Top 50 NBA Players of All-Time

How Do I Rank the Top 50 Players in the History of the NBA?

Where do you start and end when ranking players? Is it accolades, championships, all-time points, defensive stats? The overall game changes so frequently; in previous eras, guys were playing 40 minutes a night. In the new era, pace is ridiculously high and guys can shoot threes at an insane rate. Can you accurately create a relative scale between the two? NBA is filled with what-ifs, and the endless player comparisons seem to be debated in this sport more than any other. When looking back throughout NBA history, we need to take player rankings with a grain of salt.

The eras are different and it definitely should reflect in rankings. We started tracking three-pointers in the 1979 season. Blocked shots were not recorded until the 1973-74 season. In 25-50 years, we might be looking at other various changes that make it tough to rank this current era of players. Let’s appreciate the players that have played the game over the last several decades. Let’s highlight their accomplishments and play. We can debate LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan until we are blue in the face, but there is no arguing they are two world-class basketball players. Also, James is better, so let’s dive in.

1. Michael Jordan


#1: Michael Jordan is a ten-time scoring champ, six-time NBA champion, and we could go on-and-on about his accolades. The five MVPs is also something to note. Jordan goes down as one of the greatest of all-time, even though his fashion choices were highly questionable. We also have to remember his overall stats included taking a year off to play baseball, and then retiring for three years before coming back to average 20 points per game in two seasons with Washington.

2. LeBron James


#2: Each era has that one player, and in this generation we have been blessed with a handful of world class players. LeBron James takes the cake, however. James is a three-time NBA Champion, and has been a Finals MVP three times as well. Many will want to talk about the finals record, but his production should overshadow it. James is now 5th in points all-time, and will not stop there. James is also heading into the top ten in assists, and is top 20 in steals. His all-around game makes him one of the best of all-time.

3. Wilt Chamberlain


#3: In over 1,000 games played, Wilt Chamberlain averaged some ridiculous numbers. He was a four-time MVP, two-time NBA champion, and a seven-time scoring champ. This is also one of those era conversations; in the early 60s, these guys were playing over 45 minutes per game. I mean, Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points per game when he was 25. He has established himself inside the top ten all-time in points, and it is going to be tough for anyone to knock him off the top of the leaderboard for rebounds at 23,924.

4. Magic Johnson


#4: When we look back at Magic Johnson’s career, he averaged double-digit assists in nine of 13 seasons. He was also an efficient shooter, finishing with a FG% over 50%. Johnson was not your prototypical point guard at 6’9, but his passing ability was unmatched. Johnson was part of those magical Lakers teams in the 80s, winning five championships, and in three of them, he was a Finals MVP. He was an all-star in 12 of his 13 seasons, and All-NBA in ten of them.

5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar


#5: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the best to do it. In his career, he was a six-time MVP and NBA champion and finished as a Finals MVP twice in his career. Kareem was induced in the Hall of Fame in 1995 and was an all-star 19 times. Kareem also brought a title to Milwaukee, which is their lone one in organizational history. Moving to Los Angeles is where we really remember his time, going down as one of the Lakers greats as well.

6. Larry Bird


#6: So many greats have come through Boston over the years, and Larry Bird is the more iconic one. He is a three-time NBA Champion and a two-time Finals MVP. He was a Rookie Of The Year over Magic Johnson, who battled each other as rivals throughout their careers. Bird looked like a midwestern suburban dad but averaged over 20 points in all but two seasons, where he averaged just 19. Bird was another Celtic to stay with Boston for his entire career.

7. Shaquille O’Neal


#7: Actor, rapper, basketball player, Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most dominant players of all-time. He was a first overall pick out of LSU, and after a few years in Orlando, he made his presence felt in Los Angeles. He was a 15-time all-star and four-time NBA Champion. Shaq also dominated finals with three MVP awards as well. While he fizzled out a little bit later in his career, but his time with Miami brought them a ring. You are likely including Shaq in all your center rankings in NBA history.

