When the NBA announced the 76 players on its landmark diamond anniversary team, it caused a major debate on all corners of the basketball universe. The list was voted on by a blue-ribbon panel consisting of current and former NBA players, coaches, executives, WNBA greats, sportswriters, and broadcasters. It was purely subjective. But nonetheless, there were some who felt disrespected.
Klay Thompson was one of them. The Golden State Warriors’ 6-foot-6 sharpshooter took to social media to voice his frustration. He wrote on Instagram, “Maybe I’m just naive in my ability to play basketball, but in my head, I’m Top 75 all time.”
Thompson was so bothered by the snub it lingered the followed day when he posted another message on social with a bit more context on why he should have been named to the all-time team. “Woke up this AM, still pissed about this stupid ass list. Ga damn I can’t wait to hoop again. Sick of the disrespect. Winning isn’t everything to some people like it is to me I guess,” Thompson wrote.
Thompson is absolutely right. There should have been more weight placed on playing for championships and winning championships, especially for the still-active players. Thompson is a three-time NBA champion and a crucial component of the Warriors dynasty from 2015-19. Based on that evidence, Klay more than deserved a spot on the 75th-anniversary team. If we want to debate Thompson’s individual accomplishments, his resume speaks for itself. He’s been named to the All-NBA team, made the all-defensive team, and holds the record for most 3-pointers made in a regular-season game (14), and his 11 threes in the 2016 playoffs is second behind Damian Lillard (12). Klay’s 11 3-pointers helped the Warriors stave off playoff elimination against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In that same 2016 season, Thompson pulled off one of the most amazing feats in terms of efficiency. He dropped 60 points on the Indiana Pacers in 29 minutes and used 11 dribbles.
The bottom line is you can’t tell the story of the NBA’s first 75 years without Klay Thompson. Thompson is one-half of the Splash Brothers. Klay and Steph Curry are forever linked. They are the two greatest shooters in the world. You can skip guys like Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Davis, and Damian Lillard, but you can’t revisit the history of the NBA without the Splash Brothers.
Some anti-Klay voters will point to the fact that Thompson took a backseat to Steph Curry and Kevin Durant in the Warriors championship runs. It’s a fair point. But here’s the counterpoint. Do the Warriors win three championships without Klay Thompson? The answer is, no.
When Durant was sidelined for much of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors, the Warriors were still competitive. After Thompson went down with a torn ACL in the series, it was game over. Curry had one of the greatest offensive seasons in 2020-21. But without his fellow Splash Brother, Curry and the Dubs could only go as far as the play-in games.
Here are the five players OMFB believes should have made the NBA 75th anniversary team and the five who should have been taken off the list.
Add these names to the all-time 75th-anniversary team:
Klay Thompson — Former Warriors coach Mark Jackson made the comment back in 2011 that Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are the greatest shooting backcourt in NBA history. Many scoffed at Jackson for making that bold statement on the air. Now, no one is debating Jackson anymore. Curry is widely regarded as the greatest pure shooter in basketball history, and his backcourt mate is clearly No. 2. Thompson and Curry are either at the top or near the top of the leaderboard for 3-pointers. They share the record for most 3-pointers made in a single postseason (98). “[Klay’s] a Hall of Famer, no question,” Warriors great Chris Mullin said to NBC Sports Bay Area. “His legacy is set in stone.”
Joe Dumars — If Curry and Thompson are universally regarded as the best shooting backcourt in history, the Detroit Pistons dynamic duo Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars are a solid second. Dumars, who played his entire career in Detroit, was a pillar of sportsmanship and one of the NBA’s greatest defensive players. Michael Jordan said Dumars was the toughest defender he ever faced. Dumars helped the Pistons make three NBA Finals appearances in six seasons, and was named NBA Finals MVP in 1989 when the Pistons swept the Los Angeles Lakers. Dumars was also a member of the gold-medal winning USA Basketball squad at the 1994 FIBA world championship. The Hall of Famer served as a mentor to NBA rookies and others for his classy demeanor and is the namesake for the league’s sportsmanship award.
Dwight Howard — If we’re going to have a real conversation about Dwight Howard’s credentials and qualifications on the NBA’s landmark list, you have to strip away all the antics on and off the court and the histrionic gestures. When it comes down to pure agility, power, physique, and vertical jump, the 6-foot-10, 265-pound Howard might be the most physically gifted center to play the sport. In the post-Shaq era and at the height of his powers, Howard was the dominant big man in basketball. He was a three-time defensive player of the year, took the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals on his broad shoulders in 2009, was named to the All-NBA team eight times, and anchored the Redeem Team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Howard played for a host of teams during his career while chasing a championship, finally earning that elusive chip in 2020 as a member of the L.A. Lakers. Even though Howard is still active, his basketball autobiography is pretty much written.
