Top 50 NBA Players Ever: Where Are Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant Now?
Dirk Nowitzki's legacy received a significant boost this postseason when he led his Mavericks to the organization's first NBA title. Along the way, he disposed of both Kobe Bryant's Lakers and LeBron James' Heat.
So where do all three now stand on the ladder of the all-time greats? There's no question that each is among the 50 best players we've ever seen. Are they in the top 20?
Fresh off an incredible 2011 NBA postseason, here are the 50 greatest players in the history of the NBA (before reading this, bear in mind that because of the immense talent of each of these players, the gap between each player is minuscule).
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50. Bob Cousy
Cousy was the prototype for elite point guards for years. He handled and passed the ball as effectively as anyone during the '50s and '60s.
He led the NBA in assists for eight straight seasons from 1952 to 1960. He was a 13-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA first team member and won six titles with the Celtics.
His career averages of 18.4 points and 7.5 assists per game still stack up against today's competition.
49. Reggie Miller
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Reggie Miller is undoubtedly one of the greatest shooters to have ever played the game of basketball. He's known mostly for that, and his many clutch performances, but Miller was a very well-rounded player.
For his career, he averaged 18.2 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds per game. He shot 47 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 89 percent from the free throw line.
He's second all-time in three-point field goals made and attempted, ninth in career free throw percentage, 14th in points scored and sixth in games played.
He was named to five All-Star teams and three All-NBA teams.
He was also the biggest thorn Spike Lee ever had in his side.
48. Ray Allen
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As a member of the Bucks and Sonics, Ray Allen was one of the best shooting guards of his era. He has always been more than just a three-point shooter, though that is obviously his specialty. He's first all-time in threes made and has hit 40 percent of his attempts from downtown.
Allen has averaged 20.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists a game for his career. He's a 10-time All-Star, and he won an NBA title with the Celtics in 2008.
47. Dominique Wilkins
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The "Human Highlight Reel" was about a lot more than just dunks. For his career, he averaged 24.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
He led the league in scoring during the 1985-86 season and was named to nine All-Star teams and seven All-NBA teams.
46. Paul Pierce
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Paul Pierce is a lifetime Celtic whose individual numbers stack up very well against some of the organization's all-time greats.
Over 13 NBA seasons, he's averaged 22.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists a game. He's ninth all-time in career threes made.
Pierce is a nine-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA player, and he won the finals MVP trophy in 2008 after he led the Celtics to a title.
45. Bill Walton
My father played his college ball for the Wyoming Cowboys. He once had the pleasure of playing against Bill Walton and the UCLA Bruins. The 6'11" California native posted 20 points and 20 rebounds on the Pokes...in the first half.
If it wasn't for numerous injuries, Walton could've been much higher on this list. His career averages of 13.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game are much more impressive when you consider the kind of pain he had to play through. He suffered through multiple broken bones in his foot, and the injuries became chronic. They ultimately cut his career short.
Walton definitely left his mark though. He won the awards for Finals MVP in 1977, league MVP in 1978 and Sixth Man of the Year in 1986.
44. Kevin McHale
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Kevin McHale was an integral part of one of the greatest basketball teams the world has ever seen. The inside/out combination of McHale and Larry Bird was very nearly unstoppable.
He won three titles with the Celtics and averaged 17.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game for his career. He achieved his production with a repertoire of post moves that you rarely see in today's NBA.
43. Patrick Ewing
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Patrick Ewing was one of the best centers in the NBA during the '90s. He averaged 21 points and 9.8 rebounds per game over the course of his career.
He was selected to 11 All-Star teams, seven All-NBA teams and three All-Defense teams.
42. Chris Paul
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Chris Paul has played just six seasons in the NBA, but he's already established himself as an historically great point guard. He has almost singlehandedly made the New Orleans Hornets a respectable franchise.
He led the NBA in assists and steals in 2007-08 and 2008-09, and he holds the record for most consecutive games with a steal.
In six years, Paul has played in four All-Star games, been named All-NBA and All-Defense three times and won the Rookie of the Year award in 2006.
His career averages of 18.7 points, 9.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game stack up against any point guard we've ever seen.
