Level 1: Achievers

The Sports Guy's Ranks

96. Tom Chambers. "Chambers filled the wing splendidly on fast breaks, scored effectively in the half-court, and shone during the single most competitive stretch in NBA history ('86 to '93, an era that included twelve of the top twenty-four guys on this list and nineteen of the top fifty) as the go-to guy on three conference finalists ('87 Sonics, '89 Suns, '90 Suns)."

95. Jo Jo White. "A postseason ace whose career playoff averages exceeded his three-year regular season peak, Jo Jo finished as the best guard on two title teams plus a 68-win team."

94. Jack Twyman. "One of my favorite random moments writing this book: spending a solid hour picking between Cliff Hagan and Twyman for the 'white forward from the fifties and sixties' cutoff spot, then deciding Hagan was slightly better because he won a title and was elected to the Hall five years before Twyman in 1978 (even though he retired four years after Twyman)."

93. Kevin Johnson. "…no point guard brazenly attacked the basket, dunked on bigger guys and destroyed guys off the dribble quite like KJ in his prime; it wasn't that opponents couldn't stay in front of him as much as how they instinctively backed up before he made a move."

92. Bob Lanier. "Lanier and his size 21 sneakers narrowly edge Sikma and his kick-ass blondafroperm for the cutoff center spot, only because Sikma was blessed with talented Seattle/Milwaukee teams and poor Lanier was stuck in NBA hell (Detroit) for the entire seventies."

91. Bailey Howell. "A physical small forward (like a more efficient Ron Artest, without the crazy), Howell made six straight All-Star Games and played a pivotal role on Boston's last two title teams."

90. Chris Paul. "The Evolutionary Isiah. Although Paul struggled through an unhappy '10 season (the lowlight: a torn meniscus, a fired coach, declining attendance, and a lottery appearance), his '08 and '09 season remain the best two-year statistical stretch by any point guard since Oscar."

89. Vince Carter. "His most famous moment? The time he leapfrogged Frederic Weis for a monster throwdown in the 2000 Olympics. (Anytime someone's career highlight involves Fred Weis, really, what more can be said?)"

88. Shawn Kemp. "With the notable exception of Howard and Young Shaq, there hasn't been a force of nature like Young Kemp: he ran the floor better than any big man ever, finished off alley-oops from every conceivable angle (and some that hadn't been conceived yet) and dunked on everyone in sight (his '92 playoff dunks on Alton Lister and Chris Gatling reside in the Dunk Pantheon)."

87. Gail Goodrich. "One of the better-scoring guards from the confusing ABA/NBA era, the crafty southpaw gets bonus points for being a top-three player on a 69-win Lakers team and abusing Earl Monroe in the '72 Finals, as well as having an unorthodox low-post game, punishing smaller guards down low, and attacking the rim like a crazed Manu Ginobili (attempting 550-plus FTs four different times)."

86. Connie Hawkins. "Although we'll never know how good Hawkins could have been, he was the first modern power forward with athleticism and length (a good seven to ten years ahead of Gus Johnson and Spencer Haywood), a prototype for the Kemps and Garnetts, someone who played above the rim before his knees started going on him."

85. Arvydas Sabonis. "Thank God for YouTube, where a young and healthy Saba lives on breaking backboards, draining threes and throwing no-look passes; there's a reason everyone compared him to Walton with 25-foot range."

84. Robert Horry. "He was a terrific help defender who constantly covered for teammates: big enough to handle low-post players, quick enough to handle perimeter scorers. He only asserted himself when his team truly needed him, never caring about stats or touches--giving him something in common with maybe 1.87 percent of the league--and routinely getting better when it mattered."

83. Cliff Hagan. "A valuable playoff piece for St. Louis during their underrated playoff peak (one title, four Finals appearances). If you played for ten years in the fifties and sixties, peaked for five, and starred for a champion and a couple of runner-ups, that was a really good career during the Mad Men era, when everyone traveled coach, shared hotel rooms with teammates, smoked butts and drank coffee, got plastered after games, didn't work out, didn't eat right, didn't care of their bodies and banged bodies like they were playing rugby."

82. Chris Mullin. "Even though he crested a little late, few modern players were more entertaining or intelligent on the offensive end; he was like a left-handed, miniature version of Larry Bird, only with worse hair, paler skin and an accent that made him sound like a cross between Boston Rob and Mike Francesa."

