Dirk Nowitzki and the 20 Greatest Players To Ever Play the Game
It's an elite class filled with numerous All-Stars, MVPs and NBA champions. Where Nowitzki stands? We'll you'll just have to find out.
So here are the top 20...
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20. Clyde Drexler
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Clyde "The Glide" Drexler was a sight to behold in his playing days. One of the more underrated scorers in the history of the game, Drexler could light up the scoreboard on any given night. A smooth shooting guard out of the University of Houston, Drexler made the Blazers relevant in his playing days.
He earned his nickname "The Glide" through his magnificent drives to the basket, which resulted in smooth dunks and beautifully crafted layups. His game just had a velvet smooth feel to it. But don't mistake that for a lack of drive. Drexler did more than enough to warrant himself as one of the game's greats.
His accolades include being a 10-time NBA All-Star, Olympic gold medalist, two-time All-NBA Third Team, two-time All-NBA Second Team, one-time All-NBA First Team and an NBA championship in 1995 as a member of the Houston Rockets.
Drexler was one of the better all-around wing players the league had ever seen, as evidenced by his 20.4 points per game average, along with more than five-and-a-half assists and six rebounds a game.
19. Moses Malone
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Moses Malone, who was the first player to ever be drafted straight out of high school, paved the way for future high-school-to-NBA-ers like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady and Jermaine O'Neal.
A dominating inside presence for many teams, most notably the Houston Rockets, Malone punished opposing big men in the paint with his ruthless playing style. He had a knack for rebounding the ball as evidenced by his 12.2 rebounds per game average and amassing over 17,000 rebounds over the span of a 19-year career.
Malone did more than enough in his career to validate a spot not only as one of the 50 greatest players to ever play the game, but even top 20. His accomplishments include being a 13-time NBA All-Star, three-time NBA MVP, four-time All-NBA First Team, four-time All-NBA Second Team, NBA All-Defense First and Second team, a Finals MVP and a championship in 1983 to top it all off.
Malone is not only of the best big men to play the game, but also one of the top 20 players to ever play.
18. Julius Erving
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Dr. J. That should say it all.
Julius Erving was not only one of the best to ever play the game, but also the game's first global high-flyer. His revolutionary dunks gave way to future dunkers such as Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins.
Dr. J was an assassin on the court with his spectacular drives that ended in monster dunks on opposing players. His "play above the rim" style, which he translated from the ABA to the NBA, brought the game to a whole new level. He was a lethal scorer, so much so that if you combined his ABA and NBA totals, he would be the fifth-highest scorer in professional basketball history with 30,026 points.
Erving's NBA-ABA accolades combined are endless but strictly talking about just NBA, they include being an 11-time NBA All-Star, one-time NBA MVP, two-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, five-time All-NBA First Team, two-time All-NBA Second Team and an NBA championship.
17. Jerry West
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The Logo. Period
One of the best scorers the game has ever seen. West didn't wow anybody with his athleticism but he was about as crafty as they come. His shooting was also spot-on, as he could light it up from just about anywhere. (If the three-point line had existed in his time, West would undoubtedly be one of the better three-point shooters of his time).
Alongside Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain, West did some major damage and racked up the achievements. He was a 12-time NBA All-Star, 10-time All-NBA First Team, two-time All-NBA Second Team, four-time All-Defensive First Team, one-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, one-time NBA Finals MVP and won an NBA championship in 1972.
West is one of the best shooting guards in NBA history and unquestionably one of the top 20 players the game has ever seen.
16. Isiah Thomas
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Thomas was a revolutionary point guard. A score-first point guard, he paved the way for the likes of Derrick Rose, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. Thomas could score better than any point guard in his time.
He was a 6'1" beast on the court. With arguably the best handles in the league at his time, Thomas wreaked havoc on the court with his ruthless drives and nifty finishes around the basket. His scoring is what set him apart from other point guards but he could also dish the rock like few others could. "Zeke" ended his career with averages of over 19 points per game, while averaging over nine assists a game as well.
His accomplishments include being a 12-time NBA All-Star, two-time All-Star Game MVP, three-time All-NBA First Team, two-time All-NBA Second Team, one-time Finals MVP and a two-time NBA champion.
15. Charles Barkley
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The Round Mound of Rebound.
Sir Charles was a bit undersized for the PF position at only 6'4" (according to him—he's listed at 6'6") but he more than made it up with his play. His ferocious rebounding is evidenced by his career rebound average of 11.7 rebounds per game. Barkley could also score the rock better than most big man, with a career average of over 22 points per game.
Barkley was easily one of the better power forwards in his time and played the game with an unmatched motor. He was one of the few big men at his time who could grab a defensive rebound, run the length of the court and finish the play with a powerful dunk. Barkley had a unique skill set, as he could score in various ways with fadeaways and spin moves. He could also dish the ball and rebound better than most players.
