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Deliberating the NBA’s 75 greatest players with Jack McCallum | The Crossover

Howard Beck welcomes SI alum Jack McCallum to discuss their ballots for the NBA’s 75th-anniversary team.

On the Friday edition, Howard Beck welcomes SI alum Jack McCallum to discuss their ballots for the NBA’s 75th-anniversary team. How do we define the all-time greatest? Should we keep everyone from the 50th-anniversary list? Is there enough room for all the greats of the last 25 years? There are only two certainties: There will be a lot of tough omissions. And we’ll be debating the results for years.

The following transcript is an excerpt from The Crossover NBA podcast. Listen to the full episode on podcast players everywhere or on

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Howard Beck: So philosophical question to frame this from the top, which is this: When we talk about the 75th-anniversary list, 75 players for the NBA's first 75 years, is it the greatest 75 players, like these are the best 75 to ever play the game in the NBA, or is it 75 players who represented the best of their individual eras and the totality of the league? In other words, is it just about the skill set and how great they are playing the game, or is this more of a historical kind of posterity exercise where we just want to recognize all of these eras? Because there are different ways of going about this. And I thought it was interesting that our friend Ric Bucher on his podcast has been doing this as an exercise where he says, "I'm breaking it into 15-year segments so that we can respect every era." And I'm not sure. So what is it? Best 75 or is this more of a posterity exercise?

Jack McCallum: Well, I guess just to bail out on the question, I guess I kind of fall in between the big question we had here, Howard. Do we just go to the 75 list and copy the 50 that we had elected back in 1996? Or do we just automatically put it down? My first reaction to that, because I remember I was talking to another guy from my era, Dave Dupree, who was my great friend from back in the day. Dave goes, "You can't kick somebody off! He can't make the team and then you kick his ass off! And I said yes to that, and then I said no. And I ended up kicking a few to make room for new guys. And I guess my particular thought process was that I'm an old guy that covered the league in the '80s and I didn't want to have all old names on there. And if it came to me, a choice between some immortal who helped make the league in the 1950s or a guy who I'm wondering about now, even if he wasn't a legendary player, I maybe gave a little break to that. So there's some degree of modernism in this thing, but I don't want to go too far on that. Of course I have Bill Russell, of course I have Wilt Chamberlain, of course I have Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson. But if it came to a sort of a close thing, I kind of maybe thought I should go more modern.

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