Best Basketball Players of All Time

Ranking the top 10 best basketball players of all time, featuring legendary performances and unforgettable moments. Discover who made the cut! Read more.

Published on Jul 10, 2024  |  01:04 AM IST |  56.7K
Image Courtesy: Instagram
Image Courtesy: Instagram

For 70 years, the NBA has been graced by exceptional talent, with countless players displaying their skills in one game. To pinpoint only ten as the best is an almost Herculean task. There is a significant challenge involved in comparing players from differing periods; as the rules, talent density, and technology have witnessed substantial evolution. 


The evaluation of players, taking into account these changes, makes the job even more intricate. The selection criteria are subjective - elements such as championships, MVPs, All-Star nominations, statistics, advanced analytics, and intang are all part of the equation The tricky part is finding the balance between these factors and ascertaining their comparative importance - a largely subjective matter.

This article catalogs a ranking of the top 10 greatest basketball players of all time, according to our assessment, which could differ from others' viewpoints.

10. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant's unparalleled determination, key contributions during high-pressure moments, and his "Mamba Mentality," have earned him esteem and admiration from fans and compatriots alike. His hard-earned accolades - five championships, 18 All-Star nominations, and the status of the all-time top scorer for the Lakers, justifies his standing among the all-time basketball greats.

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9. Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain has achieved almost legendary status and is often celebrated as the supremely dominant player in the sport's history due to his unparalleled individual accomplishments. Several of his records, such as scoring the maximum points in a game (100), highest scoring average in a season (50.4), and maximum rebounds in a season (2,822), remain unbroken.

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Chamberlain's unmatched physical prowess, including his formidable stature (7'1", 300 lbs), speed, and nimbleness for a large man, made him an indomitable presence in his time.

8. Larry Bird

Regarded as one of basketball's greatest players ever, Larry Bird demonstrated remarkable skills and versatility in scoring, passing, rebounding, and defense. Coach Red Auerbach hailed Bird as the quintessential perfectionist, possessing the complete package. Bird thrived under pressure, boasting an unyielding self-confidence that often intimidated his rivals.

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He successfully steered the Boston Celtics to three NBA championship victories in the 1980s, earning 12 All-Star titles and securing three successive MVP awards from 1984 to 1986.

7. Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson's extraordinary passing capability and court awareness led to him topping the league in assists per game, recording the most triple-doubles in NBA history. He demonstrated remarkable flexibility, even delivering a memorable performance as a center in the 1980 Finals. Johnson's achievements include five NBA championship victories with the Lakers and three Finals MVP awards.

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6. Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O'Neal's dominance under the hoop stemmed from his physical prowess and size, often outmuscling his opponents. O'Neal is particularly remembered for a play where he outshone Dikembe Mutombo, the Defensive Player of the Year, by dunking on him so fiercely that he lifted off the ground.

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His accolades include four NBA championships, three Finals MVPs, one regular-season MVP award, fifteen All-Star titles, and fourteen All-NBA selections.

5. Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan's triumphs include five NBA championships with the San Antonio Spurs across three different decades, which ties him for the sixth most all-time. He has more championship titles than other greats like LeBron James, Larry Bird, Kevin Garnett, and Dirk Nowitzki. Duncan's fifteen-time NBA All-Star, 15-time All-NBA (10 first-team), and 15-time NBA All-Defensive Team memberships set him apart.

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His name features among the 35 players to win an NBA MVP award as he bagged this recognition twice in being a three-time NBA Finals MVP.

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4. Bill Russell 

Bill Russell brought home 11 NBA championships in 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, even coaching the team for two of those victories. His teams made it to the Finals in 12 out of 13 seasons. He led the defense with impressive shot-blocking and rebounding skills and evicted competitors' shots. His career average is 22.5 rebounds per game, only second to Wilt Chamberlain. Before Russell joined the Celtics, they had not reached the Finals for ten seasons; however, they clinched the title in his debut season.

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His absence due to injuries or rest led to the Celtics' defeat, highlighting his significance.

3. Kareem Abdul Jabbar 

Regarded as one of the finest basketball players, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar takes the lead in the NBA with 38,387 points. His skyhook shot, his unstoppable and unblockable scoring weapon, helped him dominate the game. He has 6 NBA championship victories, 6 NBA season MVPs, and 6 Finals MVPs under his belt. He continuously ranked among the top players in the league for over two decades. He is a 19-time NBA All-Star and appeared in the All-NBA First Team 10 times.

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In addition, he achieved 5-time All-Defensive First Team selection recognition.

2. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan, often regarded as the NBA's all-time greatest player, led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships in 1990, earning himself the Finals MVP each time. He was the pivotal factor in the Bulls' two celebrated three-peat quests. He is both an unrivaled scorer - with a record of 10 scoring titles - and an exceptional defender, securing 9 NBA All-Defensive First Team distinctions, and was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1988.

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Jordan's achievements include 5 MVP accolades, 10 scoring titles, inclusion in the All-NBA First Team 9 times, and 14 All-Star distinctions.

1. LeBron James 

LeBron James, on the other hand, has shattered various NBA records, including dethroning Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's previous record by becoming the all-time leading scorer in February 2023. This attests to his persistent excellence and long-spanning career. With 4 NBA titles to his name across 3 different teams (Cavaliers, Heat, Lakers), 4 NBA Finals MVPs, and 4 regular season MVP awards, James' career demonstrates sustained success and distinction that only a handful of others such as Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have matched.

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While many may argue that Jordan, with his 6 championships, 5 MVPs, and untarnished Finals record, is the GOAT, James' sustained presence in the league, record-breaking feats, and complete control of his era position him as a potent contender for the title of the greatest player of all time. This debate is destined to go on for many more years.

ALSO READ: What companies does NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal own?

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About The Author

Rakesh Mehra is a passionate sports content writer at Pinkvilla, dedicated to bringing the thrill of the game to

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