The Top 15 NBA Players of the 90's: Yes, you know who Number 1 is

Scott OttersenCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2008

I read all the lists that everyone posts about who the best is at this, and who the best is at that, and I decided it was my turn to conceive a list of my own.

So, I chose the sport I know best, and chose the era I know best. 

I have done my research, consulted with nobody else, and placed the players accordingly.

Sure, not everybody is going to agree with me, but isn't that the beauty of making up your own list.  The thing about these lists, is that anyway you tug at it, it looks wrong, but still right, if that makes any sense.

Let's go over some ground rules before I get into the list.  I am concentrating on only NBA players who played in the 1990s.  And, they can only make the list if they have played in 5 seasons or more during the 1990s.  So, that takes away some of the great players who we know now, but didn't know back then, for long enough.

If you didn't know people who might make that category, it would be the likes of Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Isiah Thomas, and so on.

So, if you're a fan of any of those players, I apologize.  It hurt me to leave off Allen Iverson, because he's my second favorite player of all time, but I had to do it.  On the other hand, it gave me great pleasure to leave Timmy off this list, because I'm not a big fan of his.  I respect his game, but it was nice to not have him lurking at the top of the list I was drawing up.

So, with that said, let's get to the list...


Reggie was an assassin. 

It's as simple as that. 

The NBA career leader in three point shots made, and attempted, was the last person you would want to see wide open, behind the arc, with any amount of time left on the clock, let alone at the end of a game. 

His 39.5% career percentage from behind the arc isn't the greatest, but if you ever watched the man play, you would swear he never missed a shot. 

Along with his long distance shooting, his free throw shooting was off the charts.  A career 88.8% free throw shooter, he led the league twice, and was in the top 10 every season other than those two, during the '90s.  He is, also, the career leader for 4-point plays in the NBA, with 24 in his illustrious career.

His ballhandling and defense may not have been up to par with his offense, but he always played smart, and within his game, keeping his turnovers to a minimum (a career average of less than 2 a game).

His game wasn't flashy, which might be the reason why he's stuck at 15, but his game is what got him into the top 15, which speaks volumes about all the flashy players of the '90s who didn't make the list.


Of all the players on this list, I'm sure this will be the most shocking.

But, come on, he's The Worm!

He had the ability to change a game without doing anything.  The mind games he played on the opponents were relentless, and worked almost every time.

Let's get to the true reason why he's on this list.  Let me run down his season averages for rebounds during the '90s...12.5, 18.7, 18.3, 17.3, 16.8, 14.9, 16.1, 15.0, and 11.2, although that 11.2 came with the Lakers, and only playing in 23 games, and starting in only 11 of those 23 games. 

Those numbers are insane.

Let's put it in perspective.  

Last season, Kevin Garnett led the league with 12.8 a game.

They year before that, Garnett, again, with 12.7.

Before that, Garnett, again, with 13.5.

You get the point.  Garnett would have placed a distant second to The Worm in every season, except one, and that was due, mostly, to Rodman not getting a lot of minutes (only 33, compared to averages of over 35 for most of the '90s).

Rodman was the Defensive Player of the Year for the '89-90 season and the '90-91 season.

He made the All-NBA Defensive First Team in '90, '91, '92, '93, '95, and '96.

On top of that, he was named to the All-NBA Third Team in '92 and '95, despite averages of 9.8 and 7.1 points per game during those seasons.

Just for good measure, he was a 5-time NBA Champion, and you can't deny his impact on those teams.

My favorite memory of him, though, is his triple double game he had for the Bulls.  The one, and only, in his career.  Yes, he deserves to be on this list.

13. Dikembe Mutombo

Too often, we remember players for what they are like now, instead of remembering what they used to be.

Dikembe Mutombo is one of those players that people forget about.

During the '90s, he was a monster defensive presence.

He led the league in blocked shots three times during the '90s, and was in the top 5 every other season.

And, had it not been for Dennis Rodman, Dikembe would have been topping the NBA in rebounds, consistently averaging over 11 rebounds per game.  His lowest output in the '90s was 11.4, during the '96-97 season.

His scoring might not have been what his teams needed it to be, but considering all the points he took away, 6-8 points should be added to each of his scoring averages.

I might have put him on here for the finger wag, alone.  The NBA should have never taken that away from him.  Although, it does backfire on him, seeing how one of my favorite memories of Dikembe involved Michael Jordan blocking his shot, then returning the finger wave.

