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Thursday, October 21, 2021

NBA Makes Third 75th Anniversary Team Announcement

Here is the third group of players on the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team, announced on Thursday and listed in alphabetical order (there are 26 players instead of 25 because there was a tie in the voting):

I still disagree with the NBA's phased release of this list--the whole list should have been released at once--but now that we know the complete list it makes sense to list all of the players in alphabetical order before making some preliminary observations and comments:

  1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  2. Ray Allen
  3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  4. Carmelo Anthony
  5. Nate Archibald
  6. Paul Arizin
  7. Charles Barkley
  8. Rick Barry
  9. Elgin Baylor
  10. Dave Bing
  11. Larry Bird
  12. Kobe Bryant
  13. Wilt Chamberlain
  14. Bob Cousy
  15. Dave Cowens
  16. Billy Cunningham
  17. Stephen Curry
  18. Anthony Davis
  19. Dave DeBusschere
  20. Clyde Drexler
  21. Tim Duncan
  22. Kevin Durant
  23. Julius Erving
  24. Patrick Ewing
  25. Walt Frazier
  26. Kevin Garnett
  27. George Gervin
  28. Hal Greer
  29. James Harden
  30. John Havlicek
  31. Elvin Hayes
  32. Allen Iverson
  33. LeBron James
  34. Magic Johnson
  35. Sam Jones
  36. Michael Jordan 
  37. Jason Kidd
  38. Kawhi Leonard
  39. Damian Lillard 
  40. Jerry Lucas 
  41. Karl Malone 
  42. Moses Malone 
  43. Pete Maravich 
  44. Bob McAdoo 
  45. Kevin McHale 
  46. George Mikan 
  47. Reggie Miller 
  48. Earl Monroe 
  49. Steve Nash 
  50. Dirk Nowitzki 
  51. Hakeem Olajuwon 
  52. Shaquille O'Neal 
  53. Robert Parish 
  54. Chris Paul 
  55. Gary Payton 
  56. Bob Pettit 
  57. Paul Pierce 
  58. Scottie Pippen 
  59. Willis Reed 
  60. Oscar Robertson 
  61. David Robinson 
  62. Dennis Rodman 
  63. Bill Russell 
  64. Dolph Schayes 
  65. Bill Sharman 
  66. John Stockton 
  67. Isiah Thomas 
  68. Nate Thurmond 
  69. Wes Unseld 
  70. Dwyane Wade 
  71. Bill Walton 
  72. Jerry West 
  73. Russell Westbrook 
  74. Lenny Wilkens 
  75. Dominique Wilkins 
  76. James Worthy

I already selected--but have not yet published--my 75 Greatest Players List, but now that the NBA has expanded its 75th Anniversary Team to 76 players I will also expand my list by one so that I can make a direct, head to head comparison of the two lists. I will devote an entire, separate article to an in depth analysis of both lists.

As the entire basketball world processes the NBA's list, congratulates the honorees, and grumbles about real or perceived snubs, here are a few preliminary notes:

1) All of the members of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players List are members of the 75th Anniversary Team. The 75th Anniversary Team voters were not required by rule to do this. It is nice that the NBA has not completely succumbed to recency bias.

2) Four players who established their Hall of Fame credentials prior to 1996 but were not selected to the 50 Greatest Players List are members of the 75th Anniversary Team: Bob McAdoo, Reggie Miller, Dennis Rodman, and Dominique Wilkins.  

3) The 75th Anniversary Team includes three players who began their careers prior to October 1996 (when the 50 Greatest Players List was announced) but cemented their Hall of Fame credentials after 1996: Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd and Gary Payton. Garnett was a rookie in 1995-96. Kidd had one All-Star season prior to the creation of the 50 Greatest Players List. Payton earned three All-Star selections prior to the creation of the 50 Greatest Players List, but he is also a player who cemented his Hall of Fame status after 1996.

4) The 75th Anniversary Team includes 19 players whose entire careers took place after October 1996: Ray Allen, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, Dwyane Wade, and Russell Westbrook.


posted by David Friedman @ 9:40 PM



At Friday, October 22, 2021 2:10:00 PM, Blogger Keith said...

Generally good list with some very strange picks. I'm happy to see the inclusion of Bob McAdoo but Reggie Miller, Dennis Rodman, and Damian Lillard? Lillard is a great player but I'm not sure why he would included over even a modern guy like Kyrie Irving, someone who has objectively accomplished more than Lillard in the same timespan.

At Friday, October 22, 2021 3:19:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree with you on both points: the list is generally good, but also has some strange selections. My detailed analysis will describe why I am in approximately 90% agreement with the selections. Miller, Rodman, and Lillard--with all due respect--are three players who are not in my top 76, so we agree about that as well. Irving is not in my top 76, but I agree that a good case could be made to take him over Lillard.

At Friday, October 22, 2021 5:32:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

@keith @david

I agree with you both that Lillard does not deserve to be on the list (yet). I guess they chose him based on where they envision his career ending up.

But, I hard disagree with Kyrie being over him. What has Kyrie actually done? He's played in 100 less games then Lillard, and the only time he's had any success is when playing with Lebron or Durant -- the two best players of the last decade and top 20 players all-time. When Kyrie was the lone star, his Cleveland teams never made the playoffs. And his stint with the Celtics saw the team play better without him.

Furthermore, Irving has worse career average numbers, worse playoff average numbers, worse advanced stats, and his lone college season of a handful of games, pales in comparison to Lillard's 4 years at Weber State. Irving has also never received a single vote for MVP. Meanwhile, Lillard has finished 8th, 4th, 6th, 8th, and 7th from 2015-2021.

Again, Lillard doesn't deserve to make the list...yet. But, he has better career averages, totals, and advanced metrics, never had anyone near the caliber of players that Irving has had, has played in the tougher West, and carried his team as the lone superstar to the Western Conference finals.

Irving has played in 9 more playoff games (70-61), been selected two more times to the all-star team (7-5) and won a championship -- with at worst, a top 10 player of all time (and many youngins and pundits today have as the GOAT).

Does that solitary championship and 2 all-star appearances put him over Lillard?

At Friday, October 22, 2021 9:20:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I think that Lillard was chosen because he is a bit overrated, and has been a bit overrated for a while. I respect his game a lot, but he is an undersized player who will never be the best player on a championship team. When selecting the best 75 (or 76) NBA players from the past 75 years, that obviously averages out to one player per year. To me, that means that every player selected should be an MVP winner, a perennial MVP candidate, or someone who sustained top 5-10 status for an extended period. I made some exceptions; for example, I think that changing the game/historical impact is important, and can elevate some players who had injury-shortened careers (such as Maravich and Walton). With all due respect to Lillard, his historical impact is not even close to Maravich's or Walton's (and, of course, Walton won an MVP, a Finals MVP, and a Sixth Man Award). That is not meant to suggest that Maravich and Walton are at the bottom of my list, but just to preemptively address any questions about why I rank highly some players who had fewer healthier All-Star seasons than Lillard.

I don't think that Lillard has ever been one of the five best players in the NBA, and I did not give serious consideration to putting him on my list. I did not give serious consideration to Irving, either, but when Keith said that he would rank Irving over Lillard I agreed on this basis (Keith's reasoning may be different): neither Irving nor Lillard will ever be the best player on a championship team, but Irving proved that he can be a very effective second best player on a championship team. Would Lillard accept such a role? If he did, would he perform well without having the ball in his hands all of the time? Maybe, but he has not proven that, while Irving has.

In terms of skill set analysis, we are talking about two undersized guards, and I have written at length what I think about how much size matters in the NBA. I give Irving a slight edge as a shooter, scorer, and ballhandler. I would rank them equal as passers and rebounders. Neither is great defensively but, when focused, Irving is the better defender--and he did it when it mattered most, in the NBA Finals. Lillard may have more range, but I have yet to be convinced that a steady diet of 35 foot jumpers leads to a team winning a championship. Contrary to popular belief, Stephen Curry's ability to hit those shots is not why the Warriors won three titles. Kevin Durant was the main force behind two of those titles, and logo shots were not a major reason for Golden State's 2015 title.

At Saturday, October 23, 2021 7:19:00 AM, Blogger Tristan said...


About the NBA 75:

1) You have accurately pegged James Harden's game for years now, but this point must be emphasized to the moon: There have been and always will be better / more complete and also unselfish offensive / more committed defensive players than this guy. Seriously. Amazing that his name was on the first set of names released, like a pre-emptive strike against the critics.

2) Similar point with Nash, although he's more competitive than Harden, and I'd pick Nash over Harden. Interesting that they're both coach and player now in Brooklyn (and their former head D'Antoni is also on the bench there).

3) Reggie Miller? Probably borderline at best, despite his playoff explosions. Sub-par rebounder and defender for his height, but he did the pure shooting guard role as good as anybody. Maybe the best off-ball mover of all time.

4) Damian Lillard? Although I previously thought that he'd take the proverbial leap to Top 50 status, I did not anticipate that his ascent would be this quick. I say it tongue-in-cheek because, at this time, he should not be Top 75.

5) Carmelo Anthony? I don't know what else to say now.

6) Dwight Howard out, but Anthony Davis in? Howard was only the most dominant center and defensive force of the last 15 years or so. Who ensured that the Brow got voted in, Klutch Sports? They could have picked both instead, although Howard should still be first choice between them.

7) McAdoo and Wilkins were notable omissions from the Top 50 in '96 list who were included now on the Top 75, especially McAdoo being a former MVP.

