100 Most Exciting Players in NBA History

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 19, 2011

100 Most Exciting Players in NBA History

0 of 102

    These 100 players in the NBA's history are the ones that have added a little spice to our lives and provided us with memories of single plays and moments that we will never, ever forget.

    Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Vince Carter, Dominique Wilkins and LeBron James are but a few of the legendary names that abound in these rankings of the most exciting 100 players in this sport's past and present.

    With the exception of three players, each one has a video included in the slide so you can see just some of that guy's many highlights.

    Slam dunks, fancy dribbling and flashy passes are about to get pretty common. I'd highly recommend taking the next five hours or so and watching every single second of video that I've provided.

    Enjoy looking through the rankings, and don't hesitate to leave feedback.  

    Adam Fromal is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer. Follow him on Twitter @Fromal09.

How Do You Define Excitement? (I Highly Recommend Reading This Slide)

1 of 102

    Before we begin the rankings, it's vital to understand exactly what excitement is on a basketball court.

    There's a difference between great and exciting. When you get to the end, you'll notice quite a few of the all-time greats are missing because they weren't exciting, just efficient.

    For example, John Stockton is a notable omission here because he put together a lot of traditional, unexciting assists. It wasn't like you were going to say, "Oh wow! I can't wait to see John Stockton get 14 assists today with his incredible chest passes and bounce passes!"

    The reality is slam dunks, crossovers, alley-oops and other highlight-reel-worthy plays are the ones that excite us.

    We love seeing players fly through the air and defy gravity. We love seeing guys juke out other players, especially when they're what we might call vertically challenged. We love seeing stars display panache and unrelenting flair on the court.

    The guys on this list are the ones that make you want to grab your popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show. You don't want to take your eyes off them when they're on the court. But more than anything else, they're going to make your jaw drop while filling your memory bank with plays you never, ever want to forget you saw.

    For example, in the words of my friend Bart Rich, "If you showed someone who wasn't a basketball fan a video of George Gervin doing a finger roll and then another video of Blake Griffin or Vince Carter dunking, I think we know who would win out." There was no disrespect meant to The Iceman there (and you'll notice that he's actually pretty far up on this list), but the idea from the quote does ring true.

    With that, the last thing I need to do is thank a few people for their help here. I spent countless hours watching YouTube highlights and reading articles about these players, but this wouldn't have been possible without the help of a bunch of my friends. 

    One I specifically have to give a special shout-out to is Bart, the source of that quote two paragraphs back. We spent roughly 10 hours talking about which players belonged and how to rank them, and this list wouldn't be anywhere near as complete without him. I probably wouldn't still be sane either.

    Now...drum roll...let's get ready for the rankings!

100. Stephen Curry

2 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2009-present

    Nickname: Steph

    Calling Card: Smooth offensive game

    Sometimes it just seems like Stephen Curry was born to score the basketball. Drafted into the perfect system with the Golden State Warriors, Steph has thrived with his silky-smooth jump shot and fantastic ability to drive past defenders.

    It's always exciting to watch the young guy fake out more experienced defenders.

99. Chris Andersen

3 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1999-present

    Nicknames: Birdman

    Calling Card: Tattoos and Birdman persona

    With the multicolored "Free Bird" tattoo plastered around his neck and the spiked-up hair, Andersen is exciting enough just to look at.

    His high-flying style of play, complete with slam dunks and blocks galore, just adds to the excitement. 

98. Drazen Petrovic

4 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1989-1993

    Nicknames: Petro

    Calling Card: Scoring ability

    Although we unfortunately lost Drazen Petrovic way too early, the Croatian still proved that he could light up the scoreboard.

    In his two seasons with the New Jersey Nets, Petro dazzled American crowds with a fantastic arsenal of offensive weapons.

97. Larry Johnson

5 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1991-2001

    Nicknames: LJ, Grandmama

    Calling Card: Explosiveness

    Called Grandmama because of his starring role in Converse commercials, Larry Johnson was the first overall pick in the 1991 NBA draft and immediately brought his explosive dunking prowess into the league.

    He finished at the rim quite a few times before a back injury forced him to stick to an outside game.

96. Kevin McHale

6 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1980-1993

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Low-post moves

    Kevin McHale may very well have had more low-post moves than anyone else in basketball history.

    Granted, spinning around defenders and using head fakes isn't the most exciting way to play basketball, but if anyone made that style exciting, it was McHale.

95. Dirk Nowitzki

7 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1994-present

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Awkward one-legged shots

    If flamingos watched basketball, then the awkward-looking, one-legged, fadeaway shots put up by the seven-footer from Germany would be really exciting.

    But to people, Dirk's game isn't exactly the sort of thing that makes you want to grab popcorn and enjoy the show. He's a great player, no doubt—just not the most exciting one ever.

94. J.R. Smith

8 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2004-present

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Shooting and athleticism

    While Smith can be frustrating to coaches, especially George Karl, because of his penchant for shooting the ball at the expense of his teammates, the explosive, do-it-yourself brand of basketball that he plays is very exciting for fans to watch.

93. Ricky Davis

9 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1998-present

    Nickname: Get Buckets, Wrong Rim Ricky

    Calling Card: Crowd-pleasing dunks

    Ricky Davis has attempted a between-the-legs dunk in a game before. Isn't that exciting enough, even though he didn't make it?

