For better and worse, we published out the full list of ESPN’s top 74 greatest NBA players of all-time a few days ago. In that same post, we provided the sports network’s rankings from their 2016 list to see which new players made an appearance on the list (Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard), which player jumped the most spots (James Harden and Allen Iverson) and which player dropped the most (Clyde Drexler).
There were several problems with that list and we detailed out a few examples of the clear biases and major issues we found on the list. If you’re interested, you can read us complain here.
One of the bigger issues is that the list is “incomplete” in that it only ranked 74 players; leaving us wondering how the remaining 26 spots would have sussed out had they completed it. The good news? We did our best to populate those missing positions. Jump to see our #75-100 rankings, otherwise, here’s the list as ESPN ranked the greatest NBA players of all-time.
Kobe Bryant jumped three spots from off into the top ten. In 2016, ESPN pissed off Kobe Stans when he appeared at #12. This year, he’s at #9 right before Lakers teammate Shaquille O’Neal, and putting Kobe over Oscar Robertson and Hakeem Olajuwon.
No NBA betting guides would have predicted that Scottie Pippen would move up four spots from #25 to #21, leaping over former Houston Rockets teammate Charles Barkley, who fell five spots from #18 to #23. We have no problem with the biggest improvement going to James Harden. The bearded one jump up an amazing 65 spots from #97 to #32. In the span of those four years, Harden has elevated his status; winning an MVP, leading the NBA in scoring three times and assists once.
One of the many problems with this year’s list is that they only ranked 74 players whereas the 2016 list placed 100 players. It’s cute that ESPN wanted to create a list based on the league’s 74th year, but without those remaining 26 spots, we wondered where a player like Carmelo Anthony would have ultimately landed.
So without the real thing, we decided to take on that task and re-rank the missing players from the 2016 list while adding a couple new faces that we think deserve one of these coveted spots in the top 100.
Assuming ESPN got their list correct, which is a big leap in itself, here’s how we saw the remaining list of the 100 greatest NBA players filling out from #75 to #100.
The biggest recognizable snubs from ESPN’s 2016 list are Carmelo Anthony (#59) and Dwight Howard (#67), the two didn’t make the 2020 list and we’re not sure where they fell. But all due respect to Melo and Dwight, we’re going to pay respect to a few older names that should have been way higher up. Those three names names that you probably don’t recognize are Dolph Schayes, Hal Greer, and Paul Arizin.
Schayes played in the 1950’s so it’s somewhat understandable that his career isn’t at the forefront of people’s minds, but for an NBA champion that was a 12x All Star and 12x All-NBA selection that averaged a double-double in points and rebounds for an entire decade, it’s hugely disrespectful for him not to be higher up. All due respect to Carmelo Anthony, but Schayes deserves to be the first name on the snub list.
Behind Oscar Robertson (#11) and Jerry West (#16), Greer was widely considered the third-best guard in the 1960s, so there’s a big disconnect to see him at #77, but here we are. Starting out with the Syracuse Nationals, he moved onto the Philadelphia 76ers where Greer was second banana to Wilt when they teamed to win the 1967 NBA championship. Greer is a 10-time NBA All-Star, was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, has his #15 jersey retired by the Sixers and one of the few dozen players that have scored over 20,000 career points. In 2016, Greer didn’t even make ESPN’s list!
An NBA-All Star every year of his 10 year career, Arizin is another forgotten player from the 1950’s. His relatively-short career doesn’t do him any favors, but considering he was a two time scoring champion and an NBA champion during his time, Arizin should be on the list because he was one of the best players from that decade. His impact was evident in 1996 when, like Schayes and Greer, was named one of top 50 players in NBA history.
Active and modern NBA snubs
Since four years have passed since the 2016 list, there are a handful of active players that have cemented their status among the all-time greats. The first player is the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson at #80. The other half of the Splash Brothers is a five-time all-star, a three-time NBA champion and owns the record for most-three pointers in one NBA game (14). He also scored an NBA record 37 points in an quarter on his way to 60 points on just 11 dribbles.
Next up, are the final 17 spots with 12x NBA All-Star Chris Bosh leading this section; staying at #86. He’s the only double-digit all-star to be listed this low.
Paul George is the next newcomer on our list at #87. The 6x All-Star and 5x All-NBA is not only an offensive threat from anyone where on the floor, but also a great defensive player having made four all-defensive teams. George is just coming into his peak and teaming with Kawhi Leonard as a contender with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The next player that didn’t make the 2016 list, but should have was the severely underrated Mitch Richmond. The 6x NBA All-Star and 5x All-NBA selection averaged 21.9 points or higher for ten straight years; that helped him become one of the 40 or so players that have scored 20,000 in their careers. Despite not being named to an All-Defensive Team, the “Rock” was a tough defender his entire career so much so that Jordan once considered Richmond to be his toughest defender.
That takes us to Kyrie Irving. No matter what you think of the mercurial guard, he’s a six-time all-star and the former NBA Rookie of the Year and one-time NBA champion has a handle that is envied by every NBA player. The oft-injured Irving is just getting into the peak of his offensive powers, so if he can maintain his health, Irving will go down as a player that revolutionized the game by inspiring kids everywhere to mimic his sublime handles; the best the NBA has ever seen.
Here’s the full list including our supplementary 26 spots.
An Honorable Mention for the ages
One hundred players in the 74 years of NBA basketball seems like a lot, but like with any list, there are going to be very very very good and great players that didn’t make the list. We leave with you an honorable mention of players that found themselves right outside the list, in alphabetical order by first name: Billy Cunningham, Dave Bing, Harry Gallatin, Ed Macauley, Gus Johnson, Jo Jo White, Joe Johnson, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Larry Foust, Lenny Wilkens, Mark Price, Marc Gasol, Maurice Cheeks, Nate Thurmond, Shawn Kemp, Sidney Moncrief, Tim Hardaway, Walt Bellamy and Yao Ming.