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5 Best NBA Players of all time position by position


by Blogger Joe Williams

Let me preface this entire thing by saying that this is simply my humble opinion about the greats of the game of basketball position by position.  This is not to say that this would be the greatest team ever assembled (that's a completely different argument) or that these five guys are the five best players to ever play the game (also a different discussion).  This list is to say who I believe to be the best players at each position.  Obviously, each fan has their own ideas of who is the best point guard, shooting guard, etc., but I believe you would have a hard time arguing against the men chosen for each spot.  These opinions were based purely on my own research of statistics along with a fair realization of what each player meant to the game.  Everything from career statistics to NBA championships to All-Star nods to All-NBA teams and more were considered.  So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, the greatest players of all time...   


 

Center – Kareem Abdul-Jabar (7'2", 225 lbs.)

 

 

Seasons: 20 (1969-1989)   Games Played: 1560

Draft: 1969  Round 1/Pick 1 by Milwaukee Bucks

Team(s): Milwaukee Bucks 1969-1975 and Los Angeles Lakers 1975-1989

Career Points (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 38,387 (24.6) (1st)

Career Rebounds (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 17,440 (11.2) (3rd)

Career Assists (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 5,660 (3.6) (/)

Career Steals (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 1,160 (0.7) (/)

Career Blocks (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 3,189 (2.5) (3rd)

MVPs: 6 (71', 72', 74', 76', 77', 80')

NBA Championships: 6 (71', 80', 82', 85', 87', 88')

Finals Appearances: 10 (71', 74', 80', 82', 83', 84', 85', 87', 88', 89')

Finals MVPs: 2 (71', 85')

All-Star Selection: 19 (70', 71', 72', 73', 74', 75', 76', 77', 79', 80', 81', 82', 83', 84', 85', 86', 87', 88', 89')

All-Star MVPs: none

First Team All-NBA: 10 (71', 72', 73', 74', 76', 77', 80', 81', 84', 86')

First Team Defensive All-NBA: 5 (74', 75', 79', 80', 81')

Scoring Titles: 2 (71', 72')

Rookie of the Year: 1970

 

I have to admit this was the toughest position to choose.  When you have guys like Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Shaquille O'Neal to go along with Abdul-Jabar it is an extremely difficult decision.  But while Russell is the NBA's greatest champion with 11 championships and Chamberlain was one of the most dynamic scorers, Abdul-Jabar is the best of both worlds.  The NBA's all-time leading scorer also has an NBA record six Most Valuable Player awards to add to his six championships (Wilt has two).  Making the All-Star team every year (except 1978) doesn't hurt anything either.  His continued dominance throughout his elongated career certainly makes him one of the greatest to grace the courts, and the top center in NBA history.

 

More Than Honorable Mentions: Wilt Chamberlain, Patrick Ewing, Moses Malone, George Mikan, Robert Parish, David Robinson, Willis Reed, Bill Russell, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal


 

 

 

Power Forward – Tim Duncan (6'11", 250 lbs.)

 

 

 

Seasons: 17 (1997-Present) Games Played: 1254

Draft: 1997  Round 1/Pick 1 by San Antonio Spurs

Team(s): San Antonio Spurs 1997-Present

Career Points (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 24,904 (19.9) (19th)

Career Rebounds (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 13,940 (11.1) (11th)

Career Assists (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 3,832 (3.1) (/)

Career Steals (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 915 (0.7) (/)

Career Blocks (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 2,791 (2.2) (7th)

MVPs: 2 (02', 03')

NBA Championships: 5 (99', 03', 05', 07', 14')

Finals Appearances: 6 (99', 03', 05', 07', 13', 14')

Finals MVPs: 3 (99', 03', 05')

All-Star Selections: 14 (98', 00', 01', 02', 03', 04', 05', 06', 07', 08', 09', 10', 11', 13')

All-Star MVPs: 1 (00')

First Team All-NBA: 10 (98', 99', 00', 01', 02', 03', 04', 05', 07', 13')

First Team Defensive All-NBA: 8 (99', 00', 01', 02', 03', 05', 07', 08')

Scoring Titles: none

Rookie of the Year: 1998

 

Tim Duncan's selection shouldn't come as much of a surprise if you really think about it.  He has been arguably the greatest player of his generation and has selflessly taken on a lesser scoring role with the Spurs while increasing his responsibility in their success to maintain their level of dominance in the league.  His statistics probably aren't ones that you could rattle off the top of your head like some of the great scorers in the league, but none of his numbers or accolades are startling when you think of what he and the Spurs have accomplished over the years. He is one of only two players to win a championship in three different decades (the other being John Salley) with his most recent championship being won just days ago.  Duncan has stood the test of time and continues to be one of the greatest (and quietest) leaders the NBA has ever seen.

 

More Than Honorable Mentions: Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor, Kevin Garnett, Elvin Hayes, Jerry Lucas, Karl Malone, Kevin McHale, Dirk Nowitzki


 

 

 

Small Forward – Lebron James (6'9", 250 lbs.)

