NBA: Top 25 Most Winningest Players of All Time (You May Be Surprised!)
The NBA season may be over, but debates over the greatest players past and present are always alive and well. In the following slideshow, I will discuss which NBA greats are the most winningest, which is a crucial ingredient to any player's success.
NOTE: These rankings are based off of a series of calculations of wins per 48 minutes and total minutes, all available in this chart (credit to Arturo). For any questions and concerns regarding how accurate these stats are, please visit this page.
Some of these stats have changed since the chart was created last year. I've done the calculations myself for current players and adjusted their values to create this list.
No. 25: Patrick Ewing, New York Knicks
Surprised? I can understand why. However, wins produced is much more accurate when considering player efficiency in terms of wins. It takes into account more factors than just scoring:
- Points per field goal attempt
- Free throw percentage
- Personal fouls
- Blocked shots
With all this in mind, we see that Ewing has a career wins produced per 48 minutes (WP48) percentage of .203.
This means that out of all the wins the New York Knicks had from 1985-2002, Ewing contributed 172.0 wins—approximately 9 wins per season.
When stats are viewed this way, it's much easier to see how important one player is to the entire team's success.
Let's keep analyzing!
No. 24: Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)
But wait...isn't Kobe notorious for ball-hogging? Theoretically, this must mean he is responsible for more wins... right?
Well, apparently not.
Before this past season, Kobe wasn't even in the Top 25!
However, after updating his numbers, the Black Mamba slithered his way in.
But in terms of how much he's contributed to wins? Well, last season, he actually contributed the 5th least to Wins for the Lakers, only above these sub-par players:
Kobe actually finishes right behind Derek Fisher.
In terms of his overall career, Kobe is responsible for 172.2 Wins his career, only 11.4 Wins per season.
Keep in mind, the Lakers had 11 50+ Win Seasons with Kobe on the team. So the rest of the team is crucial to Kobe Bryant's success, no matter how much it looks like he's doing all the work.
No. 23: Mark Jackson, Multiple Teams
Mark Jackson loved to jump around from team to team. But what's interesting is that he contributed pretty significantly, considering he was moving around so much.
His numbers aren't really that impressive:
11.5 Pts, 9.5 Ast, 4.6 Rebs 1.5 Stls, on 44 percent shooting (per 36 minutes).
But his wins production tells a different story. Those rebounds, it turns out, were crucial to his team's success, along with the other stats wins production accounts for.
Mark Jackson contributed 174.1 wins parceled out between every team, accounting for 10.2 wins per season.
No 22: LeBron James, Miami Heat
This is by far the best example of how good LeBron James really is. He's only been in the league 9 years and has already surpassed hundreds of players (Steve Nash, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Dirk Nowitzki, to name a few) who have been in the league longer in terms of wins production.
LeBron has been a statsheet-stuffer since day one in the league, putting up monstrous numbers:
24.9 Pts, 6.2 Ast, 6.5 Rebs, 1.6 Steals, 0.8 Blks, on 48.3 percent shooting (per 36 minutes).
But these stats are similar to Kobe Bryant's; in fact in pts Kobe outdoes LeBron (for now).
So why is LeBron already higher than Kobe (16 year veteran) in 9 years?
It's the formula once again. In this case I attribute it to points per FG attempt (which is 5.2% of the wins production score)
Kobe shoots 45.3 percent compared to LeBron's 48.3 percent. This may not seem like a big difference; however, upon further examination we can assume that this discrepancy is due to Kobe's habit of taking a lot of shots.
Kobe Bryant FG Attempted: 22,706
LeBron James FG Attempted: 14,057
Obviously, Kobe has taken so many more shots due to him being in the league 7 years longer than LeBron. However, based on the shooting percentages, it's safe to say that LeBron (so far) picks his shots better, and has a higher FG percentage for that reason—therefore a higher points per FG attempt, resulting in a higher wins production score.
LeBron is responsible for 177.7 wins in his career, which is 25.5 wins per season. This incredible number shows just how valuable LeBron is and—at least by these numbers—not overrated at all (I updated these numbers by adding on last seasons WP40).
