We begin our Countdown of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History:
50. Walt Bellamy-
Walt Bellamy was a player with incredible numbers, who was greatly overshadowed by the likes of Wilt Chamberlain & Bill Russell. Even with his great numbers, he never made an All-NBA 1st Team for one time in his entire 14-year career. However, he was still one of the best players that Wilt played in his prime, other than Russell.
Bellamy’s greatest season could be considered to be his rookie season in 1961-62. That year, his scoring peaked with a career-high 31.6 ppg. He also averaged a career-high 19 RPG, along with leading the league in Field Goal percentage. (52 %) Bellamy also led the league in most games played, with 88 in 1969. Walt Bellamy’s durability has been his greatest strength, with eight seasons playing 80 or more games. Walt Bellamy is a Basketball Hall of Famer.
49. “Pistol” Pete Maravich-
Pistol Pete was truly an innovator during his time. After a tremendous college career, Maravich took his talents as a scoring machine to the NBA in 1970. I consider him the ’70s version of Steve Nash, but with higher scoring averages.
Maravich was truly a basketball wizard, with his highlight reel behind the back passes, fast break passing, spins, and layups. If Pistol Pete played in today’s era, he would excel even more, with today’s rules along with the SportsCenter highlights. His scoring peaked in 1977, as he led the league with 31.1 ppg. His passing peaked at 6.9 APG.
However, Maravich was a volume scorer, who only made four playoff appearances. Each season, his team was eliminated early. He is also among the players with the very least amount of Win Shares in NBA history. His defense also left plenty to be desired. Maravich was a 5x NBA All-Star, Scoring champion, 2x All-NBA 1st Team selection, and a 2x All-NBA 2nd Team selection. Pistol Pete Maravich is a Basketball Hall of Famer.
48. Dave Cowens- Dave Cowens was a very gritty player and a vital piece to the Celtics titles during the 1970s. He was very undersized for a Center (6’9″), but Bill Russell gave him a ringing endorsement. Cowens won the 1971 Rookie of the Year Award. In 1973, Cowens received his shining moment as he was named NBA MVP. That season, his scoring peaked at 20.5 ppg, and his rebounding peaked at 16.2 RPG. He also led the Celtics to a franchise record 68 wins.
However, Boston would fall short to the eventual champion New York Knicks in the playoffs. Cowens never made the All-NBA 1st Team, even in an MVP Season. Obviously, when you are in an era with Kareem it is pretty hard. The following season, Dave Cowens would help lead the Celtics to their first title in five years, since Russell’s retirement. Cowens had a great clutch performance in Game 7, with 28 points, and 14 boards to defeat Kareem & Oscar’s Milwaukee Bucks.
Dave Cowens would go on to be the co-leader of another championship in 1976, but things would not last long afterward. Cowens was a 7-time NBA All-Star, Rookie of the Year, NBA MVP, All-Star MVP, 3x All-NBA 2nd Team selection, 1x All-Defensive 1st Team selection, and 3x All-Defensive 2nd Team selection. Dave Cowens is a Hall of Famer.
47. Bob McAdoo:
Bob McAdoo was an incredibly precise and prolific scorer in his prime. Long before the Clippers, McAdoo was a star for the Buffalo Braves. This is where he enjoyed the best run of his career.
In 1972-73, McAdoo won NBA Rookie of the Year (18/9.1). From 1974-77, Bob McAdoo had one of the greatest 4-year prime stretches in NBA history. During this time, he won three straight scoring titles (’74-’76). In 1973-74, McAdoo led the league in field goal percentage, with a sharp 54.7% field goal percentage. That season, he averaged a career-high 15.1 RPG. McAdoo enjoyed his finest season in 1974-75, where he won the NBA MVP Award (Career-high: 34.5 ppg/14.1 RPG).
His prime/peak value is one of the best that we have ever seen. Unfortunately, injuries cut his greatness short along with trades to different teams.
Bob McAdoo’s career was soon revived with new life, as he became a member of two Lakers championship teams, playing alongside Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy. During this time, McAdoo enjoyed success as a sixth man.
