Who is the best basketball player ever?
Since 1946, the NBA has existed. We have seen some of the most talented athletes ever compete on the court. Different styles of play have existed throughout history. Shooters are the dominant force in the sport today, but the center position was the one that ruled the game a few decades back.
There have been many examples of defensive dominance, sharpshooting from behind the three point line, skilled slashers and other godlike athletes. It’s difficult to decide who the greatest player is because of all these different skills and differences in play styles, athleticism, skill and coaching.
There are many players that can be cited as great, including LeBron James and Kareem AbdulJabbar, Bill Russell, and Bill Russell. Each of these players could be great for different reasons. To determine the true greatest, it is important to look at stats, accolades and the times they played in. Here are my top 10 favorite players I have ever played.
The Black Mamba
6. Kobe Bryant
The 2000s were defined by Kobe Bryant, “The Black Mamba”. The Charlotte Hornets drafted him as the 13th overall selection in the 1996 NBA draft. Bryant was drafted by the Hornets in the 1996 NBA draft. The Los Angeles Lakers had already made a deal with Bryant the day before. His rookie contract was worth $3.5 million.
He was an all-time top scorer and had a fearsome instinct that made his opponents fearful. Bryant was as dangerous on the court as the venomous, black mamba. This earned him his nickname.
Bryant was a member of the NBA for twenty years and won five championships, including three consecutively. Bryant is still one of the greatest cold-blooded shooters ever. He made 17 game-winning shots and 7 tie-breaking shots that resulted in victories in overtime.
Kobe Bryant is known for his athleticism, clutch shots and incredible athleticism. Highlight tapes featuring savage dunks or game-winning shots can be found. Highlight reels won’t show the mental focus and mental strength that Kobe possessed. Kobe was fluent in several languages including English, Spanish and Italian.
Kobe is well-known for learning French to trash-talk Tony Parker. Luka Doncic was also a target of his sarcasm from the sideline, in his native Slovenian language. Bryant’s mind was just as dangerous as his skills in any particular game throughout his career.
Kobe Bryant’s Most Memorable Moments
- Kobe Bryant’s game against the Toronto Raptors on January 22 2006 was the best of his career. He scored 81 points. His 81 points are second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100. Kobe led the Lakers back after trailing 18 points at the end of the third quarter. He shot 28 of 46 and went 7 of 13 from the three-point line. In the game, he also made 18 of 20 free throws. The Lakers won the game 122-104.
- Kobe took on Matt Barnes and the Orlando Magic on March 7, 2010. The third quarter was won by Barnes, who had the ball and was trying to inbound it from the baseline. Kobe was standing in front. Barnes was looking for an open man when he faked a pass towards Kobe’s face. He didn’t blink even though the ball was only an inch from Kobe’s nose. Barnes continued to stare at Kobe as if nothing had happened, and the legend of his mental toughness continued.
- April 12, 2013 is one of the most memorable and tragic moments in Kobe’s life. It was the beginning of his career’s end, but it was a moment that defined who “The Mamba” was. Kobe drove towards the basket with just three minutes left in the game and pulled his Achilles tendon when he was fouled. After remaining on the ground for about one minute and realizing the severity of his injury, Kobe moved to the free-throw line, where he drained both his shots. The Lakers won the game by two points. This solidified the legend of the Mamba’s greatness, ice-cold focus and greatness.
- 1996-1997 All-Rookie selection
- 18x All-Star selection (2nd all-time).
- 15x All NBA selection (tied 1st all time)
- 12x All-Defensive Selection
- 2x Scoring Champion
- 2007-2008 Most Valuable Player
- 5x NBA Champion
- 2x NBA Finals MVP
Remembering Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter Gianna, tragically died in a helicopter accident on January 26, 2020. We will always remember his memory. The Mamba will be remembered by the entire world. This podcast looks back on Bryant‘s life.
Stats for Kobe Bryant
5. Earvin Johnson Jr.
Earvin Johnson Jr. was one the key figures in the NBA’s ’80s. In the 1979 draft, he was the Los Angeles Lakers’ first overall pick. Magic was also drafted in the first round of the 1979 draft. He won the Rookie Award and the NBA championship. He was also the Finals MVP in that year. He was a point guard and had to manage the offense. He led the league in assists four times throughout his career.
Magic’s winning streak began in college, when he led the Michigan State Spartans into the NCAA Championship to take on his career rival Larry Bird. Magic defeated Bird and won the title of Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four. Their rivalry would be continued into the NBA, where Magic versus Bird met in the Finals three more times. Magic and the Lakers won twice.
