NBA 75: Top 75 NBA players of all time, from MJ and LeBron to Lenny Wilkens

It began on Nov. 1, and has run every day through Feb. 18, 2022 — we published a player profile on each player as we counted down our list of the top 75 players in NBA history, voted on by our panel. What you have below are the final rankings, and deep profiles on every player in our final ranking, from the GOAT Michael Jordan down through players that define the NBA’s history more than you might realize (see: George Mikan).

Dig in below for a deep dive on the best 75 of all time.

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No. 1: Michael Jordan


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo: Focus on Sport / Getty Images)

This ranking is not in dispute. It’s a formality, a wave of the hand, a tip of the cap, an admittance of the obvious. The sky is blue. The earth is round. Michael Jordan, No. 1 on The Athletic’s NBA 75. The best player in the 75-year history of the NBA. Case closed. There is no next. There is only one, and it’s Jordan. MORE

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No. 2: LeBron James


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo: Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images)

For years, as James stockpiled NBA Most Valuable Player trophies in Cleveland and Miami, and championships in Miami, Cleveland and Los Angeles, we’ve watched him score like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, pass like Magic and captivate like Jordan. We’ve known how good LeBron is. MORE

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No. 3: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar


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For 38 years, Abdul-Jabbar has remained the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. His staggering total of 38,387 points has looked unbreakable for decades. His unstoppable, patented skyhook, combined with the blessing of good health for 20 seasons, allowed him to put up figures the game has rarely witnessed. MORE

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No. 4: Bill Russell


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Russell’s accolades are unmatched. He won an NBA record 11 championships. He captured the MVP award five times, trailing only Abdul-Jabbar’s six. Russell led the NBA in rebounding five times, averaging 22.5 rebounds per game throughout his career. He made the All-Star Game in 12 of his 13 seasons, falling short of the honor only during his rookie year when he missed part of the campaign to play on the 1956 Olympic team. He led the United States to the gold medal that year and then guided the Celtics to their first NBA title months later. MORE

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No. 5: Magic Johnson


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Over 12 seasons — before an HIV diagnosis abruptly ended his career in 1991 before a 32-game comeback five years later — Johnson was the maestro of the Showtime Lakers, re-establishing L.A. as the center of the basketball universe and positioning the Lakers as the league’s glamour franchise. He guided them to five NBA championships, including their first over the hated Boston Celtics in 1985. He was the NBA Most Valuable Player three times in four years and a 12-time All-Star, and he was named to the All-NBA First Team nine times. MORE

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No. 6: Wilt Chamberlain


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Chamberlain’s 23,924 rebounds are the most in NBA history. His 55 rebounds in November 1960 against the Celtics — and one William Felton Russell — remain the single-game record for boards in league history. Implausibly, in his 14-year career, spanning 1,205 regular season and playoff games, Chamberlain never fouled out of a game. MORE

No. 7: Larry Bird


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Larry Bird’s childhood home still stands, a small, gray bungalow on 983 Washington Street, just outside of French Lick’s downtown area. There is a sizable driveway, and there’s a rim and backboard affixed to the top of the detached garage. It’s not the original rim and backboard; the Bird family long ago left the house, but the new setup still serves the same purpose it once did when Larry was shooting every day until dark. MORE

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No. 8: Shaquille O’Neal


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O’Neal is a top-10 player because he was the most dominant physical force of his generation. His combination of size, strength and basketball IQ made him a once-in-a-lifetime talent. From his NBA arrival in 1992 in Orlando until his retirement in 2011, O’Neal was a larger-than-life personality and player who took entertaining the fans as seriously as overpowering opponents. MORE

No. 9: Tim Duncan


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The NBA has seen great players before, but few as good as Duncan, for as long as Duncan and as unique as Duncan. He was dominant without being overwhelming. He was remarkable without seeming remarkable. He was unceasingly consistent without drawing much attention — a Patek Philippe with all the hype of a calculator watch from Best Buy. MORE

No. 10: Kobe Bryant


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)

If you talk to today’s stars, the ones whose childhoods were full of Bryant moments and who would lean on him for lessons during his later years, it’s almost as if he’s not gone at all. They talk about the “Mamba Mentality” as if he’s still preaching the power of perseverance with that fiery look upon his face. His defiant spirit, that irrational confidence in one’s self that served him so well during those two decades of dominance, is carried on now by premiere players who started studying him when they were young. MORE

