If you ask a lot of people who he or she thinks is the greatest basketball player of all time, I bet most people would say Michael Jordan. Some might say Wilt Chamberlain. Some might say Magic Johnson. Unique skill-sets are what set players apart from one another. LeBron James was supposed to the “next” MJ coming out of high school.
But we soon found out that his skill-set resembled Magic Johnson’s more than MJ’s. I would say that Kobe Bryant will be the closest thing to Jordan that we will ever see in the NBA.
I am going to break-down some of the greatest basketball players who ever played the game and give meaning to the phrase: “Best player of his era” and “Most dominant player of his era.”
Time Frame: 1949-1959
When the NBA became the NBA in 1949, there was one player who stood above the rest, literally. George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers was the tallest player in the NBA at that time and he used his height to his advantage. Even though he only played a total of six seasons in the NBA, Mikan was one of the most dominant big men. In 1949-1950, he averaged 27.4 ppg and the following year he averaged 28.4 and 14.1 rebounds. He never shot a high percentage from the field and I don’t know why that is, but he was a very good free-throw shooter (78.4% in his career). He ended up with career averages of 22.3 ppg and 13.4 rpg and led the Lakers to four NBA championships.
No question he was the best and most dominant player in his era (1949-1954).
Bob Pettit was the #2 overall pick in the 1954 NBA draft. He was selected by the Milwaukee Hawks and starred for them for only one season, but it was a memorable one. He won Rookie of the Year honors, averaging 20.4 ppg and 13.4 rpg, but he was only getting started.
After the team moved from Milwaukee to St. Louis in 1955, Pettit began to put his stamp on the league. He had seasons of 25.7 and 16.2, 24.6 and 17.4, 29.2 and 16.4, and 31.1 and 18.7. Not to mention, he had a season where he averaged 27.9 and 20.3. In his 11 NBA seasons, Pettit finished his career with an average of 26.4 ppg and 16.2 rpg.
He wasn’t extremely tall (6’9), but that was tall enough to get the job done every game. He isn’t mentioned as much as he should be because he played back when the league was just getting started, despite winning a championship and not many people focus on how the NBA began. The public really only remembers as far back as Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.
And the main reason most people don’t give him more respect was because he won only ONE championship. Pettit played 11 seasons in the NBA (1954-1965), scoring 20,880 points and grabbing 12,849 rebounds.