Barkley is the shortest player to ever lead the league in rebounding when he averaged 14.6 rebounds per game during the 1986-87 season.
His career accomplishments include being an 11-time NBA All-Star, five-time All-NBA First Team, five-time All-NBA Second Team, one-time All-NBA Third Team, one-time NBA All-Star Game MVP and one-time NBA MVP.
The only thing he wasn't able to accomplish during his 17-year career was the coveted NBA championship.
14. John Stockton
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One of the game's great point guards. Stockton, in his playing days, was without question the best point guard in league.
His unselfish play led to him putting up ridiculous assist numbers as he averaged 10.5 assists per game over his career and amassed more assists than any other player in NBA history with 15,806. He averaged an NBA-record 14.5 assists per game in a season and recorded more than 1,000 assists for seven seasons.
Stockton's elite defensive abilities also set him apart as he recorded more steals (3,265) than any other player in NBA history over his long career. He was the prototypical point guard by which other point guards were measured. Not only was his passing ability superior than any other's in the league, but he could also score the ball. His shooting from the outside was impeccable and together with Karl Malone, he wreaked havoc in his playing days.
Stockton was a 10-time NBA All-Star, two-time All-NBA First Team, six-time All-NBA Second Team, three-time All-NBA Third Team, five-time All-NBA Defensive Second Team and one-time All-Star Game MVP. Stockton got to the NBA Finals twice but was unable to win either time.
13. Karl Malone
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"The Mailman" is arguably the greatest power forward to ever step foot on an NBA court. His vast skill set was superior than most power forwards at his time. With his incredible size and strength, he was able to score in the post at will, and he could stretch out the defense to about 15 feet with his deadly mid-range jump shot.
Together with Stockton, Malone formed one of the deadliest pick-n-roll combos in NBA history. When it was all said and done, Malone amassed the second-most points in NBA history with over 36,000, as well as making the most free throws in NBA history with over 7,000 above the likes of Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.
Malone was a 14-time NBA All-Star, 11-time All-NBA First Team, two-time All-NBA Second Team, one-time All-NBA Third Team, three-time All-Defensive First Team, two-time All-Star Game MVP and two-time NBA MVP. Just like his partner in crime, John Stockton, Malone was not able to complete his career with an NBA championship. However, it still doesn't take away from his greatness.
12. Dirk Nowitzki
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Dirk Nowitzki is without a doubt the greatest European player to ever play in the NBA. He is also one of the greatest shooters in the history of the game, and perhaps the greatest seven-foot shooter the league has ever seen.
His unique skill set has made him a nightmare matchup for opposing forwards throughout his 13-year career. Nowitzki has arguably the most unstoppable move in the NBA today with his one-legged fadeaway. He's a lethal jump shooter and dangerous from just about anywhere on the court. Offensively, there are only a few in his class, as Nowitzki is an offensive juggernaut with his fadeaways, spins, turnarounds and off-balance shots. Added to that, Nowitzki is also a dead-eye free-throw shooter.
His career isn't over yet, as Nowitzki is still in his prime but he is already a 10-time NBA All-Star, four-time All-NBA First Team, five-time All-NBA Second Team, two-time All-NBA Third Team, one-time NBA MVP, one-time NBA Finals MVP and most important of all, is an NBA champion.
11. Shaquille O'Neal
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The Big Diesel, The Big Aristotle, The Big Cactus, The Big Shamrock.
Whatever you want to call him, Shaquille O'Neal is without a doubt one of the 20 greatest to ever play the game. His sheer size allowed him to dominate the NBA in the modern era like no other center. His powerful dunks and easy putbacks put a huge strain on the opposing teams to employ a tactic to stop him, infamously called the Hack-A-Shaq.
O'Neal is one of the best scorers in the game, with his career scoring average over 23 points and is fifth on the all-time scoring list. His rebounding also set him apart, as Shaq dominated the boards and finished his career with a rebounding average of over 11 a game.
Shaq's accolades speak for themselves, as he is a 15-time NBA All-Star, eight-time All-NBA First Team, two-time All-NBA Second Team, four-time All-NBA Third Team, three-time All-Defensive Second Team, Rookie Of the Year, three-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, one-time NBA MVP, three-time NBA Finals MVP and a four-time NBA champion.
10. Tim Duncan
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Arguably the greatest power forward in the game, Tim Duncan has done some serious damage since he first came into the league back in '97.
"The Big Fundamental" has one of the most basic games in the league, but it's as effective as can be. He's dominated opposing big men throughout his career with his sound post game, unique bank shots and a high basketball IQ. Duncan is one of the smartest players in the game, which is why he's still effective even at age 35.
