Inner-Circle Hall of Famers: 1950s/1960s

8001039111761_Classic_BasketballPer the methodology outlined here, I now present your Inner-Circle Hall of Famers from the 1950s and 1960s… But first, remember the rules: the player had to play 10 years combined in the NBA or ABA (with 1 exception, which I’ll explain below) and had to rank as one of the 4 best players of their decade in terms of both “media” and “stats” points. By popular demand, I dropped the requirement that a player had to win a championship to be included in the “Inner Circle”, instead requiring them to be the best player on an NBA Finalist. This small change allows for the inclusion of players like Elgin Baylor, a legitimate legend who did not technically win a title despite coming extraordinarily close on a number of occasions. Also, be forewarned that I gerrymandered the “decades” slightly to include the highest possible % of the top 20 overall players by 10-year percentage scores, so in this edition Bill Russell is listed in the 1950s even though the majority of his years came in the 60s, in order to include Baylor in the 1960s. This happened two times in the process: once in the 80s/90s, and once here, with Russell/Baylor.


George Mikan (“Mr. Basketball”)

Position: Center
Height: 6-10 Weight: 245 lbs.
Born: June 18, 1924 in Joliet, Illinois
Died: June 1, 2005
High School: Quigley Prep in Chicago, Illinois
College: DePaul University

Year Age Team MediaPts Rank StatsPts Rank Composite %Possible Rank
1952 27 MNL 103.5 3.5 105.0 2 104.2 98.3% 2
1953 28 MNL 119.0 3 120.0 2 119.5 98.8% 2
1954 29 MNL 99.0 3 98.0 4 98.5 97.5% 4
1956 31 MNL 34.5 56.5 42.5 48.5 38.3 42.5% 48.5

The only player for whom I’m waiving the 10-year eligibility clause. Mikan led the BAA/NBA in scoring average in each of the 3 seasons before minutes played were kept, led in PER in each of the 3 seasons after MP were first tracked, and was 1st-team all-league in all six seasons, so there’s a very good chance (if incalculable by the metrics used here) that Mikan was the game’s best player from 1949-54. That matches up with the prevailing opinion that Mikan was the game’s first true superstar, and arguably still the most influential player in the sport’s history, having “redefined basketball as a game of so-called big men” (according to Wikipedia at least) and prompted a number of rule changes through his sheer dominance. In The Book of Basketball, Bill Simmons argues that Mikan would never be able to compete today, and that’s almost unquestionably true; at the same time, however, there’s no denying the impact Mikan had on the early game, as well as his dominance over his peers. For these reasons, Mikan is a no-brainer for the Inner Circle.

Bob Pettit (“Dutch”)

Position: Forward-Center
Height: 6-9 Weight: 205 lbs.
Born: December 12, 1932 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
High School: Baton Rouge in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
College: Louisiana State University

Year Age Team MediaPts Rank StatsPts Rank Composite %Possible Rank
1955 22 MLH 96.0 3 97.0 2 96.5 98.5% 2
1956 23 STL 90.0 1 90.0 1 90.0 100.0% 1
1957 24 STL 95.0 2 93.5 3.5 94.2 98.2% 1
1958 25 STL 97.0 3 97.0 3 97.0 98.0% 3
1959 26 STL 92.0 1 92.0 1 92.0 100.0% 1
1960 27 STL 95.0 2 92.5 4.5 93.7 97.6% 3
1961 28 STL 93.0 1 91.0 3 92.0 98.9% 2.5
1962 29 STL 103.5 5.5 103.5 5.5 103.5 95.8% 5
1963 30 STL 114.0 4 114.0 4 114.0 97.4% 4
1964 31 STL 109.0 3 108.0 4 108.5 97.7% 3
1965 32 STL 106.0 9 102.5 12.5 104.2 91.4% 9

If you think about it, Pettit was perhaps (though Bob Cousy might have a case as well) the first true “modern” player: a 6’9″ power forward who could score, rebound, and generally bang and scrap under the basket. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the archetypal PF to me (the Mo Lucas, the Charles Oakley), a hard-nosed guy who was willing to give up his body to help the team win. Pettit was also the NBA’s very first MVP, and was 1st team All-NBA in every single one of his 11 seasons except the last, when he was named to the 2nd team. Some nuggets from Wikipedia: Pettit has the second highest career All-Star Game points per game average, behind only Oscar Robertson, and Pettit & Alex Groza are the only retired players in NBA history to average more than 20 points per game in every season they played. Simply put, Pettit’s resume is clearly the stuff of an Inner-Circle legend.

Bill Russell (“The Winner”)

Position: Center
Height: 6-9 Weight: 215 lbs.
Born: February 12, 1934 in Monroe, Louisiana
High School: McClymonds in Oakland, California
College: University of San Francisco

Year Age Team MediaPts Rank StatsPts Rank Composite %Possible Rank
1957 22 BOS 76.0 21 86.0 11 80.8 84.2% 15
1958 23 BOS 95.0 5 97.0 3 96.0 97.0% 4
1959 24 BOS 91.0 2 89.0 4 90.0 97.8% 3
1960 25 BOS 91.5 5.5 94.0 3 92.7 96.6% 4
1961 26 BOS 89.0 5 89.0 5 89.0 95.7% 5
1962 27 BOS 103.5 5.5 105.0 4 104.2 96.5% 3.5
1963 28 BOS 117.0 1 111.0 7 114.0 97.4% 5
1964 29 BOS 106.0 6 109.0 3 107.5 96.8% 4
1965 30 BOS 114.0 1 112.5 2.5 113.2 99.3% 1
1966 31 BOS 107.0 5 108.0 4 107.5 96.8% 4
1967 32 BOS 120.0 4 120.0 4 120.0 97.6% 4
1968 33 BOS 298.0 9 289.5 17.5 293.7 96.0% 10
1969 34 BOS 302.0 10 306.0 6 304.0 97.7% 6

Obviously, much of Russell’s legend hinges on the Celtics’ extraordinary, almost unbelievable team achievements during the 1950s and 60s — 11 championships in Russell’s 13 seasons, including 8 straight at one point — but Russ also had a very good regular-season resume, as outlined in the chart above. From 1958-1967, Russell was never outside the game’s top 5 players, and was regarded by the media as the best in basketball in 1963 and 1965. And you have to shudder at the thought of how many Finals MVPs he would have had the league given out the award in his day, because he was the singular driving force behind almost all of Boston’s titles during the dynasty years. So this is maybe the no-doubter of all no-doubters: it simply would not be an Inner Circle without William Felton Russell.

Dolph Schayes

Position: Forward-Center
Height: 6-7 Weight: 195 lbs.
Born: May 19, 1928 in New York, New York
High School: DeWitt Clinton in Bronx, New York
College: New York University

Year Age Team MediaPts Rank StatsPts Rank Composite %Possible Rank
1952 23 SYR 103.5 3.5 101.0 6 102.2 96.5% 4
1953 24 SYR 119.0 3 118.0 4 118.5 97.9% 4
1954 25 SYR 99.0 3 99.5 2.5 99.2 98.3% 2.5
1955 26 SYR 96.0 3 96.0 3 96.0 98.0% 3
1956 27 SYR 86.0 5 88.0 3 87.0 96.7% 3
1957 28 SYR 93.0 4 95.5 1.5 94.2 98.2% 2
1958 29 SYR 99.0 1 99.0 1 99.0 100.0% 1
1959 30 SYR 87.0 6 86.0 7 86.5 94.0% 6
1960 31 SYR 89.0 8 90.5 6.5 89.7 93.5% 6
1961 32 SYR 87.0 7 86.5 7.5 86.7 93.3% 6
1962 33 SYR 91.0 18 79.0 30 84.8 78.5% 23
1963 34 SYR 46.0 72 78.0 40 59.9 51.2% 41
1964 35 PHI 45.0 67 45.5 66.5 45.2 40.8% 67.5

Schayes is sometimes forgotten in the annals of NBA history — perhaps because he was constantly playing in the shadow of Mikan, then Russell, then Chamberlain, or maybe because he is synonymous with a team (the Syracuse Nationals) that hasn’t existed in 46 years — but whatever the reason, he deserves more credit for his accomplishments in 15 NBA seasons. He’s still 7th all-time in free throws made, 25th in rebounds, 53rd in points, and 89th in games played, some of which are admittedly due to the ridiculous fast-paced environment in which he played, but are still surprising given the shorter schedule and inferior medical care of his era. In 1958, the media even considered him to be the best player in a league with Russell, Cousy, Pettit, Neil Johnston, and other stars (Russell won the MVP but was named to the All-NBA 2nd team). So let’s take some time to honor this master of the “deadly, high-arcing, outside set-shot“, one of the true Inner Circle legends in hoops history.

On the outside looking in: Bob Cousy

Inner Circle according to HoF Probability: Russell, Pettit, Cousy, Mikan


Elgin Baylor (“The Man With a Thousand Moves”)

Position: Forward
Height: 6-5 Weight: 225 lbs.
Born: September 16, 1934 in Washington, District of Columbia
High School: Springarn in Washington, District of Columbia
College: Seattle University

Year Age Team MediaPts Rank StatsPts Rank Composite %Possible Rank
1959 24 MNL 90.0 3 91.0 2 90.5 98.4% 2
1960 25 MNL 93.0 4 95.0 2 94.0 97.9% 2
1961 26 LAL 92.0 2 92.0 2 92.0 98.9% 1
1962 27 LAL 106.0 3 101.0 8 103.5 95.8% 6
1963 28 LAL 116.0 2 116.0 2 116.0 99.1% 1
1964 29 LAL 107.0 5 104.5 7.5 105.7 95.3% 6
1965 30 LAL 108.5 6.5 108.5 6.5 108.5 95.2% 6.5
1966 31 LAL 45.5 66.5 90.0 22 64.0 57.7% 28
1967 32 LAL 118.5 5.5 117.0 7 117.7 95.7% 6
1968 33 LAL 305.0 2 302.0 5 303.5 99.2% 3
1969 34 LAL 309.0 3 301.5 10.5 305.2 98.1% 5
1970 35 LAL 295.0 30 308.5 16.5 301.7 93.1% 16.5
1971 36 LAL 151.5 203.5 49.0 306 86.2 24.3% 306
1972 37 LAL 154.0 207 127.0 234 139.8 38.8% 235

Baylor gets a bad rap for some of the worst timing in the history of sports… Thursday, November 4, 1971: Baylor retires because of knee problems (and hurt feelings that Bill Sharman was putting Jim McMillian in the starting lineup over him). Friday, November 5, 1971: L.A. beats Baltimore 110-106. Sunday, January 9, 1972: The Lakers lose for the first time in 33 games. Literally the day after he retired (though some sources say he actually retired on November 5!), L.A. rattled off the first of what would be 33 consecutive wins, still an NBA record; the Lakers would go on the following May to win their first World Championship since moving out west. “Ewing Theory“, anyone? But rings or not, Baylor was a true superstar and a legend imminently worthy of Inner-Circle status. He revolutionized the small forward position and was arguably the first player to make basketball a creative, airborne game rather than one dominated by earthbound big men and unspectacular set shots. His combination of power, speed, and grace paved the way for Julius Erving, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James, a fact that cannot be minimized. That and his outstanding playing resume (see above) make him an obvious choice for the Inner Circle.

Wilt Chamberlain (“The Big Dipper”)

Position: Center
Height: 7-1 Weight: 275 lbs.
Born: August 21, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died: October 12, 1999
High School: Overbrook in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
College: University of Kansas

Year Age Team MediaPts Rank StatsPts Rank Composite %Possible Rank
1960 23 PHW 96.0 1 96.0 1 96.0 100.0% 1
1961 24 PHW 91.0 3 93.0 1 92.0 98.9% 2.5
1962 25 PHW 108.0 1 108.0 1 108.0 100.0% 1
1963 26 SFW 112.0 6 117.0 1 114.5 97.8% 3
1964 27 SFW 110.0 2 111.0 1 110.5 99.5% 1.5
1965 28 TOT 110.0 5 114.0 1 112.0 98.2% 3
1966 29 PHI 111.0 1 111.0 1 111.0 100.0% 1
1967 30 PHI 123.0 1 123.0 1 123.0 100.0% 1
1968 31 PHI 306.0 1 306.0 1 306.0 100.0% 1
1969 32 LAL 282.5 29.5 311.0 1 296.4 95.3% 9
1970 33 LAL 138.0 187 215.5 109.5 172.4 53.2% 111.5
1971 34 LAL 323.5 31.5 350.5 4.5 336.7 95.1% 11
1972 35 LAL 356.0 5 359.0 2 357.5 99.3% 2.5
1973 36 LAL 334.0 11 343.0 2 338.5 98.4% 4

Put aside all the individual numbers — so astonishing that the temptation is to question if they really even happened — and the character assassinations — everything from “selfish” to “choker” has been hurled thoughtlessly in Wilt’s direction over the years — for a moment and just think about the physical tools Wilton Norman Chamberlain possessed. 7’1″/275 in an era where his fellow all-NBA “big men” were no taller than 6’9″ (and most of the opposition was shorter than that), Chamberlain was actually a track and field star growing up; at Kansas he “ran the 100-yard dash in 10.9 seconds, threw the shotput 56 feet, triple jumped more than 50 feet, and won the high jump in the Big Eight track and field championships three straight years.” He was Dwight Howard 30 years before Howard was born, David Robinson unleashed on a league where the average player was 6’5″ and 65% of the players were white. He was without a doubt the most talented player of his era and easily the most unstoppable force in NBA history. Say what you will about his personality and the way his teams almost always lost to the Celtics, but Chamberlain’s dominance and overall impact on the game warrants a spot in the Inner Circle.

Oscar Robertson (“The Big O”)

Position: Guard-Forward
Height: 6-5 Weight: 205 lbs.
Born: November 24, 1938 in Charlotte, Tennessee
High School: Crispus Attucks in Indianapolis, Indiana
College: University of Cincinnati

Year Age Team MediaPts Rank StatsPts Rank Composite %Possible Rank
1961 22 CIN 90.0 4 90.0 4 90.0 96.8% 4
1962 23 CIN 107.0 2 107.0 2 107.0 99.1% 2
1963 24 CIN 115.0 3 115.0 3 115.0 98.3% 2
1964 25 CIN 111.0 1 110.0 2 110.5 99.5% 1.5
1965 26 CIN 113.0 2 112.5 2.5 112.7 98.9% 2
1966 27 CIN 109.0 3 110.0 2 109.5 98.6% 2.5
1967 28 CIN 122.0 2 122.0 2 122.0 99.2% 2
1968 29 CIN 303.0 4 304.0 3 303.5 99.2% 2
1969 30 CIN 306.5 5.5 309.5 2.5 308.0 99.0% 2
1970 31 CIN 316.5 8.5 318.5 6.5 317.5 98.0% 7
1971 32 MIL 350.0 5 346.0 9 348.0 98.3% 6
1972 33 MIL 330.0 31 327.0 34 328.5 91.2% 27.5
1973 34 MIL 146.5 198.5 314.5 30.5 214.6 62.4% 55.5
1974 35 MIL 148.0 197 270.0 75 199.9 58.1% 85

Versatility is perhaps the one word that best sums up Oscar Robertson’s playing style. Yes, the pace of the games was so fast in his era that he would never replicate his triple-double average today, but even so, Robertson was one of the most feared scorers in NBA history, as well as a great passer who could handle the ball and a strong, stubborn physical force who could back you down and mix it up on the glass. Paving the way for big guards like Magic Johnson & Michael Jordan in the 1980s and LeBron James today, he was a player who could do just about anything on the court, which remains his lasting legacy in the game. The fact that he did it while overcoming rampant racism and successfully fighting the NBA’s unfair labor practices only adds to the considerable legend of this indisputable Inner-Circle member.

Jerry West (“The Logo”)

Position: Guard-Forward
Height: 6-2 Weight: 175 lbs.
Born: May 28, 1938 in Cheylan, West Virginia
High School: East Bank in East Bank, West Virginia
College: West Virginia University

Year Age Team MediaPts Rank StatsPts Rank Composite %Possible Rank
1961 22 LAL 82.0 12 75.5 18.5 78.7 84.6% 16
1962 23 LAL 105.0 4 103.5 5.5 104.2 96.5% 3.5
1963 24 LAL 113.0 5 109.0 9 111.0 94.9% 6
1964 25 LAL 108.0 4 106.0 6 107.0 96.4% 5
1965 26 LAL 112.0 3 111.0 4 111.5 97.8% 4
1966 27 LAL 110.0 2 109.0 3 109.5 98.6% 2.5
1967 28 LAL 118.5 5.5 119.0 5 118.7 96.5% 5
1968 29 LAL 298.0 9 296.5 10.5 297.2 97.1% 7
1969 30 LAL 304.0 8 301.5 10.5 302.7 97.3% 7
1970 31 LAL 323.0 2 324.0 1 323.5 99.8% 1
1971 32 LAL 353.0 2 352.5 2.5 352.7 99.6% 2
1972 33 LAL 359.0 2 356.0 5 357.5 99.3% 2.5
1973 34 LAL 340.5 4.5 332.5 12.5 336.5 97.8% 7
1974 35 LAL 313.5 31.5 244.0 101 276.6 80.4% 42

Of the two great combo guards of the 1960s (whose careers, unbelievably enough, came over the exact same seasons), Oscar was the versatile post-up threat, while Jerry West was the outside-shooting machine that could burn anyone from anywhere on the floor (witness his last-second heave against the Knicks in the 1970 Finals). Combining with Baylor, West gave the Lakers one of the most devastating duos in NBA history and ultimately paired with Chamberlain in 1971-72 to lead one of the greatest teams in league history. More to the point, how could we possibly have an Inner Circle of the Hall of Fame without the man whose silhouette adorns the NBA’s logo today? If you’re searching for players about whose legendary status there is no doubt whatsoever, look no further than Mr. Clutch, Zeke From Cabin Creek.

On the outside looking in: Hal Greer

Inner Circle according to HoF Probability: Chamberlain, Robertson, West, Baylor

About Neil Paine

I work for I've been a freelance writer for ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and Basketball Prospectus.

Posted on December 18, 2009, in Hall of Fame, History, Statgeekery. Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. Ah, Ice Cube and Oscar Robertson highlights — truly, today was a good day.

  2. Good stuff, Neil. I really like the “best player on a Finalist” change… seems like the best possible compromise on that front.

    One question though: Is each decade guaranteed 4 players in the Inner Circle? Or is it possible for there to be only 1 or 2 guys that qualify in the top 4 in both media and stats points?

  3. So my predictions for upcoming decades

    Havlicek – Wasnt mentioned on the 60s so he had to be on the 70s
    Erving – it says it includes ABA so he may appear on 70s instead of 80s
    Abdul-Jabbar – Obvious choice
    Hayes – again shouldnt be a hard choice

    Possible Candidates: barry

    Malone (moses)
    Thomas – not sure about thomas as it is said there was a player that should had been on the 90s here. So maybe it is Olajuwon or Jordan.. Anyway i dont see a player on the 90s who deserves it more than Thomas so ill stick with him. Oh and every team that won a championship in this decade is represented here.


    Well only Jordan and Olajuwon are slam dunks. Pippen redifine the SF position and his defense was superb. I think he should be there. Malone is in with the new rule as I dont see anyone else who deserve it more. 14 combined championship on a 10 year decade.. Only 90 and 99 arent represented, but Thomas is on the 80s and Duncan is on the 00s so its balanced out


    James of couse will probably be tagged in the 10s decade. 12 championship combined.. only year not represented here is the 2004 Pistons

  4. I’ve never felt like Hayes was a _great_ NBA player. I know he made a mark in college, and obviously his career pro numbers are impressive (in large part because he _never_ missed a game). I didn’t see him play. But he seems like more of an accumulator than a special player. I’m not sure off the top of my head who would better represent the ’70s, but I never hear his name mentioned as an all-time great.

    That’s just my general impressions. Looking closer at his record, his shooting percentages are not good. He blocked a lot of shots and his advanced defensive ratings are good, but he only made a couple 2nd team all-defensive teams. He got very few assists for a player who looks like he had the ball a lot. Anyway, I welcome opinions of those who know more than I.

  5. Great list so far, couldn’t agree more with the choices.

    Out of interest, what is your motivation in not taking into account All-Defensive Teams and Defensive Player of the Year awards for the decades in which they are available?

  6. Two things.

    First, regarding Schayes, I believe the Nationals do still exist, they are just called the 76ers, right?

    Second, I’m coming back to a hobby horse of mine, but just out of curiosity where would Max Zaslofsky fall on this list?

  7. Re:#3

    There is no way you can rationalize putting Isiah Thomas as even a possible inner circle. If you do that that, then you have to include people like Bernard King and George Gervin.

    Worse, you left out Stockton, who was amazingly good and durable for nearly 20 years. Stockton crushes Isiah all across the board.

    I would also consider David Robinson as inner circle. I like the maybe on Barry. I go back and forth on him as to whether he was the most overrated or underrated player in history. Talent-wise, there’s no question. He’s inner circle. But he was also perhaps the most obnoxious anyd annoying great p[layer.

  8. Re: #4

    Agreed on Hayes. Maybe you didn’t see him play but I did. He didn’t pass. Period. If he received the ball in the post, it was going up, no matter how many defenders were on him. The Bullets loss in the ’75 Finals was one of the most amazing choke jobs I’ve ever seen and Hayes was a big part of that.

  9. Re: #3

    I don’t think Pippen meets the criteria since he was never the best player on an NBA Finalist. I think Barkley would be a better choice there, or possibly David Robinson.

