25th Anniversary Spotlight: The 50 Greatest

May 11, 2017

The 50 Greatest Players in the National Basketball Association’s History, also referred to as the NBA’s Top 50 were selected in 1996. 1996 marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the National Basketball Association (NBA). In honor of the NBA’s 50th anniversary, 50 players were selected through a vote by a blue–ribbon panel of media members, former players and coaches, and current and former general managers. The criteria in which the top 50 players were selected included having to have played at least a portion of their career in the NBA. During this process, players selected irrespective of the position they played.

The final list of the NBA’s Top 50 was announced by former NBA Commissioner David Stern on October 29, 1996, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City, the former site of the Commodore Hotel, where the original NBA charter was signed on June 6, 1946. The announcement marked the beginning of a year long celebration during the NBA’s 1996 – 1997 season. The highlight of the year long celebration took place during the 1997 NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland, Ohio where 47 of the 50 players selected were assembled during half-time.

The NBA’s Top 50 selected included the following players:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tiny Archibald, Paul Arizin, Charles Barkley, Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, Dave Bing, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens, Billy Cunningham, Dave DeBusschere, Clyde Drexler, Julius Erving, Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier, George Gervin, Hal Greer, John Havlicek, Elvin Hayes, Magic Johnson, Sam Jones, Michael Jordan, Jerry Lucas, Karl Malone, Moses Malone, Pete Maravich, Kevin McHale, George Mikan, Earl Monroe, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Robert Parish, Bob Petit, Scottie Pippen, Willis Reed, Oscar Robertson, David Robinson, Bill Russell, Dolph Schayes, Bill Sharman, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Nate Thurmond, Wes Unseld, Bill Walton, Jerry West, Lenny Wilkens and James Worthy.

Some of the most notable records held by members of the Top 50 Greatest Players Include:
• Most NBA Championships (11) - Bill Russell
• Most Points in NBA history (38,387) - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
• Most NBA All-Star Game Appearances (18) - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
• Most Rebounds in NBA History (23,924) - Wilt Chamberlain
• Most Assists in NBA History (15,806) - John Stockton
• Most Steals in NBA History (3,265) - John Stockton
• Most Blocks in NBA History (3,830) - Hakeem Olajuwon

Four out of five NBRPA founders (Dave Bing, Dave Cowens, Dave DeBusschere, & Oscar Robertson) were selected as members of the NBA’s 50th Greatest Players. Today 47 of the Top 50 Greatest Players of All-Time are active members of the NBRPA. All of which have joined the association to ensure that programs and benefits were established to support former NBA players in their transition to life after the game while also securing life-long benefits for the next generation of players.

It has now been 20 years since the announcement of the NBA’s Top 50. In the past two decades, NBA fans have witnessed the next generation of greats with the likes of players such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Dwayne Wade and many more. Many NBA fans argue whether or not players from the more recent generations belong in the Top 50. Regardless of how the list evolves, the original players honored as the Top 50 will remain a part of NBA and NBRPA history.