All-Time Top 25 Premier Players of The NBA
There is always talk about The G.O.A.T. In this article, we list our All-Time, Top 25 Players of The NBA:
25 – Dirk Nowitzki
The best European import in league history and one of the premier players of his era, Nowitzki was a 7-foot tall scoring machine for the Dallas Mavericks after they selected him with the ninth pick of the 1998 NBA Draft. A player who could hit any shot at any time, his one-legged fade-away jumper will become the stuff of legend. Nowitzki led the Mavs to 15 playoff appearances in his 21-year run with the franchise. An NBA champion (and NBA Finals MVP) in 2011, the only thing that stops the 14-time all-star and four-time All-NBA First Team selection from appearing higher on this list is his lack of rings.
24 – David Robinson
The Admiral was a defensive force throughout his entire 14-year run in the NBA. Robinson ranks sixth in NBA history with 2,954 blocks, using every inch of his 7-foot-1 frame to dominate the paint defensively. Along with Tim Duncan, Robinson formed ‘The Twin Towers’ frontcourt for the San Antonio Spurs, giving opponents little chance of making an impact around the rim. The two-time NBA champion and 10-time all-star was an absolute double-double machine over the course of his first decade in the league.
23 – Scottie Pippen
Would Michael Jordan be where he is on this list without the power of Scottie Pippen? Pippen is often seen as the Robin to Jordan’s Batman, but that is undervaluing the skillset of the Hall of Famer who was also a seven-time all-star as the Bulls dominated the league in the 90s. While Jordan could take over a game, Pippen was a consistent force on both sides of the ball. He averaged 16.1 points per game while shooting almost 50% from the field for his career. The ability of Pippen to run like a guard, rebound like a power forward, and hit buckets like a shooting guard should never be overlooked.
22 – Charles Barkley
A Hall of Fame power forward, Barkley is best remembered for his ability to rebound the basketball. He was a machine on the glass, averaging 11.7 rebounds per game throughout his career in Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Houston. He was also a member of the USA Olympic basketball “Dream Team” where he won gold medals in 1992 and 1996. A player who could have adapted to the playing style in any era, Barkley never won a ring but he was an 11-time NBA All-Star, and he was named the league’s MVP in 1993.
21 – John Havlicek
Havlicek won eight NBA titles as part of the Boston Celtics team that owned the NBA in the 1960s and 70s. A 13-time all-star, Havlicek was defined by his relentless hustle on the court and his commitment to being a team player in a sport where self-promotion has become the norm over the years. The seventh pick of the 1962 NBA Draft out of Ohio State, Havlicek was a defensive leader who is still the Celtic’s leader in games played and total points scored (26,395).
20 – Kevin Garnett
Garnett may have spent too much of his career playing for a non-competitive team in Minnesota, but the 21-year veteran plied his trade into becoming an all-time great. Widely considered one of the best power forwards of all time, Garnett is one of just four players to win both the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards. Known for his intensity and his lockdown defensive ability, Garnett was a 15-time All-Star and is the only player in league history to average 20 points, 10 boards, and five assists for six straight seasons.
19 – John Stockton
One of the premier point guards in the history of the game, Stockton spent his entire 19-year career with the Utah Jazz after being selected 16th overall in the 1984 NBA Draft. His guard-forward combination with Karl Malone saw Stockton rack up the most assists in NBA history with over 15,800 dimes. Stockton is also the all-time steals leader with 3,265 over the course of his career. A 10-time all-star, Stockton averaged a double-double in points (13.1) and assists (10.5), and he was known for his nearing fanatical work ethic that saw him miss just 22 games over 19 seasons in the league.
18 – Elvin Hayes
Hayes was a Jack of all trades player who just happened to be very good at everything on a basketball court. He ranks tenth all-time in scoring, 24th all-time in blocks, and fourth all-time in rebounds. The amazing aspect of this is that Hayes was playing in the league before blocks were counted as a statistic, so he sits that high on the all-time block list despite playing for five seasons when none of his shot rejections were counted. Hayes averaged 21 points and 12.5 rebounds per game for his career as one of the premier players in the NBA.