    The high-scoring player has also been criticized for playing too selfishly—most notably when he purposefully missed a shot on his own basket to attempt to get the final rebound for a triple-double.

92. Billy Cunningham

10 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1965-1976

    Nickname: Kangaroo Kid

    Calling Card: Jumping ability

    Billy Cunningham once scored 50 points in a playoff game, one of the few men in basketball history to do so, but it wasn't his scoring abilities that made him exciting.

    Cunningham earned the nickname Kangaroo Kid thanks to his hops, which closely resembled those of a certain Australian animal.

91. Patrick Ewing

11 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1985-2002

    Nickname: None of note

    Calling Card: Power and all-around game

    Most of the time, Patrick Ewing's game was quietly efficient. He put up big numbers on a consistent basis but did so in rather unspectacular fashion.

    However, every once in a while, Ewing would throw down a monstrous dunk and wow the crowd. For that reason he finds his name on this list.

90. Manu Ginobili

12 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1995-present

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Unpredictability

    The unpredictability and reckless abandon for his own health made Manu Ginobili's early days in the NBA quite entertaining. He's slowed down a bit as the years are starting to pile up, but Ginobili's drives to the rim and flamboyant style were thrilling back in the day.

    However, his tendency to blatantly flop was the antithesis of excitement and moved him quite a few spots back.

89. Latrell Sprewell

13 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1992-2005

    Nicknames: Spree

    Calling Card: Athleticism and choking ability

    Latrell Sprewell is never going to be able to escape the stigma that was attached to his name back in 1997 when he literally choked his coach, P.J. Carlesimo, an action that led to a 68-game suspension.

    That said, Spree was insanely athletic and put on a show whenever he was on the court. It's a shame that he felt he had to be exciting away from the bright lights as well.

88. Jason Kidd

14 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1994-present

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Triple-double threat

    Throughout the years Jason Kidd has added one weapon after another to his offensive game, but one thing has remained the same: Kidd has the ability to reach 10 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds on a nightly basis. He may not be flashy, but he's consistent across the board.

87. David Robinson

15 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1989-2003

    Nicknames: The Admiral

    Calling Card: Powerful post play

    The Admiral was a physical specimen who remains one of the best centers to ever pick up a basketball.

    With unbelievable strength, Robinson was a force to be reckoned with in the paint, a force that was quite capable of throwing down a few slam dunks with pure ferocity.

86. J.J. Barea

16 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2006-present

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Height and shiftiness

    J.J. Barea really broke through during the 2011 NBA Playoffs for the Dallas Mavericks and became an instant sensation.

    The little man who can't actually be more than 5'9" would weave through everyone on the court and then throw in an awkward runner or floater that somehow just found its way over the tips of the bigger players' fingertips.

    He was thrilling to watch, but it remains to be seen whether or not he can keep it up.

85. John Havlicek

17 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1962-1978

    Nicknames: Hondo

    Calling Card: Scoring abilities

    Hondo could do one thing really, really well, and that was make the basketball find its way from his fingertips to the middle of the rim so it could fall through the net.

    Most all of his highlights came in that fashion, although there's no discounting the "Havlicek steals it! Havlicek stole the ball!" play to clinch the Eastern Conference championship.

84. Stacey Augmon

18 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1991-2006

    Nickname: Plastic Man

    Calling Card: Athletic ability

    The Plastic Man may not have necessarily looked the part, but somehow he would manage to throw down his slam dunks, as his arms would seem to stretch unfathomably far from his body and just manage to reach the rim.

83. Carmelo Anthony

19 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2003-present

    Nicknames: Melo

    Calling Card: Scoring ability

    Melo is one of the best scorers currently playing in the NBA, but his game just doesn't thrill me that much. He shoots quite a few mid-range jumpers but then occasionally has one highlight reel-worthy play.

82. Muggsy Bogues

20 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1987-2001

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Speed and height

    At 5'3", Muggsy Bogues remains the shortest player to ever grace the NBA.

    But with great speed and hops, Bogues still managed to last in the NBA for 14 seasons, making fans' jaws drop with wonder as a guy shorter than them made defenders look silly.

81. Anfernee Hardaway

21 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1993-2007

    Nicknames: Penny

    Calling Card: Athleticism and passing abilities

    Penny was incredibly fun to watch while he was playing in Orlando with Shaquille O'Neal. He would throw up alley-oops to the big man just as easily as he would drive and weave through the trees on his way to the rim.

    Unfortunately, injuries took away what could have been some of his most exciting days.

80. Dwight Howard

22 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2004-present

    Nicknames: D-12, Superman

    Calling Card: Power and defense

    Dwight Howard is still working on adding moves to his low-post game, but the thunderous dunks and show-stopping blocks are both capable of changing the game.

    D-12 is one of the few guys that can actually make the defensive game exciting.

79. Mitch Richmond

23 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1988-2002

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Shooting and slashing

    Part of the Run TMC trio for the Golden State Warriors (I'll let you guess which letter he was), Mitch Richmond was a sharpshooter who also had an uncanny knack for slashing to the basket.

    Richmond remains one of the more underrated players in the history of this game.