81. Dave Bing. "Bing rode the ABA/expansion statistical surge and put up impressive numbers during his offensive peak ('67 to '73), when he played with the likes of Dave DeBusschere and Bob Lanier and only made the playoffs once."

80. Bobby Dandridge. "You could call Bobby D. a cross between Caron Butler and Big Shot Brob, someone who did all the little things, drifted between three positions, defended every type of forward (famously out dueling Julius Erving in the '78 Playoffs) and routinely draining monster shots (like the game-winner against a triple-team in Game 7 of the '79 Spurs series, which happened after he had been switched to a scalding-hot George Gervin and shut Ice down for the final few minutes)."

79. Paul Westphal. "He's remembered as the league's best guard for five years ('76 to '80), as well as a memorably entertaining All-Star Game performer and the starting two-guard on the White Guys Who Played Like Black Guys team (don't worry, we're getting there)."

78. Dwight Howard. "Howard only wants to run around, jump over guys, ram a few dunks home, block a few shots out of bounds, flex his muscles, smile to the crowd and interview himself during halftime shows….Alpha dog pedigree, sidekick mindset. Too bad."

77. Tracy McGrady. "A resume jarringly similar to Pete Maravich's even if McGrady was significantly better defensively. Both were known by nicknames ("T-Mac" and "Pistol"). Both carried lousy teams for much of their primes. Both were ridiculously gifted offensive players who had unusual weight among their peers, although McGrady was never discussed reverentially like Maravich was and is."

76. Dan Issel. "There's something to be said for a perimeter center who never missed games and gave his teams somewhere between a 19-8 and a 25-11 every night, averaging 29.9 points as a rookie in '71 and 19.8 as a fourteen-year veteran in '84."

75. Artis Gilmore. "Without any big rivals who could handle him in a quicker ABA, Artis dominated just like the token tall guy dominates an intramural game in college. He never enjoyed the same success in the NBA, but there are worse things than a center giving you a 20-12 every night, clogging the paint, shooting 60 percent and looking like he's about to film a Dracula movie."

74. Joe Dumars. "Dumars was the one decent soul on those bad-boy squads, a splendid team player who lifted his game when it mattered, a gifted defender who handled MJ better than anyone except John Starks. When the Association struggled with character issues in the mid-nineties, Joe D stood out for his class and professionalism."

73. Sidney Moncrief. "Moncrief was one of the defining what-if guys. If not for chronic knee problems that eventually derailed his career, Moncrief would have been the best all-around guard of the eighties and one of the top forty-five Pyramid guys."

72. Chris Webber. "You wouldn't say C-Webb had an atrocious career or anything. He made five All-Star teams, an All-NBA first team and three All-NBA second teams. He won Rookie of the Year and a rebounding title. Starring for a series of memorably entertaining Sacramento teams from 1999 to 2003, he was the league's second-best power forward and submitted a three-year peak of 25-11-5."

71. Lenny Wilkens. "Wilkens was very good and not great. The statistics and win totals back that up, and that's before we tackle how the ABA/expansion dynamic skewed everyone's stats from 1969 to 1976….If Lenny was a B-plus for eight years, he jumped to an A-minus in a depleted/diluted league."

70. David Thompson. "The dude soared through the air like a Bud Light daredevil bouncing off a trampoline. What really separated him was his zero-to-sixty explosiveness in traffic. Surrounded by four or five taller players, time and time again Thompson took your breath away by springing four feet to block a shot or dunk on someone's head."

69. Dennis Rodman. "He played for ten conference finalists in three cities, ten 50-win teams and five 60-win teams, and he missed the playoffs once in his career (a 40-win Pistons team in '93)….He guarded Larry Bird better than anyone. Nobody else came close….During his last good season on the '98 Bulls--at age 36, when he was partying incessantly, to the point that MJ and Jackson had an intervention with him--Rodman played 80 regular-season games (15.0 RPG), then another 20 playoff games (11.8 RPG), logging nearly 3,600 minutes in all. The man was a physical freak. We'll see another fifty Horace Grants before we see another Dennis Rodman. And thank God. I think one was enough."

