Top 10 Best Basketball Players of All Time | Best Basketballers

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Best Basketball Players Of All Time

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It’s time for TSC — or at least one of its editors — to enter the never-ending debate about who is the best ever in [insert sport here]. Even though we’re not a sports website, this editor (hello!) has been debating about sports for over 30 years with his friends and family. As you may imagine, this list is a subjective one, and should not be taken too literally. The most significant thing I’ve ever written, except you don’t agree with what I’ve said.

#1: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

What? Is it possible that the NBA’s all-time top scorer is just the 10th-greatest player of all time? Indeedy. With 38,387 career points, I can’t ignore the fact that Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson, two of the game’s finest point guards, passed to Kareem during their playing days. His career totals were further exaggerated since he played in the NBA for about 10,000 years. (15 or even 20 is OK.) For all his flaws, though, he was still a formidable player who dominated the sport for more than two decades and mastered one of the game’s most beautiful shots: the sky hook. To top it all off, he had the most cool factor of anybody on this list by fighting Bruce Lee in Game of Death.

#2: Tim Duncan

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I had a brief love affair with the San Antonio Spurs, despite being a lifetime Seattle sports fan. Even though they played the sort of slow-paced basketball that put most spectators to sleep by the third quarter, Tim Duncan’s bank jumper was a beautiful sight to see. Duncan, called “The Big Fundamental” by Shaquille O’Neal, was one of the best players of all time when he was at his peak. Even though he was known for his calm manner, his four championships, 14 All-Star appearances, and two NBA MVP awards are undeniable proof of his supreme basketball talent.

#3: Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O’Neal is on the other end of the “attractive play” scale from Duncan. As a result of Timmy’s excellent technique in the post, Shaq would frequently muscle his way to the basket with his enormous weight (7’1″ and 315 pounds). It was a failsafe method that let him top the NBA in field-goal percentage 10 times throughout his career. O’Neal, though, was more than simply a freak of nature; he was elegant for a guy of his size and had a fine touch with his jump shots from close range. On the other hand, his free-throw shooting…

#4: Larry Bird

His lowly college origins and “Hick from French Lick” moniker don’t deceive you—Larry Bird was one of the most ferocious opponents in NBA history. One of basketball’s greatest players, Bird possessed the fastest release in history, and he would frequently let his opponent know that the shot was about to go in before it had ever left his hands. During his injury-shortened 13-year career, he collected three championship rings and was selected to 12 All-Star games. The rivalry between him and Magic Johnson, who you’ll see a little later on our list, propelled basketball to an extraordinary degree of national popularity from which it has never recovered throughout the 1980s. Magic Johnson, of course.

#5: Bill Russell

In the annals of NBA history, Russell was the supreme victor. All but two of his 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics resulted in a championship. He may have won more titles since there were only 8 to 14 teams in the NBA during this time span, but even that doesn’t diminish his historical exploits. In the ten seasons before Russell joined the club, the Celtics never made it to the championship series despite playing at the highest level. Russell, on the other hand, drastically reshaped the Celtics’ future and made them the NBA’s most successful team in his debut season. However, he didn’t make the cut because of some ethereal “winningness.” During his career, Russell averaged 22.5 rebounds per game, making him one of the all-time great rebounders as well as a renowned shot blocker.

#6: Oscar Robertson

This man is ridiculous. However, even though I’m too young to have seen him play, his incredible stats make me wish I had a time machine so I could watch him live. “The Big O” had a triple-double season in 1961–62, averaging 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists per game. It should also be noted that the NBA’s 12-time All-Star and antitrust pioneer contributed to bring real free agency to the league via a historic antitrust complaint.

