Top 20 NBA Players Of All Time

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Where Do The NBA's 20 Greatest Players Rank?

Where Do The NBA's 20 Greatest Players Rank?

The first basketball game was played back when the NBA was called the BAA on November 1, 1946 between the now Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks and In 1949 the NBA was formed. But for some that's not when basketball really started. Basketball as we know was invented by Dr. James Naismith in 1891. Back then it was no more than a peach basket nailed to a wooden pole. The bottom wasn't cut out and there was no official backboard. Today athletes can enjoy padded poles, reinforced backboards and an actual net. Ever since basketball was invented there have great athletes. From ABA stars like Larry Brown, Billy Cunningham, George Gervin and of course Julius Erving to NBA stars like Bills Russell, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain. But basketball is more than just names. When Dr. Naismith invented the game he wrote a sheet of simple rules outlining dribbling, passing and shooting. Little did he know that his rules would not only change but become dominated by players who were masters of their positions. Professional basketball has been through several ups and downs throughout its existence, from the merger in 1949, the lockouts in 1995, 1989 and 2011, the four changes in commissioners. But today professional basketball has become more than just a game between two teams held in armories and dance halls. Today the NBA has become a worldwide recognizable brand that draws viewers and fans from all over the world as well as noticeable influence from international players. With all the history of the league, here is a list of the top 20 players of all time.

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20. LeBron "King" James

LeBron James
Steve Mitchell- USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James may be young but at 27 he has one championship to his name as well as three MVP awards, two Olympic gold medals and sports the highest player efficiency in the league. He has a long career in front of him and a 6'9 and about 260 pounds his ability to play any position reminds fans of the way Magic Johnson used to play.

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19. Scottie Pippen

Scottie Pippen

Scottie Pippen has long been considered the best complimentary players to a team. His style of play has long been credited for helping the Chicago Bulls win six championships. Pippen was selected to seven All-Star Games as well as the NBA's 50th Anniversary Game. He was also a member of the Dream Team which won gold two gold medals. He is one of four Bull's players to have his jersey retired.

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18. Charles "Sir Charles" Barkley


Charles Barkley might be the best rebounder in the game. At 6'6 there was no player more ferocious and aggressive than Sir Charles going for a board. He was selected to 11 All-Star Games, won two gold medals with the Dream Team and won one MVP award. Unfortunately for Barkley he never won a championship putting him as one of the best players to never win a ring.

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17. John Stockton

John Stockton

John Stockton is the all time leader in both steals and assists and led the league in assists for nine straight seasons. His ball handling and court vision led him to average 10.5 assists per game in his career. Stockton, much like Barkley also never won a championship losing both times in the Finals to Michael Jordan's Bulls.

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16. Julius "Dr. J" Erving


Julius Erving is considered one of the most entertaining players to watch. His athleticism led him to highlight dunks and gravity-defying layups. He earned one MVP award as well as a championship ring during his career. He was also selected to 11 All-Star Games.

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15. Moses Malone

Moses Malone
Kevin Reece- USA TODAY Sports

Moses Malone has been considered one of the best big men and rebounders the league has ever seen. In his 20-year career he averaged 12.2 rebounds per game. These numbers led him to seven rebounding titles, 11 All-Star Game selections, three MVP awards and one championship ring.

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14. Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon


Hakeem Olajuwon was another dominant big man who won two rebounding titles as well as three blocked-shot titles. His versatility and length has translated him to him being the all-time in blocked shots. Olajuwon went on to win two back-to-back championships as well as one MVP award.

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13. Jerry West

Jerry West
Manny Pubio- USA TODAY Sports

Jerry West s not just one of the best ball handlers, he is also one of the best all around players. In his 14-year career he averaged an unimaginable 27 points per game. He was selected to 13 All-Star Games and won only one championship in his 10 NBA Finals appearances. He is also the only player to ever win a Finals MVP Award on a losing team. He won the award after averaging 40 points per game in a seven game series against the legendary Boston Celtics. After he retired, West went on to become a coach as well as a General Manager. Oh and don't forget he is the silhouette in the NBA Logo.

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12. Oscar "The Big O" Robertson

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Oscar Robertson is the only player to average a triple-double in his career, he won one championship and earned one MVP Award. He also won a scoring title, led the league in assists per game seven times. Robertson ranks fourth all-time in total assists and ranks 10th all-time in total points scored.

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11. Karl "The Mailman" Malone


Karl Malone ranks second all-time in points scored ranking only behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and with career averages of 25 points and 10 rebounds it's not hard to understand why he ranks where he does. He was selected to 14 All-Star Games and won two MVP Awards. However he never won a title with the Utah Jazz joining the list of best players to never win a ring.

