Ranking the 50 greatest NBA players of all time

The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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26. Bob Pettit

  • Resume: 11 seasons, 1 NBA championship, 2 regular season MVP Awards, 11-time All-NBA selection, 11-time NBA All-Star, 4-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, Rookie of the Year Award, 2-time NBA leader in scoring, Hall-of-Famer
  • Stats: 26.4 PPG, 16.2 RPG, 3.0 APG, .436/—/.761 shooting splits, 25.3 career PER, 136.0 win shares

By the numbers and achievements alone, Bob Pettit would be deserving of a spot in the top 15. But like George Mikan, we also have to take into account that he played in an era where professional basketball was nowhere near where it is today. Still, all signs indicate that Pettit would’ve fared much better in the modern game than his clunky counterpart.

For one thing, Pettit regularly battled against legends like Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain…and largely held his own. He was a relentless power forward-center hybrid who snatched rebounds off the glass like they were pieces of chocolate cake. He led the St. Louis Hawks to their only championship and was the driving force that helped topple Russell’s Celtics in the 1958 NBA Finals, including a 50-point performance in the decisive Game 6.

Pettit probably isn’t as well known as he should be because there was little about his game that made him stand out. His career only lasted 11 seasons, despite the fact that he rarely missed games and was incredibly durable in that short time.

That being said, any guy who went toe-to-toe with Bill Russell four times in the Finals and actually emerged victorious once deserves a little recognition as one of the league’s all-time greats. It’s also worth noting that he averaged 27.9 points and 20.3 rebounds per game during the 1960-61 season. If a player did that today, Skip Bayless would have an aneurism.