Keeping his eyes on the ball (above) is defensive mastermind of the 1980's and 1990's Alvin Robertson.
NOTE: STEALS HAVE ONLY BEEN KEPT SINCE 1973-74 SO, SORRY OLD SCHOOL!!!
Big men are usually known for their defensive prowess but guards and shorter players are uniquely qualified to steal the ball from their opponents with speed and precision timing.
A steal is absolutely a turnover by the opoosing team and unlike blocks almost always ends in your own team keeping possession.
I always gauge players by their career per minute production and there are only 12 players in the history of the NBA who averaged at least 1.5 steals a game for their career and recorded at least .060 steals per minute for their careers.
The guys in this list did not go by reputation, they actually produced at a really high clip defensively. You will not see overrated stealers on this list; people like Artest and Pippen were pretty close and others, like Kobe, Payton and P. Pierce were no where near the top 12 greatest stealers of all time!