Wizards with the Basketball: 15 Greatest Passers in NBA History

Darko MihajlovskiCorrespondent IIIOctober 23, 2010

Wizards with the Basketball: 15 Greatest Passers in NBA History

0 of 16

    Welcome back to the "Greatest Ever" series as we continue with the ranks of the finest passers to play in the history of the NBA

    This league has been blessed with dozens and dozens amazing passers from multiple and efficient ways of delivering dimes to their team mates.Some of the first revolutionary players through the course of the years introduced passes unseen outside of North America

    Yes,like behind the back,between the legs,no look,the touch passes which all helped to improve the game in many ways and to prove that good team plays such as dishing the rock to everyone can create many easy chance for the easy points

    Many of these members of the list will be Point Guards,who of course have the task to get their team into a good mood in offense,like to set up plays for them for the easy points.Some add little flair and smartly use ball fakes to get their team mate into better call

    They usually have the stats,lead the league but only once a legend of this game,managed to lead the NBA in assists which is rare.Other guys can dish dimes as well,but not nearly good as the rest,there are of course some expectations.

    Here are the 15 greatest passers in the NBA History!

15. Bill Russell

1 of 16

    We start the list with a legend of the game who happened to be one of the best passers in the history of the game,his name is Bill Russell

    An excellent passer through his entire career,he put that skill of his on a display after the retirement of Bob Cousy by mastering the passing out of the low post and the outlet.He then was capable of organizing the entire Celtics offense

    He created many missed shots and blocked dozens of them as well,then he often threw perfect outlets to his team mates for the easy 2,if that failed,then to Cousy.He hit Top 10 marks in the league few times which is an outstanding achievement for a big man

    In the playoffs,in a span of 10 years,he averaged 5.2 assists per game including going twice over 6 assists per game as well.All and all,Russell knew how to pass.

14. Kevin Garnett

2 of 16

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 15:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics passes the ball over Pau Gasol #16 and Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Six of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 15, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    An unseen ability for a big man to pass the ball like a point forward,this might be the finest explanation of Kevin Garnett's ability to dish the rock 

    That's probably the strongest reason why he makes the list.Not only he can find his man efficiently out of the post,he has variety of delivering dimes like behind the back,no look,out let and so on.That makes him arguable the best passing Power Forward of all times

    He pushed his averages above 6 assists per game for six straight seasons which is beyond great for his position.He made impact in his team by this mastering the skill,he's truly an amazing player who is simply said,a beast!

13. Wilt Chamberlain

3 of 16

    In many ways,non the less legendary Wilt Chamberlain can be argued as the game's greatest player of all times.He was great in many aspects in the game of basketball,among all of those things,his ability to pass the ball was legendary

    To this very day,Wilt remains the only non guard,big man ever to lead the NBA in assists,by doing that in 1967-68 season which was the strongest contribution to Philadelphia's first ever championship.He was too good down low

    He was getting heck a Shaq,all the time.He was getting,doubled,tripled team and he just developed the skill of passing the ball.

    His averages of 8.6 and 7.9 assists per game are by far the highest for all centers ever.He also managed to get 9 assists a game in the playoffs too which are some averages that big men won't even touch.Now,that is amazing!

    He continued with to help the offense with that ability of his ever since the title in Philly.

12. Bill Walton

4 of 16

    There are rare big men that could say that their ability to dish the ball was the strongest attribute of their game,Bill Walton is certainly one of those

    His career got plagued by injuries,but when he was healthy,he was just as good as any of the other top 5 big men of all time.He didn't have big time stats,but Walton ability to pass the ball was perhaps most crucial to Portland's title run in 1976

    He made remarkable impact in the game by passing the ball,thanks to his phenomenal intelligence on the court.He averaged 5.5 assists per game in the '76 playoffs and had high averages through the Finals as well

    He wasn't spectacular but he led his team mates to easy points and left a strong mark in the entire offense with his skills to share the ball.He got to averages over 4.3 assists in single seasons,he excelled at that part of basketball

11. Scottie Pippen

5 of 16

    MIAMI - MAY 01:  Former NBA player Scottie Pippen watches the Miami Heat take o n the Atlanta Hawks during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at American Airlines Arena on May 1, 2009 in Miami, Florida. The Heat defeated the Hawks 98-72. NOT
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    In many ways the 6'7 Scottie Pippen was simply said,one of the greatest passers in the history of the NBA.

    He was a revolutionary player who set the playing style of the next generations of great forwards,by his ability to handle,pass the ball,set up plays for his team,run the brake like a point guard and all of that doing at his normal positon,small forward

    That position is called point forward and this guy made it very important key for the success in the Bulls in the 90's.He was the perfect play maker for the triangle offense because of his skills,size and well built body.

    Pippen was the true reason why Chicago never tried to get a point guard,a legend who developed great chemistry with Jordan and to win 6 championships as the top accomplishments of his Hall Of Fame career!

