Globe’s revised ’50’ maybe not so nifty

Dave Bing and Billy Cunningham may not mind at all. Bill Walton, Dave Cowens and James Worthy stay pretty busy and might not have time to worry about it. A few others – Dave DeBusschere, Pete Maravich, Bill Sharman – are peacefully past the point of fretting.

None of which means the Boston Globe will get no grief from the family, friends and fans of the former NBA players it is hypothetically ousting from the NBA’s well-known 50 Greatest Players list. The Globe, and specifically columnist and longtime NBA writer Gary Washburn, became the latest outlet this weekend to “revisit” the better-than-Hall-of-Fame fraternity put together by the NBA in 1996-97 to celebrate the league’s 50th anniversary.

In updating and accounting for players whose careers continued past or have unspooled entirely since that season, the Globe identified 13 current or more recent greats to add. Which, of course, meant shedding an equal number to maintain that magic number of 50. In addition to the fellows mentioned above, these five were unceremoniously dumped by the Boston newspaper: Sam Jones, Earl Monroe, Willis Reed, Nate Thurmond and Wes Unseld.

That’s a tough purge.

In truth, obviously, there really was nothing magical about 50. It offered a nifty 50-for-50 hook for the exercise, same as the league’s “silver anniversary” announced in 1971 produced a roster of 25 legends. The most logical way to update the list of 50 would be to wait for the next notable anniversary – say, the 75th in 2021-22 – and bump the number of honorees by 25.

That way, even with a few revisions and (ahem) dis-invitations, there would be plenty of room for newbies such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant Kevin Durant, Allen Iverson and Kevin Garnett without requiring a whole squad of Hall of Famers to head to the lifeboats.

Then again, no one attempts a re-visit like this without understanding the consequences, in terms of Web site comments, nasty emails and wholesale second-guessing and even mockery. Washburn and the Globe seemed to anticipate as much in laying out the parameters for what might seem to some to be shameless click-bait but is hard to resist for hardcore NBA fans:

It was not easy. Some Hall of Famers had to be removed to make room for new players. Production in one era had to be compared with production in another. Players who accumulated great individual statistics had to be compared with those who were great winners and had more team success.

In addition, the Globe did what the NBA didn’t do 19 years ago: We ranked the players, 1 to 50, which should prompt even more debate.

This was an even more arduous task.

Where do you rank someone such as George Mikan, the first dominant center? Do you rank one player over another because he won more championships? Where do you place those whose careers were shortened by injury or who decided to retire in their prime?

Hopefully, this exercise will offer an opportunity to appreciate the greats of the past as well as acknowledge the current players who have achieved greatness.

So check it out and feel free to use it as sports bar conversation.


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  2. Marty says:

    How can Larry Bird be 4 spots below Magic? Bird should be # 4 or 5 where’s the “Dream” ? Not in the top 10 is absurd
    1 Jordan 2 Russell 3 Kareem 4 Wilt5 Bird 6 Magic 7 Olajuwon 8 Oscar 9 Shaquille 10 Duncan,West

  3. Marty says:

    How can Larry Bird be 4 spots below Magic? Bird should be # 4 or 5 where’s the “Dream” ? Not in the top 10 is absurd

  4. C4 50x says:

    I like looking through a post tht can make people think.
    Also, many thanks for allowing for mee to comment!

  5. Greatness says:

    They shouldn’t rank them and they shouldn’t have taken people off the list. They should have just added.

  6. OC says:


    Come on, why they just don’t add another 20 of the great players from this new generation/era? Anyways the league is about to turn to it’s 70th birthday. Why not just make the list of 70 greatest? you guys need to show some respect for the actual men playing their all for many years in the hardwood.

    Having defined 50 and now removed some of them; it is kind of disrespectful and NOT NICE! from wherever I see this new list…

  7. Lakers says:

    God you people are pathetic, trying to make sure the players that should be on a list end up on a list. These players don’t “deserve” to be on lists are you kidding me lol Michael Jordan sure as hell don’t care about any dang lists

  8. Ron says:

    Revisionism. Pistol Pete not on the list. LOL.
    Ah well this in a country that does not even have a holiday for George Washington.

  9. Tom says:

    This is a better list, but Kobe is never high enough.

