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

Our Past Winners

2010 Ryan Mallett
Quarterback, Arkansas Razorbacks

The first Arkansas quarterback to be named preseason first-team All-SEC by the SEC coaches, Mallett came off an injury to start all 12 games and completed an Arkansas single-season record 242 passes on 364 attempts for 3,592 yards and 30 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. 

He currently leads the SEC and ranks fifth in the NCAA with 299.3 passing yards per game, and his 30 passing touchdowns lead the conference and are tied for seventh in the country.  His Razorbacks' average of 295.5 yards of total offense per game ranks second in the SEC and 13th in the nation. 

Big Tex as he is called by some, has thrown for 1,691 yards and 12 TDs against ranked oppenents this season to lead the SEC and rank second in the country in both categories.  His 163.90 passer rating against ranked opponents is second in the conference and eighth in the NCAA.  Is second in the NCAA with 30 completions of 30 or more yards, and his 63 since 2009 are the most in the NCAA.  He leads the SEC and ranks second in the NCAA with 93 completions of 15 or more yards and his conference-leading total of 35 completions of 25+ yards is tied for fifth in the nation.

 

2011 Case Keenum
Quarterback, Houston Cougars

We are always uplifted by the comeback stories of sports.  I would say Keenum fits the mold perfectly.

into his sixth year of eligibility due to his two ACL injuries, many were unsure how Keenum would perform.  To say he dazzled would be an understatement.

He rewrote the book, the record book that is.  From total offense, to passing yards, to passing touchdowns, to career completions, Keenum broke them all and sealed his place in college football history.

Keenum led his team to an 11-0 start to the season, which is the best start in Houston history.  His gunslinger mentality and great arm led Houston to the top passing offense and scoring offense in college football as he became the first player in college football history to pass for 5,000 yards in three different seasons. 

While Keenum’s eligibility may be up at season’s end, his presence and legend will live on long after.  After all, we all love a good comeback story.  The guy who came back from an almost career ending injury to rewrite college football history, has a nice ring to it.

2012 Jarvis Jones
Defensive End, Georgia Bulldogs

When you look up the word explosive in the dictionary you might just find a picture of Jarvis Jones there looking back at you.  Now imagine that face is bearing down on you with 4.6 speed and a desire to monster your quarterback.  That is what it felt like to be a lineman facing Georgia this year.

Statistically, Jones had a season for the ages.  His 77 tackles don't jump off of the page, but that is offset by his pure ability to wreck opposition drives coming off of the edge with 22.5 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks.  That means at least three times a game he was in the opposition backfield taking matters into his own hands and destroying both quarterbacks and running backs with reckless abandon.

In a sport where collision and chaos is paramount, Jones excels in both.  He had seven forced fumbles in 2012, most caused by his jaw dropping ability to deliver a crushing blow at the end of a play.  Simply put Jones is that difference maker that comes around a program once every 15 to 20 years.

A big game player who often saved his best for when it mattered most, Jones put up all those numbers while missing two games with injury.  Though the NFL now beckons he has left a lasting impression on the SEC.

2013 Jameis Winston
Quarterback, Florida State Seminoles

As a highly touted football and baseball recruit, Jameis Winston had his pick of colleges.  After leading the Seminoles to an undefeated ACC regular season and the cusp of the national title game, the fans in Tallahassee are ecstatic he chose Florida State.

He had one of the most sensational debuts in the history of college football when he completed 25 of 27 passes with four touchdowns, plus another rushing, against Pittsburgh.  He built on this with a performance of sheer domination in the 'Noles season defining road win at Clemson as he silenced Death Valley with a 444 yards while accounting for four more TDs.

In a season of amazing stats, the most amazing is probably Winston's ridiculous 69% completion percentage, a number unheard of from a redshirt freshman in a power conference.  He had 35 TD passes in the regular season and did so despite being pulled at, or just after, halftime in a number of games which Florida State was dominating.

The best compliment you can pay Winston is that he is as NFL ready as any QB in college football, a scary thought for the ACC as he returns to school next year stronger, faster and smarter.

2014 Marcus Mariota
Quarterback, Oregon Ducks

This season has been a dominating one for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. He has accounted for four or more touchdowns in over three fourths of the Ducks games and he leads the nation in a slew of stats from passing efficiency to yards per attempt. He also surpassed 4,000 of total offense, doing so in the Civil War with Oregon State, only the second time in which an Oregon player ever accomplished that feat. Oh, he was the first player to do so also last fall.

The rise for Mariota has been nothing short of meteoric. When he arrived on campus in Eugene at the beginning of the 2012 season he wasn’t even the favorite to nail down the starting job. Mariota though attacked the challenge in a way which has become something of this trademark. He swept aside all competition throughout the various camps and practices until there was no doubt he was going to be the next get Oregon quarterback.

His dynamic play is what really sets him apart as a player. Mariota has developed from a run first player who can pass, to someone who is apt to scramble with his eyes downfield, extending plays, and then hitting his game breaking receivers with pinpoint accuracy. His ability to check through his progressions while on the move makes him standout from all other quarterbacks in the collegiate game.

Mariota is also the very definition of a team leader, something he will be expected to continue next fall when he moves on to play on Sunday afternoons.