8. Kobe Bryant


#8: Kobe Bryant is currently third on the all-time scoring list, and 15th in steals. We saw peak Bryant in those 2005 and 2006 seasons, where he averaged over 30 points per game. Bryant is a two-time scoring champ and will go down as one of the greats in terms of playoff production. He is a five-time NBA Champion, and something that gets overlooked is the fact he was named to the All-Defensive team 12 times.

9. Tim Duncan


#9: Tim Duncan’s game has played across almost three eras of basketball. Playing from the age of 21 to 39, all with San Antonio, he is someone we will likely not see again. Duncan is a five-time NBA Champion and would have had a few more if it wasn’t for Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Duncan was also a two-time MVP and was named to the All-Defensive team 15 times. Being drafted number one overall back in 1997, Duncan was everything as advertised.

10. Bill Russell


#10: Bill Russell gets some flack, playing in the late 50s and early 60s. His scoring stats were pedestrian when you consider most on this list, but he was an excellent rebounder, averaging 22.5 per game. Russell was the cream of the crop at his time, leading the Celtics to 11 championships, and also tallied five MVP awards. Russell is a Celtic great, and the consistency over his career was something that bumps him up into these rankings.

11. Oscar Robertson


#11: One of the great assist men in the game was Oscar Robertson, but his 30 point per game seasons also established himself as a lethal scoring point guard. Robertson played his time with Cincinnati and Milwaukee, and was a part of that championship team with Milwaukee. Averaging 25 and 9 over 1,000 games in a career is going to put you up on this list. He was averaging near triple-doubles in his first five-six seasons in the league.

12. Hakeem Olajuwon


#12: Hakeem Olajuwon was ferocious on both sides of the ball, and was a three-time block champion. He dominated his way to nine All-Defensive teams and was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Olajuwon managed to win two rings before his time was up, but probably should have had more. Both times he was the Finals MVP. Olajuwon played out his career with Houston until his last season, where he landed with Toronto.

13. Jerry West


#13: We are going way back for Jerry West, who surprisingly won just one championship with the Lakers during his time in Los Angeles. He was a 14-time all-star and also was the scoring champion in the 1969-70 season. West was a volume shooter, and the career 47% field goal percentage says a lot. He played over ten seasons with the Lakers, and the only season he scored under 20 points per game was in his rookie season.

14. Moses Malone


#14: Moses Malone played 20 years professionally, and won the NBA Finals in the 1982-83 season. He was also Finals MVP. Malone is a three-time MVP and dominated the boards as a rebound champ six times. Malone had a lengthy career, although, in the last few seasons, you saw he was tanked physically. At age 26, Malone had a career-high 31.1 points per game. He also added defensively, averaging over one block per game.

15. Karl Malone


#15: Karl Malone will go down as one of the greatest athletes to never win a championship. He is a 14-time all-star and currently number two on the all-time scoring list. Malone is also 7th in overall rebounds and tenth in steals. The Mailman played almost his entire career in Utah, as his last season, he went ring chasing with the Lakers and fell short. Malone dominated year in and year out with the Jazz, but they could never get that title.

16. Julius Erving


#16: Julius Erving has a couple of titles, although two came playing during the ABA years. Erving is a 16-time all-star and a four-time MVP. He spent his entire NBA career with Philly, going down as possibly the greatest 76er of all-time. Averaging over 20 points per game in all but two seasons in the NBA is quite impressive, and shooting over 50% in his career adds to the dominance he had on the offensive side.

17. Kevin Durant


#17: It is only a matter of time before we see Kevin Durant start to pass up some of the great scorers in the game. He is a four-time scoring champ and a two-time NBA champ. While we may look at him joining Golden State to get those rings as a cop-out, Durant is still one of the best of this era. He is a versatile scorer, currently averaging over 25 points per game in his career. Durant’s defensive ability is often overlooked as a lengthy defender who is tough to get around or shoot over.

