The NBA will be celebrating its 75th anniversary next season. The celebration will include naming the NBA's 75 greatest players, 50 of which were already selected during the 1996-1997 season, when the league celebrated its 50th anniversary. Basketball Network's "The Next 25" aims to look back at the careers of some of the game's greatest players as we give our take on who should be part of the twenty-five names that the league will add to the list.
In each edition, we will make a case for five players that we feel meet the criteria. Today, we look at players in the second set of five we believe should be on the list. If the first group was called "the no-brainers", then we dub this second group as "the jaw-droppers." These next five players had playstyles that put fans in the stands and gave us some of the most exciting plays in NBA history. If you want to see the first edition, click here (link to 1st edition)
Dennis Keith Rodman
When I think of Dennis Rodman, I remember that time he dove into the stands in a Superman-like pose, leaving him completely horizontal and his ribs exposed to whatever it is he was going to hit on his way down. Still, Dennis amazingly did not care about his body and made one of the greatest hustle plays we have ever seen. Rodman is one of the best defenders and rebounders of all time and played very significant roles in two dynasties throughout his career, The Bad Boy Pistons, and the 1996-98 Chicago Bulls. Dennis finished his NBA career with five championships, second all-time in All NBA Defensive First Team selections, and a career average of 13 rebounds a game. Rodman was so good on the defensive end of the floor that his nearly non-existent scoring ability is something we forget. He also holds the record for most offensive rebounds a game with 11. So even if he isn't putting the ball in the hoop, he would create added scoring opportunities for some of the best scorers ever to play the game, resulting in championships. Dennis's off-court exploits are a different story and have impacted how people view his place in basketball history, but no one can argue that you had a great chance of winning the championship if you had Dennis Rodman on your team.
Allen Ezail Iverson
Michael Jordan himself has heaped high praise on Allen Iverson like he never has before to an athlete not named Kobe Bryant; that alone is an indication of how special Allen was and how much respect his peers had for him. Iverson crossed up MJ back in his rookie year, a move that started the legend of Allen Iverson as early as Allen's rookie year.
You never know, if we play 1-0n-1 again, I think he could beat me on the perimeter, but I could take him in the post. He's a heck of a good player."
Michael Jordan, The Sport Rush
The awards list of Iverson is not a lengthy one, but his impact on culture and the way kids play the game today is up there with the greatest to ever play the game. At barely six feet tall, Allen was an 11-time NBA All-Star that averaged 26.7 points per game for his career, which involved many undesirable stops for him towards the end. After Philly, he never was accepted for who he was and allowed to play his game; this hurt his career in the eyes of fans, but opposing players consider him to be one of the scariest matchups they have ever faced. Even without a ring, Allen's overwhelmingly good peer evaluation should earn him a spot on the list.
Vincent Lamar Carter Jr
Another player without a ring to make it to our list is "Air Canada." Vince Carter's NBA career lasted 22 seasons that spanned four decades, making his tenure the longest in NBA history. However, VC does not simply get the nod for his longevity but for his impact on the game as we know it, Vince's impact is clearly illustrated in the Netflix Documentary "The Carter Effect." Carter took the league by storm early in his career for his scoring prowess and magnificent dunks, but VC was more than that, as he was the first true superstar in Toronto and the first player to bring the Raptors into NBA relevance. With Vince, there is no one play that comes to mind as his most exciting, but here's one that will surely get you off your seat.
Walter Ray Allen Jr.
Allen currently holds the record for most 3-point field goals in a career, a record that will likely be broken by Steph Curry if he is healthy this coming season. Nevertheless, the fact that Allen took this title from Reggie Miller and held on to it for as long as he did is one good reason for him to be included in the list. Ray reinvented his game three times throughout 18 seasons in the NBA, going from one of the leading scorers in Milwaukee to the best player in Seattle to coming off screens in Boston, then ending his career in Miami as a spot-up shooter alongside LeBron James. Allen also knocked down one of the biggest and most difficult shots in NBA Finals history to keep Miami's finals hopes alive, which led to the Heat winning the second of back-to-back titles in a series that was practically over. Ray's military-type discipline is also a thing of legend in this league, and along with his contributions to winning two titles later in his career, Allen is certainly one of the 75 greatest players of all time.
Tracy Lamar McGrady Jr.
There was no bigger fan of T-Mac's game than Kobe Bryant, and since the next best thing to a compliment from MJ one can get is a compliment from Kobe, the NBA needs to recognize how much game T-Mac really had. McGrady gave fans some of the greatest performances in basketball history. His career-high 62 point performance, the alley-oop off the board to himself in the all-star game, and his 13 points in 35 seconds to beat the Spurs are a few that should have us marveling at Tracy's greatness. T-Mac once averaged 32 points in the 2002-2003 season to win the scoring title that year, back when final scores rarely went over a hundred. Even if you include today's astronomical numbers, McGrady's 2002-2003 season ranks in the top 20 if we remove Wilt Chamberlain's numbers due to the considerable size advantage he enjoyed back in his playing days. If you have any doubts about this one, go back to our piece the other day on how Kobe described what it was like to play against T-Mac back in the day.