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Top 10 Basketball Players of All Time (Plus Honorable Mentions)

I am a huge fan of basketball and love debating who the best NBA players are.


Basketball Players: The Best of the Best

There are billions of basketball fans worldwide. This is not surprising because basketball has evolved drastically throughout the years; it now belongs at the forefront of sports entertainment. The excitement in the sport never stops growing through the years as new athletic and competitive players are drafted. We have witnessed hundreds of promising basketball talents come and go. But who among them do you think is the best?

This question inspired me to come up with a list of top 10 basketball players of all time. As most of you might have noticed, most of the players included on this list are NBA Hall of Famers who are already retired. I firmly believe that these talented players made a greater impact in the sport compared to most basketball stars today. Although I’m amazed at how the new generation is continuing the exciting and competitive culture of basketball, we still can’t deny the fact that they have a long way to go before achieving what these legends have accomplished. This article will also include some honorable mentions for great players that didn't quite make the cut. I've also added a list of the best basketball players by their respective positions. If you think there is a basketball player who deserves to be on this list, feel free to leave a comment and explain why. Shout out to every basketball fan out there like me! Have a good read everyone!

Top 10 Basketball Players of All Time

  1. Michael Jordan
  2. Magic Johnson
  3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  4. Larry Bird
  5. Hakeem Olajuwon
  6. Wilt Chamberlain
  7. Shaquille O'Neal
  8. Kobe Bryant
  9. LeBron James
  10. Kevin Durant

10. Kevin Durant

  • Full Name: Kevin Wayne Durant
  • Nickname: "Durantula," "Slim Reaper"
  • Position: Small Forward
  • Height: 6'9"
  • Weight: 240 lbs.
  • Born: September 29, 1988 in Washington D.C.
  • High School: Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Maryland
  • College: University of Texas at Austin
  • Draft: Seattle SuperSonics, 1st round (2nd pick overall), 2007 NBA Draft
  • NBA Debut: October 31, 2007
  • Accolades: Two-time NBA Champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, NBA MVP, 10-time NBA All Star, two-time NBA All Star Game MVP

Kevin Durant is a one-in-a-million basketball player. He is tall enough to play the center position yet he decided to play his own game. With his long arms, it's almost impossible to block his jump shot as he plays outside the paint. His precise shooting and killer mentality made him one of the most famous basketball players today. Some even say that he already ousted Lebron James as the best player of this era.

Many criticized him for joining the Golden State Warriors, saying that it was a cowardly move. Personally, I believe it was his decision to make. Was he desperate to be in the Finals and grab a ring at that time? That might be the case. But who can blame him for joining an organization that plays as a team and is clearly having fun while doing it? He won two straight NBA Championships after joining the Golden State Warriors and he got his first Finals MVP in the process. Others claim that he still has a lot to prove to be called the best NBA player of this generation. But in the end, Kevin Durant is a legit all-star and a player that any team in the NBA today would love to have on their roster.

9. LeBron James

  • Full Name: LeBron Raymone James Sr.
  • Nickname: "King James," "Chosen One," "Bron," "Akron Hammer"
  • Position: Power Forward, Small Forward
  • Height: 6'8"
  • Weight: 250 lbs.
  • Born: December 30, 1984 in Akron, Ohio, USA
  • High School: Saint Vincent-Saint Mary in Akron, Ohio
  • Draft: Cleveland Cavaliers, 1st round (1st pick overall), 2003 NBA Draft
  • NBA Debut: October 29, 2003
  • Accolades: Three-time NBA Champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, four-time NBA MVP, 15-time NBA All-Star, three-time NBA All-Star Game MVP

Why is LeBron James in the bottom two?! I know it looks absurd, but hear me out. First, LeBron's career is not over yet. He may or may not get more accolades, so I'm giving our legends and Hall of Famers a bit of bias. Second, he might be a taller and stronger player than Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, yet the latter two impacted basketball during their era on a different level. Although LeBron is having the same effect in the current era, the fact still remains that he is not yet done. Let's wait and see. Maybe he'll be up in the top five of this list after all is said and done.

LeBron James is currently the best player in the NBA. Despite missing the 2019 NBA Playoffs after joining the Los Angeles Lakers, we simply can't push aside what he has accomplished over the past few years. He led the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers to multiple championships. Lebron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers even defeated the 2016 Golden State Warriors, which was regarded back then as one of the greatest teams ever assembled in the history of the NBA. This was done despite being down three games to one.

