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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Portrait of George Gervin, guard for the San Antonio Spurs. Gervin, better known as “Iceman” lead the league in scoring four times and was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996. /

43. George Gervin

  • Resume: 14 seasons (NBA and ABA), 7-time All-NBA selection, 9-time NBA All-Star, NBA All-Star Game MVP, 4-time NBA leader in scoring, 3-time All-ABA selection, 3-time ABA leader in scoring, Hall-of-Famer
  • Stats: 25.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .504/.271/.841 shooting splits, 21.4 career PER, 116.3 win shares

Most NBA savants know George Gervin for his incredible scoring ability, his unparalleled finger roll, his status as one of the greatest shooting guards ever and being one of the awesomely nicknamed legends from the earliest periods of NBA history. But if you look at his resume, you’ll notice a severe lack of team success.

As I mentioned in the intro, a player’s placement in the top 50 doesn’t depend entirely on the silly “RINGZZZ” argument, but unfortunately for the Iceman, he sometimes took the “me-first” attitude of a scorer to a different level. Gervin was an unstoppable and remarkably consistent scorer throughout the course of games, but he also routinely missed practices, played some pretty crappy defense and was consumed by scoring titles and individual numbers.

More importantly, his teams never won anything. In short, you couldn’t win a championship with Gervin as your best player, especially because he seemed to disappear in the clutch. That’s not to question his status as an all-time great, however. No shooting guard had more scoring titles than Gervin until MJ came along, and the Iceman’s game was too refreshingly cool to deny.

In 1978, Gervin won his first scoring title over David Thompson, who scored 73 points in the last game of season to make things interesting. But the Iceman responded with 63 points through two and a half quarters in his last game of the season, then sat out the rest of the game — a loss — with the knowledge he had locked the scoring title up. That story, for both good and bad reasons, is the epitome of George Gervin’s career.