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By Chris Bernucca
SportsTicker Pro Basketball Editor
BRISTOL, Connecticut (Ticker) - Did you know this is the NBA's 60th season?
You may be a bit confused, because the league held its "NBA at 50" celebration nine years ago. But it actually staged its season-long golden anniversary at the outset of its 51st season, having turned a full 50 years old.
That was quite a spectacle. Plans were announced at the 1996 Finals. As the next season began, all-time lists voted on by an impeccable panel were released. The Top 10 Teams. The Top 10 Coaches. The 50 Greatest Players.
Now that the NBA is on the verge of turning 60, shouldn't that last list have an appendix? When it was first released, Tim Duncan was a senior in college. Kobe Bryant was six months out of high school. LeBron James was 11 years old.
Fifty years, 50 players. Sixty years, 60 players. Makes sense, right?
TNT seems to think so. The network plans on developing its own list as part of its coverage of All-Star Weekend in February. Guess we beat 'em to it.
The appendix doesn't simply list 10 contemporary players. It tries to right some wrongs from the first list without doing a disservice to anyone already selected.
It also does some speculating, as the first list did with a young fellow named Shaquille O'Neal, who was just beginning his fifth season. That worked out pretty well, don't you think?
However, before the appendix is revealed, we should acknowledge those who were considered but did not make it. Jo Jo White, Dan Issel, Maurice Cheeks, Sidney Moncrief, Dominique Wilkins, Kevin Johnson, Mark Jackson, Dennis Rodman (yes, Dennis Rodman), Ray Allen, Steve Nash and Alonzo Mourning all made the short list.
However, the list had to be shorter, and they did not make the cut.
Behind the velvet rope is a guy wearing a black turtleneck and an ultra-light earpiece with a thin microphone. He is holding a clipboard with the names of 10 men who are allowed entry into a highly exclusive club known as basketball immortality.
The list includes two retired players, another hanging on for a last chance at glory and one whose star does not burn so brightly anymore. It also has five players at the absolute peak of their game and another whose ceiling cannot be predicted.
The first limousine is pulling up now. A tall, elderly man is getting out. It's ...
BOB MCADOO: If you are under 40 years old, just shut up and listen. McAdoo was a face-up 6-10 center who won three straight scoring titles in the early 1970s with the Buffalo Braves and was the only MVP not chosen the first time around. (Nash can have that dubious honor now.) Early in his career, he also was consistently among the league leaders in rebounds, blocked shots and shooting percentage.
McAdoo kept putting up numbers, but a series of trades to bad teams diminished his value. When he latched on with the Lakers in the early 1980s, he became one of the most lethal bench players in the NBA, averaging double digits even though he played no more than 20 or so minutes per game.
REGGIE MILLER: Besides Ronald McDonald and Michael Jordan, who else can say he is the face of a successful franchise? Miller can. He is one of just 12 players to score 25,000 points, and although he has the lowest scoring average among the dozen, only Jordan made more clutch shots. Not Jerry West. Not John Havlicek.
GARY PAYTON: When the first list was released, Payton probably was the game's second-best player behind Jordan. He clearly is slowing down as he chases a championship, but runway models eventually get crow's feet, too.
Payton came into the NBA as a playmaker and stopper. He is in the all-time top six in both assists and steals and has crashed the top 25 in scoring as well. While you are remembering his nine All-Star berths and First Team All-Defense selections, don't forget his durability and competitive streak.
JASON KIDD: The closest thing to Magic Johnson in a point guard actually has won more assist titles (five). He also continues to rack up triple-doubles at a rate exceeded only by the man who invented them (Oscar Robertson) and the man who perfected them (Johnson).
Those who question his occasional prima donna behavior tend to forget his seven All-Defense selections and one-man transformation of a league laughingstock into a back-to-back conference champion. In his 12th season, he still plays at an All-Star level.
KOBE BRYANT: There is a perception, somewhat self-imposed, that Bryant must succeed on his own in order to validate his greatness. But do you know any contemporary player that would not have to ride shotgun to O'Neal? The fact that Bryant challenged that notion tells you all you need to know about his drive to be the best.
In Game Four of the 2000 Finals, Bryant took charge in overtime after O'Neal had fouled out, maturing in a matter of minutes before our eyes. He has seven All-Star berths, five All-Defense selections and two All-NBA nods and is just 27. He has plenty more to show us.
KEVIN GARNETT: The contemporary McAdoo, with passing ability to boot. His streak of 20-10-5 seasons is at seven, two longer than that of Larry Bird without the benefit of a pair of 50 Greatest Players sharing the frontcourt. And Garnett's run of All-Defense First Team selections is six and counting, which is six more than Bird.
That is about perspective rather than comparison. However, Garnett - like Bird - also changed the finances of the game. He still needs to update his postseason resume to something more than appearances, but at 29, he has lots of time.
TIM DUNCAN: Perhaps the most complete big man to play the game. Aside from his occasional free-throw shooting funks, there is not aspect of his game that you would not classify as a strength because his intelligence refuses to allow him to try things he knows he cannot do.
When Duncan makes First Team All-NBA after this season, he will match Bird's mark of nine straight selections at the outset of a career. With two MVPs, three championships, three Finals MVPs and still not yet 30, he is on his way to joining Jordan, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the pantheon of winning while dominating.
ALLEN IVERSON: The most talented small man to play the game. Better than Bob Cousy, Nate Archibald, Isiah Thomas or John Stockton, Iverson has an MVP, four scoring titles, three steals titles, six All-Star berths and a career playoff average of better than 30 points per game.
Now 30, Iverson also has one of the greatest motors in sports history. There are those who say he will burn it out or break down the same way Archibald and Thomas did. The truth is that playing point guard may extend his career rather than shorten it.
DIRK NOWITZKI: The original list had just two international players - Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing, both representative of the beginning of the foreign influence on the NBA in the 1980s. However, one in every six players today is from somewhere other than the United States, and they aren't just centers.
No player is more representative of the foreign invasion than Nowitzki, the best shooting big man in the history of the game. Just 27, the four-time All-Star has added post play and rugged rebounding to his unstoppable perimeter attack and has made the Mavericks his team, the same way Olajuwon and Ewing did with theirs.
LEBRON JAMES: Yes, we know he has yet to play 200 games. Yes, we are aware that he has yet to visit the playoffs. And yes, we know he can't legally buy a drink. Did you know that if James maintains his current career average of 24 points, remains relatively healthy and play until he is 36, he will have nearly 35,000 points?
He won't get there, because somewhere along the way he will realize that his long-term future - and the key to becoming a perennial winner - is to be less Michael and more Magic. Don't doubt him. He has figured out everything else so far, and he is just 20.
The guy was one of the great clutch players of his era. He deserved his recognition.
He's gotten plenty of recognition. He was part of some of the greatest teams ever in both college and the NBA. He was a multi-time All-Star, All-NBA talent. He's in the Hall of Fame.
He's not one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all-time, and anyone who says he is is flat out wrong. Dominique was better, yet where's his recognition? Oh thats right, he didn't ride coattails like "Big Game" James did.