There have been tens of thousands of NBA players, but none of them were better than these five players below. These five guys were at a completely different level then the players they faced on a daily basis. Here is The top 5 players in NBA History.
1. Michael Jordan
Six championships, five MVPs, two gold medals, 14 All-Star appearances, defensive player of the year— Is there a more polished resume? Jordan was one of a few revolutionary players in NBA history, an athlete whose print stretches far past the hardwood, his passion for the game unmatched—if only he had a few more rivals. From his savvy business sense (strictly signing ten-year advertisement deals) to his shrewd on-and-off-court operating (Johnny Bach claims woman had to pass through a series of four narcotic detectives before they could reach Mike), his airness was the most ruthless and clutch competitor the league has ever witnessed. Had he not retired to explore a new career trajectory in baseball and satisfy his gambling addiction, it’s possible he may have won seven or even eight rings. When he tried to return from his venture, Penny Hardaway outplayed him in the playoffs, evidencing the nuance of separation between elite NBA players.Perhaps his most statistically dominant season featured 32.5 points per game, at 54% shooting, with 8 boards, 8 dimes, and nearly 3 steals. Still, in spite of all the accolades, Jordan was blessed to play alongside some of the greats, including Rodman and Phil Jackson, not to mention Scottie Pippen, one of the most versatile small forwards of all time. Pippen’s dominance on the defensive end motivated Jordan, a nine-time all-defensive first team selection. In his five years in the league without Pippen, Jordan never once finished with a winning record and went 1-9 in the playoffs.
2. Kobe Bryant
81 points in game. It’s something that will never be achieved again in modern day basketball and obviously the level of difficulty doesn’t compare to Wilt’s 100 point performance. Five rings, an MVP, 14 All-Star appearances, 9 time All-NBA first team All-Defensive first team (tied with Jordan, Payton, and Garnett for most ever), and Bryant, in his 16thNBA season, is having one of the most prolific years of his career. Due to his longevity and dominance, Bryant is knocking on the door of many regular season and playoff performance records.When Shaq left, the Lakers struggled for a few years before reaching the pinnacle of the Western Conference once again. Bryant averaged over 35 a game the year Smush Parker, Kwame Brown, and Luke Walton were starters/key players and even made the playoffs. There was a time when he scored 50 points in four straight games. By adjusting his game over the years, Bryant has been able to remain effective in the league. However, without the same explosiveness of his early days, his reliance on his midrange game has molded him into the player he is today—perhaps the greatest midrange shooter of all time. And much like Jordan, his will to win is unparalleled. In a sports illustrated poll conducted among 166 current NBA players, when asked, “who do you want shooting with the game on the line,” an astonishing 74% voted for Kobe Bryant, while Kevin Durant was second at just 8%. Kobe is an assassin. As he once notably said, “I want to cut [my opponents] hearts out.”
3. Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Next on the list is the man who dubbed Kobe the greatest Laker of all-time, Earvin Johnson. A five-time champion, three-time MVP, and nine-time All-NBA first team selection, Earvin’s vision undoubtedly makes him the most magical point guard ever to play the game. His size gave caused an incredible amount of mismatches for the other team. Standing at 6’9 and 255, the floor general of the “Showtime” Lakers was a career 52%, albeit rather unorthodox shooter, averaging over 19 points per game, 7 rebounds, and 11 assists. In his third year in the league, he nearly accomplished what only one player was able to do (the Big O)—average a triple double. He fell just short, averaging 18.6 points per game, 9.6 rebounds, and 9.5 assists. In 1985, Magic was able to average over 15 assists during the course of the playoffs en-route to an NBA championship. He was a true leader, and turned his teammates into all-stars. Perhaps the only skill that prevented him being second, or even first on this list, was his defense tenacity.
4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Magic’s teammate, the master of the sky-hook, and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the best hybrid big man in NBA history. With 10 finals appearances and six rings under his belt (five of those coming after joining Magic), the 20-year vet also made 19 all-star games, 10 all-first team selections, and 5 defensive first team selections. Averaging over 24 points per game and 11 rebounds for his career, Kareem won one of his six MVP’s in 1976, where he had a historical season, averaging 28 points per game, 17 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks. He was an underrated passer, and while primarily a back-to-the-basket player, his craftiness gave him an advantage over all other big men in the league, which at many times freed him up for open jump shots.
5. Larry Bird
Perhaps the purest shooter in NBA history, Larry “Legend” Bird played only 13 seasons in the NBA before deciding to call it quits. A three time champion and MVP, Bird was selected to nine All-NBA first teams and made three all-defensive second teams. A 24 points per game, 10 rebounds, a 6 assists career player, Bird was a sensational playoff performer that had some epic duels with Magic, going back to their college days. To average over 50% from the field, 40% from 3, and over 90% from the line for two consecutive seasons 28 and 30 points per game, is quite an accomplishment—something Steve Nash has done four times, although with a smaller shot selection.As merely a rookie, Larry took the Celtics from one of the worst teams in the league to an immediate contender. After facing Dr. J in the conference finals in his second year, Bird propelled the Celtics after being down 3-1 in the series, with three, two and one point victories in the final games. It was then that Bird established himself as one of the most formidable and clutch players in the game. While Bird was not very athletic, his ability to anticipate movements and strategies made him the smartest player in basketball. He was also a notorious trash talker, which was nationally displayed during the three-point contest, when Bird said, “I want all of you to know I am winning this thing. I’m just looking around to see who’s gonna finish up second.” He won the contest easily.
Elgin Baylor, Jerry West. Two of the greatest Lakers players ever—both players that changed the game, although did not do enough to be considered. The Big O. Oscar averaged a triple double for five seasons. Incredible. He was truly a revolutionary player—someone that Magic and Jordan admired. However, with the NBA just getting started and the lack of talent (lots of white players, no offense), it’s just not smart to have him in a top five list. Same goes for Wilt Chamberlain, who was much bigger than everyone else in the league. When Russell guarded Wilt, his stats dropped dramatically. Sadly, the league wasn’t very competitive at all (the Celtics dominating for over a decade). And as for the stats. Well, the pace was much faster, which led to double the amount of possessions as the modern day game, which led to inflated stats. Bill Russell—perhaps the most dominate defensive presence in the history of basketball. Had he developed some offensive flair, Russell would have an undisputed place on every top five list. However, his sheer work ethic and leadership is what gave him eleven championships in thirteen years, a remarkable accomplishment.
In ten years time, Lebron James will be on this list. The hardware will come and his career numbers (with the league being as low scoring and competitive as it is today) may just go down as the best statistical averages ever (if he continues this pace). His tenacity makes him an all-first team selection on both ends of the floor for many more years to come.