78. Grant Hill

24 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1994-present

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: All-around threat

    Before injuries took his prime away from him, Grant Hill was a threat to do everything on the basketball court. He could play defense and put up triple-doubles while playing point-forward.

    Hill was one of the most well-rounded players of his time.

77. Baron Davis

25 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1999-present

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Athleticism and explosiveness

    Before he lost motivation, Baron Davis was one of the most explosive players at the point guard position.

    All you need to see is his rim-rattling dunk over the Utah Jazz's Andrei Kirilenko in the 2007 NBA Playoffs. Conveniently, that video is embedded here.

76. Bernard King

26 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1977-1993

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Explosiveness

    Bernard King was virtually unstoppable on the fast break in the late 1970s and early 1980s thanks to his blend of scoring ability and speed.

    A torn ACL in 1985 made him change his playing style, but King was definitely a fan favorite during his prime.

75. Calvin Murphy

27 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1970-1983

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Height and quickness

    A 5'9" point guard, Calvin Murphy was exciting enough thanks to his speed, and his height was just an added bonus.

    In fact, he's the shortest player to ever be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and I can guarantee that it wasn't just because he could limbo under a six-foot pole without ducking.

74. Ray Allen

28 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1996-present

    Nicknames: Jesus Shuttlesworth, Ray Ray

    Calling Card: Three-point shot

    Ray Allen is the NBA's all-time leader in one of the most exciting plays in basketball: the three-point shot. The number of clutch shots he's made in his career is staggering.

73. Arvydas Sabonis

29 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1995-2003

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Passing skills

    Even though his prime was spent playing overseas and he was one of the most immobile players to ever find himself on an NBA court, Arvydas Sabonis was entertaining because of the flair with which he passed.

    Over-the-shoulder and behind-the-back passes were commonplace for the most exciting passing center in league history.

72. Elvin Hayes

30 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1968-1984

    Nicknames: The Big E

    Calling Card: All-around game

    The Big E wasn't exciting for any particular reason other than the fact that he had a tremendous all-around game.

    He'll be remembered for his greatness more so than anything else, but that greatness was exciting enough to watch.

71. Nate Robinson

31 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2005-present

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Height and explosiveness

    Another player who benefits from being vertically challenged, Nate Robinson is the only three-time winner of the Slam Dunk Contest. He even dunked once by jumping over Dwight Howard.

    Robinson has so much explosiveness it's scary.

70. Stephon Marbury

32 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1996-2009

    Nicknames: Starbury

    Calling Card: Crossover and shooting ability

    He might have been useless during the final stretch of his career, but Starbury was an incredibly exciting player during his prime.

    The point guard could rain down three-pointers and then use a killer crossover to work his way into the lane.

69. Jim Pollard

33 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1948-1955

    Nickname: The Kangaroo Kid

    Calling Card: Athleticism

    The more exciting of the two Kangaroo Kids (remember, Billy Cunningham at No. 93 was the other), Jim Pollard dunked at a time when it was ill-advised to do so.

    Because so few players could dunk, the slam was perceived as an insult to the other team, and the player that threw down usually had some sort of revenge exacted upon him. Some even claim that Jim Pollard could dunk from the free-throw line and often did during warmups.

68. Shannon Brown

34 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2006-present

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Athleticism

    Shannon Brown may not get too much playing time for the Los Angeles Lakers, but it's a safe bet that he'll provide a highlight when he does get on the court.

    Brown might be the most athletic guard playing in the NBA right now, and that's saying something.

67. Steve Francis

35 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1999-present

    Nicknames: Steve-O, Stevie Franchise

    Calling Card: Crossover and athletic dunks

    With a brutal crossover and great leaping abilities, Stevie Franchise often found himself blowing by a defender on the perimeter en route to the basket for a crowd-pleasing slam dunk.

    Francis thrived on the dunks, the flashier the better.

66. Bill Walton

36 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1974-1987

    Nicknames: The Big Red-Head

    Calling Card: Unorthodox style and hustle

    Bill Walton was exciting because of his unorthodox style of play and relentless hustle.

    To this day, I'm not entirely sure where his endless supply of energy came from, but I have a few good guesses, if you know what I mean.

65. Jason Richardson

37 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2001-present

    Nicknames: J-Rich

    Calling Card: Athletic dunks

    J-Rich, in his prime and not his current role with the Orlando Magic, was an absolutely incredible dunker thanks to his ridiculous athleticism.

    In fact, Richardson is one of only three back-to-back winners of the Slam Dunk Contest (Michael Jordan and Nate Robinson being the other two).

64. Josh Smith

38 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2004-present

    Nicknames: J-Smoove

    Calling Card: Athleticism and blocking ability

    Josh Smith is an insanely athletic forward who has the potential to be so much more than he already is. If Smith stuck to the paint and avoided jump shots, he'd be way higher up on this list.

    But as it stands, the youngest player to ever reach 1,000 blocks is stuck at No. 64.

63. Rick Barry

39 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1965-1980

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Underhand free throws and shooting ability

    Even though it seemed like no one could stand him, Rick Barry was exciting because of his scoring prowess.

    Utilizing a line-drive jump shot and underhanded free throw technique, Barry just knew how to rack up the points.

62. Gary Payton

40 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1990-2007

    Nicknames: The Glove

    Calling Card: Physicality and defensive ability

    The best defender from the guard position of all time, Gary Payton could even make shutting down the opposition exciting.