68. Pete Maravich. "In every conceivable way, Pistol Pete was ahead of his time. Seeing him in person was like seeing twelve Globetrotters rolled into one: no pass was too far-fetched, no shot too far away. He'd glide across the court--all rubbery limbs, ball attached to his hand like a yo-yo, blank expression on his face--and you never knew what would happen next, just that ht scoreboard never mattered as much as the show."

67. Earl Monroe. "We're invoking the Walton Corollary here: even if a guy peaked for just two or three years as a truly great players, that's more appealing than someone who never peaked at all. You know someone was great when he had two playground nicknames (Black Jesus and Magic) and a mainstream nickname (Earl the Pearl); moved Woody ALlen to write a Sport magazine profile about him; invented a specific signature move (the spin move); became immortalized in He Got Game even though the movie was released twenty-five years after his prime; and owned such an unconventional offensive game based on spins and herky-jerky hesitation moves that nobody has replicated it since."

66. Adrian Dantley. "Okay, so when will we see another Dantley? Really, a six-foot-three post-up player with a hundred different uptakes and herky-jerky moves who creates wiggle room in the paint with his abnormally gigantic ass? He was the J-Lo of NBA players."

65. Alex English. "English was a lanky forward who never seemed to get hot--he'd score 7-8 points per quarter and end up around 30 every game, only you barely noticed him except for the fact that he never seemed to miss."

64. Jerry Lucas. "That's the question with Lucas--were those numbers accomplished because of the style of play (run-and-gun, lots of possessions) and lack of athletic forwards? Partially, yes. Still, those numbers were mildly mind-blowing: Lucas nearly averaged a 20-20 for four straight years, giving Oscar a running mate when the Royals extended Boston to two deciding games. During a five-year stretch in a loaded league (1964-68), he made three first-team All-NBAs and two second teams."

63. Reggie Miller. "At no point was Reggie considered one of the NBA's top ten players for a single season. Nine of his contemporaries at shooting guard made All-NBA (first or second): Jordan, Drexler, Dumars, Latrell Sprewell, Mitch Richmond, Kobe, T-Mac, Iverson, and Ray Allen. Reggie only made third-team All-NBA three times ('95, '96, and '98). That's it. And his reputation as a 'great' playoffs player has been slightly overblown."

62. Ray Allen. "For his nine-year prime (1999-2007), Ray-Ray was remarkably efficient (23-5-4, 45% FG, 40% 3FG, 90% FT), had the prettiest jumper of any star player and rarely attempted anything he couldn't do. If he were a baseball player, he would have been Wade Boggs--not a franchise guy, but someone with a few elite skills (milking pitch counts, getting on base, stroking singles and rarely missing a game, in Boggs' case) that made him a genuine asset as long as you surrounded him with other quality players."

My Ranks

100. Dikembe Mutombo. Simmons would likely disagree, but I favor longevity. Dikembe stuck around for 18 seasons until age 42, was a four-time Defensive Player of the Year, led the league in blocks five times and rebounds five times, and impacted the game without the ball more than all but a few players. He played in two NBA Finals, remains an international diplomat, and is imitated endlessly with his signature finger wag.

99. Alonzo Mourning. Zo was about as good as Mutombo defensively with a more polished offensive game, fiery leadership, a ring, and a higher peak. Surrounded by excellent contemporaries at center (Olajuwon, Shaq, Robinson, Ewing, Mutombo), Mourning still managed a first and second-team nod, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, and an impressive comeback from a kidney transplant to win his only title as a backup to Shaq on the 2006 Heat.

98. Horace Grant. He was never the best player on his team or even the second-best, but Grant captured three titles with the Bulls and another with the Lakers. He lost in two other NBA Finals. With an All-Star appearance and four All-Defensive Second Teams, he achieved some individual recognition. Like Robert Horry and Dennis Rodman, his many wins, multiple rings, intangible defense and rebounding, plus his above-average offensive abilities made him a valuable, if little heralded piece of winning squads.

97. Jack Twyman. I can't add much to what the Sports Guy said about Twyman because I know so little about him. He peaked with a 31-9 in 1959-60, made six All-Star teams, and managed to sustain some success as the NBA became increasingly athletic and more racially integrated from the 1950s to the 1960s.

