In 2003, Slam Magazine’s Top 75 Greatest Players Of All Time: Michael Jordan No. 1, Wilt Chamberlain No. 2, Magic Johnson No. 5

In 2003, Slam Magazine’s Top 75 Greatest Players Of All Time: Michael Jordan No. 1, Wilt Chamberlain No. 2, Magic Johnson No. 5

SLAM Magazine’s top 75 players of all time in 2003 shows how narratives in basketball change over time.



Any list that seeks to rank the greatest players in NBA history will always be fluid as more players rise up the all-time rankings with every passing season. Stephen Curry is now considered a top-10 player of all time, even though he may not have been in that mix after the end of the 2021 season.


Time changes how we perceive stars, even after they retire. This was evident with SLAM Magazine’s 2003 compilation of the top 75 players in NBA history. Even though they had Michael Jordan as the No. 1 option, the rest of the list would look very different today. This was their top 10.


1. Michael Jordan


2. Wilt Chamberlain


3. Oscar Robertson


4. Bill Russell


5. Magic Johnson


6. Larry Bird


7. Kareem-Abdul Jabbar


8. Jerry West


9. Shaquille O’Neal 


10. Julius Erving


11. Elgin Baylor


12. Hakeem Olajuwon


13. Karl Malone


14. Bob Petitt


15. John Havlicek 


16. Moses Malone


17. Isiah Thomas


18. John Stockton


19. Charles Barkley


20. Walt Frazier


21. Rick Barry


22. Bob Cousy


23. Elvin Hayes


24. Dave Cowens


25. George Gervin


26. Kevin McHale


27. Dominique Wilkins


28. Patrick Ewing


29. Willis Reed


30. Wes Unseld 


31. George Mikan 


32. Earl Monroe 


33. Nate Thurmond


34. Dolph Schayes


35. Walt Bellamy


36. David Robinson


37. Billy Cunningham


38. Paul Arizin


39. Dave DeBusschere


40. Alex English


41. Scottie Pippen


42. Nate Archibald


43. Adrian Dantley


44. Clyde Drexler


45. Bernard King


46. Bob McAdoo


47. Gary Payton


48. Artis Gilmore


49. Jerry Lucas


50. Pete Maravich


51. Hal Greer


52. Reggie Miller


53. Allen Iverson


54. Dan Issel


55. Tim Duncan


56. Robert Parish


57. James Worthy


58. Sam Jones


59. Kobe Bryant


60. Lenny Wilkens


61. Jason Kidd


62. Bob Lanier


63. Dennis Johnson 


64. Chris Webber


65. Chris Mullin


66. Mark Aguirre


67. Connie Hawkins


68. Spencer Haywood


69. Dennis Rodman


70. Kevin Garnett


71. Dave Bing


72. Alonzo Mourning


73. Bill Walton


74. Grant Hill


75. Tracy McGrady


The list had many interesting selections, such as Allen Iverson at No. 53, Tim Duncan at No. 55, Kobe Bryant at No. 59, Kevin Garnett at No. 70, and even Tracy McGrady at No. 75. 


Many players have risen over time due to how their legacy has aged as time has passed. At least MJ was No. 1 then and is considered No. 1 in Fadeaway World’s top 75 players of all-time list as well, though LeBron James is in the mix now.


Why Are Retired Players Ranking Differently Now?


Players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Oscar Robertson were retired before 2003 but they are ranked differently nowadays. Kareem is usually considered the third-greatest of all time, with Chamberlain and Robertson usually finding a place somewhere in the top 10 or just outside of that. 


Kareem’s 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 2.6 blocks per game career average, six championships, six MVPs, and his status as the all-time leading scorer until very recently have aged well as accomplishments. It’s ensured his place in the top five of virtually every all-time list, including Fadeaway World’s all-time GOAT pyramid. 


The focus on championship success for all-time players is far greater now. Wilt averaged 30.1 points, 22.9 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game for his career, but his Finals record of 2-4 is held against him. The mythical nature of his stats are also being challenged more often now, but there will be a fair number of records that’ll always be held by Wilt the Stilt.


Robertson had made NBA history by averaging a triple-double for a season, something he did multiple times. At the time, his all-around versatility was considered an incredible tool. Now, we have seen Russell Westbrook not only break his all-time triple-double record but average it over a full season four times as compared to Oscar’s one. Robertson’s lack of championships as compared to Kareem and other modern greats has docked him in all-time positions as time has passed. Robertson averaged an incredible 25.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 9.5 assists per game for his career but won just one title. 


There are plenty of modern-era players that would be considered top 75 players, as even the NBA admitted with their 75th Anniversary List. LeBron, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, and many more have earned their places on this list. 


A top 75 all-time list could look very different by the end of even 2025, let alone 2033. The likes of Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, and many others are gunning for their place on the list in the future.



Ishaan Bhattacharya is a staff writer at Fadeaway World, based in Mumbai, India. With keen expertise in NBA journalism, Ishaan has enriched his articles with insights gained from his previous role in corporate communications for NBA India and other notable sports brands. At Fadeaway World since March 2022, he has quickly become recognized for his unique take on the NBA, including exclusive interviews and on-the-ground reporting. Beyond sports, Ishaan is an avid gamer and passionate content creator, continually connecting with audiences across multiple platforms.


Gideon Canice

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *