Welcome back to our second edition of the most forgotten players in NBA history. Today, we continue to honor and show love to some of the lesser talked about players in basketball circles. The players you will see here today come from every tier of the NBA pyramid. They can be superstars who achieved the highest level of success. They can be defensive stoppers who lock down some of the league’s toughest assignments. They can even be guys who only peaked for a few seasons but still gave us some great moments from the past.
Nearly every era of basketball will be represented below. Now, some of these guys you have definitely heard of, but they still don’t get the respect they deserve when it comes to their contributions to the game. They may have been forgotten due to too much time passing since their playing days or maybe simply because they never won a championship or individual accolades. It’s a shame when all-time greats go unrecognized for their talent and efforts. With this series, we hope to begin to shed some light on some of these forgotten stars.
If the first 10 players we named piqued your interest, prepare for the next 10. Here are 10 more of the most forgotten players in NBA history:
Teams: Pacers (2005-06 to 2013-14), Clippers (2013-14), Heat (2014-15)
Career Stats: 16.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Achievements and Awards: 1x Most Improved Player, 1x All-Star
Danny Granger had all the tools for success in the NBA. He was the size and built of a small forward with the skillset and abilities of a shooting guard. He used to be such a versatile threat, especially on offense. He could shoot the three with the best of them, run the floor, and pass like a point guard. From 2007-2012, Granger was among the top small forwards in the league at the time as he hit his offensive peak. Injuries would take hold and rob us of a longer dose of his real potential.
The 2008-09 season was easily the best season of Granger’s career. In the season prior, he led the Pacers in scoring with 19.6 PPG and 6.1 RPG. When it came to 2008-09, he exploded. Granger would increase his scoring to 25.8 PPG, becoming the first Pacers player to average 25.0 PPG since Reggie Miller. He was named to the All-Star team for the only time in his career and named the NBA’s Most Improved Player. He would continue to hover around the 20.0 PPG mark for the next few seasons until 2012-13. He would suffer a knee injury that ultimately led to his retirement at just 31 years old. Granger’s peak offensive days were something special, and any fan from those days would tell you the same.
Teams: Bulls (1976-77 to 1981-81, 1987-88), Spurs (1982-83 to 1986-87), Celtics (1987-88)
Career Stats (NBA): 17.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.9 BPG
Achievements and Awards: 6x All-Star, 1x All-Defensive Team Selection
Artis Gilmore’s career gets overlooked largely in part due to his time in the ABA. Regardless, he is still the best center to ever don the Chicago Bulls uniform. Gilmore’s time in the ABA was dominant. He led the ABA in rebounding four times and, in his rookie season, averaged an incredible 5.0 BPG in 84 contests. As great as he could score and rebound, Gilmore’s defense was his best weapon. With his length and size coupled with quick feet and good instincts, Gilmore was a premier shot-blocker both on the perimeter and inside.
For the people that loved advanced stats in the modern game, Gilmore should be a player you drool over. He ranks 11th in the NBA all-time in field-goal percentage and effective field-goal percentage while ranking 7th in true shooting percentage. Despite most of his better days coming in the ABA, the fear he instilled in opponents on defense and the control he took on offense were legendary. Gilmore should be remembered as not one of the greatest Bulls players of all time but in NBA history as well.
Teams: Jazz (2001-02 to 2010-11), Timberwolves (2012-13), Nets (2013-14 to 2014-15)
Career Stats: 11.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.8 BPG
Achievements and Awards: 1x All-Star, 3x All-Defensive Team Selection
Andrei Kirilenko was a hybrid forward with some of the best defensive instincts and abilities during the 2000s. Kirilenko was the type of player teams look for to perfectly complete their starting fives. An athletic forward with good size who could dominate the game at times on both ends of the floor. Sort of like a slightly lesser version of Draymond Green or Pascal Siakam. His place among Utah greats in their franchise ranks speaks volumes about his impact.
Kirilenko ranks 4th in steals, 6th in points, 5th in assists, and 2nd in blocks for the Jazz franchise. If that last stat staggers you, just note that between 2004 and 2006, Kirilenko averaged over 3.0 BPG. He led the league in BPG in 2005 with 3.3. The best way to describe Kirilenko was an all-around vital weapon to his team’s success. Kirilenko’s most impressive achievement of his career might just be his conquering the exclusive five by five on three separate occasions. A five-by-five is when you record at least 5 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, and 5 blocks in one game. Kirilenko also accomplished the league’s first five by six back in 2006 when he recorded 14 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists, six steals, and seven blocks. See what I mean about the similarities with Draymond?
