With the potential of a lockout spilling into the season likely, I thought I’d try to quench my NBA basketball thirst with this opinion piece.
There have always been debates about the greatest players of all-time and although there has always been opinions, it’s rarely backed up with facts. That’s because people argue with their hearts. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s human. We all have favorite teams and it’s hard to overlook that bias. It’s also hard to argue statistics since players played in different eras with a different talent level.
Here is my attempt to stay unbiased, using facts as arguments rather than my heart. Of course in the end this list is assembled from my own opinion. I don’t claim to be an expert or an authority. But I believe I’ve laid out some strong points here in my arguments.
So without further ado, here are the ten all-time greatest Basketball Players to ever play the game… in order.
Moses Malone, Julius Erving, Jerry West, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Elgin Baylor, Scottie Pippen.
10. Shaquille O’Neal
The big diesel lands at number ten for simply being one of the most dominant players to EVER play the game. In his prime Shaq was un -guard-able. Literally. The only defense was to foul him (or should I say mug him) lest he run amok and score 100 points. His dominance forced the NBA to change the rules of the game to compensate. CHANGE THEM. Seriously. He literally played most of his career with two players guarding him at all -times… sometimes three. Even with that handicap Shaq was able to win four NBA championships, with two different teams. Other stats include 3-Time NBA Finals MVP. 15 time NBA All-Star, 2 time NBA scoring Champion, 8 time All-NBA First Team, Three Time NBA All-Star Game MVP.
9. Oscar Robertson
Before Magic Johnson made Triple Doubles famous there was Oscar Robertson. Robertson just didn’t lead the league in triple doubles. He averaged it for an ENTIRE SEASON in 1961 -62. Averaged it! It’s almost impossible to even fathom. What’s even most impressive is that he almost averaged one in his ROOKIE year. 30.5 point, 10.1 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game. The only reason why he doesn’t rank higher is that he only managed to win one championship in his illustrious, impressive career. More an indictment of the talent of his supporting cast than his efforts. Based on stats alone he has to be considered one of the greatest if not THE greatest all-around players to ever play the game.
8. Larry Bird
The truth is many players can be plugged into this spot. One can argue that Jerry West should be here, or Elgin Baylor. One can even argue that Scottie Pippen and his six championships belong here. All legitimate arguments. Larry Bird lands here for his value and contribution as an ambassador to the overall game of basketball. Together with Magic Johnson they turned the NBA from a fringe sport to one of the world’s most popular games on the planet. There’s no debating that. If that wasn’t enough his Hall of Fame statistics should be enough. 3 time NBA champion, 3 time NBA Most Valuable Player, 12 time NBA All-Star, 2 time NBA Finals MVP, NBA Coach of the Year.
7. Tim Duncan
For years critics have claimed Duncan is playing out of position and is a real center. It’s true as a center he would not be considered one of the 10 greatest. But the truth is he’s NOT a center. He’s a power forward, a power forward who could also play center and if he’s truly a power forward than his statistics would make him the greatest power forward to ever play the game. Since he’s played his entire career as a power forward…than…he’s a power forward. The greatest ever. 4 time NBA champion, 3 time NBA Finals MVP, 2 time NBA Most Valuable Player, 13 time NBA All-star, 9 time ALL-NBA First Team, 8 time all-defensive team.
6. Michael Jordan
Look no further. Michael Jordan will rank no higher. The greatest marketed player ever belongs right here. Sure it would be easy to bump him up. But first one has to devalue the facts and points I’ve made below. Which one realistically can’t. The only fact that Jordan fans can argue as superior to the players I’ve mentioned below are the 6 NBA Finals MVP awards. Impressive…yet more an indication of his popularity than his actual value. Who was more valuable to the Bulls? Pippen or Jordan? People love to point at Jordan’s intangibles. His leadership abilities. His drive and desire. All immeasurable and circumstantial. Was Jordan a better floor general or all-around player than Magic Johnson? A better scorer than Kareem or Wilt? Better defender than Bill Russell? Would Kobe have won at least 6 NBA championships playing on the Bulls with Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen? You’re lying to yourself if you say no. He would have won 8… cause he would have never retired from the NBA to play baseball. How about that for drive and determination. Not to say Jordan is a scrub. He is legitimately one of the greatest players EVER to play the game. Just not one of the five greatest. 6 Time NBA Champion, 5 time NBA MVP, 14 time NBA All-star, 6 time NBA Finals MVP, 10 time scoring champion, 10 time All-NBA First Team 3 time NBA All-Star Game MVP, NCAA Champion.