Magic and the Lakers made up the greatest Lakers dynasty. Their fast-paced offense and run-and-gun style made them the “Showtime Lakers”. Magic’s passing skills and Kareem AbdulJabbar’s scoring abilities allowed the Magic and Lakers to win five rings and appear in the Finals nine more times.
Magic’s remarkable career was extraordinary. He won five championships in his career. But, his health prevented him from winning more. In 1991, Magic announced that he had contracted HIV and had to abruptly retire. After a four-year hiatus, he played again only for 32 games before finally retiring in 1996. In Magic’s 13 year career, he reached nine Finals and won five.
Magic Johnson’s Most Memorable Moments
- Magic Johnson was on the biggest stage of his rookie year when he won the final game. Magic had the chance to win the 1980 Finals championship without Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar sustained injuries and Spencer Haywood was forced to be suspended. With the two big men sidelined, Magic was forced to play three positions in the championship-clinching game; point guard, forward, and center. Magic proved that he was going be a major player in the league for many years. He scored 42 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. He also had 7 assists. As a rookie, he won the Finals MVP award and received his first ring.
- With seven seconds left in Game 4, Magic was trailing rival Celtics by 105 to 106. The Lakers had a 2-1 advantage over the Celtics at the time. They also had a road game ahead and the chance to lose that lead if they failed to win. To get the job done, Magic had to steal a play of a former teammate. To get over Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, he dribbled towards the middle of the court. This shot was decisive in the Lakers’ victory, which they won in six games.
- 1979-1980 All-Rookie selection
- 12x All-Star selection
- All-NBA 10x selection
- Leader in Total Assist league 4x
- Leader in 2x Total Steals league
- 3x League MVP
- 5x NBA Champion
- 3x Finals MVP
- Hall of Famer
Magic Johnson Stats
4. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal, also known as Shaq, is the greatest player in NBA history. He was the center for the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heats, Phoenix Suns as well as Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. Because he was a huge man, Shaq was also known by the nickname “Diesel”. He was 7’1″ tall and weighed 325 pounds.
Despite his immense size and power, Shaq was more than an unstoppable force because of his size. Shaq was extremely athletic and could handle the ball well. He was also able to find his way into lanes to score or grab rebounds. He was famous for playing Michael Jordan one-on-1 and crossing Jordan on his journey to the basket.
Both offensively and defensively, Shaq was the dominant player on the court. He scored 28596 points during his career. This is the 8th-best career point total. He also grabbed 13,099 rebound, placing him 15th in the all-time list. He also blocked 2,732 shots defensively, which places him 8th in this category. Shaq could not only score but could rebound and defend with the best.
Shaq has gone on to have a successful career outside of basketball. It is rare to meet someone who doesn’t know his identity, even though they haven’t seen him play. He has been an actor, rapper, spokesperson and much more. His influence on pop culture and the game is unmatched. His play is often overlooked or dismissed as “great because of his size.” It is clear that Shaq was an absolute champ at his position, and his exceptional play is what made him a four-time champion as well as an MVP. He’s also one of the most important players to ever play the game.
Shaquille O’Neal’s Greatest Moments
- Shaq displayed his incredible power in 1993 when he attempted a putback dunk against Phoenix Suns. He dunked so hard that the hydraulic system which kept the hoop upright was destroyed. The hoop gradually fell until it was useless. Shaq did a power dunk later that season, bringing down the entire hoop. He didn’t break the hydraulics. Instead, he snapped the hoop and nearly injures himself as it crashed to court. The NBA was forced to strengthen their hoops and modify the material to make them “Shaqproof”.
- The NBA’s “50 Greatest Players” were named in October 1996. The NBA named Shaq as the youngest member of its group, despite him only being 24 and having only been in the league for four seasons. He was actually the youngest player by six years. Scottie Pippen, who was 30 at the time, was the next youngest. This confidence in Shaq’s abilities proved to be prophetic.
- Shaq won three straight Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers, against the Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers, respectively. Shaq was named Finals MVP for each of his three trips. He averaged 35.7 points, 14.9 rebound, 3.6 assists and 2.9 steals per game. Shaq was determined to win the ring when it was at his hands.
