As LeBron James, Steph Curry and other stars create a new NBA before our eyes -- while standing on the shoulders of giants -- we are presenting the 100 NBA players who have done the most to change the way we play the game, how we talk about the game, and the culture of basketball.
For this special edition of #NBArank, we asked our panel to choose the players who have influenced the game most, both on and off the court: the real game changers.
Our NBA panel -- with members from across ESPN, including TV, Radio, ESPN.com, The Undefeated and ESPN The Magazine -- voted more than 11,000 times to select the top 90 game changers, and a smaller committee of writers and editors selected the final 10.
#NBArank Game Changers: 100-76
100. Al Attles
Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors (1960-71), San Francisco/Golden State Warriors (head coach, 1969-1983)
Attles joined the Warriors franchise in 1960 and has seen every major franchise moment since, from Wilt's 100-point game to the Splash Brothers' downtown barrage. He can tell you of franchise founder Eddie Gottlieb, a man born in 1890s Ukraine, or the current ownership that artfully employs the latest Silicon Valley innovations. More than a witness, though, Attles played a key role in shaping Golden State's history.
At every step, Attles was at the vanguard of black men assuming leadership positions in the NBA. As a player, "the Destroyer" was one of the first black point guards and made life miserable for opponents with his defense. In 1975, he coached Golden State to a shocking 4-0 Finals sweep of the heavily favored Washington Bullets for the NBA title. In 1976, he assumed general manager duties for the franchise and today still remains an executive with the franchise he has called home for nearly 60 years. -- Curtis Harris
99. Rafer Alston
Milwaukee Bucks (1999-2002), Toronto Raptors (2003), Miami Heat (2003-04), Raptors (2004-05), Houston Rockets (2005-09), Orlando Magic (2009), New Jersey Nets (2009-10), Heat (2010)
Rafer "Skip 2 My Lou" Alston bridged basketball cultures, from flamboyant "AND1" ballhandling stunts to the NBA. His legend grew steadily -- playgrounds in Queens, New York, Slam covers while at Fresno State -- and then all at once. AND1 Mixtape Volume 1 dropped in 1999, when Alston was trying to find his place in the NBA after slipping to the second round of the 1998 draft and playing in the CBA. The Skip Tape showed a playmaker at the peak of his powers, artful and inventive.
An NBA starting point guard but never a star, Alston's 11-year, eight-team career included a trip to the 2009 Finals with Orlando that helped legitimize a sweeping streetball movement. -- Austin Tedesco
98. Manute Bol
Washington Bullets (1985-88), Golden State Warriors (1988-90), Philadelphia 76ers (1990-93), Miami Heat (1993-94), Bullets (1994), 76ers (1994), Warriors (1994-95)
A 7-foot-7 center who flung 3-pointers, Bol, the tallest player in NBA history, became much more than a sideshow. One of the NBA's first African players, Bol opened doors for a new generation through his play -- he ranks second all time in blocked shots per game -- and his legendary humanitarian work in Sudan.
"Manute's impact on this city, our franchise and the game of basketball cannot be put into words," 76ers president and GM Ed Stefanski said in a statement when Bol died in 2010. "He ... was continually giving of himself through his generosity and humanitarian efforts in order to make the world around him a much better place, for which he will always be remembered."
Bol's legacy lives on through his son, Bol Bol, who is the No. 4-ranked recruit in the Class of 2018 and could be a lottery pick as soon as 2019. -- Adam Reisinger
97. Calvin Murphy
San Diego/Houston Rockets (1970-83)
The NBA's shortest Hall of Fame player, at only 5-foot-9, few players in the 1970s came as fearsome as Murphy. All-Star forward Sidney Wicks, a full foot taller than Murphy, was decked in 1976 by a single Murphy punch. Calvin's lightning-quick hands had skill beyond pugilism, though.
A world-class baton twirler, Murphy possessed exquisite dexterity that made his dribbling forays to the basket nearly impossible to stop without fouling. And a trip to the foul line for Murphy was money in the bank -- he was one of the first players to specialize in free throw accuracy and made a then-record 78 straight. Murphy continues his flash off the court with colorful suits rivaled only by Walt Frazier and an infectious personality livening up Rockets broadcasts for over two decades. -- Harris
96. Pau Gasol
Memphis Grizzlies (2001-08), Los Angeles Lakers (2008-14), Chicago Bulls (2014-16), San Antonio Spurs (2016-present)
Without 2008's shocking trade of Gasol from Memphis to the Lakers, a lot of recent NBA history might be very different: Would Kobe Bryant have held fast to his trade request and be stuck with just the three titles he won alongside Shaquille O'Neal? Would Phil Jackson's most recent book be called "Nine Rings"?
But more profound than Gasol's influence on the Lakers has been his footprint on the international stage. As the first European pro to be selected in the top three of the NBA draft, Gasol paved the way for other skilled big men from around the world -- including his brother Marc -- with the rookie of the year award, six All-Star appearances, two NBA championships and the NBA's citizenship award. During international competition, he has led Spain to glory for more than a decade, winning three Olympic medals, the 2006 world championship and several MVP awards.
In 2013, Bryant put Gasol on the short list of the greatest international players in NBA history, and that's a legacy to which Gasol continues to add as a member of the San Antonio Spurs. -- Royce Webb
95. John Havlicek
Boston Celtics (1962-78)
The first sixth man to become a superstar, Havlicek's 13 All-Star appearances, eight championships, 11 All-NBA nods and eight all-defensive selections paved the way for future off-the-bench stars such as Manu Ginobili and Kevin McHale.
With a Swiss Army Knife combination of skills, the 6-foot-5 Havlicek swung many games in Boston's favor, including Game 7 of the 1965 East Finals -- "Havlicek stole the ball!" When he retired in 1978, the Celtic Man in Motion had played more games than anyone else in NBA history and was second in minutes played, third in points and fifth in assists.
As Zach Lowe reported in his 2016 Ginobili profile, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had just one photo hanging in his office: a shot of Havlicek. -- Harris
94. K.C. Jones
Boston Celtics (1958-67); San Diego Conquistadors [ABA], Capital/Washington Bullets, Boston Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics (head coach)
Never an All-Star but always a champion, Jones exemplified stoic success and leadership. In college, he teamed with Bill Russell to win back-to-back NCAA titles, and Russell and Jones then led the U.S. to Olympic gold in the 1956 Summer Games. Seemingly joined at the hip, the two won eight more championships together with the Boston Celtics. Jones retired from playing as one of the best defensive guards ever.
Still, his impact on basketball was only half-done as he embarked on a head coaching career that lasted 10 NBA seasons and included a sterling .674 win percentage. Despite reaching the 1975 Finals, Jones was dismissed by Washington Bullets but returned to the Celtics and found redemption with two championships, making him only the fourth black coach to win an NBA title. -- Harris
93. Carmelo Anthony
Denver Nuggets (2003-11), New York Knicks (2011-17), Oklahoma City Thunder (2017-present)
The most accomplished player in the history of USA Basketball and a three-time Olympic gold medalist, Anthony has been both a scoring specialist and a multifaceted NBA citizen.
He gained fame as a college freshman, who, adorned with braids and a headband, led Syracuse to a national championship. A fan favorite with the Nuggets and the Knicks with a knack for clutch scoring, he has been a 10-time All-Star who once led the NBA in points per game.
But what truly has made this Baltimore native a "game changer" is his work toward social change. The forward's social and racial activism was made clear by a July 2016 Instagram post that called for "all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge." Days later, Melo joined fellow NBA stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul onstage at the ESPYs to promote social change.
In March 2018, Anthony paid to bus 4,500 kids from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., to participate in the March for Our Lives protest. -- Marc Spears
92. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Denver Nuggets (1990-96), Sacramento Kings (1996-98), Vancouver Grizzlies (2000-01)
Long before NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled in 2016, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf caused a stir in 1996 when he refused to stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner." He was suspended by the NBA for one game before he agreed to protest silently, while standing, during the anthem.
Asked about his protest, Abdul-Rauf called the American flag a "symbol of oppression, of tyranny. I'm a Muslim first and a Muslim last. My duty is to my creator, not to nationalistic ideology."
The former Chris Jackson, a native of Gulfport, Mississippi, had come to prominence at LSU and with the Denver Nuggets for his rapid-fire 3-point shooting, free throw accuracy and amazing handle, with a style that predated players such as Steph Curry. He was also known for overcoming Tourette's syndrome and was selected the NBA's Most Improved Player in 1992-93.
Abdul-Rauf's NBA career ended in 2001, and he came to believe he had been blackballed. He played overseas until 2011 and played in the BIG3 at 48 years old. But his enduring image for many will be his hands cupped in prayer during the national anthem. -- Spears
91. Nate "Tiny" Archibald
Cincinnati Royals/Kansas City/Omaha Kings (1970-76), New York Nets (1976-77), Buffalo Braves (1977-78), Boston Celtics (1978-83), Milwaukee Bucks (1983-84)
Nate "Tiny" Archibald set the standard for modern point guards when he made the leap from New York playground legend to superstardom -- his ability to control a game with whirling athleticism and passing was otherworldly in his day. In his majestic 1972-73 season, he became the only player to officially lead the NBA in scoring and assists, with 34 points and 11 assists in 46 minutes per game.
