TOP 50 NBA PLAYERS OF ALL TIME

Ranking the greatest players in all of basketball's storied history

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LeBron James, who has had one of the greatest careers in NBA history

Austin Travis, Editor-in-Chief

There have been so many captivating players in the history of the game we all know as basketball. A game that was created by PE teacher James Naismith in 1891, basketball has seen many great players, so it’s tough to narrow it down to just 50, especially with how differently the game is played now than it was 20 years ago, and how different that era was from the era preceding that. The sport has tremendously evolved over it’s 125+ year history, as we have many leagues around the world, most notably the NBA. Basketball has also been a traditional Summer Olympics sport since 1936, even before the NBA was created, as it debuted in 1946 as the BAA. This article is looking at the best players from the NBA itself. Names like Jordan, LeBron, Kareem, and Kobe have all dominated the NBA in the prime of their careers and are definite locks for my list, and will all be in the top ten. Guys like that are obvious picks, but the real fun comes further down, when you are debating over guys like Klay Thompson, Robert Parish, Chris Bosh, and many others, as some will be tough choices to leave off of the list. Well, let’s get started.

 

GP-Games Played   PPG-Points Per Game   APG-Assists Per Game   RPG-Rebounds Per Game   SPG-Steals Per Game   BPG-Blocks Per Game   FG%-Field Goal Percentage   3P%-3 Point Percentage

 

50. Kawhi Leonard, Small Forward

Career Stats/Achievments: 518 GP, 18.6 PPG, 2.7 APG, 6.4 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 49.1 FG%, 38.1 3P%, 4x All-Star, 3x All-NBA, 2x DPOY, 2x Champion

Team(s): San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers

One of the most humble players in NBA history, Kawhi Leonard has still been known for his stifling defense and highlight plays, such as his iconic series-winning buzzer beater against the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2019 playoffs that ultimately gave Toronto the chance to win their first title. Leonard led them past the #1 seed Milwaukee Bucks and defeated the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, proving his ability to lead a team single-handedly and establishing himself as one of the top players in the NBA. If he continues on the trajectory he’s on, he is a sure lock for the Hall of Fame and will be much further up this list by the time he retires.

 

49. Willis Reed, Center

Career Stats/Achievements: 650 GP, 18.7 PPG, 1.8 APG, 12.9 RPG, 0.6 SPG*, 1.1 BPG*, 47.6 FG%, N/A 3P%*, 7x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, 1x MVP, 1x ROY, 2x Champion

*-Steals and blocks were not tallied until his final year

*-No three-point line in his career

Team(s): New York Knicks

In a ten year career, Willis Reed established himself as one of the early greats of basketball, assisting Walt Frazier in leading the New York Knicks to two championships in addition to winning an MVP award. Known for his excellent rebounding abilities and strong finishes inside, Reed comes up in any discussion of the greatest centers of all time, but his relatively short career always works against him in those discussions.

 

48. James Worthy, Small Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 926 GP, 17.6 PPG, 3.0 APG, 5.1 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 52.1 FG%, 24.1 3P%, 7x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, 3x Champion

Team(s): Los Angeles Lakers

Dubbed “Big Game James”, Worthy was best known for his abilities in clutch moments, such as the playoffs, where he was always able to deliver for his team when they needed him to. A tertiary option to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, Worthy still effectively played his role as a playmaker for the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s and helped deliver three championships in a four year span for the Lakers. He is enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

 

47. Reggie Miller, Shooting Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,389 GP, 18.2 PPG, 3 APG, 3 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 47.1 FG%, 39.5 3P%, 5x All-Star, 3x All-NBA

Team(s): Indiana Pacers

Reggie Miller is widely regarded as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, best known for his three point abilities. While he never won a championship, Miller’s impact on the game was unquestioned, as he was one of few players that were that deadly from three point range, and is now often compared to many elite modern day shooters, such as Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. 21st all-time in career scoring, Miller is undoubtedly one of the greatest offensive threats to play the game.

 

46. Chris Paul, Point Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,013 GP, 18.5 PPG, 9.5 APG, 4.5 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 47 FG%, 37 3P%, 10x All-Star, 8x All-NBA, 1x ROY

Team(s): New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder

Chris Paul is still playing at a very high level, and still hasn’t captured that elusive title. Paul is regarded by many as one of the greatest floor generals of all time, as he nearly averages a double-double in points and assists for his career, showing that is elite at the two most important skills for a point guard to have: scoring and passing. That’s not all to his game though, as Paul is one of the greatest defensive point guards in NBA history, making him that much tougher to face. If he can put his playoff woes behind him and win a title, Paul’s ranking will rise even more.

 

45. Gary Payton, Point Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,335 GP, 16.3 PPG, 6.7 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 46.6 FG%, 31.7 3P%, 9x All-Star, 9x All-NBA, 1x DPOY, 1x Champion

Team(s): Seattle SuperSonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat

Gary Payton, one of the greats when it comes to the point guard position, had to wait until his second to last season to win a title with the Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal led Miami Heat squad in the 2005-06 season. Payton is best known for his hard-nosed defense and his passing abilities that set up Shawn Kemp for easy baskets near the rim so many times in Payton’s 13 year stint with the SuperSonics. He was never a super flashy player, but his impact on any team he played for was undeniable.

