The 50 Greatest Players in National Basketball Association History (also referred to as NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team or NBA's Top 50) were chosen in 1996 to honor the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the National Basketball Association (NBA). These fifty players were selected through a vote by a panel of media members, former players and coaches, and current and former general managers. In addition, the top ten head coaches and top ten single-season teams in NBA history were selected by media members as part of the celebration. The fifty players had to have played at least a portion of their careers in the NBA and were selected irrespective of position played.
The list was announced by NBA commissioner David Stern on October 29, 1996, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City, the former site of the Commodore Hotel, where the original NBA charter was signed on June 6, 1946. The announcement marked the beginning of a season-long celebration of the league's anniversary. Forty-seven of the fifty players were later assembled in Cleveland, Ohio, during the halftime ceremony of the 1997 All-Star Game. Three players were absent: Pete Maravich, who had died in 1988, at forty; Shaquille O'Neal, who was recovering from a knee injury; and Jerry West, who was scheduled to have surgery for an ear infection and could not fly. At the time of the announcement, eleven players were active. O'Neal was the last to be active in the NBA, retiring at the end of the 2010–11 season.