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    The 10 Greatest Basketball Players of All Time

    This Encyclopedia Britannica list features our sports editor’s picks for 10 greatest basketball players of all time.

    The 10 Greatest Basketball Players of All Time

    By Adam Augustyn

    The curation of this content is at the discretion of the author, and not necessarily reflective of the views of Encyclopaedia Britannica or its editorial staff. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, consult individual encyclopedia entries about the topics.

    © iStockphoto/Thinkstock

    It’s time for Britannica—OK, one editor at Britannica—to jump into the perpetually unresolved “greatest ever in [insert sport here]” fray. We’re not technically a sports website, but this editor (hi!) has been obsessively watching sports for nearly three decades and arguing about them with friends for nearly as long. This list is, naturally, incredibly subjective, and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Unless you agree with me, in which case this was the most meaningful thing I’ve ever written.

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    What? The leading scorer in National Basketball Association (NBA) history is just the 10th-best player ever? Indeedy. While Kareem put up a whopping 38,387 points during his playing days, I can’t look past the fact that he spent a good chunk of his career receiving passes from Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson, the two greatest point guards of all time. Also, his career totals were inflated by the fact that he played roughly 10,000 years in the NBA. (Or 20. Whatever.) Nevertheless, he was an awesome force who dominated the sport for two decades and perfected the sky hook, one of the most gorgeous shots the game has ever seen. Plus, he was hilarious in Airplane! and fought Bruce Lee in Game of Death, so his cool quotient is easily the highest of anyone on this list.

    Tim Duncan

    Tim Duncan, Chris Bosh, NBA Finals 2014

    Tim Duncan (right) of the San Antonio Spurs stretches to block a shot by Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat on June 12, 2014, in game two of the NBA finals. The Spurs dominated the finals to beat the defending champion Heat four games to one.

    Lynne Sladky/AP Images

    I have a confession to make: even though I’m a lifelong devotee to all Seattle sports team, I had a fan-fling with the San Antonio Spurs teams of the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Yes, they played the kind of slow-paced ball that put most fans to sleep by the third quarter, but there was often a thing of pure beauty hidden among the tire-fire of a 78–71 final score: Tim Duncan’s bank shot. In his prime, Duncan, nicknamed “The Big Fundamental” by no less a nickname authority than Shaquille O’Neal, was one of the most sound players of all time. While his famously vanilla playing style and quiet demeanor kept him from having a cultural impact similar to the other greats, his four championships, 14 All-Star Games, and two NBA MVP awards are indisputable evidence of his fantastic ability.

    Shaquille O’Neal

    At the opposite end of the “attractive play” spectrum from Duncan is Shaquille O’Neal. Where Timmy would work his way around an opponent in the post with his superb footwork, Shaq would often use his extraordinary bulk (7’1” and 315 pounds) to bully his way to the basket. Once there, he would finish with an emphatic dunk, a foolproof strategy that helped O’Neal lead the NBA in field-goal percentage 10 times in his career. But O’Neal wasn’t just pure physicality—he was surprisingly graceful for such a massive man and he had a deft touch with his close-range jump shots. His free-throw shooting, on the other hand…

    Larry Bird

    Don’t be fooled by his humble small-college provenance and the “Hick from French Lick” nickname—Larry Bird was one of the fiercest competitors and greatest smack-talkers in NBA history. The uber-confident Bird had arguably the quickest release of anyone to ever play basketball and he’d often let his defender know that the shot was going in soon after it left his hands. He racked up three championship rings and 12 All-Star appearances in his injury-shortened 13-year career. Moreover, his rivalry with Magic Johnson—who, spoiler alert, you’ll see a bit later in this list—during the 1980s launched basketball into an unprecedented level of national popularity that the sport has never fallen from.

    Bill Russell

    Bill Russell

    Bill Russell, mid-1960s.

    Dick Raphael

    Russell was the ultimate winner in the history of the NBA. He won a league title in all but two of his 13 seasons as a member of the Boston Celtics. Yes, the NBA consisted of just 8 to 14 teams during this period, so capturing championships was a statistically easier feat for a single franchise, but even that fact doesn’t minimize Russell’s historic accomplishments. The Celtics had played for 10 seasons before Russell joined the team, never once reaching a championship series in that time. But in his rookie year, Russell completely changed the franchise’s course and established the Celtics as the winningest team in the NBA. But he didn’t earn his place on this list though some sort of vague, ethereal “winningness.” Russell was one of the fiercest defenders of all time and he redefined the value of blocking shots, in addition to averaging an incredible 22.5 rebounds per game over his career.

