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The Top 10 Players In NBA History

Posted by : JaimeReborn Date added : 2021-05-01 08:15:54

Here is my list of the top 10 greatest NBA players of all-time.  This list is based on overall combined NBA/ABA resume. 

01.) Bill Russell

02.) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

03.) Michael Jordan

04.) LeBron James

05.) Wilt Chamberlain

06.) Tim Duncan

07.) John Havlicek

08.) Kobe Bryant

09.) Magic Johnson

10.) Julius Erving


#01.) Bill Russell – 11 Championships, 13 NBA Finals, 5 Season MVPs, 11 All-NBA Teams, 12 All-Star Teams, 4 Rebounding Titles, 1* All-Defensive Team

If Championships truly define the career of a great NBA player, then Russell is the greatest basketball player of all time.  Russell was the best player on the most dominant NBA dynasty in league history.  In 13 seasons, Russell’s teams went 716-299 in the regular season, for a winning percentage of 70.5%.  He won 4 of his season MVPs in an era that overlapped with that of Wilt Chamberlain.  In his thirteenth and final season, he was named First Team All-Defense.  Imagine how good of Defender he must have been when he was younger.  He retired second on the all-time total rebounds list and second on the all-time rebounds per game average.  Russell’s 22.5 rpg average is just a shade under Chamberlain’s 22.9 rpg average.  Russell has an argument for being the greatest basketball player the world has ever produced.  From his junior season in high school in 1951 to his last season in the NBA in 1969, he won 15 of 19 terminal Championships in whatever league he was in.  …and that’s not even including his 1956 Olympic Gold Medal with the USA Men’s Basketball Team. 


Why he is #01 on the list: Many say that Russell is the best defensive player in NBA history.  While that is debatable, his 11 NBA Championships in 13 seasons is not.


#02.) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 6 Championships, 10 NBA Finals, 2 Finals MVPs, 6 NBA MVPs, 15 All-NBA Teams, 19 All-Star Teams, 11 All-Defensive Teams, 2 Scoring Titles, 1 Rebounding Title, 4 Blocks Titles

Jabbar may have the best combination of talent, statistics, and Championship resume than any player in NBA history.  In 20 seasons, Jabbar’s teams went 1118-522 in the regular season, for a winning percentage of 68.1%.  Jabbar’s 6 season MVPs are the most of any player in league history.  Jabbar is also the all-time leader scorer in total points in league history with 38,387 points.  Kareem averaged over 20 ppg for 17 of his 20 seasons in the league.  Jabbar took a year-old expansion Milwaukee Bucks team and (along with Oscar Robertson) turned it into a league powerhouse over the next few seasons.  Jabbar was by far, with his “Skyhook”, the most dominant player in the 1970’s, winning 5 season MVPs in that decade.  Jabbar won three terminal Championships in high school and three NCAA Championships before being drafted into the NBA.  During his career, Jabbar probably played against the best collection of Hall-Of-Fame NBA talent at his position than any other player in NBA history in Wilt Chamberlain, Nate Thurmond, Willis Reed, Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Walt Bellamy, Dave Cowens, Bill Walton, Robert Parish, Moses Malone, Bob Lanier, Jack Sikma, Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Laimbeer, Artis Gilmore, and Patrick Ewing.


Why he is #02 on the list: Jabbar has much better statistics than Russell but those stats don’t outweigh the 5 additional Championships and 2 additional NBA Finals appearances.


#03.) Michael Jordan – 6 Championships, 6 NBA Finals, 6 NBA Finals MVPs, 5 NBA Season MVPs, 1 DPOY, 11 All-NBA Teams, 14 All-Star Teams, 9 All-Defensive Teams, 10 Scoring Titles, 3 Steals Titles

Jordan displayed, arguably, the best balance of athleticism and all-around basketball skills as any player we’ve ever seen.  At his peak prime, he seemed to have absolutely no flaws in his game at all.  During his Championship run from 1991 to 1998, Jordan was far and away the best player in the league and it wasn’t even close.  Jordan may have been the best two-way player in NBA history, nearly as dominant a defensive player as he was an offensive player.  Jordan has the all-time highest scoring average in NBA history at 30.12 ppg.  His 10 scoring titles are also the most of any player in NBA history.  Jordan’s 1996 Chicago Bulls team is considered by many in the NBA community to be the best team of all-time.  However, his 1991 Chicago Bulls team might be even better. 


Why he is #03 on the list: Jordan has a very balanced resume but his 6 NBA Championships in 6 NBA Finals appearance are still no match for Russell’s 11 NBA Championships in 12 NBA Finals or Jabbar’s 6 NBA Championships in 10 NBA Finals and 6 Season MVPs.