96. Kevin Johnson. When KJ was on the floor, he froze defenders, dunked with ferocity, ran prolific and competitive offensive teams, and generally was unstoppable off the dribble. After playing 74-81 games each season from 1988-89 to 1991-92, Johnson had only two seasons where he played more than 56 games, missing 229 of 574 regular season games in his final seven seasons. But his peak -- 21 points, 11 assists, 50% FG and 84% FT -- was one of the best four-season stretches for a point guard.

95. Reggie Miller. The Book of Basketball burst the mythic reputation of Miller as being one of the great players of his generation. He had historically credible clutch moments. His trash talking and endless off-the-ball movement were fun. But really, Miller was limited. He hovered around 20 points with a couple assists and rebounds per game, unremarkable defense, and teeth so bad that legions of fans wondered why a multimillionaire like Miller hadn't found a decent orthodontist. Here's what made me bump him this low: Given the choice between Reggie Miller and Ray Allen as your franchise cornerstone, who would you choose?

94. Bob Lanier. Simmons called 1970s Detroit "NBA Hell," and Lanier labored for eight coaches with the Pistons for the bulk of his career. He was mercifully dealt to Milwaukee during the 1979-80 season. There he revitalized his legacy by captaining the talented Bucks squads for his final five years. With Lanier, Milwaukee twice reached the Eastern Conference Finals, won five division titles, and became the first team to sweep the Boston Celtics in the 1983 NBA Playoffs. Lanier made six All-Star teams, won the All-Star MVP in 1974, and shot 51 percent from the field in his career. Before his election to the Hall of Fame in 1992, he had already been immortalized there. His size 22 sneakers were bronzed and displayed as the largest in the league’s history.

93. Arvydas Sabonis. This one is based greatly on potential, but have you seen footage of Sabonis when he was young? Or heard the praise his contemporaries sing? Even as a plodding giant in his late years, he was a key force for an excellent Blazers team that was one fourth-quarter implosion from dispatching the 2000 Lakers with Shaq at his incredibly dominating best. Sabonis held the big fella in check as well as anybody. He deserves recognition for a superb career and superb basketball mind.

92. Tim Hardaway. An addition Simmons overlooked, I am highlighting Hardaway because he belongs in the modern explosive point guard category alongside Kevin Johnson, Chris Paul, Gary Payton, and Steve Nash. Like KJ, Hardaway missed significant time, but he managed 867 games to Johnson's 735 while averaging 17-8 to KJ's 17-9, piloting contenders in Golden State and Miami, and finishing 65th in MVP Win Shares to Johnson's 101st. 

91. Gail Goodrich. Talent wins out, and the 1971-72 Lakers had not only West and Chamberlain but also Goodrich on the court. In fact, Goodrich edged West for the team scoring lead that season, 25.9 to 25.8. When was the last time a starting backcourt averaged 50+ ppg? The sneaky lefty was a playmaker, too, with a career average of almost five assists per contest.

90. Joe Dumars. The finest gentleman on the Bad Boy Pistons elevated his game during the championship runs in Detroit, guarded Jordan as well as anyone, made five All-Defense and six All-Star Teams, and had the quiet respect of the league. He was content to let Isiah Thomas be the closer and ringleader, but Dumars was a star in his own right.

89. Chauncey Billups. In an undersold era of Pistons dominance, Billups was the catalyst. He lifted his scoring and assists in the playoffs, leading Detroit to one championship, two Finals, and six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. Six in a row! Only the Russell Celtics, West Lakers, and Magic-Kareem Lakers have ever equaled that sustained excellence. In addition to his crunch time chops, Billups defended admirably, making two All-Defense teams.

88. Pau Gasol. Kobe needed a second star for his second run at championships, and Gasol arrived in Los Angeles to usher in three straight Finals appearances and two rings. He rescued L.A. in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals when Kobe struggled mightily from the field, and his low post game was being favorably compared to Kevin McHale's. He has consistently been good to great for 13 years in the NBA while playing center and power forward, inside and outside.

87. Robert Horry. More than hitting big shots, Horry's greatest strength might have been choosing his teams wisely and knowing precisely the time to switch rosters. He started on two Rockets title teams, played a key role during three Lakers championships, and earned his final two rings with the Spurs, hitting game-winners and offering intangible excellence at each stop. As Simmons wrote in his book, who else's career would you rather have?

