On October 29, 1996, David Stern announced the list of 50 Greatest Players in NBA history, voted by a selected group of media members, former players and coaches, general managers, and team executives.
According to the NBA, at the start of the 96/97 NBA season, the selected group of players had accumulated 107 NBA Championships, 49 Most Valuable Player Awards, 17 Rookie of the Year honors, 447 All-Star Game selections, 36 scoring titles, 923,791 total points, and 410,327 total rebounds. Still, the list caused a lot of controversy among players and the NBA fandom.
For instance, few understood why Shaquille O’Neal, going into his 5th NBA season, was included on the list. While today Shaq being on it is a no-brainer, back then, people felt some names were more worthy of a selection. Dominique Wilkins, for example — the biggest snub of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary list.
Some of the players that were voted Top 50 could not even hold my jock.Dominique Wilkins
Over two decades later, Nique still hasn’t let bygones be bygones. “It’s an amazing thing. Even to this day, I wonder how that happened,” he said. “Not just myself. You look at Bob McAdoo, who’s been a two-time MVP. How he’s not on that list?”
Wilkins doesn’t have a regular-season MVP to his name, but his case for being one of the top 50 greatest players ever is clear. He’s a Hall of Famer, a 9x All-Star, 1x scoring champ, 7x All-NBA, and one of the greatest in-game dunkers the league has ever seen. He was also the 7th all-time in scoring when the list was announced, averaging 25.8 PPG before playing his final two seasons in the NBA.
And while the selected panel assembled of NBA-involved individuals didn’t recognize Nique’s greatness, players who played against him did.
I really appreciate something Danny Ainge said. He said, ‘Dominique is not one of the 50 greatest. In my opinion, he’s one of the top 25.’ I think that was the biggest compliment I could’ve gotten.Dominique Wilkins, The BS Report with Bill Simmons
Even the all-time greats- one of which was Wilkins’s rival during the ’80s – expressed shock The Human Highlight Film was let off the list. That, in and of itself, was a good enough compensation for Nique after one of the biggest snubs in NBA history.
Bird and Magic coming to my defense on this, saying, ‘ how is this guy not one of the 50 greatest.’ To me, that’s more validation that I need when you have guys like that come to your defense.Dominique Wilkins, The BS Report with Bill Simmons
Greatness appreciates greatness. Too bad that wasn’t the case with a blue-ribbon panel of individuals that made that list.