Tony Parker — Parker is part of the golden age of European superstars arriving in the NBA, a heralded group that includes Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili. Parker came into the NBA as a 19-year-old phenom and was instrumental in changing the way the San Antonio Spurs play. With Parker running point, the Spurs ditched the slow-moving two-headed center attack with Tim Duncan and David Robinson to a more up-tempo attack featuring Parker and Ginobili. Tony P’s contributions to the game go beyond statistics. He racked up 137 playoff wins as Gregg Popovich’s lead orchestrator and won four NBA titles. He was named 2007 Finals MVP after the Spurs swept LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. But Parker’s biggest contribution on the court was his signature shot: the floater. Parker may not have invented the floater (or teardrop) but he nearly perfected it. Now, almost every point guard at all levels — high school, AAU, college, pros — has the floater in the paint in their bag.
Dennis Johnson — D.J. was underappreciated and underrated throughout his fantastic pro career. He was a second-round pick by the Seattle SuperSonics in 1976 (29th overall). Three years later, Johnson led the Sonics to their first and only NBA title and was named Finals MVP. He was traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1980 for Paul Westphal. Johnson was an All-Star in Phoenix and helped the Suns reach the Western Conference semifinals twice. In 1983, Johnson was traded to Boston where he thrived as the Celtics’ point guard and defensive stopper. Johnson was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive team nine times in his career. Johnson hounded Magic Johnson in an epic Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals matchup in 1984. Celtics beat the Lakers in ’84, and won it all again in 1986. The 1986 Celtics are considered one of the NBA’s greatest teams. Larry Bird said DJ was the best player he’s ever played with.
Remove these names from the 75th-anniversary team:
Carmelo Anthony — Carmelo will go down as one of the best scorers in NBA history. There’s no denying his ability to put the ball in the basket. But what can be debated is his ability to lead a team as the lead actor. His best years were spent in Denver, and the farthest his Nuggets got in the postseason was the conference finals. Carmelo also has never won an NBA MVP. Melo was part of the famed 2003 draft class that included LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. At the time of this post, Melo is the only top-five pick from the 2003 draft without a championship ring. Even Darko Milicic has a ring.
Anthony Davis — AD and Dwight Howard are now teammates with the L.A. Lakers. If you do a side-by-side comparison of Davis’ career resume and Howard’s resume, Dwight has the clear edge. Davis won a championship in 2020 with the help of his good friend LeBron. Sans LeBron, AD couldn’t get a sniff of the NBA Finals. Davis is still in the prime of his athletic career, so his basketball diary is still being written. He’ll be a lock for the NBA’s 100th-anniversary team.
Damian Lillard — Lillard was another surprise selection on the diamond anniversary team. For all the spectacular plays Dame has made in the postseason (waving good-bye to Paul George in the 2019 playoffs after nailing the game-winning 3-ball was priceless), he has yet to get a taste of the NBA Finals. The closest Lillard got was in 2019 when the Portland Trail Blazers reached the conference finals, where they got swept by the Golden State Warriors. Much like Anthony Davis, Dame’s story is still being written. It’s not Dame Time, yet.
Chris Paul — Charles Barkley has repeated said that Chris Paul is the greatest leader in sports. Hmm. If CP3 is a great leader then why can’t he lead his teams to the conference finals and NBA Finals more often? Up until the 2021 season, Paul never got past the conference semifinals. Paul kept getting knocked out of the playoffs by his contemporaries — Tony Parker’s Spurs, Steph Curry’s Warriors. CP3 finally broke through by leading the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals in 2021. CP3 is an all-time great. There’s no denying his place history. But he’s more of a candidate for the top 100 than the top 75.
Dave DeBusschere — As much as we love a good bruiser or a glue guy on a championship squad, the inclusion of DeBusschere on the NBA’s golden anniversary team and diamond anniversary team was questionable at best. DeBusschere was probably the fourth-best player on the New York Knicks championship teams in the early 1970s. Playing in New York certainly aided his credentials.
Here’s the full list of the 76 players named to the 75th-anniversary team (listed in alphabetical order).