Prior to the 2021-22 season, the NBA announced it 75th Anniversary Team to honor the greatest 75 players in league history. In anticipation of that moment, my son and I developed an algorithm to create our own list of all-time greats. The NBA relied on a panel of “expert” voters who likely utilized the “eye test” while this site relied purely on objective measures such as stats, awards, and titles. There was significant overlap in the names on both lists, but this post provides a ranking to make the debate that much more interesting. Who’s the GOAT? Who got snubbed? Who didn’t quite deserve the honor? It’s all in here. Read and enjoy.
Throughout its history, the NBA has relied on an assortment of gimmicks to determine how teams could select new players. Well before the use of lotteries and coin flips, the league gave teams a preferential right to select local players who presumably offered a built-in following. This type of draft exemption ended by the mid-1960s, but not before the rule was applied inconsistently for one player. Wanna take a guess?
As surprising as it might sound, Wilt Chamberlain is one of the most underrated players in NBA history. While his height was certainly an advantage, his athleticism is often overlooked. Whether fair or not, professional basketball players are remembered most for winning championships and Wilt only won two titles while his biggest rival, Bill Russell, won eleven. The following post highlights some of Chamberlain’s individual records, but focuses more on the rule changes which were inspired by him. Jordan may be the greatest basketball player ever, but Chamberlain changed the game more than anyone else.
Oscar Robertson arguably was one of the top five or ten players in NBA history with extraordinary talent as a scorer, rebounder and passer. As an indication of his all-around ability, he is the only player to have averaged a triple double for an entire season. Less well known, but perhaps even more impressive, was his achievement of averaging double digit points, rebounds and assists over the first five years of his career. As an aside for stat junkies, he was 0.05 rebounds per game away from doing it through his first six seasons. For as incredible as Robertson’s “triple-double season” was, however, it might be overrated. To start, the infrequency of triple doubles today (on average, one occurs every 36 games) skews our perspective of it. Furthermore, the concept didn’t exist until five years after his retirement so the accomplishment was the product of retroactive data mining. If the NBA had recognized the stat in the 1960s, who knows how many triple doubles Robertson would have recorded. Then again, who knows how many other players (e.g. Wilt Chamberlain) would have had as well.