If you are an awards buff, you will know that Dikembe was (I should say is) a 3-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. 

Enough said.


Don't laugh.

Again, you may not remember just how good Tim Hardaway was.

He is one of only 7 players to average 20+ points a game, along with 10+ assists.  And, he did it twice.  And, fell short by only a few assists of doing it two more times.

The way he broke down defenders is something that doesn't happen much more, nowadays.  His killer crossover is, probably, one of the greatest moves any NBA player ever had in their repertoire.  We don't see anything like that anymore, at least not as how often we saw Tim do it.

He was a good shooter, who found ways to score, when you didn't think he could. 

And, he was great at getting his teammates involved.  He didn't play on the greatest of teams, but he had a knack for keeping his team in games, whether he had to do it by scoring, or distributing.

He didn't get all the accolades, but he didn't need them. 

He did enough to earn his way onto my list.


One of the most intense players of all time.

He might be in that category of players that people forget about how good they actually were.

As an undersized center, he dominated games early in his career.

And, unlike Dikembe Mutombo, he dominated games on the offensive end, along with the defensive end. 

He was a ferocious shot blocker.  One of those unexpectedly good shot blockers, who could come off of his man to swat a shot.  Yes, that's how most shot blockers make their living, but he was one of the better ones.

Zo led the league in blocked shots once, and that was the same year he won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year ('99).

He wasn't a dazzling player.

He just owned the paint.

He was a 20 and 10 guy, to go along with his 3 blocked shots each game. 

That's a difference maker, if I've ever known one.


Oh, what could have been?

Damn those injuries.

Grant Hill, if not injured, would have gone down as one of the greatest NBA players ever to play, but instead, he is only getting the number 10 spot on my list.

And, that's only because his injuries didn't start piling on until the 2000-01 season.

Grant Hill was a constant threat for a triple double.

The kind of threat Magic Johnson was.

He was a mixture of smart and quick.  A rare breed for a player. 

He was a 20+ point scorer, mixed with a 7+ rebound guy, and a 6+ assist man. 

But, he had the ability to dominate in any one of those categories, on any given night.

In his last season before the injuries started, he averaged 25.8 points per game.  He was starting to come into his own as a scorer, which was scary.

He was the first rookie to ever lead the NBA in All-Star voting.  He, even once received more votes than Michael Jordan did. 

That's saying something.

An All NBA First Team performer in '97, an All NBA Second Team performer in '96, '98, '99, and for the '99-00 season, much more was expected from him.

But, considering what he did in the '90s, I feel comfortable having him in my top 10.


The Admiral.

He was about as dominant as any center who has every played the game. 

That's not saying he was the greatest, but just one of them.

Isn't that how everyone feels about David Robinson?

He was great, had great stats, but he was just kind of....there!

But, you do have to admit that his stats speak for themselves.

NBA MVP in '95.  Defensive Player of the Year in '92.  All NBA First Team in '91, '92, '95, and '96.  All NBA Second Team in '94 and '98.  All NBA Defensive First Team in '91, '92, '95, and '96.  All NBA Defensive Second Team in '90, '93, '94, and '98.

Yeah, I was shocked, too.  I remember him being good, but THAT good?!?

Also, he recorded only one of 6 season averages, on record, that outdid Michael Jordan's lowest scoring average for a season.

I talked about Zo being a 20 and 10 guy, well, David Robinson was that 20 and 10 guy long before Zo was.  And, The Admiral was much more consistent with his 20 and 10's.  He finished 7 seasons in the '90s with a 20-10 average.

But, like with Reggie Miller, it may be the non-flash in his game that landed him at number 9, rather than higher on the list.


It was tough deciding between him and David Robinson.

I might look back and wish I called them 9a and 9b, and just skipped over 8.

But, I made my decision, and I'm sticking with it.

Besides, Patrick Ewing was a better scorer than David Robinson was. 

He was deadly on the inside, and could even take you outside, and nail an 18-footer over your extended arm.

The fact that he shot over 50% for his career, and did more than dunk every shot he took, is good enough to put him in the 8 spot.

The choice between these two might come down to that flash in the game that I had mentioned.  I know it's not right to choose according to the player that had more flash in his game, but like I said, I made my choice and I'm sticking to it.

Ah, forget it, we'll just call them 9a and 9b.  I'll leave the numbers, simply for numerical reasons, but we both know it's almost impossible to choose between these two. 


Does this need to be explained?

Probably the best point guard that ever played the game.

I don't even know what else to say.