If injuries did not hinder his production, I believe Bob McAdoo’s numbers would be phenomenal. McAdoo was an NBA MVP, 5-time NBA All-Star, 3-time Scoring Champion, 1-time All-NBA 1st Team selection, and a 1-time All-NBA 2nd Team selection. Bob McAdoo is a Basketball Hall of Famer and legend.
46. Dolph Schayes:
When Dolph Schayes retired, he was the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. Schayes was a member of an NBA championship team (1955). In 1957-58, Dolph Schayes averaged a career-high 24.9 ppg.
He was also a great rebounder for his size, as his rebounding peaked at 16.4 RPG and passing at 4.0 APG. Schayes had great versatility on offense during his era, with his great mid-range shot. Dolph also learned how to shoot with his off-hand, which helped him, even more, when both of his hands were healthy.
However, with everything that he accomplished, Dolph Schayes never won an MVP award. Schayes also had 11 seasons in which he had a double-double. His free-throw shooting was excellent, as he led the league in free throw percentage three times. Dolph Schayes was an NBA champion, 12-time All-Star, 6-time All-NBA 1st Team, 6-time All-NBA 2nd Team, and 1966 NBA Coach of the Year. Mr. Dolph Schayes is a Hall of Famer.
45. Paul Pierce:
This man is one of the most beloved and respected players of his generation. The Truth has created his own special place in Boston Celtics history. Paul Pierce’s presence has made an impact on every team that he has played for. From Boston, Brooklyn to Washington, DC. Pierce has been a driving force for whatever team he is a part of, but his legacy with the Celtics will forever be written in stone.
Pierce is one of the greatest players to never win an MVP Award, but at least he still has an NBA Finals MVP. Kevin Garnett may have been the go-to player on the 2008 Celtics team, but Pierce was the cornerstone of that team.
Pierce’s Scoring Average peaked at 26.8 PPG, with a career-high of 7.3 RPG, and a career-high of 5.1 APG.
The Truth reigned in Boston for 15 years, becoming the Franchise’s second-leading Scorer with 24,021 points. Pierce has been known to shine the brightest during the Playoffs. Not only does he have the 2008 Finals MVP, but Pierce has earned the nickname of the Raptor Killer.
He has obliterated the dreams of other opponents as well. When you want to talk about clutch performers in NBA History, Paul Pierce has made enough of a case to be added to the conversation. Currently, he ranks 16th all-time in Career Points. Paul Pierce is a future NBA Hall of Famer and a Basketball Great.
44. Kevin Durant:
This might not be a very popular choice, but Kevin Durant has accomplished enough within 8 seasons to crack the Top 50. Think of George Gervin at 6’10” 235 lbs with an insane wingspan.
From the moment that he was Drafted by the now defunct Seattle SuperSonics in 2007, Kevin Durant was on the verge of doing major things. “The Durantula” is a four-time NBA Scoring Champion and the NBA MVP.
Durant averaged a Career-High 8.0 RPG in 2012 along with his Scoring Crown while leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to the NBA Finals. They would ultimately fall to the Miami Heat led by LeBron James.
His peak for Assists Per Game is at 5.5. In 2013, Durant led the NBA in Free Throw Percentage at 90.5%. That season, Durant also joined the 50-40-90 Club while shooting as he shot 51% FG, 42% 3PT, and 90.5% FT.
In 2014, Kevin Durant was named the NBA Most Valuable Player. That season, he captured his fourth NBA Scoring Title with a Career-High of 32.0 PPG. People will remember Kevin Durant’s MVP Season not just for his numbers, but also for his speech. He said that his Mother was “The Real MVP”. At the end of the 2014 Season, many people looked a Kevin Durant as the new King of the NBA. Media Experts, fans, and writers wanted to take the crown away from LeBron James.
Durant’s spectacular MVP Season has been marred by his recent injuries and a lackluster postseason by the Thunder. Lately, we have not seen a completely healthy Thunder Trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka. The last time we saw that Oklahoma City made it to the Finals.
There were also talks of Kevin Durant going back home to play for the Washington Wizards in the Offseason of 2016. However, he has chosen to align himself with the Golden State Warriors. Kevin has the chance to move higher in the rankings by adding some hardware to his legacy. When I say hardware, I don’t just mean MVP Awards or All-Star MVP Awards but an NBA Championship ring. KD is the youngest player to crack the NBA Top 50 Ranking and he deserves it.
