Greatest NBA Player #33: Bob Pettit-136.05
Few people can say that they watched Bob Pettit play, but he was a dominant player during the 1950s and early 1960s. Pettit was known as one of the best scorers and rebounders of the era, even leading the NBA in scoring twice. Although there was no three-point line and little spacing, he managed to average 25.7 points per game over the course of his 11-year career. He did that by aggressively attacking the offensive glass for easy shots, drawing more than 10 free throws a game, and relying on a mid-range jumper.
It was simple yet effective. So much so that he and the St. Louis Hawks were one of just two teams to beat the Russell Celtics in the NBA Finals. He also became the first player ever to reach 20,000 points, win NBA MVP, and retire as the league’s all-time leading scorer.
That gives us a good idea of how much better he was than his competition, though many of the stats available now didn’t exist for Pettit. Blocks, steals, turnovers, and 3-pointers weren’t yet a thing, so win shares from his generation of players primarily rely on counting stats like scoring and rebounding and team pace to help come up with an estimation.
That both helps and hurts Pettit, who, in addition to being a scorer, averaged a terrific 16.2 rebounds per game over his career. On the other hand, he benefited from the breakneck speed at which the game was played and how poorly opponents shot. That doesn’t take away from how good Pettit was, though it means that his stats were inflated by today’s standards. Top-30 all-time seems fitting.