Debating the NBA's 75 greatest players list

Michael Jordan explained why he didn't want to be called the greatest basketball player ever in a 2009 interview. (1:15).
The league released its 75th anniversary list over three days in the opening week. One extra name was added due to tie voting. This list included every player who was part of the league's 50th anniversary roster in 1996, as well as 26 new names, including Bob McAdoo, who debuted in 1972, and was considered one the most snubs on the 50 greatest list.

Now that the complete list is available, we asked our experts for help. They helped us to identify the most surprising and least surprising names, to project into the future and to narrow down the list to a maximum of five starting players.

LEARN MORE: The complete NBA 75th Anniversary team

1. Which player surprised you the most to be included in the 75th anniversary team's roster?

Kirk Goldsberry: Dominique Wilkins. Not because he isn't deserving but because he was not included on the top 50 list that came out towards the end of his career. He was my favorite player growing up and it is a joy to see him back. It's also surprising that he wasn’t on the original list. He still does windmill dunks in his Hawks jerseys.

Jorge Sedano He is a must-watch player and my favorite. He doesn't have the same accolades as other players, like MVP, scoring champion or individual record holder, Finals appearances or MVP. There are a few snubs I'd consider putting above Dame.

Ramona Shelburne - Bob McAdoo and Wilkins were the big snubs of the 50th anniversary team that were included in the 75th anniversary group. Both were great additions and I am glad those snubs were corrected. There were so many great candidates that it was hard to make amends for past mistakes.

Marc Spears: Respectfully Bill Walton. Other great players have had their potential careers affected by injury, such as Grant Hill, Derrick Rose and Ralph Sampson. Yao Ming is one example. Walton's inclusion was not affected by the injury he suffered.

Brian Windhorst, Damian Lillard, and Anthony Davis. Their rsums don't match up and voters may be projecting a little. The league retained the top 50 players in 1996, so these players were not competing against the greats of the 1950s. There is no one who isn't part of the league. Considering the other options, I would guess that this vote was close with these two.

2. Which player was the worst snub on the list?

Did Kyrie Irving make the worst NBA75 snub? Adam Hunger/AP Photo

Sedano: This one is tough. Any of these players could be yours and I would not argue with you: Dwight Howard or Tracy McGrady, Manu Gingobili, Kyrie Irving, Manu Ginobili, Manu Ginobili, Manu Ginobili. For me, it was a toss up between McGrady or Howard. I'll take Howard by the smallest margin. I can recall when we all debated whether Howard or LeBron were the best players in the league. Few players have ever been good enough to participate in such a conversation. Howard's first 10 years can be compared with the first ten years of nearly any other great at his position. He has also been able to make the transition from a key role player to a championship team in his late career.

Shelburne: Pau Gasol. I believe the committee did an excellent job. When there was a close game between players, the winning of the top individual awards seemed to have won the day. Gasol wasn't an MVP, nor was he even considered for this award. However, he won two NBA titles with the Lakers, and was on four All-NBA teams. He also did a lot for Spain internationally. He is also ranked among the top 40 in blocks (21st), rebound (28th) or points (39th), which makes it a strong statistical case.

Spears: I was surprised that Kyrie Irving wasn't on the list despite all the drama this season. Klay Thompson and Tony Parker are also notable, as well as Ben Wallace, Alonzo Morning, Tony Parker, Klay George, Klay Thompson and Tony Parker.

Windhorst - Manu Ginobili can be a difficult one to let go. He and his fans must be very disappointed that he did not make it. Although his international career isn’t being considered for this purpose I know Ginobili was an integral member of four NBA championship teams. Tracy McGrady is in the first-ballot Hall of Fame so I assume he was also close.

Goldsberry: Although I am biased, Ginobili is my favorite international player. He is a four-time NBA Champion and one of the most respected players in the world. The Eurostep, his signature move, has transformed the league. The Eurostep has become the standard move for all attacking players in pro hoops. Officials didn't know how to officiate Ginobili's move when he arrived in the NBA. They also incorrectly called Ginobili for travel violations. He walked so James Harden, and many other modern superstars, could run. It would be a mistake to leave him off this list. He was an integral part of the Spurs dynasty, and he changed the sport.

