There has been much debate recently as to whether or not Kobe Bryant is a better basketball player than Michael Jordan. While researching for this list, I came to the decision that I would not stir up that hornets' nest.
This list is based on a number of things: amount of time in the league, point production and other statistics, impact on their era, and NBA titles.
To prevent the outbursts that will come if I don’t explain myself, both Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are not on this list because neither has been in the league for more than twelve years.
Without further ado, let's dive in:
10. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Born in the Virgin Islands, Duncan was drafted first overall by the San Antonio Spurs in 1997.
Duncan has been the leader of the Spurs for years now and is known above all for his great consistency. He is also widely known for his defensive ability, and for being a very clutch player in the Playoffs. He has brought championship trophies to San Antonio in 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007.
He leads a team that is generally known as a "boring" team to watch and Duncan is known to complain to the referees. NBA experts label him as one of the best power forwards of all time.
He is still an active NBA player, and has career averages of 21.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game.
9. Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors
Son of a cement mixer from Nigeria, Olajuwon went to college in Houston, Texas. He had a standout career there, and was drafted first overall by the Houston Rockets in the 1984 NBA Draft—ahead of Michael Jordan.
Olajuwon was known for his skills on both the offensive and defensive sides of the court. He is remembered for being very clutch, especially in the Playoffs. He was also known for his footwork and skill around the basket.
He had a career average of 21.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. He also led the Houston Rockets to two championships in 1994 and 1995.
8. Shaquille O'Neal, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns
Shaquille O'Neal was drafted first overall by the Orlando Magic in the 1992 NBA Draft. O'Neal won the 1993 NBA Rookie of the Year award while with the Magic.
O'Neal has been known to miss some of the NBA season due to injuries. Despite that, he was obviously the leader of the Los Angeles Lakers, as his demands for a shooter landed him Glen Rice.
Paired with teenage star Kobe Bryant, O'Neal and the Lakers won back-to-back-to-back titles in 2000, 2001, and 2002. O'Neal later won another title in 2006 with the Miami Heat. He is active in the NBA today.
While his poor free-throw shooting ability has been subject to much debate, O'Neal is known firstly for his physical appearance. Standing at 7'1'' and wearing a shoe sized 23, O'Neal dominates the low post wherever he plays. He is not a great defender, but because of his size is pronounced capable.
He has career averages of 25.3 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game.
7. Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals, Milwaukee Bucks
Robertson was drafted by the Cincinnati Royals in the 1960 NBA Draft.
Robertson is regarded as the first “big” guard in the NBA. He is one of the best all-around players in the league, and is often the standard “all-around” players are compared to. Robertson is also considered one of the most versatile players of all time.
He won an NBA Championship in 1971 with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Robertson had career averages of 25.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 9.5 assists per game.
6. Bill Russell, St. Louis Hawks, Boston Celtics
Russell was drafted by the Hawks in 1956, but was traded to the Boston Celtics.
Russell is considered one of the best rebounders of all time. He was not considered a great offensive player, but was very accurate. He had a decade-long rivalry with Wilt Chamberlain. Russell took over for Red Auerbach as a player-coach for the ’66-’67 season. He was involved in eleven NBA Championships.
His career averages are 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game.
5. Earvin 'Magic' Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers
Magic Johnson was drafted by the Lakers in the 1979 NBA Draft, and remained a Laker for his entire 13-year career.
Johnson was listed at 6’9’’, making him the tallest guard in the history of the NBA at that point in time. He is given credit for the term “triple-double” because of his awesome statistics.
While he was known for his astounding passing, his love of the game was also very fun to watch. He always seemed to have a smile on his face.
Magic was involved in five NBA Championships; 1980, ’82, ’85, ’87, and ’88. He averaged 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 11.2 assists per game during his career.
4. Larry Bird, Boston Celtics
Bird was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the 1978 NBA Draft.
Bird may be one of the only players who truly defines consistency. He will always be remembered for his deadly shooting, accurate passing, great defense, and remarkable hustle. Bird was known for jumping over scorers' tables for loose balls.
While Bird only has three Championships (1981, ’84, ’86), he has great career averages. He averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game for his career.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers
Abdul-Jabbar was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1969 NBA Draft.
As the all-time highest scorer in NBA history, Abdul-Jabaar wasn’t embraced by the country until the midpoint in his career. He tended to stay away from the media, but his accomplishments are still great. He is known for his extreme physical fitness, which was way before its time in the NBA. He was also extremely quick and agile for a player who was listed as 7’2’’.
Abdul-Jabaar has six NBA Championships. He averaged 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game throughout his career.
2. Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers
Chamberlain was drafted by the Warriors in the 1959 NBA Draft.
Not only was Chamberlain the first player in NBA history to score 4,000 points in a season, he was also a great passer and rebounder. He consistently led the NBA in scoring, assists, and rebounds. He is most known, however, for his dynamic scoring.
Chamberlain only has two Championships (1967, ’72) but has great career averages. He averaged 30.1 points, 22.9 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game throughout his career.
1. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards
Jordan was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the 1984 NBA Draft.
Jordan redefined the term “superstar” in the NBA. He totally dominated his era, and went beyond stardom to mythic during his career. Even Magic Johnson admits, “there’s Michael Jordan, then there’s the rest of us.” Jordan shattered NBA records during his career. Yet throughout his storied success, he was known for being extremely humble.
His play brought the Bulls six championships as he averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game during his legendary career.
Did I mess up, where did I go wrong? How would you rank the top ten NBA players of all time?
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