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The Greatest NBA Players Of All Time – Ranked



The NBA has been star-studded for more than 70 years now. From the game-changers of the ‘60s to the current players turning the league upside down today, many revolutionary athletes have made their mark in the league’s history.
But who was the best to ever step on the court? Many would say Michael Jordan, but LeBron James is undeniably breaking records left and right. Oh, and don’t forget about the Lakers – Kareem, Magic and, of course, Kobe. It’s a tough call, but we think we’ve settled the debate…

John Stockton

If you want to start talking best ever, you can begin with an insanely consistent guy like John Stockton. He spent his entire 19-year career with the Utah Jazz, and he’s the NBA’s all-time leader in both assists and steals. Surely these are Hall of Fame-caliber numbers, but what really elevates players above their stat line?

Dwyane Wade

Wade offered a modern look at a dominant player you can build a team around. Wildly versatile, intelligent on and off the court, and persistent about winning. Yes, two of his three titles came with LeBron, but his ability to score is what opens this discussion up…

George Mikan

So how about the guy they nicknamed “Mr. Basketball?” Yeah, he may have only played until 1956, but Mikan all but pioneered the modern game at the center position. So if being the perennial superstar in your day doesn’t make you the greatest, what does?

Scottie Pippen

Pippen is arguably one of the greatest defenders the NBA has ever seen. His physical playing style earned him the “one-man wrecking crew” nickname, and he has more rings than most guys dream of. But you can’t be the “best” when someone on your own team is overshadowing you…

Walt Frazier

Playing on the big stage in the Big Apple was perfect for a flashy guy like Walt “Clyde” Frazier, but let’s not forget his defense helped the city win its only two championships! In a city like New York, he ought to be the greatest they’ve ever seen — but due to the other guys on this list, sadly he’s not.

Elvin Hayes

Someone who was elected to 12 straight all-star games should surely be included in the best-ever discussion, right? Well “Big E” did just that, and by the end of his career, he finished ninth on the scoring list and fourth on the rebounding list of all time. But neither of those numbers are one, so he too is on the outside looking in.

Charles Barkley

There was hardly a more compelling player on the court when Sir Charles was in the game. He could do it all — defend, rebound, pass, and score — but players with a personality like his are what keep him from the top of the crop. For that you have to have the composure of the next man.

Karl Malone

A beast of a power forward, “The Mailman” delivered year in and year out. He is still the second highest scorer in league history, and that’s because he was in the starting lineup more than any player in history. But he never attained a title, so are rings what make you the greatest?

Julius Erving

As a pioneer and a champion, it was tough to be smoother on the hardwood than “Dr. J.” Erving literally brought the game to new heights, and his innate ability to create spectacular plays certified him a legend. I mean, c’mon, he was the best dunking player anyone has ever seen… And if style and efficiency isn’t the best combo, then what is?

Shaquille O’Neal

There’s never been a physical presence on the court like Shaq’s. The man literally shattered backboards with his powerful dunking capability, and he also sports one of the highest field goal percentages in NBA history. But unfortunately, it never seems to be the “big men” who wind up on the greatest lists. Instead, we look to a different player caliber..

Bob Pettit

All-time greats like Bob Pettit are remarkable in their own sense, because he was the first MVP the NBA ever knew. He averaged 20 points in every game of his 11-year career, which hasn’t been and will never be done again. That alone is one of the greatest basketball records ever accomplished. So what makes you better than Bob Pettit?

Moses Malone

Moses Malone was as fierce a competitor as they come. Building his game around his athletic instinct, some players even thought he missed shots intentionally just to get more rebounding stats. Additionally serving as a scoring force, he was a shoo-in for MVP on multiple occasions. He had it all, but still, star power overshadowed guys like him…

Hakeem Olajuwon

“The Dream” was one of the most skilled players to ever step foot on the court. Whether offensively or defensively, his size and speed allowed him to become one of the biggest threats to ever grace the NBA. With us telling you he’s not the greatest, you can only imagine who is left to top the almighty Olajuwon.

Elgin Baylor

Though Baylor may have never won a championship, his remarkable talent rebounding, passing, and shooting led his Lakers to eight finals in his 11-year career. His jump shot became iconic, and he also was an all-star in literally every season he played. So if a player who’s never NOT been an all-star isn’t the best, it must be competition, right?

Kobe Bryant

Though he tragically passed in 2020, the five-time champion and elite scorer was one of the best in the modern NBA era, no doubt. “Mamba” was deadly from any area on the court, and his tenure with the Lakers showcased his loyalty. And to be better than him, you really needed to be special…

Tim Duncan

Duncan is one of the most loved players in NBA history. His humble demeanor and tenacity on the court was uncanny, and his endless supply of accolades make him one of the sport’s most decorated. He’s probably the best power forward ever, but if his quiet nature hampers his greatness, what did these other guys possess to outlast him?

Bill Russell

Russell’s 11 championships in 13 seasons make him one of NBA history’s brightest stars, period. Not only was he a forceful, defensive center, but he changed the way the league had to defend the basket. However, despite the rings, his one-dimensional strengths keep him from surpassing some of the other all-around dynamic players…

Jerry West

A lifetime Laker, “Mr. Clutch” was an elusive guard that could get it done on any part of the court. Never being satisfied helped him always push himself for more success, shaping him as an elite scorer and defender. But only taking home one championship hindered how great he really could be. That wasn’t the case for our remaining players.

Larry Bird

Bird was one of the most intelligent players to ever star in the NBA. He could see through almost any defense, and brought an unrivaled mentality to the Boston Celtics. Almost no one saw the game like “Larry Legend,” and his multi-dimensional functionality made him a threat throughout his career. But do you know which players were even more transformative?

Oscar Robertson

Up until last season, “The Big O” was the only player to ever average a triple-double for an entire season — he literally invented the scoring line. No player dominated the court quite like Robertson did in the ‘60s, and his highlight-reel abilities land him as one of the most prolific players the league has ever seen. So who were the few able to top “The Big O?”

Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson transformed the point guard position into one that could be accessible by multiple playing styles. His ability to control the offense and take over games in tight spots made him elite, and his championships helped raise his stock. Very few can say they’ve been as productive as Magic.

Wilt Chamberlain

It’s hard to imagine there will ever be a more impressive player than Chamberlain, I mean the guy put up 100 points in a single game. But his ability to transform his career from a pure-scorer to a team player allowed his teams to dominate, making him one of the most natural talents the NBA has ever seen.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The six-time MVP and 19-time All-Star is considered by some to be the best ever. He’s the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and also has the most wins of any player, not to mention his six titles. He’s easily the most revolutionary player the league has ever seen, and his stardom inspired many to play the game. If he’s not your pick at number one, you only have two choices left.

LeBron James

“King James” is a modern phenom. Best ever? Perhaps, and he’s still on fire at 36. But remember, LeBron doesn’t even have a listed position — he is constantly dominating play all over, and he basically acts as a second GM on every team he plays for. It’s almost hard to see him not finishing as the best, but he still has some elite years left…

Michael Jordan

Six finals. Six championships. Six MVP awards. No one was better in the clutch than MJ, and hardly anyone has ever put on scoring clinics as easily as he did. What he meant to the Chicago Bulls is everything you want in a career player, and for that, it will be tough for anyone to ever top Michael Jordan.