The NBA has created some of the greatest legacies in sports that will never be forgotten. Michael Jordan and LeBron James stand out as two icons that will easily be discussed forever in NBA discussions. Even older stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain are names most sports fans are aware of. The NBA does a good job ensuring the iconic players will stand the test of time and be remembered fondly in the sports world. However, there are quite a few great players that don’t get the same treatment. Whether it’s lack of NBA Championship rings, not winning enough MVP Awards or just not creating a strong enough body of work, these outstanding talents get lost in the shuffle.
We will look at some of the best NBA stars over the past two decades to be forgotten. The 90s era saw these guys fail to create a story as memorable as Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon or the other stars of the time. Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson and LeBron dominating the 2000s made it equally hard for other players to find glory in that decade as well.
Most NBA fans would agree these forgotten players are greats. Their talent and contributions are not what’s in question here. The issue is that they just don’t get mentioned as much as their peers when it comes to their respective eras. Find out which underrated talents from the past deserve your attention occasionally. These are thirteen NBA stars of the 90s and twelve NBA stars of the 2000s that even hardcore fans sometimes forget about.
25 90s: Latrell Sprewell
The career of Latrell Sprewell is an afterthought today despite having an outstanding run in the 90s. Sprewell is most remembered for the controversial moment of choking his Golden State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo. It led to a 68-game suspension for the remainder of the season. This led to Sprewell’s time with the Warriors being discounted despite making three of his four All-Star appearances with them.
Golden State would trade him to the New York Knicks where he continued to play well.
Sprewell was a valuable player for the Knicks when they went to the 1999 NBA Finals.
Despite putting up great numbers throughout his career and making All-Star teams, no one talks about Sprewell’s career today.
24 2000s: Elton Brand
Elton Brand was one of the most underrated players of the 2000s. The play at power forward saw him have a couple of All-Star seasons. Brand’s best year came in 2006 as an MVP candidate averaging 24.7 points and 10 rebounds while leading the Los Angeles Clippers back into the playoffs.
The Clippers, Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers all saw Brand play great basketball for them as a consistently great power forward. Unfortunately, he never contended for an NBA Championship or dominated like Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett. Brand gets little love today, but he deserves respect for his accomplishments in the decade.
23 90s: Tim Hardaway
Tim Hardaway was one of the premiere point guards of the 90s despite not being discussed when breaking down the best players at the position. Fellow 90s point guards John Stockton and Gary Payton get more respect with history likely rewarding them for playing huge roles in their teams getting to the NBA Finals.
Hardaway did not have similar postseason success, but he was a great talent as shown with his stats. He averaged 20+ points five times in his career and 9+ assists five times as well. The magic number of five also saw Hardaway make five All-Star appearances all in the 90s. Hardaway’s accolades deserve more appreciation that it gets today.
22 2000s: Allan Houston
The New York Knicks saw their relevance in the 90s during the Patrick Ewing era end relatively quickly into the 2000s. There were a couple of impressive seasons to start the decade thanks to the great play of shooting guard Allan Houston. The three-point shooting and scoring ability of Houston made him a two-time All-Star in 2000 and 2001.
Houston shined as the face of the franchise before sustaining various knee injuries that would change his career.
Following three superb seasons, Houston would struggle to suit up due to the lingering injuries. The career of Houston would never be the same and it led to him being a forgotten near superstar of the 2000s.
21 90s: Kevin Johnson
The early 90s Phoenix Suns had the best chance at defeating Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals. Phoenix battled Chicago to a very competitive six-game series and were seconds away from potentially having a Game 7 on their home court. Everyone rightfully remembers Charles Barkley’s greatness from that team, but Kevin Johnson was another outstanding player for them.
Johnson spent his entire career in Phoenix aside from 53 games in his rookie season. The time with the Suns featured Johnson making three All-Star appearances and four All-NBA squads on the second or third teams. Phoenix remembers him fondly as their most consistent star of the 90s.
20 2000s: Antawn Jamison
Antawn Jamison was a consistent source of very good play throughout the 2000s. The Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards saw Jamison’s best years with them. Jamison made two All-Star appearances and averaged 19+ points per game throughout the decade.
The Cleveland Cavaliers believed Jamison would be good enough as the second player alongside LeBron James to lead them to an NBA Championship. LeBron would leave to join the Miami Heat after a half-season with Jamison. The latter was at the end of his prime and fell out of relevance in the league to start the next decade in lackluster fashion.
19 90s: Joe Dumars
The Detroit Pistons bad boys’ era team saw them win two NBA Championships towards the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s. Isiah Thomas rightfully gets the credit for being the best player on the roster during those two seasons. However, Joe Dumars could be argued as the better overall Pistons player.The career of Dumars was spent entirely in Detroit as he never left the franchise.
Dumars made six All-Star appearances, all in the 90s as one of the top guards in the NBA.
Fans rarely talk about Dumars when discussing the best 90s players, but Detroit’s fan base would love to change that perception.