 

44. George Mikan, Center

Career Stats/Achievements: 439 GP, 23.1 PPG, 2.8 APG, 13.4 RPG, N/A SPG*, N/A BPG*, 40.4 FG%, N/A 3P%*, 4x All-Star, 6x All-NBA, 5x Champion

*-Steals and blocks were not tallied

*-No three point line in his career

Team(s): Minneapolis Lakers

Mikan was the superstar that the NBA needed immediately following WWII, as Mikan dominated in his short time in the NBA, comfortably averaging a 20/10 for his career. In his eight years of basketball, he won 7 titles(2 were not NBA), and the one year he didn’t win the title was the year he was injured. He set the trend of faster pace in his time as a player, and was as dominant in this stretch as we’ve ever seen one man be.

 

43. Bob Pettit, Power Forward/Center

Career Stats/Achievements: 792 GP, 26.4 PPG, 3 APG, 16.2 RPG, N/A SPG*, N/A BPG*, 43.6 FG%, N/A 3P%*, 11x All-Star, 11x All-NBA, 2x MVP, 1x ROY, 1x Champion

*-Steals and blocks were not tallied

*-No three-point line in his career

Team(s): Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks

Bob Pettit was a monster in his 11 year career, averaging 20+ points and 10+ rebounds in every year of it. Pettit was the first ever NBA MVP and was the first multi-time winner of the award. Since then, only twelve other players have won multiple MVPs, putting him in a limited and distinct club of all time great. He was still at an elite level when he retired in 1965, and would likely be much further up this list if he had played longer.

 

42. Ray Allen, Shooting Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,300 GP, 18.9 PPG, 3.4 APG, 4.1 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 45.2 FG%, 40 3P%, 10x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, 2x Champion

Team(s): Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat

Widely regarded as one of the greatest shooters ever, Allen was as deadly as anyone we’ve ever seen every time he pulled up from deep. One of the most fun debates many people have is if he or Stephen Curry is the better shooter. Aside from shooting abilities, Allen was a pivotal piece on his championship teams in Boston and Miami, as he hit the iconic corner 3 against the San Antonio Spurs as a member of the Heat in 2013 to send game 6 to overtime, where his Miami team ultimately won and followed it up with a win in game 7 to give Allen his second title.

 

41. Bob Cousy, Point Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 924 GP, 18.4 PPG, 7.5 APG, 5.2 RPG, N/A SPG*, N/A BPG*, 37.5 FG%, N/A 3P%*, 13x All-Star, 12x All-NBA, 1x MVP, 6x Champion

*-Steals and blocks were not tallied

*-No three-point line in his career

Teams(s): Boston Celtics, Cincinnati Royals

Bob Cousy is a legend among Boston locals and basketball fans alike. He was the NBA’s first elite passer and ball handler and was the prototype for what many point guards have been throughout history. Playing alongside all-time great Bill Russell, Cousy was able to win 6 titles in Boston. He made the all-star game in all 13 of his full seasons and returned for seven games with the Royals after being retired for six years.

 

40. Kevin McHale, Power Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 971 GP, 17.9 PPG, 1.7 APG, 7.3 RPG, 0.4 SPG, 1.7 BPG, 55.4 FG%, 26.1 3P%, 7x All-Star, 1x All-NBA, 2x Sixth Man, 3x Champion

Team(s): Boston Celtics

Another Celtics legend makes the list, as Kevin McHale was a vital part in the success of the 1980’s Celtics franchise that won three titles. He was a starter some years in Boston, but he was also the sixth man for those teams some years too, and was a might fine one, as he won the Sixth Man award twice in his career. McHale’s blocking was among the best in NBA history, and his ability to score at the rim was also among the best in the league.

 

39. George Gervin, Shooting Guard/Small Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,060 GP, 25.1 PPG, 2.6 APG, 5.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 1 BPG, 50.4 FG%, 27.1 3P%*, 12x All-Star, 7x All-NBA

*-No three point line in first three years

Team(s): Virginia Squires(ABA), San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls

While not talked about often in conversations of great scorers, George Gervin was one of the greatest scorers the NBA has ever seen, as very few players average 25+ points for their career and shoot over 50% from the field. Gervin was on a Spurs team for most of his career that was not in the spotlight, as he was about 15 years before their dynasty began with Duncan and Robinson. However, Gervin is one of the greatest Spurs of all time and one of the greatest scorers of all time, even if he never gets proper credit for it.

 

38. Paul Pierce, Small Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,343 GP, 19.7 PPG, 3.5 APG, 5.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 44.5 FG%, 36.8 3P%, 10x All-Star, 4x All-NBA, 1x Champion

Team(s): Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Clippers

Paul Pierce, one of the greatest frontcourt three point shooters of all time, was one three stars on the Celtics superteam of 2008 with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, who helped him win his lone championship that year. While he is one of the more controversial players in recent memory, as he faked a major injury just to go to the bathroom in a 2008 playoff game and has been known for making bold comments, such as stating he was better than Kobe Bryant. Regardless of the controversy, Pierce set the precedent for what many small forwards strive to be nowadays, and the accolades to his name are quite impressive.

 

37. Allen Iverson, Point Guard/Shooting Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 914 GP, 26.7 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 42.5 FG%, 31.3 3P%, 11x All-Star, 7x All-NBA, 1x MVP, 1x ROY

Team(s): Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Memphis Grizzlies

Famous for his brash, confident personality, A.I. was no joke on the court, averaging almost 27 points a game for his career and making it to 11 all-star games. He was an elite scorer, able to finesse his way inside with killer handles or drop bombs from beyond the arc that demoralized the man guarding him (Tyronn Lue, anybody?). That wasn’t all to his game though, as he was as good at picking off his man as anybody, averaging over 2 steals a game for his career. Despite all of this, A.I. is remembered best as the pop icon that he still is to this day, largely because of his famous practice rant in a press conference while he was a member of the 76ers.

