Popular Basketball Players in the 1970s

The 1970s was an exciting time for basketball lovers as it saw the merger of two great basketball rivals, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the American Basketball Association (ABA). The two teams were neither equal nor comparable and had entirely different concepts of basketball. This merger brought together players from two different schools of thought, consecutively making way for players who are now known as legends.

Here is a compilation of the popular basketball players in the 70s, whom history could not forget. 

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

One of the best basketball players of all time, Abdul-Jabbar, is regarded as a game-changer in basketball history. The great Abdul-Jabbar was unbeatable for a decade, with a gap of 2,066 points between him and the second player on the rank board. A basketball pro, he achieved Rookie of the Year, a Finals MVP, and five NBA MVPs.

He was a six-time All-NBA First Team selection and three-time All-Defensive First Team selection. His achievements also included the Milwaukee Bucks championship in 1971. Kareem was 7’2” and still managed to achieve 35th most assists of all-time with 5660. 

2. Walt Frazier

Walt Frazier was famous for his swag and cool personality among young boys and girls; on the other hand, the New York Knicks star was a supremely talented guard in the field. He is considered the best at stealing, passing, and shooting. He was an All-NBA member six times, an All-Defence member six times, and a seven-time All-Star member. When Frazier was the captain, the New York Knicks won two NBA titles in 1970 and 1973. 

3. Julius Erving

Doctor Julius Erving was one of the most inspiring personalities of all the basketball players. Erving’s achievements include three straight ABA league MVPs. After the merger, when ABA stars were hardly shining, he made All-Star appearances – winning All-Star Game MVP in 77 and was two times All-NBA during the 1970s. 

4. Elvin Hayes

If Kareem’s fans consider anyone his rival, then that is Elvin Hayes. He played most of his games during the 1970s in the Bullets club. Alongside Unseld, he was able to take Bullets to the finals three times while winning a title in 1978.

He was honored with the three All-NBA First Team selections and has been among the top 25 basketball players of all time. His average was 23.2 points, 14.2 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks for a decade, while his overall average was 20.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks. 

5. John Havlicek

Also Named as ‘Hondo,’ John Havlicek was a guard in the field. This man had the privilege to lead the Boston Celtics in two of the eight championships that the Boston Celtics won, two of which were won during the 1970s. Havlicek was an All-Star every year that he played during the 1970s and made All-NBA first-team for four straight years from 1971-74. He was All-NBA second-team three times in 1970, 1975, and 1976.

people playing basketball

6. Bob McAdoo

McAdoo was awarded the Rookie of the Year and the 1975 NBA MVP. He was also a five-time All-Star and an All-NBA First Team selection during the 1970s. Although his career ended in the 1980s, he ranked in the top 10 a total of five times during the decade. He is also considered one of the greatest athletes in the history of the Buffalo club.

7. Dave Cowens

One of the best players of the Boston Celtics, Dave Cowens was part of this club when it won two of its titles in 1974 and 1976. He was a seven-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, NBA MVP in 1973, and a First-Team All-Defensive selection.

8. Pete Maravich

Also called ‘Pistol Pete,’ Pete Maravich was a charming figure in the field. With his carefree and impulsive actions, he proved that he was no less than a pistol who could shoot from anywhere and everywhere into the hoop. Pistol bagged five All-Star bids, two first-team All-NBA nods, and a scoring title.

9. Rick Barry

Barry had tossed between ABA and NBA until 1975 when he was selected as the Golden State Warriors leader and won the NBA title. He averaged 29.5 points, 5.0 assists, 3.5 steals in the championship series to be entitled as Finals MVP. He made nine All-Star appearances combined in the NBA and ABA during the 1970s. Rick Barry could not be the best, as Abdul-Jabbar and Erving always made it to the best positions, but he always stood on the second position in the list. 

10. Jo Jo White

Though White was the force that got the Boston Celtics the two titles, he only made it to the Naismith Basketball’s hall of fame. He got seven All-Star selections in the decade while he was the MVP of the 1976 Finals.

11. Artis Gilmore

Gilmore was an inarguably dominating figure in ABA, pre-merger, and NBA, post-merger. He received an ABA championship title in 1975 and was also an ABA MVP and Rookie of the Year in 1972.  

12. Bob Lanier

Lanier was 6’11” tall and had managed to get ten rebounds per game and bid farewell to basketball, having a record of blocking 1100 shots with an average of 20 points in his entire career. During the 1970s, Bob Lanier got seven All-Star games and won MVP in the 1974 game.

13. Jerry West

Though Jerry was retired in 1974, he could still play many games and could astonish newcomers. Under his leadership, the Lakers won the championship title in 1972. He is considered the eternal All-Star. He won the scoring title in 1970 and had four All-NBA first-team nods during the 1970s.

14. Tiny Archibald

Archibald is the only player who made it to the NBA hall of fame and the NBA in points, which was 34.0, and assists, which was 11.4, in 1973. People generally remember him as an exceptional shooter and scorer but usually forget to highlight his defense skills.

15. Billy Cunningham

Billy Cunningham was famous as the Kangaroo Kid. He did not win a title in the 1970s, but he exhibited his talent in some seasons with the eminent Sixers and the ABA’s Carolina Cougars. He ended his career in the year 1976 with an average between 20-10.

16. Wes Unseld

Unseld is usually forgotten when listing down the best players of the 1970s but not mentioning his name in the list of the popular basketball players in the 70s would be unjust. He was the leader of Bullet that won the championship title in 1978, for which he also achieved Finals MVP. He was also a four-time All-Star during the 1970s.  


The list of the famous basketball players of the 70s does not end here. Many players may not capture today’s generation’s interest but were dear to the basketball fans then. These are just a few 1970s legends who fueled the NBA to reach the prestigious height where it stands today.