86. Cliff Hagan. Hagan has all the prerequisites of early stardom in the NBA: A championship (with St. Louis in 1958), All-Star appearances (six of them), All-NBA nods (second team twice), and even a famous footnote (being traded by the Celtics for Bill Russell). In that move alone, Hagan influenced NBA history. He's also the only player on this list to have suited up for the Dallas Chaparrals, so he's got that going for him, which is nice.

85. Chris Mullin. Between 1987-1993, Mullin peaked with 24/5/4 on the Run DMC Warriors. His shooting and playmaking landed him on the Dream Team where he seamlessly contributed among the finest collection of talent ever assembled on one roster. Mullin belonged. He was a superb shooter with one 50-40-90 season and many others that flirted around those benchmarks. Though his body deserted him later in his career, his mind remained sharp, and he is now being touted as a head coaching candidate for a few teams in his retirement.

84. Dave Bing. Bing was quite popular and was a volume scorer at his peak in the late sixties and early seventies for Detroit, but his teams were terrible, reaching the playoffs only five times in 12 seasons. Still, he made two All-NBA First Teams, one Second Team, and seven All-Star games despite partially detaching his retina in 1971.

83. Bobby Dandridge. The athletic Dandridge doesn't get much credit for the titles he helped deliver to the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971 or the Washington Bullets in 1978, but he teamed with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and then Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld in some historically formidable frontcourts. He hovered around 20 points most of his career with 5-7 rebounds and five assists, exhibiting the versatility a small forward should possess. He was a defensive force and a player whose averages crept up in the playoffs.

82. Carmelo Anthony. If we're going to anoint guys like Bernard King, we have to put Melo on this list. He has averaged no less than 21 ppg in each of his 13 seasons and as much as 29 ppg. He's been on six All-NBA Teams (but never a First Team thanks to a glut of fine forwards during his tenure), and he is up to 55th all-time in MVP shares for his career. Anthony is not LeBron James, to whom he will forever be compared, but he is an incredibly gifted scorer saddled with at best decent supporting casts in Denver and at worst, horrible teams in New York.

81. Chris Webber. I originally had Webber higher, but his sustained excellence isn't there when looking at his career arc. His Kings teams collapsed with a polite shove from the referees and the Lakers in 2002, but Webber was undeniably electric in the early 2000s, scoring inside and out, passing like a point guard, rebounding at a top-of-the-league clip, and combining with his teammates in a telepathic manner until the playoff games needed to be won. Webber had the tools his contemporaries dreamt of possessing, but he didn't maximize them.

80. Dwight Howard. As a rebounding, shot-blocking, anchoring force in Orlando, Howard carried an overachieving Magic team to the NBA Finals in 2009. He was easily the league's best big man for many years and may still be now that he is on the court and somewhat content again in Houston. From 2006 to 2014, Howard collected three Defensive Player of the Year Awards, eight All-NBA Teams nods (including five First Teams), eight All-Star trips, five rebounding titles, two blocks titles, and one year leading the league in field goal percentage. Dominant, yes. A winner? That's a more difficult question.

79. Chris Bosh. On the flip side from Howard, Bosh sacrificed the individual accolades for two championships and four runs to the NBA Finals. He made the whirling, frenetic defense of the Miami Heat work by guarding centers and the offense click by spacing the floor as a mid-range gunner at first and a three-point shooter the last couple years. Bosh pulled an admirable Bill Russell impression--whatever it takes to win, dynamic defending, scoring when needed, and repeated team success.

78. Tracy McGrady. He never got out of the first round. So what? Call me inconsistent, but McGrady had horrible injury luck with his potential running mates. Grant Hill's ankles collapsed, and Yao Ming's legs gave out. Look at what T-Mac did in their absence: 27/5/5 with a high of 32 ppg, 8 rpg, and 6.5 apg. Despite his team's playoff record, McGrady did all he could: Four years of 30-plus ppg and six years of 25-plus ppg with increased assists and rebounds. He is one of only seven players with a single-season PER of 30 or more and along with Jordan and Wade, one of only three guards to achieve the feat. Maybe I'm biased as a Rockets fan, but I think McGrady fits in this elite group.