In the season with the most wins (2008-2009 Cavs) the team had 66 wins. LeBron was responsible for winning 38.6 percent of those games.
Let that sink in.
No. 21: Shawn Marion, Dallas Mavericks
Shocked? Honestly, I was too. But this is one case where the little things add up, especially shooting efficiency (points per FG attempt), rebounds, steals, blocks, etc.
Shawn Marion has put up decent numbers in his career:
16.5 Pts, 9.2 Rebs, 1.9 Ast, 1.6 Steals, and 1.2 Blks, all on 48.3 percent shooting (same as LeBron).
Shawn Marion's total rebound rate is a more accurate measure of how much his boards mean to the team. It measures what percentage of rebounds the player grabbed when he was on the court.
Shawn Marion's TRR Avg. = 14.6
The league average among forwards = 11.4
As usual, other factors are involved.
Shawn Marion has contributed 184.8 wins in his 13 year career—that's 15.4 games per season.
It looks like the guy with the goofy jump shot is much more important to Dallas Mavericks than you think.
No. 20: Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons
All right, seriously...no way. That's what I thought, and I know inside you're screaming and some of you might have even X'ed out of your browsers by now but for those that stayed, get ready to be surprised by some numbers.
Ben Wallace was a rebounding and blocking machine in his prime.
Averaging 7.0 Pts, 11.8 Rebs, 2.4 Blks, 1.5 Steals, and 1.4 Ast, on 47.4 percent shooting, Ben Wallace shows how important defense really is to a team's success.
Don't forget, the Detroit Pistons were a very successful team in the early 2000's, winning the title (with Ben Wallace on their team) in the 2003-2004 season.
Just how much of those wins were due to Ben Wallace's play? A lot more than you'd think.
Ben Wallace is responsible for 197 wins, and from 2000-2006 Detroit won 304 games.
Believe it or not, Ben Wallace won 64.8 percent of those games for the Detroit Pistons.
You know how the saying goes—defense wins Championships. And I suppose even before that, it wins games.
Ben Wallace is a defensive guru indeed.
No. 19: Buck Williams, New Jersey/Portland
Well, after this article, you might have an even stronger case for that.
Buck Williams had renowned rebounding abilities. Let's look at his stats.
Averages: 14.2 Pts, 11.0 Rebs, 1.4 Ast, 0.9 Steals, and 0.9 Blks on 54.9 percent shooting.
As you can tell, if you've been paying attention, his 54.9 percent shooting and 11 boards a game is what puts him over the edge along with the other factors.
In 17 years, Buck delivered 197.5 wins, which is 11.6 wins per season.
No. 18: Scottie Pippen, Chicago Bulls
It's Robin! Michael Jordan's sidekick shows up right where he belongs, and even higher than some people would guess.
Averaging 16.6 Pts, 5.4 Ast, 6.6 Rebs, 2.0 Steals, and 0.8 Blks, on 47.3 percent shooting, Pippen gives that defensive edge that allows for win production.
Over the course of 17 seasons (mainly with the Chicago Bulls dynasty team), Pippen contributed 198.1 wins, approximately 11.7 wins per season.
Very sidekick-esque...we'll hear from Batman later.
No. 17: Robert Parish, Boston Celtics
Robert Parish was a phenomenal player. He won four championships with the Boston Celtics, and was a nine-time All-Star.
He deserved it too, based on these numbers.
Averages: 18.4 Pts, 11.6 Rebs, 1.7 Ast, 1.0 Steal, 1.9 Blks, on 53.7 percent shooting.
Now that you know the trend, I'm sure you've guessed (from the caption as well) these stats are great for producing wins.
Even with players like Larry Bird and Tiny Archibald on the team, Parish still proved to be more important to the overall success of the team, especially considering how overshadowed he is by Bird's legendary status.
In 20 seasons, Robert Parish produced 207.6 wins, 10.4 wins per season. It may not seem like much, but those 10 wins per year could be the difference between making the playoffs or which playoff berth the Celtics would have gotten.