    Add to that his physical style of play on offense, and you really shouldn't be all that surprised to see him here.

61. Kevin Durant

41 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2007-present

    Nicknames: Durantula

    Calling Card: Scoring ability

    If any player in the modern era was born to score, it would be Kevin Durant. The Durantula has been in the league for just four seasons, and he already has two scoring titles.

    Whether he puts the ball in the hole with a long-range jumper or on a drive, Durant can light up the scoreboard.

60. Reggie Miller

42 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1987-2005

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Three-point shooting

    One of the greatest three-point shooters in the history of the Association, Reggie Miller also brought clutchness and swagger to the table.

    His penchant for the dramatic and his exciting feud with Spike Lee push him over the edge and into the top 60.

59. Monta Ellis

43 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2005-present

    Nicknames: The Mississippi Missile

    Calling Card: Flashy scoring

    The tattooed one from Mississippi knows how to score and look good doing it.

    In Golden State's video game offense, Monta Ellis can absolutely thrive, jacking up shots left and right and making seemingly out-of-control drives to the basket that somehow turn out well. No doubt, he's fun to watch.

58. Tracy McGrady

44 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1997-present

    Nicknames: T-Mac

    Calling Card: Athleticism

    T-Mac was one of the most athletic players of his generation despite the fact that he could have been even more than he already was.

    With the ability to score points in bunches (see video for proof), Tracy McGrady was one of the guys you wanted to always watch just in case he decided to do something special that night.

57. Chet Walker

45 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1962-1975

    Nicknames: Chet the Jet

    Calling Card: Speed

    He earned the name Chet the Jet thanks to his speed—well, thanks to his speed and the fact that jet rhymed with his first name. That's good enough for me.

    Even though he was a 6'6" forward, Walker was one of the 1960s' fastest players.

56. Robert Horry

46 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1992-2008

    Nicknames: Big Shot Bob

    Calling Card: Clutch shooting

    Big Shot Bob was the hardest player on this list to rank. He wasn't exciting at all until the final minutes of a handful of games. But his flair for hitting game-winners in the playoffs is almost unmatched in league history.

    Robert Horry will always be remembered as the guy that won seven rings while providing a handful of moments with off-the-charts excitement levels.

55. John Wall

47 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2010-present

    Nicknames: None of wall

    Calling Card: Speed and athleticism

    Already the fastest player in the NBA after just one year in the league, John Wall makes his debut on this list at No. 53. Sure, he may only have played one season, but it was a damn good one, as Wall looks to be a point guard with a very bright future.

    His athleticism and passing ability are sure to provide countless highlights during his time in the league, and they've already given us quite a few gems.

54. Scottie Pippen

48 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1987-2004

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Athleticism and defensive ability

    It's interesting to consider whether Scottie Pippen would have been more or less exciting without Michael Jordan to play second fiddle to. He would have been the unquestioned leader of the team, but he wouldn't have won as many rings and established the same legacy.

    Pippen was a great all-around athlete who played tough defense on a nightly basis while inserting a little bit of flair into his game.

53. Dee Brown

49 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1990-2002

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Athleticism and no-look slam dunks

    Dee Brown had enough athleticism to provide a few in-game highlights, but they all pale in comparison to the reason we will always remember him.

    In 1991, the 6'1" point guard, not to be confused with the more recent Dee Brown from the University of Illinois, threw down a no-look slam dunk to win the Slam Dunk Contest.

52. Amar'e Stoudemire

50 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2002-present

    Nicknames: None of note

    Calling Card: Power and scoring ability

    The be-goggled one had an incredible tenure in Phoenix with the seven-seconds-or-less style of offense run by the Suns and has continued his high-scoring ways in New York.

    Amar'e Stoudemire plays a powerful brand of basketball highlighted by a deft touch around the basket. He's one of the premier offensive big men in today's game. 

51. Dikembe Mutombo

51 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1991-2009

    Nicknames: Mt. Mutombo

    Calling Card: Blocking and finger wave

    Mt. Mutombo was un-summitable during his prime. Any offensive player that wandered into the territory of Dikembe Mutombo, even Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, would soon have his shot sent back in his face.

    But the best, most exciting part had to be the trademark finger wave after the block.

50. Dan Majerle

52 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1988-2002

    Nicknames: Thunder Dan, Downtown Dan, Dan the Man, Dan the Tan

    Calling Card: Powerful dunks and three-point shooting

    Despite being booed when his name was first called during the 1988 NBA draft, Dan Majerle proved the doubters wrong with his thunderous dunks and three-point shooting.

    How else do you think he earned the nicknames Thunder Dan and Downtown Dan?

49. Larry Nance

53 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1981-1994

    Nicknames: The High-Ayatolla of Slamola

    Calling Card: Slam dunks

    Larry Nance was the first winner of the Slam Dunk Contest back in 1984, earning him the nickname The High-Ayatolla of Slamola.

    The nickname alone is exciting enough for this kind of placement, never mind his play on the court.