 

36. Vince Carter, Shooting Guard/Small Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,481 GP, 16.7 PPG, 3.1 APG, 4.3 RPG, 1 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 43.5 FG%, 37.1 3P%, 8x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, 1x ROY

Team(s): Toronto Raptors, New Jersey Nets, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks

His performance in the 2000 Slam Dunk contest is what most fans instantly think of when they hear his name, but the “Iron Man” of the NBA has been a steady scorer since his rookie year in the NBA. His averages are not indicative of his prime, as he has seen limited playing time the last seven or eight years, thus hurting his career stats. His years with the Raptors and Nets were his best, and he was also very productive for the Orlando Magic before losing playing time as a Maverick and losing even more with the Grizzlies, Kings, and Hawks. Despite that, it’s clear to see the player he was in his prime and the grit and courage he possesses to still be playing at 43 years old.

 

35. Jason Kidd, Point Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,391 GP, 12.6 PPG, 8.7 APG, 6.3 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 40 FG%, 34.9 3P%, 10x All-Star, 6x All-NBA, 1x Champion, 1x ROY

Team(s): Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks

Widely considered the third greatest passer in NBA history behind John Stockton and Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd made an immediate impact on any roster he joined, but still had to wait 16 years to win his first title, which was in a reunion with the team that drafted him, the Dallas Mavericks. Being ranked at 2nd all-time in both assists and steals, Kidd is one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, and he has the accolades to back it up.

 

34. Steve Nash, Point Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,217 GP, 14.3 PPG, 8.5 APG, 3 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 8x All-Star, 7x All-NBA, 2x MVP

Team(s): Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers

Our second 2-time MVP winner on the list, Steve Nash was a major part in ushering in the modern era of basketball, as so much of it is now based around the small ball concept, where fastbreak and outside scoring are prioritized. Under Mike D’Antoni, the Phoenix Suns of the mid 2000s, led by Nash, were entertaining to watch introducing this new concept. Nash was a pro at running it, as he won back-to-back MVP’s in the system. However, he was never able to win a title in his NBA career. However, his passing and playmaking abilities will forever be remembered and cherished by basketball fans around the world.

 

33. Rick Barry, Small Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,020 GP, 24.8 PPG, 4.9 APG, 6.7 RPG, 2 SPG*, 0.5 BPG*, 45.6 FG%, 29.7 3P%*, 12x All-Star, 6x All-NBA, 1x Champion, 1x ABA Champion

*-Steals and blocks were not tallied until final 7 years

*-Had three point line in 4 years in ABA and final year in NBA

Team(s): San Francisco Warriors, Oakland Oaks/Washington Capitols(ABA), New York Nets(ABA), Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets

Rick Barry, the first Warrior on the list, was among the best scorers in the league in his prime, averaging over 25 points a game in 8 of his first ten years, including his time in the ABA. He averaged 23.2 points in his career in the NBA only, maintaining his status as an elite scorer despite the league change. However, his stats would prove that he was not only limited to scoring, as he was a fantastic on-ball defender and a solid rebounder. Now in the Hall of Fame, Barry is often considered one of the better all-around players of his generation.

 

32. Dominique Wilkins, Small Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,074 GP, 24.8 PPG, 2.5 APG, 6.7 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 46.1 FG%, 31.9 3P%, 9x All-Star, 7x All-NBA

Team(s): Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, Orlando Magic

Nicknamed “The Human Highlight Film”, Dominique Wilkins was one of the most explosive athletes we’ve ever seen, even considering athletes from other sports. Wilkins was notorious for throwing down monstrous dunks that sucked the life out of opposing teams, putting momentum in his team’s favor. Wilkins was one of the NBA’s megastars in the 1980’s, and is still recognized as one of the all time greats at the small forward position.

 

31. Patrick Ewing, Center

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,183 GP, 21 PPG, 1.9 APG, 9.8 RPG, 1 SPG, 2.4 BPG, 11x All-Star, 7x All-NBA, 1x ROY

Team(s): New York Knicks, Seattle SuperSonics, Orlando Magic

One of the best two-way centers in NBA history, Ewing is among the greats in shot blocking, rebounding, and inside scoring, becoming a lethal force as a result of this expertise in the three skills. Possessing that kind of skill level in any of those skills as a big man is huge, and being that good in all three is near impossible, but Ewing was one of very few who were. Especially known for his defensive abilities, Ewing averaged over 2 blocks per game for his career, and even averaged 3+ blocks for the season five times in his career! Despite never winning a championship, Ewing is considered as one of the all-time greats at the center position.

 

30. Walt Frazier, Point Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 825 GP, 18.9 PPG, 6.1 APG, 5.9 RPG, 1.9 SPG*, 0.2 BPG*, 49 FG%, 0 3P%*, 7x All-Star, 6x All-NBA, 2x Champion

*-Steals and blocks were not tallied until final 7 years

*-No three point line until final year

Team(s): New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers

Walt Frazier was one of the best scoring point guards in the early days of the NBA, shooting 49% from the field and averaging almost 20 points a game for his career. His scoring and stealing abilities were instrumental in leading the New York Knicks to two championships in the 1970s alongside Willis Reed. Those are his best known abilities, and his level of skill at each of those attributes automatically lands him in any discussion of all-time great point guards.