5. Kobe Bryant
Shocked? Surprised? This isn’t a typo. The truth is Kobe’s value to the Lakers is equal to what Jordan’s value was to the Bulls. Correct? That’s not debatable right? But my main argument is that Kobe Bryant ranks ahead of Michael Jordan because of his five championships. What’s that? Six beats five? True… but Michael Jordan never won a championship without Scottie Pippen. Kobe Bryant has won two without Shaquille O’Neal and can POTENTIALLY win even more. What’s most intriguing about Kobe Bryant’s career is that if he remains healthy, he can realistically play for 6 to 8 more years. What will his statistics look like after that? He doesn’t just land ahead of Jordan simply on potential either. He also ranks ahead for his drive and desire. What’s that? Nobody had more desire than Jordan? I don’t remember Kobe retiring in the middle of his prime or retiring earlier than he needed to. That’s cause Kobe would NEVER consider that. His drive and desire are insatiable. Kobe played even when he was on trial for rape. With his freedom on the line! When it’s all said and done I predict Kobe’s stats will be superior to Jordan’s. But IF he retired today, it would STILL be hard to argue not having Kobe ahead of Jordan. Based on that he ranks ahead of Jordan. Here are some of Kobe’s stats at the time of this publication. 5 time NBA champion, 2 time NBA Finals MVP, 13 time all-star, 2 time NBA scoring champion. 9 time all-defensive first team, 4 time NBA all-star game MVP.
4. Magic Johnson
In terms of player versatility, there’s nobody greater than Magic Johnson. The only player on this list who could realistically play all five positions at an all-star level caliber. Many dock him for simply being a point guard and not more of a scorer. But he was the greatest point guard ever. Which makes him the greatest floor general in the history of the game. If the Lakers wanted him to play center full-time and been more of a scorer he could have done that… and still been a Hall of Famer. The truth of the matter is, if Magic Johnson had not been forced to tragically retire early he would most likely be at the top of this list. That being said his statistics still make him an NBA Hall of Famer. But they should all be mentioned with an asterisk. 5 time NBA Champion, 3 time NBA Most Valuable player. 12 Time NBA all-star. NCAA Champion. 9 time NBA First team.
3. Wilt Chamberlain
As far as individual play, it’s impossible to find a more dominant player than Wilt Chamberlain. 7 time scoring champion, 11 time rebounding champion. 4 time NBA Most Valuable player, 7 time NBA First team. 13 time all-star. Oh yeah and he won 2 championships. Have I mentioned that he also scored 100 points in a single game. 100 POINTS!!!!! Some records will never be broken. That stat is probably one of them.
2. Bill Russell
If championships are the measurement of a player’s value than nobody is as valuable as Bill Russell and his 11 championships. Need more stats? How about 5 time NBA Most Valuable player, 12 time NBA All-Star. 3x All-NBA first team and 2 time NCAA Champion. He is also the undisputed greatest defender in NBA history. The popular argument for him not being #2 is Russell’s playing era had less athletic talent . Ridiculous. Defense is defense. I don’t care what era a player played in. Nobody is going to go down the middle if Bill Russell is standing there. No matter what era he’s playing in. If one can defend the post back then they could certainly defend now.
1. Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Often overlooked as the number 1 player on most all-time lists, it’s mind boggling that the all-time scoring leader should be considered anything less than NUMBER 1. Shouldn’t the all-time leading scorer be considered the greatest scorer in NBA history? Yet most critics always list a certain North Carolina Tar Heel alumni as the greatest scorer. The argument being Jordan had the “intangibles”. Ridiculous. How about these tangibles in favor of Kareem as the greatest basketball player of all time. 6 NBA championships, 3 NCAA Championships, 6 Most valuable player awards. 19 time NBA All-Star, 5 time first team all-defense. #1 all-time in scoring. If you think Kareem was just a scorer he is also #3 All-Time in career rebounds and #3 all-time in career blocks. Many point to Kareem’s longevity as a reason for his impressive statistics. And since when is longevity considered a negative??? Absurd. Go away with the ignorant, unsubstantiated bias. Kareem Abdul Jabbar is the greatest player ever. Period.
Obviously , these opinions are mine and mine alone. But I welcome a healthy debate in the comments down below. I believe I’ve laid out some relevant and substantial points in the justifications of my arguments. But let me know what you think. Let’s hear your list!!!
Also check out the article 5 REASONS WHY THE NBA SUCKS!