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James Harden, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony among greats celebrating place on NBA’s Top 75 list

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Crafting the correct list in any sports debate is a tough task for quite literally anyone. The NBA might be one of hardest given its plethora of talented players — both past and present.

In honor of the league’s 75th anniversary, a list of its most prominent and impactful players has been shared over three-day increments for players, media and fans alike to parse. While a fair share of arguments ensued over notable omissions, those who made the cut found themselves in awe of the legendary company they joined upon hearing their names alongside the figures they grew up admiring.

The NBA’s Top 75 marks its fourth time selecting a group of legends in alignment with a landmark anniversary. Prior to this, the league crafted anniversary teams for the league’s 50th (1996), 35th (1980) and 25th (1971) years of existence. As part of the NBA’s celebration, its season-long honoring of its rich history will include Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers Clyder Drexler, Magic Johnson, Bob Pettit and Oscar Robertson, as well as 2006-07 MVP Dirk Nowitzki, serving as ambassadors for the 2021-22 season.

With such pristine company on hand, it’s hard to imagine current players not being in awe of officially etching themselves into hoops lore. Let’s examine some of the most notable reactions for those who did (and did not) make the cut for the NBA’s Top 75.

Just over one calendar year ago, LeBron James won his fourth NBA title and became the first player in league history to win Finals MVP with three different franchises (Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers).

The four-time regular season MVP entered this season trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone for the most points all-time.

Now he officially stands among the legendary players in the history of the game he loves most.

Upon being told he and Kevin Durant were among those named to the NBA’s Top 75 list, Harden couldn’t help but express disbelief at the honor.

Though The Beard may need some time to soak in the nod, it should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with both he and Durant’s respective careers. They are among two of the four players since the 1976 ABA-NBA merger to win three consecutive scoring titles. Michael Jordan did it twice, and George Gervin also achieved this feat.

Unlike Durant, who twice won Finals MVP honors with the Golden State Warriors, Harden is still seeking the first NBA title of his illustrious career, which has seen him accomplish just about everything else a player could strive for.

When told about his place on the NBA’s Top 75, Harden couldn’t help but want to be certain of his nod.


Anthony reached 10th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list last season with the Portland Trail Blazers. During the 2020-21 campaign alone, the four-time Olympic medalist (three gold, one bronze) surpassed Hall of Famers Elvin Hayes, Tim Duncan, Dominique Wilkins, Oscar Robertson and Hakeem Olajuwon en route to his place in the scoring ranks.

Despite his career point total being the highest among players without a ring, Anthony is recognized as one of the most impactful players of an entire generation.

Now, after a brief hiatus from the game a couple years ago, he is officially honored among the most revered hoopers in the history of the game.


Dominique Wilkins

Despite nine All-Star selections, seven All-NBA nods and being revered as one of the most exciting players ever, The Human Highlight reel was omitted from the league’s aforementioned 50th Anniversary list in 1996.

Wilkins averaged 24.8 points per game over his 15-year career, including a mark of 29.9 during a bounceback campaign in 1992-93 after tearing Achilles tendon the season prior, signalling one of the greatest returns to form from the injury.

Now?

The leading scorer in Atlanta Hawks history (23,292 points) has earned another rightful spot in basketball history thanks to his selection to the NBA’s Top 75 list.


One need not explain at length why the Hall of Famer made the cut. Four scoring titles, 11 All-Star appearances, seven All-NBA nods and a 2001 Finals run for the ages can often speak for themselves.

Beyond his game, though, Iverson’s impact on basketball culture remains unmatched for reasons that range between his trademark cornrows, sneaker collection and patented crossovers. The 1996-97 NBA Rookie of the Year made sure to show love to those he credits for their role in carrying him to this unique point of validation.


Notable Omissions

Unfortunately, a list of the league’s 75 (well, really 76) best players can only fit so many names at once. That being said, the omission of the three-time Defensive Player of the Year came as a surprise to former players, media and fans alike.


Three NBA titles, a career mark of 41.9 percent on three-pointers and a reputation as one of the best heat checks in league history doesn’t appear to be enough for Thompson to make the NBA’s Top 75 list.

When asked about Thompson and teammate Draymond Green’s place in history, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr couldn’t help but support two-thirds of his dynastic Big 3 when discussing the league’s list.

“I definitely think both guys are Top 75 just based on winning and two-way basketball, everything that really matters more than statistics,” Kerr said. “What matters is if you’re winning championships, and that’s what counts, so I would’ve hoped and thought both guys would be on there.”


At only 29 years old, Irving has earned a reputation as one of the most gifted ball-handlers, scorers and playmakers in recent memory. His gifts were on peak display during the 2016 NBA Finals, when the Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the title round.

Irving’s go-ahead bucket in that series’ Game 7 ranks among the most pivotal shots in league history. Unfortunately, the seven-time All-Star’s resume wasn’t robust enough to earn a spot on the NBA’s Top 75 list, prompting a defense from ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Warriors forward Andre Iguodala, who battled against Irving in three straight Finals matchups (2015-17).


ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this story.



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Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis a game-time decision vs. Miami Heat on Sunday after 16-game absence

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MIAMI — Anthony Davis, out for the last five weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee, has been upgraded to questionable for the Los Angeles Lakers‘ game against the Miami Heat on Sunday and is considered a game-time decision, according to the team.

Davis missed the last 16 games since the Minnesota TimberwolvesJaden McDaniels collided with the Lakers All-Star’s knee and L.A. went 7-9 without him.

“Whenever AD is ready, we’re going to love that, that’s for sure,” LeBron James said of Davis on Friday. “I mean he’s one of our biggest guns that we have, and having him on the floor, it just creates so much for us offensively and defensively, able to do so much more. But his health is what’s most important, and once we know that he’s healthy, he knows that he’s healthy, we get him back on the floor, and then we start getting his wind and his rhythm.”

Davis was averaging 23.3 points on 52.1% shooting, 9.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.2 steals this season prior to the injury. His jump shot, however, had been off. Davis is shooting just 60-for-185 (32%) on shots outside the paint this season, according to NBA.com.

Davis has used the rehabilitation to work on not only his knee but his shot mechanics as well, sources told ESPN.

Davis had been eyeing the Lakers’ six-game road trip to return, as ESPN reported last week, and his presence could certainly help his team that has absorbed reports about Frank Vogel’s job security and Russell Westbrook‘s role in his absence.

If Davis makes his return against Miami, it could evoke warm memories for the Lakers big man. Davis averaged 25 points and 12.8 rebounds in the 2020 NBA Finals, downing the Heat in six games en route to his first championship.

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Damian Lillard, content to ‘make decisions that suit you for the long haul,’ slowly works his way back to Portland Trail Blazers’ lineup

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During the Tokyo Olympics last summer, when Damian Lillard‘s abdominal injury flared up, Jrue Holiday suggested it was time for surgery.

Lillard finally took his fellow Olympian’s advice and had the procedure Jan. 13. The Portland Trail Blazers‘ star point guard spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since the injury sidelined him on Jan. 3.

Holiday, who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, had similar core surgery during the 2018-19 NBA season when he was with New Orleans. He and Lillard were teammates in Japan last summer on the gold-medal-winning U.S. team.

“He was the first person that pretty much confirmed that I needed to have surgery, because I sat out of practice one day and I was like, ‘I can’t move,’ and I was kind of just holding it. And he just started describing every single symptom,” Lillard said. “And he was like, ‘I had it.'”

Lillard, a six-time All-Star, averaged 24 points and 7.3 assists in 29 games this season for the Blazers. It was clear from the start that the injury — lower abdominal tendinopathy — was bothersome.

“It was just one of those things where I’ve always had control over how I moved and everything, and it had reached a point where my body couldn’t do what my mind wanted it to do and go places that I wanted it to go,” he said. “At some point you’ve got to play chess; you’ve got to make decisions that suit you for the long haul and not just right now.”

While the injury flared up in Tokyo, Lillard said he first felt the abdominal pain in 2015, and it had been gradually getting worse ever since.

The Blazers have struggled without Lillard, the undisputed leader of the team. Playing under first-year coach Chauncey Billups, Portland is 19-26 and in 10th place in the Western Conference.

Anfernee Simons has taken over as Portland’s point guard and has averaged 15.1 points per game. Portland was also playing for an extended period without Lillard’s backcourt teammate CJ McCollum, who had a collapsed right lung before becoming a father for the first time.

McCollum recently returned and had 24 points in Portland’s 109-105 victory at the Boston Celtics on Friday night.

There was no timeline for Lillard’s return, but he’s already been doing yoga. The team previously said he would be reevaluated in six weeks.

“I’m just a week from surgery. We said we’ll reevaluate my situation weeks out, six to eight weeks, and we’ll talk about it then. But I’m not in a rush,” he said. “My No. 1 goal is to win a championship. I’ve got to be in the best form of myself to make that happen and to be a part of that. So I’m not in a rush. We’ll talk about whatever that timeline is when we get to that point.”

The Trail Blazers, as play began on Saturday night, occupied the 10th spot in the Western Conference race. They were two games ahead of the Sacramento Kings.

Lillard was asked if he’d play if the Blazers decided to forgo a playoff push and play for a draft pick.

“I mean, if we’re gonna play for a draft pick, it wouldn’t make sense to me. Because I’m not gonna play for no draft pick. I’m just not capable of that,” he said. “So it’d be best if that was what we were doing, or what was decided, then it wouldn’t make sense for me to play.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Chicago Bulls G Alex Caruso to have surgery for fractured wrist, out 6 to 8 weeks, says team

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Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso will undergo surgery early next week for a fractured right wrist, the team announced Saturday.

Caruso suffered the injury during the Bulls loss to the Bucks Friday night in Milwaukee. Caruso was fouled hard by the Bucks’ Grayson Allen who was assessed a flagrant two foul and ejected from the game.

Caruso will miss six-to-eight weeks, the team announced

Caruso went up for a layup on a fast break with 5:45 remaining in the third quarter, but Allen hooked Caruso’s right arm, turning Caruso in the air and sending him hard to the floor on his right wrist. Caruso said his wrist was “a little banged up” after the game, but X-rays came back negative.

“Dude just grabbed me out of the air,” Caruso said after Friday’s game. “It’s kind of bulls—. I don’t know what else you can do about it. I’m just glad that I didn’t have any major scary injuries right away.”

Caruso said his wrist continued to bother him in the second half, especially while shooting. He finished 1-of-6 from the field for 3 points in the second half, but said he did not think the injury would linger long term.

Caruso added that Allen did not come to check on him following the play.

The foul particularly irked Bulls coach Billy Donovan, who is normally mild-mannered and rarely singles out players. But following Friday’s game, Donovan called Allen’s actions dangerous and cited his history playing college basketball at Duke.

“For Alex to be in the air and for [Allen] to take him down like that, he could’ve ended his career,” Donovan said. “He has a history of this. That to me was really — it was really dangerous. I hope the league takes a hard look at something like that because that could have really, really seriously hurt him.”

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