Just as impressive was Archibald's comeback at age 30 from a badly broken foot and Achilles injury. With his raw athleticism gone, Archibald revealed a sharp basketball mind. His comeback was complete in 1981 when he was named All-Star Game MVP and the Celtics won the NBA title. -- Harris
90. Reggie Miller
Indiana Pacers (1987-2005)
Miller's stardom was unconventional, based not on stats or honors but on his mastery of the 3-point shot, particularly in late-game situations.
Miller became the first superstar known and feared primarily for shooting the long ball, and he retired in 2005 as the NBA's career leader in 3-pointers (since surpassed by Ray Allen). He was especially notorious for his torture of the New York Knicks and their fans -- victims of both his 8-points-9-seconds comeback and his famed 25-point fourth quarter that led to Miller's flashing the "choke" sign to Spike Lee.
"He loved the big moments," Magic Johnson said when Miller was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2012. "He loved the big games. ... The bigger the game, the bigger Reggie Miller would perform." -- Reisinger
89. Kyrie Irving
Cleveland Cavaliers (2011-17), Boston Celtics (2017-present)
Irving's game is a dazzling playground fantasy come to life, including a step-back, Game 7-winning jumper over superstar rival Steph Curry to lift LeBron James and the Cavaliers to one of the greatest upsets in NBA history.
"Uncle Drew" racks up style points in every part of his offensive game, but it all starts with an unreal handle and often finishes with a layup from an impossible angle, with either hand. His skills show the evolutionary leap of a player who has learned from every perimeter playmaker before him.
Irving has proven adept at staying in the center of the action, from pioneering the one-and-done era after playing just 11 games at Duke to helping draw James back to Cleveland to starring in international competition to forcing a shocking trade to the Celtics, away from James. At just 26, he has more chapters to write.
Whatever his future, we can expect a generation of youngsters to cite Irving as an inspiration. -- Webb
88. Bob Lanier
Detroit Pistons (1970-80), Milwaukee Bucks (1980-84); Golden State Warriors (head coach 1995)
Both an NBA community leader and the most underrated center in history, Lanier threw around his muscled brawn -- and size-22 shoes -- with the feathery grace of a ballerina. As an eight-time All-Star and rival to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and other top centers of the '70s, Lanier rolled in lefty hooks, dropped sledgehammer dunks, pivoted with finesse in the post, passed with precision and ran the break -- and on the other end, controlled the glass and patrolled the lane.
After his impressive playing career, Lanier spearheaded the NBA's Stay In School campaign in the late 1980s. He continues to work in the league office on a number of community endeavors as a global ambassador for the NBA. -- Harris
87. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Milwaukee Bucks (2013-present)
The 23-year-old Antetokounmpo is reinventing the game as a position-less superstar who runs the action like a guard but commands the paint like a center, thanks to a great skill set, unselfish play, a talent for getting buckets and a 7-foot-3 wingspan. His go-go gadget limbs and the flexibility of a trapeze artist produce nightly highlights.
Antetokounmpo's popularity -- he was virtually tied with LeBron James in votes for the All-Star Game -- spotlights another source of his influence: his personality, as seen in his infectious smile, boyish charm and all-time great nickname, the Greek Freak. And his fame is spreading, as indicated by his "60 Minutes" profile on Sunday.
Giannis fell to No. 15 in the 2013 draft because it seemed too risky to use a lottery pick on such an unknown talent, no matter how good he looked on paper. Now all of the teams jostling for draft position would love to find another Antetokounmpo. -- Martenzie Johnson
86. Bob McAdoo
Buffalo Braves (1972-76), New York Knicks (1976-79), Boston Celtics (1979), Detroit Pistons (1979-81), New Jersey Nets (1981), Los Angeles Lakers (1981-85), Philadelphia 76ers (1986)
McAdoo changed the game twice, as first a jump-shooting center and later a superstar turned championship sixth man.
With 34.5 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks per game, McAdoo was named NBA MVP in 1975. The lanky big man was the first center to dominate the game offensively without a traditional back-to-the-basket, post-up style, pointing the way to modern string bean assassins such as Kevin Durant.
