Best Basketball Players of All Time – 17 Greatest NBA Players

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Introducing: Best Basketball Players of All Time. Who are the greatest basketball players ever? Read on as we take you on a course to see who are the greatest players ever to play in the NBA. These legends have and are still making a huge impact on the game and aren’t looking to fade away despite retirement. They are the best amongst the best.

Greatest NBA Players of All Time

It’s no new trend that the debate about who ranks where and who’s the king of the game continues to spark controversy around. Many have argued about who the greatest ever basketball more player is or should be, but very few have committed to a list of the top players ever.

So, today we attempt to settle one of the biggest argument of all time, that is, putting a list of who the greatest players ever are. With a mix of both the legendary old school as well as the present class, we have ranked these kings of basketball according to their greatness and impact in the game.

Now, you have to agree with me that these legendary players played in different generations with different rules and technologies. Therefore, making a list that consists of both the old school and the new class is not that easy. It all boils down to individual perspective and opinion.

These are all time 17 Best Basketball Players in History

17. Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade

Current Stat: Playing for the Miami Heat

One of the greatest scorers of all time, Dwayne Wade comes first on the list as the 17th best basketball player of all time. He is an American professional basketball player. Though old, born January 17, 1982, he is still proving his worth despite his age and the rising surge of 3-point shooting in the league.

Dwayne Wade has had a 16-year career run playing for the Miami Heat in the National Basketball Association. Wade, who is Miami’s all time leader in points, games, assists, and steals, has won the NBA All-star title 13 times.

16. Scottie Pippen

Scottie Pippen

Current Stat: Retired

Scott is one of the very few players to have sacrificed his personal glory for team victory, no one outside of LeBron James can match his versatility. He was a great defender, having played in the NBA for 17 seasons, winning six NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls, alongside another great legend, Michael Jordan.

Pippen is considered to be one of the greatest ever small forwards and was named in the NBA All-Defensive First Team for a record eight consecutive times. He comes as the 16th best basketball players of all time.

15. Julius Erving

Julius Erving

Current Stat: Retired

Julius Winfield Erving II or Dr. J as he was popularly called then, was one of the greatest high-flyers in the game of basketball. A prolific scorer he was, he is famous for popularizing the “leaping and playing above the rim” style of play. He also played a huge part in legitimizing the American Basketball Association (ABA), before it merged with the NBA after the 1975-76 season. He is the 15th best basketball players of all time.

14. Jerry West

Jerry West

Current Stat: Retired

West had a really terrific NBA career during his active career. Currently serving as an Executive board member in the NBA, Jerome Alan West formerly played for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

He was nicknamed Mr. Clutch, Mr. Outside, The Logo, and Zeke, all in recognition of his wonderful performances during his playing days. During his early years in his career, West was playing as a small forward before embarking on a 14-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Jerry West was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 as a Unit. He is the 14th best basketball players of all time.

13. David Robinson

David Robinson

Current Stat: Retired

At number 13th position is maybe one of the most highly underrated players in NBA history. David Robinson is a former American basketball player and a former San Antonio Spurs center player in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for his entire career.

David Robinson had a wonderful career in the NBA, winning 10 NBA All-Star title, NBA MVP, two-time NBA Champion (1999 and 2003), a two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner (1992, 1996) and a host of other career highlights and awards. He is considered one of the greatest center player both in college and in the NBA history. He is ranked as the 13th best basketball players of all time.

12. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

Current Stat: Retired

Nothing much to say about Kobe other than he is one of the best all time. Kobe had an amazing 20-year career playing for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Bryant had a wonderful high school basketball career before his selection in the 1996 NBA Draft.

Kobe Bryant became the first guard player in NBA history to play for 20 seasons. He is an 18-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, and 12-time member of the All-Defensive team. Bryant has the second highest points scored in NBA game in league history, the highest being held by Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962. He is the 12th best basketball players of all time.

11. Oscar Robertson

Oscar Robertson

Current Stat: Retired

At number 11 is one of NBA’s most underrated player, Oscar Robertson. Seen as a pace changer by critics, but he is a 12-time All-Star, 11-time member of the All-NBA Team, and one-time winner of the MVP award in 14 seasons. Oscar Robertson was a former NBA player for the Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks. He played as a point guard and became the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double for a season. He ranks as the 11th best basketball players of all time.

10. Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

Current Stat: Player for Brooklyn Nets

Kevin Wayne Durant A.K.A “Durantula” A.K.A “Slim Reaper” is a powerful and small forward player for the Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association(NBA). He is one in a million basketball player. He is famous for his incredibly accurate shots and hungry mentality for victory.

Some might even argue that he has out-best LeBron as the greatest player in this era. But who knows? He just might get there… He is ranked as the 10th best basketball players of all time.

9. Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon

Current Stat: Retired

Our 9th best basketball players of all time is Hakeem Olajuwon. He is a Nigerian-American former professional basketball player who played in the NBA for the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors as a central player.

Hakeem Olajuwon had a significant impact in the back-to-back NBA championship victory of the Rockets. He is considered one of the best ever players to have played the position of a central player. Hakeem was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008, and in 2016, he got inducted into the FIBA hall of fame. He ranks as the 9th best Basketball players of all time.

8. Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O'Neal

Current Stat: Retired

Shaquille O’Neal or ‘Shaq’ as he was famously called then, was a huge center player, who used his strength, size, and height to dominate every frame of the game and intimidate his opponents. He is currently a sports analyst on the television program Inside the NBA on TNT and is considered one of the greatest players in NBA history. Shaq played for six teams throughout his 19-year career and is placed at the 8th best basketball players of all time.

7. Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson

Current Stat: Retired

At number 7 position is a man that was so good he was nicknamed “Magic” ’cause of his fantastic display of skillfulness on the court. He is Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. and he was a former American professional basketball player who played the role of the point guard for the Lakers for 13 seasons in the NBA.

He was so versatile in his game early on that as a rookie, he won a Championship and an NBA MVP Award. Magic Johnson had abruptly retired in the early ’90s after he announced he had AIDS, but returned shortly after to the game, winning the All-Star MVP Award in 1992. He is truly a legend and the 7th best basketball players of all time.

6. Larry Bird

Larry Bird

Current Stat: Retired

Larry bird was described as one of the greatest shooters of all time in NBA history. He is a former American professional basketball player, coach, and executive who most recently served as President of Basketball Operations for the Indiana Pacers in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Larry was a total genius during his active playing days and was a prolific dribbler as well as an insane three-point shooter. He sits at the 6th best basketball players of all time on our list.

5. Bill Russell

Bill Russell

Current Stat: Retired

Some of the greatest legends of the game played during a time when technology as it is today, was absent during their time, and the way the rules are configured in this current era was also different from theirs. William Felton Russell A.K.A Bill Russell is one of the greatest ever to have stepped they feet in the ball court.

He played as a central player for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1956 to 1969. Bill had an incredible 13-year career, winning 11 NBA Championships and was named a five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a twelve-time All-Star. He comes as the 5th best basketball players of all time.

4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Current Stat: Retired

For everyone, height brought a huge advantage in the game for Kareem, but he was out to prove to everyone that his game was beyond his nature’s gift. He was one of the best shooters of all times and his infamous hook shot which had almost a 100% accuracy was literally impossible to block.

This meant 2 points were sure once you see him leap and raise his hands. Kareem was the best at what he does, making a huge impact in his games and giving his spectators cheer for their money. He is an icon of the game and showed real spirited sportsmanship. Kareem is ranked as the 4th best basketball player of all time.

3. Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry

Current Stat: Playing for the Golden State Warriors

It’s really great to see a young and vibrant Stephen Curry on this list and amongst the top 5 best players in the game. He is a growing force to be reckoned with in the NBA, with many players and analysts already calling him the greatest shooter in NBA history.

Born on March 14, 1988, Curry is a player for the Golden State Warrior who has changed the game for the team and led them to their first championship since 1975. He is credited for revolutionalizing the game by inspiring teams to make more use of the three-point shot as a part of their winning strategy.

Stephen Curry has had lots of career awards and highlights since he started in 2009. He is ranked as the 3rd best basketball player of all time.

2. LeBron James

 LeBron James
Image credit:

Current Stat: Playing for the Los Angeles Lakers

Can we make a list of the best basketball players of all time and leave out the name of the man who led the Cavs back from a 3-1 deficit? Certainly not! He is the second best player in NBA history. We are yet to see anyone come close to LeBron’s dominance, versatility, intelligence, and power in the game.

Only one player can claim to be better than him, but that just it! LeBron is a Small forward / Power forward / Point Guard for the LA Lakers and is considered one of the greatest ever players in NBA history. He comes as the second-best player ever. Now, let’s see who hold the title “Best basketball player in NBA History.”

1. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

Current Stat: Retired

If you had expected to see any other name different from MJ’s as the best ever basketball player in NBA history, then my friend, you need to go back to your NBA history books. Because this man right here, is ‘thee’ best ever basketball player to ever play in the NBA. Michael has done and achieved it all things possible in the game, raking up on the stats and awards. Even in the NBA Finals, MJ went on a perfect 6-for-6 and sweeping the Finals MVP.

He has accomplished so much in his career that there’s enough evidence to match his GOAT status. There’s no argument about that, Michael Jordan is the best basketball player of all time. And when there’s anyone to match his greatness, when that happens, we’ll be here to let you know!

Here is a video of Micheal Jordan’s Hall of Fame Speech…

Also Read: Best Female Basketball Players – 17 Greatest WNBA Players

Which of these “Basketball Players” do you consider the greatest NBA player of all time?


About Author

David Samuel is the Senior Writer for Porumba. He is a writer, Economist and loves research.