10. Karl Malone – Karl Malone finished his career as the 2nd highest scoring player in National Basketball Association history behind only one man with 36,928 points. Though he never won a NBA championship, he won two regular season Most Valuable Player awards, and played in three NBA Finals. Malone was powerful and quick in the post. He bullied opponents in the beginning of his career by simply overpowering them, but learned to shoot jumpers in the twilight of his career and never lost his scoring prowess.
9. Kobe Bryant – Kobe is constantly compared to Michael Jordan, the man who he patterned his game after. However, his accomplishments pale in comparison to Jordan. What people fail to realize when they compare Kobe Bryant to Jordan is that Kobe has earned one of the most distinguished careers in NBA history despite failing to surpass MJ on some fronts. He has recently surpassed the 30,000 point mark, making him one of only five players to reach the plateau, number five on the all-time scoring list, and the youngest player to reach that point. Kobe has won scoring titles, 5 NBA championships, and a regular season MVP. Until LeBron James came along, he was the youngest player to get to almost every scoring mark in NBA history. Kobe was unmatched in the halfcourt with his footwork and short jumpers, but he was just as exciting in the open court. There are some who believe that Kobe may have been better in the closing minutes than Jordan, though the statistics do not bear this out. He may not be Michael Jordan, however with his scoring prowess and basketball knowledge, Kobe Bryant has put together one of the greatest careers that the National Basketball Association has ever witnessed.
8. Moses Malone – Big Mo’ was the king of the offensive rebound. Some NBA players complained that Malone would sometimes toss the basketball off the backboard solely to pad his rebounding stats, but Mo also shot well over 50% from the field during his career. He was only the fifth player to go from prep to pro, and he played in the NBA for 19 years of his 21 year professional basketball career (Moses played two years in the ABA). Moses Malone won three NBA MVP’s and is the only player in basketball history to win two consecutive MVP’s with different teams (Barry Bonds is the only other man to do it at the highest level in the major sports). At a stretch, Malone won 6 straight rebounding titles and challenged to lead the league in scoring too.
7. Oscar Robertson – The ‘Big O’ is one of the most versatile players in league history. He was the predecessor to big point guards like Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd, who can out quick or overpower their opponents. Oscar Robertson is still the only man to average a triple-double in NBA history. What is overlooked in that season is his actual stats. In order to get a triple-double, one only has to average double digits in three separate statistical categories, meaning a minimum of 10 units in any category. In the 1961-62 season, Oscar Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 11.4 assists and 12.5 rebounds per game. In fact, though he did not average a triple-double in any other season, his average over his first five seasons equals a triple-double (30.3 points per game, 10.4 rebounds and 10.6 assists). He was both a NBA champion and a NBA MVP. He lead the league in assists 6 times in his career, won 3 All-Star MVP’s, is one of two players to lead the league in scoring and assists in the same season, and is the only guard in NBA history to average 10 rebounds in a season (which he did 3 times).
6. Larry Bird – ‘Larry Legend” is one of the NBA’s most deadly shooters and most celebrated players. He is one of two players to win three consecutive NBA MVP’s. He is a member of the 50-40-90 club, a symbol of shooting efficiency (50% from the field, 40% from the three point line, 90% from the free throw line). He won three championships despite constantly facing one of the best players in NBA history, Magic Johnson. Bird is also the only player in NBA history to win MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year. He was unparalleled in his shooting on the floor, and seemed to never miss in the clutch. Bird used pump fakes and good old-fashioned know-how to dominate opponents.
5. Magic Johnson – Magic Johnson is one of only a few players who could dominate a game without scoring. Though he boasts a healthy career average of 19.5 ppg., Magic is also the most prolific passer that ever played in the NBA. His averages are better than Oscar Robertson, John Stockton, and any other person who may have recently passed him on the all-time assists list. Magic was one of the best athletes and decision makers on the court in his youth, and the basketball world missed some of his best years because of illness. Yet, he finished his basketball career first in assists and still holds the best single season average and career average at 13.1 and 11.2 respectively. He won three MVP’s, five titles, and orchestrated the most entertaining display in basketball history.
4. Kareem Abdul Jabbar – Kareem Abdul Jabbar is possibly the most underrated player in NBA history despite being one of the most successful players in basketball history. Jabbar won state championships in high school, lost exactly one game in his college career on the way to three consecutive NCAA championships, and won five more titles in the NBA. He is the owner and inventor of the most unstoppable shot in the history of the league, the sky hook. And, Kareem is the most prolific scorer to ever play in the NBA. He is the all-time leader in points with 38,387 points.
3. Bill Russell – Bill Russell is the greatest winner in sports history. He literally has more rings than he has fingers with eleven championship titles. The only constant between all of his Celtics teams is him. Russell changed the way that defense was played. Rule changes were made to stop him from blocking every shot. The goal tending call is the “Russell Rule”. Only Russell could contend with the raw force and quickness of Wilt Chamberlain. He has some of the highest rebounding averages and single game performances in NBA history. Russell is one of three people to average 20 rebounds in a season, and one of two people to get 50 rebounds in a single game which he did twice.
2. Michael Jordan – Michael Jordan has the highest scoring average in NBA history despite missing one and a half years of basketball in his prime after his hiatus to baseball, being a guard, and playing two subpar post-retirement years in Washington. He owns the record for highest regular season scoring average and playoff scoring average with 30.12 and 33.45 points, respectively. Michael Jordan is considered by many to be the best basketball player ever. He is one of two people to win the Defensive Player of the Year, MVP, and Finals MVP in the same year. He holds the record for scoring titles with 10. He is tied for second place with Bill Russell with 5 MVP’s (only Jabbar has more with six). Jordan is the most decorated player in NBA history, and possibly the most versatile scorer. He could go over larger players at the rim (ask Patrick Ewing or Mark Eaton), but he was also overwhelmingly skilled. Jordan changed the way that basketball is played and marketed. His reach globally had been unparalleled until Tiger Woods.
1. Wilt Chamberlain – Wilt Chamberlain is the best player that ever stepped onto a basketball court. Some of his feats in the 60′s have never been equaled. He scored 100 points in a NBA game. He averaged 50 points per game in as single season and is the only person to ever reach even 40 ppg. At center, he led the NBA in assists. Wilt was a freak of nature. Anything that he put his mind to athletically, he could achieve. Look at the NBA record books if you need further proof of Wilt’s dominance. All of the scoring and rebounding records read Wilt one time after another with other names like Jordan and Russell mixed in.