The time has finally arrived. The moment you all (or at least a hand full) have been waiting for. The top 5 Greatest NBA Players of all time in my opinion. Last list I left you with started with the greatest power forward of all time and ended with the greatest small forward of all time. Now at long last, I bring you the unquestioned top 5 greatest NBA players of all time.
We tip this list off with undeniably the most dominant player in the history of basketball.
5. Wilt Chamberlain
No player in the history of the game was more dominant, more overwhelming, or more intimidating than the Stilt. There has never been a more talented big man when it came to rebounding, scoring, and blocking. Chamberlain is the only player in NBA history to 4,029 points in a single season, he's also the only player to average 30 points and 20 rebounds. Chamberlain is unanimously the greatest rebounder of all time and sits above the list as the all time leader in rebounds. Rebounding however was not Chamberlain's only gift, the big dipper is perhaps the most dominant scorer in NBA history. Chamberlain's legacy is defined by one game and one game only, the night where Chamberlain firmly etched himself into basketball lore, the night when the big dipper scored 100 points in a single game. No player has ever even come close to that feat, the closest was Kobe Bryant's 81 point performance. Chamberlain's 100 point record will stand forever in my opinion, but if it is somehow broken it will not be in mine nor any of our lifetimes. Chamberlain was no slouch on defense either, as he regularly recorded 7 or 8 blocks a game, if only blocks were recorded as stats in his time, he truly would've been the greatest blocker of all time. Chamberlain was also the first ever NBA rookie to be named league MVP. While most fans believe him to be a walking stat machine who only cared for himself, there is no doubt that there will never again be a player as physically overpowering, intimidating, and long lasting as Wilt Chamberlain, who's career can be defined with only one word, domination.
Accomplishments: 2x NBA Champion, 1x NBA Finals MVP, 4x NBA MVP(60,66,67,68), 13x NBA All Star, 2x NBA All Defensive First Team, 7x NBA Scoring Champion, 11x Rebounding Champion, 1x Assists Leader, the 1960 NBA Rookie of the Year, NBA All Time Leader in Rebounds, and record for most points scored in a single game.
4. Bill Russell
When you speak of this man, only one word comes to mind, champion. Bill Russell is the quintessential greatest champion in basketball history, hell he's the greatest champion in sports history. By all accounts, Russell is the father of the NBA. Russell is also viewed by countless historians, journalists, and fans alike as the greatest leader the NBA has ever seen. Serving as the centerpiece of the most dominant dynasty in basketball history, the Boston Celtics. With the Celtics, Russell won an astonishing 11 championships, earning them the title of greatest dynasty in NBA history. Russell only lost twice in his legendary 13 year career, a record that will never truly be broken nor will his record of 11 titles. Russell is also widely believed by many fans and historians alike as the greatest all around defender to have ever played the game. While not a scoring threat, Russell greatly valued defense and served as the defensive anchor of the Green Dynasty, shutting down every offensive threat that stood in their way, including the scoring monster Wilt Chamberlain who shared a historic and intense rivalry with Russell. If blocks were a recorded stat in Russell's day, it would be a tight race with Chamberlain to see who stands above the all time blocks list and if the Defensive Player of the Year award was given back then, Russell would own at least 10 of those bad boys. A few years back the NBA bestowed Russell with perhaps the greatest honor a player can have by naming the NBA Finals MVP Trophy after the greatest player of all time in some people's minds. I'm aware that many people ponder why Russell is never named amongst the greatest of all time category, I believe as most do that the lack of competition in his era, teamwise and individually that crosses his name from the GOAT list, but by acclamation every basketball fan does list him on another list, the greatest champion of all time list.
Accomplishments: 11x NBA Champion, 5x NBA MVP(58,61,62,63,65), 12x NBA All Star, 1x NBA All Defensive First Team, and 4x Rebounding Champion.
3. Kareem Abdul Jabar
In many fans' minds, this man is the greatest center to ever play. Born Lew Alcindor, Jabar made a name for himself while playing at UCLA during a better part of their 60s/70s dynasty. While other great centers developed their own moves such as Mikan's Mikan Drill and Hakeem's Dream Shake, Jabar perfected what may be the most unstoppable move in basketball history, the sky hook. With that one move, Jabar carved a path in the NBA littered with championships, MVP awards, numerous accolades, and points, lots and lots of points. With that move alone Jabar stands atop of the NBA All Time Scoring List and racked an NBA record of 6 regular season MVP awards. Along with another magical player, Kareem served as the centerpiece of the Showtime Lakers dynasty that dominated the 80s and shot the NBA into a level of popularity, never seen before. Whether your list of all time centers is topped by Wilt or Russell or Hakeem or even Shaq, there's certainly no denying that this man can certainly make a case for number one on that list as well.
