Revisiting the Top 50 Players of the NBA

The past couple weeks I have looked at how the NBA is doing some things that diminish the current NBA players.  One is promoting the 1992 Dream Team, and the other is leaving the Top 50 Players list unrevised.  There’s not much that can be done about the Dream Team, but the NBA could do a better job placing new Olympic teams along side (instead of beneath) the old Dream Team.  The Top 50 list, however, is fair game.

I don’t have the knowledge or time to critically recreate a new Top 50 list.  Fortunately, other people have already done it.  One of the most commonly cited is on Basketball Reference and was published by SLAM magazine in 2011.  SLAM actually ranked the top 500 players of all-time.

For the most part, and without surprise, the SLAM list and the old Top 50 are the same list.  Here is how they differ.

New players added to list
Tim Duncan
Kobe Bryant
Jason Kidd
Kevin Garnett
LeBron James
Gary Payton
Allen Iverson
Dwayne Wade
Steve Nash

Players removed from the list
Nate Archibald
Dave Bing
James Worthy
Hal Greer
Pete Maravich
Robert Parish
Lenny Wilkens
Bill Walton
Dave DeBusschere

Why do these players deserve to get bumped from the top 50?  It’s a bit arbitrary because these guys truly are among the best of the best.  Still, somebody has to go.

The strikes against these nine players fall under a few different categories.

  • Bad supporting cast
    A great player on a lousy team will go nowhere.  Examples include Nate Archibald, Dave Bing, and Lenny Wilkens.
  • Team is too good
    It’s hard to shine around other brighter stars.  This hurts James Worthy, Dave DeBusschere, and Robert Parish.
  • Short career
    Injuries are trouble – just ask Grant Hill.  This catches Bill Walton and Pete Maravich.
  • Somebody has to go
    Hal Greer had 10 All-Star appearances and won a title with Wilt.  The team wasn’t a powerhouse, and Greer was right there supporting Wilt.  Still, it can be crowded at the top in a league that has been around for nearly 70 years.

It’s one thing for SLAM magazine to put out a new list of top players.  For the NBA to do it would be a completely different matter.  Furthermore, if the NBA were to drop Walton (totally defensible), then there would be some fallout.  Although changing the list might stir the pot, the publicity and discussion about the NBA would be worth its weight in gold.


2 responses to “Revisiting the Top 50 Players of the NBA

  1. Wasn’t the point of the top 50 that it had been 50 years the league was in existence? Maybe they’ll do a top 75 in a few years…

    • You’re right. The top 50 was to celebrate the 50th anniversary. I just think they need to update it to recognize some more recent players. (And, I think it would generate some needed publicity for the NBA.)

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