Very key wins indeed.
No. 16: Dikembe Mutombo, Multiple Teams
Dikembe Mutombo knew how to do two things: Clean the glass, and swat every ball coming towards his basket.
And thus, as defense proves to be the trend, he makes our list, nearing the Top 15.
Mutombo put up monster numbers, though not offensively.
Averages: 11.5 Pts, 12.8 Rebs, and 3.2 Blks, all on 51.8 percent shooting.
''Rebounding, I think that's what makes me be Dikembe Mutombo,'' said the 7-foot-2 Congo native in 2002.
He knew exactly what his role was and played it. This shows just how crucial role players are, and sometimes they can be even more valuable to a team than superstars.
Mutombo produced 208.0 wins in his 18 year career, 11.6 per season.
No. 15: Clyde Drexler, Portland Trail Blazers
It doesn't get smoother than Clyde the Glide. The ten-time All-Star was versatile, able to play both shooting guard and small forward, and he became a Hall of Famer due to his impact on the Portland Trail Blazer's best years.
Averages: 21.3 Pts, 5.9 Ast, 6.4 Rebs, 2.1 Steals, 0.7 Blks all on 47.2 percent shooting.
A statsheet-stuffer indeed, Drexler was also known for his ability to soar or "glide" to the basket, making for a very good FG percentage, especially for a man who took 21.5 percent of Portland's shots in some years.
Clyde Drexler delivered a whopping 222.9 wins in his 15 year career, responsible for 14.9 wins per season.
No. 14: Moses Malone, Multiple Teams
His total averages: 21.5 Pts, 13.0 Rebs, and 1.4 Blks on nearly 50 percent shooting (49.5).
The man's total averages would be even higher, had it not been for his last few seasons as he neared retirement.
When it's all said and done, Malone can take credit for producing 237.1 wins, 13.2 wins per season.
No. 13: Dennis Rodman, Chicago Bulls
For your viewing pleasure (and if you also want to learn how to be a legendary rebounder), take a look at some of Rodman's top plays here.
Rodman over Pippen? Blasphemy!
Well, not in this category. Rodman was a presence on the court through his defensive ability, and...well, his hair too.
And my oh my, the rebounds. Rodman had one season where he averaged 18.9 rebounds!
Averages: 8.3 Pts, 14.9 Rebs, 2.0 Ast, on 52.1 percent shooting.
Dennis is one of the greatest defensive players that the game has ever seen. He was a very multidimensional player in terms of his defending and he was a ferocious rebounder. Dennis was also a very intelligent player with a high basketball IQ.
Statistically, so many of the things Dennis did wouldn’t show up in the box scores or record books. He understood the game and he did what it took to win. When you look at what he accomplished as a pro, the first thing that you see is he’s a five-time NBA champion—twice with Detroit and three times in Chicago. He brought a lot to the table on each of those teams as a major contributor. - Scottie Pippen.
Dennis Rodman is the definition of a role player. Not only was he a brilliant rebounder, but he did things that aren't measured accurately by basic stats, and certainly not by box scores. By looking at the numbers, you wouldn't think much of Rodman except that he knew how to grab a miss. But his impact on the team was so far beyond those numbers that I believe it can only be accurately measured by wins produced.
Dennis Rodman won 242.6 games with his play, a phenomenal 17.3 wins per season.
Let's look at his years on the Bulls in which they three-peated:
In those three years, the Bulls achieved the best record ever in NBA history—72 wins and 10 losses. The following seasons were also extremely impressive, 69-13 and 62-20 respectively.
Out of those total wins (203), Rodman is responsible for producing 25.6 percent of them.
And that's why he's in the Hall of Fame.
No. 12: David Robinson, San Antonio Spurs
An exceptional player in every sense of the word, Robinson's dominance on the court countered his off-court demeanor, which was extremely friendly and polite.
Averages: 21.8 Pts, 11.0 Rebs, 3.1 Blks, 2.1 Ast, and 1.5 Steals, all on 51.8 percent shooting.