No. 11: Hakeem Olajuwon


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Jim Petersen was the first of many victims in Olajuwon’s story of dominance in the NBA, which included 12 All-Star berths, two NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVPs, a regular-season MVP and two Defensive Player of the Year awards. But that story begins long before Olajuwon, No. 11 on The Athletic’s NBA 75, got to Houston, on the other side of the globe. MORE

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No. 12. Oscar Robertson


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Robertson didn’t dunk, but he was the original perimeter scoring force. The league is position-ambiguous now, but Robertson, listed at 6-foot-5, was the original “big guard.” Before Kobe Bryant was a four-time All-Star Game MVP as a guard, Robertson was a three-time All-Star Game MVP. Before Tim Duncan was “The Big Fundamental,” there were the fundamentals of “The Big O.” MORE

No. 13: Kevin Durant


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Durant’s early explosion into superstardom sent everything into overdrive. He became globally recognized, bringing that OKC logo into the mainstream. Locals tell stories of traveling abroad and seeing a stranger’s face light up in recognition of their home state: “Oh, yes. Kevin Durant.” MORE

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No. 14: Jerry West


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You can’t talk about Jerry West without the Lakers being in the same sentence, of course. Between his 14-year playing career and his front-office tenure in which he was the architect of five Lakers titles, one could argue that there has never been a more impactful Laker. MORE

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No. 15: Stephen Curry


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Curry is of their ilk. A mere mortal in stature who slays giants from a distance. And the trademark of his greatness, the autograph authenticating his legend, is his look-away 3. Nothing trumpets his unique brilliance like being so sure a long-distance shot is going in that he doesn’t even see it go in. He stamps his mastery of basketball’s most pivotal act by declaring the absence of doubt when he shoots. MORE

No. 16: Karl Malone


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Malone didn’t miss games. At least not for injuries. In 18 seasons with the Jazz, he played in all 82 regular-season games 10 times and never missed more than two games in any season. And that was often the result of the pain he inflicted, rather than the pain he endured. His elbows were as much a weapon as his elbow jumper. MORE

No. 17: Kevin Garnett


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Widely considered one of the very best and most versatile defenders of his or any generation, Garnett was the MVP in 2004 after leading the Timberwolves to the Western Conference finals, their only trip outside of the first round in franchise history. He was a 15-time All-Star, the Defensive Player of the Year in 2007-08 and a nine-time member of the first team All-Defense, the rare player capable of guarding any position on the floor and shutting him down. MORE

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No. 18: Moses Malone


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There was little subtlety to Malone’s game and not much artistry or guile. He didn’t rain down crowd-pleasing 3-pointers, cross over helpless defenders with an electric dribble or fly through the air creating indelible memories. What you remember Malone for as a player is the most unsexy of accomplishments — securing a rebound, or drawing fouls. His was the nightly pursuit of the basketball once a shot, whether by his team or the opposition’s, was unsuccessful.  MORE

No. 19: Julius Erving


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Erving was the telegenic, genial face of two leagues during his 16-year professional career, carrying the ABA for five seasons with the Virginia Squires and New York Nets before going to Philly and the NBA in 1976 as part of the NBA-ABA merger. Afterward, Dr. J became one of the first Black athletes tapped for national endorsements and seemed to have time for everyone, from fans to media, off the floor. MORE

No. 20: David Robinson


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Without Robinson, the Spurs might have different colors and a different name in a different city, playing in front of people who had no idea what the Spurs meant to their region. For all those reasons and more, David Robinson, a two-time NBA champion, a 10-time NBA All-Star, a former MVP and two-time Olympic gold medalist is No. 20 in The Athletic’s all-time NBA 75 list. MORE

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No. 21: Dirk Nowitzki


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Nowitzki’s career changed forever in 2011 when he twice led the Dallas Mavericks back from one-game deficits to beat the Miami Heat in six games. It lifted the weight off his shoulders, solidifying him as one of the league’s most distinguished players. MORE

No. 22: Charles Barkley


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE via Getty Images)

There are several signature Charles Barkley performances from his 16-year NBA career. But the easiest to find — or at least the one with the clearest footage — is from Game 3 of the 1993 NBA Finals. Barkley went for 32 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. His Phoenix Suns won on Chicago’s home floor. MORE