77. Dan Issel. Between the ABA and NBA, Issel scored 27,482 points. That's ninth most ever. The only players ahead of Issel are Kareem, the Mailman, Kobe, Michael, Wilt, Dr. J, Moses, and Shaq. He is never mentioned among great big men perhaps because he piled up points and rebounds in the ABA, but in 10 seasons with the Nuggets, he was good for a consistent 20-8. He never made an All-Star or All-NBA Team, which is a significant hole in his resume, but for his longevity, he is here.

76. Artis Gilmore. Gilmore gets the same dismissal as Issel in most circles--long and good career, but not great. The man was a beast physically (look at the sculpted shoulders in the photo!), but he had a reputation for lacking toughness in the Dwight Howard mode. Imagine a couple more inches and far less athleticism, and you have Gilmore. A lane clogger, a board clearer, an efficient scorer (best career field goal percentage), and someone you want on your team, as long as he's not your number one.

75. Sidney Moncrief. Simmons thrives on identifying under-remembered players and celebrating their gifts. Moncrief's career was too brief because of bad knees, but he was a devastating defender and was the first Defensive Player of the Year. Michael Jordan said of Moncrief, "He'll hound you everywhere you go, both ends of the court. You just expect it." Moncrief could score, too, with five seasons at a 20 ppg clip and a career average of 15 points. His Bucks teams were thwarted in the playoffs, but Milwaukee won seven division titles and made the playoffs for ten straight years with Moncrief.

74. Lenny Wilkens. Without context, Wilkens' statistics indicate that he improved with age, but the Sports Guy rightly points out a spike in production during the NBA-ABA split, drug-infested 1970s, and subsequent talent-thin years. Still, Wilkens produced many quality years scoring and distributing for the St. Louis Hawks and Seattle Sonics. He averaged 18 points and 8 assists for Cleveland from 1972-74, then suffered a rapid statistical decline in his final season with the Blazers and retired. As an unassuming coach, he accumulated 1,332 wins in 32 seasons, second by a hair to Don Nelson's 1,335.

73. Chris Paul. In a brilliant piece on two of the league's top point guards, Ethan Sherwood Strauss equated last year's Chris Paul-Stephen Curry playoff matchup to a Peyton Manning-Brett Favre showdown. Curry's maverick shooting and showy handles wow crowds and win plenty of games and acclaim in a daring manner reminiscent of Favre, but Paul usually is heralded as the league's best point guard by virtue of the control he wields over the floor and the other nine hoopsters sharing the hardwood just as Manning manipulates the pieces around him on the gridiron. Prior to his knee problems, Paul carried Hornets teams to franchise heights. Now he's got a bonafide star beside him in Blake Griffin, a savvy coach in Doc Rivers, and a full assortment of complementary pieces. Can Paul's brilliant basketball mind deliver wins to a franchise that was historically bad prior to his arrival?

72. Manu Ginobili. Ginobili or Parker? How do I separate the two of them? Same number of years, same sort of roles, same star turns in four championship runs, same late draft pick foreigner storyline. Here's what made Parker the winner for me: His more consistent role in the regular season and his highest moment (winning the NBA Finals MVP in 2007) outdoing Ginobili's individual recognition (Sixth Man of the Year in 2007-08). But Ginobili is crafty great in his own right, a unique genius with a ridiculous understanding of angles, how to draw fouls, when to sneak into passing lanes, how to capitalize on momentum, and the way to inject incredible energy into his team.

71. Tony Parker. What's most remarkable about Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich, and the five championships they have won with the Spurs is the manner in which San Antonio adapted from a defensive juggernaut to an efficient, beautifully calibrated scoring squad. Parker is a primary reason for the transition. As Grantland writer Zach Lowe often notes, Parker makes the right split-second decision on dozens of pick-and-rolls every game. He often shoulders the late-game scoring duties on a team full of veterans with clutch moment resumes. He possesses a toolkit of teardrops, leaners, layups, and feathery touch shots no one can best. He was once rumored to be on the way out to make room for Jason Kidd, yet he stayed and is up to four championships with San Antonio. Besides Duncan and Pop, he has been the most vital cog in the reign of the Spurs.

70. David Thompson. Electric is an insufficient way to portray Thompson's combination of physical gifts, basketball brain, and decisive tendency. Defenders could not stop him, but cocaine could and did. Had he stayed clean, he was on a Jordan and Kobe pace early in his career. His dunks elevated a still-struggling game alongside Dr. J. Thompson could have been a dynamite rival for Kareem, Dr. J, Moses, Magic, and Bird. Instead, he flourished for a time long enough to make lists like this and short enough to always evoke a dreaded phrase in player evaluation: unfulfilled potential.