 

29. Clyde Drexler, Shooting Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,086 GP, 20.4 PPG, 5.6 APG, 6.1 RPG, 2 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 47.2 FG%, 31.8 3P%, 10x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, 1x Champion

Team(s): Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets

“Clyde the Glide” Drexler is often one of the more underrated superstars in NBA history, which can be quite typical when dealing with players who spent large amounts of time with smaller market teams. While he was one of the better shooters of his era, Drexler was no joke defensively either, as he averaged 2 steals a game for his career. While he never could bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy to Portland, he brought the Trail Blazers deep into the playoffs on multiple occasions, including two trips to the NBA Finals. However, he did get that elusive championship late in his career as a member of the Houston Rockets.

 

28. David Robinson, Center

Career Stats/Achievements: 987 GP, 21.1 PPG, 2.5 APG, 10.6 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 3 BPG, 51.8 FG%, 25 3P%, 10x All-Star, 10x All-NBA, 1x DPOY, 1x ROY, 2x Champion

Team(s): San Antonio Spurs

Often underrated due to never winning a championship before Tim Duncan arrived in San Antonio, “The Admiral” was a beast with minimal assets on his roster, as he was putting up double-doubles on a nightly basis and sending back 3 or four shots a game. While the Spurs were typically a playoff team, Robinson just didn’t have the help he needed to get over the hump. However, multiple injuries to Robinson in the 1996-97 season, where Robinson only played 6 games all season, brought the Spurs from a perennial playoff team to a dismal 20-62 record, giving them the first pick in the draft to select Duncan. The drastic downfall of the Spurs due to Robinson’s injury was telling of his impact, but ended up being a true blessing, as he finally captured that elusive championship in Duncan’s second season and another one a few years later.

 

27. Isiah Thomas, Point Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 979 GP, 19.2 PPG, 9.3 APG, 3.6 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 45.2 FG%, 29 3P%, 12x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, 2x Champion

Team(s): Detroit Pistons

The ringleader of the “Bad Boy” Pistons of the late 1980s and early 1990s, known for their physical style of play, Isiah Thomas was a king at setting up teammates Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer at the rim or getting sharpshooting shooting guard Joe Dumars the ball outside. If all else failed, though, Thomas was a capable scorer himself, averaging almost 20 points a game for his career. Despite playing only 13 years in the NBA, Thomas is still 9th all-time on the career assists list, only proving the point that he was one of the best passers of all time. A 2 time champion, Thomas was able to translate these skills into 3 total Finals appearances, losing in 1988 and winning back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990.

 

26. John Stockton, Point Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,504 GP, 13.1 PPG, 10.5 APG, 2.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 51.5 FG%, 38.4 3P%, 10x All-Star, 11x All-NBA

Team(s): Utah Jazz

Stockton is often mentioned in debates about the greatest passer of all-time, but his ability to get steals was arguably just as impressive, as he leads the all-time career lists in both categories. Best known for his part of the trio consisting of himself, Jeff Hornacek, and Karl Malone with the Utah Jazz, his passing abilities set up Malone’s impressive Hall-of-Fame career, as Stockton fed Malone the ball in the post so many times, facilitating the weapon that helped the Jazz have so much success throughout Stockton’s 19 year tenure with the Jazz. While the Jazz got to two NBA Finals in this era, Stockton and Malone were never able to lead them to a championship, hurting both players’ resumes.

 

25. Dwyane Wade, Shooting Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,054 GP, 22 PPG, 5.4 APG, 4.7 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 48 FG%, 29.4 3P%, 13x All-Star, 8x All-NBA, 3x Champion

Team(s): Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers

Dwyane Wade will always be best known for being LeBron James’ second option in his four years there, but Wade was always an elite player, even without LeBron. Winning a championship with Shaquille O’Neal in 2006 allowed Wade to cement his status as one of the top players in the NBA, and pairing him with fellow stars James and Chris Bosh in 2011 allowed him to capture two more championships and further his status to being considered one of the greatest shooting guards of all-time. While he’s not a guy who will jump out at you on stat sheets, Wade was always a steady scorer, averaging 22 points a game for his career, and was also an elite on-ball defender.

 

24. Elvin Hayes, Power Forward/Center

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,303 GP, 21 PPG, 1.8 APG, 12.5 RPG, 1 SPG*, 2 BPG*, 45.2 FG%, 14.7 3P%, 12x All-Star, 6x All-NBA, 1x Champion

*-Steals and blocks were not tallied until final 11 years

*-No three point line until final five years

Team(s): San Diego/Houston Rockets, Capital/Washington Bullets

Hayes is one of the all-time great shot blockers, sitting 24th all-time despite blocks not being tallied for his first five years, so he is probably much further up the list in all reality. In addition to blocking, Hayes is top 5 all time in rebounds and 10th all time in scoring. Hayes is often overlooked in discussions of great historical players, but a 12x All-Star who ranks as highly on lists as he does certainly deserves to at least be in the discussion of the greatest players from the 1970s.

 

23. Elgin Baylor, Small Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 846 GP, 27.4 PPG, 4.3 APG, 13.5 RPG, N/A SPG*, N/A BPG*, 43.1 FG%, N/A 3P%*, 11x All-Star, 10x All-NBA, 1x ROY

*-Steals and blocks were not tallied

*-No three point line in career

Team(s): Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers

Arguably the best player to never win a championship, Elgin Baylor was one of the NBA’s early megastars, starring for the Lakers even before they became the media darling that they are now. Hayes was an elite scorer, averaging nearly 30 points a game without a three point line, and his rebounding abilities were elite as well, as he was able to average 13.5 rebounds a game for his career despite only being 6 feet 5 inches tall. Often overshadowed due to the success of the Bill Russell and Red Auerbach led Celtics, Baylor was one of the best players of the 1960s, possibly trailing only Russell, Chamberlain, and West as the greatest of the era.

 

22. Scottie Pippen, Small Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,178 GP, 16.1 PPG, 5.2 APG, 6.4 RPG, 2 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 47.3 FG%, 32.6 3P%, 7x All-Star, 7x All-NBA, 6x Champion

Team(s): Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers

While Pippen’s contributions are often overshadowed by Michael Jordan, Pippen was a major part of the Bulls dynasty that won six championships in the 1990s. Even without Jordan in the 1993-1994 season due to his first retirement, Pippen was still able to get the Bulls to the second round of the playoffs before being defeated by the New York Knicks in the second round of the playoffs. While he was even better as Jordan’s sidekick, winning 6 championships in that role, his worth was proven considering that Jordan never won a title without him and that he still took the Bulls to the playoffs without Jordan. Looking at that, his importance to those Bulls teams is undeniable.

 

21. Charles Barkley, Small Forward/Power Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,073 GP, 22.1 PPG, 3.9 APG, 11.7 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 54.1 FG%, 26.6 3P%, 11x All-Star, 11x All-NBA, 1x MVP

Team(s): Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets

Charles Barkley wreaked havoc inside with his stout build throughout his whole career, known for his physical style and no-nonsense approach. He was also steady on the boards, averaging nearly 12 rebounds a game for his career. He was a consistent double-double threat, as evidenced by his career averages in points and rebounds, and was impactful to his team’s success, only missing the playoffs three times in his illustrious 16 year career, including a trip to the NBA Finals with the Phoenix Suns in 1993, a year in which he ultimately brought home his only MVP award. Unfortunately, he was never able to capture the championship that eluded him his whole career. Many consider him and Karl Malone as the best players to never win a championship.

 

20. Kevin Durant, Small Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 849 GP, 27 PPG, 4.1 APG, 7.1 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 49.3 FG%, 38.1 3P%, 10x All-Star, 9x All-NBA, 1x MVP, 1x ROY, 2x Champion

Team(s): Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets

Durant has been one of the top all-around players in the NBA for ten years now, and only time will tell if he will return to that form after he recovers from his achilles tendon injury. Nevertheless, Durant has cemented his spot as a top 5 small forward of all time with his elite shooting and ball handling for his size. He is also a solid player defensively, averaging over 1 steal and 1 block per game for his career, and was especially good on that side of the ball as a Warrior, averaging nearly 2 blocks in the 2017-18 campaign. His impact on the Thunder was evident immediately when he left them, as they struggled to even make the playoffs a year after nearly going to the NBA Finals. While Durant may have taken the easy road to his titles, his worth on a team has been proven on multiple occasions, and he will go down as one of the greatest players of the modern era.

 

19. Kevin Garnett, Power Forward/Center

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,462 GP, 17.8 PPG, 3.7 APG, 10 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 49.7 FG%, 27.5 3P%, 15x All-Star, 9x All-NBA, 1x MVP, 1x DPOY, 1x Champion

Team(s): Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets

Garnett is famous for his trash talking, but he backed up every bit of it when he took the floor. The MVP of the 2003-04 season is one of the greatest defenders of all time, winning the Defensive Player of the Year for the 2007-08 season, the same year he won the championship with the Celtics superteam consisting of him, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo. His 1.3 steals per game and 1.4 blocks per game for his career show that he maintained the stifling defensive presence he was known for throughout the duration of his 21 year career. He set the prototype for a modern day big man with his ability to stretch the floor offensively and take on any approach as a defender.

 

18. Stephen Curry, Point Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 699 GP, 23.5 PPG, 6.6 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 47.6 FG%, 43.5 3P%, 6x All-Star, 6x All-NBA, 2x MVP, 3x Champion

Team(s): Golden State Warriors

The three point shooting of Stephen Curry has revolutionized the way the game of basketball is played, as the only way to beat him is to be able to make threes of your own, as he is the least guardable player in the NBA due to his range. It’s near impossible to defend a guy once he reaches half-court and still have the paint locked down. If you give him an inch once he reaches the half-court line, he is liable to drill a dagger right in the face of his defender with his unprecedented range. Averaging 23.5 points per game for his career, Curry has always been an elite shooter, and it is safe to say at this juncture that Curry is the greatest shooter in NBA history. With many years left in the tank, Curry will be a top 5 player of all time if he continues on the trajectory he’s on.

 

17. Julius Erving, Small Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,243 GP, 24.2 PPG, 4.2 APG, 8.5 RPG, 2 SPG*, 1.6 BPG*, 50.6 FG%, 29.8 3P%, 16x All-Star, 7x All-NBA, 4x MVP, 1x Champion, 2x ABA Champion

*-Steals and blocks were not tallied in his rookie year

*-No three point line in his 6th, 7th, and 8th years due to moving from ABA to NBA

Team(s): Virginia Squires(ABA), New York Nets(ABA), Philadelphia 76ers

Julius Erving was one of the most exciting players to watch in NBA history, as his exhilarating dunks and flashy layups left fans in awe. One of his most famous plays, dubbed “The Baseline Move”, brought the reverse layup to prominence. Trying to avoid Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Erving swept up and under the hoop before releasing the ball right handed and laying in the seemingly impossible shot. A 4-time MVP, Erving was one of the greatest all-around players in NBA history, as he made an impact in every aspect of the game. His incredible athleticism is something many kids try to model their game after, and something only very few have been able to successfully match or exceed.

