Basketball's Greatest Players Of All Time

Jeremy KaufmanSenior Analyst IJanuary 26, 2008

So, you're putting together a basketball team, and you can choose any starting five with any player in the history of the sport being up for grabs.

Who do you pick?

It’s a nearly impossible question to answer, and anyone who attempts to answer it will undoubtedly be confronted with a lot of controversy. However, I’m going to try anyway.

As with my last article, feel free to argue with my picks, it’s always great to hear what everybody thinks.


One of the greatest players of all time, Magic boasts career averages of 19.5 points per game, 11.2 assists, and 7.2 rebounds. At 6’9, Magic was the tallest point guard in the sports history, and also likely the greatest.


Shooting Guard: Oscar Robertson

            Robertson was one of the most versatile players of all time. In fact, he is the only player in history to average a triple- double throughout a full season. With career averages of 25.7 points, 9.5 assists, and 7.5 rebounds per game, I would choose Robertson to play the two- guard.


Small Forward: Michael Jordan


Probably the greatest player in the history of the sport. Yes, I know he played a lot of shooting guard too, but he played enough of the 3 in his career for me to see him as eligible. Jordan boasts career averages of 30.1 points per game, 4.2 assists, 6.2 rebounds, and even 2.4 steals per game. With his dominance on both the offensive and defensive ends of the game, I don’t think there is anyone who can deny Jordan’s right to be in my elite 5.

Power Forward: Larry Bird


While there are many great candidates for the power forward position, in the end I had to give it to Bird. Not only did Bird average 24.3 points per game in his career to go along with his 10 rebounds per game, but he even averages 6.3 assists, an outstanding number for a big man. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see some opposition to this pick, I don’t feel any doubt that Bird is the best power forward of all time.

Center: Wilt Chamberlain

            Where can I even begin for this man? Hmm, maybe by telling you that in 1961, he averaged 50.4 points per game. Yes, that’s right. Some starting fives in the NBA fail to even collectively score that much, let alone 1 human being. And just to prove that he wasn’t a selfish player, in 1967, Wilt went on to lead the league in assists with 8.6 per game. In his career, “Wilt The Stilt” averaged 30.1 points per game, 22.9 rebounds, and 4.4 assists, numbers that don’t even seem real to modern NBA fans. In addition, Chamberlain averaged tons of blocks per game, although an exact number isn’t known since defensive stats weren’t counted back then. Regardless, Chamberlain was definitely the most dominant center in history, and possibly even the most dominant player ever.

Let the debate begin...