    1. MJ
    2. Kobe
    3. Bird
    4. Kareem
    5. Russell
    6. Magic
    7. Shaq
    8. Wilt
    9. don’t really care about the rest (except for Dennis Rodman, nice job! :D)

  10. Greatness says:

    Just Booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Michael says:

    Duncan at 16? 2x MVP, 3x Finals MVP, 15x All-NBA, 15x All-Defensive, 15x All-Star. What more could he do to make the top 10?

  12. Unkaned says:

    A hapless mess to begin with, and a stupid thing to even start. Who’s even making these decisions? The 1st time around, they put Dave Cowens on but left off Bob McAdoo. The top 30 or so are easy. Otherwise, what were these clowns thinking about?

  13. Bill says:

    Why not just add to the list? So on the NBA’s 100th season, we have the 100 best players, with the latter 50 drawn from between 1997-2047? That way there’s room for more players, and there’s no need to remove anyone.

  14. Bill says:

    Why not just add to the list? So on the NBA’s 100th season, we have the 100 best players, with the latter 50 drawn from between 1997-2047? That way there’s room for more players overall, and no need to cut anyone.

  15. BOZ says:

    Wilt Chamberlain did for basketball what Babe Ruth did for baseball. The same old tired story I’ve heard for 40+ years. Place Chamberlain with Russell’s Celtic teams and …

  16. cantorrachel says:

    5.Oscar Robertson
    6.Bill Russell
    7.Larry Bird
    8.John Stockton
    10.Jerry West
    13.Father Tim
    14.Steve Nash
    15.Moses Malone
    16.Karl Malone
    18.Pete Maravich
    20.Wes Unseld

    • Mike says:

      Too many NBA fans are obsessed with lists!! Who cares about that guy’s list!? Who cares about your list!? Nobody cares about your all time starting 5. Nobody cares about your all star picks. Basically, if your team doesn’t win the championship then the next best thing is to apparently come up with a list. Below is a list of the Top 10 lists that I don’t care about simply because they’re pointless and a waste of time:

      1. Greatest dynasties

      2. Best PGs

      3. Best Centers

      4. Best SGs

      5. Top 50 Greatest Players

      6. All star picks

      7. Best coaches

      8. Best shooters

      9. Greatest finals series

      10. Any list that exists in these forums…

  17. RC says:

    They should have 50 greatest for different eras. 1946 – 1960, 1964 – 1980, etc. Trying to compare 1940 NBA to 2015 players is impossible; the game, athleticism, skill-sets and the rules have changed dramatically. Everybody on the original list deserves to be there for their own time and the players who came after them deserve other lists.

  18. Dzej says:

    Let me just say that mentioning iverson durant and garnett and leaving nowitzki behind is disrispectful. he is better than any of them (durant may be better but we have not seen it yet). guys at the opencourt revisited the list in a nice fashion. they added another 10 players to that list. once you’re on the list, you’re there forever. and 75 years anniversary will be a nice occasion to officially add 25 more players to those 50.

  19. Greatness says:

    1.Micheal Jordan
    2.Kareem Abdul Jabbar
    3.Bill Russel
    4.Wilt Chamberlain
    5.Magic Johnson
    6.Jerry West
    7.Kobe Bryant
    8..Oscar Robertson
    9..Larry Bird
    10.LeBron James(Will Move Up to 6th Later In His Career)

  20. SchobyWahn says:

    Well, i´m from germany so i am obviously biased but nowitzki at 30 is a joke. What makes it even worse is KG far ahead of him? Honestly? Serious? I mean if Dirk had any Players number then it was KGs. Dirk changed the whole PF position. 7th best scorer all time and his 2011 Playoff run should catapult him into the top 20 at least und higher than KG for sure….incredible disrespectful!

  21. lacaille says:

    This is to all of those players that were of the list. First of all anybody that played against them can tell you how good they were. these lists are always a farce anyway. They are always made up by people ib the media that aren’t even sure if the basketball is round. It’s like all of the stupid stats that they have today. Lebron is a great player but the fact that he is the youngest player to reach 25,000 points is meaningless. Those old guys like Oacar Robertson who also went over 25,000 points didn’t have the three point shot at their disposal like so many othe things that changed over the years. Get real.