Accomplishments: 6x NBA Champion, 2x Finals MVP, 6x NBA MVP(71,72,74,76,77,80), 19x NBA All Star, 5x NBA All Defensive First Team, 2x NBA Scoring Champion, the 1970 NBA Rookie of the Year, 4x NBA Blocks Leader, 1x Rebounding Champion, and the NBA All Time Leader in Points Scored.
2. Earvin "Magic" Johnson
This man is the greatest point guard that has ever lived. Magic Johnson transcended the game of basketball into levels it had never seen before. Serving as the architect of the greatest Laker dynasty of all time in the Showtime Lakers. Even as a rookie, Magic put forth one of the greatest performances in NBA Finals history after Kareem Abdul Jabar fell to injury, it was up to Magic to literally become nothing short of magical. By playing seemingly all five positions, Magic stood in as point guard and started at center in game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals, Magic wowed all eyes in attendance and at home watching just how marvelous this magician could be as he scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and tossed 7 assists in what many consider the greatest performance in NBA Finals history. Following this performance, Magic and his Showtimers entered into a fierce rival with the Boston Celtics led by the hick from French Lick Larry Bird. It would be this intense rivalry that would resurrect a nearly dead NBA and bring them new found mainstream attention to unheard of heights. Magic would lead the Showtime Lakers to an amazing 9 NBA Finals, winning 5 of them. Magic's true legacy however began and in somewhat ways ended when he shocked the sports world and even the whole world in 1992 when he announced that he was HIV positive along with his retirement from the game of basketball, causing millions of NBA fans worldwide to flood their eyes with tears. They would however be witness to one last magical run when Johnson announced that he would be playing for the 1992 United States Basketball team in the 92 Olympics and serve as the leader of the greatest basketball team of all time in the Dream Team, a team that would send shockwaves around the world and bring the NBA brand worldwide attention. Whenever a point guard today dishes out a no look pass, a bounce pass, or an over the shoulder pass, just remember that it was all started by a player that was just pure living, breathing magic.
Accomplishments: 5x NBA Champion, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 3x NBA MVP(87,89,90), 12x NBA All Star, 4x NBA Assists Leader, and 2x NBA Steals Leader.
And now for the moment you've all been waiting for. It's been a long time coming but now the time has arrived, I unveil the single greatest basketball player of all time. Drum roll please.........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................The number 1 greatest NBA Player of all time is...........
1. Adam Morrison
Now the true number one greatest player of all time is..............
1. MICHAEL JORDAN
As if there was any doubt. I'm pretty sure that this was a foregone conclusion in many fellow retrojunkers minds. There is no denying the greatness that is His Airness. Coming into the 1984 NBA Draft, no one could have possibly predicted that the number 3 draft pick out of the University of North Carolina would set the stage for the greatest career in NBA history. Right out of the gate, Jordan exploded onto the scene displaying a barrage of aerial displays and shooting touches that had never been seen before. Right then and there, NBA audiences everywhere knew that they were witnessing the most athletically gifted athlete they had ever seen. Jordan's breakthrough however came in the form of the 1986 Eastern Conference First Round Series against perennial powerhouse Boston Celtics, it was there where Jordan etched his name in the record books as he put on the greatest NBA Playoff performance of all time, dropping an astonishing 63 points on the best defensive team in the league, a record that still stands today, however despite the historic performance, the Bulls lost in double overtime and eventually were swept in the series, however the world took notice of a player in Chicago named Michael Jordan. It was this performance that is credited with skyrocketing the NBA's popularity into the stratosphere of North American sports and placed the NBA second in popularity only behind the NFL until the mid 90s where Jordan once again shot the league past football and into the number one spot in North American sports. Following this performance, basketball fans everywhere were wondering how he could possibly top it, but Jordan did what Jordan always did, surpass himself. In the 1987 and 1988 Slam Dunk Contests, Jordan put on an aerial assault of the third kind. It was here that Jordan would unveil his split legged dunk from the free throw line that Nike would introduce as the logo for their new Air Jordan brand and logo that would become recognizable worldwide. Despite his dominant scoring and relentless defense, Jordan's early career came in playoff failures with his only playoff highlights coming from the 63 point barrage against Boston and his clutch series winning shot against Cleveland at the final buzzer, a shot that would live on in infamy as The Shot and would birth Jordan as the greatest clutch player of all time. Following The Shot, Jordan would again run into playoff failure, particulary against the Bad Boy Pistons, a team that would display ruthless defense and hard hitting viciousness as they would develop the Jordan Rules, a play that might as well have been "once Jordan gets the ball, everybody