John Stockton – John Stockton is the all-time leader in both assists and steals in the National Basketball Association. For a slow, non-athletic, and undersized point guard from a small college, Stockton carved out a great career for himself. He ran the Utah pick and roll offense for two decades with teammate Karl Malone. Under his direction, the Jazz made two NBA Finals where they were defeated by Michael Jordan’s Bulls. Stockton won a co-MVP award in a NBA All-Star game and was regarded as one of the best point guards in the league for most of his 20 year career.
George Gervin – The “Iceman” could score on anyone in the league during his NBA career. He took his unorthodox jump shot to multiple scoring titles and put on a show wherever he played. Gervin was a holdover from the ABA merger, and he believed in entertaining fans when he hit the court. Only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain have more scoring titles than the Iceman (he has four). To win his first scoring title, George Gervin scored 63 points in the final game of the season. He had 53 at the half, and sat for most of the 3rd and 4th quarter after he reached enough points to secure the title. Gervin scored 40 or more points 68 times in his career and retired as the leader in blocks by a guard.
Reggie Miller – Reggie Miller may be the most polarizing superstar in league history. Miller was as clutch as anyone in the history of basketball in the closing minutes of a game, and he was more devastating on the road than he was at home. At the end of the game, he found a way to get the ball and get his shot off. He was not above shoving an opponent or flopping to get a rise out of a player or a call from a referee. Miller antagonized everyone, but his skill trumped any of his antics. Miller could shoot the basketball. In one stretch during a Division playoff game, he scored 8 points in 8.9 seconds to defeat the Knicks. He scored 57 points, his personal high and the league high against the Charlotte Hornets in the 1992-93 season. In his one trip to the NBA Finals, the Pacers were defeated by the LA Lakers, but Miller retired as the all-time leader in 3-pointers made (it has since been broken by Ray Allen).
Dominique Wilkins – ‘The Human Highlight Film’ is the most exciting player to never win a title. ‘Nique may be the best pure athlete that the NBA has seen. He was bigger and stronger than Jordan and every bit as athletic (if not more athletic). He had quick feet, and could explode at the rim with more force than anyone in the league. Plus, Wilkins rebounded and scored. He is one of six players to average 25+ points for 10 consecutive years of his career and is one of the few NBA guys who finished their career with over 25,000 points. He finished his career with more points than Magic Johnson and more than Larry Bird. He has more rebounds than Alonzo Mourning and Kevin McHale. Dominique is unfairly undervalued in the course of history because he never won a title.
Elgin Baylor – Though Elgin Baylor may not be the best player on this list without a NBA title, he definitely wins the title of most disparaged loser. He went to the NBA Finals eight times with the Lakers without winning one championship ring. Then, he became the general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers (insult to injury). Elgin Baylor has long been thought of as the predecessor to guys like Michael Jordan. He was one of the first, big scoring guards and he was known to fly in over an opponent and finish in the tress.
Tracy McGrady – Though Tracy McGrady technically never led a team out of the first round of the playoffs by himself, he also never was surrounded by great talent when he was the best player on the squad. T-Mac is one of the most underrated players of this era of basketball. He is a seven time All-Star, seven All-NBA team, with two scoring titles. McGrady was one of the few unstoppable scoring guards when he got hot. At 6’8″, he handled the basketball like a point guard, scored by shooting the three and slashing to the rim off the dribble, and defended 3 positions. McGrady averaged 19.6 points, 4.4 assists, and 5.6 rebounds on his career despite playing the last five seasons in limited minutes and never scoring more than 9.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.9 assists. He was a great player who was undervalued because of lack of success in the playoffs.
Patrick Ewing – Patrick Ewing was one of the most dominant centers to ever play in the NBA, and if his knees could have held up for his entire career, or if micro-fracture surgery had come a decade earlier, he may have challenged Shaq or Olajuwon for most dominant big man in the league. Ewing was one of the first centers that could step out and hit jumpers, and that added to his solid footwork in the post. Plus, his long arms and defensive positioning led him to the NBA Finals where he was defeated by an old rival, Hakeem Olajuwon.
Charles Barkley – Barkley has always been dynamic and enigmatic on and off the basketball court. Sir Charles was one of the most prolific scorers and rebounders of his era despite regularly giving up three to seven inches to the man that was guarding him. He utilized explosive leaping ability, a variety of pump fakes, and his derriere to maneuver around the basket and dominate his opponents.
Jerry West – A testament to how talented Mr. Basketball was is his play in his first NBA Finals. Jerry West holds the distinction of being the only player in NBA history to win an NBA Finals MVP award without winning a NBA title. Mr. Clutch could score with anyone and made shots from all over the court (including the other half of the court) when the game mattered most. His playoff scoring average still sits among the league leaders after 40 years of retirement.
Allen Iverson – Allen Iverson one of the smallest men to win a MVP award, and may be the most dominant little man to ever guide his team to the NBA Finals. Every other small guard had a post that they could dump the ball to for easy scores. Iverson lead his team and the league in scoring with Dikembe Mutumbo, a defensive specialist as his best offensive option. Iverson lead the league on scoring three years at a generous listed height of 6′ (he is actually closer to 5’10″ or 5’11″). In addition to his healthy career scoring average of 26.2, Iverson also averaged over 6 assists per game too. He utilized supreme quickness and speed to overcome his physical deficiencies.
Steve Nash – Steve Nash is the most criticized two-time NBA MVP in league history because he never reached the NBA Finals. However, despite limited playoff success, he changed the way that basketball was being played in the early 2000s and made the game of basketball enjoyable to watch again. Steve Nash changed the culture of basketball by taking it back to its glory days of fast break basketball with Magic Johnson. Nash could score as evidenced by a 50 point game and a few 40+ point games in the playoffs, however he preferred to orchestrate the offense and keep his teammates involved. Nash’s first MVP year had the lowest scoring average in the history of the league attached to it, but his impact was greater. The following year was better than the first, so he had to be re-crowned, and his third year when he lost the MVP race was arguably his best year as a pro.
Karl Malone – Karl Malone won two Most Valuable Player awards during his career and finished his playing time as the second highest scorer in league history with 36, 928 points. Over the course of his nineteen year NBA career, Malone averaged 25.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He was either the best or second best power forward that ever played the game of basketball depending on if you classify Tim Duncan as a center or power forward.