Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the United States. It is also one of the most competitive. There are many talented athletes who play basketball, but here is what we believe to be some of the best players in NBA history.
Looking back, the 1970s were an amazing decade for the NBA. It was during this time that legends like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Rick Barry, and Wilt Chamberlain became household names. As one of the oldest teams in professional sports, the Boston Celtics were an integral part of this period.
This post features an infographic that lists all retired players with statistics and achievements from this decade, as well as what teams they played for during their careers. The information below summarizes who these players were and compares them with another top talent from other decades.
Table of Contents
- 1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
- 2. John Havlicek
- 3. Elvin Hayes
- 4. Walt Frazier
- 5. Rick Barry
- 6. Pete Maravich
- 7. Bob Lanier
- 8. Julius Erving
- 9. Dave Cowens
- 10. Bill Walton
- 11. Bob McAdoo
- 12. George Gervin
- 13. Archie Clark
- 14. Dan Issel
- 15. Phil Chenier
- 16. Larry Kenon
- 17. Doug Collins
- 18. Dick Van Arsdale
- 19. Fred Brown
- 20. Geoff Petrie
- 21. Truck Robinson
- 22. Jerry Lucas
- 23. Jeff Mullins
- 24. World B. Free
- 25. Don Nelson
- 26. Jack Marin
- 27. Campy Russell
- 28. Happy Hairston
- 29. Billy Knight
- 30. Flynn Robinson
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born April 16, 1947) is an American retired professional basketball player with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. Abdul-Jabbar was a six-time NBA MVP, a 19-time All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA pick, and an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team member. Abdul-Jabbar was twice named NBA Finals MVP as a player and twice as an assistant coach.
2. John Havlicek
John Joseph Havlicek (born April 8, 1940) was an American basketball player who won eight NBA titles with the Boston Celtics, four in his first four seasons.
Only Bill Russell and Sam Jones have won more NBA titles, with 11 and 10, respectively. On of three NBA players with an unbeaten 8–0 record in NBA Finals series. Havlicek was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984.
3. Elvin Hayes
Elvin Ernest Hayes (born November 17, 1945), often known as “The Big E,” is a former professional basketball player and radio commentator for the Houston Cougars. He has been a part of the NBA’s 50th and 75th anniversary teams and is a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.
4. Walt Frazier
Walter “Clyde” Frazier Jr. (born March 29, 1945) is a former National Basketball Association professional basketball player from the United States (NBA). He led the New York Knicks to their only two titles (1970 and 1973) as their floor manager and premier perimeter defender, and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987. Frazier entered broadcasting after his retirement from basketball; he is presently a color commentator for MSG Network broadcasts of Knicks games.
5. Rick Barry
Richard F. Dennis Barry III (born March 28, 1944) is an American former professional basketball player (NBA). Barry is the only player to top the NCAA, ABA, and NBA in points per game in the same season. He leads the ABA in scoring (30.5 ppg) and playoff (33.5 ppg), and his 36.3 ppg in the NBA Finals is the highest ever. Barry is also the first player to score 50 points in a playoff game in either league. Only four players have been on championship teams in both leagues.
6. Pete Maravich
Peter Press Maravich (June 22, 1947 – January 5, 1988), better known as Pistol Pete, was an American basketball player. Maravich grew up in the Carolinas and was born in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. Maravich starred for his father, Press Maravich, at LSU. He has 3,667 career points and averages 44.2 points per game. His achievements were before the three-point line and shot clock, and despite being unable to play varsity basketball as a freshman due to NCAA restrictions. After a 10-year professional career, he was forced to quit due to injuries in 1980.
7. Bob Lanier
Robert Jerry Lanier Jr. (born September 10, 1948) is an American retired professional basketball player (NBA). Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee in 1992.
Lanier averaged 20.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 1.1 steals in 14 NBA seasons. He was MVP of the 1974 NBA All-Star Game. The Pistons and Bucks retired his #16 jersey, while St. Bonaventure University retired his #31 jersey. Lanier promotes the NBA.