#04.) LeBron James – 4 NBA Championships, 10 NBA Finals, 4 NBA Finals MVPs, 16 All-NBA Teams, 17 All-Star Teams, 6 All-Defensive Teams, 1 Scoring Title, 1 Assists Title

James might be the most versatile player in NBA history.  LeBron was considered by many to be the consensus best player in the NBA for over a decade.  He is the only player to win Finals MVP with three different teams.  James has averaged over 20 ppg for each of his current 18 seasons that has been in the league.  As of this writing, LeBron is just shy of being the only player in NBA history to have 30,000 points, 10,000 assists, and 10,000 rebounds in his career.  James has more assists than any small forward in NBA history.  James is one of only a handful of players in NBA history to have played in at least 10 NBA Finals. 


Why he is #04 on the list: James’ voluminous statistics are not yet quite enough to overcome Jordan’s two additional Championships and additional NBA Season MVP as James has only led the league in two major statistical categories for a season whereas Jordan has done so thirteen times.  That said, James is certainly not yet on the overall NBA resume level of Russell or Jabbar.

#05.) Wilt Chamberlain – 2 Championships, 6 NBA Finals, 1 Finals MVP, 4 NBA MVPs, 10 All-NBA Team, 13 All-Star Teams, 2 All-Defensive Teams, 7 Scoring Titles, 11 Rebounding Titles

Statistically, Chamberlain might be the most dominate player in NBA history.  Chamberlain’s 30.07 ppg scoring average is second only Michael Jordan’s 30.12 ppg scoring average in NBA scoring history.  However, Chamberlain also averaged 22.89 rebounds per game for his career.  Chamberlain holds the four highest season scoring averages in NBA history with 50.36 ppg, 44.83 ppg, 38.39 ppg, and 37.6 ppg.  Chamberlain is also the only player to score 100 points in a single NBA game.  For the first nine seasons of his career, Chamberlain never averaged less than 30 points per game or 20 rebounds per game.  He never averaged less than 18.2 rpg per game during his entire career.  He earned All-Star honors in every healthy season of his 14 year career.  His two All-Defensive team nods at the end of his career underscore what an incredible defensive presence he was in his prime.  Chamberlain’s number is retired by three different teams. 


Why he is #05 on the list: Chamberlain’s 30.07 per game scoring average and 22.89 per game rebounding average make him, arguably, the most statistically dominant player in NBA history.  However, Chamberlain having only 2 NBA Championships in 6 NBA Finals appearances has him coming in behind James who has 4 NBA Championships in 10 NBA Finals appearances with some fairly prolific statistics of his own.  James also has the four NBA Season MVPs, equal to Chamberlain.  Thus, Chamberlain’s 2 NBA Championships place him below Russell, Jabbar, Jordan, and James on the overall NBA resume metrics.


#06.) Tim Duncan – 5 NBA Championships, 6 NBA Finals, 3 NBA Finals MVPs, 2 NBA Season MVPs, 15 All-NBA Teams, 15 All-Star Teams, 15 All-Defensive Teams

Duncan might be the most dominant player of his era.  Many consider Duncan to be the best and greatest power forward of all time.  Few players in NBA history were as dominant as Duncan was for as long as he was.  He is the only player to make both the All-NBA and All-Defensive team for the first 13 seasons of his career.  Duncan’s teams won at least 50 or more games in 18 of 19 seasons, with the only the 1999 lock-out shortened season being the exception.  Duncan won five Championships in three different decades, barely missing a sixth.  He averaged at least 20 ppg and 11 rpg in nine of his first ten seasons.  Duncan never missed the playoffs in his 19 seasons in the league and his teams were in the chased for the NBA Championship every year he played.


Why he is #06 on this list: Duncan has arguably the most competitive NBA resume of any player in the 3-point era (from 1980 to present), especially in terms of winning, including Michael Jordan.  However, Duncan’s individual stats are not on par with Russell, Jabbar, Jordan, James, or Chamberlain.  Duncan has more NBA Championships than James or Chamberlain, but James and Chamberlain have 2 more MVPs and far more prolific statistics to give them the edge over Duncan.