- 1992-1993 Rookies of the Year
- 1992-1993 All-Rookie selection
- 15x All-Star selection
- 14x All-NBA Selection
- 3x All-Defensive Selection
- 2x League Scoring Leader
- 1999-2000 League MVP
- 4x NBA Champion
- 3x Finals MVP
- Hall of Famer
Shaquille O’Neal Stats
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The NBA legend Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. was 24 years old when he converted to Islam. He took the name Kareem Abul-Jabbar which means “noble one, servant the Almighty”. From the moment he first stepped onto a basketball court, Kareem was a dominant player. Kareem won seventy-one consecutive games in high school.
He joined UCLA and won three consecutive NCAA championships. This record is still held today. In 1969, he was the Milwaukee Bucks’ first overall draft pick. He was a Milwaukee player for six seasons, before he joined the Los Angeles Lakers to finish his career.
Kareem was a prolific scorer and all-around player in the league. To dominate his opponents, he used his “skyhook” shot which is an unblockable swing-lobe. Kareem led his team to the Finals six times during his career. Six MVP awards were also awarded to Kareem, which is still a record. Kareem, who was 42 years old, held the records for most points, most rebounds and most blocks. He also had the most wins.
Kareem was the focal point of the greatest Lakers Dynasty in franchise history. His fast-paced offense left other teams behind. The fast-break was a success. They moved quickly up and down court and scored quickly. He was a great defender and earned an All-Defensive selection eleven times.
Kareem was more than just a basketball player. He was an advocate for the causes he believed. To defend what was right, he protested numerous times. He boycotted the Olympics in 1968 to protest how African-Americans were treated by the United States. Kareem travelled to support Muhammad Ali’s decision to refuse to fight in Vietnam War.
Kareem’s activism continues to be a strong influence on young athletes like Colin Kaepernick, who continue to fight for their beliefs using the platform that sports provides. This would not have been possible without Kareem today.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s Most Memorable Moments
- Kareem was the first player to win six MVP awards in NBA history. This record still stands today. He averaged 24.8 points per game, 10.8 rebound, 1 steal and 3.4 blocks. He would capitalize on that success and win his second championship. He would also win his first of five rings with the Los Angeles Lakers.
- Kareem and Magic Johnson went on a tour of the country in 1995 to raise awareness about AIDS. Magic recently retired after contracting HIV and struggled with the diagnosis. According to him, “Other players believed they could catch it by shaking mine hand.” Kareem teamed up with his friend and longtime teammate to put an end to some false rumors and misunderstandings about the disease. This was another example of Kareem standing up for what he believed was right in a world that was still unsure about what it was pushing away.
- 1969-1970 Rookies of the Year
- 1969-1970 All-Rookie selection
- 19x All-Star selection
- 15x All-NBA Selection
- 11x All-Defensive Selection
- Leader in Total Rebound for 1975-1976
- 2x Leader in Scoring League
- Leader in 4x Blocked Shot League
- 6x NBA Champion
- 2x Finals MVP
- 6x League MVP
- Hall of Famer
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Stats
2. Michael Jordan
You’re right, Michael Jordan at #2 is blasphemy. His “Airness” was a catalyst for basketball’s revival at a time when ratings were low. Jordan was able to market himself better than anyone and put the brand on a pedestal that is still unsurpassed. Jordan is synonymous to basketball. People think of basketball when they think of Jordan. He still holds second place in my opinion.
Jordan is the greatest ever scorer in the history the game. Jordan was not born with the same power as Shaq or Kareem’s size, but he was able to outlast any player on the court. He was the league’s scoring champion ten times in his career. This added to the number of wins. Jordan won more games than any other player. In 1996, Jordan set a new record for winning a season with Bulls.
He led the team to 72 wins and a championship. This feat was not broken for over 20 years. He has two threepeat championship runs and a perfect record of 6-0 in the Finals.
Jordan was both offensively divine and a formidable defender. Jordan was a league leader in steals and an all-defensive selection nine of the nine times. Jordan was also the leader in steals in the postseason and the top scorer in the postseason 10 times. Jordan was unstoppable throughout his career in the league, even though he retired twice.
Michael Jordan was visionary. He took his dominating play on the court, and built an empire. His unblemished Finals record makes him the greatest ever scorer in the game. He owned the ’90s. He built a shoe empire that turned him into a billionaire. And he produced one of the most memorable movies ever made for children. Jordan is undoubtedly one of the most successful people to have ever done it.
Michael Jordan’s Greatest Moments
- Jordan faced a tie series against the Utah Jazz in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. He also had the flu. Jordan was weak and sick and was taking lots of fluids every opportunity. He refused to leave the game despite his illness. He played for 44 minutes. Jordan continued to play the same Jordan way, scoring 38 points and winning by just 90 to 88. Jordan fell into Scottie’s arms after the game was over, completely exhausted. The Bulls led by 3-2 and won their fifth NBA Championship in Chicago.