8. Julius Erving
Julius Winfield Erving II (born February 22, 1950), most generally referred to as Dr. J, is a retired professional basketball player from the United States. Erving, regarded as one of the game’s most significant players, helped legitimize the American Basketball Association (ABA) and was the league’s best-known player when it joined with the National Basketball Association (NBA) during the 1975–76 season.
9. Dave Cowens
David William Cowens (born October 25, 1948) is a former professional basketball player and NBA head coach from the United States of America. At 6’9″, he was a center who sometimes shifted to power forward. Cowens played with the Boston Celtics for the most of his career. He was the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 1971 and the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1973. Cowens won NBA titles with the Celtics in 1974 and 1976. Cowens has also coached in the NBA, Canadian Basketball Association, and Women’s National Basketball Association.
10. Bill Walton
William Theodore Walton III (born November 5, 1952) is an American television sportscaster and former basketball player. Bill Walton played collegiate basketball for coach John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins, earning three straight national college player of the year honors (1972–1974) and guiding the Bruins to NCAA titles in 1972 and 1973, as well as an 88-game winning streak. Walton led the Portland Trail Blazers to an NBA championship in 1977, receiving the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award that season.
11. Bob McAdoo
Robert Allen McAdoo Jr. (born September 25, 1951) is a former professional basketball player and coach in the United States of America. He spent 14 seasons in the NBA, where he was a five-time All-Star and was awarded the NBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1975. He won two NBA titles in the 1980s with the Los Angeles Lakers during their Showtime era. McAdoo was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2021, he was chosen to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.
12. George Gervin
George Gervin (born April 27, 1952), nicknamed “the Iceman,” is a former American professional basketball player who played for the Virginia Squires, San Antonio Spurs, and Chicago Bulls in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and National Basketball Association (NBA). Gervin averaged at least 14 points per game in each of his 14 ABA and NBA seasons, finishing with a 26.2 point per game average in the NBA.
13. Archie Clark
Archie L. Clark (born July 15, 1941) is a former professional basketball player from the United States of America. He played guard for five National Basketball Association (NBA) clubs throughout his 6’2″ career. Clark was born in Conway, Arkansas, and grew up in the Detroit suburbs before joining the United States Army after high school. He was found while playing for an intramural basketball team at Andrews Air Force Base by a University of Minnesota scout and quickly accepted a scholarship to play under John Kundla.
14. Dan Issel
Daniel Paul Issel is a former professional basketball player and coach from the United States. Issel was a standout student at the University of Kentucky, earning two All-American honors on route to a career scoring average of 25.7 points per game. He was born in Batavia, Illinois, on October 25, 1948.
15. Phil Chenier
Philip Chenier (born October 30, 1950) is a retired American professional basketball player who spent 10 seasons in the NBA as a shooting guard.  He has worked as a television sports announcer for the Washington Wizards of the NBA. Chenier was born and reared in Berkeley, California. He graduated from Berkeley High School and attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he played basketball.
16. Larry Kenon
Larry Joe Kenon (born December 13, 1952) is a retired professional basketball player from the United States. Kenon, a 6’9″ forward who played for the New York Nets, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, and Cleveland Cavaliers, had a great career in both the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Mr. K and “Special K” were his nicknames.
17. Doug Collins
Paul Douglas Collins (born July 28, 1951) is a former NBA player, coach, and television commentator (NBA). Doug Collins played in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers from 1973 to 1981, garnering four NBA All-Star berths. In 1986, he was hired as an NBA coach and spent time with the Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, and Philadelphia 76ers. Collins has also worked as an analyst for a number of NBA-related television broadcasts. He is a Curt Gowdy Media Award winner.
18. Dick Van Arsdale
Richard Albert Van Arsdale (born February 22, 1943) is a former professional basketball player and coach from the United States of America, as well as a current NBA executive. Van Arsdale attended Indiana University under long-time head coach Branch McCracken. Dick Van Arsdale graduated from Emmerich Manual High School in Indianapolis. He was drafted in the second round of the 1965 NBA draft by the New York Knicks and was chosen to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1966, along with his identical twin brother Tom.