Are you a LeBron James fan? Share your thoughts why he deserves to be ranked higher on this list. Who knows, you might convince me to edit this article and bring him up there with MJ. In the meantime, you can check out this analysis of LeBron and MJ.

8. Kobe Bryant

  • Full Name: Kobe Bean Bryant
  • Nickname: “Black Mamba”
  • Position: Shooting Guard
  • Height: 6'6"
  • Weight: 212 lbs.
  • Born: August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • High School: Lower Merion in Ardmore, Pennsylvania
  • Draft: Charlotte Hornets, 1st round (13th pick overall), 1996 NBA Draft
  • NBA Debut: November 3, 1996
  • Accolades: Five-time NBA Champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, NBA MVP, 18-time NBA All-Star, four-time NBA All-Star Game MVP

Black Mamba surely deserves to be a part of this list. Some might argue that the eight position is a bit low for him, but I think it's fair enough considering how great the players higher on this list are. Kobe Bryant is criticized as the poor man's Michael Jordan. Not only is their game similar, but so is their competitive nature. But there's something unique and special about Kobe. He was always ready to give everything he had to win a game. There was even a time when he was fouled and got injured. Most players would immediately leave the game and let a teammate make the free throws. Kobe would not do this. He made the free throws before going out to treat his injury. That's how dedicated and serious he is about the game.

Kobe Bryant's farewell game is probably the best one to date. His team won that game and he scored 60 points. He was on fire during that game, everything he threw would go straight to the bottom of the net, especially in the fourth quarter. Kobe will go down as one of the most competitive, gritty, and passionate NBA players of all time and not just a mere copy of Michael Jordan.

7. Shaquille O'Neal

  • Full Name: Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal
  • Nickname: “Shaq”
  • Position: Center
  • Height: 7'1"
  • Weight: 325 lbs.
  • Born: March 6, 1972 in Newark, New Jersey
  • High School: Cole in San Antonio, Texas
  • College: Louisiana State University
  • Draft: Orlando Magic, 1st round (1st pick overall), 1992 NBA Draft
  • NBA Debut: November 6, 1992
  • Accolades: Four-time NBA Champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, NBA MVP, 15-time NBA All-Star, three-time NBA All-Star MVP

Shaquille O’Neal boasts strength, size, and height. These physical features alone are more than enough for him to dominate the paint in every game. In the peak of the big man’s career, it would take at least two men to stop him. Despite having a problem with his free throws, Shaq was able to improve on them later on, which proves his dedication towards the sport. The Los Angeles Lakers were unstoppable with Shaq paired up with the highly talented forward Kobe Bryant. Their offensive pattern revolved around this mighty duo, and they rarely failed to deliver. Shaquille O’Neal was also a monster in the defensive end to the point that carelessly shooting within his range would always lead to a powerful block.

Although taller players have started entering the league, Shaq managed to stay on top. For him, it’s not just about being the biggest or tallest. Shaq knows more about achieving optimum position inside the paint compared to every center during his time. Outrebounding Shaq was close to impossible. Leaving him with a weak guard would most likely result in a monstrous dunk that would pump up not only his teammates but the crowd as well.

6. Wilt Chamberlain

  • Full Name: Wilton Norman Chamberlain
  • Nickname: "Wilt the Silt," "The Big Dipper," "Goliath"
  • Position: Center
  • Height: 7'1"
  • Weight: 275 lbs.
  • Born: August 21, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Died: October 12, 1999
  • High School: Overbrook in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • College: University of Kansas
  • Draft: Philadelphia Warriors, 1959 NBA Draft (territorial selection)
  • NBA Debut: October 24, 1959
  • Accolades: Two-time NBA Champion, NBA Finals MVP, four-time NBA MVP, 13-time NBA All-Star, NBA All-Star Game MVP
  • Hall of Fame: Inducted as an individual in 1979

Wilt Chamberlain was one of the most infamous basketball players during his era and is among the reasons why the sport spread worldwide. He was known for being a highly reliable scorer. In fact, he managed to score 100 points in just one game against a formidable team. Aside from his height, Chamberlain’s offensive arsenal relied on his athleticism. He was able to maneuver in mid-air despite being so tall. His dunks and rebounds made him an unstoppable force inside the paint. Opposing teams found it nearly impossible to control him once he gained momentum. Though only a few today remember his name, Wilt Chamberlain surely deserves a spot on this list.