43. Chris Paul:
The most consistent Point Guard of this Generation. CP3 is the quintessential Point Guard as he is the Gold standard by which others are to be measured by. In an era with the likes of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and others, Chris Paul has been constant.
CP3 led the league in assists for two straight seasons (2007-08, 2008-09) when he averaged a career-high 11.6 APG and 11.0 respectively. In 2009, Paul averaged a career-high 22.8 PPG as he was an MVP Candidate for both of those seasons that he was the Assists Leader.
He has also led the NBA in Assists in 2013-14, and 2014-15 with 10.7 and 10.2 APG. Chris Paul was able to raise the game of his teammates as the leader of the New Orleans Hornets for a number of years before joining the Los Angeles Clippers.
Now, the Clippers are one of the major threats in the West because of his presence as a floor general. Together, he and Blake Griffin formed “Lob City” which draws shades of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp in Seattle.
CP3 has also led the League in Steals six times with a Career-High of 2.8 SPG in 2009. Chris Paul is a player that demands the most out of his teammates with his demanding, tough style as a PG. Lately, he has drawn comparisons to Isiah Thomas. Both are known to be wizards with the ball, but Chris would have to compile some hardware to further solidify his place among the greatest PG’s of all-time.
42. Willis Reed:
The shining season of Willis Reed’s career came in 1970. That season, he became the first player in NBA history to win All-Star Game MVP, Regular Season MVP, and Finals MVP in one year. He also made the All-NBA 1st Team, and All-Defensive 1st Team.
The most heroic moment of his career came in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, where he limped to the court and inspired his team to victory. Willis Reed was a very fearlessly, tenacious player, on offense and defense.
His career high scoring average was 21.7 ppg. He also averaged a career-high 14.6 RPG. Reed would go on to win another Finals MVP in 1973, but injuries would diminish his effectiveness.
The year 1970 will forever be the defining year for Willis Reed’s legacy. Reed was also the “Sporting News MVP”, in a year with strong competition at his position.
Willis Reed was a 2-time NBA Finals MVP, 1-time NBA MVP, All-Star Game MVP, 7-time All-Star, 1-time All-NBA 1st Team selection, 1-time All-Defensive 1st Team selection, and a 4-time All-NBA 2nd Team selection. Willis Reed is a Basketball Hall of Famer.
41. Jerry Lucas:
Many people have swept the legacy of Jerry Lucas under the rug. Lucas was a prolific scorer, who played with the likes of Oscar Robertson during their primes in Cincinnati.
He would have put up more points as the singular star for another team. Lucas was also the NBA’s most popular player during the 1960s. His popularity boosted NBA attendance and helped the NBA’s new TV contract.
Jerry Lucas was a very accurate scorer. During his rookie season, Lucas led the league in field goal percentage, with 53%. Lucas was also a terrific rebounder.
For two straight seasons (1964-65, 65-66), he averaged over 20 rebounds per game. Lucas’ scoring peaked at 21.5 ppg while his passing peaked at 4.1 APG. As a result, Jerry Lucas was nicknamed the “20/20”. Wilt Chamberlain was the only other player to average 20/20.
From ’64-’69, he and Oscar were the only hope that those Royals teams had against the likes of Bill Russell’s Celtics. Of course, they would ultimately fall. They would also fall short to Wilt’s Sixers squad from 1967. Jerry Lucas would eventually have his taste of victory, as a member of the 1973 New York Knicks with the likes of Willis Reed, Frazier & co.
It was quite easy for a player like Jerry Lucas to be overshadowed when playing at the same time as Chamberlain, Russell, West, Oscar and Elgin. Lucas was a very efficient player during his era, with a great mid-range shot and touch.
He was also very durable & reliable, as he averaged over 46 minutes a game in his prime. Jerry Lucas was a 7-time NBA All-Star, NBA Champion, 1-time All-Star MVP, 3-time All-NBA 1st Team selection, and 2-time All-NBA 2nd Team selection. Jerry Lucas is a Hall of Famer.