Teams: Mavericks (1985-86 to 1988-89), Pacers (1988-89 to 1992-93), SuperSonics (1993-94 to 1998-99), Trail Blazers (1999-00 to 2000-01)
Career Stats: 13.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Achievements and Awards: 3x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection, 2x Sixth Man Of The Year
There haven’t been many players to have the impact Detlef Schrempf did as a small forward/stretch power forward off the bench. Before his day as the starting small forward for the Seattle SuperSonics in their fantastic days of the late 90s, Schrempf had established himself as one of the most impactful bench players with the Indiana Pacers. In 1991 and 1992, Schrempf took home back-to-back Sixth Man Of The Year awards. In 1991, he averaged 16.1 PPG and 7.9 RPG in 32.1 MPG off the bench. In 1992, he improved and averaged 17.3 PPG and 9.6 RPG in 32.6 MPG. He even picked up a vote for MVP. When he finally became a starter in 1993, he thrived.
In his first season, in which he was given a chance to be a starter in 1993, Schrempf became an All-Star. He averaged 19.2 PPG and 9.5 RPG. After the season, Schrempf would leave for the Seattle SuperSonics, where he would be given the regular starting job at small forward. He established himself as a key piece to their success alongside Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton. He became an All-Star twice more in Seattle while, in six seasons, was able to give them 16.6 PPG and 6.3 RPG on average. On their run to the 1996 NBA Finals, Schrempf was crucial once again, pouring in 16.0 PPG and 5.0 RPG over the entire playoffs. When we speak about the best Sixth Man candidates in NBA history, Schrempf’s name at the very least, needs to be mentioned.
Teams: Warriors (1975-76 to 1976-77), SuperSonics (1977-78 to 1983-84), Bullets (1984-85 to 1985-86), Hawks (1986-87)
Career Stats: 17.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 5.6 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Achievements and Awards: 1x Comeback Player Of The Year, 2x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Team Selection
Gus Williams was one of those point guards that had an innate ability to both score and pass at an elite level. He was also a real pest on the defensive side of the ball, pickpocketing opponents and taking it the other way for easy transition buckets. The prime of his career came with the Seattle SuperSonics, where he teamed with Dennis Johnson to form one of the best backcourts in all of basketball. In his six seasons with Seattle, Williams averaged 20.3 PPG and 6.0 APG while being a 2-time All-Star and an NBA Champion in 1979.
The Seattle SuperSonics were not supposed to win the 1979 NBA championship against the Washington Bullets. They were heavy underdogs, but Gus Williams didn’t hear that noise. Williams went out and dominated the Bullets with 29.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and 3.6 APG, as they would take the series in just five games. Williams had himself three separate 30-point games in the series including Game 3 and 4 performances that broke Washington’s back. Williams was a serious scoring and playmaking threat that NBA fans forget about far too often.
Teams: Lakers (1992-93 to 1993-94), Knicks (1994-95 to 1995-96), Raptors (1995-96 to 1999-00), Kings (2000-01 to 2004-05), Magic (2004-05), Mavericks (2005-06), Clippers (2006-07)
Career Stats: 11.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Achievements and Awards: 4x All-Defensive Team Selection
Doug Christie wasn’t going to blow people away with his offensive game. He could score and produce but where his impact was felt was on the defensive side of the ball. His presence on four All-Defensive Teams is evidence of that. Christie is most remembered for his time on the Kings and the man tasked with battling Kobe Bryant during their playoff rivalry of the early 2000s. This was the height of Christie's career, and if it wasn’t for him, the Kings might not have been the contender they were.
Christie’s talent on defense goes way beyond the impressive 1.9 SPG he tallied for his entire career. His most impressive work came when his matchup didn’t even have the ball. Christie was physical, and he would use his strength to prevent the offensive player from gaining a position in the post by physically forcing them to the perimeter. Perhaps the most impressive part of his four straight selections to the All-Defensive Team during this time was that he did it while playing 80 games or more in each season. Maximum effort and maximum disruption were nightly given if Doug Christie was on the floor.
Teams: Royals (1966-67 to 1968-69), Bucks (1968-69), Bulls (1969-70 to 1976-77), Nets (1976-77), SuperSonics (1976-77)
Career Stats: 17.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Achievements and Awards: 3x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Team Selection, 3x All-Defensive Team Selection
Before he got to Chicago, Bob Love’s career wasn’t much of anything. As soon as the 6’8 forward got to the Windy City, it took off. For eight and a half seasons in Chicago, Bob Love was THE guy for the franchise. In his first full season with the team, he averaged 21.0 PPG and 8.7 RPG, and it was off from there. From there was one of the best stretches in Chicago Bulls history. Right through 1975, Love was a consistent and prolific 20.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG player.
In his 592 games with Chicago, Love tallied 21.3 PPG and 6.8 RPG. His best season came in 1971, when he averaged 25.2 PPG and 8.5 RPG during the regular season. The best was yet to come in the playoffs. Love led the Bulls to a matchup with the powerhouse Los Angeles Lakers. Even though the Bulls would drop the series in 7 games, Love stepped up big time with 26.7 PPG and 7.3 RPG. Love was never able to deliver a championship to Chicago like other stars in their franchise's history, but his contributions need not go unnoticed.
Teams: Spurs (1984-85 to 1988-89), Bucks (1989-90 to 1992-93), Pistons (1992-93), Raptors (1995-96)
Career Stats: 14.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 5.0 APG, 2.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Achievements and Awards: 1x Most Improved Player, 1x Defensive Player Of The Year, 4x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection, 6x All-Defensive Team Selection
Throughout his 12-year NBA career, Alvin Robertson proved to be one of the best two-way guards in the game. He could facilitate, score when he needed to, and was an absolute force on the defensive side. From 1985-86 to 1990-1991, Robertson was incredible with the Spurs and Bucks, averaging 16.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.7 APG, and 3.1 SPG over that stretch. The first season of that stretch in 1985-86 can only be described as Robertson's best.
In 1985-86, Robertson averaged 17.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.5 APG, and an NBA record 3.7 SPG. It would be the first of 3 different seasons that Alvin led the league in steals and the first of five seasons that he averaged 3.0 SPG or more. He was named an All-Star, Most Improved Player, and Defensive Player Of The Year that season. He also is just one of four players to record a quadruple-double and the only one to do it, having recorded 10 steals. As one of the best two-way players in Spurs and Bucks history, Robertson certainly deserves more respect.
Teams: Jazz (1982-83 to 1992-93)
Career Stats: 6.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.4 SPG, 3.5 BPG
Achievements and Awards: 2x Defensive Player Of The Year, 1x All-Star, 5x All-Defensive Team Selection
It is hard to believe that one of the greatest defensive players ever is forgotten, yet, here we are. Eaton's job was simple. He wasn't going to dominate you offensively, but he was going to stop or disrupt any shot you got up in the paint. Eaton was one of the league’s premier shot-blockers during the 1980s, which saw him take home not one but two Defensive Player Of The Year awards. He led the league four different times in BPG and averaged at least 3.0 BPG in seven out of 12 seasons. Mark Eaton spent his entire career with the Utah Jazz, and if it weren't for Rudy Gobert, he would be considered far and away the best center in the franchise’s history.
Aside from the five All-Defensive Teams and two Defensive Player Of The Year awards, Eaton also holds a few records for his defense. He owns the NBA's record for BPG with 3.5 and also for blocks in a season with 456 in 1985. It was the only time a player has ever recorded more than 400 blocks in a single season. He ranks 4th all-time in total blocks with 3,064 as well. His lack of flashiest and offensive prowess certainly causes many NBA fans to overlook his contributions to the game.
Teams: Lakers (1994-95 to 1998-99), Hornets (1998-99 to 1999-00), Heat (2000-01 to 2004-05, 2006-07), Grizzlies (2005-06 to 2006-07), Mavericks (2007-08)
Career Stats: 14.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Achievements and Awards: 3x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection, 3x All-Defensive Team Selection
It didn’t take long for Eddie Jones to come into his own as a true two-way effective player in the NBA. After being drafted 10th overall in the 1995 NBA draft, it would only take two seasons for Jones to get acclimated. It would be in 1997 that Jones would jump to a 17.2 PPG player and an All-Star after the Lakers made moves to acquire Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. In 1998, he would become an All-Star again, this time averaging 16.9 PPG, 2.0 SPG, and helped lead the Lakers to the Western Conference Finals.
After Jones was traded to the Hornets, he would hit his peak. His first full season with Charlotte in 1999 was the best of his career. He averaged 20.1 PPG and led the league in steals with 2.7 SPG while being named an All-Star starter. Jones was a highly versatile and skilled shooting guard whose game was strictly about scoring and disrupting the flow on the perimeter when on defense. Jones was one of those players every team needed, and it proved it every time he stepped on the floor.
Two-Way Players Dominate Part 2
We now have compiled a list of 20 players we think are some of the most forgotten players in NBA history. Part one was a lot of prolific scoring and offensive dominance. Part 2 focused a little more n the defensive side of the ball. Some of these guys were great on offense, too, but most of them provided a presence on defense that was equally as or even more valuable.
The thing about NBA history is that over the 75 years of its existence, too many legends have been forgotten. Again, these aren’t the MVPs or even champions of the league, but they had a role and played it very well. They deserve the recognition that has somehow been lost over time, and we are here to give it to them. If you enjoyed the first two parts, then stay tuned for Part 3 as we dive deeper into the forgotten stars of the past.