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Top 20 NBA players of all time | LeBron James and more

National Basketball Association (NBA) is the most revered Basketball League in the World. Naturally, the players that compete in the league are arguably the best lot you can ever find on the Earth. It is, thus, not surprising that NBA players are highest paid athletes in the world (in terms of average annual salary per player).

This year, the league will complete 73 years glorious years. Throughout the course of these years, the NBA has blessed the world with thousands of spectacular moments to cherish and hundreds of stars to worship. Talking about NBA stars, let’s have a look at some of the most iconic NBA stars of all time.

20
David Robinson

Top NBA Players: David Robinson

Position: Center

Teams: San Antonio Spurs (1989-2003)

Honours: Rookie of the Year (1989-90), MVP (1994-95), Defensive Player of the Year (1991-92), 10-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA selection, 8-time All-Defensive Team, Hall of Fame

Championships: 2 (1999, 2003)

Career stats: 21.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 3.0 BPG, .518 FG%

Nickname: The Admiral

David Robinson was the only player outside of Hakeem Olajuwon to average 20 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks per game throughout his 14 season-long career. He was also called as the admiral because of his service in the US Navy prior to entering the NBA. He was also an integral part of the famous ‘Dream Team’ that represented the US in the 1992 Olympics held in Barcelona. The Admiral has a career-high score of 71 points, scored against Los Angeles Clippers in the last game of the 1993-94 season. He outscored Shaquille O’Neal for the scoring title of the season.

19
Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki Kreedon
Top NBA Players: Dirk Nowitzki

Position: Power forward

Teams: Dallas Mavericks (1998-2019)

Honours: MVP (2006-07), Finals MVP (2010-11), 12-time All-NBA selection, 14-time All-Star

Championships: One (2011)

Career stats: 20.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, .471 FG%

Dirk Nowitzki was undoubtedly the best shooting big men of all time. Nowitzki is the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-point field goals made, free throws and free throw percentage among players taller than 7 foot. He also has the record of playing a 21 years long career in a single franchise (Dallas Mavericks). He also led the Dallas Mavericks to its long-awaited first NBA Title in 2011 against the favoured Lebron James’s Miami Heat.

18
John Stockton

Top NBA Players: John Stockton

Position: Point guard

Teams: Utah Jazz (1984-2003)

Honours: 10-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA selection, five-time All-D selection, Hall of Fame

Championships: None

Career stats: 13.1 PPG, 10.5 APG, 2.2 SPG, .384 3P%

John Stockton is NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals. The Hall of Famer point guard led the league in assists per game for 9 consecutive seasons from 1987-96. No other player has done it for 9 seasons total. John Stockton and Karl Malone were one of the most dominant duos of all-time. They led the Utah Jazz to 2 NBA finals appearance and if it weren’t for Michael Jordan, they would have one at least one of them. John Stockton is considered by many as most consisted point guards of all time. He missed only 22 games in his 19 seasons long career.

17
Julius Erving

Dr J Kreedon
Top NBA Players: Dr. J

Position: Small forward

Teams: Virginia Squires (1971-1973), New York Nets (1973-1976), Philadelphia 76ers (1976-1987)

Honours: MVP (1980-81), 11-time All-Star, 7-time All-NBA selection, Hall of Fame

Championships: One (1983)

Career stats: 24.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 4.2 APG, .506 FG%

Nickname: Dr J

Julius Erving was a star that people used to look up to for his innovation and wizardry with the ball. He used to perform feats like mid-air whirls and spins followed by slam dunks which were never seen before. He is also the only player to win MVPs in both the NBA and ABA. Dr J stands at 8th all-time in of NBA and ABA combined scoring list. He has also won season scoring titles 3 times.

16
Oscar Robertson

Oscar Robertson Kreedon
Top NBA Players: Oscaar Robertson

Position: Point guard

Teams: Cincinnati Royals (1960-70), Milwaukee Bucks (1970-1974)

Honours: MVP (1963-64), 12-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA selection, Rookie of the Year (1960-61), Hall of Fame

Championships: One (1971)

Career stats: 25.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 9.5 APG, .485 FG%

Nickname: Big O

Oscar Robertson is the NBA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles. He scored 181 triple-doubles in his 14 seasons long NBA career. He was the first player to average a triple-double throughout a season in 1962 NBA. Big O was an integral part of the Milwaukee Bucks’ Championship run in 1970-71 with Kareem Abdul Jabbar. He won the Rookie of the Year Award,  averaging 30.5 points and 9.7 assists per game in his rookie season. This proved that his talents were way ahead of his time. It would have really interesting to see how he performs in today’s guard dominant league.

15
Karl Malone

Karl Malone Kreedon
Top NBA Players: Karl Malone

Position: Power forward

Teams: Utah Jazz (1985-2003), Los Angeles Lakers (2003-2004)

Honours: Two-time MVP (1996-97, 1998-99), 14-time All-Star, 14-time All-NBA selection, four-time All-D selection, Hall of Fame

Championships: None

Career stats: 25.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, .516 FG%

Nickname: The Mailman

Karl Malone stands second in the all-time scoring leaders of the NBA with 36,928 points. He was called the mail-man as he always delivered as a mail-man does. He played 18 seasons for the Utah Jazz forming a formidable duo with John Stockton. In fact, a lot of Stockton’s assists can be credited to Karl Malone’s lethal scoring skills. Also, he is the only player to be named in the first-team all-NBA for 11 consecutive seasons. The only feat that he couldn’t achieve in his 19 seasons long career was the NBA Title that he desperately wanted. He also joined the Lakers for his last season in the NBA in 2003-04 but the Lakers fell short to Pistons in the NBA finals.

14
Jerry West

Top NBA Players: Jerry West

Position: Shooting guard

Teams: Los Angeles Lakers (1960-1974)

Honours: Finals MVP (1969), 14-time All-Star, 12-time All-NBA selection, five-time All-D selection, Hall of Fame

Championships: One (1972)

Career stats: 27.0 PPG, 6.7 APG, 2.6 SPG, .474 FG%

Nickname: The Logo

Jerry West is the man in the NBA logo with a ball in his hand. He played in the all-star game in every season of his career. The Logo also led the Los Angeles Lakers to 9 NBA Finals. Also, he is the only player outside of Michael Jordan to score 40 points per game in the entire post-season. He holds the record of averaging most points per game (46.3 points) in an NBA playoff series. While the NBA never officially confirmed his presence in the logo, everyone knows that it is Jerry West’s figure. This proves his impact in the NBA back in that era.

13
Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry Kreedon
Top NBA Players: Stephen Curry

Position: Point guard

Teams: Golden State Warriors (2009-present)

Honours:  Two-Time MVP (2014-15, 2015-16), five-time All-Star, six-time All-NBA selection

Championships: Three (2015, 2017, 2018)

Career stats: 23.5 PPG, 6.6 APG, 4.5 RPG, .436 3FG%

Nickname: Baby-Faced Assassin, Chef Curry

Steph Curry is no new name in modern basketball. He is currently the highest paid NBA player. Being the best outside shooter that the NBA has ever seen, he has revolutionised the NBA. A pivotal figure of NBA’s new dynasty in Golden State Warriors. Curry led the franchise to its first title since 1975 in 2015. Also, Curry led the team to the NBA record of a 73-9 (W-L) in the 2015-16 season, claiming the first-ever unanimous MVP of the NBA. The baby faced assassin is best known for his out of world shooting ability. He has changed the geometry of basketball throughout the world. Stephen Curry recently led the Warriors to sweep Trail Blazers 4-0 in the Western Conference Finals without their best player in Kevin Durant.

12
Kevin Durant

Top NBA Players: KD

Position: Small forward

Teams: Seattle SuperSonics (2007-08), Oklahoma City Thunder (2008-16), Golden State Warriors (2016-present)

Honours: MVP (2013-14), ten-time All-Star, nine-time All-NBA selection, Rookie of the Year (2007-08), four-time scoring champion, two-time NBA champion, two-time NBA-Finals MVP

Championships: Two (2016-17, 2017-18)

Career stats: 27.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.1 APG, .493 FG%

Nickname: KD, Durantula

Kevin Durant has won 4 scoring title before turning 26. Only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain have more scoring titles in their whole career. Kevin Durant is a two-time Finals MVP against LeBron and has proved it that he can perform at the highest level. Since LeBron James was injured in December last year, Kevin Durant is believed by many to be the best overall player in the world. An efficient offensive machine with unstoppable 3 point shooting and a wingspan of 7’5’’, KD has the potential to end up really high in this list.