I don't need to say anything else.


He is one of the best all-around players that played the game.

I'll give you his 1995 season as reference. 

He finished the season 12th in scoring, 23rd in rebounds, 23rd in assists, 28th in blocks, and 1st in steals.

He did everything.

And did it well.

People may have referred to him as the "Robin" part of the duo, but he was a bigger factor than Robin ever could be to Batman.

On top of his offensive prowess, he may go down as one of the best defensive players ever to play the game. 

He could guard anybody.

He always stuck, and I mean stuck, the best player on the opposite team.

He was an 8 time All NBA Defensive First Team performer (92, '93, '94, '95, '96, '97, '98, '99) and was a 2 time All NBA Defensive Second Team performer ('91 and '00).

That covers every season in the 1990s.

Not enough for you.

How about the fact that he has the NBA record for Assists and Steals by a forward.

Yes, he was THAT good.


Good old, Chuck.

I enjoyed watching him play.

He dominated the game at such a small size.

There was no reason for him to be getting all those rebounds, and to be dunking over people, but he did.

In all the seasons he played, only once, as a rookie, did he not average 10+ rebounds a game.

He is 15th, all time, in rebounds, and that's due to an injury-shortened career.  He should, easily, be in the top 10.

Had he not missed so many games.

But, he did.

Charles Barkley is one of those players that didn't have much flash in his game, but his personality was all flash.

That is what made him a pleasure to watch.

And, to root against.

I hated when my team was up against Sir Charles, and whatever team he was on.

Hatred of a player is the biggest sign of respect you can give.

And I gave it to Chuck.

I have spoken about 20 and 10 guys, well, he's another one of those that got his 20 and 10.

But, unlike most, you knew he was getting his 20 and 10.

He didn't do it quietly.

I will close by saying this...

There is no way he should have won that MVP in '93! 

Much respect, Chuck. 


Might be the most dominant player at his position, of any position, in NBA history.

Teams had no answer for him.

He was too strong.

He would kill you in the lane, from outside, from the free throw line, on the offensive boards, on the defensive end, and anywhere else on the court.

Everything speaks for itself.

2 time NBA MVP ('97 and '99)

11 time All NBA First Team selections, which includes every season in the 90s, with one of his 2 All NBA Second Team selections coming in the '99-00 season.

He was a 3 time All NBA Defensive First Team selection ('97, '98, and '99).

He is second in career scoring.

First in free throws made and attempted, by quite a distance, too.

He is 7th all time in rebounds.

Karl Malone was a monster. 

He had no flash to his game, but he was pretty darn good.


The man tore down entire baskets.

Shouldn't that be enough?

He was, simply put, amazing.

If there is ever going to be a more dominant player in the NBA, I would feel sorry for NBA players.

We're talking about a 26+ points per game scorer, who shoots 57% from the field, grabs 11+ boards a game, blocks 2+ shots per game, and even leads the occasional fast break.

The dominance he showed in the '90s was uncanny.

His lowest scoring output was 23.4, and that was his rookie year.  After that, it was 26.2, and that is because he missed time that season with the Lakers.

His lowest rebounding output was 10.7, which was another year that he missed time with the Lakers, only playing in 49 games.

Nobody could guard him.

Nobody could even prevent him.

Referees had to change the way they called games because of him.

How many players have the distinction of knowing that?

People argue that he would have been even more dominant had he been able to make a free throw here and there, but that's just nitpicking.

That's almost like saying, had he shot, only, 55% from the field, he'd have been less dominant.

No matter what, he couldn't have been more dominant in the '90s.

He might be the most prolific scorer, other than Jordan, to play in the '90s. 

He might have been the most prolific player, other than Jordan, to play in the '90s.

Only if he would have shot 70% from the free throw line, though!  (sarcasm)


He was unstoppable.

That turnaround jumpshot he developed was unstoppable.

That spin move he incorporated into his game, along the baseline, was unstoppable.

When he was on defense, everyone else was stoppable.

He was the cleaner.

He cleaned up everyone else's mess.

He's the all time career leader in blocked shots.

He's 11th all time in rebounds.

And, he's 7th all time in points scored.

When talking about ultimate game changers of the 1990s, Hakeem Olajuwon should be one of the first names spoken out of your mouth.

It's that simple.

Numbers are nice, but the fact that you can change a game before you even step foot on the court is the ultimate test as to how good of a player you are.

With that being said, we all know who number 1 is.


The best.  Ever.  And ever.


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