In 1996, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the National Basketball Association, the 50 Greatest Players in the NBA were chosen. The process was conducted by a panel of media members, former players, coaches, along with current and former general managers. David Stern announced the list on October 29, 1996, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York. 47 of these player later assembled during the halftime ceremony of the 1997 All-Star Game in Cleveland, and this group included Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and so many more.
The last active player on this list was Shaquille O'Neal, who retired in 2011. A whole new breed of players have taken over the league since then, and new stars rise with every passing year. There is no doubt that some of the players drafted since 1996 have outplayed many players on the 50 Greatest Players list that was made before their arrival. It's been a long 20 years since these players were chosen, and since then there have been many great additions to the NBA, so it is only fair that these players are recognized as some of the greatest as well. A list of the greatest that doesn't include LeBron James, Kobe Bryant or Stephen Curry, is a list that I feel needs to be updated.
In this article, I have selected 15 players who have distinguished themselves on the court enough during the last 20 years, for me to feel they are qualified to be added. This list will not be going back to players that were snubbed from the first choosing, but looks forward to players that have made a name for themselves since. Some we will all agree on, and others may lead to discussion, but here are my 15 additions to the greatest players in NBA history.
Let the debate begin.
15 Ray Allen
Ray Allen is one of the best shooters of all time. In fact, he continues to hold the NBA record for the most three point shots ever made. Ray made a name for himself early in his career on the Milwaukee Bucks as a reliable shot maker. Allen is most remembered for his time on the 2008 championship Celtics team, where his clutch shooting helped to lead them to his first championship ring.
Later in his career while a member of the Miami Heat, he made one of his most famous three point shots against the San Antonio Spurs in the last seconds of Game 6 of the 2013 Finals. This shot gave Miami new life as they went on to win the series, giving Ray Allen his second NBA Championship ring.
14 Chris Paul
Chris Paul is the perfect role model for young aspiring point guards. He excels on offense and defense, with a strong presence on both ends of the court. A six time leader in steals, and a five time assist leader, Chris Paul's accomplishments continue to grow each year. He has been one of the best players in the league since he was drafted in 2005 by the New Orleans Hornets. Lob City is alive and well in Los Angeles, as Chris looks for his first NBA Championship this year with the Clippers.
13 Jason Kidd
Now coaching for the Milwaukee Bucks, Jason Kidd has seen it all in the NBA. As a player, Kidd is second all-time in assists and, was a true point guard in every sense of the word. He was a vital to piece to the 2011 Dallas Mavericks team, who beat the Miami Heat led by LeBron James to win it all. His list of accomplishments could fill a book as his illustrious 19 year NBA career was filled with success. Possibly the greatest point guard ever, there is no doubt Jason Kidd would be a perfect addition to the 50 greatest players list.
12 Dwyane Wade
During the Miami Heat's big three era, Dwyane Wade wasn't just a side-kick to Lebron James. He has proven himself to be one of the greats in his own right. Being a three time NBA Champion and a 12 time All-Star easily earns Wade a spot on this list. Nicknamed "Flash", Dwyane Wade is a blur on the court, and can score whenever he wants. Not only does he score, he is also an incredible defender being a three time recipient of the NBA's All-Defense award. He also won the NBA scoring title in 2009 and led the 2006 Miami Heat to the NBA Championship, earning the NBA Finals MVP in the process.
11 Steve Nash
Steve Nash was one of the NBA's biggest stars in the first decade of the 21st century. He was a great ball handler known for flashy passes and key assists. He was one of the only players to win back to back NBA MVP awards. Nash was an eight time NBA All-Star and he even led the league five times in assists. It's a shame that Nash never won a title, but with stats like these he earns a spot on this list.
10 Dennis Rodman
Possibly the greatest rebounder ever, Dennis "The Worm" Rodman was a beast in his playing days. At 'only' 6-foot-7, Rodman led the NBA in rebounding an astounding seven times. During his best year he averaged 18.7 rebounds per game, proving how high a motor Rodman really had on the court. He was a vital part of many great NBA teams, winning himself five NBA Championship rings. Despite all of his drama, funny hair styles, and face piercings, this guy made a name for himself as one of the greatest of all time.
9 Dirk Nowitzki
This seven footer from Germany has cemented himself as not just one of the greatest foreign born NBA players, but one of the greatest players of all time. Period. Dirk Nowitzki seems ageless, as he continues to score every year whether it's in the paint, from the three point line, or with his patented one legged fade away jumper. Dirk is a 13 time All-Star and won the Most Valuable Player Award in 2007. In 2011 he led the Mavs to the NBA Championship, earning himself the MVP award for the Final series that year.