48. Alex English

54 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1976-1991

    Nickname: None of note

    Calling Card: Smooth scoring ability

    For once, it's hard to phrase things better than Wikipedia did: "With the erratic, high-paced, and high-scoring Nuggets he averaged 21 points when he arrived in Denver in 1980, then proceeded with averages of 24, 25, 28, 26, 28, nearly 30 (in 1985-1986), 29, 25, 27, and 18 points per game during his decade-long scoring spree."

    English, one of the more underrated players in the NBA's history, was an incredible scorer who looked good doing it because of his smooth feel for the game.

47. Russell Westbrook

55 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2008-present

    Nickname: None of note

    Calling Card: Athleticism and explosiveness 

    The young point guard from UCLA may occasionally take over the game too often and forget to give Kevin Durant the ball, but he is an absolute joy to watch.

    Westbrook plays with unmatched intensity and provides countless highlights when he drives to the hole.

46. Nate Archibald

56 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1970-1984

    Nickname: Tiny

    Calling Card: Speed and height

    One of the premier short players in the NBA, Nate Archibald got the "Tiny" moniker because he stood only 6'1".

    His blazing speed and quickness made him a thrill to watch as he drove right around the much taller players in the league.

45. Charles Barkley

57 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1984-2000

    Nickname: Chuck, The Round Mound of Rebound, Sir Charles

    Calling Card: Rebounding, intensity and surprising athleticism

    The Round Mound of Rebound played with unmatched intensity and hustle, making him exciting enough already.

    There was also something exciting about watching the seemingly unathletic Chuck show off his hops and leap over defenders.

44. Kevin Garnett

58 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1995-present

    Nickname: KG

    Calling Card: Intensity

    Whether it's banging his head into the padded part of the basket or screaming "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE" after the Celtics won a championship, Kevin Garnett has always displayed unmatched intensity. That, and his impressive skill set, make him exciting.

43. Chris Webber

59 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1993-2008

    Nickname: C-Webb

    Calling Card: Athleticism and power

    Chris Webber had as much potential as any player in NBA history but never seemed motivated to make good on that potential. Instead, he was content to be great, but not reach all-time great status.

    The same is true for his excitement level, which is still quite high thanks to his athleticism and powerful play.

42. Tim Hardaway

60 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1989-2003

    Nickname: None of note

    Calling Card: Crossover

    Tim Hardaway may very well have had the second-best crossover in the history of the NBA, second only to Allen Iverson, who you won't be reading about for quite a few slides.

    Hardaway was very adept at getting by defenders on the perimeter, and he made ankle-breaking quite thrilling.

41. World B. Free

61 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1975-1991

    Nickname: All-World, Prince of Midair

    Calling Card: Flashiness

    Any guy nicknamed the Prince of Midair is bound to be at least fairly exciting. World B. Free is no exception to that rule.

    He prided himself on his flashy play and his high-risk, high-reward decision-making. Was it always beneficial to the team? No, but it was always exciting.

40. Walt Frazier

62 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1967-1980

    Nickname: Clyde

    Calling Card: Ball-handling, slashing and stealing

    With a great mix of every skill that a guard needs (ball-handling, size, quickness, etc.), Clyde was quite successful and looked good doing it both on and off the court.

    Even Frazier's steals were exciting, as he would appear to not be paying attention and then quickly swipe the ball.

39. James Worthy

63 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1982-1994

    Nickname: Big Game James

    Calling Card: Athleticism

    Big Game James was at his best during the NBA playoffs, which just added the icing to the already exciting cake.

    Worthy was a great post player who thrived on the fast break because he was athletic and could score adeptly with either hand. The spin move in particular was just deadly.

38. Rajon Rondo

64 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2006-present

    Nickname: None of note

    Calling Card: Passing ability

    Even though he doesn't even understand what a jump shot is (Rajon, please become friends with Josh Smith—sorry, had to get that in there), Rondo is an exciting player because he's a true master of the fancy pass and has great moves while driving through the paint.

    I've tried and failed to do his cradle-the-ball-as-a-fake-behind-the-back-pass-before-finishing-for-a-layup move quite a few times.

37. Spud Webb

65 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1985-1998

    Nickname: None of note

    Calling Card: Height

    Spud Webb is 5'7".

    He won a Slam Dunk Contest against Dominique Wilkins himself.

    Enough said.

36. Kevin Johnson

66 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1987-2000

    Nickname: KJ

    Calling Card: Athleticism and explosiveness

    Before Derrick Rose took over as the most athletic point guard in the game, that title was unquestionably Kevin Johnson's. All you need to see for proof is him posterizing Hakeem Olajuwon.

35. Elgin Baylor

67 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1958-1971

    Nickname: None of note

    Calling Card: Hang time

    With Elgin Baylor it was all about the hang time.

    Back in a league where athleticism wasn't necessarily what most people were most proud of, Baylor could hang in the air forever and release his deadly jump shot without fear of the shot being blocked.

34. Chris Paul

68 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2005-present

    Nickname: CP3

    Calling Card: All-around guard play

    The most cerebral guard in the NBA right now, CP3 is a blast to watch when he's fully healthy. He has blazing speed, a knack for making difficult passes and a deft touch around the basket.

    If any point guard in the game right now has the complete package, it's Paul.

33. Bill Laimbeer

69 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1979-1993

    Nickname: None of note

    Calling Card: Bad Boy attitude

    If any member of the Detroit Pistons' Bad Boys was a Bad Boy, it was Bill Laimbeer. Almost universally hated by fans and players alike, Laimbeer seemed to want to pick a fight during every single game.

