NBA’s 10 Greatest 7 footers
Last week we brought you the top 10 little men in NBA history. This week we are going to give some love to the best big men the NBA has ever seen. To qualify for this list a player must be listed as 7' or taller, which makes some all time great front court players ineligible. Guys like Kevin Garnet, Tim Duncan, Moses Malone, Bill Walton, and Bill Russell all came up just short for this giant list.
Robert Parish was the anchor for the classic Larry Bird Celtic teams. Parish was the center for 4 NBA championships with the Celtics. Through his 21 year career Parish averaged 14.5 points, and 9.1 rebounds per game. He ranks 26th on the all-time career points list and 8th on the all time career rebounding list. In 21 seasons Parish made 9 All-Star game appearances, and also holds the record for most career games played with 1,611
9. Pau Gasol
As a rookie in 2001 Pau Gasol entered the NBA with more professional experience than most rookies, Pau became a professional basketball player for Barcelona at 16 years of age. In his final season with the Barcelona squad Gasol, now age 20, averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds per game, leading his team to the Spanish National Cup Championship where he was awarded the MVP trophy. He averaged 17.6 points per game and 8.9 rebounds in his first NBA season while also not missing a single game on his way to winning Rookie of the Year. In 2008 Pau was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers where he had enormous success playing along side Kobe Bryant. Pau and Kobe led Los Angles to three straight NBA finals appearances, winning two titles together. Pau is now starting for the Chicago Bulls who are looking to make some noise this playoff season. His career numbers of 18.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.2 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game, combined with his 5 All-Star game appearances and 4 All NBA-Team honors were enough to get Pau the number 56 ranking on ESPN's latest all-time list of the NBA's greatest players. Along with all of his accomplishments in the NBA, Pau is an international basketball icon. He has won 4 gold medals in international play, has been named All-European player of the year twice, and was awarded the FIBA Europe Player of the Year two times.
8. Artis Gilmore
Artis Gilmore in one of the most underrated players in basketball history. When Gilmore broke into the ABA in 1971 with the Kentucky Colonels he dominated the game, he was named ABA Rookie of the Year, he also was named league MVP, as a rookie! His best season in the ABA was the 1974-75 season when he averaged 24 points and 16 rebounds per game while leading the Colonels to the ABA title, and winning the playoff MVP. Over his first 5 seasons in the ABA Gilmore was named All-ABA First Team every year and was All-ABA Defensive team 4 of the 5 years. In only 5 seasons in the ABA Gilmore set all-time career records for blocks in a season (422), career blocks (750), and rebounds in a game (40). When the ABA ended its existence after the 1976 season Gilmore was put into the NBA dispersal draft where he was the first player selected, going to the Bulls. Gilmore played a total of 18 seasons between the ABA and NBA, amassing 11 total All-Star appearances, ranking in the top 50 in career rebounds, and the top 25 in career blocked shots. Gilmore finished his career with 18.8 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
7. Patrick Ewing
Patrick Ewing entered the NBA as the number 1 overall pick in the 1985 draft. Ewing was selected by the New York Knicks after spending 4 years at Georgetown University, where he led the school to 3 NCAA championship games in his 4 years there. Ewing was heralded as the savior of basketball in New York City, and he did his best to be that savior many hoped he would be, the only problem for Ewing and the Knicks was that he played in the same era as Michael Jordan. Ewing was never able to bring a championship to New York City, he did however bring lots of excitement and many great moments to Madison Square Garden. Through his career Ewing accumulated many accomplishments, including being the Knicks all-time leader in career points, rebounds, steals, blocks, and games played. Ewing was named to the All-NBA team on 10 occasions and made 11 All-Star Game rosters as well as being a member of the original 1992 USA "Dream Team". He currently ranks 21 on the NBA all-time scoring list and 24 on the all-time rebounding list. In the latest ESPN ranking of all-time great NBA players, Ewing was rated the 32nd best player in NBA history with averages of 20.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game.
