The NBA officially unveiled its 75th-anniversary best players (consisting of 76 players due to a tie in votes). The Crossover staff reveals its biggest snubs, surprises, active players not on the 75th Anniversary Team are most likely to make the 100th Anniversary Team and top-five players of all time.
Howard Beck: Full disclosure: I was one of the 88 voters, so I guess I’m 1/88th responsible for any and all grievances. That being the case, I’d say the biggest snub is Klay Thompson—the one player I voted for who did not make the final list. Thompson is the second-greatest shooter of all time, after Steph Curry. He’s a great defender. He’s a three-time champion and was absolutely essential to the Warriors dynasty. I’m astounded that he didn’t make it.
Chris Herring: I’d love to come up with a more unique answer, like Alex English or someone like Joe Dumars. But the answer is obviously Dwight Howard. It’s mind-blowing that he’s not part of the list.
Michael Pina: Whittling thousands of NBA players down to 75 is next to impossible. But Dwight Howard should be here. He’s an eight-time All-Star who cracked eight All-NBA teams and won three Defensive Player of the Year trophies. Howard leads all active players in blocks and rebounds and was easily the most dominant two-way center in the entire league throughout his prime, which nearly lasted a decade. (He finished top-five for MVP four times.) This omission is hard to comprehend.
Rohan Nadkarni: The biggest snub has to be Dwight Howard, who I think is more accomplished than his current teammate Anthony Davis, who made the list. For all his antics, Howard is a surefire Hall of Famer. He was the league’s most dominant center and defensive player for years. Dwight has eight All-Star appearances, eight All-NBAs, and three DPOYs. It’s hard to justify leaving him off this list for what he’s done on the court. I blame Howard Beck for letting this happen.
Jeremy Woo: It’s hard to pick just one, and I don’t think it’s worth making a stink, but at a glance, I’d argue strongly for Derrick Rose, Manu Ginóbili, Tony Parker and Pau Gasol. Injuries obviously scuttled what would have been an obvious case for Rose, and he and Nikola Jokić are the only two MVP winners not to make the list. An injury-riddled prime and short peak didn’t keep Bill Walton off the list. It’s extremely hard for me to believe Tim Duncan should be the only player from the later era of Spurs title teams on the list, particularly when you consider the sheer number of guys from the various Celtics dynasties of yore who made the cut. Manu and Parker are both deserving. You can argue the same for Gasol, who was a multiple-time champion with longevity. It was the right thing to do to preserve the sanctity of the original top 50 (and I’m too young to really have strong takes on the older guys), but if the goal had been to relitigate the entire thing in earnest, this list looks different, I think.
Beck: That Dwight Howard didn’t make it. I didn’t vote for him, but I thought most others would. I’m also surprised the entire 50th Anniversary Team made it on the 75th-anniversary list. I thought for sure that one or two old-timers would get cut in favor of more current stars.
Herring: Anthony Davis. The body of work is undeniable, but seeing him on the list, but not Dwight, makes me wonder just how much Davis benefited from winning the title alongside LeBron James. Howard never won it as a star but was largely responsible for giving his team a chance to earn a ring. Davis has always been fantastic but was never able to single-handedly carry his club the way a prime Howard did.
Pina: For some reason I wasn’t expecting some of the active players to make it, being that their careers remain unsettled. Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard are deserving, but what separates them from Nikola Jokić (an MVP winner), Paul George, Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler? Or the likes of Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter and Tony Parker?
Nadkarni: You know, I was not expecting to see Damian Lillard on this list. Dame is obviously incredible, and do I think he's more talented than someone like George Mikan? Yeah, probably. (No offense to the Mikan family, but I also was not watching hoops in the '40s and '50s.) Lillard also doesn't have an airtight case compared to modern guys like Howard and Kyrie Irving. Howard has more individual accolades, and Irving has the championship resume. I also wasn’t expecting everybody who made the NBA 50 at 50 list to be put back on this one? That seemed a little too nice.
Woo: I feel like the decision to include some of the younger active players—more specifically Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis—came at the expense of some deserving names. Those guys are all great, but you have to figure we’ll get an 100th Anniversary Team 25 years from now. It would have been easy to just roll those guys in later and reward more retired stars with complete bodies of work, rather than make them wait to find out if they’ve made the cut two decades from now. The entire thing is arbitrary, and the inclusion of active guys is important to help bridge the gap generationally and drum up interest, but I don’t quite get the rush to include quite so many current stars. To me, this exercise should be more about the breadth of history and less about the present.
Which active players not on the 75th Anniversary Team are most likely to make the 100th Anniversary Team?
Beck: Nikola Jokić, Luka Dončić, Joel Embiid, Trae Young.
Herring: As the greatest passing big man of all time, Jokić will. Embiid could if he stays healthy, and so could someone like Klay Thompson. Luka Dončić and Zion Williamson should get there, too, health permitting. Someone like Kyrie Irving will be an interesting player to watch in a conversation like that, too.
Pina: Luka Dončić, Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, Trae Young, Jayson Tatum and LaMelo Ball are just a few young stars who will easily crack the top-100 team if they stay healthy for the next 10 years.
Nadkarni: I really like Klay Thompson’s chances of making the 100th anniversary team. Luka is an obvious one. Those guys are easy picks though, so I'll give you one out of left field. How about Bam Adebayo? Erik Spoelstra likes to say his game has no ceiling. Adebayo is only 24 years old and has his best basketball in front of him. I think he's a generational defender and should win multiple awards on that end of the floor. He's already been All-Defense twice, and soon I believe he'll start racking up All-NBAs as well. If he doesn't make the list in 25 years, it will be because of unimaginative voters like Howard Beck.
Woo: Nikola Jokić, Luka Dončić and Joel Embiid.
Rank your top-five players of all time
Beck: In no particular order, because I don’t believe there’s an objective truth here (and I generally hate rankings): Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson.
Herring: In no particular order: Kareem, MJ, LeBron, Magic, Bird. Feel immensely blessed to have watched Michael and LeBron in my lifetime. But how blessed are we that YouTube exists to watch the others, regardless of when we were born?
5. Tim Duncan
4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
3. Bill Russell
2. LeBron James
1. Michael Jordan
Nadkarni: 1. Michael Jordan 2. LeBron James 3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 4. Bill Russell 5. Magic Johnson
Woo: Jordan, LeBron, Kareem, Russell, Duncan.
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