The Best Basketball Players in History: My Top 10

Posted: May 29, 2014 in Interesting Videos, Opinion, Sports

Ah, the eternal debate with no real answer. Everyone has a different opinion, depending on their age. Young kids will say LeBron, because they never watched Jordan. People a little older will say Jordan, because they never watched Magic at his peak. Others will tell you that nobody can compare to Oscar Robertson in his prime.

The following is simply my opinion, but I’ve been a close follower of the NBA since the mid-60’s. Unlike a lot of people, I actually saw Wilt Chamberlain play. I watched Bill Russell and Pete Maravich up close. I was lucky enough to see Magic, Bird, and LeBron as well. And yes, I watched Michael Jordan play in the old Chicago Stadium, so I do have a little background in which to make a decision.

It always bugs me when younger folks think what they’re seeing has never happened before, that because it’s happening now it’s the best thing ever. Simply not true. Sure, players today are bigger and stronger on the whole, but that doesn’t mean they’re better basketball players. In fact, the actual game was played better in the past.

Anyway, I believe that although players as a whole have improved athletically over time, some great players sort of transcend the game and would be great no matter when they played. Without further ado, I give you my Top 10:

10. Jerry West

Jerry West’s image is the NBA logo, my friends. Hence his nickname, “The Logo”. He was also known as “Mr. Clutch” and “Zeke from Cabin Creek.” Jerry West was one of the purest shooters I’ve ever seen as well as being way more athletic than people remember. His Lakers team that included Wilt Chamberlain won 33 games in-a-row, still an NBA record. I once met Jerry at a WVU game and it was one of the few times in my life I was speechless. Just overwhelmed.

 9. Tim Duncan

Probably the most underrated player in NBA history, simply because he wasn’t flashy and doesn’t do commercials. Even his nickname, “The Big Fundamental” is boring. Still, all he did was win and dominate the NBA since his arrival in the league. His use of the bank shot should be required viewing for all young basketball players.

8. Oscar Robertson

The man they called “The Big O” is famous for averaging a triple-double over the course of an entire season. I was lucky enough to watch him several times as a kid at the old Cincinnati Gardens, and trust me when I say this cat was as smooth as silk. He scored, rebounded and passed as well as any player in the history of the game, and there are old-timers who will swear nobody has ever been better.

7. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Ah, Kareem. The NBA’s all-time leading scorer who is, incredibly, sometimes left off the list when discussions regarding the best-ever player pop up. That said, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the most unstoppable weapon in the history of basketball – the legendary Sky Hook. I already regret not placing him higher.

6. LeBron James

Yes, you all know there are times when I can’t stand the guy. My once great hatred for him is well documented. Still, as a basketball fan and coach I can’t deny it – LeBron James is one helluva player. He’s probably the greatest single all-around athlete ever to play professional sports. He still acts like a petulant child at times, but you simply cannot deny how good he is.


5. Larry Bird

Larry Legend. The Hick from French Lick. This dude was a stone cold killer who hated losing more than anybody. Evidence of this was when he walked into the NBA 3-point contest back in the 80’s. Everyone was sitting around the locker room when he walked in and said, “Which one of you guys is going to finish second?” He then went out and won . . . without taking his warmup jacket off. Quite possibly the greatest shooter, and passer, in history. If you youngsters out there don’t think he could play, watch this highlight video.

4. Magic Johnson

Full disclosure – Magic Johnson is my favorite all-time player in basketball history. His tenacity, love of winning, passing, and ability to make others better has been unmatched. As a 6′-9″ point guard he completely changed the game as we knew it.  And he was playing all five positions long before LeBron ever did.

3. Bill Russell

Uh, can you say 11-NBA titles? Bill Russell was simply the greatest winner in the history of professional sports. Russell was a defensive wizard who would often not just block a shot, but block it towards a member of his own team. And again, for all you kids out there who think Bill Russell wasn’t a great athlete, take a look:

2. Michael Jordan

No surprise here, right? His Airness has 6-titles and was as competitive as they come. Hell, he once coldcocked teammate Steve Kerr in practice, which is something we’ve all wanted to do at one time or another, right? He also may have been banned from the league for gambling for 3-years at the height of his career, but that’s nether here nor there. Anyhoo, I got MJ at #2.

1. Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain was unstoppable. He averaged 30.09 ppg and 22.9 rpg for his career. In the 1961-62 season he averaged 50.4 points per game, and he once scored 100-points in a single game. Impressed with a triple double? In Wilt’s 100-point game he had a quadruple double with a triple. That’s 100-points, 25-rebounds, and he also was double figures in blocked shots and assists. And oh, he was 28-32 from the free throw line. Wilt was an amazing athlete who, while in college at Kansas, won the Big 8 high jump championship 3-straight years. Bottom line, although Bill Russell won more titles, I always felt he was surrounded by much better players. To me, Wilt was the best NBA player in history.

Here’s a great video of Wilt vs. Kareem

Special Mention:

Bill Walton: The greatest passing big man in history.

Moses Malone: Perhaps the best rebounding big man after Wilt.

Shaquille O’Neal: Great, but I always thought he could’ve been better.

Kobe Bryant: Competitive as hell.

Pete Maravich: Just missed my Top 10. I loved The Pistol.

Hakeem Olajawon: Unbelievable quickness for a post man.

Julius Erving: Dr. J was electric.

Elgin Baylor: Smooth as silk.

  1. Evan says:

    What? Where is John Havlicek?!?!? This guy invented the three point shot. LeBron is a no name hack compared to him. These guys today are all about the money. Havlicek was a class act.

Gimme a holler.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s