18 2000s: Michael Finley
The Dallas Mavericks made an impact in the early 2000s when the league was open for new contenders to seize the moment. A big three of Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Michael Finley allowed the Mavericks to make some noise in the postseason with each man bringing an exciting style of play.
Finley gets the least credit today for his run in the 2000s. Two All-Star appearances and many great overall seasons made him a star in Dallas basketball history, but he gets lost in the shuffle when discussing over 2000s great. Finley was able to at least win an NBA Championship as part of the 2007 San Antonio Spurs.
17 90s: Drazen Petrovic
The story of Drazen Petrovic’s career is a rather sad one compared to the other names on the list. New Jersey Nets fans felt they had their superstar of the future when Petrovic started to step up in his final two seasons in the NBA. Petrovic averaged 22.3 points per game in the 1992-1993 season which led him to making the All-NBA third team.
Unfortunately, that would be the final season of his career. Petrovic passed away during the offseason after getting into an automobile accident. NBA legend Reggie Miller believes Petrovic was the best shooter he’s ever seen and says the late Nets great may have had a similar legacy as him if he didn’t pass away at a young age.
16 2000s: Michael Redd
The three-point shooting of Michael Redd made him an offensive asset for the Milwaukee Bucks. Redd only made one All-Star appearance, but he had six great seasons in a row averaging 20+ points per game each year.
The problem is his injuries would cause him to miss time and it hurt his standing in the league.
Redd fell off the radar quickly and never received as much coverage during his best seasons due to Milwaukee being a small market never contending for an NBA Championship. The career of Redd is barely remembered today as few fans ever bring him up when talking about the greats of the 2000s.
15 90s: Rod Strickland
Rod Strickland is one of the most underrated NBA players of the 90s. The talent and style of Strickland each allowed him to shine as a fascinating point guard. Strickland played primarily for the Portland Trail Blazers and the Washington Wizards in the 90s.
Most would agree the best success of Strickland’s career came in the 1997-98 season when he led the league in assists with 10.5 to go with 17.8 points per game. Strickland was never a top player on a contending team, but he deserves way more credit than he gets for his basketball career in the 90s.
14 2000s: Baron Davis
There were a few seasons where Baron Davis was among the most exciting players in the league. The two All-Star appearances for Davis came in the 2000s as a member of the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets. Davis would light it up offensively with great dunks and impressive outside shooting.
While the Hornets had Davis’ best stint, his most memorable success came as part of the Golden State Warriors. Davis led the ‘We Believe’ Warriors team as an eighth seed to upset the top seed Dallas Mavericks in the 2007 NBA Playoffs. The career of Davis is rarely discussed today, but he certainly accomplished a lot in his playing days.
13 90s: Larry Johnson
Larry Johnson was a popular player in the 90s that didn’t see his success translate into a longer-lasting legacy. The nickname of Grandmama was given to him in Converse ads that delivered some of the most entertaining athlete commercials at the time. Johnson cashed in by playing excellent basketball on the court for the Charlotte Hornets.
Both of Johnson’s All-Star appearances came during his time on the Hornets.
The New York Knicks had Johnson on their team for the last four seasons of the decade. While Johnson declined due to injury issues, he hit an iconic four-point play to help lead the Knicks to the 1999 NBA Finals.
12 2000s: Jermaine O'Neal
The Portland Trail Blazers drafted Jermaine O'Neal out of high school, but he didn’t become a star until he was traded to the Indiana Pacers in 2000. O’Neal instantly showed his potential by progressing into Indiana’s best player as Reggie Miller aged before retiring in the decade.
The stellar play of O’Neal saw him make six consecutive All-Star appearances for the Pacers and earn the reputation for being a top tier big man at the time. Indiana often had successful regular seasons with O’Neal leading the way, but they never could get over the New Jersey Nets or Detroit Pistons to make the NBA Finals. O’Neal’s lack of playoff success caused fans to forget his regular season greatness.
11 90s: Chris Mullin
Chris Mullin likely would have been a bigger star in the league today due to the three-point shot being his strongest asset. The career of Mullin was still an overwhelming success in the 90s with a tremendous run on the Golden State Warriors.
Mullin made five All-Star appearances with four of them coming in the 90s. Many fans forget Mullin was also part of the iconic 1992 Dream Team that won a gold medal for the United States in basketball. The talent of Mullin made him a Warriors legend, but he is not one of the 90s stars that fans treat with recognition these days.
10 2000s: Stephon Marbury
Stephon Marbury’s career saw many twists and turns throughout the 2000s. The talented point guard put up outstanding numbers during his time on the New Jersey Nets, Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks. Marbury made two All-Star appearances with career averages of 19.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
The stats would be even better if he didn’t start to fall apart personally and professionally towards the end of his Knicks run.
Marbury’s controversial attitude led to him falling out of the league faster than anyone expected. While he did become a sensation in China, basketball fans in North America don’t remember him fondly despite his great numbers.