What he's accomplished over his career is something few others have. Duncan is a 13-time NBA All-Star, Rookie Of the Year, nine-time All-NBA First Team, three-time All-NBA Second Team, one-time All-NBA Third Team, eight-time All-Defensive First Team, five-time All-Defensive Second Team, one-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, two-time NBA MVP, three-time NBA Finals MVP and a four-time NBA champion.
Truly one of the 20 greatest players to ever play the game.
9. Hakeem Olajuwon
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In my eyes, the greatest center to ever play the game.
"The Dream" dominated the post like few others. His post game is by far the greatest of any other big man. He could juke guys left and right with his Dream Shake and could score down low in a variety of ways. He pretty much dominated every center he played against including the likes of David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Shaquille O'Neal.
Olajuwon was a truly gifted scorer and finished his career with over 26,000 points. He was an even better defensive player, namely a blocker and finished his career with the most blocked shots in NBA history with over 3,800.
The Dream's accolades include being a 12-time NBA All-Star, six-time All-NBA First Team, three-time All-NBA Second Team, three-time All-NBA Third Team, five-time All-NBA Defensive First Team, four-time All-NBA Defensive Second Team, one-time NBA MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP and a two-time NBA champion.
"The Dream" is without a doubt one of the top 10 greatest players to ever play the game.
8. Kobe Bryant
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Kobe Bean Bryant.
Probably the closest thing we have ever seen to Michael Jordan
What more needs to be said that hasn't been already? Kobe is easily one of the top 10 greatest players to ever step foot on an NBA hardwood. He's as deadly of a scorer as they come, and even though he's slowed down a bit with age, he can still get it done.
But in his prime? Forget about it. Bryant could light up defenses from just about anywhere, as evidenced by his ridiculous 81-point game vs. the Toronto Raptors (second-most in NBA history).
He's got a deadly mid-range game, superb three-point shot, a polished post game and amazing footwork. Bryant is also a crafty defender who can lock up opposing players whenever he decides. As far as clutch factor, Bryant is still the best in the business. When the game is on the line, there is no better player to give it to than Kobe.
Entering his 15th season, Bryant is already a 13-time NBA All-Star, two-time NBA scoring champion, nine-time All-NBA First Team, two-time All-NBA Second Team, two-time All-NBA Third Team, nine-time All-NBA Defensive First Team, two-time All-NBA Defensive Second Team, four-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, one-time NBA MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP and a five-time NBA champion.
When it's all said and done, Bryant could be one of the top five greatest to ever play the game.
7. Oscar Robertson
"The Big O."
Many don't remember Robertson, as he played before the modern era. But just by glancing at his career statistics, you can tell Robertson was a beast. He is still to this day the only NBA player to ever average a triple-double in an entire season when he averaged 30.8 points, 11.4 assists and 12.5 rebounds per game in the 1961-62 NBA season.
Robertson is without a doubt one of the best all-around talents the league has ever seen. He came close to averaging a triple-double numerous times in his career. In fact, his average over his first five seasons is a triple-double with 30.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 10.6 assists, which is simply absurd if you think about it.
Robertson racked up many achievements including being a 12-time NBA All-Star, nine-time All-NBA First Team, two-time All-NBA Second Team, NBA Rookie Of the Year, three-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, one-time NBA MVP and a one-time NBA champion.
6. Bill Russell
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The father of defense.
Bill Russell is without a doubt the best defensive player this league has ever seen, and he paved the way for future defensive big men such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.
Russell was an absolute beast on the court. An insanely gifted shot-blocker and rebounder, Russell was the key cornerstone of the Celtics dynasty back before the modern era. He tallied an insane 21,620 rebounds over his illustrious career. To this day, Russell's defense and rebounding have been unmatched.
He just had a will to win and over his career, he was a 12-time NBA All-Star, three-time All-NBA First Team, eight-time All-NBA Second Team, one-time NBA All-Defensive First Team, one-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, five-time NBA MVP and a record 11-time NBA champion.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
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Mr. Sky Hook.
Kareem had the most unstoppable move in basketball with the skyhook. He is unquestionably one of the greatest big men this league has seen. He set numerous records throughout his career and is still the leader in most points scored in NBA history with 38,387.
Abdul-Jabbar wreaked havoc the minute he set foot on an NBA court. His smooth post game was no match for opposing bigs who did all they could to guard him. Abdul-Jabbar scored easily inside, blocked shots with a ferocity and rebounded like few other.
At the time of his retirement, Abdul-Jabbar was the NBA's all-time leader in points scored, games played, minutes played, field-goals made, field-goal attempts, blocked shots and defensive rebounds.
Over his long 20-year career, Abdul-Jabbar racked up an astonishing amount of accolades. He was a record 19-time NBA All-Star, 10-time All-NBA First Team, five-time All-NBA Second Team, five-time All-NBA Defensive First Team, six-time All-Defensive Second Team, NBA Rookie Of the Year, two-time NBA Finals MVP, six-time NBA MVP (record) and a six-time NBA champion.
A top-five player of all time without a doubt.
4. Wilt Chamberlain
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The Big Dipper.
A statistical beast like no other.
Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain set record after record throughout his career. He is by far and away the most dominating inside presence the NBA has ever seen. He is the only player in NBA history to average more than 40 points in a season, when he averaged a ridiculous 50.4 points per game. He holds the record for most points scored in a single NBA game with 100. He also won seven scoring, nine field-goal percentage and 11 rebounding titles, and even led the league in assists once.
Chamberlain was a dominating inside presence. He could score at will and he usually did. Rarely did he set outside the paint, as he was a poor free-throw shooter. But in terms of scoring, few even come close. Chamberlain was a gifted rebounder and still has the most total rebounds in NBA history with over 23,000.
His achievements include being a 13-time NBA All-Star, seven-time scoring champion, 11-time rebounding champion, NBA Rookie Of the Year, seven-time All-NBA First Team, three-time All-NBA Second Team, two-time All-Defensive First Team, NBA All-Star Game MVP, four-time NBA MVP and two-time NBA champion.
Chamberlain is top four without question.
3. Larry Bird
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One of the most unique talents to be ever witnessed.
Bird was a do-it-all type of player. Even though he wasn't the most athletic player on the court, he was crafty. He could shoot the lights out, rebound effectively, dish the ball like a point guard and run the floor with the best of 'em. Larry Bird was a gifted scorer and shooter, averaging over 24 points per game over his career. He was a great rebounder as well, averaging 10 a game, and also averaged over six assists a game over his career.
Bird was a complete player and the head of the snake of the '80s Celtics teams. Together with Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, Bird led the Celtics to three NBA titles. His shooting was what really set him apart, as Bird was a lethal three-point shooter and won the NBA three-point shootout on several occasions.
In terms of clutch ability, Bird was up there in elite status. When the Celtics needed a basket in crunch time, everyone—including the defense—knew who the ball was going to. And they still couldn't stop Bird, who hit numerous clutch baskets and game-winners throughout his legendary career.
His many achievements include being a 12-time NBA All-Star, nine-time All-NBA First Team, one-time All-NBA Second Team, three-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team, NBA Rookie Of the Year, three-time Three-Point Shootout champion, three-time NBA MVP(all three in a row), three-time NBA Finals MVP and a three-time NBA champion.
2. Magic Johnson
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Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
The man who revolutionized the point guard position.
Never had a player as tall as Magic (6'9") played the point guard position, and play it so well. Magic was as gifted of a passer as they come. He threw no-look, behind the back, around the back, elbow, chest, overhead—you name it. If there was a type of pass, Magic threw it. He finished his career with the fourth-most assists in NBA history with over 10,000 and finished with an assist average of 11.2 per game.
Magic's unique ability on the court was on showcase every game, as he was the main showman in the Lakers "Showtime" run-and-gun era. He would rebound the ball, lead the fast break and throw an amazing pass to a teammate in which the defense would be forced to do nothing but watch in amazement. At 6'9", Magic was and still is the greatest point guard to ever play the game.
His numerous accolades include being a 12-time NBA All-Star, nine-time All-NBA First Team, one-time All-NBA Second Team, two-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, three-time NBA MVP, three-time NBA Finals MVP and a five-time NBA champion.
Magic Johnson is top three without question.
1. Michael Jordan
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His Airness, Air Jordan, Flight No. 23.
Michael Jordan is still, to this day, the greatest player to ever play the game. There isn't much to be said that hasn't been already. He revolutionized not just his position but the entire NBA and put the league on the map in terms of worldwide popularity. He is a global icon and the most marketable athlete in all of sports.
Jordan did what few others could ever do. He dominated every game he played. He had no weakness—scoring (check), rebounding (check), passing (check), defense (check), clutch (double-check).
Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to ever play the game, as he is tied with Wilt Chamberlain for the highest points per game average with 30.1 a game. He could score at will from anywhere on the court. His plays would usually finish in ferocious high-flying dunks. His defense was suffocating for opposing guards and he is far and away the most clutch player the league has ever seen. He hit numerous game-winning shots over his illustrious career.
His achievements are jaw-dropping, as Jordan was a 14-time NBA All-Star, 10-time scoring champion (record), 10-time All-NBA First Team, one-time All-NBA Second Team, nine-time All-Defensive First Team, one-time Defensive Player of the Year, NBA Rookie Of the Year, two-time Slam Dunk champion, three-time All-Star Game MVP, five-time NBA MVP, six-time NBA Finals MVP and six-time NBA champion.
No question about it, Jordan was and still is the greatest.
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