With the NBA season on hiatus, what better time to rank the greatest to play the game. TGH NBA staff writers voted for their top 50 players in league history on a points system, and then the players were ranked by points in a final aggregate list. Each article will cover 10 players at a time, starting today with players 50 through 41.
50. Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard is the perfect example of a player who had an incredible career but who hasn’t quite gotten everything out of it that he really could have. For a period of five years from 2008-2012, Howard doubled as the best center and best defensive player in the NBA. But an ill-fated move to Los Angeles and a slew of injuries cost him the second half of his prime. Even still, the three-time defensive player of the year stands as one of the best centers in league history and has a great chance of winning his first title this season with the Lakers.
49. Ray Allen
One of the best pure shooters in league history, Ray Allen featured on a number of teams throughout his career and managed to make a significant impact on all of them. Whether it was almost leading his team to the NBA finals in Milwaukee, lifting his first NBA title with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett or burying one of the greatest shots in league history at the tail-end of his career in Miami, Allen was never one to sit back and let others do the work. To this day he still ranks first all-time in three-pointers made.
48. Bill Walton
Bill Walton is quite possibly the biggest ‘what could have been’ story in the history of basketball. After leading the Portland Trailblazers to an NBA title in 1977, Walton won the MVP award in 1978 and had led the Blazers to a 52-10 record before injuring his foot. He tried to come back for the playoffs but reinjured the foot and was never the same player again, missing seasons at a time due to injury. Even though his peak was short-lived, it was high enough to rank him among the NBA’s best.
47. Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd is one of the greatest all-around point guards in league history. Although he was an inefficient scorer, Kidd made up for it by being one of, if not the, best passer and perimeter defender in basketball during his prime. He made an all-defensive team on nine occasions and led the NBA in assist five times. As the star player of the New Jersey Nets, he led them to back to back NBA finals appearances and won his first and only championship as a member of the Dallas Mavericks in 2011.
46. Gary Payton
Gary Payton, known more affectionately as The Glove, was one of the greatest defenders of the 1990s and along with teammate Shawn Kemp made the Seattle SuperSonics a perennial contender in the western conference. He only made one NBA finals appearance in his prime but made the most of it, taking Jordans 72-10 Bulls to six games and holding MJ to just 36 percent shooting over the last three games. Payton was finally able to win an NBA championship as a member of the 2006 Miami Heat. He is thought of by many as the greatest player in Seattle Supersonics history.
45. James Harden
Possibly the greatest pure-scorer in the modern NBA, James Harden is a man who knows how to put the ball in the basket. One of only three players to average over 35 points per game since the NBA-ABA merger along with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, Harden is known for his world-class stepback three and his ability to score at will in a variety of ways. What’s really holding back his legacy is his struggle in winning an NBA title. Luckily Harden is still in the middle of his prime and has many years left to seek out that elusive championship.
44. Chris Paul
From the moment Christ Paul stepped into the league it was clear he was something special. The 6-1 guard out of Wake Forest has played over 1,000 games in his career and started every single one. For well over a decade CP3 has been one of the best guards in the NBA on both sides of the ball, leading the league in assists four times and steals six. Like Harden, what eludes Paul is an NBA championship but even without one he is one of the games great competitors and greatest ever talents.
43. George Mikan
The greatest player of the NBA’s early years, George Mikan dominated on such a level that many of the rules involving the key were made because of him. Mikan may not have the athletic prowess to compete in today’s NBA, but his domination during his time still deserves recognition, as well as his five NBA championships. Mikan was a basketball trailblazer and his contributions to the game should not be forgotten.
42. Paul Pierce
The Truth is one of the greatest players in the history of the Boston Celtics, the NBA’s most winningest franchise. Most well known for bringing Boston its first NBA title in over 20 years, Pierce was a great all-around player on both sides of the ball. While his counting stats may not be as impressive as some of the players behind him on this list, the fact that he won a finals MVP and his consistent quality play push him up the rankings.
41. Russell Westbrook
Westbrook is one of the most polarizing players in the history of the league. But whether you love him or hate him it cant be argued that he is one of the most athletic players in league history and accomplished feats that many thought was no longer possible. Before his MVP winning 2016-2017 season no player had averaged a triple-double over the course of a season since Oscar Robertson in 1961-1962. Westbrook went on to average a triple-double for three consecutive seasons and is currently teamed up with James Harden as both look to win their first NBA championship.
Honorable Mentions: Willis Reed, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Worthy, Carmelo Anthony, Alex English, Reggie Miller, Wes Unseld, Dennis Rodman, and Vince Carter
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