#07.) John Havlicek – 8 NBA Championships, 8 NBA Finals, 1 NBA Finals MVP, 11 All-NBA Teams, 13 All-Star Teams, 8* All-Defensive Teams

Havlicek is arguably the best all-around player of his era and perhaps the most underrated player in NBA history.  The All-Defensive Teams were not created until his seventh season in the league but he made the team from its inception through six more seasons, well into his 30’s.  Havlicek was one of the most dominant defensive players of his era and of all time.  In his prime, Havlicek was one of the top scorers in the league, averaging over 20 ppg for eight straight seasons.  Havlicek earned All-Star honors his last 13 seasons in the league.  During his prime, Havlicek was often overshadowed by other NBA luminaries like Russell, Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Jabbar.  Havlicek was one of the most prolific scorers of all-time, retiring third all-time in total NBA scoring with 26,395 points, behind only Chamberlain and Robertson at that time.

Why he is #07 on the list: Havlicek’s 8-0 record in the NBA Finals doesn’t get nearly the respect that it deserves, especially considering his very formidable overall NBA resume.  Havlicek, however, doesn’t have the individual accolades or statistical category titles to push him ahead of the others on this list.  Had Havlicek garnered an NBA Season MVP or two, to go along with some scoring, rebounding, and assist titles, he’d be higher on this list.  Duncan, for instance, was at least just as dominant as Havlicek, defensively, and also had two NBA Season MVPs.


#08.) Kobe Bryant – 5 NBA Championships, 7 NBA Finals, 2 NBA Finals MVP, 1 NBA Season MVP, 15 All-NBA Teams, 18 All-Star Teams, 12 All-Defense Teams, 2 Scoring Titles

Bryant made 18 All-Star teams, which displayed nearly an unmatched level of sustained top-tier talent in NBA history.  Bryant was the best shooting guard and arguably the best all-around player of his era, displaying no weaknesses in his prime.  He was one of the most prolific scorers of all-time and a tenacious defender.  Bryant retired third on the NBA all-time list for total points.  He once scored 81 points in single game, second all-time to only Wilt Chamberlain.  Bryant was one of the very few players of his era to be a perennial All-NBA and All-Defensive Team selection. 


Why he is #08 on the list: While it’s close, Bryant’s NBA Season MVP and 18 All-Star appearances are not enough to overtake Havlicek’s 8 NBA Championships in 8 NBA Finals.  Most of the others ahead of Bryant on this list have either more or as many Championships as Bryant and/or an equally or more compelling individual NBA resume.


#09.) Magic Johnson – 5 NBA Championships, 9 NBA Finals, 3 NBA Finals MVPs, 3 NBA Season MVPs, 10 All-NBA Teams, 12 All-Star Teams, 4 Assists Titles, 2 Steals Titles

Johnson revolutionized NBA with his ability to excel at all positions on the court, and particularly his height and size at the point guard position.  Johnson made it to the NBA Finals eight times during his first ten years in the league and nine in his first twelve seasons in the league.  Aside from Bill Russell, no player had come close to having such a competitive NBA career.  During his first 12 full seasons of his career, before he came back for a truncated season after retirement, Johnson’s teams won 72.4% of their games during the regular season.  Johnson was an underrated defender as he did lead the league in steals twice and was tall and quick enough to defend each position on the court. 


Why he is #09 on the list: Johnson was an absolutely superb player.  However, everyone above Johnson on this list was also a standout defensive player.  Johnson’s 5 NBA Championships, 9 NBA Finals, 4 Assists Titles, and 2 Steals Titles, are not enough to bump him ahead of Bryant’s 5 NBA Championships and 12 All-Defensive Teams and Havlicek’s 8 Championships and 8 All-Defensive Teams.  The other players on this list also have longer careers which also played a factor in the sum of overall resume metrics.


#10.) Julius Erving – 3 ABA/NBA Championships, 6 ABA/NBA Finals, 2 ABA/NBA Finals MVP, 4 ABA/NBA Season MVPs, 11 All-ABA/NBA, 16 ABA/NBA All-Star Teams, 1 ABA All-Defensive Team, 3 Scoring Titles

Erving’s career is often somewhat marginalized because he spent his first five seasons in the ABA and was not as dominant when he finally came to the NBA.  However, when you combine Erving’s ABA resume with his NBA resume, it’s clear that he’s one of the most formidable players in NBA history.  When Erving retired, he was third on the all-time ABA/NBA combined scoring list with 30,026 points, having won three Scoring Titles in the ABA.  Erving was an All-Star in each of his 16 seasons in the ABA/NBA, which is almost unmatched by any other player with as many seasons in the league. 


Why he is #10 on the list: Erving’s 3 Championships in 6 NBA Finals, is not enough to overtake Johnson with his 5 Championships in 9 NBA Finals.  Just about everyone else on the list has a stronger Championship pedigree and/or more dominant individual statistics. 

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