Since the NBA was formed on June 6, 1946 when it was still called the Basketball Association of America (BAA), there have been great players who have left their mark on NBA history.
Here are the top 20 (From least to first):
- Jerry West
He played fourteen seasons on the Lakers. He was an NBA champion in 1972 and was an eight-time finalist. He was chosen 10 times for the NBA Dream Team, MVP of the 1969 final and participated thirteen times in the All Star.
- Julius Erving
He’s been an MVP in the league four times (three in the ABA and one in the NBA), has been voted five times in the best five in the NBA, and is one of only six players to score more than 30,000 points in NBA history.
- Charles Barkley
NBA finalist in 1993, elected once MVP of the regular season, 3 times elected IBM NBA Award. Selected 10 times for the All Star. One of the few players to get more than 20,000 points and 10,000 rebounds in his career.
- John Stockton
2 times NBA finalist, once elected MVP All Star in 1993. He was selected 10 times for the All Star game. During the 1990-1991 season Stockton managed to lead the 82 regular league games in the match-by-match assistance category. No one ever gave out as many assists as Stockton did that season. The 1,164 assists recorded by the Utah Jazz player is the best record in history.
- Karl Malone
He earned two NBA MVPs and 11 nominations in the NBA’s Best Five, making him the fifth most-capped player to play the All Star with 14 calls. Malone is the second highest scorer in NBA history with 36,928 points, just behind Kareem Abdul-Jamar with 38,387 points.
- Patrick Ewing
Elected Rookie of the Year in 1986. Participated 11 times in the All Star and was part of the Best NBA Quintet in 1990.
- Scottie Pippen
There is no player in NBA history more eclipsed than Pippen, he will always be recognized as Jordan’s wing man. Tenacious defender, supreme ball handler.The year MJ played baseball, Pippen averaged a personal best of 22 points, nearly nine rebounds and nearly six assists
- Isiah Thomas
The greatest individual performance in NBA history was by Isiah in game 6 of the 1983 Finals, when he scored 25 of his 43 points in the third quarter with a sprained ankle. In Isiah’s first season, the Pistons won 39 games. And Detroit finally won two titles years later.
- Bill Russell
Russell won 11 NBA titles, was MVP of the league five times and was selected for the All Star 12 times. A basketball legend of the 50’s.
- Wilt Chamberlain.
Wilt averaged over 50 points in one season, over 30 during his first years in the league, and over 20 rebounds in his first 12 seasons. He won two NBA championships.
- Tim Duncan
Duncan may be the most cerebral player in the NBA. Playing in a small market like San Antonio never helped his status, but his four rings guarantee a top-10 position.
- Kareem-Abdul Jabbar
He played 20 years in the NBA, won six titles, and made hook shot fashionable like no other.
- Dominique Wilkins
Top scorer of the season in 1986, selected 9 times for the All Star game. Never played in a final, he is the top scorer in Atlanta Hawks history. His duels in the diving contests against Michael Jordan were considered the best duels in all history.
- Larry Bird
Bird is so extraordinary that he was still among the best players in the league, when he could barely play as a result of a back injury late in his career. The best forward grabbing rebounds (10 career rebounds average).
- Hakeem Olajuwon
A player who doesn’t get enough recognition. No other big man in the league had better footwork and creativity around the basket. He won consecutive titles in the ’90s and made three appearances in the NBA Finals.
- LeBron James
No basketball player has ever been at the center of such constant pressure. In these last two years he has finally managed to overcome them all.James is an excellent athlete and has a view of the court that only Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan can rival.
- Shaquille O’Neal
They probably don’t have Shaq in the top 10 in NBA history. But let’s evaluate him properly; Shaq is the most threatening in the league’s history. He averaged more than 29 points per game in three seasons, captured four NBA titles and led three different teams in the NBA Finals. Shaq would have averaged more than 50 points and 20 rebounds per game if he had played in the 1960s.
- Kobe Bryant
For a time Bryant was eclipsed as a great player in NBA history, as he played with Shaq. After winning the titles in 09 and 10, there was no doubt Bryant deserved more respect.
- Michael Jordan
MJ is undoubtedly number 1 on the list of many as the best player in history. However, it is uneven. Jordan was the league’s spotlight when the NBA television show was at its peak in the 1990s. He retired briefly to play baseball. He was marketed like no other player before him and became the face of the sport internationally. If he had played in the 1970s he would not have gotten the same recognition. Still, MJ’s achievements were extraordinary.
- Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson, had from start to finish, the most extravagant career in the NBA. He won a rookie title playing virtually every position, including center field in game 6 of the Finals against Philadelphia, and made the Finals in his final season before announcing he was HIV-positive. His vision of the game, his ability to adapt and his overall mastery of statistics (average of 19.5 points, 11.2 assists and 7.2 rebounds) guarantee his ranking as No. 1.