In 25 years — and that’s a heavy dose of existential dread right there for those of a certain age — the NBA will celebrate its 100th season and honor the greatest 100 players in league history.
USA TODAY just went through the time-consuming, painstaking and rewarding process of ranking the 75 best players as the league celebrates its 75th anniversary this season.
Eleven current players made our list of the 75 greatest, but in 25 years, more of today’s players will make the list as they build stronger resumés — think Luka Doncic and Damian Lillard.
Let’s take a look at 12 of today’s players who didn’t make the list but will (or could) make the list of 100 in 2046:
Entering his seventh season, Jokic is an MVP, three-time All-NBA selection and three-time All-Star. By the time his career is over, he will go down as one of the most versatile scoring, rebounding and passing big men in NBA history.
One of his generation’s gifted scorers, Lillard is a big-time shotmaker who has averaged at least 20 points, including a career high 30 per game in 2019-20, in eight of his nine seasons.
Just 22 years old, Doncic is another piece of the fantastic evolution of European players in the NBA. Three years into his NBA career, Doncic isn’t close to the best version of himself with two All-Star appearances and two All-NBA selections. He will keep moving up the all-time triple-double list.
Embiid is as dominant a big man as there is in the league today with his ability to score, rebound, defend and shoot a reliable 3-ball. He averaged 28.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and one steal last season – the third time he has been an All-NBA selection.
Williamson can score (27 points per game in just his second NBA season) and he is efficient at 60% from the field in his two seasons. The biggest question facing Williamson: Can he stay healthy for the long term?
Four seasons into his career, Tatum has the ability to become one of the great scorers in NBA history. He is the second youngest player to score 60 points in a regular-season game, the third youngest to score 50 in a playoff game and has more points than Kobe Bryant had in his first four seasons.
Four NBA seasons, four seasons of at least 20 points per game. Mitchell is another high-scoring guard and one whose best years are in front of him. He’s a two-time All-Star headed for All-NBA status.
Green will be an interesting case study. The rare second-rounder who built a Hall of Fame career, Green may end up as another player who didn’t influence the game primarily with his scoring but still became a top-100 player. His versatile defense and playmaking made him a valuable contributor to three Golden State championship teams.
Irving is another premier scoring guard who has an arsenal of creative shotmaking skills (coupled with ball-handling ability) at the rim, mid-range and from 3-point range. He has a title, one of the biggest made shots in Finals history and is a three-time All-NBA and seven-time All-Star selection.
Thompson is coming off two missed seasons due to injury so there’s a lot to be determined. But he’s a three-time champion, five-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA team member and was a major force in elevating the importance of the 3-point shot.
Michael Porter Jr.
Porter could emerge as one of the finest offensive players of his generation. He has a great shot and is just 22 years old. There’s a long way to go, but he has the potential and the strong start – 19 points (54.2% from the field, 44.5% on 3s) and 7.3 rebounds per game.
History may look favorably on Bosh, whose career was cut short by life-threatening blood clots. He was a top-10 scorer with Toronto and then altered his game to become a vital part of the Big 3 in Miami, where he won two championships while showcasing his all-around skills on both ends.
We have no idea who this could, we just know he’s out there. In 10 years, he will be a lottery pick and after a 15-year career that comes to an end in 2046, he will have assembled an all-time great, Hall of Fame career. LeBron James was just 9 years old when the 50th anniversary team was honored in 1996.