17 – Julius Erving
Dr. J was one of the first NBA exponents of playing the game above the rim with his athleticism and ability to dunk the ball while taking off from the free throw line. Playing for five years in the ABA for the Virginia Squires and the New York Nets, Erving is the greatest 76er of all-time thanks to his success with the Philadelphia franchise in an 11-year stint in the NBA. The two-time ABA champion was an 11-time NBA all-star, and he won the NBA Title in 1983. Dr. J is also the eighth-leading scorer of all time if ABA and NBA scoring records are combined.
16 – Moses Malone
A double-double career player with 20.6 points and 12.2 rebounds per game, Moses Malone showed that a player could be a successful NBA player without a college career. The 12-time all-star and three-time league MVP was named to eight All-NBA teams, and he finally won a league title in 1983. A first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2001, Malone began his career with teams like the Utah Stars and Spirits of St. Louis in the ABA before joining the NBA in 1976. A player that tends to be overlooked as one of the premier players in basketball history, Malone was a physical presence with an endless motor which did everything well.
15 – Karl Malone
Known as The Mailman because he always delivered, Karl Malone formed a formidable guard-forward combination with John Stockton as members of the Utah Jazz. Unlucky to be playing in the same timeframe as one Michael Jordan, Malone was never able to get his hands on an NBA championship, but he was able to achieve everything else in the game. The recipient of 11 straight All-NBA First Team nods, Malone remains second all-time in scoring with 36,928 points.
14 – Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Olajuwon was a 7-foot center out of Lagos, Nigeria who dominated the paint for the Houston Rockets (and then the Toronto Raptors for a year) for 18-years in the league. A skilled played on both ends of the court, Olajuwon had a unique combination of size and speed that allowed him to be effortless defending at whatever position was needed. The center was an insane shot blocker, but his hand speed also made him a threat to steal the ball. He is the only 200/200 player in NBA history after compiling 200 blocks and steals in a single season. The Dream averaged 21.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.
13 – Jerry West
The most surprising aspect of Jerry West’s career is that he won just one NBA Title during his playing career with the L.A. Lakers. That title in 1972 says as much about the Boston Celtics dominant run as it does about the Lakers, but West was a constant force throughout his NBA career. A 14-time all-star and 10-time All-NBA First Team selection West was known as Mr. Clutch due to his ability to make big shots when big shots were needed. The guard once recorded 46.3 points scoring averaged over the course of an entire playoff series, an NBA record, and you have to be considered one of the premier players ever to have your silhouette incorporated into the NBA logo.
12 – Kevin Durant
A sure-fire Hall of Famer whenever he hangs up his sneakers, the 30-year old Durant already has a resume that makes him one of the best players of all-time. The second pick of the 2007 draft, Durant was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2008, and the accolades have only continued to build from there. Durant is already a double-digit All-Star and, as of writing, he is a two-time NBA Champion and was named Finals MVP in both of those victories with the Golden State Warriors. Durant is an outstanding shooter and scorer in general, and he averaged over 27 points per game for his career.
11 – Shaquille O’Neal
When he was in his best shape, and when he cared enough to be dominant, then there was no stopping Shaq as he became the most dominant physical force in the league since Wilt Chamberlain. The top overall pick of the Orlando Magic out of LSU, Shaq was a 15-time all-star with a larger than life personality that sometimes hid his basketball greatness. Playing for six teams over 19-years, Shaq was a four-time NBA champion, a three-time NBA Finals MVP, and an eight-time All-NBA First Team selection. His power also broke backboard supports twice during his first year, leading the NBA to increase brace strength for the 1993-94 season.
10 – Kobe Bryant
Love him or hate him and his style of play, Bryant will go down as one of the greatest scorers in the history of the league. Sitting at No. 3 on the all-time list with 33,643 points, Bryant averaged 25 points over his career, and he was an 18-time all-star with five NBA titles to his name. The 20-year Laker was also a 12-time member of the All-Defensive team, and his fall-away jump shot was compared to that of Michael Jordan when Kobe was in his prime.
9 – Oscar Robertson
The Big O was a 6-foot-5, 205-pound point guard when players of that size were unheard of at the position. The 12-time all-star and winner of the MVP award in 1964 became the first player to average a triple-double over the course of a season in 1962. Robinson took the league by storm when he averaged over 30 points per game as a rookie, and his triple-double number of 181 over his career is one that has never been approached since. Robertson is also credited with inventing the head fake and the fade-away shot.