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10. Shaquille "Diesel" O'neal


Shaquille O'neal or Shaq as we all know him is considered one of the most if not the most dominant big man to ever play. His size and strength made him a nightmare for defenses. He won four titles, one MVP and two scoring titles in his career. O'neal ended his career in a shuffle between several teams and finally called in quits with the Boston Celtics.

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9. Tim "The Big Fundamental" Duncan

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Tim Duncan isn't nicknamed the Big Fundamental for nothing. His style of play is simple and down to earth. Nothing flashy for the four-time champion and two time MVP. Duncan stays quiet on the court while silently stacking up points with his trademarked turn around bank shot. His hook-shot rivals that of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's and his defensive presence has led to him nine All NBA Defensive selections.

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8. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
Troy Taormina- USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Hornets (soon to be the Pelicans) must regret the day they traded Kobe Bryant. Bryant has won five championships and earned one MVP Award. His confidence translates to him taking control of late game situations and his game winning shots are always mind blowing. Nobody can forget his 81 point game (second most points scored in a game,) and he also just eclipsed 30,000 points against the team that traded him away on draft day.

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7. Kevin McHale

Kevin McHale

Before today's Big Three in Miami or Boston existed there was another Big Three. This Big Three originated in Boston and consisted of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. McHale was an offensive threat since he entered the league. Winning three championships and two 6th man awards he prided himself on what became known as the "torture chambers," a mind set that allowed him to out-hustle, out-spin and outplay opponents on a nightly basis. McHale was named to the NBA 50th Anniversary All Time Team.

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6. Bill Russell

Bill Russell
Jay King- USA TODAY Sports

Bill Russel never seems to get praised when talking about winners or ring counts or championships earned but this man won 11 championships in 13 seasons. 11! and eight of those championships were consecutive. His defensive authority led him to win five MVP Awards and be selected to 12 All-Star Games. When the league's popularity seemed to fade in the 1970's there was one rivalry that revived it.

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5. Larry Bird

Larry Bird
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The rivalry of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird was that rivalry. Bird not only helped revive the league's popularity, he dominated it. He won three championships and three MVP's in a row as well as one gold medals. . His performances in the playoffs were unmeasurable and his versatility at the small forward position made him a nightmare to cover. With a career average of 39.6% shooting from beyond the arc Bird cemented himself as one f the most clutch shooters ever to grace the court of the Celtics. His jersey was retired in 1993.

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4. Earvin "Magic" Johnson


Earvin Johnson wasn't nicknamed "Magic" for nothing. His role as the floor general for the Show-time Lakers led them to five titles in nine seasons. At 6'9 his versatility at the point guard position allowed him to dominate opponents based on size alone. His versatility was well on display when he played center when teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was injured in the playoffs. He scored 42 points. He won three MVP awards and is the all-time leader in assists per game as well as third all time in total assists.

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3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar statistically speaking may be the best player ever he is first all-time in total points with 38,387, third all-time in total rebounds with 17,440, third all-time in total blocked shots with 3,189, and 33rd all-time in total assists with 5,660.In a 20-year career, he was selected to 19 All-Star Games and led his teams to six championships in ten appearances. Abdul-Jabbar won a record six MP Awards and even won the Rookie of the year Award in 1970. He also is the creator of the deadly "skyhook" shot which further cemented his status as one of the best centers to ever play the game on both the offensive and defensive end of the court.

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2. Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain

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Wilt Chamberlain is known for his 100-point game and while that in itself is a record no one besides Kobe Bryant has come close to that's not all he should be known for. Chamberlain holds another record, he never fouled out in his entire career. He helped lead his team to two championships and won four MVP Awards along the way with three of them being consecutive. His career averages of 30.1 points and 22.5 rebounds per game remain untouched and his single season averages of 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds is the greatest statistical season of any player ever. Chamberlain won seven scoring titles, 11 rebounding titles and was selected to 13 All-Star Games. If that isn't enough, he ranks fourth all-time in total points with 31,149 in his career.

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1. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball period. In a 15 year career he averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. His shot percentages were amazing as well shooting 49.7 percent from the field and 84 percent from the free-throw line.He was selected to 13 All-Star Games and won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Jordan led the Bulls to two three-peats winning a total of six titles and six Final MVP Awards to go along with five regular season MVP Awards. Jordan was the most prolific scorer, he was un-guardable and his will to win was unmatched by any other player. The legacy he has left behind makes him the greatest player of all time. It's debatable whether or not his ownership with the Charlotte Bobcats will put a dark spot on it however.

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