No. 23: Elgin Baylor


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Baylor became the patriarch of a legacy of high-flyers in the decades to come. From Julius Erving to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to Giannis Antetokounmpo, they all can be traced to Baylor. “I’ve stolen so many of your moves, it’s not even funny,” Bryant said at the unveiling of Baylor’s statue in front of the then-Staples Center in 2018. MORE

No. 24: Giannis Antetokounmpo


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To help explain how a skinny, unknown 18-year-old from Greece turned into one of the league’s all-time great players in just eight-plus seasons, Antetokounmpo took time to reflect on his journey. Slowly working through each year of his career, Antetokounmpo broke down things to give insight into how he has gotten to this point in his career. This is Antetokounmpo’s career, through his own eyes. MORE

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No. 25: John Stockton


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Today, Stockton is almost universally recognized as one of the top five point guards to ever play the game. The order sometimes varies. Isiah Thomas is certainly in this group. Magic Johnson is almost universally recognized as the best. Stephen Curry, Oscar Robertson, Chris Paul … these arguments can go on forever. The subjectivity of it all is what makes for an amazing conversation. MORE

No. 26: Isiah Thomas


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Pistons legend Isiah Thomas carried himself like a sweetheart. You’d see him in commercials, in interviews and magazines and wonder how anyone could dislike him. He was small. The voice that accompanied that all-too-perfect smile was soft and infectious. He was the common man. Then he’d step onto the court. MORE

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No. 27: Rick Barry


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Barry, the son of a basketball coach from Elizabeth, N.J., was voted the 27th-best player as part of The Athletic’s NBA project documenting the top 75 players in league history. He was 1966 NBA Rookie of the Year and led the league in scoring in 1967. He was voted to eight All-Star games and was the 1975 NBA Finals MVP. MORE

No. 28: Dwyane Wade


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo: Sarah Stier / Getty Images)

Often, a work ethic determines how high one’s ceiling is. And Wade’s ability to work and his desire to consistently improve became the linchpin to one of the best careers from a shooting guard in NBA history. It was the humility that got him in the gym, nightly. He had a challenging childhood and came from a broken home. Wade spent the early part of life navigating the South Side of Chicago. Nothing came easy. MORE

No. 29: John Havlicek


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He joined the Celtics as a rookie from a highly successful college program, evolved into one of the NBA’s great sixth men and grew into the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. He was “Hondo,” a nickname he picked up after a John Wayne movie by that title. He was a giant in Boston sports and NBA history. MORE

No. 30: Chris Paul


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Paul’s prime was mostly spent in Los Angeles, the star point guard and vocal leader of those Lob City Clippers teams. Next to Blake Griffin, he turned a floundering franchise into a playoff regular and fringe contender. The Clippers didn’t make the playoffs in 13 of the 14 seasons before his arrival. They went to the playoffs in all six of his seasons there. MORE

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No. 31: Bob Pettit


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But certain things aren’t up for debate. They’re crystal clear. Facts only. The greatest or hardest? Subjective. The first? There’s only one. And when the topic is NBA Most Valuable Players, that “first” is Bob Pettit, No. 31 on The Athletic’s NBA 75. “That was great because you were recognized by the fellas you played with and against,” Pettit told The Athletic. MORE

No. 32: Scottie Pippen


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE via Getty Images)

So what is Pippen’s legacy? A six-time NBA champion? A Hall of Famer? A top-75 player? A rags-to-riches, only-in-America story? Is he a star on his own merit? Or is he “just” one of the greatest complementary players in NBA history? All of those things, of course. Scottie contains multitudes, that’s always been his strength and his weakness. MORE

No. 33: James Harden


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As with any player on this NBA 75 list, there will be detractors. But for eight seasons in a Rockets uniform, Harden dominated games. He dominated weeks. He dominated months. His goofy, weird energy was contagious to anyone who stepped foot inside the locker room or building. Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets tenure featured hard work, fun nights and competitive games, and Harden was at the center of it all. MORE

No. 34: Kawhi Leonard


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein / NBAE via Getty Images)

Leonard is already a legend. Despite his injury, the Clippers hold him in high regard and proved that by re-signing him to a four-year, $176 million contract. A blue-ribbon panel of current and former NBA players, coaches, general managers, team and league executives, WNBA legends, sportswriters and broadcasters named Leonard to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team in October. MORE

No. 35: George Mikan


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo: DePaul University Special Collections and Archives)

