayne Wade is still underrated as an all-time talent but he has the hardware to prove that his 2006 Finals MVP award was no fluke. He is an all-around menace.

#28 - Bob McAdoo went from scoring champion to NBA champion with the Lakers in 1980 and 1982. This guy was big time and anyone who knows anything about NBA history knows it. Others are suggested to Google it; you retards.

#27 - Elvin Hayes is one of the greatest power forwards ever and his title win in 1978 proves it. It was actually a long time coming as this guy rebounded, played defense and scored like no other.

#26 - No title and bad attitude and crappy career finish cannot diminish Allen Iverson's impact on the NBA and fans across the globe.

The Top 25 

#25 - Clyde Drexler flew his way to the top in 1995 as a champ with Houston. Before that, he was an accomplished all-around player who could score, pass, rebound and play d. He was exhilirating at times.

#24 - Only player other than Jordan to win a title without a center, as he did in 1975. Rick Barry might be the best pure shooter ever. If you don't know, you are not a true NBA fan.

#23 - Isiah Thomas might be the greatest little player ever because he could score, pass, defend and lead, as he did for titles in Detroit in 1989 and 1990. He was exciting and amazing at times. Truly a great player.

#22 - After not winning it all in 2010 LeBron James is nevertheless still already among the all-time greats. He will only move up this list, guaranteed.

#21 - John Havlicek won eight rings because he never stopped moving and he could do anything within the team concept; obviously. If you don't know Havlicek, you don't know the NBA.

#20 - Julius Erving was called Dr. J because he was like a surgeon on the court and he schooled the league with some awesome moments and dunks. Man, what a player.

#19 - David Robinson might have the most perfect basketball body in NBA history. At 7'1" and 250 pounds of lithe muscle, he won two titles by scoring and defending like few have ever done before or since.

#18 - Along with Wilt, Pettit (6'9") was the only player to lead a team past Boston for a title win (1958) from 1957 to 1969. He was an unstoppable scorer and was a rebound machine, you just don't know because of your foolishly self-imposed and media driven lack of knowledge of who the greatest are.

#17 - Tim Duncan has quietly become one of the greatest players ever. So consistent it's been unbelievable. Four rings prove it.

#16 - John Stockton was the best pure point man ever and there's no debate about it. Who cares if he didn't win a ring? He was on the Dream Team gold medal winning Olympic team.

#15 - Oscar Robertson is the most proficient all-around player ever.

#14 - Charles Barkley was not all talk, because he was a profound and suprisingly great player.

#13 - Jerry West was an unstoppable scorer and he did everything else too. Amazing.

#12 - Moses Malone is one of the greatest centers ever and he won a ring in 1983, and was the main reason. Even with Dr. J on his team, Malone dominated opponents.

 #11 - Elgin Baylor was an amazing scorer and awesome rebounder for his size and is the second best player to never win a title

#10 - Karl Malone is the greatest player never to win a title. Sad. 

#09 - Kobe Bryant in my opinion is stuck at number nine no matter what his team does in the Finals because he will never be better than these upcoming guys. Awesome guard who at any given moment, could blow your mind.

These top 8 are on a level all the others have never reached in my opinion

#08 - Larry Bird was a living legend after only his second season and first title. The best shooter ever and a great rebounder and passer and tough defender; just outstanding.

#07 - Hakeem Olajuwon was 6'10" or so, but had a knack for every single facet of the game. He was simply astonishing and so forgotten. I weep for today's NBA fans.

#06 - Never a one man show, except in game six of the Finals as a rookie. Magic was the best team player and also a great scorer and an absolute genius on the court.

#05 - Bill Russell won more titles than any player ever (11) and is the best defensive player of all-time. Not ranked number one because he would not be as effective today as a 6'9" 225 pound center, but he's still an all-time great.

#04 - Shaquille O'Neal dominated in the 90's and 2000's and would have been even more devastating in the 1950's or 1960's. Imagine that....wow.....scary....really really scary.

#03 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played in the 1960's, 70's and 80's and scored more total points than anyone by the end of it all. Jabbar's skyhook is still untouched as the most devastating shot ever.

#02 - Wilt Chamberlain won two rings when he was older and more of a team player. When he was younger he did things like score 100 points by himself in an NBA game, which cannot ever be done again.

#01 - After 63 NBA years of the greatest sport in the universe, one man stands as the icon and standard of greatness on offense and defense and heart and soul and desire: Michael Jordan

Happy 63rd Birthday NBA!


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