Since its inception, the NBA has seen some of the most talented basketball players. But just who are the 15 greatest of the greatest? Take a look at our list below.
1. Michael Jordan (1984-1998; 2001-2003)
Michael Jeffrey Jordan is by far the greatest ever NBA player of all time. His individual accomplishments include 5 MVP (Most Valuable Player) awards, 9 All-Defensive First Team honors, and 10 All-NBA First Team designations, 14 appearances on NBA All-Star Games, 10 scoring titles, and 6 NBA Finals MVP Awards. He also won the award for 1998 NBA defensive Player of the Year. Also, Jordan holds record for the highest scoring average of 30.12 points per game. He is the 6-time world champ and 10-time scoring champion.
2. Wilt Chamberlain (1957-1973), LA Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, San Francisco Warriors and Philadelphia
Wilt Chamberlain’s size, strength and athleticism were unimaginable. He made large men appear small, and when he played he made it seem all too easy.
He averaged 50.4 points in 1961-62 season, and 25.7 rebounds. That pretty says it all about Wilt. He has the second-highest season average points per game of 30.1. Just everything about Wilt was astounding. In my opinion, Wilt was the strongest ever player in the NBA history. His strength has been legendary as Arnold Schwarzenegger attests in the following video:
Wilt Chamberlain had the hops and speed of a track-and-field sportsman. If only he had managed to win 4 titles or more, I strongly believe that most analysts would have considered him to be the game’s greatest ever player. According to me, I think this is the only player that can truly rival Michael Jordan in terms of the greatest ever NBA players.
3. Magic Johnson (1979-1991; 1995-1996)
Magic Johnson was another outstanding athlete to have graced NBA. Although he did not have the scoring prowess of the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic still managed an average of 22 points or more pr season in 4 different seasons. He also had a sizzling career shooting percentage of 52%. With almost unparalleled versatility, Magic won 5 championship titles and had an impressive career average of 19.5 points per game.
4. Oscar Robertson (1960-1974)
Oscar Robertson played for Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks between 1960 and 1970. Also known as “The Big O”, Robertson had a really impressive scoring tally, with a career average of 25.7 points per game. He also had 9.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds. During his first 8 seasons, Robertson averaged less than 30 points per game in just two seasons.
During the 1961-62 Season, the Big O averaged a triple-double. Robertson also came agonizingly close to averaging triple-double in 4 other seasons. I would not be too opposed to anyone claiming that the Big O deserves a higher ranking.
5. Larry Bird (1979-1992)
Larry Bird is also in my list of the 15 greatest NBA players ever. He was named MVP on three occasions, and 12-time NBA All-Star. Bird turned out for Boston in his entire professional career, where he helped them win three NBA championships. He remains the most versatile forward to play the game.
During his playing time, he emerged as one of the best shooters and also the most clutch player ever in the history of NBA. Bird could easily beat you without scoring. His rivalry with Magic Johnson helped put NBA on national TV map.
6. Bill Russell (1956-1969), Boston Celtics
During the days of Wilt and Russell, steals and blocked shots were not kept. One would assume that Russell and his greatest rival would score big in both categories if only they were kept. Russell has very strong stats given that his primary responsibility was not scoring. He won 11 championships during his 13-season tenure. He was also voted as the league’s MVP on 5 occasions and he also had 11 top-4 finishes. He had a career average of 15.1 ppg, 4.3 assists and 22.5 rebounds. All these only serve to show his greatness in the game.
7. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1969-1989)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is all-time highest scorer in the history of the NBA. His playing career spanned two decades during which he won six NBA titles, six Most Valuable Player awards and Still Owner of the best ever scorer. He had a total of 38,387 points. Kareem was the game’s best player during the 70s. He unleashed most devastating shots ever seen by NBA, using sky hook in scoring many of the points.
8. Kobe Bryant (1996-to date)
Kobe Bryant plays for LA Lakers, a team that he joined straight from high school and has been playing for ever since. During the time that he has been playing for LA Lakers, Bryant won 5 NBA titles. He is also 12-time member of All-Defensive team, 15-time member of All-NBA team and 17-time All-Star. Bryant has led the scoring charts for the league on two occasions. With 25.5 ppg, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 5.3 rebounds, I think he strongly deserves his place in this list.
9. Julius Erving (1976-1987)
With impressive career averages of 8.5 rebounds, 24.2 ppg, 2.0 steals and 1.7 blocks, there is little doubt that Julius Erving is really among the greatest players to have graced the NBA. I would say that he was the game’s most regal, and majestic athlete of all time. The high-flying marvel finished in the top 10 in blocked shots on seven occasions and eight times in steals.
10. LeBron James (2003-to date)
He has played for Cleveland Cavaliers and is currently turning out for Miami Heat. Look at his impressive stats which include 27.8 points per game, 1.7 steals, 0.8 blocks and 6.9 assists and it is easy to say why LBJ is on my list. Plus, he is still young (almost 31) and has many more seasons ahead of him. He isn’t an out and out scorer in the mold of Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Durant, but his career ppg is still higher than any active player.
11. Hakeem Olajuwon (1984-2001)
Known to his fans simply as Akeem The Dream, Hakeem Olajuwon is the league’s ever smoothest man in my opinion. He was able to do just about anything that he wanted on the offensive part of the field, and his rate of blocking shots was also considerably high. His individual accolades include 3-time NBA blocks champ, 2-time NBA Finals MVP and an NBA most valuable player. He has a total of 3830 blocks, which is an NBA record.
12. Tim Duncan (1997-Present), San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan’s style of play is very simple and also down-to-earth. He has nothing flashy and will stay relatively quiet on the court. However, what he has accomplished speak for themselves. He has 4 NBA championship titles, two MVPs, and 13 consecutive seasons both on All-Defensive and All-NBA teams. Duncan is the once-in-a-lifetime leader and defender. He is by far the greatest ever power forward in NBA’s history.
13. Shaquille O’Neal (1992-2011)
Shaquille O’Neil or simply Shaq, is a widely-traveled basketball player who has played for LA Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers. He boasts a career average of 23.7 ppg, 2.5 assists, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks. He is a four-time champion and has averaged 30 points in the three postseasons that he had with LA Lakers.
14. Jerry West (1960-1974), LA Lakers
He boasts impressive career averages of 27.0 points per game, 6.7 assists and 5.8 rebounds. He had 4 seasons in which his average points per game tally was more than 30. Also known as Mr. Clutch, Jerry West was also more explosive in the playoffs.
15. Elgin Baylor (1958-1972), LA Lakers
Elgin Baylor is considered in the same breath as Michael Jordan. At just 6’5”, Baylor averaged over 15 rebounds pr game in every single one of his first 4 seasons.
Read more about the top nba players in basketball history in the following sources: