Basketball

All-Time Team

Starters: Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Off the Bench: Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Wilt Chamberlain, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kevin Durant

Team of My Era (1977-2020)

Starters: Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon

Off the Bench: Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, Kevin Durant, Charles Barkley, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal

Greatest Teams, All-Time

1. Lakers

Starters:  Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, George Mikan, Kareem Abul-Jabbar

Off the Bench: Gail Goodrich, Kobe Bryant, James Worthy, LeBron James, Pau Gasol, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain

2. Celtics

Starters:  Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Larry Bird, Kevin Garnett, Bill Russell

Off the Bench: Nate Archibald, Ray Allen, Sam Jones, Paul Pierce, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dave Cowens

3. Philadelphia (Philadelphia Warriors, Syracuse Nationals & Philadelphia 76ers)

Starters: Allen Iverson, Hal Greer, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Wilt Chamberlain

Off the Bench: Maurice Cheeks, Paul Arizin, Billy Cunningham, Dolph Schayes,  Moses Malone, Joel Embiid, Chet Walker

Fifty Greatest Players

  1. Michael Jordan
  2. LeBron James
  3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  4. Magic Johnson
  5. Wilt Chamberlain
  6. Bill Russell
  7. Hakeem Olajuwon
  8. Larry Bird
  9. Tim Duncan
  10. Shaquille O’Neal
  11. Oscar Robertson
  12. Kevin Durant
  13. Jerry West
  14. Kobe Bryant
  15. Moses Malone
  16. Elgin Baylor
  17. Julius Erving
  18. John Havlicek
  19. Steph Curry
  20. George Mikan
  21. David Robinson
  22. James Harden
  23. Dwyane Wade
  24. Clyde Drexler
  25. John Stockton
  26. Charles Barkley
  27. Kevin Garnett
  28. Karl Malone
  29. Scottie Pippen
  30. Dirk Nowitzki
  31. Paul Pierce
  32. Allen Iverson
  33. Walt Frazier
  34. Isiah Thomas
  35. Bob Pettit
  36. Chris Paul
  37. Elvin Hayes
  38. Willis Reed
  39. Rick Barry
  40. Nate Thurmond
  41. Connie Hawkins
  42. Dolph Schayes
  43. Patrick Ewing
  44. Dominique Wilkins
  45. Gary Payton
  46. George Gervin
  47. Vince Carter
  48. Tracy McGrady
  49. Marques Haynes
  50. Bob Cousy

Note: This list pertains to the period when the NBA and its immediate predecessors (the NBL and BAA) existed, since 1946. For the earlier history of basketball, honorable mention should be made of: Dr. James Naismith (the founding figure), Cumberland “Cum” Posey, Joe Lapchick, Nat Holman, Charles “Tarzan” Cooper, and Marques Haynes. They crucially shaped the game’s early history; and Posey, Cooper and Haynes were the most important figures who played in the black leagues in the times of segregated basketball.

Greatest Players of Each Decade

1946-56: George Mikan, Dolph Schayes

1956-66: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain

1966-76: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson

1976-86: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird

1986-96: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson

1996-2006: Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal

2006-2020: LeBron James, Kevin Durant

Professional Basketball, 1977-2020: Best at Different Aspects of the Game

Best Player: Michael Jordan

Point Guard: Magic Johnson

Small Forward: LeBron James

Power Forward: Tim Duncan

Center: Hakeem Olajuwon

A. Offense

Scorer: Michael Jordan

Point Guard: Steph Curry

Small Forward: LeBron James

Power Forward: Tim Duncan

Center: Hakeem Olajuwon

Most Elegant Shot: Kareem’s Sky Hook

Post-Up: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Power forward: Tim Duncan

Small forward: Larry Bird

Off guard: Michael Jordan

Point guard: Magic Johnson

Kissing it Off the Glass: Tim Duncan

Outside Shooting – Creating his own shot: Steph Curry

Off the pick: Larry Bird

Sweetest Jump Shot: Walter Davis/ Ray Allen/ Steph Curry

Driving the Lane: Michael Jordan

Dunk: Julius Erving

Getting out on the break: James Worthy

Shooting in crunch time: Michael Jordan

Free Throws: Larry Bird

Picks: Tim Duncan

Pick-and-roll: John Stockton-Karl Malone

Give-and-go: Magic Johnson/ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

B. The Boards

Rebounder: Moses Malone

Power Forward: Dennis Rodman

Small Forward: LeBron James

Off Guard: Michael Jordan

Point Guard: Gary Payton

O’ Boards: Moses Malone

Off His Own Shot: Moses Malone

Weak Side Rebounding: Dennis Rodman

C. Dimes and Dribbling

Passer: Magic Johnson

Off Guard: Dwyane Wade

Small Forward: Larry Bird

Power Forward: Kevin Garnett

Center: David Robinson/ Hakeem Olajuwon

On the set offense: John Stockton

On the break: Magic Johnson

Outlet pass: Wes Unseld

Crossover dribble: Tim Hardaway

D. Defense

Defender: Dennis Rodman

Point Guard: Gary Payton

Off Guard: Sidney Moncrief/ Michael Jordan

Small Forward: Scottie Pippen/ Marques Johnson

Center: Hakeem Olajuwon/ David Robinson

Shot Blocking : Hakeem Olajuwon

Steals: Alvin Robertson

The Best Players, 1977-2018

1. Michael Jordan

2. LeBron James

3. Magic Johnson

4. Hakeem Olajuwon

5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

6. Larry Bird

7. Tim Duncan

8. Shaquille O’Neal

9. Kevin Durant

10. Kobe Bryant

11. Moses Malone

12. Julius Erving

13. Steph Curry

14. David Robinson

15. James Harden

16. Dwyane Wade

17. Clyde Drexler

18. John Stockton

19. Charles Barkley

20. Kevin Garnett

21. Karl Malone

22. Scottie Pippen

23. Dirk Nowitzki

24. Paul Pierce

25. Allen Iverson

The Best Players at the Different Positions, 1977-2019

Point Guard

  1. Magic Johnson
  2. Steph Curry
  3. John Stockton
  4. Isiah Thomas
  5. Chris Paul
  6. Gary Payton
  7. Jason Kidd
  8. Maurice Cheeks
  9. Steve Nash
  10. Russell Westbrook

