A little over a week ago, the NBA and a panel of voters ranging from front office staff to current players decided upon and released a list of the league’s 75 greatest players in honor of the organization’s 75th anniversary. Icons such as LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were prominently featured, but there were certainly some notable omissions with some names seeming out of place.
There is a bevy of names that certainly should be listed, with none more notable and relevant than Kyrie Irving. However, the ball handler extraordinaire did not crack the 75, while his Western Conference rival Damian Lillard was named to the team. Irving is an NBA champion who played a critical role in the Cavaliers’ 2016 championship run, serving as LeBron’s wingman. Lillard has yet to ever reach the NBA Finals. In addition, Irving is a seven time all-star and was the 2014 All-Star Game’s MVP.
Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter, two former Raptors teammates, were also omitted from the 75 list, though they have both put up numbers better than most on the list. McGrady led the league in scoring two years in a row from 2002-2004, dominating the league with his sweet stroke and finesse for the Orlando Magic. His 13 points in 33 seconds to secure a crucial win in a near-championship season for the Rockets against the Spurs is easily one of the most iconic moments in league history.
Carter’s high-flying acrobatics and emphatic dunks outright saved the NBA Dunk competition with his performance in the 2000 edition of the All-Star Game’s festivities. He was named the rookie of the year with the Raptors after being selected by the Golden State Warriors fifth overall in the 1998 NBA draft. Carter made it to eight all-star games in his 24-year pro tenure, while managing to rank in the top 10 in scoring for a majority of the first half of his career.
One of the more glaring forgotten names on the list was Alex English, the Denver Nuggets legend and scoring champion of the 1980’s, and the league leader in scoring in the 82-83 season. English also made it to eight all-star games and was crucial to the Nuggets success in the era.
The play of a guy like Dwight Howard in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s is certainly one that could have made the list. Howard led the Magic to a 2009 NBA Finals berth after defeating the Boston Celtics, before eventually falling to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Dwight led the league in rebounding for five of the six years between 2007 and 2013 and also led the league in blocks two times in that same span. His three defensive player of the year awards are tied with Rudy Gobert for the most among active players and are a phenomenal accomplishment.
Yao Ming’s decision to come to the NBA and enter the draft was instrumental in growing the NBA globally, and if his influence culturally wasn’t enough, his play certainly backed it up. The 7-foot-6-inch big man was a key cog in the Rockets system for the eight years he spent in the NBA. Ming averaged over two blocks a game multiple times. Yao made it to the all-star game in every season he played, an accomplishment that only Paul Arizin, Bob Pettit and Jerry West can claim. These stats alone should have been a suitable case for the legendary center.
While the list as a whole remembers some of the best, there’s certainly a chunk of greatness that’s been left out as well.