    He hit couple of times above 7 assists per game and had most of his career,at least 5 assists for quite a long time.He was a beast

10. Larry Bird

6 of 16

    DETROIT - APRIL 06:  Larry Bird answers questions with Earvin 'Magic' Johnson (not pictured) during a news conference to relive their 1979 NCAA Championship Game between Indiana State and Michigan State before the 2009 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Nat
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    It's impossible not to mention,this Celtic and NBA legend of the 80's,aka Larry Bird in the discussion of the greatest passers of all time

    Larry was remarkable at play making,who also had his contribution of creating the 'point forward' position and making it valuable every time.In terms of the style,flare he's only second to his arc rival Magic but he was the best touch passer ever

    He made that an art form in which he excelled at and made himself a legit threat on the court in dozens of ways out there who set up plays for his team,was capable of bringing the ball as well and he had great court vision to spot open team mates

    He did almost consistently led all non guards in assists

    Larry got his assist averages above 10 per game in the 3 successful title runs of his career and hit most of the time at least 6.0 assists per game.He was awesome player who defined "once a generation superstar player"

9. LeBron James

7 of 16

    MIAMI - OCTOBER 12:  Forward LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat drives around forward Ramunas Siskauskas #9 of CSKA Moscow on October 12, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  Miami heat won 96-85 over CSKA Moscow.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    LeBron James is one of the most unique players to ever play on a NBA hardwood,who has the body of a typical power forward,speed,handles,court of a point guard and so on.He is in the debate of the game's finest passers of all time

    He's got fantastic court vision,skills that make him one of the top passers as of now and historically as well.He's also athletic,has size,speed and can bring the ball,set up plays who always tries to get the max out of his team mates

    He attracts a lot of attention because he gets to the rim with ease,so he gets automatically a double team that leaves someone free,and he will find him.Now in the Miami Heat,he's expected to be the main distributor and sort of Magic 2.0

    He consistently leads all non guards in assists,and has been ranked in/near the top 5 a lot of times.He now has legit chances not only to win championships,other awards in the Heat but also to lead the NBA in assists with now that scoring isn't so much needed

    He has always been above 6 assists per game,including hitting last year 8.6 through entire season.His averages in the playoffs go high and through some period,like at some point,he goes over 10 assists a game as well

    This is why,i think he's arguable the finest passer that's not a guard ever.

8. Kevin Johnson

8 of 16

    One of the most overlooked point guards of all times,Kevin Johnson was one of the best play makers in the league's history

    Ever since he managed to break out and win the NBA's Most Improved Player Of The Year award,KJ proved to be one hell out of a passer.His explosiveness,speed and vision were his strengths in order to dish so many assists

    He's the all time leader in assists in the Suns and is ranked #7 on the all time lists,in terms of highest assist average (9.1) in terms of career who hit the marks of at least 10 dimes per game four times in his career

    People today,rarely know great play maker KJ was,he was superb in that aspect in the game of basketball!

7. Oscar Robertson

9 of 16

    Statistically speaking,no one was more complete than Oscar Robertson who was great in many aspects of the game,including passing

    He set the labels of "all around" a thing that is now to compare players with and he set the standards for everyone behind him.He was simply said one of the greatest play makers in the history of the NBA for many reasons

    He was brilliant passer who did all of the things that any point guard should do and he was really efficient at doing it as well

    In an era in which assists were way different judged,with rules to record a single assist and not like it is these days,many argue including the Big O himself that he and the players of his days their stats should have been better

    Even though those rules did more damage to him,Robertson managed to lead the NBA 7 times in assists per game,whose career average of 9.5 and total of  9887 dimes are ranked #4//5 in the history of the league.

    Does this makes you feel that he would have been the all time leader in most dimes if he didn't have those rules?Most likely if you ask me.He's also good choice in the debate of the Greatest Player Of All Time

6. Isiah Thomas

10 of 16

    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    Regarded as one of the greatest "small men" to play professional basketball,Isiah Thomas was one of the best play makers in the NBA History

    He was an unselfish player who possessed skills and determination to take over the game with his ability to share the ball with everyone.He played what ever the defense throw at him and he was really effective in leading his man to easy points

    His ability to drive to the rim made him a danger on the court,in any given time and he had enough room to find someone open.He also was good in running the plays and changed the way,how guards handle the ball.

    He set a NBA record in 1984-85 by averaging 13.9 assists per game,which was the highest mark,a record until Stockton broke it.He also had the highest total in assists twice in his career and got to at least 10 per game,four times in his career

    His career total/averages of 9061 dimes(9.3) are #6 and #5 on the all time list which is an achievement for respect. 

5. Steve Nash

11 of 16

    PHOENIX - OCTOBER 12:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball during the preseason NBA game against the Utah Jazz at US Airways Center on October 12, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by down
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    A true example of how a traditional point guard should play (minus defense),Steve Nash is simply said,is one of greatest passers to ever set foot on a NBA hardwood.

