As part of the celebration of the NBA’s 75th season, the league released its list of the best players in its history over a three-day span.
All of the players who made the league’s 50th anniversary squad in 1996 were also included on this list, along with 26 new names ranging from Bob McAdoo (who debuted in 1972 and was considered one of the biggest slights on the list of the 50 bigger) up to Giannis Antetokounmpo, the current Finals MVP, who is still only 26 years old.
With the list complete, we asked our experts to break it down by choosing the biggest surprises and slights, projecting ahead for the next version 25 years from now.
1. Which player were you most surprised to see him included in the 75th anniversary squad?
Kirk goldsberry: Dominique wilkinsNot because he didn’t deserve it, but because he was left out of the top 50 list. The ‘Human Highlight Film’ was my favorite player as a kid and I’m delighted to see him here, but it’s surprising considering he wasn’t on that original list. I can still see him doing dunks in those beautiful Hawks jerseys.
Jorge Sedano: I say it with the utmost respect, but it is Damian Lillard. Possibly my favorite player to watch right now. However, he does not have the credentials that can be found on the resumes of most other players on the roster, such as but not limited to: MVP, Scoring Champion, Individual Record Holder, Finals Appearance, or Finals MVP. There are some slights I would consider passing Dame on.
Ramona Shelburne: Wilkins and Bob McAdoo were the two big snubs from the 50th anniversary team that were added to the 75th anniversary team. I am very glad that both have been added and that those slights have been rectified. There were so many good candidates to add that it’s hard to go back and make up for past mistakes.
Marc spears: Respectfully, Bill walton. There have been other great players whose potential careers were affected by injuries like Grant Hill, Derrick Rose, Ralph Sampson and Yao Ming. However, that never takes its toll on Walton.
Brian windhorst: Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis. Part of this is that their resumes are not complete and voters are probably projecting a bit. Considering the other options, I guess this vote was pretty tight for both of us.
2. Which player was the biggest discard from the NBA’s Top 75 list?
Sedano: This is a tough question. You could go to any of these players and I wouldn’t argue with you: Dwight howard, Tracy McGrady, Manu Ginobili or Kyrie irving. It all came down to a McGrady vs. Howard fight for me, and I’ll go with Howard by the smallest margin. I’m old enough to remember when we were all debating whether Howard or Lebron James he was the best player in the league. Very few players have been good enough to participate in that conversation. The first 10 years of Howard’s career can be compared to the first decade of almost any of the greats in his role. In addition, he has been able to go on to be an important player on a championship team at the end of his career.
Shelburne: Pau Gasol. In general, I think the committee did a great job, and when things were even between several players, winning the best individual awards seems to have succeeded. Gasol was never an MVP not even in the race for that kind of award, but he won two NBA titles with the Lakers and made four All-NBA teams, not to mention what he did internationally for Spain. He’s also in the all-time top 40 in blocking (21st), rebounding (28th) and points (39th), so there was a strong statistical argument for him as well.
Spears: Even with everything that has been going on this season, that Kyrie Irving is not on the list surprised me. Other names that stand out are Paul george, Klay thompson, Tony Parker, Alonzo Mourning and Ben wallace.
Windhorst: Manu Ginobili is very difficult to leave. It has to be pretty disappointing to him and his fans that he didn’t make it. I realize that his international career is not considered for this purpose, but even so, Ginobili was an integral part of all four NBA champion teams. Tracy McGrady is a Hall of Famer on the first ballot, so I have to assume he was close too.
Goldsberry: I’m biased, but for me he’s Ginobili, a four-time NBA champion and one of the best international players of all time. His signature move, the Eurostep, has changed the league forever. It has become a central move for virtually every player. When Ginobili came to the NBA, officials had no idea how to whistle that move and even whistled him wrongly. Influenced James harden and dozens of other contemporary superstars could. Leaving it off this list is a mistake. It was a huge part of the Spurs dynasty and it literally changed the sport.
3. Using the announced players, what is the ideal team of all time?
Shelburne: I keep trying to put Kevin Durant or Larry Bird in this starting five, but I think I’ll go with LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul Jabbar. I like the combination of scoring and defensive ability in this group, and I think Magic and LeBron will be selfless enough to decide who takes the most shots.
Windhorst: PG: Magic Johnson. SG: Michael Jordan. SF: LeBron James. PF: Tim Duncan. C: Wilt chamberlain.
– NBA Communications (@NBAPR) October 21, 2021
Goldsberry: PG: Magic Johnson. SG: Michael Jordan. SF: LeBron James. PF: Tim Duncan. C: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. For me, these five guys define historic excellence in their jobs. I could argue with anyone that each of them is the best player in their position. Furthermore, all of these won multiple titles as the best players on their teams.
Spears: PG: Magic Johnson. SG: Michael Jordan. SF: LeBron James. PF: Tim Duncan. C: Hakeem Olajuwon.
Sedano: C: Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Don’t tell me that such a clever man couldn’t adapt to any era. “The Cap” is my captain. PF: LeBron James. Possibly the best player of all time. There was no more destructive force in basketball in recent memory than James playing power forward in Miami. It’s a cheat code in that position. SF: Kobe Bryant. He’s the closest player we’ve ever had to Michael Jordan. Its intensity is legendary. Any team could use the Mamba mindset. SG: Michael Jordan. He is GOAT. PG: Magic Johnson. I think he’s the best passer and possibly teammate in NBA history. He has been a winner on all levels. There is no better overall floor.
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What was the biggest discard on the NBA’s 75th anniversary list?