Injuries and accusations of selfish play derailed his career, but given a chance at rejuvenation, the former MVP left ego aside and transformed himself into the Lakers' instant offense off the bench, helping them to NBA titles in 1982 and '85. Since then, McAdoo has gone on to a longtime role as assistant coach with the Heat, winning three more titles in Miami. -- Harris
85. Ed O'Bannon
New Jersey Nets (1995-97), Dallas Mavericks (1997)
When former sneaker exec Sonny Vaccaro called O'Bannon to team up and take on the NCAA in 2009, the retired UCLA star was ready. Just one month earlier, he had seen a version of himself onscreen in EA Sports' college hoops game as a friend's son manned the controls -- but he wasn't getting a cut of the sales.
O'Bannon became the lead plaintiff and face of a landmark, class-action suit, a step toward full compensation for college athletes. While the legal results -- after several years, one big, courtroom victory, a reversal on appeal and a separate settlement -- weren't enormous, it sparked reforms such as athletes' receiving the full cost of attendance and future challenges to amateurism rules. -- Tedesco
84. Rasheed Wallace
Washington Bullets (1995-96), Portland Trail Blazers (1996-2004), Atlanta Hawks (2004), Detroit Pistons (2004-09), Boston Celtics (2009-10), New York Knicks (2012-13)
Wallace remains the ultimate eye-of-the-beholder NBA star. There are as many different ways to interpret his career as there were distinctive expressions -- from amusement to shock to outrage -- on his face when he played.
Sheed won a lot in multiple stops but frustrated teammates, coaches and fans just as much. His emotional outbursts earned him technical fouls at unprecedented rates, and he could be moody and difficult -- such as telling reporters repeatedly, "Both teams played hard." But he also became a beloved teammate and the key addition helping the Pistons to the 2004 NBA title when the Trail Blazers decided to move him.
His game was also a mixture, as he eschewed the opportunity to dominate down low and stayed outside to show off one of the NBA's sweetest shooting strokes, becoming a forerunner of today's stretch-4s and 5s.
Wallace is remembered for his one-of-a-kind talent and personality, but ultimately it might be three words that outlive everything else: "Ball don't lie!"-- Webb
83. Maurice Stokes/Jack Twyman
Rochester/Cincinnati Royals (teammates 1955-58)
These two men are inextricably linked forever. Born a year apart in Pittsburgh, they were drafted by the Rochester Royals in 1955 and each made basketball history. Stokes was the game's first point forward, finishing in the top three of RPG and APG two straight seasons. The sweet-shooting Twyman, meanwhile, was the first player (along with Wilt Chamberlain) to average more than 30 points a game.
Their strongest link, however, came when Stokes was paralyzed following a head injury near the end of the 1957-58 season. Twyman became Stokes' legal guardian, paid for his medical care and used Stokes' injury as a rallying cry for NBA players seeking medical insurance and pensions from ownership. Although Stokes died in 1970, the bond he and Twyman formed resonates today in the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award. -- Harris
82. Danny Ainge
Boston Celtics (1981-89), Sacramento Kings (1989-90), Portland Trail Blazers (1990-92), Phoenix Suns (1992-95); Suns (head coach 1996-99)
Ainge's influence is found not in a single accomplishment, but in a long and multifaceted career.
He began as college player of the year at BYU and a cross-sport athlete who played 211 games for MLB's Toronto Blue Jays. Drafted into the NBA by Red Auerbach in 1981, he took his brash, combative style to Boston and became a starting combo guard for two title teams. One of the most prolific 3-point shooters of his day, he also helped two more teams reach the Finals -- Portland and Phoenix -- before a short stint as coach of the Suns.
His next NBA chapter would become his longest -- 15 years and counting as lead basketball executive of the Celtics. He has proven to be one of the league's bolder and more innovative decision-makers, highlighted by two major trades to form Boston's Big Three -- bringing the Celtics their 17th NBA championship in 2008 -- and a legendary trade with Brooklyn that now has Boston back in contention and continues to play out. -- Webb
81. Tom Heinsohn
Boston Celtics (1956-65, head coach 1969-78)
Known as "Tommy Gun" for the rapidity and frequency of his shooting, Heinsohn displayed his offensive power in Game 7 of the 1957 Finals when he led the Celtics with 37 points and added 23 rebounds in a double-overtime win over the St. Louis Hawks. Heinsohn won eight titles with Bill Russell and the Celtics and added two more as Celtics coach.
While fans have known him for the past four decades as a colorful TV commentator, his most important role off the court was as president of the National Basketball Players Association. In 1964, he organized an NBPA boycott of the All-Star Game, which forced recalcitrant NBA owners to finally recognize the union. -- Harris
80. Bob Pettit
Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks (1954-65)
Two times an MVP, Pettit served as the prototype for power forwards for nearly five decades, using quickness and a midrange jump shot to become the first NBA player to 20,000 points.
