Twenty-five years ago in 1996, the NBA selected their 50 Greatest Players to celebrate the league’s 50th anniversary. On schedule, the NBA is expanding that list to 75 this year for the 75th anniversary celebration. The names will be revealed Tuesday-Thursday of this week, the opening week of the 2021-22 season.
Several former Pistons are expected to be on the Top 75 list, but which ones? With 25 years having passed since the first group was selected, and with more NBA stars having matured before our eyes the last two and a half decades, it’s possible some legends may be removed from the original list.
But some Detroit greats are considered untouchables. Let’s look at the former Detroit Pistons who have already been revealed to be members of the Top 75, and speculate on who else may be picked.
Holdovers from Top 50
One could make the argument that Isiah Thomas is the most underrated star in the history of the NBA. It’s gotten to the point that some people look at Isiah like he was a contentious, politically incorrect instigator and nothing else.
But Isiah Thomas was a beast, and could arguably be called pound-for-pound the best guard the NBA has ever seen.
Early in his career, Thomas focused a lot on getting the ball to the rim and scoring. He famously scored 25 points in one quarter, and 16 points in 94 seconds in a playoff game.
Isiah scored 22.9 PPG in his second season in the league, when he was just 21 years old. Through his age 25 season, he averaged 22.7 PPG. But that’s when help started to arrive in Detroit, and Isiah changed his game to concentrate on distributing the basketball and running the offense.
The strategy worked brilliantly: the Pistons won back-to-back NBA titles and made the NBA Finals three straight years. They were selected in 1996 as one of the 10 Greatest Teams in NBA history.
Thomas could still score in the second half of his career, but he subjugated that part of his game for his team. He had the skill to score 25-30 points per night, with lightning speed to penetrate the paint and a solid mid-range jumper. But it was more important that he guide the team and get assists.
Isiah has already been named as one of the Top 75 NBA players.
Rookie of the Year, scoring champion, and team leader: Bing did it all in a career spent mostly with Detroit, where he played from 1967 to 1975. Depending on how the selection committee adds newer and younger players to the list, Bing could find himself left off the list of 75.
Like Isiah Thomas, Bing is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
A product of Austin Catholic High in Detroit, DeBusschere played his first seven seasons in a Pistons’ uniform. He was a pesky forward who could rebound, defend, and score facing the basket with a short jumper and quick first step. Nicknamed “The Big D,” he averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds.
It’s possible that DeBusschere will be left off the new 75-man NBA all-time team. The league will definitely add these ten players: LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Garnett, and Dirk Nowitzki. Current star Giannis Antetokounmpo has been named to the list. So have Steve Nash and James Harden.
That’s 13 new names to make 63 (if the original 50 remain). But there are others to consider too.
Could be added this time
Since the league picked the Top 50, Joe Dumars retired, built a new Pistons dynasty, and was elected to the Hall of Fame. He seems like a strong possibility to be added to the Top75 list, but that’s not a given.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Dumars was a better player than Nash and John Stockton, who was on the first list. No one, not anyone, would have traded Dumars for Stockton in their primes. And Nash, while a flashy passer and good defender, was not the complete player Dumars was. Remember, Joe played in an era when scoring was harder to come by, and the lane was clogged with big bodies. Nash never could have done what he did in the Bad Boys era.
Admittedly, Rodman was a two-trick pony: defender/rebounder. He never had an offensive play called for him, he wasn’t on the court to put the ball through the net. His job was simple: stop the other team’s best player on the offensive end, and clean the glass. No player, regardless of size ever did those two things better. Rodman won numerous rebounding titles and five NBA titles. He’s a member of the Hall of Fame.
Which players do you think should be on the NBA 75th anniversary team? Tell us in the comments or on our Facebook page.