Remaking NBA’s 50 Greatest Players List 20 Years After Its 1997 Debut


The 1997 NBA All-Star Game was special for many reasons.

Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan posted the first triple-double in All-Star Game history, but he didn’t win MVP that night because Charlotte Hornets forward Glen Rice set All-Star Game records for the most points scored in a quarter and a half.

At halftime, the league’s 50 greatest players were announced. It was the greatest collection of talent in one place in basketball history.

Here’s the original list, via It was compiled by former players, team executives and media members and is listed in alphabetical order.


Twenty years later, it’s time to figure out which players from the last two decades deserve to be on this list. Here are our picks, along with their primary position and the team jacket they would wear (like the players in 1997 did). These guys don’t need any explanation for why they deserve this honor.

Tim Duncan, PF, San Antonio Spurs
Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers
Kevin Garnett, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves
Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Dallas Mavericks
Dwyane Wade, SG, Miami Heat
Dominique Wilkins, SF, Atlanta Hawks*
*Wilkins was added as the lone player who should’ve been included on the original list

We’ve added eight players, so that means eight players from the original list need to be removed. Here are my picks for that.

Lenny Wilkens
Dave DeBusschere
Billy Cunningham
Elvin Hayes
Dave Cowens
Bill Sharman
Paul Arizin
Dave Bing

Who just missed being added to the list? It was really hard to leave off some of these players.

Steve Nash
Paul Pierce
Allen Iverson
Gary Payton
Chris Paul
Jason Kidd
Ray Allen
Alonzo Mourning
Shawn Kemp
Reggie Miller
Joe Dumars

Of course, there are several active players who could find themselves on the 50 Greatest list at some point in the future. Here are some notable names.

Stephen Curry: Curry easily is one of the best shooters of all time, but we need a little more from him than eight pro seasons, just two of which can be considered “elite.”
Kawhi Leonard: The modern-day Scottie Pippen is a two-way superstar who’s already won an NBA Finals MVP.
Anthony Davis: The center position never has been less important, but Davis is a physical giant who racks up stats with ease. He’s one of the most dominant big men of this century. Injuries are his only stumbling block to all-time great status.
Karl-Anthony Towns: He’s already averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game in just his second season. Towns has a long, long way to go, but he has the makings of a great player.
James Harden: He’s going to score 25 or more points per game for the fifth consecutive season and he’s only 27 years old. Harden also has a legit chance to average a triple-double this campaign.

Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images

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