By: Kento Kato
It is impossible to come up with just four players to represent the NBA. Someone will always be left out and besides, say Michael Jordan, the other three spots can be filled up differently depending on your definition of greatness and maybe even depending on which generation of basketball you grew up watching. I was trying to come up with my own Mt. Rushmores and decided to try picking the top four players of each era. So instead of doing the impossible, I decided to take a stab at making a Mt. Rushmore for every decade. Some people may think that “each decade” and “each era” may be different, but each of the decades had different rivalries, stars, champions, and playing styles so I would argue that the terms are pretty similar.
Before I get started, I wanted to jut say that instead of just naming players, I wanted to actually give a reason why I picked them so people who may not know the player can understand why I picked them and so instead of writing a ten page article with dozens of players and numerous stats and accolades, I decided to release a new article every week or so. So each week, I will have my list of the four greatest from each decade and at the end, I may try to summarize the whole list. I’ll start with the 1950’s on this article.
Now, I start with the 50s because the league was founded in 1946 making the 50s the first full decade of the league. Bob Pettit, George Mikan, Dolph Schayes, and Bob Cousy would be on my Mt. Rushmore of the 50s. We start with Bob Pettit, a 6ft 9in big man out of Louisiana State University. He was the 2nd overall pick in the 1954 draft and although he only played half of the 50’s, he was dominant averaging 24.9ppg 15.7rpg and 2.6apg in the 50s. He continued his success in the following decade playing until 1965 and finishing with a career average of 26.4ppg 3apg, and 16.2 rpg. Pettit won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award in 1955 and won the NBA All-Star Game MVP four out of the eleven times he was in the All-Star game; the only other player to win four All-Star MVP is Kobe Bryant. The big man also won the NBA MVP Award in 1956 and 1959. Pettit also won a championship with the Atlanta Hawks in 1958. Besides just awards, Pettit made history becoming the first player ever to eclipse the 20,000 point mark, and averaged 29.2ppg in the 1958-59 season which was the most at the time.
George Mikan only played 7 seasons but he made them count and although he failed to play a decade in the NBA, he may be the most recognized player from that decade. Mikan, also known as Mr. Basketball, averaged 21.2ppg and 13.4rpg and 2.7apg in the 50s while was a four time all-star and won the MVP award in the game in 1953. At the beginning of the decade, he was even named the greatest basketball player in the first half decade of the 1900s. Although Pettit may have had better stats, Mikan had a huge impact on the game as he refined the big man position with his ambidextrous abilities and his shot blocking. The shot clock, something that is a crucial part of the game now, was also introduced in large part due to Mikan’s dominance at the time.
Dolph Schayes 6ft 7in power forward, was the best player of the Syracuse Nationals throughout the 50s in which he averaged 19.1ppg, 13.3rpg, and 3apg while shooting 84% from the free throw line. He made nine all-star games along with six All NBA First Team selections and four All NBA Second Team selections. He was also the best player on the Nationals team that won the NBA Championship in 1955.
Bob Cousy is another very well known player from the 50s and for a good reason. A 6ft 1in. point guard, Bob Cousy has the reputation of being an incredible dribbler and passer. Although this isn’t incorrect, people are often unaware that the Celtic great averaged 19.4ppg in the 50s to go along with his 7.4apg and 5.9rpg He won two championships in the 50s and won 6 over his career. Cousy was part of the first real dynasty in the NBA and that is one of the reasons he is so well known. Being on the first greats on one of the greatest sports franchises, the Celtics, Cousy had to make this. In the 50s, Cousy won an MVP award, played in nine all-star games, was selected to the All NBA First Team eight times.
Many people don’t know about the NBA in the 50s because it was so new and because it was so long ago, but as you can see here, there a lot of great players who may not get the recognition they deserved. They weren’t as athletic as LeBron and freaks of nature like Durant, but the league was different noted by the lack of a shot clock until Mikan and the lack of a three-point line. Its interesting to look back into history to see where the game began and how it was played. These are just some of the players that really paved the way for the following generations and again, this is just my opinion of the four greats of the 50s. Check back in to see who I pick for the 60s.