Everyone Was Going to Hate the NBA 75 Team (or 76 Team), but That’s the Point

The NBA finally finished its drip-by-drip release of the NBA 75 Team. It turned out to be the NBA 76 Team because of a tie (apparently, they didn’t think of taking it to a shootout). The result was 100% predictable. People are big mad. Some are blasting which NBA players aren’t on the team. Some take issue with the players who did make the cut. Feelings are hurt. Umbrage runs rampant in the streets; it’s mass hysteria.

That last part is untrue. The list did what the NBA hoped it would do. From that standpoint, it’s an almost complete success. Why only almost? More on that in a bit. First, to paraphrase Sam Hinkie, let’s dig into the process.

Shockingly, every single member of the 50th-anniversary team is on the NBA 75 Team

In 1996, while celebrating its not-really-its-50th anniversary, the NBA released a list of its top 50 players from the first 50(ish) years. Fast forward 25 years, and you’ll find every one of those 50 players still standing on the NBA 75 Team.

It’s almost like there was an unwritten rule: anyone on the 1996 list was guaranteed a spot in 2021. What in the name of Dick Bavetta is going on here? Was it fixed?

In all seriousness, it says something good that none of the first 50 got the ax this time around. One can debate the purely performance-related cases for some of the early NBA players. At this point, we can cue up the tired old “George Mikan, Bill Russell, and Wilt Chamberlain played against 6-foot-2 dentists” arguments.

Speaking of Mikan and some of the older stars, there is a quick point to address. Basketball players from the 1950s and 1960s and into the 1970s weren’t the pristine physical specimens we see in the NBA circa 2021. But don’t think for a minute those players wouldn’t benefit from newfangled things such as today’s training techniques and dietary knowledge that didn’t exist in their eras.

But all that leads to why this list was almost perfect from the NBA’s perspective.

Many people hate the list, which was the whole point of the exercise

The NBA 75 Team sparked debate as well as outrage over the players omitted from the list. That's just what the NBA wanted it to do.
The NBA 75 Team sparked debate as well as outrage over the players omitted from the list. That’s just what the NBA wanted it to do. | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Since the reveal finally ended on TNT’s NBA Tipoff on Oct. 23, the debates have gone almost non-stop. Dwight Howard deserved to be on the NBA 75 Team. Why did Bill Walton survive the cut? Kyrie Irving, anyone? What, exactly, is a Dolph Schayes?

For the NBA, that’s a huge win. Not only are we talking about the league, but we’re talking about players that haven’t laced up a sneaker for 30, 40, or 50 years.

More than anything, that was why they did this. Nothing generates debate like a finite list. And based on observations regarding snubbed players, an NBA 150 list wouldn’t have been big enough to cover everyone.

There were some gratifying additions this time around. Bob McAdoo and Dominique Wilkins finally got their due. Meanwhile, 11 active players made the NBA 75 Team, the same number named to the 50th-anniversary team.

Commissioner Adam Silver admitted the NBA 75 Team is a win for the league, per Fox Sports:

“Many of you I know have created your own lists, and several of them I’ve been reading. There’s no doubt that the various rankings will generate a season-long debate and conversation among fans and all of you.”

NBA commissioner Adam Silver

Even with the criticism, the NBA wins. Score one for Silver.

The league messed up the release of the NBA 75 Team

Criticize the body of the NBA 75 Team as you will. That is a matter of interpretation; no person’s list will coincide 100% with anyone else’s.

But the mechanics of the team’s release were horrific. Dripping them out over three days didn’t spur more debate. Instead, it just delayed most of it until everyone knew the entire roster.

The format smells of the NBA attempting to appease its national broadcasting partners, Turner Sports and ESPN. But it dampened the overall impact of the list rather than enhancing it. And ultimately, since ESPN only got one day and TNT got two, there must have been a concession somewhere else, anyway.

A single release of the team would have been cleaner, especially for the much-sought casual fan. Asking those people to ride out three days was too much.

It also would have fired up the debates sooner and more clearly. That was the whole point of creating the NBA 75 Team in the first place. The NBA wanted the talking points for a few news cycles. Spreading it out dampened that to some extent.

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