These monster numbers were a driving force for the San Antonio Spurs and their repeated success during the 90's. After winning two NBA Championships, Robinson retired in 2003, but not before winning multiple accolades alongside Tim Duncan, including an astounding 71-point game (tied with Elgin Baylor for 8th All-Time most pts scored in single game).
In terms of wins produced, Robinson delivered 250.2, all to the Spurs. That's an average of 17.9 per season.
The most important achievement of all, though, is likely his Olympic gold medal, achieved with the 1992 Dream Team.
Robinson has played in more Olympic basketball games (24) than any other player in USA Basketball history. He also holds the record for most total points (280) over an Olympic career, as well as rebounds (124), and blocks (34). He's also fifth all-time in steals (28), and recorded the most blocks in a single competition (19) in the '88 Olympics. - Jordan Rivas, Project Spurs.
A winner in every sense of the word as well.
No. 11: Shaquille O'Neal, Multiple Teams
Where to begin with the great Kazaam? Shaquille O'Neal is one of the most celebrated characters ever to play the game of basketball. Not only was he a phenomenal player, but he warmed the hearts of millions who watched him with his humor, likability, and demeanor. In addition to basketball, Shaq was known to delve into acting, rapping, and much much more. He may be the most syndicated basketball player ever, in terms of entertainment.
As entertaining as he is, let's look at the numbers.
Averages: 24.6 Pts, 11.2 Rebs, 2.6 Ast, and 2.3 Blks, all on 58.2 percent shooting.
That gives Shaquille O'Neal has the highest effective field goal percentage ever.
These are easily the reasons behind not only his win production success, but his four NBA Championships as well.
Shaq dished out 253.0 wins over the course of 19 years, resulting in 13.3 wins per season.
No. 10: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
"He is not flashy. He is underappreciated. And he always seemed willing to defer. But Duncan quietly dominated and did everything for his team he could do. If a post player ever could have been a point guard in a half court offense, Duncan might be it. He had the complete package: Extremely patient in the post, an incredible passer, a superb defender and a consummate teammate. His titles might be forgotten as time goes by as somewhere between the Shaq/Kobe titles and whatever era comes next. But the Spurs were consistent and Duncan was the head of it." - Philip Rossman-Reich, Orlando Magic Daily
The above quote says it best, Tim Duncan could be the most underrated player in NBA History to casual fans. The sports community understands that Tim Duncan has likely landed himself a spot in the top 15 all-time player list, however, due to his lack of flash, (visible) emotion, and just his overall demeanor.
He had the opposite attitude of most superstars. When compared to a LeBron James or a Karl Malone even, Duncan has been labeled "boring" by many casual fans.
Well, these numbers aren't boring at all:
Averages: 20.6 Pts, 11.5 Rebs, 3.1 Ast (wow!), and 2.3 Blks all on a spectacular 50.7 percent shooting percentage.
And don't forget about his accolades (courtesy of Hoopsmanifesto)
- Four-time NBA Champion
- Three-time NBA Finals MVP
- Two-time NBA MVP
- 13-time All-NBA selection
- 13-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection
- 13-time NBA All-Star
- NBA Rookie of the Year
- NBA All-Rookie Team
- ninth all-time in defensive rebounds in NBA history
- ninth all-time in blocks in NBA history
The Big Fundamental is responsible for producing 258.7 wins, passing Shaq just this past season. Tim Duncan wins about 18.5 games per season. In all his years with the Spurs (15 seasons) he's won 36 percent of all games.
No. 9: Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets
Hakeem Olajuwon, inventor of The Dream Shake (trust me, worth watching).
But why was it so effective? What made it good?
It's the ability to get the defensive player to jump out of his socks, almost literally. This allowed for a clean look at the basket and a high percentage look to score and give your team an edge to win.
And that's why he's number nine on our Top 25 Winner list.
Averages: 21.8 Pts, 11.1 Rebs, 3.1 Blks, 2.5 Ast, all on 51.2 percent shooting. (These numbers would have been even higher had he not fizzled out towards the end of his career).