    He was incredibly exciting to watch just because you never knew what antics he would pull during a contest.

32. Gus Johnson

70 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1963-1973

    Nickname: Honeycomb

    Calling Card: Backboard-shattering dunks

    Gus Johnson broke three backboards in his career. Try to tell me he wasn't exciting.

31. George Gervin

71 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1972-1990

    Nickname: The Iceman

    Calling Card: Finger roll

    The Iceman was known for flying through the air and having the ball just roll off the tips of his fingers before swishing through the net for two points.

    It was Gervin that really made that finger roll famous. But as my friend Bart (see intro slide) said, a finger roll just isn't the same as a dunk.

30. Hakeem Olajuwon

72 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1984-2002

    Nickname: Hakeem the Dream

    Calling Card: The Dream Shake and blocking ability

    The Dream Shake fooled some of the greatest defenders of all time, including The Admiral himself, David Robinson.

    Just watch the top play in the embedded video and you will be a believer.

    I've heard that The Dream was fairly good at blocking shots too.

29. Steve Nash

73 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1996-present

    Nickname: None of note

    Calling Card: Three-point shooting and passing ability

    One of the better three-point shooters the NBA has seen, Steve Nash can't even claim that as his best skill. His passing ability is virtually unmatched in today's game.

    Nash has actually averaged over 11 assists per game since he returned to Phoenix, and most of them are accumulated in an exciting fashion.

28. Jason Williams

74 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1998-present

    Nickname: White Chocolate, J-Will, J-Dub

    Calling Card: Flashiness

    I'm not going to lie—I definitely spent at least two hours watching YouTube videos of White Chocolate before moving on to the next guy. But hey, it counts as research, right?

    Jason Williams was a point guard who definitely brought some pizzazz to the game. Whether he was flipping the ball behind his back to a wide-open teammate or breaking an opponent's ankles with a devastating crossover, he was a thrill to watch.

27. Isiah Thomas

75 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1981-1994

    Nickname: Zeke

    Calling Card: Slashing ability

    Zeke played with a tremendous desire to win, a desire that was echoed through the rafters whenever he used his incredible slashing ability to drive towards the rim with reckless abandon.

    A creative playmaker, Thomas will always be remembered as one of the best point guards in the game's history.

26. Jerry West

76 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1960-194

    Nickname: Mr. Clutch, The Logo, Zeke from Cabin Creek

    Calling Card: Clutch shooting

    Jerry West made enough clutch shots in his career that he earned the moniker Mr. Clutch. None was more notable than the 63-footer he drained to tie Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals.

    Not many shots have been more exciting than that one.

25. Connie Hawkins

77 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1961-1976

    Nickname: The Hawk

    Calling Card: Jumping ability

    Hawkins was nicknamed The Hawk because of his ability to leap into the air and glide through it forever, defying gravity until he either lofted up a shot or put it through the rim.

    He actually played for the Harlem Globetrotters during the middle of his professional career, a team where you pretty much had to be exciting to make the roster.

24. Shawn Kemp

78 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1989-2003

    Nickname: The Reignman

    Calling Card: Powerful dunks

    Not many players have been associated with powerful dunks more so than The Reignman has. During his prime, Shawn Kemp knew how to throw down with unmatched force.

23. Dennis Rodman

79 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1986-2006

    Nickname: The Worm, Dennis the Menace

    Calling Card: Defense, rebounding and hairstyles

    What was Dennis Rodman more exciting for: his unmatched rebounding-to-height ratio, his defensive abilities and intensity, his attitude or his ridiculous hairstyle?

    Regardless of the answer, you have to agree that The Worm was ridiculously thrilling to watch during both his days with the Bad Boys of Detroit and the Michael Jordan-led Bulls.

22. Darryl Dawkins

80 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1975-1989

    Nickname: Chocolate Thunder, Sir Slam

    Calling Card: Powerful dunks and personality

    From the Planet Lovetron, Chocolate Thunder and his named dunks were some of the most exciting plays of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

    None was more exciting than the "Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam." The Rim Wrecker, the Go-Rilla, the Look Out Below, the In-Your-Face Disgrace, the Cover Your Head, the Yo-Mama and the Spine-Chiller Supreme weren't bad displays of his "interplanetary funkmanship" either.

21. David Thompson

81 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1975-1984

    Nickname: Skywalker

    Calling Card: Jumping ability

    David Thompson seemed to be able to jump high enough into the air that he could take a few steps before throwing down a thunderous slam dunk. How else do you think he earned his nickname?

    Thompson reportedly had a 48-inch vertical jump, invented the alley-oop (sorry Jackie Moon fans) and inspired Michael Jordan to greatness.

20. Wilt Chamberlain

82 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1959-1973

    Nickname: Wilt the Stilt, The Big Dipper, Chairman of the Boards

    Calling Card: Scoring (in more ways than one)

    Wilt Chamberlain was so dominant that in some ways he lost some of his appeal. We expected him to score 50 points and grab 30 rebounds every night, so the excitement was a bit diminished. That said, he was an incredibly thrilling player.