69. Dennis Rodman. The Bulls of 1995-96 are often touted as history's best, and while I would disagree, they indisputably possessed three of the most harassing, versatile, effective defenders to ever to take the floor. Rodman was inferior to his predecessor Horace Grant on offense, but he flummoxed Karl Malone in two Finals. His rebounding was remarkable. No one was more unpredictable or entertaining when cleaning the boards. Between the cameramen he head butted, the skirmishes he set off, the hairstyles he sported, and the antics he produced away from the team, he always had the potential to blow up a season, but when Chuck Daly and Phil Jackson harnessed the bulldog within Rodman, their teams jumped into historical relevancy.

68. Tommy Heinsohn. The Celtics are featured prominently in the Simmons hierarchy, a predictable conclusion for a Boston-sports maniac. Heinsohn he almost correctly rates, however. During his run to the eight championships Heinsohn won, he was an All-Star and All-NBA regular. He was the team jokester, the kind of guy who probably disobeyed the rule to flush it down if it's brown, the kind of guy so jolly everyone more willingly overlooked his horrid cigarette and booze habits, the kind of guy immune enough to pressure to put up 37 points and 23 rebounds in game seven of the 1957 NBA Finals against Bob Pettit while his Hall of Fame backcourt teammates Cousy and Sharman missed 35-of-40 shots. Heinsohn won, contributed mightily, and had as much fun as anyone doing it.

67. Pete Maravich. Some players are exceedingly fun to watch, imaginative to a fault, and never someone you want on your pickup team. Maravich was a magician, an undisputed scoring champion in college and the pros, but a forever mediocre performer when it came to team record. Blame it on teammates if you like, but Pistol Pete's gunning style never elevated anyone around him much. Look at someone like Steph Curry, and his unpredictable genius makes Mareese Speights and Draymond Green seem of increased caliber. The flash of Maravich was made for the 1970s, but his perimeter shooting would have thrived far more in today's landscape with the rules favoring premier ball handlers and shooters. If you want entertainment, he's your man. If you want substance, look elsewhere.

66. Earl Monroe. I'm trusting Simmons on this choice because looking at Monroe's career statistically, he should be lower, but how can a guy have so many great nicknames if he isn't great himself? Actually, Earl isn't even his first name. It's his middle name. He's really Vernon Monroe. Vernon would be the snotty, thick-lensed glasses guy writing a blog about nifty basketball players in my mind, so I think Monroe made a wise p.r. choice for himself there. If he was Vernon, do you think he would also be The Pearl, Black Jesus, Black Magic, Einstein, and my personal favorite, the Lord's Prayer? I think not. Maybe this choice is irrational, but based on the cool factor with a championship thrown in, I'm making the crazy decision to place Vernon Earl Monroe at no. 66.

65. Adrian Dantley. Using his very effective rear end to clear space, Dantley twice led the league in scoring and had a 17-season career featuring 23,177 points and two near-misses when it came to championships. He got traded from the Lakers to Utah the year before Magic arrived and got traded mid-season during the Pistons' first championship run. For four straight seasons in the early 1980s, he averaged over 30 ppg. The downfalls of Dantley are many: Only six playoff appearances and only six All-Star games, just two All-NBAs, a ton of turnovers, and multiple trades when his unorthodox and ball-demanding game didn't fit the team dynamic anymore. The guy could score, though. His field goal percentage of .540 is among the highest, especially for a small forward, and his career 24.3 ppg ranks in the top-20.

64. Alex English. Very similar to Dantley, English thrived as a small forward in the 1980s, and he was the decade's top point man. He played most of his career in Denver and put up 80 games and 25-plus ppg every year. Unlike Dantley, his teams often went to the playoffs with English as the top option. English also beats out Dantley in All-Star games (eight) and All-NBAs (three). Whereas Dantley was squatty, unorthodox and streaky, English was fluid, lanky, and consistent. He probably had better luck and better teammates, but he did slightly more individually than Dantley during an incredibly competitive time in the league. (His contemporaries at forward included Bird, Dr. J, Dantley, Dominique, Barkley, Malone, Worthy, and McHale.)

1 comment:

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