To celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2021 the NBA decided to honor those it believed were the 75 greatest players ever to grace the basketball court. But in a bit of a cop out, it decided against putting them in any particular order. Based on their number of accolades and statistics such as points, assists, and rebounds per game, we’ve now done the hard work for them…
40. Walt Frazier
Teams: New York Knicks (1967-77); Cleveland Cavaliers (1977-79)
Points Per Game (PPG): 18.9
Rebounds Per Game (RPG): 5.9
Assists per Game (APG): 6.1
Main accolades: Two NBA titles, seven All-Defensive 1st Team selections, seven All-Stars, four All-NBA 1st Team selections
Few NBA stars have oozed as much cool as Walt Frazier. The New York Knicks legend combined aggressive defense with silky offensive skills throughout his 12-year career. And Frazier helped to guide the franchise to its inaugural NBA title in 1970 thanks to his 19 assists and 36 points in the legendary “Willis Reed Game.”
39. Bob Pettit
Teams: Milwaukee Hawks (1954-55); St. Louis Hawks 1955-65)
Main accolades: One NBA title, ten All-NBA 1st Team selections, 11 All-Stars, two MVPs
A true force to be reckoned with in the post-war era, Bob Pettit began his career with the Milwaukee Hawks. But he reached true greatness during his ten-year stint with the St. Louis Hawks, steering the franchise all the way to the 1958 NBA title. Pettit’s list of achievements also includes ten All-NBA first team selections and two MVP awards.
38. Patrick Ewing
Teams: New York Knicks (1985-2000); Seattle SuperSonics (2000-01); Orlando Magic (2001-02)
Main accolades: One NBA title, 11 All-Stars, ten All-NBA 1st Team selections, two MVPs
Patrick Ewing spent 15 years with the New York Knicks toward the end of the 20th century. His tally of career points, blocks, and rebounds still remain the franchise’s highest, too. Ewing also guided the team to 13 consecutive postseasons before showcasing his fallaway jumping talents with both the Seattle SuperSonics and the Orlando Magic.
37. Kevin McHale
Team: Boston Celtics (1980-93)
Blocks Per Game (BPG): 1.7
Main accolades: Three NBA titles, seven All-Stars, one All-NBA 1st Team selection, six All-Defensive selections
Renowned for his abnormally long arms, Kevin McHale used his physical stature to his advantage throughout his 13-year spell with the Boston Celtics. The power forward was named as an All-Star on seven occasions and was later inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside teammates Robert Parish and Larry Bird. You may remember this was the trio hailed as one of the NBA’s most potent front lines.
36. Jason Kidd
Teams: Dallas Mavericks (1994-96, 2008-12); Phoenix Suns (1996-2001); New Jersey Nets (2001-08); New York Knicks (2012-13)
Main accolades: One NBA title, nine All-Defensive selections, ten All-Stars, five All-NBA 1st Team selections
Jason Kidd was instrumental in turning the New Jersey Nets from something of a joke into genuine title contenders in the early ‘00s. Mentored by Gary Payton, the point guard posted an almighty 2,684 steals and 12,091 assists during his two decades in the NBA. Kidd also has not just one but two Olympic golds to add to his championship win with the Dallas Mavericks.
35. George Mikan
Teams: BAA (1948-49); Minneapolis Lakers (1949-54, 1956)
Main accolades: Five NBA titles, four All-Stars, six All-NBA 1st Team selections
It’s always hard to compare players from a bygone era with those in the modern game. But George Mikan undoubtedly deserves to be listed among the all-time greats. The center guided the Minneapolis Lakers to a half-dozen titles across the BAA, the NBL, and the NBA. And according to website Basketball-Reference.com Mikan still boasts a quarter of the Top 12 all-time best seasons.
34. John Havlicek
Team: Boston Celtics (1962-78)
Main accolades: Eight NBA titles, 13 All-Stars, one Finals MVP, five All-Defensive 1st Team selections, 11 All-NBA selections
John Havlicek was selected as a member of the NBA All-Defensive Team on eight occasions and made the cut for no fewer than 11 All-NBA lineups. The man nicknamed “Hondo” spent his entire 16-year basketball career with the Boston Celtics. Still the franchise’s leading points-scorer, Havlicek also helped it to lift an impressive eight titles.
33. James Harden
Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder (2009-12); Houston Rockets (2012-21); Brooklyn Nets (2021-22); Philadelphia 76ers (2022-)
Main accolades: One MVP, nine All-Stars, six All-NBA 1st Team selections, one Sixth Man of the Year award
James Harden is considered by many experts to be the strongest offensive player in the modern game. His most potent spell came in the 2018-19 season with the Houston Rockets when he posted a true shooting percentage of .616. But Harden has also proven his talents with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Brooklyn Nets, and the Philadelphia 76ers.
32. Steve Nash
Teams: Phoenix Suns (1996-98, 2004-12); Dallas Mavericks (1998-2004); Los Angeles Lakers (2012-14)
Main accolades: One MVP, one Sixth Man of the Year award, nine All-Stars, six All-NBA 1st Team selections
Steve Nash’s powers were undoubtedly best harnessed by Mike D’Antoni, the Phoenix Suns coach renowned for his offensive tactics of “seven seconds or less.” The marksman won back-to-back MVP titles in the mid-‘00s. And Nash also led the NBA in career assists for nearly a third of his 18 seasons as a player.