41. Scottie Pippen
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Scottie Pippen had the incredible fortune of playing alongside Michael Jordan for much of his career. Together, they won six NBA titles. What Pippen brought to those championship teams was indispensable.
He was named to 10 All-Defense teams, seven All-NBA teams and seven All-Star teams. His career averages are 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists and two steals per game.
He's one of the best wing defenders to have ever played in the NBA, and he was no slouch on offense either.
40. Dave Cowens
Cowens was a staple of the Celtics frontcourt during the '70s and early '80s. He averaged 17.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game for his career.
He was the 1971 Rookie of the Year, the 1973 league MVP and a seven-time All-Star. He won two titles in Boston, in 1974 and 1976.
39. Jerry Lucas
Lucas is yet another dominant post player from an earlier era in NBA history.
He averaged 17 points and 15.6 rebounds per game over 11 seasons in the league. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1964 and the All-Star Game MVP in 1965. He made seven All-Star teams and was named All-NBA five times.
He won a title in 1973 with the New York Knickerbockers.
38. Steve Nash
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Steve Nash will go down in history as one of the engineers of Phoenix's offensive dominance over the last several seasons. He's won the MVP award twice since joining the Suns, and he's led the league in assists five times.
What people don't talk about enough with Nash is his shooting ability. Statistically, he's one of the greatest shooters of all time. For his career, he's hit 49 percent of his field goal attempts, 43 percent of his threes and 90 percent of his free throws.
He's averaged 14.6 points and 8.5 assists per game for his career. If you just count his seven seasons in Phoenix, his averages are 17 points and 11 assists per game.
Even at 37 years old, Nash is one of the best playmakers in basketball.
37. Willis Reed
Willis Reed was a huge part of the only two titles in Knicks history. He was the finals MVP in 1970 and 1973 and the league MVP in 1970.
During his 10-year career, he played in seven All-Star games, was named All-NBA five times and All-Defense once.
He averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds per game for his career.
36. Nate Thurmond
Thurmond was one of the best defensive and rebounding centers in the history of the NBA. He was a seven-time All-Star and was named All-Defense five times.
He averaged 15 points, 15 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game during his career.
35. Walt Frazier
Walt "Clyde" Frazier was another key piece of the Knicks team that won two titles in the early '70s. Combined with Willis Reed, they were one of the best duos of that era.
Frazier was a seven-time All-Star and was named All-NBA six times and All-Defense seven times. He averaged 18.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.9 steals a game during his career.
His steal average would be much higher if the league had kept track of the stat during his whole career. Frazier was a great defender, but steals weren't an official stat until the second half of his career, when his quickness began to deteriorate.
34. George Mikan
George Mikan was one of the pioneers of professional basketball. His Minneapolis Lakers won the Basketball Association of America's last championship in 1949 and four of the the first five NBA championships, including three straight from 1952 to 1954.
In seven seasons of professional basketball, Mikan was named first team All-NBA five times, first team All-BAA once and went to four All-Star games.
He averaged 23.1 points and 13.4 rebounds per game for his career, but Mikan's greatest legacy is perhaps the drill that is named after him. Anyone who played organized basketball knows all about the Mikan drill.
33. Allen Iverson
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When Allen Iverson took the floor for a Turkish professional basketball team called Besiktas (who just signed Deron Williams) last season, he became the first former NBA MVP to play professionally overseas. His last few years in the league were pretty sad to watch, and last season no one wanted his services.
However, there was a time when AI was truly elite. He led the NBA in scoring four times, led the league in steals three times and won the league MVP award in 2001. He was selected to 11 All-Star teams and seven All-NBA teams.
His attitude was often in question, but during his prime, he played as hard as anyone during games (we're not talking about practice).
Even with his not-so-productive last couple years in the league, he averaged 26.7 points, 6.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game for his career.
32. Bob Pettit
Bob Pettit was one of the great centers in the early days of the NBA. He went to the All-Star game for 11 straight years from 1955 to 1965, and he was the MVP of four of those games. He was first team All-NBA for 10 straight years and won the league MVP in 1956 and '59.
He won an NBA championship with the St. Louis Hawks in 1958.