    I wanted to have the Chairman of the Boards a little bit further down in these rankings, but I received a few anonymous phone calls from older women saying that Wilt was definitely exciting. They wouldn't explain exactly why though. According to some, 100 wasn't the most he scored in one night.

    I guess The Big Dipper was even better at scoring than I thought.

19. Earl Monroe

83 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1967-1980

    Nickname: Earl the Pearl, Black Jesus, Black Magic

    Calling Card: Flashy ball-handling

    Earl the Pearl was pretty stylish back in the day. Monroe, who learned to ball on the playgrounds of Philadelphia, was known for his flashy ball-handling and passing.

    He once said, "The thing is, I don't know what I'm going to do with the ball, and if I don't know, I'm quite sure the guy guarding me doesn't know either."

    Black Magic also said, "You know, I watch the games and even now I never see anyone who reminds me of me, the way I played." It's tough to find that unique combination of successful circus shots and ball-handling skills anywhere now.

18. Bob Cousy

84 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1950-1970

    Nickname: Cooz, Houdini of the Hardwood, Mr. Basketball

    Calling Card: Dribbling skills and passing ability

    I really can't describe Bob Cousy any better than the embedded video does. It's almost six minutes long, but every second is worth watching.

    Cooz, or the Houdini of the Hardwood, needs to be remembered as the artist that he was.

17. Darrell Griffith

85 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1980-1991

    Nickname: Dr. Dunkenstein, The Golden Griff

    Calling Card: Athletic dunks and shooting ability

    Playing for the Utah Jazz throughout his entire career, Darrell Griffith threw down enough impressive dunks in his day to earn the nickname Dr. Dunkenstein.

    Since that alone wasn't enough for him to be great, The Golden Griff added a deadly three-point shot to his arsenal of offensive weapons.

16. Shaquille O'Neal

86 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1992-2011

    Nickname: Shaq, The Big Diesel, Superman, The Big Aristotle, too many others to list

    Calling Card: Power

    Shaq was virtually unstoppable thanks to his combination of size and skill (except for at the free-throw line). There wasn't a center that could even slow him during his prime in Los Angeles.

    The powerful dunks he threw down, two of which pulled down the entire basket, were as exciting as they come. His personality and interviewing prowess were quite thrilling as well.

15. Oscar Robertson

87 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1960-1974

    Nickname: The Big O, O-Train

    Calling Card: Triple-doubles

    Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double for a full season.

    That is all.

    Let's move on.

14. Derrick Rose

88 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2008-present

    Nickname: D-Rose

    Calling Card: Athleticism and explosiveness

    The league's reigning MVP may very well be the most athletic and explosive point guard to ever lace up his sneakers on a basketball court in the NBA.

    The number of jaw-dropping plays he made around the rim in just this past season far exceeds some of the other players on this list's totals for the entirety of their careers.

    When Rose had the ball in his hands this past year, you simply did not look away. If you did, you were bound to miss a play that would end up on SportsCenter the next day.

13. Dwyane Wade

89 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2003-present

    Nickname: D-Wade, Flash

    Calling Card: Slashing ability

    If anything, the career of Dwyane Wade is underrated at this point in time. It's easy to forget that he's been one of the greatest slashers in the history of the game.

    With his athleticism and quickness, Wade seems to be able to get to the rim at will.

12. Blake Griffin

90 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2009-present

    Nickname: None of note

    Calling Card: Powerful and athletic dunks, alley-oops

    Has any player ever become so exciting so quickly? Maybe it's because of the Internet era we live in, where highlights are visible across the world as soon as they happen, but Blake Griffin absolutely captivated the basketball nation during his rookie season.

    From his first dunk in the NBA to his posterization of Timofey Mozgov, Griffin was the epitome of excitement during his Rookie of the Year campaign.

    If you watch the top 10 plays in the embedded video, you'll see incredible dunk after incredible dunk. To be quite frank, that top 10 is more impressive than almost any other top 10 included in these rankings. The most amazing part is that all the highlights are only from Griffin's first year in the league. 

11. Pete Maravich

91 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1970-1980

    Nickname: Pistol Pete

    Calling Card: Creativity

    If you looked up "creativity with a basketball," I'm sure that you would see Pete Maravich's name nearby. Pistol Pete had some serious flair with the ball, whether he was dribbling, shooting or passing.

    Called the best ball-handler in NBA history by John Havlicek, Maravich is described by the Hall of Fame as "perhaps the greatest creative offensive talent in history."

10. Kobe Bryant

92 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1996-present

    Nickname: Black Mamba

    Calling Card: Clutch shooting, slashing ability and athleticism

    I know this ranking isn't going to be pleasing to a bunch of people. The Kobe supporters are going to argue that this is too low in the rankings, while the detractors are going to say it's way too high. As for me, I think it's the right place.

    The Black Mamba hasn't been the most exciting player in terms of playing style, but his ability to take over any game at any time makes you unable to take your eyes off him. A younger Kobe had dazzling athleticism and his fair share of impressive dunks, but now he's content to settle for those plays with much less frequency.

    Kobe is one of the all-time greats in this game, and he leads off the top 10 of these rankings.

9. Clyde Drexler

93 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1983-1998

    Nickname: Clyde the Glide

    Calling Card: Athleticism and dunking

    Clyde the Glide was Drexler's assigned nickname because of his unparalleled combination of speed and athleticism. A competent shooter, Drexler got most of his highlights around the rim thanks to his fantastic finishing ability.