8 – Tim Duncan
A 19-year NBA player, Duncan was the rock which the San Antonio Spurs built a five-time NBA championship team from the turn of the century until well into the next decade. A player with a double-double career average in points and rebounds, Duncan was a beacon of consistency who would have won more titles if not for the Lakers and LeBron. Duncan, unlike some on this list, continued to be dominant until the end of his career, a fitting legacy for the man known as “The Big Fundamental” thanks to his simple and effective playing style.
7 – Bill Russell
The case for Russell as the greatest in NBA history begins and ends with the number 11. As in 11 NBA Titles, the number that Russell won during his career as one of the premier players in the game. An exceptional defender, Russell was not a heavy scorer, but he was able to set his team on fast break opportunities because of his presence in the paint. Russell played in the NBA for 13 years, and in those 13 years, he won more championship rings than you can wear across both hands. The 6-foot-10 center was a five-time MVP and a 12-time all-star, showing what value he had as part of a dynasty the likes of which we are unlikely to see in the sport ever again.
6 – Larry Bird
Larry Legend might not be the most decorated Boston Celtic of all-time, but he is the one that is regarded as the greatest player in the sweeping history of the franchise. A three-time NBA Champion, and two-time Finals MVP, Bird may not have looked like an NBA player, but he had a skill set that set him apart. Bird averaged over 20 points in all but two of his NBA seasons, and he was named to the All-NBA First Team nine separate times. Three consecutive league MVP awards and an average of 24.3 points over his career, while also excelling as a passer and defender, earn Bird this spot on the list.
5 – Magic Johnson
An assist machine that could also score, Magic epitomized the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s. His battles with Larry Bird are the stuff of legends, with magic averaging double figures in assists for nine of his 13 seasons in the league. It was not just that Magic could pass the ball; it was the no-looks and behind the back passes that led to scores that set him apart as one of the greatest ever. At 6-foot-9 Magic was not created to be a point guard but five NBA titles in 13 seasons show his impact on the game.
4 – Wilt Chamberlain
If Bill Russell did not exist, then Wilt Chamberlain would be No. 1 on this list with double-digit championships to go along with every other insane statistic he produced. Chamberlain had to settle for just two rings, but the four-time league MVP and 13-time all-star was a freak of nature who forced the NBA to widen the lane in order to stop him from terrorizing smaller players. His 100 point performance against the New York Knicks will never be broken, nor will the 55 rebounds he amassed in one game against the Celtics. Wilt also led the league in assists in 1968, showing there was nothing he could not do while playing basketball.
3 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The man that saw slam dunks banned in college so that other teams could compete with UCLA slots in at No. 3 on this list for his sheer dominance on the court. Somewhat ironically it was that dunk ban that saw Kareem learn the sky-hook, a shot he would use to obliterate teams with over his 20-year career. The accolades are staggering as Kareem was a 19-time All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA selection, and an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team player. He won six NBA championships and six MVP awards as he finished first all-time on the scoring list with over 38,300 points (at a clip of 24.6 points per game) for his career.
2 – LeBron James
The 2018-19 season may not have been his best, but LeBron hits this list at No. 2 as one of the premier players in NBA history. The only player close to passing Jordan, LeBron has already climbed to No. 4 on the all-time scoring list and will likely pass Kobe early in the 2019-20 season. He is a four-time NBA MVP, a three-time NBA champion and he won the Finals MVP in each of those victories. The 15-time all-star has won a slew of individual awards, and his ability to play all five positions on the court makes him almost unguardable when he is at his best.
1 – Michael Jordan
Even with the strong push that LeBron has made for the No. 1 spot over the last decade, there is still no touching Michael Jordan. The ultimate competitor, Jordan was a player who refused to give up. Few could match the Bulls great when it came to intensity, while no one could match him for sheer skill on the hardwood. He might be the most clutch player in the history of the league, and he is a player who was every bit as good as the stories surrounding his legacy. Jordan averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game on his way to five MVP awards and six NBA championships along with six Finals MVP honors.
Article by Steve Writer
Independent Sports Writer