He averaged 26.4 points and 16.2 rebounds per game for his career. He's seventh all-time in player efficiency rating.
31. Clyde Drexler
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Clyde "The Glide" Drexler earned his nickname for his high-flying dunks, but that certainly wasn't the only option he had for scoring. He was extremely gifted offensively and played good defense as well.
A very well-rounded player, Drexler averaged 20.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists and two steals a game for his career. He was a 10-time All-Star and was named to an All-NBA team five times.
He got close to a title in Portland, where he lost in the finals in 1990 and '92. He reunited with college teammate Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston halfway through the '94-95 season and won an NBA championship.
30. Jason Kidd
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Jason Kidd is one of the most complete players of all time. He's an excellent rebounder for a point guard, distributes the ball brilliantly and has developed a great three-point shot late in his career. He's also third all-time in career triple-doubles behind Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.
He's averaged 13.2 points, 9.1 assists, 6.5 rebounds and two steals per game. He hit at least 38 percent from three-point range from 2007 to 2010 (he hit 36 percent last season).
He's been named to 10 All-Star teams, six All-NBA teams and nine All-Defense teams.
He's third all-time in career three-pointers made, third in career steals, second in career assists and seventh in career assists per game.
29. Elvin Hayes
Elvin Hayes was a 12-time All-Star and was named All-NBA six times and All-Defense twice. He won a title with the Washington Bullets in 1978.
For his career, he averaged 21 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. He led the league in rebounding during the 1969-70 season with 16.9 a game and again in the 1973-74 season with 18.1 rebounds per game. He led the league in scoring his rookie season at 28.4 points per game.
28. Isiah Thomas
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Isiah Thomas has always been a polarizing figure, but even his haters can't deny his greatness. He led the Pistons "Bad Boys" to back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990, led the league in assists with 13.9 per game during the 1984-85 season and averaged 19.2 points and 9.3 assists per game for his career.
He was a 12-time All-Star, a five-time All-NBA honoree and won the Finals MVP in 1990.
Thomas has tarnished his already fragile legacy since retiring as a player. He's been horribly unsuccessful in coaching and management. However, on the court, he was one of the best.
27. Charles Barkley
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Charles Barkley may end up being remembered as an analyst as much as a player. His broadcasting career with TNT has been extremely successful, and the younger generation of NBA fans only know him as the funniest member of the Inside the NBA crew.
He's great on TV, but he was fantastic on the floor. For his career, he averaged 22.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. He's also 10th all-time in player efficiency rating.
He was selected to 11 All-Star teams and 11 All-NBA teams and won the league MVP in 1993.
26. Karl Malone
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Karl "The Mailman" Malone delivered in fine fashion for the Utah Jazz from 1985 to 2002. He and John Stockton played together for nearly two decades and formed one of the greatest guard/forward duos of all-time.
For his career, he averaged 25 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. He's second all-time in points scored and seventh in total rebounds.
He was selected to 14 All-Star teams, 14 All-NBA teams and four All-Defense teams, and he won the league MVP twice, once in 1997 and again in 1999.
He never won a title for the same reason many others on this list didn't: That is, he played during the same era as Michael Jordan.
He joined Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal on the Los Angeles Lakers prior to the 2003-04 season in a last-ditch effort to get a ring. The Lakers added one star too many with Gary Payton, and the experiment failed.
25. David Robinson
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David Robinson was one of the most athletic players the NBA has ever known. He is 7'1" and weighed 235 pounds during his playing days. Despite his size, he could move and jump like a small forward. His great athleticism and intense work ethic helped him dominate the NBA throughout the '90s.
He averaged 21.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and three blocks per game for his career. He led the league in rebounding with 13 per game during the 1990-91 season, blocks with 4.5 per game during the '91-92 season and scoring with 29.8 per game during the '93-94 season.
He was selected to 10 All-Star teams, 10 All-NBA teams and eight All-Defense teams. He won the Defensive Player of the Year award in '92 and league MVP in '95.
His career player efficiency rating is fourth all-time.
He won two NBA titles after Tim Duncan joined him in San Antonio. Together, they made for one of the greatest frontcourt combinations of all time.