8 Reggie Miller
The Pacers' franchise all time leading scorer Reggie Miller, is one of the greatest playoff performers ever. He averaged around 30 points in his prime during the playoffs, but he is best known for his demeanor on the court. Miller was outspoken, and never shied away from a fight. This resulted in some memorable feuds against fans, like filmmaker Spike Lee, and entire teams like the New York Knicks.
Despite Reggie's undeniable skill, he could never lead the Pacers to a championship. At the time of his retirement, Reggie held the NBA record with the most 3-point shots made in NBA history (which has since surpassed by Ray Allen). Miller has gone on to have an extremely successful career as a respected NBA analyst.
7 Kevin Garnett
Being the only player in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per game for six years in a row, Kevin Garnett easily makes this list. Nearing 40 years old, Kevin Garnett still plays every game like it's his last, always giving it his all. A stand out player in his early years with the Timberwolves, Garnett's star shined brightest after he was traded to the league leading contender Boston Celtics. KG achieved what every aspiring player dreams of, when in 2008 he helped the Celtics win the NBA Championship. He is a 15 time NBA All-Star. and for that lone "The Big Ticket" has earned his spot as one of the greatest.
6 Stephen Curry
Wow. It feels like Stephen Curry came out of nowhere to take the league by storm. A skinny shooter from Davidson is now being regarded as possibly the greatest shooter ever. Winning the MVP last year, and on track for it again this year, the sky is the limit for Steph Curry. He holds the NBA record for 3-point shots with an astounding 402 in a one season. He also holds the record for the most consecutive games with a made 3-point shot at 152 games.
As the leader of the current NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, Curry has them poised to repeat as the Warriors have just broken the record for the most games won in a single NBA regular season. This young bull makes the list.
5 Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce will go down in history as one of the best clutch scorers of all-time. From his first season when he made the All Rookie First Team, to his ten appearances at the NBA All-Star Game, he has cemented his legacy as a true Celtic legend. Paul Pierce is the second leading scorer in Celtic franchise history, eclipsed only by John Havlicek. The heart of the 21st century Celtics, Paul Pierce was the NBA Finals MVP of the 2008 win against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Pierce has hit many big shots in his long NBA career, and was nicknamed "The Truth" by the great Shaquille O'Neal.
4 Tim Duncan
Nearing the end of his career, we can now start to look back and see how great of a player Tim Duncan really is. A five time NBA Champion, Tim Duncan is looking for his sixth ring this season with the Spurs. Tim Duncan has been with the Spurs his entire career, and it looks like that is never going to change. "The Big Fundamental" is widely regarded as the best power forward of all time.
Duncan has an incredible amount of accomplishments in the NBA, headlined by his two MVP awards in 2002 and 2003. He also has three NBA Finals MVP awards and 15 All-Star Game appearances. His impact on the NBA will be felt for a long time to come.
3 Allen Iverson
The Answer! Pound for pound arguably the greatest NBA player ever, the 6'0" point-guard from Georgetown was a player to remember. Who could forget any of his iconic moments, such as crossing over the great Michael Jordan, or stepping over Tyronn Lou as he led the Sixers to a historic NBA Finals win over the talented 2001 Lakers. He was the scoring champ four times in his career, and the steals leader three times.
With 11 appearances in the All-Star Game, he walked away with the games MVP award twice. With a grace and style that only Iverson had he also lead the league in steals for three consecutive years. From the beginning when he won Rookie of the Year, the fans loved Allen Iverson, and went on to be one of the most beloved 76ers of all time. The Philadelphia 76ers even retired his #3 jersey, and he was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame.
2 LeBron James
"King" James is a five time NBA MVP and has also won two championships. The 2004 Rookie, LeBron has often been called "The Chosen One", and for good reason too. A four time NBA MVP and a 12 time All-Star, LeBron can really make amazing things happen on the court. LeBron will go down in history as one of the most popular players of all time. He has been often called the successor to Michael Jordan and has largely lived up to that name. He is currently the Cleveland Cavaliers' all time leading scorer, and James is having one of the most undeniably greatest careers in the NBA and it's far from over.
1 Kobe Bryant
There are no words to describe the impact Kobe Bryant has had on the game of basketball. Respected by all, "The Black Mamba" has always had that killer instinct and work ethic that drove him to be the best. Kobe has reveled in the villain role against every NBA team, as they watched him beat them bucket by bucket. He holds the amazing scoring record second only to Wilt Chamberlin, with 81 points in a single game.
A five time champion, Kobe always wanted more and although he never achieved his sixth ring, even if he had, he would have just set his eyes on his seventh. Locally, in my township, Lower Merion, fans will always remind you that Kobe is from here and fans from everywhere and especially in Los Angeles will always love him. The NBA will surely miss him. Kobe caps off this list.