Skip to content

Ten players to make you restructure NBA’s 50 All-Time greatest

Apr 30, 2013, 11:49 AM EST

Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

Back in 1996 — the year the baby crawling on the ceiling in “Trainspotting” gave us all nightmares — the Association released its list of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players. It was undoubtedly a strong list. Nobody on the list is weak. We could quibble around the edges about who should have gotten in, but the list was good for it’s time.

But that time was 17 years ago. The NBA landscape has changed a lot since then.

What players now would push their way on to that list (and push out a Dave DeBusschere or Dolph Schayes)?

NBC’s Joe Posnanski took a crack at the additions and came up with 10 guys. Like the original 50, a strong list that we can debate around the edges.

To me, there is a group of five no-brainers at the top: Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki. I’m not sure how you argue against any of those (and if you try to with Nowitzki, think about his international impact as the greatest European player ever in the league).

But the next five get interesting.

Is Steve Nash one of the 50 greatest of all time? Posnanski makes this argument in favor.

That said, Nash’s combination as brilliant playmaker and brilliant shooter is probably unmatched in the three-point era of the NBA. Well, there’s no probably about it: Do you know how many players have made 150 three-pointers and dished out 800 assists in a season? One. Steve Nash. And he did it three times.

What about Ray Allen? He’s the greatest three-point shooter the game has seen, one of the best pure shooters ever, and he’s got a ring. Does he get in? If him, what about Reggie Miller, who Posnanski also has on the list? Personally I can’t put Reggie on there, although my distaste for his job as an “analyst” may play into my feelings.

What about Paul Pierce? He’s the most iconic Celtic since the Larry Bird era, but is he top 50?

Gary Payton? He’s a newly minted Hall of Famer who Posnanski says belongs.

I think of Payton as the Barry Larkin of basketball (or Barry Larkin as the Gary Payton of baseball). Payton scored, passed, rebounded, played defense so spectacular they called him The Glove. Like Larkin (who hit, stole bases, hit with power, played great defense, got on base), Payton rarely did things that jumped out at you. He just did everything.

I’d put Payton in, but that may be a personal bias as I love The Glove.

Thing is, you look at this list and you know that in 10 years Kevin Durant is going to have to be on it. And what about Chris Paul? The NBA is blessed with a lot of young talent that is going to make a Top 50 harder and harder to pair down every few years.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Nuggets trying to trade for Brook Lopez

    Jan 31, 2015, 9:30 AM EST

    Brooklyn Nets V Memphis Grizzlies Getty Images

    Denver’s offer of J.J. Hickson and JaVale McGee isn’t enough for Brooklyn to pull the trigger — especially with Lopez coming off of a 35-point, 12-rebound performance against the Raptors.

  2. Last summer Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant talked, decided it wouldn’t work together

    Jan 31, 2015, 8:00 AM EST

    New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Those two together at this stage of their careers are a poor fit together.

  3. DeMarcus Cousins says he ‘didn’t expect’ to make the All-Star team

    Jan 30, 2015, 10:59 PM EST

    Toronto Raptors v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

    It took Kobe Bryant being injured for Cousins to make the squad.

  4. Anthony Davis out Friday night vs. Clippers due to abdominal strain

    Jan 30, 2015, 6:56 PM EST

    Anthony Davis Anthony Davis

    This is not a serious injury, but they will miss him defending Blake Griffin.

  5. Rumor: Heat, Clippers, Cavaliers interested in Mo Williams

    Jan 30, 2015, 5:59 PM EST

    Mo Williams AP

    All of those teams could use point guard depth.

  6. Jimmy Butler even plans to play defense in the All-Star Game

    Jan 30, 2015, 4:29 PM EST

    BKN-NBA-BULLS-LAKERS Getty Images

    “So if you see me diving on the floor and people say ‘what is he doing?’ I can’t help but be the player that I am.” —Jimmy Butler on playing in the All-Star Game

  7. LeBron James reportedly asked Adam Silver for longer All-Star break, fewer back-to-backs

    Jan 30, 2015, 2:09 PM EST

    2012 Sports Illustrated Sportsman Of The Year Award Presentation - Arrivals Getty Images

    NBA Commissioner has delivered on All-Star Break. Back-to-backs next?

  8. Tyson Chandler, better than ever, thinking legacy

    Jan 30, 2015, 12:49 PM EST

    Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    Will center stick with Mavericks this time?

  9. Mike Dunleavy is smooooth

    Jan 30, 2015, 12:11 PM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Sliding into your DMs like…

  10. DeMarcus Cousins wins.

    Jan 30, 2015, 11:33 AM EST

    Kings center waits five years, burns Clay Travis for tweet

Featured video

Who should be All-Star Game reserves?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Howard (7221)
  2. C. Anthony (6732)
  3. K. Durant (6711)
  4. R. Rubio (6710)
  5. K. Bryant (6460)
  1. L. James (6410)
  2. H. Whiteside (6353)
  3. K. Walker (6304)
  4. K. Martin (6131)
  5. J. Butler (6002)