rush, slam, punch, kick, and elbow him with ruthless aggression". Finally after back to back playoff series' that would find Jordan beaten, bloodied, and bruised at the hands of the Bad Boys, Jordan would bulk his body to it's highest potential and build his stamina to maximum levels. Help however would not only come from the weight room but also in the form of Scottie Pippen and together Jordan would finally lay the despicable Pistons to rest in a dominant sweep of the two time defending champion Pistons in the 1991 NBA Eastern Conference Final. It was that year where Jordan would finally reach his pinnacle and at last find himself firmly seated on the NBA's throne when Jordan and Pippen would firmly dismantle Magic Johnson's incomparable Showtime Lakers and prove once and for all that there's a new basketball king and his name is Michael. Following his first championship win, the Bulls would once again run roughshod all over the league and make it back to the NBA Finals where Jordan would be pitted against the Portland Trailblazers and their offensive juggernaut Clyde Drexler. It would be this Final where Jordan would once again create an image for the ages where after hearing how he couldn't master the three point shot, Jordan did what Jordan does and unleashed a three point shooting clinic. Pouring in 6 three pointers, all in the first half, which is also an NBA Playoff record that still stands to this day. After vanquishing the helpless Trailblazers to win back to back titles, Jordan would now focus on creating an NBA dynasty in Chicago. He would..you guessed it make history again by beating the Phoenix Suns and league MVP Charles Barkley, proving once and for all that the true MVP and only MVP is Michael Jordan and Michael Jordan alone. So after leading the second NBA franchise to a threepeat, Jordan would decide to retire after the tragic murder of his father and fulfill his father's wish to play baseball. Jordan would try baseball for a year and a half yielding not so spectacular results. Without him the Bulls posted a surprising record of 55 wins led by Scottie Pippen but failed to reach the NBA Finals without their clutch leader. However midway through the 1995 season, after Pippen's constant urging, Jordan released a two word press statement "I'm Back". With their general back leading the troops the Bulls made it back to the Eastern Conference Finals, however Jordan's court rust showed and the Bulls fell to the Orlando Magic in which would be the only playoff loss in Jordan's dynasty. Following the loss, Jordan would use this time to fully concentrate on returning to basketball, to say he came back with a vengeance would be an understatement. Now with the addition of defensive stalwart and rebound machine Dennis Rodman, the 1996 Chicago Bulls would lay siege to the entire league and post an astonishing record of 72 wins and only 10 losses, would sweep nearly every single season award, lead the NBA in both offense and defense, and become the greatest NBA team of all time. Jordan and his troops would easily make it back to the NBA Finals where they faced off against the hot and energetic Seattle Supersonics led by Gary Payton who would hold Jordan to his lowest Finals average at 27 ppg. The Bulls would still dominate and win their fourth NBA title in six years. Following this destructive display the Bulls would destroy the league again and reach the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz led by point guard master John Stockton and league MVP Karl Malone. It would be this series that would truly define Jordan's heart and determination. On the morning of Game 5, Jordan called his trainer up to his hotel room who found Jordan in a fetal position and sweating profusely. Jordan was suffering with either a stomach virus or food poisoning, his trainer determined that there would be no way that Jordan could compete, but Jordan refused to sit out with the series tied 2-2 and the game in Salt Lake City. Jordan stayed in bed until 5:50 in the afternoon, 2 hours before the 7:00 tip off. Jordan walked out onto the court visibly pale and weak, what happened next was the greatest show of determination a player has ever shown. Jordan poured in 39 points, pulled down 7 rebounds, tossed 5 assists, captured 3 steals, and 1 block. If that wasn't enough, it was Jordan that hit the game saving 3 pointer with 25 seconds remaining. Following the final timeout and with victory secured, Jordan collapsed into Pippen's arms who helped the exhausted, weakened, and near death Jordan to the bench creating one of the most iconic images in NBA history, in what become known as the Flu Game. Following this, a better but not fully healthy Jordan and the Bulls won the title in a hard fought Game 6, winning his 5th title in a seven year span. Now with his 5th NBA Championship in hand, rumors began swirling that the 1998 season would be the last for the aging Jordan and that his era would sadly come to an end, that was all the motivation Jordan needed to fight his way back to the NBA Finals, but that journey was much harder than previous ones. After fighting the Indiana Pacers in a brutal 7 game series, the Bulls found themselves in their 6th NBA Final in 8 years, if that wasn't bad enough it was against their familiar foe from last year, the Utah Jazz. In what would become the highest rated NBA Finals of all time, Jordan would cement his legacy as the greatest of all time in Game 6, in the waning seconds and with the Jazz in possession, Jordan would scramble behind Karl Malone, strip him of the ball, take the ball up the court and with 5 seconds remaining Jordan would hit defender Bryon Russell with a killer crossover (not pushing off, despite what haters say) and sink a mid court jump shot that would put the Bulls ahead by one point. This shot would be immortalized worldwide as the greatest clutch shot in NBA Finals history and would be known as The Shot 2. This would serve as the final farewell to Jordan and an unforgettable dynasty that will never be matched by any team or franchise. Jordan's career would fittingly end with the Bulls winning their 6th NBA Championship in 8 years, an unprecedented feat, truly a decade of dominance. Following his second retirement, Jordan would emerge in the league one final time for the Washington Wizards in order to boost ticket sales and tv ratings for the floundering franchise. Even with his usual explosiveness gone, Jordan would still make history with the Wizards by becoming the oldest player to ever score 40 points in a game, Jordan proved even at 40, he was still the king. Finally with his Finals record unblemished and with an NBA record of 6 NBA Finals MVP awards, Jordan would sadly hang up his 23 jersey for good and signal an end to the greatest era in NBA history. Since Jordan's retirement, there have been many players that the media have tried to label as the "next Jordan" in the forms of Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. All of whom possess at least one quality that Jordan possessed, Carter lacked the passion, McGrady lacked the fire, Wade lacked the killer instinct, Bryant lacked the maturity, and LeBron lacks the mentality and competitiveness. Many fans or haters try to discredit Jordan as the greatest of all time by pointing out Bill Russell's 11 championship rings, what they fail to realize however is the lack of true competition that Russell faced. In Russell's time there were only 8 NBA teams and only 3 poised a threat to his Celtics, the Hawks, Lakers, and Warriors. Jordan faced the brutality of the Bad Boy Pistons, the hard hitting Black and Blue Knicks, the staunch Blue Collar Celtics, the Showtime Lakers, the Utah Jazz, and the pesky Indiana Pacers. Russell was also not the scorer that Jordan was as he focused solely on the defensive end where Jordan focused on both sides of the court and dominated on both sides. So now as every single NBA player strives to be Like Mike, they can only sit back and worship at the feet of the one, true, and only king of the NBA and the greatest basketball player that has ever lived, Michael Jeffrey Jordan. I now leave you with the most iconic images in Jordan's career, all images that have been embedded into the minds of NBA fans the world over and for future generations to come.
The Shot 1 - Jordan's series clinching shot at the buzzer over Craig Ehlo and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 NBA Playoffs.
The Shrug - After sinking six 3 point shots in the first half and setting an NBA Playoffs record, Jordan simply shrugs as if to say "I can't even explain it".
The Dunk - The image that would become the symbol for the Air Jordan brand and mark Jordan as the most iconic athlete of all time. The Air Jordan shoes have become the highest selling sneakers of all time.
The Flu Game - The unforgettable image of Jordan collapsing into Scottie Pippen's arms following an incredible performance while suffering from food poisoning.
The Shot 2 - Finally, the greatest shot in NBA Finals history and the most clutch shot of all time. The historic image of Jordan hitting his final game winning shot in the 1998 NBA Finals and marking the most dominant dynasty as the greatest dynasty in the greatest era of all time.
Accomplishments: 6x NBA Champion, 6x NBA Finals MVP, 5x NBA MVP(88,91,92,96,98), 14x NBA All Star, 1x NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 9x NBA All Defensive First Team, 10x NBA Scoring Champion, 3x NBA Steals Champion, the 1985 NBA Rookie of the Year, and by acclamation the greatest basketball player that has ever lived.
So this concludes my list of the 50 Greatest NBA Players of All Time. I'm sure this has sparked some debate whether or not the list is flawed or not and that I will leave you to determine. I apologize for dragging this out for so long and I truly thank all that have read and enjoyed these articles as I have enjoyed writing them. No the question remains will any future NBA players find their way onto the list, players like Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Paul George, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin or Stephen Curry. The answer to that question is with today's league that is full of flopping, whining, crying, and complaining children that play against zero defense and only care about the money with no passion, respect, or love of the game. The answer is highly unlikely, as today's players have no idea just how tough it was for the legends that paved the way for them and fought tooth and nail, through blood, sweat, and tears to bring this league to where it is now. Yes the athletes today are "bigger, stronger, and faster" but would they really last against true hard nosed NBA defense of the 80s and 90s? I highly doubt it, cause no matter how big you are, the harder you will fall, no matter how fast you are, the quicker you will get hit, and the stronger you are, there will always be someone stronger ready to knock your head off. So think of this list as a love letter to a time when the NBA was the greatest game on Earth and featured the greatest talent the world had ever seen.
Thank you again, and keep shooting for the stars.