This is not about whether you’d rather have Mikan instead of Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This list is as much about the impact of that player in NBA history. And, to be honest, Mikan is probably far too low on our list at No. 35 if we were to apply that line of thinking. In terms of impact on the NBA, Mikan is without a doubt top 10, maybe top five. You could even argue the top three. He may not resonate with the kids (or even Gen Xers), but Mikan is that important to the NBA and its history. MORE

No. 36: Jason Kidd


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Kidd’s computer-like processing of the game, which can be seen in players like LeBron James and Chris Paul, is a big part of why he comes in at No. 36 on The Athletic’s list of the top 75 players in the NBA. His accomplishments are undeniable: He was the co-Rookie of the Year in 1995, along with Grant Hill. He is a Hall of Famer. He is second, behind only John Stockton, in career assists. Stockton, Kidd, Bob Cousy, Oscar Robertson and Steve Nash are the only players to win at least five assist titles. MORE

No. 37: Patrick Ewing


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE via Getty Images)

Fans of the NBA knew it. Opposing teams knew it. And the tenacious Knicks fan base, one of the most impossible-to-satisfy followings in professional sports, never once took it for granted. Because from 1985 to 2000, Ewing was theirs, the crown prince of the city, one of the most gifted players on the planet who managed to strike the impeccable, needed balance of a star with pluck. MORE

No. 38: Steve Nash


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In time, Nash would put his spin on the point guard position, pushing the pace to a breakneck speed, offering a template of creativity for Steph and Dame and Trae and the generations that came after. But first, he wouldn’t shoot enough. MORE

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No. 39: Bob Cousy


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As a basketball player, Cousy remains one of the all-time greats — Hall of Famer, 13-time NBA All-Star, a member of six championship teams who averaged 18.4 points and 7.5 assists per game in his career. Not for nothing was he known as the “Houdini of the Hardwood,” the mere utterance of that nickname serving as an invitation to imagine the 6-foot-1, 175-pound point guard exhibiting all kinds of behind-the-back dribbles, fast breaks and shots from either hand. MORE

No. 40: Allen Iverson


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The impact of Iverson extended far beyond his feats on the court. They were aplenty: 11-time All-Star, seven-time All-NBA selection, four-time scoring champion, two-time All-Star MVP, the 2000-01 NBA MVP. But to understand the totality of his greatness, to comprehend just how significant Iverson is in basketball history, requires some sense of what he represented, the era in which he came along and what he inspired. MORE

No. 41: Elvin Hayes


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo: Focus On Sport)

Put it this way: Hayes dominated the NBA in a way few players before him ever did. When he retired in 1984 after 16 superlative seasons, his name graced the tippy-top of league record books. He ranked third all-time in total points scored, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain, and also in total rebounds collected, following only Chamberlain and Bill Russell. If that’s not elite territory, what is? MORE

No. 42: George Gervin


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“You’re talking about shooting the basketball and the things he could do with a basketball in terms of banking it, shooting it straight in, off the glass … it was like — it’s like George Gervin was Minnesota Fats on the pool table,” Pistons legend Isiah Thomas told The Athletic. “That’s how much control he had over the basketball. “Nobody was better than George Gervin. Nobody.” MORE

No. 43: Clyde Drexler


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Drexler’s impact, however, was far more than as a nearby witness to history. Drexler himself was very good, and that was the reason he was involved in all these moments — and more — during a 16-year career that easily could have been 20 if he had cared to continue playing. That’s where we get to the purest part of that Drexler story, the second version: The Glide. MORE

No. 44: Willis Reed


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Penmanship, Walt Frazier believes, reveals much about a person: their intelligence, their mood, even their ego. When Reed wrote, Frazier mostly saw consistency — the same trait he remembers defining the player affectionally nicknamed “The Captain.” “If you saw a thousand signatures by Willis, they’re all the same: neat,” he said. “That’s him. He’s a very meticulous person. He’s a perfectionist. He’s got style, but he’s a down-to-earth person.” MORE

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No. 45: Walt Frazier


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Walt Frazier once hated attention. But Clyde Frazier embraced it. It seems impossible now with the way Frazier has spun rhymes on the Knicks’ broadcasts for decades, but the Hall of Fame point guard ducked away from attention when he was young. So, as legendary MSG photographer George Kalinsky remembers it, more than 50 years ago, a budding Walt Frazier set out for a rebrand. MORE