Wins produced: 261.8, which is 14.5 per season.
No. 8: Larry Bird, Boston Celtics
The Hick from French Lick (dusted off an oldie) is and will forever be a legend.
In 12 years, Larry Bird led the Boston Celtics to three NBA Championships and put the team on the Top 10 Winningest NBA Teams list, alongside the near-perfect '95-'96 Bulls.
Bird's Celtics went 67-15 in '85-'86, and were a very successful franchise each other year with Bird on the team.
But how much of those wins were due to Larry? Let's look at his numbers.
Averages: 22.8 Pts, 9.4 Rebs, 6.0 Ast, 1.6 Steals, all on 49.6 percent shooting.
These are amazing, amazing numbers for somewhat of an undersized forward—especially the assists.
Bird had the record for most assists for a forward in a season—with 7.6—before LeBron James came in and shattered it with 8.5.
Nevertheless, stunning numbers from a forward.
So Larry was a team player, a great rebounder, and a spectacular shooter. Sounds like a formula for win production.
Wins produced: 262.8, 20.2 per season. In all his years with the Celtics, Bird was responsible for 32.3 percent of all wins.
No. 7: Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Michael Jordan. What is there to say that hasn't been said?
He was a six-time NBA Champion, an Olympic gold medalist on the Dream Team, 14-time All-Star, Hall of Famer...the greatest player to ever play the game.
But this is one list Michael Jordan won't top.
It seems that Batman did have a significant amount of help from Robin (Scottie Pippen) and even more help (to much surprise) from...Alfred? (Dennis Rodman)
Averages: 28.3 Pts, 4.9 Ast, 5.9 Rebs, 2.2 Steals, 0.8 Blks (wow), all on a sparkling 49.7 percent shooting.
For a player that took as many shots as Jordan did (24,537 FGA - 3rd All-Time), to be able to make very close to half of those shots is absolutely mind-blowing.
Though, since Jordan did have so much help from Pippen, Rodman and others, he lands at the 7th spot on our Top 25 Winners list, which is still incredible, so don't worry, Jordan.
Wins produced: 283.6, 18.9 per season. So if you remember the last slide, in terms of wins produced, Larry Bird was more valuable to the Boston Celtics, than Jordan was to the Bulls (only slightly though).
No. 6: Karl Malone, Utah Jazz
Karl Malone is arguably the best player the Jazz have ever had. He is still in top 10 lists for multiple categories such as points in a career, rebounds in a career, etc. For these reasons, he's made such an impact on his team with his numbers, and through the wins produced formula, has had the right stats to land himself sixth on our Winningest of All Time list.
Averages: 24.2 Pts, 9.8 Rebs, 3.4 Ast, 1.4 Steals, 0.8 Blks, all on 51.6 percent shooting.
As second all-time in field goals attempted, we can see the main reason why Karl Malone is this high on the list—the points per FGA stat in our formula. With that 51 percent shooting average, Malone is one player who just doesn't know how to miss. Along with the rebounds and other categories, he's rocketed his way up the list.
Wins produced: 291.6, 15.3 per season.
No. 5: Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers
Magic is just that, magic. His numbers are impeccable, his drive to win was incredible, and his win production, immeasurable...well, until now.
Many fans and analysts put Magic at the No. 1 or No. 2 spot on their All-Time Best lists; however, neither Jordan nor Magic are No. 1 on this list!
Averages: 19.2 Pts, 11.0 Ast, 1.9 Steals, on 52.0 percent shooting.
The shooting percentage is remarkable. However, Magic Johnson is only 139th on the All-Time FGA list.
This makes Johnson's shooting percentage all the more impressive.
In terms of wins produced: 297.3, or 22.9 per season. Magic Johnson has the highest per game wins on the list—only Larry Bird and LeBron James come close.
Magic Johnson was responsible for 37.1 percent of the Lakers' wins between '79-'96.
That's "magic" indeed.