24. George Gervin
George Gervin is one of the greatest scorers in the history of the league. He's 13th all-time in points and led the league in scoring during four different seasons.
He was a 12-time All-Star and nine-time All-NBA or ABA selection.
He averaged 25.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game for his career.
23. Pete Maravich
Maravich dealt with a great many personal demons during his career, and they most definitely affected his play. If "Pistol" Pete could have confronted and overcome those difficulties earlier than he did in life, he may have been one of the top five to 10 players of all time.
In college, he averaged 44.2 points per game over four seasons under his father and coach, Press Maravich. Expectations from his father, his fans, himself and the rest of the world were unreal following his unparalleled college career.
The pressure affected his game and his life, and he also dealt with various injuries throughout his career.
On the court, he did things no one else dared to, and he did them well. He was something of a magician with the basketball.
He was a five-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA selection. His career averages were 24.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.
22. Elgin Baylor
Despite never winning a championship, Elgin Baylor was one of the greatest players in Lakers history.
He was an 11-time All-Star and was named All-NBA 10 times. His career averages were 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.
His best season came during the 1961-62 campaign, when he averaged 38.3 points and 18.6 rebounds per game.
21. Rick Barry
Rick Barry led the Warriors to their only NBA title since moving from Pennsylvania to California. They won the championship in 1975, and Rick Barry was named the finals MVP.
He was named to 12 All-Star teams and 10 All-NBA or ABA teams.
As a rookie, Barry averaged 25.7 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. The next season, he led the league in scoring at 35.6 points per game. For his career, he averaged 24.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists and two steals per game.
20. Dirk Nowitzki
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Dirk is one of the most unique talents the world of basketball has ever seen. No other seven-footer in history has been able to shoot the ball quite like Nowitzki does. His shooting percentages look more like those of a sharpshooting 2 guard than an oversized power forward.
For his career, he's shot 48 percent from the field, 38 percent from three-point range and 88 percent from the free-throw line.
He's without a doubt the greatest player in Dallas Mavericks history. He very nearly carried the team to what would have been its first championship in 2006 but fell just short after referees decided to grant Dwyane Wade unprecedented protection and an exorbitant number of free throws.
Dirk exorcised the demons of '06 this past year by carrying Dallas through an exhilarating title run that cemented his status as one of the greatest players of all time.
And he's not done. There's reason to believe the Mavericks will be even better next year, and Dirk still has four or five good years left to add to his individual résumé.
He's already been selected to 10 All-Star teams and 11 All-NBA teams, and he won the league MVP in 2007. His career averages are 23 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, and he's 15th all-time in player efficiency rating.
19. Kevin Garnett
Garnett was the best power forward in the world for several years in Minnesota. During his time with the Timberwolves, he averaged over 10 rebounds a game for nine straight seasons, led the league in rebounding in four straight years and won the league MVP in 2004.
His deepest playoff run with Minnesota was in 2004, when he carried the team to the Western Conference finals. The Timberwolves haven't been back since.
Garnett was traded to the Boston Celtics in July of 2007, and he redefined himself as a member of one of the greatest franchises in sports. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, and the Celtics won the league championship that same season.
He's a 14-time All-Star and a nine-time All-NBA and 11-time All-Defense honoree. He's averaged 19.5 points, 10.7 assists, 4.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks per game for his career.
18. Moses Malone
Moses Malone won the finals MVP in 1983. He won three league MVPs, in 1979, '82 and '83. He was a 13-time All-Star, eight-time All-NBA selection and was named All-Defense twice.
For his career, he averaged 20.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game.
17. John Stockton
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John Stockton is almost certainly the best pure point guard to have ever played in the NBA. He's the all-time leader in both steals and assists and third all-time in games played. He's second in career assists per game behind Magic Johnson and sixth in career steals per game.
Stockton never won a title, due mostly to the fact that he played in the same era as Michael Jordan. However, his Jazz teams were among the West's best for several seasons.
He played 19 seasons, all for the Jazz, and in 16 of those seasons, he played all 82 games. He averaged 13.1 points, 10.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game for his career. He led the league in assists for nine straight seasons from 1987 to 1996.
He also holds the record for most assists per game over the course of an entire season with 14.54 per outing during the 1989-90 season. He has three of the top five assists per game seasons in history.