 

Seasons: 11 (2003-Present) Games Played: 842

Draft: 2003  Round 1/Pick 1 by Cleveland Cavaliers

Team(s): Cleveland Cavaliers 2003-2010 and Miami Heat 2010-Present

Career Points (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 23,170 (27.5) (/)

Career Rebounds (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 6,086 (7.2) (/)

Career Assists (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 5,791 (6.9) (/)

Career Steals (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 1,444 (1.7) (/)

Career Blocks (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 675 (0.8) (/)

MVPs: 4 (09', 10', 11', 12')

NBA Championships: 2 (12', 13')

Finals Appearances: 5 (07', 11', 12', 13', 14')

Finals MVPs: 2 (12', 13')

All-Star Selections: 10 (05', 06', 07', 08', 09', 10', 11', 12', 13', 14')

All-Star MVPs: 2 (06', 08')

First Team All-NBA: 8 (06', 08', 09', 10', 11', 12', 13', 14')

First Team Defensive All-NBA: 5 (07', 11', 12', 13', 14')

Scoring Titles: 1 (08')

Rookie of the Year: 2004

 

Lebron James is one of the most incredible athletes ever.  Period.  The things he is able to do on the floor makes even the least sports-in-tuned person awestruck by his ability to blow past defenders and completely take over a game while making his teammates better.  He is not on any "All-time" statistics lists yet, but much of that has to do with only being in the league for 11 years so far, but he is extremely close to cracking the top 25 in several.  He needs just over 1,000 more points (very doable) next season to move past Allen Iverson for 22nd on the All-time scoring list and less than 200 steals and 500 assists to move into the top 25 on both those lists as well.  His only knock so far in his career is his 2-3 Finals record, but when you think about how he willed the 2007 Cavaliers into the Finals by himself and Dwyane Wade's collapse in this year's Finals (along with most of the rest of the Miami Heat) you tend to cut him a little slack.  All in all, Lebron is still writing his impending legacy, but even still, he is one of the most unique and unstoppable players in NBA history.

 

More Than Honorable Mentions: Larry Bird, Kevin Durant, Julius Erving, John Havlicek, Scottie Pippen, Dominique Wilkins, James Worthy


 

 

 

Shooting Guard – Michael Jordan (6'6", 216 lbs.)

 

Seasons: 15 (1984-1993, 1995-1998, 2001-2003)   Games Played: 1072

Draft: 1984  Round 1/Pick 3 by Chicago Bulls

Team(s): Chicago Bulls 1984-1993, 1995-1998 and Washington Wizards 2001-2003

Career Points (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 32,292 (30.1) (3rd)

Career Rebounds (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 6,672 (6.2) (/)

Career Assists (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 5,633 (5.3) (/)

Career Steals (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 2,514 (2.3) (3rd)

Career Blocks (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 893 (0.8) (/)

MVPs: 5 (88', 91', 92', 96', 98')

NBA Championships: 6 (91', 92', 93', 96', 97', 98')

Finals Appearances: 6 (91', 92', 93', 96', 97', 98')

Finals MVPs: 6 (91', 92', 93', 96', 97', 98')

All-Star Selections: 14 (85', 86', 87', 88', 89', 90', 91', 92', 93', 96', 97', 98', 02', 03')

All-Star MVPs: 3 (88', 96', 98')

First Team All-NBA: 10 (87', 88', 89', 90', 91', 92', 93', 96', 97', 98')

First Team Defensive All-NBA: 9 (88', 89', 90', 91', 92', 93', 96', 97', 98')

Scoring Titles: 10 (87', 88', 89', 90', 91', 92', 93', 96', 97', 98')

Rookie of the Year: 1985

 

This is the most obvious decision on this list by far.  MJ is considered by most experts of the game to be the best player ever and it's not hard to see why.  He is arguably the most effective and mesmerizing offensive player the game has ever seen.  Even more amazing than his offensive prowess was his tenacity on defense and his inability to play "soft".  The 1988 Defensive Player of the Year played just as hard defending the rim as he did attacking it.  Even the most gifted NBA players have admitted to being amazed with what Jordan was able to do.  He stole our hearts winning the Slam Dunk competition in 1987 and 1988 and never stopped astonishing the world with his ability to take off and fly through the air as though gravity (along with the rest of the NBA) was powerless to stop him.  "His Airness" is unequaled and while there will be many great NBA players, there will only ever be one Michael Jordan. 

 

More Than Honorable Mentions: Kobe Bryant, Clyde Drexler, George Gervin, Allen Iverson, Sam Jones, Pete Maravich, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West


 

 

 

Point Guard – Earvin "Magic" Johnson (6'9", 220 lbs.)

 

Seasons: 13 (1979-1991, 1996) Games Played: 906

Draft: 1979  Round 1/Pick 1 by Los Angeles Lakers

Team(s): Los Angeles Lakers 1979-1991, 1996

Career Points (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 17,707 (19.5) (/)

Career Rebounds (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 6,559 (7.2) (/)

Career Assists (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 10,141 (11.2) (5th)

Career Steals (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 1,724 (1.9) (18th)

Career Blocks (Average per Game) (All-Time Rank): 374 (0.4) (/)

MVPs: 3 (87', 89', 90')

NBA Championships: 5 (80', 82', 85', 87', 88')

Finals Appearances: 9 (80', 82', 83', 84', 85', 87', 88', 89', 91')

Finals MVPs: 3 (80', 82', 87')

All-Star Selections: 12 (80', 82', 83', 84', 85', 86', 87', 88', 89', 90', 91', 92')

All-Star MVPs: 2 (90', 92')

First Team All-NBA: 9 (83', 84', 85', 86', 87', 88', 89', 90', 91')

First Team Defensive All-NBA: none

Scoring Titles: none

Rookie of the Year: none

 

Earvin "Magic" Johnson had a career that was cut much shorter than fans would have liked, but if anyone made the most of the time he had in the NBA it was him.  Johnson garnered this spot certainly for his amazing individual statistics and his five championships, but even beyond that was his impact on a struggling professional sports league that he helped raise to national prominence alongside his much publicized rival, Larry Bird.  His flashy and now modern style of play captivated fans not only domestically, but around the world.  Johnson helped take a league in obscurity and took it to the height of popular culture.  His incredible skill, size, and his relationship with Bird makes him a once in a lifetime player and one of the best to ever to bounce, pass, and shoot a basketball. 

 

More Than Honorable Mentions: Bob Cousy, Dennis Johnson, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Gary Payton, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas