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 focus on five more players who ought to make it to the list announced this coming season. This edition speaks to a group we call “the ones you never switch” because they possess some of the best one-on-one skillsets in the game, using their elite ball-handling and scoring ability to punish mismatches like no other.
Durant is arguably the most lethal scorer this game has ever seen. At 6’11, because he refuses to acknowledge that he is 7’0, KD can hit a shot from anywhere on the court with ease or beat you off the dribble with his guard skills. Durant is simply unstoppable now with enough time spent in the league to become immune to the tricks that stronger defenders used against him in the past. Not only is he possibly the best scorer we have ever seen, but KD is also a winner with two titles to go with two Finals MVPs to his name. Durant averaged 35 ppg against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals, led by LeBron James, making it a little more difficult to knock him for joining the Golden State Warriors the way he did. Nevertheless, KD doesn’t look like he is slowing down any time soon and could very well add to the one MVP trophy and two rings he already has in his possession, but even today, Durant has done enough to be added to the famous list.
Leonard is an absolute force on both ends of the floor, heralded in his days with the Spurs as a lockdown defender; Kawhi took his game to the next level since leaving San Antonio, leaving us all in awe. Already one of the best two-way players in NBA history, Kawhi hopes to bring a championship to the Los Angeles Clippers one day. A championship for the other team in LA would be the icing on the cake for what is already a Hall of Fame for The Terminator, Kawhi has simply done it all with championship wins against teams led by Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Ever since leaving San Antonio’s equal-opportunity offense, Leonard is averaging over 25 points per game, but something tells me that even if he already has a historic set of accomplishments to his name, Kawhi isn’t done yet.
A three-time NBA champion and the undisputed greatest shooter of all time, that is Steph Curry. Not only did Steph’s rise to stardom propel the Golden State Warriors to become the most valuable NBA franchise, but he did it in a fashion that changed the way we look at basketball. Before there was Logo Lillard, we used to refer that territory as “Steph Curry Range” and it seems like the younger generation of NBA players is following suit because of the early exploits of Steph beyond the three-point line. Curry averaged 32 ppg last season, which ranks in the top 30 of all time, Steph may be tiny but he is just as unstoppable as the best to play the game. Steph will also overtake Ray Allen as the all-time leader in three-pointers made by the end of next season, and if he hasn’t already, Curry will cement his place as one of the all-time greats.
CP3 may not have a ring to his name, but one can argue that Paul is one of the top-five point guards of all time. After Magic Johnson, Isaiah Thomas, and John Stockton, is there a player better at running the point than Chris? Though he came close to a championship with the Phoenix Suns last season, the drastic improvements that teams have experienced after acquiring Paul are the only measures we need to consider when judging his career. Few players affect winning the way Chris Paul does, his combination of scoring and pace control is unlike any other, something many fail to appreciate when judging his game. Chris also has career averages of 18.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 9.5 assists, and 2.2 steals per game; for true point guards, it doesn’t get much better than that on both ends of the floor.
The Greek Freak probably doesn’t make this list without a ring to his name, so after leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the 2021 NBA Championship, it’s a must that we include him. Giannis became the third player in NBA history to win both the Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year award in the same year, joining Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan with this honor. Let’s face it, Giannis is simply the most dominant player that we have seen since Shaquille O’Neal, except Giannis can defend 1-5 and attack with a live dribble or a cutter to the basket. Freak also had one of the best finals performances in NBA history, scoring 40 or more points in back-to-back finals games, something that LeBron James last accomplished in 2016. What stands out most for Giannis, however, is his commitment to the Bucks. While this loyalty was something that was the norm back in the day, the era of player empowerment rarely sees players stick with the teams that draft them, winning a championship for Milwaukee definitely puts Giannis in elite company given the times and should earn him a spot on this illustrious list.