 

16. Moses Malone, Power Forward/Center

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,455 GP, 20.3 PPG, 1.3 APG, 12.3 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 49.5 FG%, 9.6 3P%, 13x All-Star, 8x All-NBA, 3x MVP, 1x Champion

*-No three point line in his 3rd, 4th, and 5th years due to moving from ABA to NBA

Team(s): Utah Stars(ABA), Spirits of St. Louis(ABA), Buffalo Braves, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Bullets, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs

Malone was the Iron Man of the NBA, as withstanding the difficulty of being an NBA player is hard enough, and especially difficult when you are a physical big man like Moses Malone was. With an illustrious career spanning 20 years, Malone won 3 MVPs and won the championship in the 1982-83 season with the Philadelphia 76ers. He is 5th all time in career rebounds, averaging 12.3 a game, thus proving that he is also one of the greatest rebounders of all time. Often forgot in discussions of the best bigs in NBA history due to playing in era where he was overshadowed by dynasties, Moses Malone proved for 20 years that he is indeed one of the greats.

 

15. Jerry West, Point Guard/Shooting Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 932 GP, 27 PPG, 6.7 APG, 5.8 RPG, 2.6 SPG*, 0.7 BPG*, 47.4 FG%, N/A 3P%, 14x All-Star, 12x All-NBA, 1x Champion

*-Steals and blocks were not tallied until his final season

*-No three point line in his career

Team(s): Los Angeles Lakers

The man who is the NBA logo sits at #15 on my list as one of the greatest and most well respected point guards of all time. West could do a bit of everything: he was athletic, had a smooth shot, could finish at the rim, and was an elite passer. In a coincidental turn of events, after Elgin Baylor retired after a few games in the 1971-72 season, the Lakers went on to win the championship that year, meaning West earned his first title. Baylor still got a ring from the team, but that season truly showed West’s greatness and ability to lead a team, as he didn’t have Baylor as his sidekick. “The Logo” firmly sits as one of the greatest point guards of all time, only trailing Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson as the best point guards of all time.

 

14. Oscar Robertson, Point Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,040 GP, 25.7 PPG, 9.5 APG, 7.5 RPG, 1.1 SPG*, 0.1 BPG*, 48.5 FG%, N/A 3P%*, 12x All-Star, 11x All-NBA, 1x MVP, 1x ROY

*-Steals and blocks were not tallied until his final season

*-No three point line in his career

Team(s): Cincinnati Royals, Milwaukee Bucks

Oscar Robertson, the original king of the triple-double, was the first player to average a triple double across an entire season, achieving the feat in 1962, and only Russell Westbrook has been able to match the feat. Robertson, nicknamed “Big O”, is the all-time leader in career triple doubles with 181 of them, which is absolutely amazing! As evidenced by his tendency to record triple doubles, Robertson could do a bit of everything while out on the floor, nearly averaging a double-double in points and assists for his career as well as 7.5 rebounds, a quite stout number for a guard. Robertson is always brought up in discussions of the greatest point guard of all time, just as he should.

 

13. Karl Malone, Power Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,476 GP, 25 PPG, 3.6 APG, 10.1 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 51.6 FG%, 27.4 3P%, 14x All-Star, 14x All-NBA

Team(s): Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers

Arguably the best player to never win a championship, Karl Malone was a force in the late 1980s and the 1990s as the power forward for the Utah Jazz, winning 2 MVP awards and getting the Jazz to five conference finals, advancing to the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998. However, Malone and the Jazz could not capitalize on either opportunity in the NBA Finals, nor could the 2003-04 Lakers that Malone was a part of, as they lost to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals that year. Despite his tendency to falter in the Finals, Malone is still one of the greatest players to ever play the game, as evidenced by him averaging a 25 point double-double for his career. Malone’s name is always in the hat when talking about the greatest big men in NBA history.

 

12. Dirk Nowitzki, Power Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,522 GP, 20.7 PPG, 2.4 APG, 7.5 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 47.1 FG%, 38.0 3P%, 14x All-Star, 12x All-NBA, 1x MVP, 1x Champion

Team(s): Dallas Mavericks

When Dirk was in his prime, he was overshadowed by prime Kobe and prime Tim Duncan as well as a young phenom by the name of LeBron James, which explains why he is often underrated on many people’s lists. However, Dirk brought the Mavericks from a consistent mediocre team to a championship contender throughout the majority of his career, and ultimately brought a championship home to Dallas in the 2010-11 season, winning the Finals MVP in the process. Dirk’s playstyle is what most modern day big men try to replicate, as he was a force in all aspects offensively and was a capable defender on-ball. Nowitzki opened up a pathway for more European players to have a chance at the NBA, such as Luka Doncic, who took over as the Mavs star after Dirk retired last season. A virtual lock for the Hall of Fame, Nowitzki is nearly solely responsible for all of the successful years of his franchise, something very few other players in NBA history have achieved.

 

11. Hakeem Olajuwon, Center

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,238 GP, 21.8 PPG, 2.5 APG, 11.1 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 3.1 BPG, 51.2 FG%, 20.2 3P%, 12x All-Star, 12x All-NBA, 1x MVP, 2x DPOY, 2x Champion

Team(s): Houston Rockets, Toronto Rockets

As the first overall pick of the 1984 NBA Draft, Hakeem Olajuwon’s legacy often draws comparisons to Michael Jordan’s, who was taken third overall in that draft. While Olajuwon didn’t accomplish what Jordan did in his career, Olajuwon was certainly a legend in his own sense, bringing two championships in the 1990’s, which were back-to-back in 1994 and 1995. Olajuwon is one of the best all-around players in NBA history, as he was a force in the paint offensively and was one of the all-time great players on the defensive end, averaging over 3 blocks and 1.5 steals for his career. While his accomplishments will always be overshadowed by him being the man the Rockets took instead of Jordan, Olajuwon still did way more than what anyone could’ve anticipated, as he will always be regarded as one of the greatest centers of all-time.