    Drexler was almost always among the league leaders in points, rebounds, assists and steals and even posted a surprising number of blocks for a player his size.

    No matter how good he was in those areas, though, Drexler will always be remembered for his dunking.

8. Dominique Wilkins

94 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1982-1999

    Nickname: Nique, The Human Highlight Film

    Calling Card: Dunking ability

    Dominique Wilkins is widely regarded as one of the greatest dunkers in the history of the game. It was because of the slam dunk that he earned his nickname The Human Highlight Film.

    His dunking prowess was so incredible that many other aspects of Wilkins' game are now overlooked. Nique was an adept scorer from anywhere on the court and had a pretty nice all-around game.

    But make no mistake, Wilkins was exciting because of the throwdowns. No ifs, ands or buts.

7. Vince Carter

95 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1998-present

    Nickname: Air Canada, Half Man Half Amazing

    Calling Card: Athleticism and dunking

    Vince Carter had as much potential as any player in the NBA's storied history, but a lack of motivation reduced him to nothing more than a highlight-producing, great player. He won't be remembered as an all-time great.

    But Carter was quite a thrill to watch when he cared. His in-game dunks are unmatched by any player in history, and the ones that he threw down in the Slam Dunk Contest are even better.

    Carter was perhaps one of the most athletic players ever, and he showed it quite a few times throughout his career. If you're going to watch any top 10 video on this slideshow, make sure it's this one.

6. Larry Bird

96 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1979-1992

    Nickname: Larry Legend, The Hick from French Lick

    Calling Card: Shooting, hustle and determination

    Larry Legend was the epitome of hustle, grit and determination. If the game was on the line, you could bet your house that Bird was going to do everything he could to win. The amazing thing was, he normally came through.

    A fantastic shooter and an even better all-around player, Bird played with tremendous flair even though he looked like he belonged in the stands and not on the court.

    Plus, Bird was notorious for his trash talking, which only increases the excitement level in my book.

5. LeBron James

97 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 2003-present

    Nickname: King James, The Chosen One

    Calling Card: Athleticism and all-around game

    An absolute physical specimen, no player has possessed a blend of size, speed, physicality and athleticism like LeBron James. Whether it's a run-down block, a rim-rattling dunk or a deep three, there is no play that LeBron can't make.

    From the time that he steps onto the court and tosses his chalk into the air until the end of the third quarter, James is the most exciting player in the NBA today.

4. Allen Iverson

98 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1996-2010

    Nickname: AI, The Answer

    Calling Card: Ball-handling and speed

    If the question was which diminutive guard with blazing speed possessed the league's best-ever crossover, The Answer would have to be Allen Iverson.

    Capable of twisting up any defender and then blowing by him on his way to the basket, Iverson was one of the NBA's best scorers and most exciting players ever.

    Although he didn't believe in practice, at times he didn't seem to need it. You couldn't blink when AI was on the court.

3. Magic Johnson

99 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1979-1996

    Nickname: None of note

    Calling Card: All-around game and creativity

    Magic Johnson was...well...magical with the basketball. Even if he wasn't as athletic as any of the other players in the top five on this list, Magic was almost the perfect basketball player.

    He did everything well and was incredibly exciting to watch thanks to the panache with which he played, both distributing the ball and scoring it himself.

2. Julius Erving

100 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1971-1987

    Nickname: Dr. J

    Calling Card: Dunking and changing the sport

    I'll give you three reasons that Dr. J belongs this high up in the rankings. 

    1. The free-throw line dunk at the 1976 ABA Slam Dunk Contest (0:34 into the video).

    2. The "Rock the Baby" dunk over Michael Cooper (1:23 into the video).

    3. The baseline move in the 1980 NBA Finals (0:28 into the video).

    I've had the pleasure of eating lunch with Julius Erving, and I'm convinced that the reason he could do some of these moves was the enormous set of hands he possesses. When we shook hands, I literally thought my right hand was being engulfed.

    I guess his insane athleticism had a little to do with it too.

1. Michael Jordan

101 of 102

    Years in the NBA: 1984-2003

    Nickname: MJ, Air Jordan, His Airness

    Calling Card: Literally everything

    Was there any doubt that Michael Jordan would find himself at No. 1 in these rankings? If you had doubt, I'm sorry, but you're mistaking Jordan for his son Marcus.

    His Airness is the greatest basketball player of all time and made everything he did interesting. With his tongue sticking out of his mouth incessantly, Jordan dazzled with dunks, clutch shooting and remarkably athletic plays.

    Whether he was posterizing opponents or switching hands in the air en route to a memorable layup, Jordan played basketball like it was his goal to win while exciting the crowd.

    Whenever we're playing a sport, one of my friends tells me that "it's not just about being playing well, it's about looking good while playing well." If there has ever been a player who took that message to heart, it was Jordan.

More on the NBA

102 of 102

    Adam Fromal is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer. Follow him on Twitter @Fromal09.

    Which of the NBA's Top 50 Are Past Their Prime?

    Latest Josh Smith Trade Scenarios

    20 Ways NBA Players Could Keep Busy This Summer

    Each and Every NBA Team's All-Time 12-Man Lineup