FanDuel - WFBC

August 03, 2006

Most influential players in NBA History: NBA analyst Charley Rosen provides a fairly comprehensive if not obvious list of players who had the most impact on the game itself. Who's missing?

posted by gradys_kitchen to basketball at 09:02 AM - 45 comments

That whole group of dominant big men that played from the mid 1980's to about 2000 or so. That list includes the likes of Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutumbo, David Robinson and of course, Shaquille O'Neal. These men above were key pivot men who each played a role revolutionizing the game of basketball, be it on the offensive end (Shaq and the Admiral), the defensive end (Ewing, Mutumbo and Mourning) or both (Olajuwon). I"m surprised that not one of them made the list. Each went on to stellar careers, and only Ewing and Mutumbo are without championship rings. Ok, after reading this article more carefully, I see that these guys all spawned from other legendary big men. Still, they did help revolutionize the game some in the 80's-90's.

posted by chemwizBsquared at 09:21 AM on August 03

Maybe I missed it, but how about Pete Maravich. His scoring, ball-handling, passing, etc., helped make the game the dynamic display of skills it became in later years.

posted by dyams at 09:43 AM on August 03

I think that Pete Marivich should have been on there. He was the man who revolutionized the art of dribbling and passing and spawned the players of today like Steve Nash.

posted by kidrayter2005 at 09:43 AM on August 03

I like John Stockton and Karl Malone to be added to this list, no one did the pick and roll better than them. And also Larry Bird, the greatest shooter of all time.

posted by tim at 10:07 AM on August 03

Good point on Bird.

posted by kidrayter2005 at 10:14 AM on August 03

there is no way larry bird isn't on this list

posted by KMCJZZY at 10:27 AM on August 03

The most influential person (as opposed to player) was whatever marketing genius turned the exciting players of the early 1980's into TV gold, thereby moving the NBA from a more niche sport into a fan phenomenon.

posted by commander cody at 10:31 AM on August 03

Don't forget the magnificent Isaiah Thomas. PURE GENIUS!!! Look what he did for the Knicks.

posted by joromu at 10:49 AM on August 03

How about Drazen Petrovic who ushered in the European migration into the NBA. As for Bird, I don't think he had much influence on the league since hitting jump shoots is still a lost art in today's game. Let's just call him one of the game's greatest players and ugliest mugs.

posted by gradys_kitchen at 11:16 AM on August 03

And also Larry Bird, the greatest shooter of all time. I'm as big a larry bird fan as you'll find, but one, he wasn't the greatest shooter of all time, and two, even if he was it's not something that would be called "influential" which is what the article discussed.

posted by justgary at 11:17 AM on August 03

If Jordan gets credit for changing the game off the court as well as on the court, I think that Dennis Rodman should get a mention too. "Be as bad as you wanna be" is a lesson Ron Artest and a few others have taken to heart. The league is different today as a result. Just look at little things like the league-imposed dress code, age-restriction, etc. I guess Charles Barkley could be mentioned in that same breath too. (note: I'm not "pointing fingers", I actually love these guys)

posted by Spitztengle at 11:22 AM on August 03

I personally think that Yao should be on the list. He revolutionized overseas scouting in the NBA. I know his numbers arent nearly as good as the other names mentioned, but he did influence the game tremendously.

posted by redsoxrgay at 11:54 AM on August 03

what stands out in his list is the unique stamp each of those players left on the game. based on that alone (not necessarily who was the best of all-time), here's who should also be on the list: 1) Olajuwon -- most mobile, best-passing, most well-rounded center ever. no brainer. 2) Kevin McHale -- patented the undefendable low-post move. he dominated on that move alone. everyone knew where he'd be but still couldn't block him out. 3) Dennis Rodman -- first purely defensive-minded starting forward who was not an offensive liability bc his offensive rebounding made him a threat. paved way for guys like Ben Wallace. and i agree with spitztengle. like it or not, he was really first guy to push the tattoo/wild hairdo envelope to become commonplace today. 4) Bird -- mainly because he's Bird and bc he proved slow white guys could dominate with amazing court sense and psychological intimidation. plus, he and magic brought the NBA out of the abyss when they joined the league. 5) Maravich -- for the reasons already mentioned

posted by bluesdog at 12:08 PM on August 03

I think Jordan should have been #1 for one simple reason, he won without a center. No other team in NBA history can make that claim. You name the champion someone can name the HOF center also on that team. As for Russel, I think if people start looking back at his stats they will realize he wasn't ever dominant. He never led his team in a single stat and was never a defensive threat to anyone. He let his guys score, if they missed he got the rebound and passed to Cousey who started their fast break. Now they were a great team, but any 6'9 guy on that squad would have had the same impact as him.

posted by warstda at 12:32 PM on August 03

Spudd Webb...he did it for the little people

posted by irishmic2004@sbcglobal.net at 12:35 PM on August 03

[Russell] was never a defensive threat to anyone....He let his guys score What?! Bill Russell was one of the greatest shot blockers in the history of basketball, if not the greatest of all time. What are you basing these opinions on?

posted by Venicemenace at 12:42 PM on August 03

No mention of Wilt or Kareem? In their heydays, they were virtually the only reason I even watched. Well, actually Wilt was on the downside of his career when I started watching.

posted by graymatters at 12:45 PM on August 03

And not a word about George Mikan, the guy who showed the really big guys that they too could play the game.

posted by The Woj at 12:59 PM on August 03

And not a word about George Mikan, the guy who showed the really big guys that they too could play the game.

posted by The Woj at 01:05 PM on August 03

Just look at the opponents center and how many points and rebounds they got. If one is to be considered a great defensive player I think you should have to shut your guy out atleast once. Also, note the time period, the league barely averaged 6ft in the 1960s and was predominately a white league. I don't think blocking a shot took that much talent.

posted by warstda at 01:07 PM on August 03

On a side note, on this very day in 1949 The National Basketball Association was formed. Perhaps thatís part of the reason for the list coming out right now. And yea Pete Maravich should be on that list.

posted by Folkways at 01:14 PM on August 03

They should use your argument to define "Truthiness" I mean I bet you think Nolan Ryan is a better pitcher than Roger Clemens cause writers favor Nolan more. The stats don't lie, Russel was on great teams but he as a individual was no influental player. Now as a coach yes, being the first African American coach was far greater influence on the game than anything he did on the court as a player.

posted by warstda at 01:20 PM on August 03

OK warsdta, we'll leave the writers out of it. "There is no doubt about it. He would be, by far, the best center in the league today." Red Auerbach "Iím just not going to start out giving Russell an advantage." Syracuse Nationals coach Paul Seymour, on benching his starting center because Russell owned him so thoroughly "How much does that guy make a year? It would be to our advantage if we paid him off for five years to get away from us in the rest of this series." Syracuse forward Dolph Schayes "If I had a choice of any basketball player in the league, my No.1 choice has to be Bill Russell. Bill Russell never ceases to amaze me." Jerry West "Thatís quite a twist, isnít it, having a defensive player mean the difference? We donít fear the Celtics without Bill Russell. Take him out and we can beat them Ö Every one of the five men is thinking Russell is covering him on every play." Laker coach John Kundla "I think he played today what could be called one of the great games of all time. He made us think every second we were out there. He made us respect him every second of the game." Bob Pettit "He could take away a whole side of the floor. He would know the tendencies of everyone involved, and depending on whether the man with the ball was right-handed or left-handed he could make him do what he didnít want to do...He would essentially say, 'Iím going to take away one-half of the floor. Go ahead and see if you can score from the other side.'" John Havlicek

posted by Venicemenace at 01:37 PM on August 03

Woj, follow the link! Mikan is #4 in the list and there's a picture of him with Shaq. Gary, right on target about Bird. His game was pretty traditional. He was just great at it.

posted by ctal1999 at 01:42 PM on August 03

I think the Pearl hurts the Pistol's claim on the list, since both played at about the same time, both played a street game and Pearl had the better career between the two.

posted by jackhererra at 01:53 PM on August 03

What about Cousy?

posted by willthrill72 at 02:20 PM on August 03

Don't forget the magnificent Isaiah Thomas. PURE GENIUS!!! Look what he did for the Knicks. I think Jordan should have been #1 for one simple reason, he won without a center. No other team in NBA history can make that claim. You name the champion someone can name the HOF center also on that team. Not much can be said for what Isiah has done after playing, but Zeke won championships as a player without the luxury of a HOF center before Jordan. Also, although Isiah wasn't the sole contributor, his Pistons teams were famous for being the Bad Boys. Along with Pat Riley's Knicks teams, the Bad Boys helped to influence an era of ugly, defensive-minded basketball that was a big part of so many games finishing in the 70-point range.

posted by chamo at 02:40 PM on August 03

I think Jordan should have been #1 for one simple reason, he won without a center. posted by warstda I think you might want to look up the word influential.

posted by justgary at 03:07 PM on August 03

People are losing sight of what the article about, it's not about the best players (necessarily) but rather about players that through their unique ability changed how the game was played or perceived. Did Bird do that? No. Did Magic? A 6'9 point guard? Hell yes! I'm even tempted to say that Scottie Pippen revolutionized the small forward position by becoming the first "point forward", but perhaps that's derivative of Magic. Still I'd say Pippen before Bird, or any of the (great) centers that chemwiz mentioned, not because he was better (he was better than some of them) but because he changed the way the 3 was played more than any of them changed the way the 5 was played. This is also why I agree that the Pearl is more influential than Pistol Pete.

posted by sic at 03:36 PM on August 03

Along with Pat Riley's Knicks teams, the Bad Boys helped to influence an era of ugly, defensive-minded basketball that was a big part of so many games finishing in the 70-point range. Comment icon posted by chamo at 2:40 PM CDT on August 3 Ugh, thank god that era's over.

posted by sic at 03:39 PM on August 03

Pistol Pete is definately on the most influential BASKETBALL players in history. However, his career wasn't defined by his NBA playing. He was a college scoring machine. And being white on the harlem globetrotters. I still think he deserved the list. MOST definately Larry Bird, the best basketball mind that we have seen. He was MJ without being athletic....

posted by Snikastyle at 04:01 PM on August 03

No support for Dr. J ???? As an old ABA fan, I can attest that he was by far the most influential player of that league, if he had spent more of his better years in the NBA, I would think he makes this list easy. To those of you setting the record straight about Bill Russell, (yerfatma, venice) thanks.

posted by mjkredliner at 04:15 PM on August 03

I'm even tempted to say that Scottie Pippen revolutionized the small forward position by becoming the first "point forward", but perhaps that's derivative of Magic. posted by sic at 3:36 PM The article actually credits Rick Barry as a pioneer of the point-forward spot. How about Moses Malone for being the first basketball player to jump straight from high school into the pros?

posted by gradys_kitchen at 04:18 PM on August 03

I think Jordan should have been #1 for one simple reason, he won without a center. No other team in NBA history can make that claim. You name the champion someone can name the HOF center also on that team Well, how about the team Jordan beat to get to the EC finals and the 89' Champs- Detroit Pistons. Bill L. is a HOF center?

posted by Bishop at 06:49 PM on August 03

Kareem would have to be the sky hook change the game. Wilt the rules of the game were changed for this big man 100 points in one game.

posted by SharpShooter at 10:20 PM on August 03

Kareem would have to be the sky hook change the game. The sky hook is dead, didn't change the game, and has no influence.

posted by justgary at 10:29 PM on August 03

William Felton Russell was one of the greatest all-around players of his era or any era. His unselfish style of play provided a road map to success to any one who was willing to work hard enough to follow him.He truly deserves the top spot.But where is Kansas University star Wilt Chamberlain who dominated the NBA for years?And what about Jerry West,one of the greatest pure shooters of all time?West inspired a whole generation of average sized kids to practice in their driveways to be like him. Jordan and Bird had that same effect on kids,and the truly great ones provide a shining example for an entire generation.

posted by judgedread at 10:34 PM on August 03

Kareem would have to be the sky hook change the game That's like saying the underhand free-throw changed the game. Who is the guy who firsted started shooting overhand free throws? He changed the game. And what's the ref's name who said "we should stop calling "palming" or "turning the ball over", he really changed the game.

posted by Bishop at 11:56 PM on August 03

And what's the ref's name who said "we should stop calling "palming" or "turning the ball over", he really changed the game. or the one who said to stop calling traveling! Some of these guys run halfway down the court without dribbling and move all over the place. In high school they'd be on the bench.

posted by commander cody at 02:33 AM on August 04

Kareem would have to be the sky hook change the game. What, like there wasn't a hook shot in existence before Kareem? Just because he did it better than anybody else for a period of time doesn't mean he invented it.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 06:43 AM on August 04

If it's based on hook shots, I nominate Meadowlark Lemon. His half-courter was nice.

posted by Bishop at 07:57 AM on August 04

CC, some of the comments are getting a little off topic, but I have to give a hearty "AMEN" to you comment on travelling. Drives me nuts, especially when they DO call it occasionally, with no rhyme or reason why.

posted by ctal1999 at 09:26 AM on August 04

I nominate Meadowlark Lemon. His half-courter was nice. His no look, backwards over the head from 40 feet wasn't too shabby, either!

posted by mjkredliner at 02:43 PM on August 04

Ya know ctal it happens that way often enough to make me wonder if pro refs even know what traveling is! The players seem to have forgotten it and they sure get a way with it.

posted by commander cody at 11:40 PM on August 04

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