  10. Isiah-hate rears its ugly head yet again… If Zeke doesn’t make the grade by Neil’s standard, Stockton and Pippen definately don’t; neither was the best player on a finalist, and neither compares to Zeke as a scorer.

    Part of the problem is that point guards are undervalued by statistical formulas; how else to explain the omission of Cousy, who clearly qualifies for this list on the “media” front. Cousy was a record-setting 8-time assist leader,and one of the best scorers of the 50’s yet his dominance went unrecognized here.

    As for Zeke, he avgd 19 and 9; only Oscar and Magic have also done that. 19 ppg isn’t anything special at at other positions, but at the point it’s very impressive. And maybe we need to weight assists exponentially; there’s a big difference between 6 apg and 9apg, a diffeerence that isn’t reflected in stat formulas

  11. “…neither compares to Zeke as a scorer. ”

    On what planet does Stockton not compare favorably to Isiah? Here are the shooting percentages of the two players:

    Stockton Isiah
    FG% .515 .452
    3FG%.384 .290
    FT% .826 .759

    Stockton did that, of course, in over 12,000 more minutes. Stockton also averaged, per36 2.7 assists more, 0.6 steals more and 0.5 turnovers less. In fact, there is not one statistics that Isiah betters Stockton except the willingness to jack up shots. That’s why Isiah outscored Stockton. It takes him 6 more field goal attempts and 1 more freethrow to average 4 more points. His USG% was a third again higher than Stockton’s. 5 years after Isiah was retired, Stockton was competing for playoffs MVP trophies.

    Get real with the Isiah hate. That’s what all the Isiah defenders resort to, when have have no cogent argument to make “Well, you just must hate Isiah.” That’s very, very, VERY weak sauce.

  12. This is pretty exclusive and that being the case I think Schayes is probably a bit over-rated. I mean, if Schayes, then Arizin, but I’d leave ’em both off. Otherwise I’m on board.

    But just to add: Pettit was an early guy. Not too many fans today saw him. Is he the most under-rated or what? I mean, think of LSU: Pettit, Shaq, Maravich. Pettit was the best of the 3 and I doubt if many people know that today.

  13. Pettit was generally regarded as the best player in the league when Russsell arrived and Russell gushes about him.

    He and Schayes were the two best forwards in the fifties. Pettit was more like a 4/5 and Schayes a 3/4. I don’t think Schayes should be excluded from the inner circle club. He led a team to a championship and he was a phenomenal free throw shooter. He was about as good as Barry, without the baggage Barry carried.

  14. Hakeem/ Stockton Jordan/Stockton
    FG% .512/ .515 .497/ .515
    3pt% .202/ .384 .327/ .384
    FT% .712/ .826 .835/ .826

    I guess Stockton is a better scorer than Jordan and Olojuwan, too…
    But if that’s really the case, why did he hurt his teams by taking so few shots? You can’t score more without shooting more (so ripping Zeke for “jacking up shots” is silly). Of course, creatng shots is a skill in itself (even if you miss); and Stockton didn’t prove himself capable of creating as many shots as Zeke.

    In other words, the notion that shooting percentages are a better indicator of scoring ability than scoring average is ridiculous. And a 6 ppg advantage in scoring (7ppg in the postseason) is no small difference; it’s a bigger advantage than the one Stockton has in assists; maybe if he had been better at creating his own offense, the Jazz might have won one of their finals appearances…

  15. I’m not a big fan of either Stockton or Isiah, mostly because I actively root against both the Jazz and Pistons, but if I needed a point guard, I’d pick Stockton every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

    I would agree that creating shots is indeed a valuable skill, although for a point guard, creating shots for the rest of your teammates should be more important than creating your own shots. And creating the most high percentage shots possible, regardless of whether you or your teammates shoot it is probably the most valuable skill of all. (I’m not entirely sure what ‘creating shots is a skill in itself… even if you miss’ is supposed to mean… Obviously if you’re creating shots that frequently miss, regardless of who shoots them, you’re creating low percentage shots, and that seems like a pretty worthless skill… I could get out on the basketball court right now and create a low percentage shot every time down the floor and I doubt I’d get much praise from anyone…)

    Here’s probably the most telling stat: In 13 seasons, Isiah shot 15,904 times; in 18 seasons, Stockton shot 13,658 times. Isiah took 2,246 more shots than Stockton in 5 fewer seasons. I’m not saying Isiah was a bad player by any means, but personally, I wouldn’t want my point guard shooting that much.

    (Oh, and if you’d have put Isiah Thomas on those Jazz teams in ’97 and ’98, with or without Stockton, Jordan still would have crushed them. And both the ’97 and ’98 Bulls would have destroyed both the ’89 and ’90 Pistons, so I don’t think Stockton not winning a title is really a fair argument.)

  16. ^Correction: Stockton played 19 seasons. So Isiah took 2,246 more shots in 6 fewer seasons.

    One more thing I thought was interesting: If you look at the per 36 minutes stats for both guys –
    Stockton: 14.9 points, 11.9 assists
    Thomas: 19.1 points, 9.2 assists

    So Thomas scored a little more than 4 more points per 36 minutes, but Stockton dished out almost 3 more assists which is essentially 6 more points for his teammates. So if you were going purely on “Points Created,” it’d be:
    Stockton: 38.7
    Thomas: 37.5
    So, it’s basically a wash as far as that’s concerned.

    Again, I’m not trying to “hate” on Isiah, or say he’s a bad player, I’d just rather have Stockton running my offense. But it’s really a moot point either way cause I don’t think either one of the guys will be making the Inner Circle.

  17. …And a 6 ppg advantage in scoring (7ppg in the postseason) is no small difference;

    C’mon, do you not understand that if you take a lot more shots, you are going to score more points? How can you not understand that? The point is, those extra shots Isiah was taking, did they help his team more than the shots Stockton passed up and assisted on instead?

    The answer is clearly “NO”.

  18. Isiah’s 6 more points per game would indeed be impressive if Isiah did it with somewhere even close to Stockton’s efficiency. Isiah’s 1.19 points per shot for his career does not suggest that he was an elite scorer. Stockton’s 1.44 blowss it out of the water. Now of course Stockton was more conservative in his shot selection, but compare Isiah’s 1.19 to any of the elite scorers in history and it just doesn’t measure up. I have no problem with point guards also taking on a scoring role… but if they are truly great then we have to look at the efficiency of that scoring, and Isiah is unimpressive in that regard.

  19. Nobody has addressed my point that if Stockton truly was the better scorer, he hurt his teams by NOT shooting more; as I recall, the Jazz of the 90’s really could’ve used a second scoring option more reliable than Jeff Hornacek.

    I also love how all the commenters here want to ignore how impressive Zeke’s 9.3 apg is; it’s the 4th highest avg in history. His career best of 13.9 apg was a record at the time, and remains the 3rd highest avg in history; pretending he was a selfish ball-hog like AI requires willful ignorance of these facts (Btw, his career fg% is about the same as Kobe’s).

    I agree that creating shots for your teammates should be the primary goal of a PG, but being able to create your own shot is always valuable, at any position. Stockton was good at the former, but not the latter. Isiah was good at both. He was also good enough to lead the pistons to 3 straight finals appearances, and 2 wins, during the most competitive era in league history. And that was without the benefit of playing with anyone approaching the ability of Karl Malone; it’s amazing to me that Zeke is so underrated, while Dumars has become so overrated…

  20. AYC… I don’t think anyone is arguing that Isiah wasn’t a great player… just that Stockton was a better player.

  21. Robert August de Meijer

    Recently, I was wondering how putting Russell in the 50s instead of the 60s, perhaps Bob Cousy was bumped off in favor for Elgin Baylor. To me, Cousy is much more an “Hall of Famer”, but I do not have his Media/Stats points; could you tell us how much the difference is?

  22. I understand that, I just disagree. One final point and I’m done: All the stats being quoted here are based on 36 min; but Stockton didn’t play 36 mpg, he played 31.8, while Zeke played 36.3. So all these great Stockton stats are hypothetical, not real; they are based on the disputable assumption of an absolute, linear correlation between minutes played (and pace) and statistical production.

    Per min stats might be useful for judging role-players, but when it comes to superstars like these two, the ACTUAL stats are what matter, not what a player MIGHT have averaged if he had played more min. I asked before why a supposedly great scorer like Stock didn’t shoot more; well, we can also ask why such a great player didn’t play more minutes; 31.8 mpg isn’t alot.

    How many min you play is a good indicator of how valuable you are to your team; that’s the problem with PER, it penalizes players who are asked to carry their teams with big minutes (like Russell, who ranks a dismal #82 on the all-time PER list). Peace.

