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The Top 15 Most-Underrated NBA Players of All-Time

With all the constant discussions of the NBA’s top 75 players, the GOATs of the game, and which players make your Mount Rushmore, we hear all the big names of the game that they only need one part of their name: Jordan, LeBron, Kareem, Russell, Magic, Bird and Wilt.

These are the same players that get all the glory when we talk about the most-memorable NBA championships. What’s often lost in the discussion of the greatest players discussion is that the vast majority of these legends wouldn’t be where they are without the Robin to their Batman (sorry we hate that saying, but that’s what came to mind). Without these all-stars, the odds at would not have favored the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat and other successful teams in the history of the game. Those franchises would definitely not have so many championship banners.

Due to the huge shadows  cast by the likes of the Magics, Jordans, Currys, and Shaqs, their supporting players often are overlooked and underappreciated. Another way of saying “overlooked,” is that these players have been underrated. Here are ten of the NBA’s most-underrated in the history of the game.

The Top Underrated Players in NBA History
Rank Player Team
15 Scottie Pippen Chicago Bulls
14 Fat Lever Denver Nuggets
13 Joe Dumars Detroit Pistons
12 Bernard King New York Knicks
11 Mitch Richmond Golden State Warriors
10 Alex English Denver Nuggets
9 Rod Strickland Washington Wizards
8 Alvin Robertson San Antonio Spurs
7 James Worthy Los Angeles Lakers
6 Artis Gilmore San Antonio Spurs
5 Klay Thompson Golden State Warriors
4 Kevin McHale Boston Celtics
3 Elvin Hayes Houston Rockets
2 Dwayne Wade Miami Heat
1 Manu Ginobili San Antonio Spurs

Scottie Pippen is #15 on this list and would have been much higher a decade ago, but recent lists have been very kind to Pippen and have listed the versatile defensive small forward in the top twenty of all-time (which we think is way too high).

Fat Lever (#14) was Russell Westbrook before Westbrook. Lever was getting triple doubles on a fairly regular basis which is saying something for playing in the 1980s when triple doubles weren’t common at all. Joe Dumars (#13)  played for the Detroit Pistons his entire career, but his quiet, calm demeanor made it easy to overlook the 6-3 shooting guard when his backcourt mate is Isiah Thomas, one of the league’s best point guards in NBA history.

Bernard King (#12) and Mitch Richmond (#11) should be better recognized for their scoring abilities, but in naming the league’s best bucket getters, they’re often ghosted.

At #9 is Rod Strickland; his combination of dribbling skills and layup package was the precursor to Kyrie Irving (and is Irving’s Godfather). Alvin Robertson (#8) should probably be higher because I don’t think I’ve heard his name since he played, but Robertson is synonymous with stealing the ball. The tough 6-4 guard played his peak years with the San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks making the NBA All-Star Team four times and is a 3× NBA steals leader (1986, 1987, 1991).

James Worthy (#7) and Kevin McHale (#4) were both much like Dumars; playing during the Magic-Bird era – we’ll never know how great these two could have been had they been the primary options on their team. Throw in Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Robert Parish playing on the Lakers and Celtics too, and that even shows how much greater McHale and Worthy may have been in an alternate universe. Big shout out to Dennis Johnson here too.

Artis Gilmore (#6), Alex English (#10) and Elvin Hayes (#3) had amazing NBA careers, but their accomplishments and individual accolades have been lost to the history books. It’s unfortunate that when we talk about the greatest centers and forwards in the game, Gilmore, Hayes and English are often left off the list.

Klay Thompson (#5) is lauded as one of the league’s greatest shooters to have ever played the game and has proven he’s the most dangerous catch-and-shoot player since Reggie Miller. His ability to catch fire with minimal dribbles has us fantasizing an offense centered solely around Klay. We’re confident he would be putting up bigger numbers than his career averages of 19.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

It might be odd for you to see Dwayne Wade (#2) on this list seeing as he’s often included in the top shooting guards in NBA history, but his impact could have been much larger had he wasn’t paired with always larger-than-life Shaquille O’Neal and Lebron James during his three NBA championships. Wade is high up on this list at number two because he’s shown time and time again that he was capable of carrying a team, hitting big shots when it mattered most and put up eye-popping numbers, but sacrificed a lot of that to win three NBA championships.

Speaking of sacrifice, Manu Ginobili is #1 on our list. Like Wade, he showed big-game ability, flair, skill, and the natural will to not only carry a team, but made his teammates better. An ultimate competitor, Manu made a compromise most players of his skill level wouldn’t have made — he came off the bench for most of his career despite clearly being the second best player on the Spurs.

Because of that sacrifice, Manu won four NBA championships as a core part of the Spur’s big three along Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. On the other side of that coin, Manu would have made more than just two NBA All-Star Games, had way more highlights, and put up gaudier numbers than his seemingly unspectacular 13.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.8 assists across 1,057 regular season games for San Antonio.

Despite all that Manu is an easy first ballot Hall of Famer (and not just because of his impact on the international stage).

That’s out top ten most-underrated NBA players – I’m sure we missed several players here. Some other underrated, underappreciated players that NBA heads will (and have) forgotten how great they were include Clyde Drexler Kevin Garnett and Oscar Robertson, Chris Bosh, Adrian Dantley, Jack Sikma, Sam Jones,  Mark Price, Damon Stoudemire, and Bob Lanier.


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