11
Tim Duncan

Top NBA Players: Tim Duncan

Position: Power forward

Teams: San Antonio Spurs (1997-2016)

Honours: Two-time MVP (2001-02, 2002-03), three-time Finals MVP, 15-time All-Star, 15-time All-NBA selection, 15-time All-D selection, Rookie of the Year (1997-98)

Championships: 5 (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014)

Career stats: 19.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3 BPG, .506 FG%

Nickname: The Big Fundamental, Timmy

Tim Duncan’s is among the most underrated players of all time. He used to torch his opponents in the paint with his strong fundamentals and footwork. The Big Fundamental was also the only player in 25 years to be named in First-Team All-NBA in his Rookie Year. He was the pillar around which Greg Popovich and Spurs build their empire. Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich empowered the San Antonio Spurs with 5 NBA Titles in 18 seasons. He was named in the All-NBA defensive team for a record 15 times in his 18 seasons long career.

10
Hakeem Olajuwon

Top NBA Players: Hakeem Olajuwon

Position: Center

Teams: Houston Rockets (1984-2001), Toronto Raptors (2001-02)

Honours: NBA MVP (1993-94), two-time Defensive Player of the Year, 12-time All-Star, two-time NBA Finals MVP, 12-time All-NBA selection, nine-time All-Defensive Team selection, Hall of Fame

Championships: Two (1994, 1995)

Career stats: 21.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 3.1 BPG, 1.7 SPG

Nickname: The Dream

Hakeem Olajuwon is the NBA’s all-time leader in Blocks. The Dream had the elegance in his game that every player dream about. He led the Houston Rockets to back-to-back championships in 1993-94 and 1994-95. He is the only in the NBA History to tally 200 steals (213) and 200 blocks (282) in a single season (1988-89). Also, he is the only player in NBA history to average 20 points, 10 rebounds, 20 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks per game in each of his first 12 seasons.

9
Shaquille O’Neal

Shaq Kreedon
Top NBA Players: Shaq

Position: Center

Team: Orlando Magic (1992-96), Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2004), Miami Heat (2004-08), Phoenix Suns (2008-09), Cleveland Cavaliers (2009-10), Boston Celtics (2010-11)

Honours: MVP (1999-2000), three-time Finals MVP, 15-time All-Star, 14-time All-NBA selection, three-time All-D selection, Rookie of the Year (1992-93)

Championships: 4 (2000, 2001, 2002, 2006)

Career stats: 23.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.3 BPG, .582 FG%

Nickname(s): Shaq, Diesel, The Big Aristotle, Most Dominant Ever, Superman

Listed at 7’1 and 325 pounds, Shaquille O’Neal was an unstoppable force in the paint. The only way to stop him was to foul him and make him work for those free-throws which he was horrible at. Shaq is among the only 2 NBA players to have won the NBA Finals MVP for 3 consecutive seasons. Also, he is the only player to have scored more than 30 points in every game of multiple NBA Finals (2000,2002).

8
Kobe Bryant

Top NBA Players: Kobe Bryant

Position: Shooting guard

Teams: Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2016)

Honours: MVP (2007-08), two-time Finals MVP, 18-time All-Star, 15-time All-NBA selection, two-time NBA scoring champion

Championships: Five (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010)

Career stats: 25 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.7 APG, .447 FG%

Nicknames: The Black Mamba, Vino

Kobe Bryant is the third highest all-time scorer in NBA history. He played for the Los Angeles Lakers for all 20 seasons of his NBA career (only another player to play more is Dirk). He also shares the record for most All-NBA appearances (15) with LeBron James, Tim Duncan and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. The Black Mamba was best known for his never give up mentality (Mamba Mentality) and killer instincts in taking over the opposition both offensively and defensively. He is regarded by many as the most skilled offensive weapon of all-time. On top of his offensive dominance in the league, he was named in NBA All-Defensive team 12 times in his career. Kobe also holds the record of scoring second highest score in a single game (81).