  23. There you go. Thomas was playing more minutes, so it was fatigue that was causing him to miss all those shots.

  24. AYC,
    To address your “Stockton hurt his teams by not shooting more” theory, throughout his career, Stockton’s teams were a combined 966-560 for a .633 win percentage. Thomas’s teams, on the other hand, went 603-463 for a .566 win percentage. That seems like a pretty big difference to me. Also, in 13 years, Thomas missed the playoffs 4 times. In 19 years, Stockton NEVER missed the playoffs. So, it seems to me that whatever Stockton was doing (passing more/less, shooting more/less, whatever), he figured out a way to ensure that his teams were successful and that they won games, which is what I think being a great point guard is all about.

    Isiah Thomas was a great player, but if I wanted someone to lead my team and run my offense, I’d take Stockton. (And I’d take Magic Johnson over both of them. And possibly Jason Kidd, just to start a few more arguments…)

  25. 70s Jabbar, Erving, Havlicek, Hayes
    80s Jordan, Johnson, Bird, Malone
    90s Robinson, Olajuwon, Malone, Stockton – sorry, Pip
    00s O’Neal, Garnett, Duncan, Bryant – Kidd and Nash just missed it

  26. Luke, I can’t believe you used the team success argument, when Zeke has 2 rings and Stockton has ZERO; also, I think Stockton’s teams might have benefited slightly from having some guy named Karl Malone… Stock was never the best player on his own team!

  27. “Luke, I can’t believe you used the team success argument, when Zeke has 2 rings and Stockton has ZERO; also, I think Stockton’s teams might have benefited slightly from having some guy named Karl Malone… Stock was never the best player on his own team!”

    As Luke mentioned, the Jazz teams that faced the Jordan Bulls at their zenith had to face a much tougher opponent than the Pistons faced. When the Pistons won their back-to-backs, the league power Celtics and Lakers were in decline and Pistons slipped into the void. The Jazz faced off against a Bulls team that won 69 regular season games.

    The 2 years the Jazz made it to the Finals, they won 64 and 62 games. The Pistons won 63 add 59 games and the teams they beat won 57 and 59 games, rather low for a team in the Finals.

    Additionally, you are making 2 questionable assumptions:

    1) Malone was a better player than Stockton

    2) Thomas was the best player on the Pistons.

    In 1990, Thomas was fourth on the team in Win Shares, behind Dumars, Rodman and Laimbeer. In 1989, he was tied for third with Dumars.

    Stockton’s Win Shares were second to Malone’s both years (on a rate basis. Stockton missed 14 games in 1998 yet still managed 8 Win Shares). but I think it fair to say that the reason Malone’s Win Share totals were so high was because Stockton was so good at gettig him high percentage shots.

    Stockton did that for everyone. After Hornacek got traded to Utah, his FG% shot up 50 points. Adam Keefe went from .455 in Atlanta to .577 in Utah. Antoine Carr went from .488 to .531. Tyrone Corbin was shooting .401 in Milwaukee, got traded to Utah after 11 games and shot .504 the rest of the year and .503 the following year.

    Malone and Stockton helped each other but I think Stockton helped Malone more than vice versa.

  28. Kevin, you’re starting to sound delusional. Do you really think Isiah wasn’t one of the top 3 players on the Pistons?! That Stockton was better than Malone?! Can I have some of what you’re smoking? I think if you polled players and coaches, 99% would disagree with you on both points; but hey, you’ve got win-shares on your side, right?

    As for strength of competition, I’ll go with the late 80’s over the late 90’s without hesitation. Team record isn’t the only indicator of how good a team was, because it doesn’t factor in level of competition (last year, the cavs won 66 games but failed to make the finals, losing to a 59 win team).

    there were 6 expansion teams for the Bulls to feast on in 96 that didn’t exist when the Celts, Lakers, Bulls and Pistons were duking it out in Zeke’s prime. I’m of the opinion that the Jazz teams that made the finals in 97/98 weren’t any better than the teams from the early 90’s that couldn’t get past the 2nd round; they, like the Bulls, only looked better because the rest of the league had gotten worse. It’s ridiculous to pretend the Bulls teams that the Pistons beat en route to the title weren’t tough teams; personally I’ll take the first 3-peat bulls over the second any day.

    And who’s to say those Jazz players didn’t see their % rise due to playing with Malone, rather than Stockton?

  29. C- WILT /BRUSSEl (Brussel team was better thats why i put him on the bench).
    PF- BPetit
    SF- EBaylor

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