2015 Vernon Hargreaves III
Cornerback, Florida Gators

This may sound strange, but 2015 may actually have been a little boring for Vernon Hargreaves. The junior Florida cornerback came into the school highly touted and has lived up to every expectation put on him in Gainesville. The problem with being so good as a cornerback however is that the offense is so scared that they stay away from you and that is exactly what has happened to Hargreaves this season.

The best pure cornerback in college football, Hargreaves has just four interceptions on the year and just two passes defensed. This though has nothing to do with Hargreaves level of play slipping and everything to do with the other team just being afraid to challenge him. Hargreaves has such great speed (he runs a 4.44 40-yard dash) and great instincts that any time the ball is in the air on his side of the field there is a chance he will pick it off. This natural ability, plus the hours of practice and preparation he puts in each week, enables Hargreaves to effectively shut out the best weapon on the opposition offense week after week.

As the Gators have rebounded in 2015 so has Hargreaves. His level of play inspires confidence in those around him and his attitude has helped propel the Florida defense to make up for an offense that has gone missing on more than one occasion this season. Hargreaves has even improved his game this season as he has become more physical in run support and has done a better job of fighting off of blocks to make one on one tackles.

There has never been any doubting Hargreaves talent and desire to improve. He has become one of the best cornerbacks in SEC history and he will finish his junior year as one of the most coveted players in the nation if he decides to enter the NFL Draft in the spring.

2016 Deshaun Watson
Quarterback, Clemson Tigers

Deshaun Watson always looked like the kind of quarterback that could be a legacy player at Clemson.  When the Tigers fell agonizingly short against Alabama at the back end of the 2015 season, Watson knew his work at the school was far from over.  That is why he came back with a vengeance in 2016, leading his Tigers to a dominant, one-loss regular season record.

Watson has done a lot of winning at Clemson.  The junior quarterback has been the full time starter for the Tigers for two years and in each of those seasons he led the team into the College Football Playoffs.  His 2015 season was outstanding as he passed for over 4,100 yards with 35 touchdowns while rushing for over 1,100 yards with 12 more scores.  This though was just a taste of what Watson would do in 2016.

Watson worked hard on his passing over the summer as he knew that to be the quarterback he was capable of being he would need to be able to trust his arm to beat defenses and not rely so much on his legs.  The result was a slower than expected start to the season as Clemson, like their leader, took a little while to adjust to his new style.  By the end of the year though, Watson had his offense firing on all cylinders.

His ability to overcome was especially evident in the Tigers 56-7 win against rival South Carolina on November 26.  After tossing a first half interception Watson went on a tear and completed 19 passes in a row to set a new school record.  It is that sort of play that cements Watson’s place as the greatest quarterback in Clemson history.

2017 Jake Fromm
Quarterback, Georgia Bulldogs

Jake Fromm has taken everything in stride in 2017. The freshman quarterback should have been over-awed when the lights shone brightest, but Fromm is a player – and a person – who is mature beyond his years.

Leading Georgia to a 12-1 record and their first SEC Championship since 2005 seemed to come remarkably easy to Fromm. The 2017 SEC Freshman of the Year threw for 2,173 yards, with 21 touchdowns and just five interceptions. It was his ability to protect the ball, making the correct decisions and rarely putting his team in a difficult spot that set Fromm apart from the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks of the previous few seasons.

Georgia is blessed with an outstanding running game, but in the biggest moments it was Fromm that took on the pressure throws, working the ball all over the field to secure Georgia’s place in the 2017 College Football Playoffs. In no situation was this more obvious than the Bulldogs revenge victory over Auburn in the SEC Championship Game.

The Bulldogs 40-17 loss to Auburn in early November had most analysts playing down any chance of a Georgia victory in the rematch. It made sense as that 23-point winning margin was one that looked impossible to overcome, but they though hadn’t counted on the talent, competitiveness, and sheer determination of the Bulldogs’ rookie quarterback.

Fromm completely outplayed more heralded Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham as the Bulldogs flipped the script and won the rematch 28-7. Fromm was a stunningly efficient 16-of-22 for almost 200 yards and two touchdowns, picking apart the Auburn defense even as their pressure mounted. It is that poise that set Fromm apart in 2017.

2018 Kyler Murray
Quarterback, Oklahoma Sooners

Saddled with a historically bad defense and facing an award challenging quarterback down in Tuscaloosa that could do no wrong, it is fair to say that Kyler Murray’s route to the Premier Player of College Football award was anything but straight forward.

Oklahoma has to outscore everyone to win and Murray is the horse that drives the offense forward even when it looks like the Sooners are out of a game. The defense is statistically the worst to play for a national championship (and by some margin) of any in the BCS era, but Murray has taken the Lincoln Riley scheme that made Baker Mayfield the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft and somehow has pushed it to the next level.

Murray, who may never play another down of football as he was drafted ninth overall in this year’s MLB draft, was simply sensational for Oklahoma in 2018. The dual-threat quarterback averaged at least 300 yards passing and 60 yards rushing per game, finishing the regular season with 4,053 yards and 40 touchdowns through the air, while adding another 892 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.

Murray will have a big decision to make on his future in the coming months, but he can do so safe in the knowledge that he was the best player in college football this season.

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