NBA

The Greatest NBA Player From Every Draft Class Since 1956

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1956

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Bill Russell

Originally Drafted: 2nd overall

The legendary Bill Russell won 11 championships in his illustrious 13 year career. When you think of best winners in sports, you instantly think about this Celtics legend. No single athlete has had as much success as Russell did, in any sport, when it comes to winning. Russell was also a historically great defender and one of the best rebounders to ever step on the hardwood. While Mr. Russell was a tremendous player and constantly won, he did so with some deficiencies which makes his career even more impressive.

He was not very effective on the offensive end of the floor but it didn’t matter because he did everything else so well and damn near perfectly. His career didn’t last as long as many of the greats, playing only 13 seasons – which makes his 11 rings even more impressive. Winning in 10 percent of the years you play is something almost any player would instantly take… but Russell won in 85 percent, that almost seems made up. All in all, Russell is the greatest winner of all time, a pioneer of the game on and off the court, and a true legend of the game of basketball.

1957

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Sam Jones

Originally Drafted: 8th overall

The next time your friends start talking about the most clutch players of all time, you can throw Sam Jones’ name into the conversation and sound like an NBA guru. With the game on the line, Jones was a serious challenge to Jerry West for the title of the first clutch player in NBA history. We all know Bill Russell won the most championships in NBA history, but do you have any idea who won the second most? That would be Mr. Sam Jones, one of the most overlooked players in Boston Celtics history. His numbers don’t jump off the page, but the fact that he won 10 championships certainly does! Be honest, did you know very much about Sam Jones was before this? Either way, you do now and you will never forget. Nicknamed “The Shooter” for his smooth jump shot and ability to use the glass on his shots, Jones spread the floor and was the perfect complementary player to Russell. He played three different positions in his career and when the Celtics needed a big shot with the game on the line, Sam Jones is who they went to.

1958

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Elgin Baylor

Originally Drafted: 1st overall

Elgin Baylor is known as one of the best shooters to ever play in the NBA. In only his 2nd season, he scored 71 points in a game. His supreme athletic ability and footwork had never been seen before Baylor entered the league. Even though he never won a title, he single-handedly saved the Lakers franchise. Before they drafted Baylor, the Lakers won 19 games and were on the verge of bankruptcy. They gave Baylor a $20,000 contract and he took them to the NBA Finals in his rookie season. Even though they were swept by the Boston Celtics, this series started the best rivalry in the NBA between the 2 most successful franchises. Baylor’s importance to the NBA can’t be quantified by statistics. If he wouldn’t have signed with the Lakers, they very likely would not have existed after 1958. His athleticism and talent set the bar for future NBA athletes. He finished his career with averages of 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Truly ridiculous numbers.