7
Bill Russell

Bill Russell Kreedon
Top NBA Players: Bill Russell

Position: Center

Teams: Boston Celtics (1956-1969)

Honours: Five-time MVP (1957-58, 1960-61, 1961-62, 1962-63, 1964-65), 12-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA selection, All-D selection (1968-69), Hall of Fame

Championships: 11 (1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969)

Career stats: 15.1 PPG, 22.5 RPG, 4.3 APG, .440 FG%

Bill Russell is the most successful player of the NBA, winning 11 championships with the Boston Celtics in the 60s. He led his team to 12 NBA Finals appearance in the 13 seasons that he played. He believed that the key to winning games resided in defence and worshipped his belief faithfully. There was no 3 point line at that in the NBA and the major scoring was done in the paint. Bill Russell was one the greatest defender in the paint. He used to block the opponent’s shots directly towards his teammates which led to easy transition buckets. No one knows how many blocks Bill would have recorded throughout his career as there were no such stats recorded back in his day.

6
Larry Bird

Top NBA Players: Larry Bird

Position: Small forward

Teams: Boston Celtics (1979-1992)

Honours: Three-time MVP (1983-84, 1984-85, 1985-86), two-time Finals MVP, 12-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA selection, three-time All-D selection, Rookie of the Year (1979-80), Hall of Fame

Championships: 3 (1981, 1984, 1986)

Career stats: 24.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, .496 FG%

Nickname: Larry Legend, Mr Clutch, The Hick from French Lick

Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell are the only players in NBA history to have won 3 straight MVPs. Although his numbers look quite modest for his position in this list, Bird carried rare swagger when it came to moments that mattered the most. His enormous list of game winners justifies his title as ‘Mr Clutch’. Bird received 85% of the first-class votes during his MVP run. Everybody knew who the best player in the league was and those who questioned it, realised soon when they saw him wearing the ring.

5
Magic Johnson

Top NBA Players: Magic Johnson

Position: Point guard

Teams: Los Angeles Lakers (1979-1991, 1995-1996)

Honours: Three-time MVP (1986-87, 1988-89, 1989-90), three-time Finals MVP, 12-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA selection, Hall of Fame

Championships: Five (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)

Career stats: 19.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 11.2 APG, .520 FG%

Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson is regarded by many as the greatest point guard of all time. He was the greatest floor general every time he stepped on the court. Him ‘Magic’ vision allowed him to visualise all the plays before they even started. He used to orchestrate the offence at another level. Magic dominated the NBA in his short career. The Showtime Lakers were possible only because of the greatest showman of all time. He did not just make look sharing the ball fancier but also demonstrated how to win as a team. Also, he was a very important figure in the 1992 Olympics Dream Team. He retired from the NBA in 1991 after learning that he was HIV positive.

4
Wilt Chamberlain

wilt chamberlain Kreedon
Top NBA Players: Wilt Chamberlain

Position: Center

Teams: Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors (1959-1965), Philadelphia 76ers (1965-1968), Los Angeles Lakers (1968-1973)

Honours: Four-time MVP (1959-60, 1965-66, 1966-67, 1967-68), Finals MVP (1972), 13-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA selection, two-time All-D selection, Rookie of the Year (1959-60), Hall of Fame

Championships: Two (1967, 1972)

Career stats: 30.1 PPG, 22.9 RPG, 4.4 APG, .540 FG%

Nicknames: Wilt the Stilt, The Big Dipper

Wilt Chamberlain is undoubtedly the most statistically dominant player in the world to have ever lived. You can tell this by merely looking at his numbers. He has 118 50-point games which are 87 more than any other player. Also, he has scored 32 60-point games which more than every other 60 point game in the league history combined. He holds the record of scoring 100 points in a single game. He even averaged 50 ppg throughout a season.

These numbers are just so incomparable that anyone would declare him the GOAT straight away. But the fact is that Wilt was such an athletic, versatile and physical freak that he felt it easier to score and do it himself than share the ball. Basketball is a team sport and you have to play together to win titles. Wilt’s team never won a Championship with him averaging these unbelievable numbers. He won his 2 NBA titles in 1967 and 1972 averaging only 24.1 and 14.8 ppg respectively. While he still led in rebounds and field goal percentage, he realised that he cannot win rings single-handedly.

3
Lebron James

LeBron james Kreedon
Top NBA Players: LeBron James

Position: Small forward

Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers (2003-2010, 2014-2018), Miami Heat (2010-2014), Los Angeles Lakers (2018-present)

Honours: Four-time MVP (2008-09, 2009-10, 2011-12, 2012-13), three-time Finals MVP, 15-time All-Star, 15-time All-NBA selection, six-time All-D selection, Rookie of the Year (2003-04), NBA scoring champion (2007-08)

Championships: Two (2012, 2013)

Career stats: 27.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.2 APG, .504 FG%

Nickname: King James, The Chosen One

A child prodigy in basketball, LeBron James came into the league directly from high school. Then 18-year old, The Chosen One faced enormous pressure due to the unparalleled expectations. Going into his 17th season next year, King James has certainly lived up to those expectations. He is the only player in NBA history to score 30,000 points, 8,000 assists and 8,000 rebounds.

