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Top All-Time 50 NBA Players

by Ron Kurtus (revised 11 April 2017)

In 1996, as part of the National Basketball Association's (NBA) 50th anniversary celebration, a panel of announcers, former players and coaches named the 50 greatest players in league history.

The players are listed alphabetically along with the dates of their professional careers and positions.

This lesson will answer those questions.


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1969-1989

Wilt Chamberlain, 1959-1973

Dave Cowens, 1970-1980, 1982-1983

Patrick Ewing, 1985-1991

Moses Malone, 1974-1995

George Mikan, 1946-1954, 1955-1956

David Robinson, 1989-2003

Bill Russell, 1956-1969

Hakeem Olajuwon, 1984-2002 (forward/center)

Shaquille O'Neal, 1992-2009

Robert Parish, 1976-1997

Willis Reed, 1964-1974

Bill Walton, 1974-1988


Charles Barkley, 1984-2000

Rick Barry, 1965-1980

Elgin Baylor, 1958-1972

Larry Bird, 1979-1992

Dave DeBusschere, 1962-1974

Julius Erving, 1971-1987

John Havlicek, 1962-1978 (forward/guard)

Elvin Hayes, 1968-1984

Jerry Lucas, 1963-1974 (forward/center)

Karl Malone, 1985-2004

Kevin McHale, 1980-1993

Bob Pettit, 1954-1965 (forward/center)

Scottie Pippen, 1987-2003

Dolph Schayes, 1948-1964 (forward/center)

Nate Thurmond, 1963-1977 (forward/center)

Wes Unseld, 1968-1981 (forward/center)

James Worthy, 1982-1994


Nate Archibald, 1970-1984

Paul Arizin, 1950-1961 (forward/guard)

Dave Bing, 1966-1978

Bob Cousy, 1950-1963, 1969-1970

Billy Cunningham, 1965-1976

Clyde Drexler, 1983-1998

Walt Frazier, 1967-1980

George Gervin, 1972-1986

Hal Greer, 1958-1973

Magic Johnson, 1979-1991, 1996

Sam Jones, 1957-1969

Michael Jordan, 1984-1993, 1995-1998

Pete Maravich, 1970-1980

Earl Monroe, 1967-1980

Oscar Robertson, 1960-1974

Bill Sharman, 1950-1961

John Stockton, 1984-2003

Isiah Thomas, 1981-1994

Jerry West, 1960-1974

Lenny Wilkens, 1960-1975


One missing person is Bob McAddoo, who had been MVP and scoring leading a number times. It was strange that he had been left out. Another missing player is Artis Gilmore, who also should be added to the list.

This list really should be updated, considering some of the present players in the NBA that have extraordinary abilities. The physical size and speed of newer players may make some of the "old-timers" obsolete.


The all-time greatest players in the NBA had not only the physical abilities, but they also possessed the drive and competitive spirit to make them the best.

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