Basketball is one of the most popular sports. It has been around since 1946. In all these years, we have seen a lot of great players. Each player is different from the others. Some are great shooters, and others are great defensive or center players. Every player is unique and has a particular set of skills. Therefore, it is hard to select the ten greatest basketball players of all time, but we will try our best.
Ten Greatest Basketball Players Ever
Keeping in mind the abilities, weaknesses, and achievements of all the basketball players, here we have shortened a list of players who are regarded as the greatest of all time.
1. Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan is easily the best basketball player of all-time in the NBA history. Jordan started playing basketball professionally in 1984. He is said to be the greatest scorer of all time. Michael Jordan has won many awards and titles during his career. He won the NBA championship 6 times which is an amazing achievement. He achieved his first NBA championship in 1991. Jordan also won the award of the Most Valuable Player (MVP) 5 times in his career. NBA All-Star Game featured Michael Jordan 3 times which is also a big success because the NBA All-Star Game features only the top best players.
Michael Jordan defined the basketball world in the 1990s. He was the most competitive player on the court. In 1996, Jordan led his team, The Bulls, to 72 victories. He was a dominant player and a great defender. Jordan was recognized as the NBA defensive player in 1988.
Since starting his basketball career professionally, Jordan retired from the sport 3 times. On April 16, 2003, he took retirement from the sport for the third and final time.
2. Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain was one of the best center players in the history of the NBA. He made his debut in NBA in 1959 with the team Jayhawks and played his first professional game against the Knicks. Chamberlain is the legend who holds many records in the NBA. He won the award of the Most Valuable Player 4 times. In 1960, he won the award of NBA rookie of the year. He won 2 NBA championships in his career. He won his first championship in 1967 and the second one in 1972. He also won the NBA Finals MVP award. Chamberlain was the only player to achieve 4,000 points in a season.
Wilt Chamberlain owned the 1960’s era. He was a dominant player of his time because of his perfect skills. He is the only player to break the 2,000 rebound barrier for a single season with 2,149 boards.
He played a total of 1,045 games in his professional career, and his average score is 30.1 points per game which is a significant accomplishment. This great player retired from NBA in 1973.
3. Bill Russell
Bill Russell is one of the best former basketball players of all time. He was a center player for his team, Boston Celtics. He started playing basketball professionally in NBA in 1956. He achieved many great accomplishments in his career of 13 years. Russell won NBA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. He earned 5 Most Valuable Player Awards. In 1956, he captained the Olympic gold medal-winning U.S basketball team. Russell currently has the most championships in the history of the NBA.
Bill Russell started his coaching career in 1966. In his last three years, Russell coached his team Boston Celtics and also played for them. He coached 3 different teams, Boston Celtics (1966 – 1969), Seattle Supersonics (1973 – 1977), and Sacramento Kings (1987 – 1988).
He retired as a basketball player in 1969 and started working as a head coach, and then retired from coaching in 1988.
4. LeBron James
LeBron James is an active basketball player who is considered to be one of the top all-around players in the NBA. His basketball career in NBA started in 2003. James has accomplished many great victories yet. He plays at a higher level than any active basketball player.
He is the only player to achieve over 34000 points, 9000 assists, and 9000 rebounds. He has won 3 NBA championships and 4 Most Valuable Player Awards. In the history of basketball, LeBron James is the only player who has won the Best NBA Player ESPY Award 7 times.
He has been the face of the NBA for the last decade. He is the basketball superstar who has won 2 Olympic gold medals and has done things that no other player ever tried to do.
Other than being a prominent basketball player, James is also an activist. He has done many remarkable things for the community. He has created a new school for students who cannot afford their educational expenses. Also, he has set up a foundation that raises money for several different charities.
In short, James is not only a great basketball player but also a great human being.
5. Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Kareem Abdul Jabbar is a former basketball player who converted to Islam at the age of 24. His professional career in the NBA started in 1969. He was a dominant player during his era, and no other player achieved as much individual score as he did. In 1970, he won the NBA rookie of the year award. He has an impressive list of individual and team accomplishments. In his entire career, Abdul Jabbar won 6 NBA MVP awards. He also won 6 NBA championships and 2 Final MVPs. Abdul Jabbar is also an NBA Hall of Famer. He is one of the greatest players of all time in the history of NBA.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar played 21 seasons in the NBA for The Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. He held the record for most points, rebounds, blocks, and most games played when he retired.
Other than being a professional basketball player, Abdul Jabbar was also an activist throughout his career. He was a person who stood up and protested for what he believed in. In 1968, he boycotted the Olympics for treating African Americans unequally. He also promoted cultural heritage. In 1989, after accomplishing several significant achievements in the NBA, he retired from his team, The Lakers.
6. Oscar Robertson
Oscar Robertson, or “The Big O,” is a former professional basketball player. He began his winning ways in High School when he led Crispus Attucks to 2 state championships. He was selected in the NBA in 1960, and in the same season, he earned Rookie of the Year. In 1964, he won the Most Valuable Player Award. In addition to this, he also won 3 All-Star Game MVPs in his career of 14 years. He was the player who established a league record with 181 triple-doubles. His record lasted for 12 years until Westbrook surpassed it. In 1980, he was elected to the Hall Of Fame.
Oscar Robertson was the most accurate shooter of his time, and he even became the top-scoring player of all time in the NBA. He was the most versatile player and was so good that it seemed like he was just ahead of his time when he used to play on the court.
In 1974, this legend retired from the NBA. After his retirement, he worked to upgrade the living environment of African Americans.
7. Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan, or “The Big Fundamental,” is also regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in the history of NBA. He made his NBA debut in 1997. Duncan was especially efficient and was named Rookie of the Year in 1998. During 19 years of his career, he won 3 Finals MVPs and 2 NBA MVPs. He won the 2 Best NBA Player ESPY Awards in 2000 and 2003. Duncan also won 5 championships over some elite players of the NBA.
We can say that Tim Duncan was a perfect combination of skill and talent. He was incredibly skillful both offensively and defensively but, he was not a flashy player at all. That is the main reason he was often overlooked.
Tim Duncan playing career was ended in 2016. He became an assistant coach of his team, San Antonio Spurs, after his retirement in 2019. In 2020, he took a step back from his role as an assistant coach.
8. Larry Bird
The list of the top 10 greatest basketball players of all time is incomplete without Larry Bird. He was given the nicknames “the Hick from the French Lick” and “Larry Legend.” Bird is a former basketball player who is considered one of the prime players of all time. He was a player who had his grip on all aspects of the game, especially in shooting. He got the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Awards 2 times in his career. He was a 12-time NBA All-Star. During his entire career, he won 3 NBA Most Valuable Player Awards. Bird won 3 NBA championships in 1981, 1984, and 1986 with his team, The Celtics.
People gave Bird his nickname Larry Legend because he really was a legend in his era. He completed 13 seasons in the NBA, and his career averages were 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists.
In 1992, Bird had to take retirement from playing basketball because of his poor back condition. The compressed nerve root in his back became the reason for his retirement at an early age.
9. Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant, or “The Black Mamba,” was one of the pillars of NBA in the 2000s. His career in NBA started in 1996, and he spent his entire 20-year career with his team Los Angeles Lakers. Widely regarded as an all-time great scorer, Bryant was an 18-time NBA All-Star. He won 5 championships in his entire career. He was a 12-time member of the All-Defensive Team. In 2008, he won the Most Valuable Player Award. Bryant also won 2 Finals MVP awards in 2009 and 2010.
Kobe Bryant provided NBA some iconic moments with his skills and talent. He was considered to be a legend in his time. He remained the most dominant player on the court throughout his career.
In the 2012-13 season, Kobe suffered from a torn Achilles tendon. He suffered from shoulder injuries as well. Due to his poor physical condition, he retired in 2016.
10. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal is also a former professional basketball player who started his career in the NBA in 1992. He was first picked by the team Orlando Magic, and he played center for them. He is 7 feet, 1 inch tall, and his size was one of the reasons he was more powerful than any other player on the court. He knew how to handle the ball perfectly and get points. He showed his dominance in the court every time he played. In 2000, he got the NBA MVP award. He won 2 Best NBA Player ESPY Awards in his career of 19 years. He won the All-Star Game MVP, NBA MVP, and Finals MVP awards in the same season.
Shaquille O’Neal was not only a great player in his time but also a great human being. He still impacts the world positively by doing charity work. He established The Shaquille O’Neal foundation in 2019 to create pathways for deprived communities. Also, he is the national spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Club of America.
In 2011, he retired from his team, Boston Celtics, at the age of 39.
Clyde Jackson III is a basketball coach and the founder of GCBC Basketball, a basketball-related learning and informational website that focuses on helping young players develop their skills on and off the court. With over 15 years of coaching experience, Clyde has worked with players of all ages and skill levels, from beginners to professionals.