NBA 75th anniversary team: Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic among five active players likely to join all-time greats

Earlier this month, the NBA released its long-awaited 75th anniversary team, which honored the 75 greatest players in league history — though technically 76 players made the list due to a tie in the voting. Legends like Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell led the list, but there were also a number of notable newcomers, including Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. In all there were 11 active players on the list, with the aforementioned trio joined by: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. 

As we continue to analyze the top 75, let’s look ahead with some other active players who have a strong shot at joining the all-time greats on the 100th anniversary team in 2046.

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2018 Rookie of the Year2x All-Star2x All-NBA First Team

Luka Doncic is perhaps the most obvious name when you think about active players who could make the 100th anniversary team. He has put together one of the best starts to a career of anyone in NBA history, and you could have made a genuine case to include him on this list like the league did with Shaquille O’Neal when they named him to the 50th anniversary team after just a few seasons in the NBA. 

It really isn’t even worth discussing Doncic’s case in too much detail. Everyone knows the deal; he’s a generational offensive talent and barring some sort of catastrophic injury he’s going to be in the club when the next team is announced. 

2021 MVP3x All-Star2x All-NBA First Team1x All-NBA Second Team

Another lock to make the list 25 years from now is Nikola Jokic. He was one of only two MVPs who were not included on the 75th anniversary team — the other being Derrick Rose — and that was strictly a result of his age. He’s still only 26 years old and voters felt he had not had a chance to put together the necessary resume to make the cut.

Surely it is just a matter of time, though, as Jokic has developed into one of the most unique and gifted offensive players of this era. He plays completely at his own pace, lumbering up the floor like a man without a care in the world. But when he starts running the show for the Nuggets on the offensive end, it doesn’t take long to realize he just might be the best passer in the world right now. 

Best of all, he appears to only be getting better in his ability to control the game. Again, there’s always the injury caveat, but it’s safe to assume that Jokic will be among the all-time greats when his career is over. 

3x NBA champion5x All-Star2x All-NBA Third Team1x All-Defensive Second Team

Few players were as upset about not making the list as Klay Thompson, who put out multiple messages on social media lamenting the fact that he wasn’t included. “Maybe I’m just naïve in my ability to play basketball, but in my head I’m Top 75 all-time,” Thompson wrote. 

Thompson has a right to be upset. If he hadn’t missed the last two seasons with a torn ACL and a torn Achilles tendon, he probably would have made it. And even still, he has a great case as one of the best shooters to ever live, as our own Brad Botkin laid out here. If Ray Allen and Reggie Miller made the cut (deservedly so), then Thompson deserved to as well. 

That’s why it’s likely he’ll be on there when the club expands to 100 players in 25 years. There was no official voting results that showed how close players were to making it, but it’s hard to imagine Thompson was far off. With his return from injury just a few months away, he’ll soon have a chance to show voters why they made a mistake. 

1x NBA champion3x Defensive Player of the Year8x All-Star5x All-NBA First Team1x All-NBA Second Team2x All-NBA Third Team4x All-Defensive First Team1x All-Defensive Second Team

Any time a list or ranking like this comes out, snubs are always going to be one of the first topics of discussion. And on that note, Dwight Howard was arguably the biggest snub from the 75th anniversary team. Although Howard is near the end of his career and there’s little projecting left to do, it was especially surprising to see him left off given some of the active players listed.

He was one of the most dominant big men in the league for nearly a decade — which is a big chunk of the NBA’s history considering it has only been around for 75 years. And he certainly has the accolades with three Defensive Player of the Year awards, eight All-Star Games and eight All-NBA appearances. He also finally won a title with the Lakers, though not as a leading figure. 

Injuries and the way the game changed meant the second half of Howard’s career has been largely forgettable. Plus, he doesn’t seem to be well-liked by many in the NBA community. But those factors shouldn’t negate the fact that he deserved a spot this time around and should almost certainly get one when the list expands. 

7x All-Star1x All-NBA First Team5x All-NBA Third Team2x All-Defensive First Team2x All-Defensive Second Team

Paul George probably isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you think about active players who belong among the all-time greats, and he probably isn’t the most exciting either. But when you start adding up his body of work, and projecting what he’ll do in the future, he absolutely has a chance.

For one, he already has seven All-Star appearances and will likely add another this season. If he can get to 10, which is quite possible, that would almost guarantee him a spot. Of the 41 players who have gone to at least 10 All-Star Games, only Chris Bosh failed to make the 75th anniversary team. Furthermore, George has already made six All-NBA teams. If he can get to seven, which is also quite possible, that would also likely guarantee him a spot. Of the 43 players with at least seven All-NBA appearances, only Dwight Howard and Tracy McGrady didn’t make it this time. 

George is one of the best two-way wings in the league and should have at least a few more years left in his prime. With 25 extra spots opening up when the list moves to the top 100, George should be able to take one.

Honorable mentions

In terms of talent and ability to impact winning, Embiid is well on his way to being in this discussion, but his health concerns make it hard to include him as a likely candidate. Being able to stay on the floor is a key factor in making lists like this, and so far he hasn’t proven he can do that consistently. 

Gobert is at a bit of a disadvantage here because judging by the voting results, defense didn’t get as much consideration as offense. It should, though, and Gobert has been one of the league’s best defenders for a half decade already. He’ll have a chance. 

Irving could make a pretty good case that he’s one of the most skilled guards to ever pick up a basketball, and there were many advocating for him to be on the 75th anniversary team. But pure talent isn’t the only factor that goes into lists like this, and unfortunately we have no idea when Irving is going to play basketball again. 

Williamson is another guy where health is going to be the key factor. It’s clear he can be a dominant offensive force, with a unique blend of size and athleticism. But he’s only managed to play 85 games in two-plus seasons and is already hurt again. We’ll see. 

Young really took his game to another level in the playoffs last season, and showed that he can be unstoppable at times on the offensive end given his shooting and ability to get into the paint. There’s a lot of projecting going on here, but if keeps playing at this level he could be in the conversation. 


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