NBA 75

NBA 75: Revisiting the list of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History

"NBA 75" is the celebration of the 2021-22 NBA season, the league's landmark 75th-anniversary campaign.

As part of the celebration, the NBA will name the 75 greatest players in league history, a tradition that began 50 years ago with the league's Silver Anniversary Team and the 35th Anniversary All-Time Team a decade later.

MORE: Who was named to the NBA's previous anniversary teams?

Ahead of the 1996-97 NBA season, the NBA celebrated its 50th season with the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history, a list that featured the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Bill Russell among the 50 Hall of Famers.

As we prepare to see the new list 25 years later, take a look back through the last all-time list and make note of a few interesting facts from the list of selected players.

Active Players

  • Named in October 1996, 11 of the top 50 were active during the 1996-97 NBA season: Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Robert Parish, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson and John Stockton.
  • Among active players, Parish (43) was the oldest while O'Neal (24) was by far the youngest.

On O'Neal…

  • With teams voted on ahead of the 1996-97 season, Shaq was voted in as one of the league's 50 greatest players after playing in a total of 295 regular-season games.
  • The No. 1 pick in the 1993 NBA Draft, O'Neal was an All-Star in each of his four seasons and earned his first scoring title in 1994-95, the same season he led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals.
  • Recovering from injury, O'Neal was unable to travel to Cleveland for the 1997 All-Star Game, which is why he is absent in the now-iconic photo.
  • Shaq is also the final member of this list to retire, ending his career following the 2010-11 NBA season.

MORE: All-time draft of Lakers legends

Super Teammates

  • The colour of the players' respective jackets provides a good idea of which teams these all-time greats made a name with, and it's hard not to notice that there is a lot of green.
  • As the league's charter franchises, the Boston Celtics, Golden State (Philadelphia) Warriors and New York Knicks are well represented, as are the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • With respect to the Celtics, a number of eras are represented. On three separate occasions, four members of the 50 Greatest Players suited up alongside one another in Celtic green.
    • 1962-63 - Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Sam Jones and Bill Russell
    • 1979-80 - Nate "Tiny" Archibald, Larry Bird, "Pistol" Pete Maravich and Dave Cowens
    • 1980-81 - Archibald, Bird, Parish and Kevin McHale
  • Not to be outdone, the 1972-73 NBA Champion Knicks featured five members (or 10 percent) of the 50 Greatest Players in Dave DeBusschere, Walt "Clyde" Frazier, Jerry Lucas, Earl "The Pearl" Monroe and Willis Reed.
  • In addition to those groups of four or more teammates, some notable trios include: Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West (1968-71 Los Angeles Lakers), Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson and James Worthy (1982-89 Lakers), Barkley, Julius Erving and Moses Malone (1984-86 Philadelphia 76ers) Jordan, Pippen and Parish (1996-97 Chicago Bulls).

Decade-by-decade

  • George Mikan is the lone member of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players to debut in the 1940s.
  • More than any other decade, 16 members of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players debuted in the 1960s; 14 players debuted in the 1980s.
  • In addition to O'Neal, who retired in 2011, eight other members of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players played their final game after the year 2000, including Barkley, Jordan, Karl Malone, Olajuwon and Stockton.
  • Parish and Abdul-Jabbar are first and second in career games played, respectively. Drafted in 1976, Parish's career spanned over three decades, as did that of Abdul-Jabbar, who was drafted in 1969 and retired in 1989.

MORE: All-time leaders in games played

25 years later…

  • Abdul-Jabbar still sits first All-Time with 38,387 career points, Karl Malone retired as second with 36,928 career points.
  • Chamberlain (23,924), Russell (21,620) and Abdul-Jabbar (17,740) still sit at first, second, and third, respectively, on the all-time career rebounds.
  • The NBA Finals MVP award is now named in Russell's honour.
  • Barkley and O'Neal are studio analysts on TNT's "Inside the NBA," McHale and Isiah Thomas work as analysts on NBA TV, Frazier is a colour analyst for the Knicks while Worthy works in the studio for Lakers broadcasts.
  • Bird is a special advisor with the Indiana Pacers, West is an executive board member for the LA Clippers and Jordan is the principal owner and chairman of the Charlotte Hornets.
  • Wes Unseld's son, Wes Unseld Jr. is the head coach of the Washington Wizards. Walton's son, Luke, is the head coach of the Sacramento Kings

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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