18. Kevin Garnett


#18: Defensively we look at Kevin Garnett as one of the best, and his trash talking is also something that adds into this list. Garnett was a huge edge on both sides of the ball, and was named to the All-Defensive team 12 times. He won a championship with Boston after a long stretch with Minnesota. His 2003-04 season was an MVP one, and he set a career high in points per game and rebounds per game.

19. Elvin Hayes


#19: Elvin Hayes seems to fly under the radar in terms of one of the greats. He is 10th in all-time scoring, 4th in rebounds, and 24th in blocks. Hayes is was inducted in the Hall of Fame back in 1990, and was an NBA Champion in the 1977-98 season. Hayes was in the league still when blocks were not counted, so he had five seasons with no recorded blocks, and still sits within the top 25 of all-time.

20. Charles Barkley


#20: Charles Barkley is another Hall of Fame power forward who didn’t win a ring, and had a couple of chances to do so. Barkley in his prime was a menace on the glass, and often averaged over 20 points per game. He was an MVP in the 1992-93 season, and an 11-time all-star. Barkley is mainly known for his time in Philly and Phoenix, but also still produced double-doubles during the end of his career in Houston.

21. Walt Frazier


#21: Walt Frazier was as cool as they come, and a strong scoring point guard during his time. Frazier won the NBA title twice, and was a seven-time all-star. Frazier shot 49% in his carer, and averaged nearly two steals per game. His time with the Knicks was part of a bright spot for the franchise, and gave them a core piece for about an entire decade.

22. Dirk Nowitzki


#22: Dirk Nowitzki is still chugging along in the NBA, but his time is coming to an end soon. He is a future Hall of Fame inductee, and one of the best shooting bigs of all-time. He won a title late in his career, and was a Finals MVP over LeBron James. Nowitzki is top ten in scoring, and will finish his career shooting over 47%. Dallas has themselves an iconic face of the franchise, staying there for nearly 20 years.

23. John Havlicek


#22: John Havlicek played his entire career in Boston, and won eight titles during his career. He was a Finals MVP in the 1973-74 season, and was a 13-time all-star. Havlicek played in a time where you were seeing around 40 minutes a night, which helped his overall numbers. He is currently 16th all-time in points, although he will be pushed down over years to come. Boston sure did know how to draft them back then.

24. Scottie Pippen


#24: LeBron needed Wade, Kobe needed Shaq, and Jordan needed Pippen. He was tremendous on both sides of the ball, and while he will go down as the sidekick, Pippen is a Hall of Famer that was also a seven-time all-star. He was a part of the Chicago run in the 90s, and was one of the more consistent players in the game. The 90s could have been very different if Pippen didn’t find his way to Chicago.

25. Dwyane Wade


#25: We are looking at a future Hall of Famer as we wind down Dwyane Wade’s career. Wade will go down as one of the best shooting guards over the last few decades and will be remembered as a Miami Heat legend. He is a three-time NBA Champion and was the Finals MVP of that 2005-06 championship. Wade isn’t going to crack the lists of any stats, but averaged over 20 points per game in his career, and was also a hound with steals.

26. Stephen Curry


#26: Is it crazy to put Stephen Curry in this list already? The easy answer is, no. Curry is already a three-time NBA Champion, and this number should go up. He is also a two-time MVP, and has changed the game as one of the best pure shooters in NBA history. Curry is currently shooting 44% from three in his career, and is also averaging over 1.5 steals per game. If Curry can maintain good health, he will up there with some of the greats for scoring and steals.

27. George Gervin


#27: George Gervin was a prominent scorer during his time. He shot 50% in his career, and was a four-time scoring champ. He averaged over 30 points per game in two seasons, and was a 12-time all-star. Gervin played most of his ball with the Spurs before they put together their championship run, so unfortunately he did not end up with a ring when his career was over. He will go down as a great scorer that won’t ever get the recognition deserved.

28. Rick Barry


#28: Rick Barry is another ABA and NBA player from that generation, and in the NBA averaged 23.2 points per game. When steals were recorded, he finished with 2.0 steals per game in his career. Barry is a 12-time all-star, and is also an NBA Champion, winning it all in the 1974-75 season. He was the Finals MVP, and went on to be a six-time All-NBA player. Barry was induced into the Hall of Fame in 1987.

29. David Robinson


#29: David Robinson is one of the block kings of the NBA, currently ranking 6th on the all-time list. Robinson is a two-time NBA champion, and was also a Scoring Champion in the 1993-94 season. He will go down as a Rookie of the Year, and a League MVP. Robinson cooled off a bit in his later stages of his career, but early on he was an automatic double-double on a nightly basis.

30. Isiah Thomas


#30: Currently 7th on the all-time assists list is Isiah Thomas. He played his entire NBA career with the Detroit Pistons and won two championships during the “Bad Boys” era. Thomas averaged a shade under ten assists per game, and also shot 45% from the field. Thomas had his career cut short, retiring at age 32 after an Achilles injury. A few more seasons, Thomas could have pushed his way up the leaderboard in assists. Either way, he will go down as a Hall of Famer, and one of the best point guards of all-time.

31. John Stockton


#31: While John Stockton looked like old pictures of your dad, he will go down as one of the best passing point guards in the league. He was also a menace on the defensive side, averaging 2.2 steals per game in his career. Stockton logged over 15,000 assists, and 3,000 steals. He ranks first in both on the all-time leaderboards. He played his entire career with the Jazz, but failed to knock off some of the elite teams in that era.

32. Alex English


#32: Alex English will go down as one of the better scorers in the game, as he ranks 18th in points. English was a tremendous shooter, finishing a shade over 50% from the field in his career. The only knock on English is the defensive stats were not there, but he would chip in with other peripheral stats. He doesn’t quite have the accolades of some of the other names on this list, but he is a Hall of Famer, and an underrated scorer.

33. Clyde Drexler


#33: We can’t forget Clyde the Glide, who is a ten-time all-star, and ended up winning an NBA Championship with Houston. This came after he was traded halfway through the season from Portland. Drexler averaged 20.4 points per game in his career, and the peripheral stats also followed with over five assists and six rebounds per game. Drexler is also seventh all-time in steals, and found his way on the All-NBA team five times.

34. Patrick Ewing


#34: You did not want to challenge Patrick Ewing in his prime at the rim. He is 7th all-time in blocked shots, finishing with over 2,800 in his career. He is also over 11,000 rebounds in his career, and is currently inside the top 25 all-time there as well. Ewing was one of the greats who didn’t win a ring, but racked up seven All-NBA appearances, and was the Rookie of the Year when he came into the league.

35. Willis Reed


#35: We are going back to the mid 60s here with Willis Reed. He was a seven-time all-star and two-time NBA Champion. He played his entire career as a New York Knick, and we saw a bit of a drop off in production just a few seasons before he retired. Reed was a dominant center during this era, and some career longevity would help his case in the rankings, but still a top tier player.

36. Steve Nash


#36: Steve Nash was recently inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, and deservingly so. Nash is a five-time assist champion, and a two-time league MVP. He won it in back-to-back seasons. Nash was on a few outstanding Suns teams, but failed to get over the hump against the Lakers and Spurs. Nash is currently third all-time in assists, and will likely be there for a very long time.

37. Jason Kidd


#37: Jason Kidd is another recent Hall of Fame inductee, and similar to the man above Kidd was a ten-time all-star, and unlike Nash he was able to lock down a ring with the Mavericks during the 2010-11 season. Kidd is second all-time in assists and steals. He will go down as one of the best passing point guards, but his defense was what gives him an edge among some other names who draw comparisons.

38. Allen Iverson


#38: Allen Iverson came into the league during a time where a lot of high scoring players were on their way out. Averaging 23.5 points in his rookie season, Iverson was about to go on a scoring tear. He was a four-time scoring champion, and also a three time steals champ. Iverson is currently 13th all-time in steals, 25th all-time in points. While we might see numbers like Iverson down the road, we will never see the combination with his personality.

39. Bob Cousy


#39: Bob Cousy is just another Boston legend that found his way into the rankings. We go back to the 50s for Cousy, where he was a 13-time all-star, who also found his way onto six championship teams. Cousy stayed in Boston for about 99% of his career, as he retired and later came back at the age of 41 to play with Cincinnati for seven games. Cousy is currently 17th all-time in assists.

40. George Mikan


#40: George Mikan is a historical player in basketball history, as he dominated in the short time that he played. Across all league’s he won seven titles, and the one year he was injured was the one year he did not win a championship. Mikan was a trendsetter in that era as he pushed the pace of the game. This was also in an era after WWII where the game of basketball was barely starting to thrive.

41. Gary Payton


#41: It is weird to think Gary Payton’s championship win came in the 2005-06 season with the Miami Heat. Payton had a long career, and during his prime was an absolute force at the point guard position. Payton was a nine-time all-star, and also a nine-time all-defensive player. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame back in 2013, and currently sits fourth all-time in steals. He is also 8th overall in assists.

42. Kevin McHale


#42: Boston continued to churn out star talent in this era of basketball, and Kevin McHale was another example of it. He stayed in Boston during his entire career, which many did. McHale was a monster at power forward, leading his way to seven all-star appearances, and was named to six All-Defensive teams. He was a part of three Boston championships, during those 80s runs. While, McHale isn’t going to jump out on any all-time leaderboards, but was a stout all-around player.

43. Bob Pettit


#43: Going back to the early days of the NBA, Bob Pettit was an absolute monster in the front court. He averaged over 20 points in every season of his career, and did not once fall under double-digit rebounds on a season. While he logged 39 minutes per game, Pettit was the class of this era. He was a two-time scoring champ, and won the NBA title in the 1957-58 season. Hard to find a ten year stretch of this time of dominance.

44. Ray Allen


#44: One of the best shooting strokes in the game was Ray Allen. He was a ten-time all-star, and also a two-time NBA champion. Allen dominated across two decades of basketball, playing with some truly historic teams as well. Allen goes down as an excellent three-point shooter, sitting at 40% in his career. He also cracks the all-time scoring list at 24th overall. Allen was recently inducted in the Hall of Fame, which was an easy vote.

45. Reggie Miller


#45: Reggie Miller is a Hall of Fame basketball player, and won’t be finding the way into the announcing Hall of Fame. Miller spent his entire career with the Pacers, which is an impressive accomplishment as well. He came close to a few rings, but Miller is one of the greats who never accomplished a title. He was an excellent scorer, ranking 20th all-time in points. Miller was a three-time All-NBA player and a five-time all-star.

46. Dominique Wilkins


#46: Where do we even begin with Dominique Wilkins. He is 12th all-time in scoring, and was the 1985-86 scoring champion as well. Wilkins made the All-NBA team seven times, and was a nine-time all-star. Wilkins often found himself averaging over 25 points in a season, and twice he managed to crack 30 points per game. Even towards the end of Wilkins career, his scoring was still around 18 per game.

47. Kawhi Leonard


#47: Kawhi Leonard was drafted and later traded by the Indiana Pacers, ending up with San Antonio who sent George Hill their way. Not a good trade by any means, as Leonard has developed into one of the best already. He is a two-time NBA champ and counting, recently giving the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA championship. Leonard’s overall career numbers look average, but a 26-7-3 line in the 2018-19 season is more of a show for what he can do. Leonard’s injury derailed his last season in San Antonio before being traded. But those last two seasons in SA, he averaged 21 and 25 points per game. He is a monster on both sides of the ball and is now starting his next chapter with the Clippers. The already two-time Finals MVP is destined for more.

