When the NBA compiled its 50 Greatest Players list in 1996, Trail Blazers superstars Bill Walton and Clyde Drexler featured prominently. Twenty years later, The Undefeated has proposed a “remix” version of the list, cutting both Walton and Drexler in the process.
According to The Undefeated staff, the decision was not without remorse:
But when you start cutting Drexler and James Worthy, whose highlights still play on a YouTube reel, and Bill Walton, whom John Wooden once called the game’s greatest passing center, it feels like a dental drill hitting a nerve.
Walton was one of the several NBA greats asked to give feedback on the list. He answered as only he could:
Walton, informed of our choices, criticized what he called a “binary, arbitrary decision-making process that we’ve been forced into by a media that always wants lists, wants bests, wants worsts.”
First, Walton is so good that you’ll ask him to critique your list, but you won’t include him?
Second, I’d tend to agree with Walton. Why did the roster need an overhaul? The 1996 list accurately reflected achievements up to that point. Don’t sacrifice the history of the league just so people like Ray Allen and Jason Kidd can make the cut, too.
Walton has lobbied for an expanded list, up to 70 players for the 70th anniversary of the league. That makes more sense. A static, zero-sum ledger requires removing legends; “Pistol” Pete Maravich, James Worthy and Robert Parish found themselves on the outside of the modern list as well. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James must be recognized among the greatest of all time. Adding them shouldn’t cost Walton, Drexler, and past generations their accolades.
How do you feel about the list and the idea of switching out older players to make way for the new? Should Clyde and Bill remain? Let us know in the comments.