#7: Wilt Chamberlain

In spite of the fact that Chamberlain played in an era when post players were substantially smaller and basketball was not pulling the kinds of physical wonders we see today, the guy was so completely dominating that it justifies a place in the top five. Chamberlain amassed the four best single-season scoring averages in NBA history during his first four seasons in the league. On March 2, 1962, he became the first player in NBA history to score 100 points in a single game, a milestone that is unlikely to ever be matched. Not only was Chamberlain the only player in league history to ever average more minutes played per game than Bill Russell (22.9), but he was also the only one to ever collect more rebounds than Russell (22.9). (45.8). During Chamberlain’s 14-year career, he only missed one All-Star Game, which came in 1970, when he was restricted to only 12 regular-season games due to injury. Despite this, he helped his team reach the NBA championships upon his return.

#8: Magic Johnson

Johnson, one of the NBA’s most charismatic players, was a big influence in the NBA’s tremendous rise in popularity in the 1980s. It wasn’t only his grin that made him attractive. His death laid the way for the “Showtime” Lakers teams that won five championships during his 13 years with the organization. Not only did Johnson, at 6’9″, become the NBA’s tallest point guard, but his all-around game was one of the finest in league history (11.2 assists per game). As a 20-year-old rookie, he replaced the injured Abdul-Jabbar in the last game of the 1980 NBA finals and won the championship for the Los Angeles Lakers. Although his inclusion on this list is unrelated, it’s still amazing and noteworthy that he has successfully battled HIV for more than two decades, helped de-stigmatize AIDS through his high-profile advocacy, and launched a second career as an entrepreneur who opens businesses predominantly in poor areas to encourage urban renewal. Magic Johnson, then, is a cool guy.

#9: Michael Jordan

If I were a Chicagoan, I wouldn’t dare say that His Airness isn’t the greatest player of all time, but, well, I simply don’t believe he is. Is he the greatest player of all time? Absolutely. It’s hard to argue with that. It’s possible, I think. Do you think you are the most excessively competitive person in the world? Definitely. Iconic in the history of basketball, he has won six championships and five MVP honors and has been widely regarded as one of the finest defenders in history. In addition, he has the NBA’s greatest career scoring average of 30.1 points per game. However, he had Scottie Pippen as a teammate and Phil Jackson as his coach during his most productive years, making him a top-25 player. At least as much as the previous individual on this list, he had a lot of support. In addition, it’s amusing to poke fun at the city’s sports fans, who are unusually protective of their achievements. Did you know that the Seahawks’ 2013 defense was the greatest in NFL history?

#10: LeBron James:

He is, in fact, the greatest player to ever play on a basketball floor, despite what many fans believe. When it comes to LeBron James, he just performs the unthinkable. He’s larger than most NFL players, yet he glides like the most elegant point guards in the game. At the age of 16, Sports Illustrated named him “The Chosen One.” Since then, he has not only lived up to the enormous expectations placed on him, but has outperformed them. Despite their greatness, previous players were not subjected to the 24/7 pressures of the media, which James handles with ease. James had averaging 27.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 steals per game after the release of this list, and unlike the Big O, he was doing it against teams packed with great athletes and not guys who smoked cigarettes at halftime. His lack of victories early in his career was overshadowed by how he virtually single-handedly led an underdog Cleveland Cavaliers team to the NBA finals in 2007. Of course, he has since won two championships (and counting?) with the Miami Heat. He’s not only able to pull off things I’ve never seen before, but he’s also constantly improving his game in order to rectify the flaws he was formerly chastised for. Isn’t that all you can expect from the greatest of all time?


To include all of the greatest NBA players of all time on a list that only includes the top ten, it would be impossible. If you’re looking for others, you may do so here:

  1. Oscar Robertson
  2. Hakeem Olajuwon
  3. Kevin Durant
  4. Kevin Garnett
  5. Steph Curry
  6. Charles Barkley
  7. Charles Barkley
  8. Jerry West
  9. Karl Malone
  10. Julius Erving
  11. David Robinson
  12. Elgin Baylor
  13. Moses Malone
  14. Scottie Pippen
  15. Dwyane Wade
  16. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  17. Kawhi Leonard
  18. Isiah Thomas
  19. John Stockton
  20. Allen Iverson