19. Fred Brown
Fred Brown (born August 7, 1948), sometimes known as “Downtown Freddie Brown,” is a former professional basketball player in the United States. He was a 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) guard out of the University of Iowa who spent 13 seasons in the NBA (1971–1984), all with the Seattle SuperSonics. Brown was named to the 1976 NBA All-Star Game and finished his career with 14,018 points.
20. Geoff Petrie
Geoffrey Michael Petrie (born April 17, 1948) is a retired professional basketball player from the United States. He began his professional basketball career in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with the Portland Trail Blazers, where he earned the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 1971.
21. Truck Robinson
Leonard Eugene “Truck” Robinson (born October 4, 1951) is a former professional basketball player and coach from the United States of America. He played with the Washington Bullets (1974–77), Atlanta Hawks (1977), New Orleans Jazz (1977–79), Phoenix Suns (1979–82), and New York Knicks (1982–85) in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
22. Jerry Lucas
Former basketball player Jerry Ray Lucas (born March 30, 1940) He was a national high school standout, a gold medal Olympian and an international player before joining the NBA (NBA). Among other accolades, Lucas was selected to the NBA First Team three times, the NBA Second Team twice, an All-Star seven times (six years in a row), the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1964, and the NBA All-Star Game MVP in 1965. in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
23. Jeff Mullins
Jeffrey Vincent Mullins (born March 18, 1942) is a former American basketball player and coach. He played collegiate basketball for the Duke Blue Devils and NBA for the St. Louis Hawks and Golden State Warriors. Mullins was the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s head basketball coach from 1985 until 1996.
24. World B. Free
World B. Free (born Lloyd Bernard Free; December 9, 1953) is a former American professional basketball player who played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1975 to 1988. He is most known for his time as a member of the Boston Celtics. Free was referred to as the “Prince of Mid-Air” and the “All-World” by his peers.
25. Don Nelson
Donald Arvid Nelson (born May 15, 1940) is a former professional basketball player and head coach in the United States of America. Nelson has the most regular-season victories (1,335) of any coach in NBA history. He served as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, and Golden State Warriors. Nelson won five NBA titles with the Boston Celtics after an All-American career at the University of Iowa. His number 19 was retired by the organization in 1978.
26. Jack Marin
The retired NBA player John Warren Marin was born on October 12, 1944. Marin, a 201 cm (6 7 inch) guard/forward from Duke, was selected to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1967 and played for the Baltimore Bullets, Houston Rockets, Buffalo Braves, and Chicago Bulls from 1966 to 1977. Marin was a two-time All-Star who scored 12,541 points. On June 23, 1972, he was dealt to the Rockets for Elvin Hayes (plus future considerations).
27. Campy Russell
Michael Campanella “Campy” Russell (born January 12, 1952) is a former professional basketball player in the United States of America. He spent nine years in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a forward with the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks (1975–1982, 1985), and was a member of the 1979 NBA All-Star Game.
28. Happy Hairston
Harold “Happy” Hairston (born May 31, 1942) was a professional basketball player in the United States. He is best recognized as a 6’7″ (200 cm) 225 lb (102 kg) big with the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA), although he also played for the Cincinnati Royals and Detroit Pistons. Hairston was a member of the NBA champion 1971–72 Los Angeles Lakers, who won 33 consecutive games, a feat unmatched in any other American professional sport.
29. Billy Knight
William R. Knight (born June 9, 1952) is a retired professional basketball player and executive from the United States of America. He was an ABA and NBA All-Star while playing with the Indiana Pacers in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and then the National Basketball Association (NBA). He attended the University of Pittsburgh and was a member of the Pittsburgh Panthers, who retired his No. 34.
30. Flynn Robinson
Flynn Robinson, James (April 28, 1941 – May 23, 2013) Robinson averaged 21.8 points per game in 1969–70 with Milwaukee and was named to the 1970 NBA All-Star Game, his only appearance. That year he lead the NBA in free throw percentage. He joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 1971 after being traded from the Cincinnati Royals, was a backup guard behind Jerry West and Gail Goodrich on a team that won a league-record 33 consecutive games and an NBA title in 1972. When Flynn joined the Lakers, Chick Hearn labeled him “Instant Points”.