- The iconic Michael Jordan image is “The Shot” against Cavaliers’ player Craig Ehlo. Jordan was in Game 7 when he moved left and fell left. He kept his body straight while he shot over Ehlo’s extended arms. His hand was directly in his face. Jordan was required to hold the ball for his descent to earth, then he let go. The Bulls would go home if Jordan missed. They advanced if he succeeded. The shot was accepted. Ehlo fell to the ground, and Jordan jumped up, feet outstretched, and the image was instantly famous. This is what most people associate with Jordan.
- 1984-1985 Rookies of the Year
- 1984-1985 All-Rookie selection
- 14x All-Star selection
- 11x All-NBA Selection
- 9x All-Defensive Selection
- Leader in 10x scoring league
- Leader in the 3x Steals league
- 1987-1988 Defensive player of the year
- 5x League MVP
- 6x NBA Champion
- 6x Finals MVP
- Hall of Famer
Michael Jordan Stats
1. LeBron James
LeBron James is the greatest ever player. Since he entered the NBA at just 18 years old, he has been a dominant player in the league. James was regarded as the “Chosen One”, who would succeed Jordan in the role of greatest player.
LeBron has accomplished things no other player has ever been able. All by himself, he carried the decrepit 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers team all the way to the Finals. He has defeated not just one, but two of the most powerful dynasties in the league for championships: the San Antonio Spurs or the Golden State Warriors. After a 52-year drought, he brought a championship to Cleveland.
James has achieved great feats, but he is also a better player than any other person in history. James is able to do it all. James can score any night. He can also rebound the ball and is the league’s greatest passing forward. He is currently the only player in league history to rank in the top 10 in assists and points scored. He is also among the top 50 in rebounding. He is the only player to have scored more than 34,000 points. 9,900 assists and 9,000 rebounds.
James just finished his 17th season. He is still arguably the best player and is undoubtedly a top-five player. He was a dominant player in his youth, in his prime, and in his later years. He will be the best player on court when the game is at stake, even if it doesn’t win.
James has a positive impact on the world beyond basketball. In his hometown of Akron in Ohio, he created a school that is specifically for students from broken and/or poor families. Each student will receive a full-ride scholarship once they graduate from his school. This guarantees that 2,300 children can get college educations they never had.
He has been a vocal opponent of discrimination in America and has spoken out against police brutality against African-Americans. He is a champion for positive change and a better culture. These qualities, along with many other accolades, make him one of the most important basketball players in history.
LeBron James’ Greatest Moments
- LeBron and his Cavaliers faced the Detroit Pistons in Game 5 of 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. Two years ago, the Pistons won the Finals and were coming off a loss in the Finals the year before. LeBron was disappointed to have been eliminated by the Pistons in the playoffs last year and was seeking redemption. LeBron took control in the fourth quarter in one of the most memorable playoff games. LeBron started a streak of scoring that ended in six minutes. He scored 25 points straight and 29 of the Cavs’ last 30 points. LeBron was the Cavs’ winning point in double overtime with 109-107. LeBron led the Cavs to victory in a double overtime thriller, winning 109-107. The Cavs made their first Finals appearance by defeating the Pistons in Game 6.
- LeBron and his Cavs team faced the record-setting Golden State Warriors, who won 73 games. All hope was lost after the 3-1 defeat. LeBron, however, had other plans. He won 112-97 with 41 points and 16 rebounds. He continued his dominance by defeating the Warriors once more and leading with another outstanding performance, scoring 41 points, 8 boards, and 11 assists. LeBron recorded a triple-double and the Cavs won Game 7. This was the most remarkable comeback in NBA history. Neither team scored in the game’s final minutes. Fast break was when Andre Iguodala gave the ball to Stephen Curry, who then passed it back to Iguodala. LeBron flew in to block Iguodala’s shot as he went up for what should be an easy layup. LeBron’s legacy is anchored by Mike Breen’s famous call. “Iguodala-to Curry, back Iguodala. Up for the layup!” OH! BLOCKED BY JAMES! LEBRON JAMES WITH THE REJECTION!”
- Rookie of The Year 2003-2004
- 2003-2004 All-Rookie selection
- 17x All-Star selection
- Selection of 17x All-NBA
- 6x All-Defensive Selection
- 2007-2008 Leader in scoring leagues
- 4x League MVP
- 4x NBA Champion
- 4x Finals MVP
LeBron James Stats