6. Dirk Nowitzki
With one of the rarest skill sets in NBA history Dirk Nowitzki helped change the way the NBA looks at 7 footers. Nowitzki, at 7 foot tall has the shooting touch to match most guards in the league. Nowitzki, it could be argued, is the most underrated player of his generation. His style of play has created a new type of basketball player. We now see young guys in the NBA like Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porzingis, and Kevin Durant who grew up idolizing the 7 footer with great shooting touch, and emulating his game. Nowitzki became the only player 7 foot or taller to be in the elusive 40-50-90 club in 2006-07 when he shot above 40% from the field, above 50% from the 3-point line and above 90% on his free throws. Nowitzki has 1 MVP award in his career along with 1 NBA Championship where he was also named NBA Finals MVP, when he led the Dallas Mavericks past the Miami Heat's "Big 3" of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. Nowitzki has been named to 12 All-NBA teams, including 4 First-Team nods, and 13 All-Star teams. He ranks 6th on the NBA all-time scoring list and 35th on the all- time rebounding list. With career averages of 22 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, Nowitzki was ranked as the 17th greatest player in NBA history by ESPN.
5. David Robinson
"The Admiral", widely regarded as the greatest basketball player to ever come out of the Naval Academy, burst onto the NBA scene right out of the gates. He guided a previously poor San Antonio Spurs squad to the playoffs his rookie season, unanimously winning Rookie of the Year honors along the way. The Spurs would make the Playoffs in Robinson's first 8 seasons. During the 1993-94 season Robinson found himself 33 points behind Shaquille O'Neal for the league scoring title entering the final game of the season. Robinson entered the final game that year against the LA Clippers, he would finish the game with a career best 71 points and take home the scoring title that season, the 71 point outburst also broke George Gervin's franchise record for most points in a game. Robinson led the Spurs deep into the playoffs through the early 1990s and during those years Robinson was named league MVP twice, back to back in 1995 and 1996. A back injury during the 1997 season looked like the end of Robinson's championship hopes, but when Robinson went down for the season the Spurs struggled so mightily that they landed themselves the number 1 pick in the following draft where they were able to select Tim Duncan. During the 1998-99 season Robinson was back and Tim Duncan was even better than the hype surrounding him when he entered the league out of Wake Forest, the Spurs went on to win the NBA title that season with Duncan and Robinson leading the way. Robinson would retire after the 2003 NBA Finals, where he and Duncan again led the Spurs to the championship, giving Robinson his second career title. Robinson retired with over 20,000 career points scored, and the distinction of being one of only four players in NBA history to ever record a quadruple-double when he had 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 blocks against the Detroit Pistons in 1994. The Admiral was also amember of the 1992 USA "Dream Team" along with the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird.
4. Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem Olajuwon was drafted number 1 overall by the Houston Rockets in the 1984 NBA Draft, the '84 draft is regarded by some as the greatest draft in NBA history. He was selected ahead of players like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton. The Rockets had immediate success during Olajuwon's rookie season, as they won 19 more games than the season before he arrived (their record went from 29-53 to 48-34). He teamed with the 1984 Rookie of the Year, 7' 4" Ralph Sampson to form the original NBA "Twin Towers" duo. Olajuwon averaged 20.6 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.68 blocks in his rookie season. He finished as runner-up to Michael Jordan in the 1985 Rookie of the Year voting, and was the only other rookie to receive any votes. Olajuwon averaged 23.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game during his second pro season and guided the Rockets to the NBA Finals only to come up short against an all-time great Boston Celtics team, led by Larry Bird. Olajuwon played in the golden age of big men and he quite possible was the best of the bunch, he was at the height of his powers in 1994 when he became the only player in NBA history to win the regular season MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season, however, that would be Hakeem's only NBA Championship. Olajuwon ended his career as the NBA all-time blocks leader, and along with David Robinson he is the only player in NBA history to finish their career averaging over 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. A 12 time All-NBA team member, and 12 time All-Star Olajuwon also ranks 10th on the all-time NBA scoring list and 13th on the all-time rebounding list.
