Which former Wizards/Bullets will make the NBA's top 75?


NBA fans of a certain age likely remember in 1996 when the league named its comprehensive list of the 50 greatest players of all-time, all in celebration of 50 years since the first NBA charter was signed at the Commodore Hotel in New York in 1946.

Months later, the 47 living members of the top 50 list convened at the All-Star game in Cleveland with some spectacularly 1990s leather jackets to honor the occasion.

As the league now prepares for its 75th anniversary, 25 years after the 50 greatest players were named, there will be an updated list of the 75 greatest players, which the NBA plans to unveil in October. According to NBA.com, the top-75 have been voted on by a "blue-ribbon panel of media, current and former players, coaches, general managers, and team executives."

A lot has changed since 1996. The Wizards, for instance, weren't yet the Wizards. They were playing out their final season as the Bullets before rebranding.

Back then, Michael Jordan was still playing (for the Bulls), Kobe Bryant was a rookie and LeBron James was seven years away from being drafted. Giannis Antetekounmpo was a one-year-old and Luka Doncic wasn't born yet.

With the unveiling of the 75th anniversary team still weeks away, here's a look at which former members of the Wizards/Bullets organization could be included...

The locks: Michael Jordan, Elvin Hayes, Moses Malone, Earl Monroe, Wes Unseld


All five of these players were on the top 50 list in 1996 and had such legendary careers that no one should expect them to be replaced by the modern generation. Jordan is arguably the greatest player of all-time, while the other four have secure legacies in basketball history.

Jordan, in fact, was the only player to make the original top 50 who ever suited up for the Wizards. He hadn't done that yet at the time, however, as he came out of retirement to play for Washington in 2001. The other four were all Bullets with Hayes and Unseld hailing from the franchise's lone championship team in 1978.

Likely getting added: Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard, Ben Wallace, Chris Webber, Paul Pierce

There are five modern players who have a very good chance of making the top 75 who played for Washington briefly and who are more known for their time with other teams. Still, they will represent the Wizards/Bullets franchise and some had more memorable stints than others.

Westbrook and Pierce each played only one season in Washington, though both were key figures on playoff teams. Webber had some excellent years with the franchise before reaching his prime in Sacramento. Wallace began his career with the team before becoming a star in Detroit. Howard stands out as the least-tenured player of the group, having only appeared in nine games with them during his lone season in town.

On the bubble: Dave Bing, Walt Bellamy, Gilbert Arenas, Mitch Richmond, Gus Johnson, Bernard King

It is unclear whether the NBA will release voting results like they do for annual awards, so we may not know who the final players were to make the cut, or who were the last ones left off. But there are quite a few former Wizards/Bullets players who are likely to be right on the edge of the 75-player cutoff. 

Bing was on the original top 50, but may be in jeopardy of falling off the list, if more than 25 players who weren't included in 1996 are added. Conversely, Bellamy has a chance to be added after not making the list 25 years ago. He had a Hall-of-Fame career and put up some incredible numbers (31.6 ppg, 19.0 rpg as a rookie). If fewer than 25 modern players are included, that could leave the door open for Bellamy to get in.

Other players who could be close to the cutoff are Arenas, Richmond, Johnson and King. Richmond, Johnson and King are Hall of Famers, while Arenas was one of the NBA's best scorers in his prime.

Others to watch: Kevin Durant, Allen Iverson, Grant Hill

There should be a few players with local ties added to the list. Durant, who was born in D.C. and grew up in Maryland, is highly likely to make the cut. So is Iverson, who is from Virginia and played college ball at Georgetown. Another possibility would be Hill, who grew up in Northern Virginia before going on to enjoy a Hall-of-Fame career.


Maybe next time: Bradley Beal

The timing may not be great for Beal, who is in his prime but still has a lot of his career ahead of him. He's unlikely to get much consideration for the top 75 at this stage, as he would have to beat out some true legends whose careers are already finished. But if he continues to play at a star level into his 30s, Beal has a great chance of being in the mix for the NBA 100, assuming they come out with another rankings list in 2046 when the 100-year anniversary arrives.