Since the National Basketball Association came into existence in 1946, we’ve witnessed some of the greatest athletes of all time compete on the court. Numerous forms of play have existed throughout the league’s decorated history, highlighting dominant big men and spot-up shooters. Today, we see snipers from behind the three-point line, quick slashers, and impeccable athletes dominating the NBA.
Identifying the most outstanding player of all time is challenging. Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bill Russell are all considered some of the game’s most excellent players. Each of them has earned that reputation after examining stats, awards, their era’s offerings, along with strengths and weaknesses. Before we dive in even further, check what your favorite online casino is offering today.
Here are some of the greatest basketball players in NBA history.
6. Magic Johnson
Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. played a significant role in the NBA during the 1980s. The Los Angeles Lakers selected him first overall in the 1979 NBA Draft. The same year he was drafted, Magic won the Rookie of the Year award and his first NBA championship. He also won Finals MVP to complete his phenomenal rookie season.
Point guards perform a variety of important tasks. Magic excelled at all of them, including passing. The Lakers star led the NBA in assists four times.
At Michigan State, Johnson led the Spartans to the NCAA Championship, where he met and defeated long-time rival Larry Bird for the first time. Thanks to his victory, the guard was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
In the NBA, Magic and Bird’s rivalry continued. The two stars met three times in the Finals, with Magic and Lakers winning twice.
5. Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant was the 2000s’ breakout star. “The Black Mamba” was drafted 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA Draft immediately after finishing high school.
The Lakers struck a deal with the Hornets to acquire the pick, which allowed them to select Bryant. He signed a $3.5 million rookie contract with Los Angeles at just 17 years old.
When Kobe scored, he possessed a killer instinct that instilled fear in others. As a result, Bryant earned his “Black Mamba” moniker because he could be as lethal on the court, just like the black mamba snake. He was a two-decade NBA veteran who won five championships, including three in a row.
One of the game’s best cold-blooded shooters, Bryant has 17 game-winning shots. He also made seven shots that resulted in overtime victories during his career.
Kobe Bryant was well-known for his athleticism and ability to shoot the ball in the right situations. There are highlight tapes of vicious dunks and game-winning shots with no time remaining. However, his laser focus and mental fortitude are not readily apparent on a highlight reel.
Kobe was able to communicate in various languages, including English, Spanish, and Italian. Bryant made a name for himself by learning French to humiliate Tony Parker with trash talk. Even in retirement, he spoke Slovenian to mock Luka Doncic.
Before and throughout his career, Bryant’s mind could be just as dangerous as his physical abilities in any game.
4. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal is one of the greatest NBA players of all time. He spent his career in the middle of the court with the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Boston Celtics.
Because Shaq was so large, he was nicknamed “Diesel.” He stood approximately 7’1″ tall and weighed about 325 pounds. Despite his size and strength, Shaq was more than an unstoppable force. O’Neal was a fantastic player who could handle the ball, weave through lanes, and score points at will.
One of Shaq’s highlight-worthy moments was going one-on-one with Michael Jordan and crossing the Chicago Bulls star en route to the basket.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. converted to Islam and changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at 24. The name translates as “noble one, Allah’s servant.” Regardless, Kareem was an outstanding basketball player from the moment he stepped onto the court.
Kareem’s dominance began in high school, winning 71 consecutive games. He then went on to win three consecutive NCAA championships after joining UCLA. Each time, he was named Tournament MVP, a feat that still stands today.
The Milwaukee Bucks selected him first overall in 1969. He spent six years with the Milwaukee Bucks before concluding his career with the Los Angeles Lakers and scoring more points than any player in NBA history.
2. Michael Jordan
You may believe that having Michael Jordan at number two is a sin. When most people despised basketball, “His Airness” resurrected the sport. MJ outperformed everyone else in marketing, taking his Jordan brand to new heights, particularly when it comes to basketball shoes.
Jordan is arguably the most famous athlete on the planet. When most people think of basketball, they immediately think of Jordan, not vice versa. He is, however, still a distant second in my estimation. Yet, he’s adored by many.
When Jordan was a child, he lacked Shaq’s strength and Kareem’s height, but that didn’t prevent him from being unstoppable on the court. His dominance aided him in winning the league’s scoring title ten times during his career.
In addition, Jordan is a proven winner. When he led the Chicago Bulls to 72 victories and a championship in 1996, he established a new record for wins in a season that stood for another two decades. He has gone a perfect 6-of-6 in the NBA Finals, securing a pair of three-peats.
1. LeBron James
LeBron James is, without a doubt, the greatest player of all time. He has been the league’s best player throughout his career, which began when he was just 18 years old. When James first entered the NBA, he was dubbed “The Chosen One,” which meant he was destined to be the league’s best player. Sure enough, the prophecy became true.
LeBron has often solidified his reputation as one of the league’s more unique superstars. In 2007, he single-handedly led a mediocre Cleveland Cavaliers team to the NBA Finals. When he was a member of the Miami Heat, he defeated two of the league’s best teams (Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs) for the title. He also won a championship after returning to the Cavaliers, who went without one for 52 years before his arrival.
James has accomplished more than any other player in the game’s history. He plays at a higher level than anyone else and is more well-rounded than his predecessors. Even as his career winds down, the four-time MVP is a gifted individual who is capable of handling any situation.
LeBron can score and rebound the ball on any given night. He is also one of the league’s best passers, as he’s the only player in NBA history to be top ten all-time in both points and assists. Additionally, the King ranks among the top-50 rebounders of all time. Only one person has ever accumulated over 34,000 points, 9,000 assists, and 9,000 rebounds. That person is LeBron James.