3. Shaquille O'Neal
Shaq was the most dominant force the NBA had seen since Wilt Chamberlain. He came into the leagues in 1992 and proceeded to win his first of many awards, as was named Rookie of the Year. O'Neal, along with Penny Hardaway, took the Orlando Magic to the NBA finals in 1995 and it appeared that Shaq and Penny were going to be a frequent visitor to the Finals, but as fate would have it Shaq moved on from Orlando and went out west to the Los Angeles Lakers. Shaq was justified in making the move as he would go on to win 3 straight NBA titles and 3 straight Finals MVP awards in LA, along with a league MVP award in 2000. In 2004 O'Neal and Lakers co-star Kobe Bryant could no longer co-exist so Shaq moved on and went back to Florida, this time to the Miami Heat where he and Dwayne Wade would team up to take Miami to an NBA title, giving Shaq 4 NBA championships. During his career Shaq would make 14 All-NBA Teams and 15 All-Star Games, he also ranks 7th on the all-time scoring list and 8th all time in blocked shots. He finished his career with 23.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. O'Neal will be inducted into the Hall of Fame next year and will have his own statue erected outside of Staples Center in Los Angeles.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabar
In his rookie season, still going by Lew Alcindor, he won the Rookie of the Year Award as he finished the season 2nd in points per game (28.8) and 3rd in the league in rebounding (14.5). The next season the Buck acquired superstar player Oscar Robertson and became an NBA super team, Alcindor went on to win his first of 6 MVP awards that season along with winning his first of 6 NBA titles and first of 2 Finals MVP awards. In 1975 Jabar would move from Milwaukee to the Los Angeles Lakers. Jabar continued to dominate the NBA, however, his playoff success took a step back, but in 1979 the Lakers acquired the number 1 overall pick in the draft and selected Erving "Magic" Johnson. With the addition of Magic and a few other players the Lakers became what is now know as the "Showtime Lakers" and morphed an NBA dynasty. Kareem, Magic and the Lakers would go on to win 5 titles over the next 8 seasons. In 1989 Kareem Abdul-Jabar retired from the NBA leaving a legacy that is hard to match. Kareem's list of accomplishments is so long we don't have space to list everything. Kareem's patented 'skyhook' is regarded as the most unguardable shot of all time. He is the NBA leader in career points (38,387), 3rd in league history with 17,440 rebounds, he is the only player in NBA history to win 6 league MVP awards, he was selected to 19 All-Star Games, and a 15 time All-NBA award recipient, including 10 first team selections, and 11 All-Defensive Team selections (5 First-Team). He finished his career with averages of 24.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game.
1. Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain is the basketball equivalent to Babe Ruth. His dominance in the NBA is unprecedented and likely will never be seen again. Before his rookie season Wilt spent a year traveling and playing basketball with the world famous Harlem Globetrotters. Traveling with the Globe Trotters to Moscow among other international cities helped spread the game of basketball to the world, Chamberlain's impact on the game is also reflected in the fact that he was directly responsible for several rule changes in the NBA, including widening the lane to try to keep him farther away from the basket, instituting offensive goaltending, changing rules regarding inbounding the ball (such as making it illegal to inbound the ball over the backboard), and shooting free throws ( Chamberlain was able to jump from the free throw line towards the basket, turning a free throw into a lay-up). In 1959 Chamberlain played his first NBA season in Philadelphia where he averaged an eye-popping 37.6 points and 27 rebounds per game and won his first of 4 NBA MVP Awards. Wilt had the best statistical season in NBA history during the 1961-62 season where he averaging 50.4 points per game and 25.7 rebounds, including his famous 100 point game against the New York Knicks. Yet somehow Wilt did not win MVP honors that season, instead the award went to Wilt's only rival, Bill Russell. Chamberlain was the most dominant player of all-time, however he played in the same era as the leagues most dominant team of all-time, Red Auerbach's Boston Celtics. After being criticized as just a scorer and rebounder, Chamberlain began to make a concerted effort to become a better passer. During the 1967-68 season Wilt led the NBA in assists, over a 3 year span from 1966-1969 Chamberlain averaged just under 8 assists per game. Wilt played in an era when the rest of the league was not ready for such a dynamic 7'1" athlete of his ability. His career lasted 16 seasons with incredible scoring and rebounding performances displayed every night. During his playing days statistics were not kept at the level they are today, or even 20 years ago. Steals, blocks, PER and other telling stats were not recorded when Wilt was playing. Chamberlain finished his career with averages of 30.1 points, 22.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game along with 2 NBA Championships, 4 MVP titles, 13 All-Star Game appearances, 10 All-NBA teams, 11 Defensive Player of the Year Awards, and when he retired Wilt was the NBA all-time leader in points scored, rebounds, points in a single game, and many other statistical categories.
Honorable Mentions:Dikembe Mutombo, Ralph Sampson, Yao Ming.