3. The players were too heavy on older players and too light on younger players. Or just right?

Shelburne said that the committee was grading current players on a very harsh curve. This is something I accept. I can understand why players like Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic were not added to the team. They are still young and will continue to be great for another decade. Jokic won the MVP award last season, and has already produced a body that would be worthy of such an award.

Spears: I was one the voters. It was fair, I thought.

Windhorst - I don't know. There's no right answer for me. As McGrady or Vince Carter demonstrate, players who were still in their prime in the early 1990s and early 2000s were sort of punished by this timing. As it should, winning an MVP award was a great help to your cause.

Goldsberry: Perfect. The original top 50 were kept, which was the right thing to have to do in order to preserve history. However, Wilkins and other modern players feel like the perfect balance.

Sedano: It felt just right. It is important to give thanks to those who helped to build the league. Each generation has its own set pioneers, and all should be honored.

4. Which active player do you believe is a lock to make it to NBA100 in 25 Years?

Nikola Jokic was named NBA MVP in his sixth season of the league. Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Spears: Luka Doncic (Niko Jokic), Rudy Gobert and Jayson Tatum. Kyrie Irving, Trae Young and Joel Embiid are among the others. Karl Anthony-Towns, Karl Anthony-Towns, Donovan Mitchell, and Devin Booker are also included.

Windhorst: Doncic. The voters placed Shaq on the 1996 list because they believed he would fit in the game's ranks. It is hard to imagine Luka being honored in 2047 at All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.

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Goldsberry: Nikola Jokic. Jokic, Derrick Rose and Derrick Rose were the only two NBA MVP winners. Both players are great, but Jokic is still getting used to, he's redefining center in modern basketball and will be an influencer on big men for many decades.

Sedano: Ja Morant, I'll take you. His energy and game are what I love. He has made Memphis a market and his play-in performance last season was amazing. He then won Game 1 against the Jazz. He has no limits and he is a talented young player. I would buy stock in Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies if they were young players.

Shelburne: Luka Doncic. In his three first seasons, he has finished in the top six for MVP voting twice. He was the second-youngest ever player to reach the top five in MVP voting in 2020. It's only a matter time before he wins one. And if the Dallas Mavericks build a winner around his name, it's clear that he has the potential to win multiple MVPs.

5. We will only use the players on this list to create your all-time top five.

Shelburne - I tried to include Kevin Durant and Larry Bird, but I think I will go with Kobe Bryant, LeBron James (LeBron James), Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abul Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James. Magic and LeBron are likely to be generous enough to help determine who gets the most shots. I like the combination of scoring and defensive abilities in this group.

Windhorst PG: Magic Johnson SG: Michael Jordan. SF: LeBron James. PF: Tim Duncan. C: Wilt Chamberlain.

Goldsberry: PG : Magic Johnson. SG: Michael Jordan. SF: LeBron James. PF: Tim Duncan. C: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. These five men are historical examples of excellence in their respective positions to me. Each of these guys is the best player at their position. I can argue with anyone. These guys won numerous titles as the best players for their teams.

Spears: PG : Magic Johnson SG: Michael Jordan. SF: LeBron James. PF: Tim Duncan. C: Hakeem Olajuwon.

Sedano: C: Kareem Abdul Jabbar. I don't believe that a man this skilled can't adapt to any age. "The Cap" is the captain of my ship. PF: LeBron James. The greatest player of all-time. James's play at the Miami 4 was undoubtedly the most destructive in basketball history. He is a cheat code in that position. SF: Kobe Bryant. He is the closest player to Michael Jordan. His passion is legendary. The Mamba Mentality could be used by any team. SG: Michael Jordan. He is the GOAT. Magic Johnson is PG. He is my favorite passer and, arguably, my best teammate in NBA history. He has been a great player at all levels. No better floor general.


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