  22. Alex says:

    No Duncan in the Top 10? That’s brutal. But, if you ask 10,000 people to make this list, you’d get 10,000 different lists. Anyway, there’s no need to leave off anyone. This should be done the way I do it which is a Top 100 list. I started my list in 8th grade (I’m 38 now). I’ll continue to edit my list once per year for the rest if my life. By the time I’m in my 60’s, I’ll probably have to go up to 125. This list should never stay at the same number. It makes ranking impossible (and sometimes offensive to other players). Here’s a small taste of my list. I have a standby system that I’ve always used. I had Mike on standby at one point as well as Duncan. Standby is for players who have Top 5 potential, therefore left off until they’re past their prime (Lebron, Durant etc for example)
    1) Jordan
    2) Russell
    8) Wilt
    9) Olajuwon
    10) Big O
    11) Moses
    18) Robinson)

  23. Rob says:

    The top twenty in the list has mostly the right players, but, mostly in the wrong order. The usual heavy bias towards guys that played for the Lakers and undermining guys that played in smaller markets.

  24. None Of The Above says:

    Another “best of” list built on hype rather than substance. If people could look at these things objectively the lists would look very different.

  25. JBR says:

    Wade in, Maravich out???

    Modern revisionism at it’s most absurd.

  26. Jordan says:

    This list made me laugh for about 10 minutes straight. This list is either bias or written by a 12 year old. More than half the rankings are completely and utterly wrong or debatable. Smh.

  27. Al B says:

    Earl the Pearl revolutionized guard play. He invented isolation play. And did it in a team concept. The spin move. The hesitation move. The shot off the dribble. Iverson, Maverich, Curry all stole from him. Even if they don’t know it. If he thought like Kobe. He would have had 10,000 more pts. My favorite player as a kid. Was Clyde Frazier. One of best two way players ever. (Sorry Clyde) Earl the Pearl usually owned him. Pearl taught my generation more one on moves. Than any player in history. U don’t know Ball. If you don’t know Earl the Pearl Monroe.

  28. himbu says:

    Kobe shouldn’t be on the list at all, you are delusional. He has worse career FG than any of those guys.

  29. Juriggi says:

    You cannot include those players that played after 1996 – 1997, though they are better than some of the players mentioned in the 50th anniversary because, it’s common sense, the list is only for those players who played within the 50 years of the league’s existence. I agree with the comments above, wait for the 75th ( or 100th) anniversary, then add another 25 players ( add 50 more for the 100th). Also, there is no way Lebron James is better than Kobe Bryant, lest Tim Duncan to add. There is no comparison, not at all.

  30. Kome the Black Dumba says:

    Ha! 4-9!

    Kome can always be the crown for most missed shots.

    Kobetard at it’s best!

  31. Basel Beasty says:

    This list is horribly made. Lebron should not be ahead of kobe. Lebron shouldn’t even be in the top 20. Bill Russel and Wilt Chamberlain should be 6 and 7 while Larry bird should be 10 and kobe should be at least either anywhere from 4-9. There are also so many more mistakes.

    • Jeevster says:

      You’ve got to be kidding me. How the hell can you rank Kobe above Bill Russell or Wilt?

    • jOLAN says:

      Kobe hasn’t done anything for the last 3 years! He wasn’t the best player on his team the first three championships, and Pau should of arguably won finals MVP over him the one year. Lebron shouldn’t be above kobe yet, but he will be, no doubt about it. If Kobe cared more about winning, he would of gone to another team a few years ago and taken a different roll to help win a championship.

      • ben says:

        I’m not a Lakers fan but I just want to ask, so would the Lakers have won their championships post-Shaq era if Kobe wasnt with them??

    • Rick Gallan says:

      The list is not horribly made, most makes sense. Lebron is ahead of Kobe and easily in the top 10. If you understand a little bit about this game you would know that Lebron is a better basketball player than Kobe. Don’t come with the 5 rings argument because what we are comparing here is individuals and not teams. I appreciate the game and respect Kobe’s talent but he is nowhere close to Lebron. You, Basel, just sounds like a hater.

      • Rocks says:

        No where close? Lol. To say lebron is better then Kobe is fine. Yet to say Kobe is no where close to lebron is ridiculous. People take your personal feelings out of it and respect Kobe for the great player he was. Unbelievable the hate that Kobe receives.

      • Basel Beasty says:

        I’m not a hater, Lebron is a top ten but not right now. The reason is because he doesn’t have the rings. Two are fine but he can’t be in the top ten this early without more. At the end of his career even if he still has 2 he probably will be the 4th best ever ahead of kobe who would probably be the 5th. But it is too early and anyway I don’t like that they ranked them because it is too much controversy and it is just an opinion wether championships are more important than pure talent.