Updated: Jul 7, 2020
No. 10 Oscar Robertson
Oscar Robertson was a diverse point guard during an era where the position was expected to be a distributor and not necessarily a scorer. The “Big O” took things a step further, ranking as one of the best rebounding guards of all time. His 181 triple-doubles ranks first in history, with the next closest total coming from Russel Westbrook with 146. Robertson finished his career with one NBA title, an MVP award, and had nine All-NBA first-team honors.
No. 9 Hakeem Olajuwon
Known as “The Dream” during his years with the Houston Rockets in the 80s and 90s, Hakeem Olajuwon might very well have been the second-best player of an era dominated by Michael Jordan.
Olajuwon brought a skill set to the center position not seen before him, changing how the position was played after. Where most players of his size were shooting the patented hook shot, Olajuwon used a bevy of moves in the post with varying finishes. The Rockets won two titles with Olajuwon, with one of those coming during the Nigerian’s MVP season in 1994.
No. 8 Larry Bird
Along with his Lakers rival Magic Johnson, Bird helped salvage the NBA during a time that the league was falling out of favor in popularity among fans. Larry Legend won three titles to match his three MVP awards during his 13-year career. Birdshot 50% from the field overall for his career which helped him become a two-time member of the 50–40–90 club, which requires a player to achieve all three criteria of 50% field goal percentage, 40% three-point field goal percentage and 90% free throw percentage by the end of the regular season.
No. 7 Shaquille O’Neal
Quite possibly the most dominant force in NBA history, Shaquille O’Neal can lay claim to being one of the few players to knock Michael Jordan out of the playoffs as he did with the Orlando Magic in 1995. O’Neal’s career took off with Los Angeles where he won three NBA championships, snagging Finals MVP honors during each. O’Neal added a final championship to his resume as a member of the Miami Heat in 2006. One of the more colorful players in history, Shaq earned All-NBA First Team honors on eight occasions.
No. 6 Magic Johnson
Ervin “Magic” Johnson played the point guard position unlike anyone else in history, with size at the position that is a rarity to this day. Johnson ranks third all-time in triple-doubles with 138. Johnson is one half of the greatest individual rivalry in NBA history, along with Larry Bird. Magic had all the accolades during the 1980s to be considered the best of the decade, winning five titles, three Finals MVPs, and three regular-season MVP awards. Johnson finished his career with an impressive stat line of 19.5 ppg. 7.2 rpg, and 11.2 apg over 13 seasons with the Lakers.
No. 5 Kobe Bryant
Bryant, who’s life was tragically cut short in January of this year, is easily the second greatest shooting guard in the history of the game. Bryant became one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history during a career that spanned three different decades. The Black Mamba was one of the great champions of the game, winning five NBA titles over a 10-year span. He ranks fourth all-time in scoring, ranks 13th all-time in points per game with 25.68, and has the second most All-NBA first team selections with 11.
No. 4 Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain’s career stats look like something out of a video game to put it frankly. The Stilt is most famous for his 100 point game in 1962, but his career included several other mind-boggling numbers. He is one of two players in history to average 30 points per game for their career, and has the most impressive stat line for a single season when he averaged 50.4 ppg, 25.7 rpg during the 1961-62 campaign. Chamberlain had seven seasons where he averaged 33 points or more, which is four more times than Michael Jordan reached the feat during his career.
No. 3 LeBron James
LeBon James is the most unique talent the game has ever seen, and his ranking could change depending on how the remainder of his career plays out. James has the most consecutive NBA Finals appearances of any non-Celtics player with eight. The King has 17 seasons under his belt, and it appears his prime isn’t close to ending any time soon. He has averaged 27.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, and 7.4 apg while playing for three different organizations. He has the most All-NBA fist team selections with 12, has three regular-season MVP awards, and is second all-time in player efficiency rating, and third all time in win shares.
No. 2 Kareem Abdul Jabar
Kareem Abdul Jabar has one of the most decorated careers of any player, and that is without including the three titles he won under John Wooden at UCLA. Known as Lew Alcindor prior to 1968, The Lakers great amassed six NBA championships, six regular-season MVP awards, and made 10 All-NBA first teams during his illustrious career. His 38,387 career points is the highest total in league history, he ranks fourth all-time with 17440 boards, and has the highest win shares total of any player.
No. 1 Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan became a larger than life figure during a career that included two three-peat championship runs with the Chicago Bulls during the 1990’s. MJ’s titles and statistics would be enough to make him the game’s best, but his pop culture status brought him to almost mythological heights. Jordan is one of two players to average 30 ppg for a career, and even at age 40 while playing on a dreadful Washington Wizards team his final season, Jordan average 20 ppg. His competitive fire is unmatched in basketball, and could very well be the case across the entire sports landscape. His Airness is the greatest clutch player of all time, and his numbers during key moments back it up. Jordan’s career field goal percentage when taking the last shot is virtually the same as his overall career shooting percentage of 50%. Jordan’s game had little weaknesses, and if you had to pick where he lacked the most, it was likely his three-point shooting. Still, Jordan shot 33% from range for his career, which was still above the league average almost every year he was in the league. Whether it was what he did for the Bulls, the Dream Team, or basketball as a whole, Jordan’s name reverberates through the history of sports like Babe Ruth or Muhammad Ali.