 

10. Magic Johnson, Point Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 906 GP, 19.5 PPG, 11.2 APG, 7.2 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 52 FG%, 30.3 3P%, 12x All-Star, 10x All-NBA, 3x MVP, 5x Champion

Team(s): Los Angeles Lakers

Earvin “Magic” Johnson was spectacular with the 1980s “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers that won five championships in the 1980s. Johnson was best known for leading the fastbreak for these teams and dishing out assists to teammates on flashy passes, such as the no-look pass. Often times, he set up all-time great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar near the rim for him to make his signature skyhook shot, which made the tandem of Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar even more unstoppable than they already were. Johnson is widely regarded as the greatest passer in NBA history and the greatest point guard in NBA history due to everything he accomplished in his 13 year career, which was broken up by his diagnosis with HIV, which caused him to miss four years. Despite that, Johnson submitted his legacy as one of the greatest players of all time, and arguably the greatest Laker of all time.

 

9. Bill Russell, Center

Career Stats/Achievements: 963 GP, 15.1 PPG, 4.3 APG, 22.5 RPG, N/A SPG*, N/A BPG*, 44 FG%, N/A 3P%*, 12x All-Star, 11x All-NBA, 5x MVP, 11x Champion

*-Steals and blocks were not tallied in his career

*-No three point line in his career

Team(s): Boston Celtics

Winning one championship is impressive in itself, so to win eleven of them, even in a less competitive era, is still an amazing achievement that very few other athletes have been capable of leading their team to. Bill Russell did that for the Celtics in the 1950s and 1960s, playing alongside fellow Hall-of-Famer Bob Cousy for many of those years. Russell averaged an insane 22.5 rebounds per game for his career, and sits at second all-time on the career rebounds list behind Wilt Chamberlain, who is the only other player to average over 20 rebounds for a career. Many people try to drop Russell much further down their all-time lists due to a lack of competition in the 1950s and 1960s compared to other eras, but eleven championships are still not easy to earn under any circumstances, regardless of the competition, and makes Russell worthy of a top ten ranking.

 

8. Shaquille O’Neal, Center

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,207 GP, 23.7 PPG, 2.5 APG, 10.9 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 2.3 BPG, 58.2 FG%, 4.5 3P%, 15x All-Star, 14x All-NBA, 1x MVP, 1x ROY, 4x Champion

Team(s): Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics

Shaquille O’Neal was a terror in the paint on both ends of the ball, more so than any player the NBA has ever seen. A 7 foot 1 inch 325 pound hulk, Shaq used that size to his advantage, as he was one of the strongest inside finishers in NBA history and a fantastic post defender. He used that size to help forge his legacy in the NBA, as he won an MVP and three championships as a co-star with the late Kobe Bryant before jumping ship to the Miami Heat to win another title after a falling out with Bryant. Often remembered for his strong dunks, Shaq was no stranger to breaking backboards, as he brought multiple down throughout his career. Many people close to Shaq have said that he had a lazy work ethic and could’ve been the greatest of all-time by working harder, but no one can deny that Shaq is one of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball.

 

7. Larry Bird, Small Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 897 GP, 24.3 PPG, 6.3 APG, 10 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 49.6 FG%, 37.6 3P%, 12x All-Star, 10x All-NBA, 3x MVP, 1x ROY, 3x Champion

Team(s): Boston Celtics

A skilled trash talker, Larry Bird walked into a locker room at a three point contest and asked the rest of the competitors who’s going to finish second. He backed it up and won the contest. Often remembered best for his trash talking, such as that example, Bird was more than able to back up any of it, as the was the best player on the 1980s Celtics dynasty that won three championships. Bird was regarded as one of the greatest three point shooters of all-time until sharpshooters became more and more common, but Bird was arguably the best of his time, shooting just under 38% from three for his career. Combine that with his all-around stardom, it’s easy to see why his time in Boston translated to so much success. Now a Hall of Famer, Bird is the top ranked Celtic on this list and will always be regarded as one of their heroes.

 

6. Wilt Chamberlain, Center

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,045 GP, 30.1 PPG, 4.4 APG, 22.9 RPG, N/A SPG*, N/A BPG*, 54 FG%, N/A 3P%*, 13x All-Star, 10x All-NBA, 4x MVP, 1x ROY, 2x Champion

*-Steals and blocks were not tallied in his career

*-No three point line in his career

Team(s): Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers

As one of the most elite scorers in NBA history, Wilt Chamberlain wrote the record books nearly himself from a scoring perspective, as he holds the record for most points in a season and sits at 7th all-time in career scoring. He is best known for setting the single-game scoring record of 100 points in 1962 in a win against the New York Knicks, an insane record that will probably never be broken unless you are really good at NBA 2K, but it still doesn’t go down in the real record book. Chamberlain’s style of scoring set the precedent for the way a center should play, and is the way most centers play: scoring at will in the paint. Chamberlain won his first title as a 76er and chased another ring in his 5 year stint with the Lakers, adding another one to the collection.

 

5. Kobe Bryant, Shooting Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,346 GP, 25 PPG, 4.7 APG, 5.2 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 44.7 FG%, 32.9 3P%, 18x All-Star, 15x All-NBA, 1x MVP, 5x Champion

Team(s): Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant’s tragic death this January made many people flashback to all of the great moments of his illustrious career and remember the incredible scorer that he was throughout his career. Another evident quality throughout his career was his leadership, as a player and in his retirement as a father. Bryant averaged 25 points for his career and led the Lakers to five championships in his career, three of which were won with the assistance of Shaquille O’Neal. You couldn’t hardly defend his signature fadeaway, as he could hit that shot with any man guarding him on ball. If he felt he had a better shot, he could finish at an elite level at the rim with an athletic layup or dunk or he could pull up from three, as he would good enough at those to be effective from there. He was one of the most aggressive scorers we’ve ever seen, and was as lethal as any player in history when he was on his A game.

 

4. Tim Duncan, Power Forward/Center

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,392 GP, 19 PPG, 3 APG, 10.8 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 2.2 BPG, 15x All-Star, 15x All-NBA, 2x MVP, 1x ROY, 5x Champion

Team(s): San Antonio Spurs

Similar to fellow power forward Dirk Nowitzki, Duncan is often overlooked by many fans because he wasn’t the flashy player that Allen Iverson, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant all were in that era. However, Duncan was a man able to consistently deliver for his team on a nightly basis, averaging a double-double for his career and only missed the playoffs one time in his twenty year tenure with the Spurs. Duncan led the Spurs to five championships in those twenty years and lost only one of his Finals appearances. Duncan was deadly in the post, as he could fight his defender to the rim or hit a fadeaway jumper over him. As based off of his career average, Duncan was also a very productive rebounder. Without Duncan, the Spurs probably still wouldn’t have a title, but they instead have five because of what Duncan brought to their franchise. With his Hall of Fame induction being announced, Duncan will forever be remembered by all as one of the greatest NBA players of all time.

 

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Center

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,560 GP, 24.6 PPG, 3.6 APG, 11.2 RPG, 0.9 SPG*, 2.6 BPG*, 55.9 FG%, 5.6 3P%*, 19x All-Star, 15x All-NBA, 6x MVP, 1x ROY, 6x Champion

*-Steals and blocks were not tallied for first four years of his career

*-No three point line for first ten years of his career

Team(s): Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s accomplishments and stats say everything you need to know about this man: he was an absolute terror for the opposing team every single night. Abdul-Jabbar went by the name of Lew Alcindor until 1971, when he converted to Islam and changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the name he is best known by. Kareem’s famous skyhook gave teams nightmares, as it was a shot that couldn’t be defended with the technique of it and his size. The skyhook was the bread and butter of his game, and being paired with other superstars made his teams just that much more dangerous. He won a title with the Bucks playing alongside Oscar Robertson in 1971 and won his other five rings with the Showtime Lakers. Even 30 years after retirement, Kareem is still regarded by any and all fans as one of the greatest players of all time, as he left as much of an impact on the game of basketball as anyone ever has.

 

2. Michael Jordan, Shooting Guard

Career Stats/Achievements: 1,072 GP, 30.1 PPG, 5.3 APG, 6.2 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 49.7 FG%, 32.7 3P%, 14x All-Star, 11x All-NBA, 5x MVP, 1x DPOY, 1x ROY, 6x Champion

Team(s): Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards

Michael Jordan was one of the most exciting athletes ever to watch, as his incredible, athletic dunks consistently stole the show when SportsCenter showed highlights every evening. More than that though, Jordan was a fearless leader for his team, as his relentless playmaking abilities enabled him to lead his team to 6 championships in his career. He was more than just a basketball player though. Jordan is one of the most influential sports figures of all-time, as his Jordan shoes are commonly worn among all age groups. Young fans often enjoy watching old highlights of Jordan and appreciate how incredible of an athlete he was. His accolades should say enough to tell you that he is one of the greatest of all time, and may be the only player that can be legitimately debated with LeBron James as the greatest player of all time.

 

1. LeBron James, Small Forward

Career Stats/Achievements: 1258 GP, 27.1 PPG, 7.4 APG, 7.4 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 50.4 FG%, 34.4 3P%, 16x All-Star, 15x All-NBA, 4x MVP, 1x ROY, 3x Champion

Team(s): Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers

At this point, it is safe to say that LeBron James has accomplished enough to be considered the G.O.A.T., as he accomplished the impossible of leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA championship and has been the most productive player in the NBA for about 15 years now. He is one of the best passers we have ever seen, and he is a deadly scorer from anywhere on the floor, especially inside of the three point line. Also a capable defender, LeBron has been able to come through for his team on both sides of the floor in the most clutch of situations possible, such as his block on Andre Iguodala in the 2016 NBA Finals game 7 and his off-balance floater over OG Anunoby in a 2018 playoff game. LeBron has had success with every team he’s been a part of, and every team he’s left has become significantly worse in his first year gone, just putting an exclamation point on his impact on a team. Jordan might have an argument for being the G.O.A.T., but nobody has ever done what LeBron has done, and nobody will ever do it again.

 

So, that is my list. I never got to watch most of these players, so highlights, stats, and the things I’ve heard from people of those times allowed me to put together this list. I am a history buff of basketball for sure, so I have certainly developed enough knowledge on most of these guys to put together a list that I feel is at least somewhat accurate of reality. However, it was hard to rank each player, as all 50 of these guys were, or still are, great in their own way, making it tough to make some decisions. I hope you guys enjoyed reading this and stay safe the rest of this pandemic.

 

Written on April 25th, 2020

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