(to be continued)

At Saturday, October 23, 2021 7:20:00 AM, Blogger Tristan said...

Part 2:

Here are names that should have been Top 50 in '96 and/or Top 75 now, and they probably won't get their due recognition until NBA 100, if at all:

Walt Bellamy - the only center other than Wilt to average 30/19 in a season, in his rookie year as well (!), HOF career, not the best center of his era (Wilt, Russell, Reed, to name a few were the top guys) but still an All-Star talent, better player than probably most so-called centers and power forwards today, being selected posthumously would have been a great honor

Adrian Dantley - one of the most relentless scoring machines ever, put the Utah Jazz on the map, then became the top scoring option for the Bad Boys before they traded him for Aguirre, more offensively skilled / diverse than some of the new entries (e.g. Reggie Miller, Carmelo Anthony, James Harden)

Alex English - eight straight 2K-point seasons in the 80s, arguably the best player in Nuggets history and better scorer / all-around player than Carmelo, also more fundamentally skilled than many of the official additions (looking at Harden again)

Penny Hardaway - one of the more memorable superstar peaks, from '94-97 he was either the best or 2nd-best guard (after Jordan got his second wind), then the injuries derailed him, followed in Magic Johnson's big guard footsteps and foreshadowed Kobe's scoring and flair (not to mention the partnership w/ Shaq)

Grant Hill - the next-generation point forward after Pippen and before LeBron, excellent footwork and handles for a 6-8 wing, he could have been one of the greatest 3s ever, if not for the ankle injury

Dwight Howard - the best center / defensive force of the LeBron-Wade-Curry-Durant era, should have been automatic pick (he's on your Top 50)

Bernard King - awesome scoring force, up there on the Knicks pantheon (Ewing, Reed, Frazier, Monroe), better player / scorer / Knick forward than (you guessed it) Carmelo

Bob Lanier - the Pistons' franchise star in the 70s, one of the most skilled and productive centers of all time, then took after Kareem in Milwaukee and turned the Bucks into perennial playoff contenders

Alonzo Mourning - the Heat franchise long before D-Wade, the second-best center of his generation (after Shaq), ferocious shot-blocker and competitor, one of the last true centers who actually played like it on both sides of the ball

Tracy McGrady - the only one who could rival Kobe in their early years, fantastic scorer and all-around threat in his prime, a true basketball "unicorn" before injuries piled up, another underrated great

I will probably feel differently about this NBA 75 list as time marches on, although my opinion of Harden's game / legacy probably won't change much.

At Saturday, October 23, 2021 11:28:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I will be posting my list with commentary shortly, so my response here will be brief.

We agree about Harden.

Nash is in my top 76 but not my top 50.

Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard and Reggie Miller are not in my top 76. The official list is not terrible, though: I agree with 69 of the 76 selections. It is interesting that both the official list and my list include 19 post-1996 players, so in my estimation the problem with the official list is not recency bias per se but rather just not selecting the right players from the past 25 years.

Dwight Howard is not only in my top 76 but he is in my top 50. I consider him to be the biggest snub from the official top 76 list.

Bob McAdoo is in my top 50, and he was the biggest snub from the 1996 50 Greatest Players List. Dominique Wilkins is in my top 76.

Dantley, English, King, and McGrady are in my top 76 list.

I agree that Bellamy, Penny, Grant Hill, and Lanier deserve consideration but none of them are in my top 76.

Mourning is not one of the players that I seriously considered for top 76 status. Maybe he is top 100 or top 125, but he was not even a "finalist" for my top 76.

At Saturday, October 23, 2021 1:55:00 PM, Anonymous AW said...

If I had to make a list of the top 75 players of all time, Lillard would make the list. Some of the guys from the original 50 list probably
would not make the top 75 list because as time goes on it's time to fill their spots with more deserving players

Lillard does not have a title or may never win a title as the best player on a title team. But why should he be knocked for that? Lots of the guys on the list don't and I believe Lillard should be ranked higher than some of them.

T-mac is a top 75 player of all time to me.

Dwight most likely is a snub also.

At Saturday, October 23, 2021 7:50:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


If the list had been restricted to 50 then some of the original members would definitely not make the cut, but I am warming up to the idea of keeping each of the original 50 players and then adding post-1996 players plus a few pre-1996 players.

Once you get past the top 15-20 or so, the process is very subjective.

I discuss Lillard--and small point guards in general--in the in depth article that I just posted, so I will not repeat my position here. I don't rank Lillard in my top 76.

I agree with you about Tracy McGrady. He is one of seven players on my list who is not on the NBA's official list.

I consider Dwight Howard to be the biggest snub. He is on my top 50 list, and he is the only member of my top 50 who is not even in the NBA's official top 76.


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