Off Guard

  1. Michael Jordan
  2. Kobe Bryant
  3. James Harden
  4. Dwyane Wade
  5. Clyde Drexler
  6. Allen Iverson
  7. Vince Carter
  8. Tracy McGrady
  9. Sidney Moncrief
  10. Ray Allen

Small Forward

  1. LeBron James
  2. Larry Bird
  3. Kevin Durant
  4. Julius Erving
  5. Scottie Pippen
  6. Paul Pierce
  7. Dominique Wilkins
  8. Kawhi Leonard
  9. Bernard King
  10. Marques Johnson

Power Forward

  1. Tim Duncan
  2. Charles Barkley
  3. Kevin Garnett
  4. Karl Malone
  5. Dirk Nowitzki
  6. Anthony Davis
  7. Dennis Rodman
  8. Kevin McHale
  9. Chris Webber
  10. Jermaine O’Neal

Center

  1. Hakeem Olajuwon
  2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  3. Shaquille O’Neal
  4. Moses Malone
  5. David Robinson
  6. Patrick Ewing
  7. Alonzo Mourning
  8. Joel Embiid
  9. Bob Lanier
  10. Robert Parish

4 Comments

  1. Vikranth said,

    January 22, 2011 at 6:16 am

    Frankly stumbled upon your blog through google ; but I have to say your list is very very accurate and true. Being a Spurs and Rockets fan its good to see you have Tim Duncan and Hakeem in your top 10 above Bryant, pity ESPN thinks and markets otherwise.

    It was a good read. Thanks.

  2. Naren said,

    June 18, 2014 at 3:26 am

    Just saw your comment. I have Hakeem, but not Tim Duncan, ahead of Kobe.

  3. NBAsopher said,

    January 19, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Hi Naren. Your lists are very good and I agree with most of your rankings. However, one thing that I am not so sure about is whether you should rank Lebron so high. I believe that Lebron is a great player and there is no doubt about it, but I also think that most of us have been affected by the hype that surrounded him throughout his career and the way media has presented him as the savior of an NBA era without the superstars of the past. If you think about it Lebron has lost 4 times in the Finals and won only two. I understand that in his first trip to the Finals his team was much weaker than the Spurs as well as the last time Love and Irving were injured, but he could not lead a Miami team with Wade and Bosh to more titles especially when he had literally no competition in the East (comparing with the teams of the West). He also had unbelievably bad games in the Finals (8 points against the Mavs!!!). I think I could write a full essay on the matter, but my point is that we are affected by the lack of superstars (in the way superstars used to be) in today’s NBA (I believe that Curry is much closer to the definition of the superstar). In short, I think that 30 years from today nobody when his career will be long over there will be very few people that will look back at him and consider him as top-5 all-time player; imagine that we criticize Dr J and Wilt of not winning, but isn’t that the case with Lebron? I feel that from the superstars that I have seen in my life he is probably the least able to carry a team to a title (all circumstances considered). I think right now he is hardly a top-10 all-time (i do not see how is he better than Duncan, Bird, Hakeem, Chamberlain, Shaq, Robertson or even Kobe). I would like to hear your opinion on this.

  4. nsubramanian said,

    July 8, 2017 at 2:29 am

    Thank you for the comments. Unfortunately, I only noticed them now when editing the page. I am uncertain where to place LeBron, between Nos. 2 and 6 all-time. But I definitely place him in that lot, and ahead of Bird, the next greatest small forward in my view. I don’t think we can place too much weight on the number of titles won, although that is certainly a consideration. LeBron was on a team that should have won another championship only in Miami, not in Cleveland. The Heat were still coming together when they lost to the Mavs. Although they had more stars, the Spurs were the better team that jelled better as a group. Despite this, the Heat beat the Spurs once and lost to them once. And in the Warriors, they lost to the better team. In 2016, I think LeBron hugely overachieved in leading the Cavs beyond the Warriors. I don’t think the supporting cast is that strong in Cleveland now – Kyrie can’t play defence that well, Love is on and off, and the rest of the cast is good but not great.

    Bird was the greater outside shooter, passer, offensive rebounder, and team defender. LeBron has been the greater inside force, overall and defensive rebounder, and one-on-one defender. I think he won the third team with a weaker team than Bird had on any of his championships, including the first one in which Maxwell was the better player by a bit. It’s also difficult to ignore that LeBron has been good for much longer, though injuries were the main reason why Bird declined after 1987. Of the other great offensive players, I place LeBron above Chamberlain because Chamberlain’s shooting range was very limited and he was less successful in winning titles while playing on stronger teams for longer; and above Olajuwon because Olajuwon wasn’t as dominant as an offensive force. I would say though that there were many players I emotionally preferred to LeBron – including Kareem, Magic, Hakeem, Duncan, Moses, and the Doctor.


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