    He's one of the rare old school point guards left in the game who looks to involve his team mates not like some,who is capable to take over the game simply by controlling the tempo,running plays and brakes like rare do/have done

    His court vision is remarkable,he actually is a tough player who waits only for one mistake to beat the------ defenses and ever since the move to the Suns,he won 2 MVP awards,led the league 4 times in assists per game and in total,etc

    As of now,his current total of 8397 assists rank only second to Jason Kidd from all the current and on the all time list,that's good enough for #8.His assist average so far is 8.3 per game is 10th best ever which is phenomenal

4. Bob Cousy

12 of 16

    Nicknamed "Mr Basketball","The Houdini of The Hardwood",Bob Cousy was a legend who was in many ways,revolutionary for the game.

    He made strong impact in the 50's and in generally as one of the greatest point guards and play makers of all time.His passes of the dribble and looks to leading his team mates for the easy 2,were the same as the style of the modern guards

    He was the perfect point for setting up plays for his team,he was impressive in running the brake too who would have had,higher assist averages,totals if weren't rules and different way of judging an assist which were not like today

    Despite those disadvantages in his career,Cousy led the NBA whooping 8 times(Stoctkon passed that only)and retired as the all time leader in those categories,until Robertson surpassed him as well.

    Cousy would have a lot of credit the way these days,assists were judged.He would have ranked in the Top 3 at least!His 7,955 dimes(7.6) rank pretty high on the all time lists.There's a quote that perhaps describes him best by his former team mate 

    "What Russell was on defense, that's what Cousy was on offense -- a magician. Once that ball reached his hands, the rest of us just took off, never bothering to look back."

    -- Former Celtic great Tommy Heinsohn

3. Jason Kidd

13 of 16

    SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 25:  Jason Kidd #2 of the Dallas Mavericks in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 25, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees t
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    A regular triple double threat in his better days,Jason Kidd is one of the greatest passers in the history of the NBA

    He was never much of a scorer,but his ability to involve his team mates in any possible situations made him very unselfish player who made everything around him better.His may have the finest court vision of all time

    Not only he can find his team mates for the easy points,but also he can dish the ball in variety of ways like as from the floor,behind the back and so on.He is so efficient and rarely makes mistake in dishing which is good

    His half court passes are fantastic and he can also everything what a true point guard should do on the court.

    Kidd captured 5 assist titles in 17 seasons while leading 3 times in total assists as well.His total of 10923 assists is second best of all time,his career average is 6th best ever which is for respect.

2. John Stockton

14 of 16

    3 Jan 2001:  John Stockton #12 of the Utah Jazz passes the ball during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers defeated the Jazz 82-71.  NOTE TO USER: It is expressly understood that the only r
    Robert Laberge/Getty Images

    Few players have defined positions in basketball by their own playing style and John Stockton is one of those

    He may was the greatest passer to ever play in the NBA.No one ever mastered the pass out of the pick n 'roll like Stockton did.He was quite an effective distributor through his long and durable 19 year career that he spent in the league

    Even though he played in slow pace in the system of Jerry Sloan,he did crack the stats and made impact like a machine,a positive driving force to Utah's strengths in the 80's and 90's.He was successful pick of perhaps the most talented draft class ever,the '84 class

    He holds many records,not only he can do everything well what a point guard should do on the court but also he had rare assist numbers also to proof that too.His career total of 15806 dimes is the best ever and his average of 10.5 dimes is second best

    He captured 9 assist titles while leading 9 times in total assists as well.He set the highest average of all times by averaging 14.5 assists per game in a single season!Those are part of the records that Stock had as a pro

1. Earvin Johnson

15 of 16

    1989-1990:  Guard Earvin (Magic) Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers moves the ball during a game. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn  /Allsport Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn  /Allsport
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    A revolutionary player who brought unique skills at the point guard position,Earvin "Magic" Johnson is the greatest passer in the NBA History

    He made passing an art form and took it on a whole new level like few have.His ability to dish the ball in so many different way such as no looks,behind the back and so on.His rare assist numbers don't tell always the story

    His court vision was phenomenal,one of the top ever.He was the best at sharing the rock on the fast brake as many highlights are the proof for that.In terms of style,no one is better than Johnson.He had such a flare

    Not only that he had rare assist numbers,but according to his team mates back in the day Kareem and Worthy,he gave you room to do your magic while he was leading you to the easy points

    He captured 4 assist titles,led the league 3 times in assists through his career.In the playoffs,he had even higher averages that made a lot of impact for sure.His career total of 10141 dimes is 4th on the all time list but his career average of 11.2 is the best ever

    Let's not forget his 12.1 dimes in the playoffs as well

In the Conversation

16 of 16

    Tim Duncan-Mr Fundamentals was extremely gifted passer,his ability to find the open men on the double team inside was most notable during his title years,for example,he averaged 5.5 assists per  game in the 2003 Finals against New Jersey

    Jerry West-Shooting Guards are guys who mainly score,but West find way to lead the league in assists even though he was mainly a SG

    Michael Jordan-Perhaps the most underrated passers of all time,that's his hidden skill that is underrated because of the other things he brought.He was close to Magic type of numbers on the assists once in the Finals with 11 per game etc


    Remember guys,numbers played good role in the creating of this peace but also other factors too.Stats don't always tell the full story.

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!