Since the invention of basketball in the 19th century and the formation of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1946, Basketball has progressed to become a sport with over 400 million fans worldwide. With the rise of the NBA and the exceptional players who thrill fans with their prowess, basketball transcended from just another recreational sports activity to a multi-billion dollar industry that continually produces suspense-filled and adrenaline pumped games. This was further complemented by the rise of adept players who single-handedly dominated games while smashing and creating records. Throughout history, we have seen the best basketball players in the NBA in each generation, but in this article, we search throughout history to present the top-20 greatest basketball players in the NBA who have mesmerized fans with their antics and left a solid legacy which has continued to survive long after their demise from the basketball scene.
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20. Julius Erving
One of the best players to have played in the NBA, Dr J as he is often called, was one of the best players who played in the American Basketball League before it merged with the NBA. Throughout his 16 year stint at the NBA, he was included in an All-Star team.
19. Oscar Robertson
The Big O, as Oscar was fondly called during the summit of his career, was a force to reckon with on the court. After starting his professional basketball career as a point guard with the Cincinnati Royals (now Sacramento Kings), Oscar ruled the NBA, topping the score chart in the 1960s. He went on to play for Milwaukee Bucks, where he put up a similarly impressive performance. Throughout his career, he reached 181 Career Triple Doubles.
18. Jerry West
Mr Clutch as West is called, is the only NBA player to be named MVP in an NBA final, despite not being on the winning team. Though West reached 9 finals with the LA Lakers, he has just one championship to his name, but in all, West averaged a career point of 27 each game. His silhouette is incorporated in the official NBA logo, a testament to the impact of his glamorous career.
17. Kevin Durant
Since he became a rookie in the NBA in 2007, Kevin Durant has progressed to become the best players in the NBA in the modern era. While at the Golden State Warriors, Durant worked with some of the best minds in the league to lift his side to two NBA Championship, winning MVP in both finals. Currently playing for the Brooklyn Nets, Durant has averaged 26 points each game throughout his career, so far.
16. David Robinson
An ex-Naval officer turned basketball player, David Robinson brought the agility and strength of military life to the world of sports. “The Admiral” as he was nicknamed was a good centerman and defender that he blocked enough shots to average 2.99 career blocks each game.
15. Stephen Curry
A three-time NBA champion, Stephen Curry is widely recognized as one of the very best in basketball currently. Throughout his glamorous career, he has been named to the NBA All-star games, 6 times. His accurate shots have created a reputation for him as one of the NBA’s top scorers. He has also won the NBA MVP twice.
14. Hakeem Olajuwon
The Dream as he is nicknamed has a reputation for dunking with ease. Aside dunking, Hakeem Olajuwon is a typical example of an NBA star player who can single-handedly change the score lines thanks to his defensive antics, powerful dunks and accurate shots. The two time NBA MVP has won the NBA Championship twice and reached an average of 21.8 points per game.
13. Tim Duncan
Throughout his 19-year stint in the NBA, Duncan received All-Stars honour, on 15 occasions. The ace basketball footballer, who led the San Antonio Spurs to 5 NBA Championship. “The Big Fundamental” as Duncan is nicknamed ruled the basketball courts in the early years of the 21st century. He averaged career points of 19 points.
12. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaq, as he is fondly called, is one of the most influential basketball players who have played in the modern era. Shaquille O’Neal‘s legacy in basketball cannot be forgotten in a hurry. The ex-basketball star who has won 4 NBA Championship and claimed 3 NBA MVP awards averaged 23.7 points per game throughout his 19-year career.
11. Bob Pettit
Though he had a relatively short NBA career, Bob Pettit’s success in basketball is noteworthy. He won the NBA Championship on one occasion and claimed the NBA All-Star MVP on four occasions, making him one of two players in the NBA who have achieved the feat. Throughout his 11 year career, he averaged 26.4 career point.
10. Charles Barkley
Though he didn’t win a single NBA Championship, the dominance of Charles Barkley in basketball during his career is impressive. The Houston Rockets player who is nicknamed Chuck received the NBA MVP award once and was named an NBA All-star, eleven times. He averaged 22.1 points per game throughout his career.
9. Karl Malone
A very dangerous power forward, Karl Malone was a defender’s nightmare in every sense. The Mailman as Malone is nicknamed holds the record for the most-freest throws made in the NBA. He received the NBA MVP twice and the All-Star MVP on two occasions. The 14 times NBA All-star averaged 25 points throughout his career.
8. Elgin Baylor
The current holder of the eighth highest points scored in an NBA game, Elgin Baylor was a very determined player who tried his best to claim an NBA championship, but the championship eluded him. The former Los Angeles Lakers played led his side to 8 NBA Finals appearance. The 11 time NBA All-star player averaged 27 points throughout his career.
(Bonus) Dwayne Wade
For 16 years, Dwayne Wade thrilled fans in the NBA with his amazing antics. Wade who retired at the conclusion of the 2018/19 season, is a 13 times NBA All-star. On three occasions, he has claimed the NBA Championship. Wade is the Miami Heats all-time top scorer. Throughout his career, he averaged 22 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.4 assists.
7. Kobe Bryant
‘Black Mamba‘ had a very glamorous and successful basketball career which lasted 20 years. During those 20 years, Kobe Byrant won the NBA on five occasions, he also won the NBA finals MVP two times and NBA MVP, once. The 18 times NBA All-star averaged 25.0 during his 20-year stint in the NBA.
6. Larry Bird
“The Hick from French Lick” played basketball professionally in the NBA for 13 years. During those years, Larry won the NBA three times and was an NBA MVP on three occasions. The 12 times NBA All-star player registered an average of 24.3 points per game during in his career.
5. Magic Johnson
True to his name, Magic Johnson worked magic while he was on the court. He won the NBA 5 times and was named the NBA MVP, on three occasions. He was also named NBA Finals MVP, three times. 12 times he was on the NBA All-star team. He averaged 19.5 points per game in his career.
4. Wilt Chamberlain
A very tall player with a charming personality, Wilt Chamberlain exploits in the world of Basketball is still recognized, many years after his retirement. The 2 times NBA Champion and 4 times NBA All-star MVP, averaged 30.1 points in 14 years of active play.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
A powerful centre player, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s record for most points in the NBA is unmatched. No player I the NBA has come as close as to 1000 to even his career point of 38,387. He won the NBA 6 times and was named NBA All-star player on 6 occasions. He is a 19 time NBA All-star and has an average of 24.6 per game.
2. LeBron James
His rise from oblivion to the centre stage of basketball came as no surprise. Since Lebron James was a high school athlete, he has been wooing fans with his exceptional skills and unique style of play. King James as he is nicknamed has won the NBA three times and has been named NBA MVP four times.
1. Michael Jordan
Undoubtedly, one of the best in basketball, Michael Jordan NBA career is one of the most successful in history. Though he and LeBron James struggles with each other on many NBA stats, the fact that Jordan has won 6 consecutive NBA Championship speaks for his overall supremacy in the title for best basketball players in history. Jordan is a 5 times NBA MVP and 14 NBA All-star. He averaged 30.1 points in his 14 year NBA career.
There you have it–Our ultimate list of the top-20 greatest basketball/NBA players of all-time. What do you think? Who do you regard as one of the best basketball players in history that isn’t on this list? Please share with us in the comment section below.