Nothing is more controversial than determining who are the top ten players in NBA history. These lists differ from person to person, rarely will two people have the same players, let alone the same exact list.
With that being said, here are my top ten players in NBA history.
Honorable Mentions: Oscar Robertson, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Jerry West, and Julius Erving.
10. Hakeem Olajuwon
Regarded as the most skilled big man in the history of the game, Hakeem Olajuwon’s dominance on the inside was a thing of beauty. He abused defenders with his trademark “Dream Shake” move.
On top of that, Olajuwon was one of the greatest defenders to ever play the game. He averaged 3.3 blocks per game and protected the paint better than anyone during his time.
“The Dream” led the Houston Rockets to back-to-back NBA Championships, winning two Finals MVPs and one regular season MVP. He is the only player in NBA history to win regular season MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season (1994).
9. Larry Bird
Bird was never the most athletic player on the court, but he was always a force to reckoned with. Whatever he lacked in athleticism, he made up for with his deadly jump shot, high basketball IQ and relentless competitiveness.
Bird led the Boston Celtics to three NBA Championships, compiling three regular season MVPs and 2 Finals MVPs along the way. “Larry Legend” was selected to 10 All-NBA and three All-Defense Teams in his 13-year career.
8. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal was the most dominant player of his generation. It was unfair how he brutalized defenders with his size and strength.
Shaq led the Los Angeles Lakers to three consecutive NBA Championships in the early 2000s, winning three Finals MVPs in the process. The 2000 regular season MVP was also selected to 14 All-NBA Teams in his career.
7. Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan is the model of consistency. “The Big Fundamental” led the San Antonio Spurs to four NBA Championships, en route to three Finals MVPs. His perfect Finals record was blemished in a seven-game series loss to the Miami Heat, but five out of six is not bad at all. Duncan was selected to 15 All-NBA Teams and 15 All-Defensive Teams, while winning the regular season MVP award twice.
6. Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain was the most dominant player of all time. As time passes, he seems more and more like a mythical figure. In the 1961-62 regular season, he averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds (I think it’s safe to say that’ll never happen again).
Had Wilt accomplished more in the postseason, he would be closer to No. 1. It seems crazy to expect more from a player who averaged 22 points and 25 rebounds, but to truly be considered the greatest, postseason success is a must.
5. Bill Russell
Speaking of postseason success, Bill Russell was not only the greatest defender in the game’s history but more importantly, he led the Boston Celtics to a record 11 consecutive NBA Championships.
Bill Russell is an interesting case, as his offensive stats were not on the same level as the rest of the all-time greats, but his impact went far beyond numbers. Russell could flat-out dominate the game defensively. Finals MVPs were not awarded throughout his career, but if they were, he’d have plenty of those.
4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Before Duncan, there was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in terms of consistency. His ability to maintain such averages while competing for 20 seasons is simply a testament to his greatness.
Here’s a rundown of Kareem’s greatest feats: all-time leading scorer in NBA history, most regular season MVP awards (six), 15 All-NBA selections, 11 All-Defense selections, 19 All-Star appearances.
3. Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson won Finals MVP as a rookie when he famously started at center in place of the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals. The Finals were like a second home to Magic and the Showtime Lakers, as they made nine trips during his legendary career.
The 6-foot-9 point guard used his large frame to torch defenses. In his 14-year career, he amassed 10 All-NBA selections, five titles, three Finals MVPs, and three regular season MVPs.
2. LeBron James
The guy who was anointed “The Chosen One” in high school not only embraced the hype but exceeded it. He delivered on all that promise by evolving in every facet of the game, taking care of his body and becoming arguably the smartest and most complete player in basketball.
With three championships, three Finals MVPs, four regular season MVP awards and perhaps the greatest three-game run in NBA Finals history, James is the first true threat to Michael Jordan’s supremacy.
1. Michael Jordan
“MJ” accomplished everything possible in the game, piling up on the stats and awards. On the game’s biggest stage, Jordan went a perfect 6-for-6, also sweeping Finals MVP in his appearances.
The Chicago Bulls legend dominated both sides of the ball, amassing 11 All-NBA selections, nine All-Defensive First team selections, six Finals MVPs, 5 regular season MVPs, and 10 scoring titles.
Disagree with my list? Feel free to comment below with your own or tweet me @BenParsons7.