With the NBA season on hiatus, what better time to rank the NBA’s greatest players. TGH NBA staff writers voted for their top 50 players in league history on a points system, and then the players were ranked by points in a final aggregate list. Today’s article covers the final ten players, players who all have a case to be considered the greatest at their respective positions. Make sure to read the articles on players 50 through 41, players 40 through 31, players 30 through 21 and players 20 through 11 to get caught up.
10. Hakeem Olajuwon
As the most talented post scorer of all time, Hakeem Olajuwon made his living on the block. With a downright absurd array of post moves, he was good for 25 points a night for a period of nearly 15 years while also offering elite defense. He is most remembered for stepping up to the plate during Jordan’s retirement and going on a two year stretch of basketball dominance. In 1993-1994 he became the only player to ever win the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP awards in the same season.
9. Tim Duncan
Duncan’s nickname, ‘The Big Fundamental’, is perhaps the aptest nickname in the history of the NBA. He mastered the fundamentals of basketball unlike anyone before or since. His positioning was world class on both sides of the ball, he always knew where to be and when to be there and he never shied away from the moment. These qualities helped mold him into one of the greatest defenders, greatest teammates and greatest winners, in NBA history. The five titles speak for themselves, Tim Duncan is one of the greatest to ever do it.
In terms of the NBA’s greatest big men, Shaq sits on the opposite side of the spectrum from Tim Duncan in many ways. His fundamentals were not the greatest, his shooting touch was close to zero and he never received plaudits for his all-around team play. But he made up for all of that with a physicality that hasn’t been seen before or since. His sheer physical dominance was enough to overpower even the savviest of players. Even though he went about it a different way than Duncan, both of them ended up as incredible winners. Shaq won four NBA titles over the course of his long career, including three finals MVPs.
Wilt Chamberlain, like Shaq, was a physical specimen of his era. As a seven-foot center, his vertical leap was estimated at 43 inches, higher than renowned high flyers like LeBron James and Julius Erving. Wilt used his physical gifts to dominate the 1960s, at one point even averaging 50 points per game for an entire season. He even was an incredible passer for his height, leading the league in assists in 1967-68. Although he only won two NBA championships, his incredible statistical feats are more than enough to rank him among the games best.
6. Kobe Bryant
The late Kobe Bryant is perhaps the iconic face of basketball in the 21st century. His efforts and achievements litter basketball’s recent history with a trophy cabinet that rivals those of any all-time great. He had 18 All-Star appearances, 12 all-defensive teams, an MVP, two scoring titles, two finals MVPs and five rings. What made Kobe special was his mentality. He had a drive and passion for the game like no other which led him to incredible success even under the constant eyes of doubters. His greatness will live on.
5. Larry Bird
Along with his friend and rival Magic Johnson, Larry Bird helped to save the NBA from an era of low ratings and tape delays and bring basketball into its golden age. As the undisputed leader of the Boston Celtics, Larry Legend led them to three NBA championships and five finals appearances in the 1980s. Bird was a supremely gifted all-around player who had no real weaknesses in his game. He is also one of the most clutch players in league history and always seemed to come up with a big play, such as his clutch steal and pass to win game five of the 1987 eastern conference finals.
4. Magic Johnson
Even though he only played 12 seasons before retiring due to contracting HIV, Magic Johnson still ranks as the best point guard to ever play the game. His passing ability was unmatched, he led the league in assists four times and retired with the highest assist per game average in NBA history. As the lead man of the Showtime Lakers, he led them to five NBA championships. Magic is the ultimate what could have been story. If he had not been forced to retire after his age 31 season he very well could have continued his prime, and maybe even cemented himself as the games greatest ever player.
3. Kareem Abdul Jabaar
Naturally, the greatest college basketball player of all time also succeded in the NBA. After his incredible career at UCLA, Kareem immediately began a nearly twenty-year stretch of dominance over the league which saw him make 19 all-star games, win six MVPs, and six NBA titles. His longevity was astounding, he won finals MVP 14 years apart, made an NBA record number of all-star games, and is the NBAs all-time leader in points. He is one of few players to have a serious case as the greatest of all time and is more than deserving of the number three spot.
2. LeBron James
A player who needs no introduction, LeBron James has dominated modern basketball since his debut in 2003 right up until the present day. His statistical dominance is unmatched, he is well on his way to breaking Kareem’s points record and ranks near the top in steals and assists as well. Up to this point, he is already a 16-time all-star, a four-time MVP and a three-time champion. The scary thing is he is still in his prime and has a chance to add to his already incredible resume. If his career continues along his current trajectory, he was a big chance to walk away as the greatest ever.
In many fans’ minds, Michael Jordan is the undisputed greatest of all time, and for good reason. A perfect 6-0 record in the finals, five MVPs and an obscene 10 scoring titles are proof enough. He also happened to be possibly the best defensive guard of all time, making nine all-defensive teams and winning Defensive Player of the Year in 1987-1988. But what truly makes Jordan the greatest isn’t measurable through statistics. He had a borderline obsessive desire to win and an insane competitive streak. Nobody cared more about winning than Jordan and it showed, when it mattered most he always made sure to come out on top. He is, without a doubt, the greatest player to ever step foot on a basketball court and the best player in NBA history.
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