    Source : www.britannica.com

    10 Greatest NBA Players of All Time

    The NBA has a rich history, dating back nearly 68 years, full of decorated organizations and players. During that time, we've seen our fair share of greats come and go, but which ...

    10 Greatest NBA Players of All Time

    Emmanuel [email protected]

    Contributor III October 2, 2013

    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    The NBA has a rich history, dating back nearly 68 years, full of decorated organizations and players. During that time, we've seen our fair share of greats come and go, but which players in the game's history stand out above the rest? To decide that, we'll look at various criteria including statistics, team success and individual accolades.

    Do any current superstars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James make the cut? Let's take a look at the 10 greatest players in NBA history and find out.

    10. Hakeem Olajuwon

    1 OF 10

    Barry Gossage/Getty Images

    Career playoff stats: 25.9 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 3.3 BPGAccolades: 2 NBA titles, 2 Finals MVPs, 1 reg. season MVP

    Mostly regarded as the most skilled big man in the history of the game, Hakeem Olajuwon's dominance on the inside was a thing of beauty. He abused many a defender with his trademark "Dream Shake" move. Olajuwon's game is so renowned that superstars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard have looked to improve their game under his tutelage.

    Offense aside, Olajuwon was one of the game's greatest defenders, partly evidenced by his 3.3 block-per-game average.

    "The Dream" led a marginally-talented Houston Rockets team to back-to-back NBA Championships, winning two Finals MVPs and one regular season MVP. He is the only player in NBA history to win regular season MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season (1994).

    9. Shaquille O'Neal

    2 OF 10

    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Career playoff stats: 24.3 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 2.1 BPGAccolades: 4 NBA titles, 3 Finals MVPs, 1 reg. season MVP

    Shaquille O'Neal was the most dominant player of his generation—possibly of all time. It was borderline unfair how he brutalized defenders with brute strength.

    Shaq led the Los Angeles Lakers to three consecutive NBA Championships in the early 2000s, winning three Finals MVPs in the process. The 2000 regular season MVP winner was also selected to 14 All-NBA Teams in his career.

    8. Tim Duncan

    3 OF 10

    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Career playoff stats: 21.9 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 2.4 BPGAccolades: 4 NBA titles, 3 Finals MVPs, 2 reg. season MVPs

    Tim Duncan is the model of consistency. Look through his statistics throughout the years, and you won't find too much variation.

    "The Big Fundamental" led the San Antonio Spurs to four NBA Championships, en route to three Finals MVPs. His perfect Finals record was blemished last season in a seven-game series loss to the Miami Heat, but four out of five isn't too bad. Duncan been selected to 14 All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams each and still looks to have a little left in the tank.

    7. Wilt Chamberlain

    4 OF 10

    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Career playoff stats: 22.5 PPG, 24.5 RPG, 4.2 APGAccolades: 2 NBA titles, 1 Finals MVP, 4 reg. season MVPs

    Wilt Chamberlain is the reason I said Shaq was "possibly" the most dominant player of all time. Chamberlain's dominance is widely acknowledged, and as time passes he seems more and more like a mythical figure. In the 1961-62 regular season, he averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds. Simply unreal.

    Had Wilt accomplished more in the postseason, he would be closer to No. 1. It seems crazy to expect more from a player who averaged 22 and 25, but that's how it goes when you're the most dominant.

    6. LeBron James

    5 OF 10

    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Career playoff stats: 28.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 6.7 APGAccolades: 2 NBA titles, 2 Finals MVPs, 4 reg. season MVPs

    LeBron James entered the league burdened with unimaginable expectations. Expectations he surely couldn't live up to, right?

    Wrong. The Miami Heat superstar has gotten the championship monkey off of his back two times over and is now chasing history. Just 10 seasons into his NBA career, he's already one of the game's all-time greats. The statistics and MVP counts speak for themselves. "King James" has developed into a great two-way player, being named to 9 All-NBA and 5 All-Defensive Teams.

    Source : bleacherreport.com

    Top 10 NBA Players Ever

    This article will cover the top 10 National Basketball Association players of all time, judged by their stats, career accolades, strengths, and weaknesses. Enjoy!

    Top 10 NBA Players Ever

    Top 10 NBA Players Ever

    Author: Jesse Unk Updated date: Mar 14, 2022

    Jesse is a lifelong sports fan with a passion for finding the facts. His writing has been recognized and published by Sports Illustrated.

    Who is the Greatest Basketball Player of All Time?

    Who Is the Best Basketball Player Ever?

    The NBA has been around since 1946. In that time, we have witnessed some of the greatest athletes of all time duke it out on the court. There have been different styles of play that crossed over several different eras. Today, shooters dominate the sport, but it was only a few decades ago that the center position ran the game. We've seen defensive dominance, sharpshooting snipers from behind the three-point line, crafty slashers, and all-around godlike athletes. With all of these varying skills, differences in play style, and levels of athleticism, skill, and coaching, it's hard to determine who the best player of all time is. Arguments can be made for players like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bill Russell. All of them could be considered great for different reasons. When looking at the entire picture, we must look at stats, accolades, what the era gave at the time, and what strengths and weaknesses each player had in order to determine who was truly the greatest. This article will cover my top 10 players who I believe are the greatest to ever play.

    The Black Mamba

    10. Kobe Bryant

    Kobe "The Black Mamba" Bryant defined the 2000s. He was drafted directly out of high school in the 1996 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick. The Los Angeles Lakers had worked out a deal the day prior to obtain the pick from the Hornets, allowing them to take Bryant. His rookie contract with the Lakers was for $3.5 million.

    He was an all-time great scorer with a killer instinct that struck fear in his opponents. Bryant earned his nickname for being as deadly on the court as the venomous black mamba. He played in the NBA for 20 years, winning 5 championships along the way, including 3 in a row. To this day, Bryant remains one of the most cold-blooded shooters of all time, making 17 game-winning shots in his career and another 7 game-tying shots that led to victories in overtime.

    Kobe Bryant was known for his incredible athleticism and clutch shots. You can find highlight tapes of vicious dunks and game-winners with no time left on the clock. What can't be seen on a highlight reel is the laser focus and mental strength he possessed. Kobe was well-versed and fluent in many languages, including English, Spanish, and Italian. Kobe is famously known for learning French so he could trash-talk Tony Parker. He also heckled Luka Doncic from the sideline in his native tongue of Slovenian. Bryant's mind was as dangerous as his physical skills in any given game during his career.

    Kobe Bryant's Greatest Moments

    On January 22, 2006, Kobe Bryant had the greatest game of his career when he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. His 81 points is the second all-time record behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100. After trailing by 18 points in the third quarter, Kobe helped lead the Lakers back by shooting 28 of 46, going 7 of 13 from three-point range. He also hit 18 of 20 free throws in the game. The Lakers won the game 122–104.

    On March 7, 2010, Kobe faced off against Matt Barnes and the Orlando Magic. In the third quarter, Barnes had the ball as he was looking to inbound the ball from the baseline with Kobe standing in front of him. As Barnes looked for an open man, he quickly faked a pass directly towards Kobe's face. Even though the ball was within an inch of Kobe's nose, he didn't even blink. Kobe continued staring directly at Barnes as if nothing happened and the legend of his mental toughness carried on.

    April 12, 2013, is one of the greatest and saddest moments of Kobe's career. Despite it being the beginning of the end of his career, it was a defining moment that personified exactly who "The Mamba" was. With just over three minutes remaining in the game, Kobe turned to drive towards the basket and popped his Achilles tendon as he was fouled. After remaining on the floor for about a minute, and realizing the extent of his injury and the fact that his season was over, Kobe walked to the free-throw line and drained both of his shots. The Lakers went on to win the game by two points and the legend of the Mamba's greatness and ice-cold focus was solidified once again.


    1996-1997 All-Rookie selection

    18x All-Star selection (2nd all-time)

    15x All-NBA selection (tied for 1st all-time)

    12x All-Defensive selection

    2x Scoring Champion

    2007-2008 Most Valuable Player

    5x NBA Champion 2x NBA Finals MVP

    Remembering Kobe Bryant

    Kobe Bryant died tragically alongside his daughter Gianna on January 26th, 2020, in a helicopter crash. His memory will live on forever in our hearts. The world will never forget the Mamba. Here is a podcast that looks back at the life of Bryant.

    Source : howtheyplay.com

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