He was named to 10 All-Star teams, 11 All-NBA teams and five All-Defense teams.
16. Dwyane Wade
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These days, whenever you hear Dwyane Wade's name, LeBron James and Chris Bosh's aren't far behind. Those three caused more offseason hype than I've ever seen by joining forces in Miami. Their legacies will likely be linked from here on out, but Dwyane forged his own by winning a title before the formation of the latest "big three."
Wade cemented his status as an all-time talent in just his third season. The Heat won the NBA title in 2006, and Wade won the finals MVP award. He averaged 28.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game during the playoffs that year.
He led the league in scoring during the 2008-09 season by averaging 30.2 points per game. For his career, he's averaged 25.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.8 steals and one block per game. In eight full seasons in the league, he's been selected to seven All-Star teams, six All-NBA teams and three All-Defense teams.
He's one of the best guards in history at scoring in the paint, which has helped him shoot 49 percent from the field for his career (despite a pedestrian career three-point percentage of 29).
He is also sixth in NBA history in player efficiency rating.
15. LeBron James
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What can I possibly say about LeBron James that hasn't already been said? I imagine you've had your fill of talk of "The Decision" or his latest playoff shortcomings, so I'll stop that before I even get started.
All I can really do with this slide is defend my selection of LeBron James as the 15th-greatest player in the history of the NBA.
He hasn't won a title yet, but there is only one player in league history that has better statistics than LeBron. He is second all-time behind Michael Jordan in career player efficiency rating. He's third all-time in career points per game and 26th in career assists per game.
In eight full seasons, he's been to seven All-Star games and been named All-NBA seven times and All-Defense three times. He also won the league MVP award in 2009 and '10.
His career averages are 27.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and seven assists per game.
The biggest criticism against LeBron (at least on the court) is the fact that he hasn't won a title yet. Remember, Michael Jordan didn't win his first title until his seventh season. LeBron really isn't that far behind, especially if the Heat win one in the next few years.
14. John Havlicek
Just about every NBA fan has heard the call, "Havlicek steals the ball!" It's one of the most memorable moments in the history of the league, and the man who made the steal was one of the greatest players of all time.
Havlicek was a 13-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA selection and eight-time All-Defense honoree, and he won the 1974 finals MVP award. He won eight NBA titles with the Boston Celtics.
His career averages are 20.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.
13. Julius Erving
You don't get one of the most timeless nicknames in the history of sports by being a slouch. Before Michael Jordan revolutionized the shooting guard position for today's wings, "Dr. J" revolutionized it for him.
He was more than just a great scorer and high-flying dunk artist. During his rookie year with the ABA's Virginia Squires, he averaged 15.7 rebounds per game.
He was a 16-time All-Star and 12-time All-NBA or ABA selection. He was the ABA MVP three times and the NBA MVP once. He won two ABA championships with the New York Nets and one NBA championship with the Philadelphia 76ers.
He averaged 24.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game for his career.
12. Oscar Robertson
"The Big O" holds what may be one of the most unbreakable records in sports: He was the first and only player in history to average a triple-double in a season. During the 1961-62 season, he averaged 30.8 points, 11.4 assists and 12.5 rebounds per game. It was one of the greatest single seasons of all time.
It wasn't an aberration. His career numbers are unbelievably well rounded. He averaged 25.7 points, 9.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds per game over 14 seasons. He led the league in assists on seven different occasions.
He was a 12-time All-Star and was named to 11 All-NBA teams. He won the league MVP in 1964 and an NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971.
He's fifth all-time in career assists, 11th in points, eighth in points per game and fourth in assists per game.
11. Hakeem Olajuwon
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Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon was absolutely one of the best centers of all time. Like many players on this list, he played during the same era as Michael Jordan. The difference between him and several others is he took advantage of Jordan's time in baseball and won two championships in the '90s.
He was the Defensive Player of the Year in '93 and '94, the finals MVP in '94 and '95 and the league MVP in '94. He's a 12-time All-Star and a 12-time All-NBA and nine-time All-Defense selection.