Upon entering the league as a rookie in 1954, Pettit found he was too weak to battle centers for rebounds. He took up weight training, introducing it to the NBA, and averaged 16 boards a game for his career.
A clutch performer as well, Pettit scored an incredible 50 points to clinch Game 6 of the 1958 Finals. Scoring 19 of the St. Louis Hawks' final 21 points in the game, Pettit's overdrive performance knocked off the Boston Celtics 110-109 and secured the only title in Hawks history. -- Harris
79. Patrick Ewing
New York Knicks (1985-2000), Seattle SuperSonics (2000-01), Orlando Magic (2001-02)
As a college freshman, Ewing drew comparisons to Bill Russell for his dominating defensive impact on the interior. While he remained an intimidating force at center, his career took on other dimensions as well. One aspect was his influence on the draft lottery, which was instituted as an anti-tanking measure as Ewing was coming into the league in 1985. After New York won the first lottery, Ewing became an icon of the lottery system, conspiracy theories abounded and the NBA changed the system in 1990 (and several times thereafter).
Ewing helped make John Thompson's Georgetown Hoyas the powerhouse team of the 1980s and establish the program as a source of Hall of Fame centers. He then restored the Knicks to prominence by transforming his game and becoming one of the most prolific shooters from the center position, scoring nearly 25,000 points and winning his second Olympic gold medal with the Dream Team.
After more than a decade as an NBA assistant, Ewing returned to Georgetown as head coach in 2017, ensuring his influence lives on. -- Reisinger
78. Jason Collins
New Jersey Nets (2001-08), Memphis Grizzlies (2008), Minnesota Timberwolves (2008-09), Atlanta Hawks (2009-12), Boston Celtics (2012-13), Washington Wizards (2013), Brooklyn Nets (2014)
For 13 seasons, Jason Collins largely played a role as a defensive big man off the bench. Nonetheless, he etched his name in basketball history as the first openly gay player in North America's four major men's leagues. After coming out in 2013, Collins played 22 more games before retiring.
The measure of his influence is incomplete, and the first player who enters the league as openly gay will likely leave a bigger footprint. Collins, along with retired gay player John Amaechi, nonetheless set off an important dialogue on sexuality and masculinity in the NBA that is still being reckoned with. -- Harris
77. Connie Hawkins
Pittsburgh/Minnesota Pipers (1967-69, ABA), Phoenix Suns (1969-73), Los Angeles Lakers (1973-75), Atlanta Hawks (1975-76)
The journey of Connie Hawkins takes one from the bowels of injustice to the highest summit of athletic creativity.
Unfairly banned by the NCAA and NBA for tangential connections to a gambling scandal in 1961, Hawkins made ends meet playing for barnstorming teams and upstart leagues such as the ABA and ABL. In 1969, under legal duress, the NBA finally allowed Hawkins in.
What NBA fans saw was awesome: swooping finger rolls, soaring dunks, dazzling one-handed passes and a million more indescribable moves. Yet, these were the maneuvers of a man who had countless basketball miles -- built up on asphalt and other subpar courts -- on his knees. Despite not seeing the best Connie Hawkins had to offer, the NBA witnessed a vision of its future bountiful with players descended from the artistic lineage of the Hawk. -- Harris
76. Steve Kerr
Phoenix Suns (1988-89), Cleveland Cavaliers (1989-92), Orlando Magic (1992-93), Chicago Bulls (1993-99), San Antonio Spurs (1999-01), Portland Trail Blazers (2001-02), Spurs (2002-03); Golden State Warriors (head coach 2014-present)
Steve Kerr's career as an NBA role player was unique enough, as he won five titles alongside greats such as Michael Jordan (and several other members of this list) while playing for perhaps the two greatest coaches ever and becoming the most accurate 3-point shooter in NBA history.
But he has made an even bigger splash in his post-playing career. After several years as a popular broadcaster (and occasional columnist), he became GM of the Phoenix Suns, making the notorious Shawn Marion-Shaquille O'Neal trade but reversing course to help the Suns play faster than ever and make the 2010 West finals.
After departing Phoenix, he led the Warriors to the NBA championship as a rookie coach in 2014-15, and then to two more Finals appearances and another title in his next two seasons while battling back pain. His loose and innovative style is mirrored by his team's creativity on the court, masking its grit and strong defense.
And his success has bolstered the 52-year-old's platform to express his strong beliefs on an array of political issues, including gun control -- one vital to Kerr, whose father was murdered in 1984 by gunmen while serving as a university president in Beirut. -- Chris Herring