No. 4 Jason Kidd (New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks)
Jason Kidd won 297.9 games in his career. Actually, last year, Kidd was just sixth on the list—however, after this season, he's jumped up all the way to fourth.
Why? Well, being eighth on the All-Time Assist leaders list helps. Given that Kidd has been in the league so long, those nine assists per game (8.9 per 36 minutes) has added up. Also, Kidd is second all-time in steals, right behind John Stockton.
These and other stats have accumulated into our formula and determined that Jason Kidd is responsible for producing 297.9 wins, which is nearly 18 wins per season.
Jason Kidd is one of the most successful point guards ever to play the game, which finally culminated in a championship for him last year, with the Dallas Mavericks.
Averages: 12.8 Pts, 8.9 Ast, 1.9 Steals, 6.3 Rebs (great for a PG), on 40 percent shooting.
No. 3: Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves/Boston Celtics
Kevin Garnett delivered a whopping 301.9 wins in 17 seasons. He's the first in our list to crack the 300 mark, and he's landed himself the position of 3rd Winningest Player of All Time.
Garnett has won top accolades in his lengthy NBA stint. He's been put on list after list of top PFs ever to play the game, he's won a very hard-earned championship with the Boston Celtics as part of the original "Big Three," and he's a 14-time All-Star.
The original Big Three...well, more like the Big One I suppose. To be fair, Paul Pierce appears on the list at number 30, and Ray Allen appears at number 39, so in essence, yes, the fairly Big Two, and the really Big One is a more apt (but much worse sounding) name.
Nevertheless, let's see his numbers.
Averages: 19.1 Pts, 10.5 Rebs, 4.0 Ast, 1.5 Blks, and 1.3 Steals, all on 49.9 percent shooting.
Garnett is also high on the All-Time Field Goal Attempts list (No. 19), so his 50 percent FG rating is almost as astounding as Michael Jordan's (though not quite).
"Garnett is going to likely go down as another underappreciated player in league history. He has become the heart and soul of the Celtics' rebirth recently. But his time in Minnesota should be looked at much more fondly. He did everything for the Timberwolves. He was the league's top rebounder and a hard-driving teammate. He was extremely good, using his wiry athletic frame anyway you could imagine." -Philip Rossman-Reich, Orlando Magic Daily
Rossman-Reich puts it well in that, while Boston was the catalyst for a championship, Garnett's real shining moments were on the Timberwolves, where he carried the team. In fact, he may be the third best definition for carrying the team based on our list.
Garnett produced 301.9 wins, roughly 19 wins per season.
No. 2: John Stockton, Utah Jazz
John Stockton comes up as the 2nd Winningest Player of All Time on our list.
In 19 years, John Stockton led Utah to several finals, but he and Karl Malone were overshadowed by an amazing Bulls dynasty and never won a championship.
They did get a lot of wins, however.
Averages: 14.9 Pts, 11.9 Ast, 3.1 Rebs, 2.5 Steals, all on 51.5 percent shooting.
Same as with Magic, Stockton isn't high on the All-Time FGA list, but still a great shooting percentage nonetheless.
Wins production: A ridiculous 311.1 wins, 16.4 wins per season.
Stockton and Malone combined were responsible for about 62.3 percent of the Utah Jazz's wins from '85-'03.
I think that's a better Batman and Robin duo.
No. 1: Charles Barkley, Phoenix Suns/Philadelphia Sixers
Charles Barkley is the Winningest Player of All Time.
How did he do it?
Averages: 21.7 Pts, 11.5 Rebs, 3.9 Ast, 1.5 Steals, 0.8 Blks, all on 54.1 percent shooting.
Barkley is in the top 50 for most FG attempted, making his FG percentage pretty legitimate.
Barkley produced an unbelievable 313.6 wins in his career, 19.6 wins per season.
Charles Barkley is always in the conversation for best PF of all time, but the winningest player of all time?
Based on wins production, Sir Charles, you have been knighted: No. 1 All-Time.
Congratulations, you finally beat out Jordan and Magic at something!
Give it up for Charles Barkley!