He led the league in rebounding during the 1988-89 and '89-90 seasons and in blocks during the '89-90, '90-91 and '92-93 seasons. His career averages were 21.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game.
10. Tim Duncan
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Tim Duncan is one of the most fundamentally sound players the NBA has ever seen. He has a wide array of post moves, plays great defense and, of course, has one of the most reliable bank shots of all time.
His list of accomplishments is quite long. He's won the finals MVP award three times and the league MVP twice. He's a 13-time All-Star, as well as a 13-time All-NBA and 13-time All-Defense selection. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in each of his first 11 seasons in the NBA.
For his career, he's averaged 20.6 points, 11.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.3 blocks per game. He's ninth all-time in career player efficiency rating.
9. Shaquille O'Neal
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During his prime, Shaq was one of the most physically dominating players in sports. No team in the league had anything resembling an answer for O'Neal. He's 7'1" and played much of his career over 300 pounds.
He was the centerpiece of the Lakers teams that won three straight NBA championships from 2000 to 2002 and was named finals MVP in each of those years. He won a fourth title with the Miami Heat in 2006.
He won the league MVP in 2000. He is a 15-time All-Star, 14-time All-NBA honoree and three-time All-Defense selection.
He's near the top in several categories all-time. He's fifth all-time in field goals made, second in career field goal percentage, sixth in offensive rebounds, seventh in defensive rebounds, seventh in blocks, fifth in points and third in player efficiency rating.
His career averages are 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 blocks per game.
He'll be on TNT's Inside the NBA next season.
8. Kobe Bryant
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Kobe is not as dominant statistically as one might think. He's 17th in career player efficiency rating, but what sets him apart is his will to win and his hunger to be the best. Kobe's five titles, in an era of extreme parity, are evidence of his determination.
He's led the league in scoring twice, including the 2005-06 season, in which he averaged 35.4 points per game. For his career, he's averaged 25.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game.
He's a 13-time All-Star and a 13-time All-NBA and 11-time All-Defense selection. He won the league MVP in 2008 and the finals MVP in 2009 and 2010.
Despite Phil Jackson's departure and being manhandled by the Mavericks last year, the Lakers will still be considered contenders next year. Another title will tie Kobe with Michael Jordan.
7. Jerry West
Another Laker legend on the list, and obviously, there are a couple left to go. Jerry West has turned out to be a great executive since his retirement, but he could play a little too.
He averaged 27 points, 6.7 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game for his career. He led the league in scoring during the 1969-70 season with 31.2 points per game. He led the league in assists during the '71-72 season with 9.7 assists per game.
He was named to 14 All-Star teams, 12 All-NBA teams and five All-Defense teams. He also has the somewhat unfortunate distinction of being the only player to ever win the finals MVP without winning the championship. He did so in 1969.
He did win a title with the Lakers in 1972.
6. Wilt Chamberlain
Based purely on stats, the only player that's close to Wilt Chamberlain is Michael Jordan (and even saying that is a stretch).
The numbers are very nearly unbelievable when taken at face value. During the 1961-62 season, he averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game. He had several seasons that were very comparable to that one.
For his career, he averaged 30.1 points, 22.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. He's first in career rebounds and rebounds per game. He's fourth in career points and second in career points per game.
The question is, how would he fare in the modern NBA against players who are his size and stronger than him?
Something tells me he would have had a hard time dropping 100 points in a single game on any current NBA team.
Even though he played in a time when no one could really compete with him physically, one cannot deny his remarkable level of production.
5. Bill Russell
He's perhaps the greatest defensive player of all time and one of the reasons my family is one filled with basketball nuts. My father loved watching Russell and the Celtics. That love helped lead him and three of his sons to play college basketball (one later played professionally in Germany and England).
Russell averaged 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds per game during his career. They didn't keep track of blocks during his era, but he would likely be among the all-time leaders if they had.
He was a 12-time All-Star and was named All-NBA 11 times. He also won the league MVP award five times.
Russell's greatest achievement was how much he won. He led the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA titles. The only players that are close to him in that category are his teammates.
4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is arguably the greatest center to have ever played the game, and his sky hook was as close to unstoppable as any shot in history.