48. Chris Paul


#48: Chris Paul is still working his way up the leaderboards, but is currently 12th all-time in steals, and 9th all-time in assists. He is a future Hall of Famer, and will go down as a tremendous point guard on both sides of the court. Paul was the Rookie of the Year in 2005-06, and has also been named to nine all-star teams and eight All-NBA teams. Paul is still searching for that title that would be icing on the cake to a hell of a career, but that is looking less likely these days.

49. Vince Carter


#49: Currently Vince Carter is still in the league, and grinding out with some bad teams. Prime Carter was a top tier athlete, and a human highlight reel. During Carter’s time in Toronto and New Jersey, he averaged 23 points per game. His last eight years have dropped his career average, but he is a future Hall of Famer, and has cracked the top 25 in the all-time scoring list. Carter will likely surpass a few names as he rides out his time in the NBA.

50. Paul Pierce


#50: Paul Pierce gets a lot of flack from the NBA world, but hard to deny what he has done on the court. Pierce had sneaky athleticism mainly because his body weight was a bit deceiving. He is currently 15th overall in points, and 20th all-time in steals. Pierce was a long time Celtic, where he won his lone championship with the help of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. He was the Finals MVP that year.

Top 50 NBA All-Time FAQ


Frequently Asked Questions

Who Is The Best NBA Player Of All Time?

Michael Jordan goes down as the best NBA player of all-time, as he is a six-time NBA champion and averaged 30.1 points per game in his career. Not only was Jordan prolific on the offensive end, but he also dominated defensively and averaged 2.3 steals per game.

Who Is The Best NBA Point Guard Of All Time?

Magic Johnson averaged 19.5 points per game in his career to go with the 11.2 assists he dished out on average. Johnson is a Hall of Famer and won three MVP awards. He was also a three-time Finals MVP to go alongside his five championship rings.

Who Is The Best NBA Shooting Guard Of All Time?

No surprise here as Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all-time, and he played most of his minutes at shooting guard. He rotated to small forward later in his career but is known for shooting guard. He averaged 30.1 points per game.

Who Is The Best NBA Small Forward Of All Time?

LeBron James is a top-three player of all-time and has averaged over 27 points per game in his career. James is a three-time NBA champion and has made All-NBA 14 times. He is also a league MVP, as he has won the award four times.

Who Is The Best NBA Power Forward Of All Time?

Tim Duncan split his time between center and power forward but played his prime years at power forward. He averaged a career 19 and 10 and shot 50% from the field. Duncan is also a five-time champion and two-time league MVP.

Who Is The Best NBA Center Of All Time?

Wilt Chamberlain played in a different era as he averaged over 45 minutes a game in his career. He averaged 30 points and 22 rebounds a game. Chamberlain is close with Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who are contenders as well.

Who Is The Best NBA Player In The 2000s?

To separate the 2000s from the 2010s, Kobe Bryant averaged 28 points per game during the 2000s, where he played ten seasons. He won four rings during this period and was a league MVP in 2008. The Lakers were one of the most dominant teams during this era.

Who Is The Best NBA Player In The 1990s?

Prime Michael Jordan won six championships during the 1990s and was the Finals MVP in all of them. He was a four-time MPV and a seven-time NBA scoring champion. He played eight seasons during the 1990s and averaged 30.8 points per game.

Who Is The Best NBA Player In The 1980s?

The 1980s were a battle between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. The Lakers point guard gets the edge as he dominated averaging 19 points per game and 11 assists per game. He won five NBA titles with the Lakers as well.

Who Is The Best NBA Player In The 1970s?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of the most dominant players in NBA history. He averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds per game. He also was a menace defensively and had 2.6 blocks per game. Kareem won six championships and six League MVPs.

Jason has been involved in the sports betting industry over the last decade and is the current Site Manager of He is invested in providing some of the best sports and betting content to help new and advanced users navigate the betting wold.

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