When the NBA announced the top 75 players of all time, which actually became the top 76 players as there was a tie in voting, for the league's 75th anniversary in October of 2021, some notable names did not make the cut.
Among them: Adrian Dantley. Klay Thompson, Tony Parker, Draymond Green, Kyrie Irving, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, Alex English, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter, to name a few. But in many people's eyes, the biggest top-75 snub was Dwight Howard.
You can count Howard's former coach Stan Van Gundy among those who found Howard's absence on the list to be "absolutely ridiculous."
"The time I was [in Orlando], to me, the only two guys you could even talk about in [Howard's] league at that time were LeBron, and Kobe was still playing. That was it. There was no on else to talk about in my opinion," Van Gundy said on the Knuckleheads podcast back in March. "Because you're talking about both ends of the floor. He was three straight years of Defensive Player of the Year. And then on offense, he's still getting you 20 plus, and we didn't even go to him. We weren't throwing him the ball all the time to let him get numbers. But everything revolved around him. He would roll, and at that time suck in the entire defense, and then we had shooters around him.
"Look, for him to not be in the top 75, that was just a personality thing," Van Gundy continued. "There's no way. Like, I think Anthony Davis is great, but at the time the selected [the top 75], you're selecting it on the careers they had had up to that point. I mean come on. It's not close.
"Like, you can think a guy is better. That's fine. That's a subjective thing," Van Gundy went on. "Like, I was arguing with people the other day. It's fine if you want to tell me that Michael Jordan is a better basketball player than LeBron James. That's fine. You can make a case for that. What you can't make a case for is that Michael Jordan had a better career than LeBron James. You can't make a case for that.
"And when you're going top 75, you cannot make a case -- and I'm only bringing out one guy, there's a lot more -- but you cannot make a case that Anthony Davis, when they picked that team, or even now, had a better career than Dwight Howard," Van Gundy concluded. "That's absolutely ridiculous."
Van Gundy -- who, by the way, is known to have not always had the best relationship with Howard -- is right on here. Howard not being named a top 75 player of all time is ridiculous. Personally, I believe that on top of his clownish, at times diva personality that rubbed a lot of people wrong, the fact is by the time that all-time team was selected, Howard was coming out of his 17th season and heading into the last of his career while Davis had played just nine seasons.
The simple truth is that by that time, a lot of people had forgotten just how dominant Howard was over the first nine years of his career; especially the eight he spent with Orlando. Like Van Gundy says, there are more than a few players you can cite as being less deserving of a spot on the all-time team than Howard, but just to make it easy, let's go ahead and make the direct Anthony Davis comparison based on the first nine years of their respective careers.
FIRST NINE SEASONS
ALL-NBA (1ST TEAM)
TOP 5 MVP
As you can see, the first nine years of Howard's career were pretty clearly superior to the first nine of Davis'. Even the All-Star appearances even out at eight apiece when you include Howard's 10th season in Houston, and all told, Howard has been to the playoffs 12 times. When he was the clear-cut best player on the team, Howard led his team to the Finals. Davis never got out of the second round.
It's true, Davis was a much bigger part of the title that both won in 2020 with the Lakers, but Howard was an important component of that big-ball team as well. Bottom line, both benefitted from playing alongside LeBron James. There is nothing to suggest Anthony Davis would have a ring as the best player on a team.
If you go advanced stats, Howard tops Davis in average win shares (10.3 to 9.6) over their first nine years. Davis has the higher average PER. Howard led the league in rebounds five times; Davis zero. Davis led the league in blocks three times; Howard twice. Davis was, and is, clearly the better offensive player, but like Van Gundy said, Howard was the epicenter of what those Magic teams did as well and was a 20-point scorer despite not being a go-to guy.
There's just no way to say Davis had had a better career than Howard up to 2021. His peak was not higher. Howard should have been named to that team, if not over Davis, then over someone. Russell Westbrook. Damian Lillard. Carmelo Anthony. Even if we just keep it to the modern guys, at least those three players shouldn't have made it over Howard, who was as dominant a big man as we've seen in the post-2000s game this side of Shaquille O'Neal.