No. 46: Russell Westbrook


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There are few Hall of Fame talents who have had their wrongs highlighted as much as what they do right. The turnovers, the inefficient shooting, the questionable late-game decision-making, they all bubble to the surface of any Westbrook discussion. Westbrook plays the game in a take-it-or-leave-it, unrelenting way that doesn’t pair well with the often unnuanced discourse about basketball on social media. MORE

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No. 47: Reggie Miller


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In high school, I knew it was a gift. I didn’t know where it could take me, but I felt it was the one thing I could do. I could shoot, and I could run all day. My first love was baseball, but I grew out of that. Wasn’t going to play football, so I knew basketball was perfect for me. I knew in high school, maybe I could get a D-1 scholarship somewhere. That was the ultimate goal was to get a free education and save (parents) Saul and Carrie some money. MORE

No. 48: Gary Payton


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As stellar as it was, Payton didn’t just have a defensive reputation. The Glove talked constantly to take a player out of his game. The trash-talking itself was absurdly versatile. He’d come for your throat, your heart, your funny bone. Opponents talked about how relentless Payton’s trash talk would be, and it never discriminated. It never took a night off. MORE

No. 49: Kevin McHale


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Cedric Maxwell, who played on two NBA championship teams with McHale during his eight seasons with the Celtics, is more than happy to point out that McHale wasn’t always happy-go-lucky. “Behind that smile, there was a killer,” he said. “He smiled, and he had that demeanor, that I’m-from-Hibbing kind of guy, but when you got to know him you found out he was as competitive as anybody.” MORE

No. 50: Paul Pierce


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When the big three with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen came together for the 2007-08 season, Pierce won Finals MVP as the team pulled off the biggest year-to-year record turnaround in NBA history, and he was suddenly on a path toward Hall of Fame status. He’d lead them back to the Finals in 2010, where they would lose to the Lakers in Game 7, then build another contender in 2012 that had strong championship aspirations before running into LeBron James’ iconic Game 6 conference-finals supernova. MORE

No. 51: Dominique Wilkins


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The main thing Wilkins prides himself on when looking back on his 15-year career was never willingly taking a night off. Even in games Wilkins didn’t play well in, he felt like it was his responsibility to always put on the best show possible because he felt like he’d be letting his teammates, organization and fans down if he didn’t. HOME

No. 52: Ray Allen


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When the man who laid claim at the time to the title of “Greatest Shooter In the World” rose from the corner and flicked his right wrist to let fly one of the most clutch shots in NBA history, there wasn’t a soul in the Miami Heat’s arena who didn’t think it was going to fall — except for Walter Ray Allen. MORE

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No. 53: Anthony Davis


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Davis, who checks in at No. 53 on The Athletic’s list of top-75 players, didn’t use his sheer physicality to dominate games like Karl Malone and Charles Barkley did. He considered himself a guard until a late growth spurt during high school transformed him from a 6-foot-2 sophomore into a 6-foot-10 senior. He also could play above the rim and move with fluidity on the perimeter the way modern-day bigs are required to. And his ability to feel comfortable in both worlds made him the obvious No. 1 pick for the New Orleans Hornets in 2012. MORE

No. 54: Bob McAdoo


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McAdoo wasn’t getting locked up much during his career, one in which he became a legend in two leagues as one of the greatest scorers basketball has seen. That’s why McAdoo checks in at No. 54 on The Athletic’s Top 75 list. A 6-foot-9 power forward who could score at the rim or with his jump shot wasn’t common when McAdoo entered the NBA in 1972. He used his diverse offensive game to average 22.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists in his career while also shooting 50.3 percent. MORE

 

No. 55: Tracy McGrady


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His best seasons rank right up there with the best of his peers, Kobe Bryant. McGrady was never quite the shooter that Bryant was when factoring in 3-pointers, but Bryant never matched McGrady’s 2002-03 season in terms of PER (30.3) or win shares (16.1). Bryant has McGrady beat on longevity and, crucially, playoff success, but their peaks were similar from an individual standpoint. MORE

No. 56: Dwight Howard


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There was a point when Howard, the No. 1 selection in the 2004 draft out of high school, was the darling of the NBA, a joyous, generational talent leading the small-market Magic back to relevance. That all turned near the end of his time in Orlando a decade ago. A trade request that turned murky; a ferociously uncomfortable news conference with at-the-time Magic coach Stan Van Gundy; a one-year stint with the Lakers, where he says he initially preferred not to go; a nomadic second act; and multiple serious back surgeries have changed his vibes, and — as for the last one — his otherworldly athleticism. MORE

No. 57: Dave Cowens


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His fascination with Cowens was, at first, based on style of play. The 1973 NBA MVP, Cowens was just about the smallest center in an era where 7-footers were becoming more commonplace, but he could win any matchup — and often did. When he needed to play with power, he could pull it off. When he wanted to run his opponent into the ground, he’d leave him behind. He wasn’t victorious in every battle, but would eventually win the war. MORE

No. 58: Earl Monroe


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It was a scene that would play out often in the late 1960s and early ’70s, with Hill noticing an unmistakable buzz permeating through the already-packed gym. The game had already begun, perhaps even into the second quarter, but word had trickled in from outside that the night’s feature attraction had arrived. He’s on his way in. He’s coming. MORE

No. 59: James Worthy


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The defending champs might have not needed Worthy, but his arrival ignited Showtime — the greatest show on the hardwood — and the dynasty of the ’80s. The Lakers won three championships (1985, ’87, ’88) with Worthy, who won NBA Finals MVP in 1988. Worthy, who was a power forward in college, transitioned to small forward in the NBA. The Hall of Famer’s willingness to adapt to whatever the Lakers needed from him — scoring, rebounding, defense — was an essential ingredient in Showtime’s historic success throughout the ’80s. MORE

No. 60: Wes Unseld


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During his 13-year career with the Bullets franchise as a player and his quarter-century with the Washington organization, including stints as the team’s coach and general manager, Unseld was stoic, stern and not given to self-aggrandizement. But he also was the franchise’s most consequential player, leading the Bullets to four NBA Finals appearances in the 1970s and their only title, in 1978. MORE

No. 61: Dolph Schayes


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo: Associated Press)

Schayes also had very modern elements to his game, as well. He was a truly dominant face-up power forward in a league that wanted their big men near the rim, using his jumper to set up driving lanes to the basket decades before the 3-point line was introduced and a half-century before the NBA figured out how to effectively use perimeter shooting to space the floor. MORE

No. 62: Dennis Rodman


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo: Andy Hayt/NBAE via Getty Images)

Dennis Rodman’s journey to the NBA 75 team is as improbable as any other star in league history. The 2011 Hall of Fame inductee is one of the greatest rebounders and defenders the NBA has ever seen. He’s one of the few players on The Athletic’s Top 75 list known more for his defense and rebounding than his scoring, shooting and/or passing. He was never a prolific scorer or offensive threat. He also was unlike any star the sports world had seen — and, arguably, has seen since. His influence on the modern athlete is omnipresent. MORE

John Hollinger: Who was the greatest rebounder ever? And how can we tell?

No. 63: Carmelo Anthony


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The kid from West Baltimore learned how to survive. He navigated the streets to avoid shootings, drugs and police brutality. He became so immune to the danger around him in his childhood that it was just another day when someone he knew succumbed to the violence. To become one of the greatest basketball players in NBA history, Carmelo Anthony had to persevere. When the Anthony family moved from Brooklyn to Baltimore when he was 8 years old, he fell in love with basketball. The gym was his sanctuary and the place that would eventually change the fortunes of his and his family’s life forever. MORE

No. 64: Bill Walton


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When he did play, Walton was dominant, largely because of his versatility, which was best illustrated during the 1977 NBA Finals, when he averaged 18.5 points, 19 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 3.7 blocks against Philadelphia. In the clinching Game 6, Walton had 20 points, 23 rebounds, seven assists and eight blocks. Danny Ainge, who would later become Walton’s teammate in Boston, grew up two hours south of Portland in Eugene. In 1977, he was a senior in high school and remembers listening to Walton’s games on the radio. “I still say his 1977 season was one of the best individual seasons ever,” Ainge said. MORE

No. 65: Chris Webber


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo: Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Webber did a lot in his Hall of Fame NBA career, and with encouragement from the right people, he dared to be different and not fit into the stereotypical play of power forwards before him. Webber could play physically in the post, which was expected of a 6-foot-10, 245-pound forward with an array of ways to score. But while Webber was physically imposing, he also was skilled and nimble on the court. MORE