9 90s: Alonzo Mourning
The center position was loaded in the 90s with the likes of David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal being the top three most remember. Alonzo Mourning is one big man rarely mentioned when discussing the best centers of the 90s, but he deserves some recognition.
Mourning had a great run with the Charlotte Hornets and became an even bigger star for the Miami Heat. Four of his seven All-Star appearances came in the 90s. Mourning was considered a dark horse MVP candidate on a few occasions. He made the Heat franchise relevant and had an incredible run in the decade.
8 2000s: Ben Wallace
Ben Wallace is a name most NBA fans have forgotten about despite being one of the all-time great defensive players. Despite not having much of an offensive game, Wallace played a huge role in the Detroit Pistons having an incredible Eastern Conference run throughout the 2000s.
The biggest accomplishments of Wallace’s career featured him winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award on four occasions and play a significant part in the Pistons dominating the Los Angeles Lakers to win the 2004 NBA Championship. The lack of excitement in Wallace’s offense is a major reason fans easily forgot about him.
7 90s: Glen Rice
The career of Glen Rice deserves way more respect than it gets following his retirement. Rice would be a significantly bigger star today due to the importance of three-point shooting. His game was predicated on hitting three-pointers and it brought him great success.Rice made three All-Star appearances in the 90s and won the 1997 All-Star Game MVP.
Both the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat got to witness his best years in the league.
Rice averaged 20+ points in six seasons throughout the 90s, including a career best of 26.8 points in the 1996-97 season. Unfortunately, he is not remembered much in NBA circles today.
6 2000s: Shawn Marion
The Phoenix Suns changed the landscape of the NBA in the 2000s when dominating the regular season with a fast-paced offense that helped the league get to its current place today. Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire understandably get the most credit, but Shawn Marion was almost as important as they were.
The overall athletic ability of Marion saw him contribute on defense while most of his teammates could only deliver on the offensive side. Marion made four All-Star appearances in the 2000s and played a huge role in the wing player becoming even more important moving forward. While he is not celebrated much today, Marion was able to get a ring in 2011 with the Dallas Mavericks before retiring.
5 90s: Shawn Kemp
Only diehard 90s NBA fans will truly remember how incredible Shawn Kemp was throughout the decade. Highlights show that he was an incredible dunker, but Kemp contributed to the game on every level in his prime. All of Kemp’s great seasons took place in the 90s, including six consecutive seasons with double doubles.
Kemp was a huge reason the Seattle SuperSonics made the 1996 NBA Finals and were among the most impressive teams to not win it all when falling short to the iconic 72-10 Chicago Bulls team. Kemp had a chance to become an all-time great, but personal issues ended his relevance and career in the early 2000s.
4 2000s: Steve Francis
Steve Francis had a great start to the 2000s as one of the first breakout stars of the decade. The Houston Rockets point guard made three All-Star appearances between 2002 and 2004, including spots in the starting lineup. Francis eventually got traded to the Orlando Magic for Tracy McGrady.
The skills of Francis still delivered impressive seasons, but his play declined a little.
Things fell apart towards the end of the decade when Francis joined the dysfunctional New York Knicks leading to the end of his relevance.
Personal issues further buried Francis’s career and life. Despite being a multiple time All-Star starter in the 2000s, no one talks about his great accolades today.
3 90s: Mitch Richmond
The career of Mitch Richmond clearly doesn’t get the respect he deserves when looking at his stats. Richmond spent most of the 90s with the Sacramento Kings making six All-Star appearances in the stacked Western Conference.
The body of work by Richmond should put him in the discussion for the greatest Kings star in franchise history, but he doesn’t get mentioned as much as Chris Webber. A career average of 21 points per game showed just how great of a scorer Richmond was throughout his career. It’s time to start mentioning him when breaking down the best stars of the 90s.
2 2000s: Peja Stojakovic
The best team of the 2000s to not win the NBA Championship was the 2002 Sacramento Kings. Chris Webber, Mike Bibby and Peja Stojakovic came one game short of dethroning the Los Angeles Lakers and may have done it without controversial officiating. The play of Stojakovic was the biggest reason Sacramento took the jump from a good West team to a legitimate contender.
Stojakovic made three All-Star appearances and was arguably the best three-point shooter of the decade.
Fans don’t remember him as fondly due to the latter years of his career being less impressive. However, Peja deserves the love as a 2000s great, especially for the 2003-2004 season finishing fourth in MVP voting.
1 90s: Penny Hardaway
The Orlando Magic had a chance to become a dynasty thanks to the duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway in the 90s. Both men were among the best at their position and had folks all in on their future when they made the 1995 NBA Finals before getting swept by the Houston Rockets.
Hardaway looked like a future legend in the 90s with the combination of skill, athleticism and personality. Four NBA All-Star appearances and two All-NBA first team selections proved he was among the top guards in the league. A combination of Shaq leaving Orlando and injuries hitting Hardaway would see his career fall apart instantly. Penny still deserves love for being a top tier superstar for the latter half of the 90s.