After winning 2 titles with the Miami Heats, LeBron led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the greatest comeback in the history of NBA. Cavaliers came back from a 1-3 deficit in the NBA Finals against the 73 win Golden State Warriors. LeBron has made 8 consecutive Nba Finals appearance. The King is now a Laker and looking for a fresh season after the disappointing injury-ridden season. Still, he managed to make it to the 3rd team all-NBA.

2
Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Kareem Abdul Jabbar Kreedon
Top NBA Players: Kareem Abdul

Position: Center

Teams: Milwaukee Bucks (1969-1975), Los Angeles Lakers (1975-1989)

Honours: Six-time MVP (1970-71, 1971-72, 1973-74, 1975-76, 1976-77, 1979-80), two-time Finals MVP, 19-time All-Star, 15-time All-NBA selection, 10-time All-D selection, Rookie of the Year (1969-70), Hall of Fame

Championships: Six (1971, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)

Career stats: 24.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.6 BPG, .559 FG%

Nickname: Cap

Kareem Abdul Jabbar is the all-time leader of points scored in the NBA. He also has the most number of MVP awards (6) and the best Win Shares. The Cap had the single most destructive scoring weapon of all-time in the ‘sky hook’. He must have scored more than ⅔ of his total points using this lethal move. The moment ball left his hand, everybody knew it was going in. Kareem was also one of the most consistent performers on the biggest stage which resulted in him winning 6 rings in his 20-year long career. He also ranks 3rd all-time in total blocks in the NBA. He was also the most prolific scorer proven by the fact that he averaged 23 points at an age of 38 years in his 17th season.

1
Michael Jordan – THE GOAT AMONG TOP NBA PLAYERS

His Airness GOAT Kreedon
The Greatest of All Time: Michael Jordan

Position: Shooting guard

Teams: Chicago Bulls (1984-93, 1995-98), Washington Wizards (2001-03)

Honours: Five-time MVP (1987-88, 1990-91, 1991-92, 1995-96, 1997-98), six-time Finals MVP, 14-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA selection, nine-time All-D selection, 10-time NBA scoring champion, defensive player of the year (1987-88), rookie of the year (1984-85), Hall of Fame

Championships: Six (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998)

Career stats: 30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, .497 FG%

Nickname: Air Jordan, His Airness, Mike

There has been nobody like Michael Jordan. There will be nobody like him. Ever. He is the most competitive human being to have ever stepped on the basketball court. Every time when he stepped on that floor, he was motivated to destroy the opponent. Take the infamous flu game of 1997 NBA Finals. In the 11 seasons (played more than 20 games) that he played for the Chicago Bulls, he finished top 5 in the MVP voting 10 times. And the one time he did not was his rookie season when he ended up 6th. Besides all this, his air time was something never seen before. He used to jump and almost seemed to hang in the air till the defender goes down. This is why he was named His Airness.

Also Read | Complete guide on how to play Basketball for beginners

Mike is the most dominant player of all time when it mattered the most. Yes, that is playoffs. He holds the record of the highest score in the playoffs by any player (63) against the Larry Bird’s Celtics that went on to win the title that year. Also, he holds the highest postseason average of 33.5 ppg.

He has scored most 50 point games, most 40 point games, and also the most 30 point games in the post-season. In fact, he has never scored less than 15 points ever in a postseason game. Also, he has never missed any post-season game. Jordan’s addiction to competition and the necessity to win always sets him apart from everyone else. He was the one who made Basketball global. He made the name on the back look bigger than the name on the front.

“I think it’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.” — Larry Bird, 1986

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Raghav Heda
Raghav is a sports enthusiast and a content writer at Kreedon. Being a former state-level cricketer and Captain of the Basketball team at IIT Patna, he understands the problems faced by a student-athlete in India. He is also a die-hard NBA fan and has been following the league and American Sports Media for long. Comparing the Indian sports economy to American Sports' was something that motivated him to work for the development of Indian Sports.

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