No. 66: Billy Cunningham


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Any player selected to this 75th-anniversary team will have a staggering list of accomplishments on his résumé, credentials that would suggest success on the basketball court came easy to him. Philadelphia 76ers great Billy Cunningham is no exception. MORE

• C.J. Holmes: Finally, a banner season in Philly: When Wilt Chamberlain’s 76ers paused the NBA’s greatest dynasty

No. 67: Nate “Tiny” Archibald


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When you have the nickname “Tiny,” much may not be expected, especially not an achievement of a unique magnitude. But becoming the only player to ever lead the NBA in scoring and assists in the same season has a way of making everyone forget any height and weight measurables. And Nate “Tiny” Archibald achieved that and more in a career that included him averaging that historic 34.0 points and 11.4 assists during the 1972-73 season. MORE

• Sam Amick: Top 20?! Andre Iguodala on NBA 75 and why Kyrie Irving deserved better

No. 68: Damian Lillard


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo by Hannah Foslien / Getty Images)

The telephone pole that helped spawn one of the greatest players in NBA history is still standing on Clara Street in East Oakland. It’s the same pole, Damian Lillard assures because after all these years he can still see the nails in its side, all curled and gnarled. The nails were hammered by Lillard’s grandfather Albert to secure a plastic milk crate that would serve as a makeshift basketball hoop. MORE

No. 69: Alonzo Mourning


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo: Jon Hayt / NBAE via Getty Images)

Almost everyone faces at least one hurdle in life, but Mourning encountered a preposterous number of daunting obstacles along his journey to that championship 15 years ago. The barriers included a broken childhood home, time in foster care and a life-threatening kidney disease. He overcame his hardships with the same intensity he displayed as a foundational player with the Charlotte Hornets, the Heat and the New Jersey Nets. MORE

No. 70: Hal Greer


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo: Focus on Sport / Getty Images)

Before Wali Jones ran in the same backcourt as Harold Everett Greer, he was forced to defend him. This being 1964, “freedom of movement” was not part of the basketball lexicon. That meant Jones, then a rookie for the Baltimore Bullets, was allowed to hand check, grab and hold Greer with relative impunity. So, what type of emotional response did a constant beating elicit from Greer? Silence. “Hal was a very quiet man on the court,” Jones recalled. MORE

No. 71: Alex English


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo: Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

English used his 6-foot-7 frame to score in a variety of ways. He could post up and use his high release point to get his turnaround jumper over defenders. He could be crafty in the paint and score with the midrange jumper, too. But no matter how English scored, he made it look like he was never pressed to make a play. English kept the ball high above his head on his release and with a flick, the ball was gone. The shot looked effortless. MORE

No. 72: Jerry Lucas


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Jerry Lucas played in his first basketball game when he was in the fourth grade. In Middletown, Ohio, his grade school only had a sixth-grade team, so Lucas played up. But he didn’t play much, mostly just practicing with the team. Finally, he got on the floor for the final 15 seconds of the last game of the season.“I loved it,” Lucas told The Athletic. “I was excited about it. And I wanted to be the best player I could be.” MORE

No. 73: Pete Maravich


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Bob Daugherty / Associated Press)

The boy who changed basketball preferred the solitude of an empty gym: the syncopated rhythm of squeaking shoes, the swish of the net, the echo of dribbles against a hardwood floor, plenty of open court to try things — to build the perfect jumper, to invent a novel spin move, to run and dribble and sweat and, in his words, fool around and throw up a hook shot from 35 feet. For Pete Maravich, an empty gymnasium meant freedom. If you gave him a basketball, he could see the future. MORE

No. 74: Robert Parish


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images)

For some reason with Parish, there is some notion that he benefited from it more than he contributed to it. The Celtics would not have been the team they were without him. And this is one of the most significant teams in NBA history. Those 1980s Celtics are considered to have played one of the greatest stretches of basketball ever seen. MORE

No. 75: Lenny Wilkens


(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Photo by Malcolm W. Emmons/Sporting News via Getty Images)

The breadth and depth of Wilkens’ career in basketball are nearly unrivaled, and though The Athletic’s list was put together solely for what these 75 men accomplished in uniform, it is impossible to hold a serious discussion about Lenny from Brooklyn without considering his supreme talents as a teacher of the game and leader of men. MORE

(Top illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic)

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