Kareem won six championships (one with the Milwaukee Bucks and five with the Los Angeles Lakers), but he may be known most for the fact that he holds the all-time scoring record. He's first all-time in points scored with 38,387.
He averaged 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game over 20 NBA seasons. He led the league in scoring twice, rebounding once and blocks four times.
He was named to 19 All-Star teams, 15 All-NBA teams and 11 All-Defense teams. He won six league MVPs and two finals MVPs.
3. Magic Johnson
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He is without a doubt the greatest player in Los Angeles Lakers history. He helped lead the Lakers to five NBA championships during the 1980s as one of the greatest distributors of all time (if not the greatest).
Some will argue with me that Magic isn't rated quite high enough, but the fact that he played with perhaps the strongest supporting cast in NBA history is what has landed him at No. 3.
He averaged 19.5 points, 11.2 assists and 7.2 rebounds per game for his career. He is fourth all-time in assists and first in career assists per game. He's also 12th all-time in player efficiency rating.
He was a 12-time All-Star and was named to 10 All-NBA teams. He won the league MVP three times and the finals MVP three times.
He played 12 seasons before his career was cut short by HIV. He would've stacked up a lot more points and assists had he played the years between 1991 and his attempted comeback in 1995. Even still, he's clearly in the top five players of all time.
2. Larry Bird
Larry Bird, a.k.a. Larry Legend, a.k.a. The Hick from French Lick, is No. 2 on my list for several reasons. He battled and played through injuries for much of his career, and he still dominated every matchup thrown his way.
He singlehandedly carried the previously insignificant Indiana State Sycamores to the national championship game in 1979. They lost to Magic Johnson and his formidable Michigan State Spartans.
That game spawned a rivalry that would fuel the NBA for a decade. Although Magic won more titles with his team, Bird was the better individual player.
He averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game during his career. He shot 50 percent from the field, 38 percent from three-point range and 89 percent from the free-throw line.
Bird was named to 12 All-Star teams, 10 All-NBA teams and three All-Defense teams. He won the league MVP three times and the finals MVP twice.
His Boston Celtics won the NBA Finals in 1981, '84 and '86.
1. Michael Jordan
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Was there ever any doubt? When was the last time you saw any list like this that didn't have MJ at No. 1? A better question: Does anyone have a legitimate argument against Jordan being in this slot? I'm not sure I've heard one.
Jordan's legacy of winning big games and clutch performances began before he ever played a game in the NBA. He hit the game-winning shot in the national championship game in 1982 to give the North Carolina Tar Heels the title.
He went on to dominate the NBA for several years in a way no one had ever seen before. In just his third year in the league, he averaged 37.1 points per game. That season began a streak of seven straight in which he averaged over 30 points per game.
He led the league in scoring 10 times and steals three times. He averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game for his career.
Jordan won six titles with the Chicago Bulls, five league MVP awards, one Defensive Player of the Year award and six finals MVPs. He was named to 14 All-Star teams, 11 All-NBA teams and nine All-Defense teams.
He's third in career steals per game and first in both career points per game and career player efficiency rating.
Michael Jordan is most definitely the greatest player of all time.
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In alphabetical order by last names, here are some honorable mentions:
Tiny Archibald - Highlights
Dave Bing - Highlights
Vince Carter - Highlights
Tom Chambers - Highlights
Adrian Dantley - Highlights
Kevin Durant - Highlights
Alex English - Highlights
Pau Gasol - Highlights
Grant Hill - Highlights
Jeff Hornacek - Highlights
Dan Issel - Highlights
Shawn Marion - Highlights
Jamal Mashburn - Highlights
Bob McAdoo - Highlights
Tracy McGrady - Highlights
Earl Monroe - Highlights
Alonzo Mourning - Highlights
Chris Mullin - Highlights
Robert Parish - Highlights
Tony Parker - Highlights
Gary Payton - Highlights
Mark Price - Highlights
Glen Rice - Highlights
Mitch Richmond - Highlights
Dennis Rodman - Highlights
Brandon Roy - Highlights
Amar'e Stoudemire - Highlights
Reggie Theus - Highlights
Wes Unseld - Highlights
Jo Jo White
Deron Williams - Highlights
James Worthy - Highlights