31. Allen Iversen
Teams: Philadelphia 76ers (1996-2006, 2009-10); Denver Nuggets (2006-08); Detroit Pistons (2008-09); Memphis Grizzlies (2009)
Main accolades: One MVP, 11 All-Stars, seven All-NBA selections
No fewer than three All-NBA first-team appearances, four scoring champions, and 11 All-stars: Allen Iverson’s accolades speak for themselves. But there’s more to “The Answer” than pure stats. Iversen inspired everyone from Dwyane Wade to LeBron James during his career. In fact, he was the reason why the former sported the No.3 shirt on the basketball court.
30. John Stockton
Team: Utah Jazz (1984-2003)
Steals Per Game (SPG): 2.2
Main accolades: 11 All-NBA selections, five All-Defensive 2nd Team selections. 10 All-Stars
If this was list based purely on assists, then John Stockton would easily walk away with the number-one spot. The Utah Jazz point guard’s career tally of 15,806 is nearly 4,000 more than his nearest rival. And Stockton’s number of steals, 3,265, is unlikely to ever be surpassed, either.
29. Isiah Thomas
Team: Detroit Pistons (1981-94)
Main accolades: Two NBA titles, 12 All-Stars, three All-NBA 1st Team selections, one Finals MVP
Isiah Thomas may have sullied his reputation with his conduct away from the basketball court. But let’s not forget that he was still a dominant force on it. The Detroit Pistons legend proved to be something of a nemesis for the dream team of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. Thomas also guided his franchise to two consecutive titles in a period many consider to be the NBA’s most challenging.
28. Chris Paul
Teams: New Orleans-Oklahoma City Hornets (2005-07); New Orleans Hornets (2007-11); L.A. Clippers (2011-17); Houston Rockets (2017-19); Oklahoma City Thunder (2019-20); Phoenix Suns (2020-)
Main accolades: Ten All-NBA selections, seven All-Defensive 1st Team selections, 11 All-Stars
There’s a reason why Chris Paul is nicknamed The Point God. The one-time Rookie of the Year has one of the best off-the-dribble midrange touches in the modern game. Paul is also renowned for inspiring his teammates on the court with his tactical nous. It’s little surprise the Phoenix Suns star has nearly a dozen All-Star and All-NBA selections a piece to his name.
27. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Team: Milwaukee Bucks (2013-)
Main accolades: One NBA title, two MVPs, three All-Defensive 1st Team selections, one Finals MVP, five All-Stars, three All-NBA 1st Team selections, one Defensive Player of the Year award
Giannis Antetokounmpo was cruelly dubbed “The Greek Freak” by basketball fans who couldn’t be bothered to correctly pronounce his surname. But the Milwaukee Bucks favorite silenced all his detractors when he won MVP. In fact, Antetokounmpo was all set to retain his status until world events shut down the NBA in 2020.
26. Kawhi Leonard
Teams: San Antonio Spurs (2011-18); Toronto Raptors (2018-19); L.A. Clippers (2019-)
Main accolades: Two NBA titles, five All-NBA selections, two Finals MVPs, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, five All-Stars, seven All-Defensive selections
Kawhi Leonard has a couple of Finals MVPs and Defensive Players of the Year under his belt. But perhaps his most impressive achievement so far is guiding the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA championship title in 2019. Expect the small forward to be much higher up this list in the near future!
25. Dwyane Wade
Teams: Miami Heat (2003-16, 2018-19); Chicago Bulls (2016-17); Cleveland Cavaliers (2017-18)
Main accolades: Three NBA titles, three All-Defensive 2nd Team selections, eight All-NBA selections, one Finals MVP, 13 All-Stars
Dwyane Wade was unarguably just as instrumental to the Miami Heat’s four NBA Finals as LeBron James. The shot-blocking master was even crowned the Finals MVP in 2006, after all. Wade also has eight All-NBA selections to his name in a career which also featured spells with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls.
24. Scottie Pippen
Teams: Chicago Bulls (1987-98, 2003-04); Houston Rockets (1999); Portland Trail Blazers (1999-2003)
Main accolades: Six NBA titles, seven All-Stars, seven All-NBA selections, eight All-Defensive Teams
Scottie Pippen might not be as flashy as Michael Jordan. But as the NBA great admitted in acclaimed documentary series The Last Dance, “Everybody said I won all these championships. But I didn’t win without Scottie and that’s why I considered him my best teammate of all time.” Jordan isn’t the only one to hold the Chicago Bulls favorite in such high regard, either. Pippen is considered by most to be one of the greatest-ever defensive players.
23. David Robinson
Team: San Antonio Spurs (1989-2003)
Main accolades: Two NBA titles, ten All-NBA selections, one MVP, one Defensive Player of the Year award, ten All-Stars, eight All-Defensive selections
David Robinson was something of a late starter in the NBA. Thanks to a spell in the U.S. Navy, he didn’t grace its courts until the age of 24! But Robinson soon made up for lost time, picking up Rookie of the Year before achieving the honors of MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Little wonder then that the San Antonio Spurs legend has been hailed as “The Admiral.”
22. Moses Malone
Teams: Utah Stars (ABA) (1974-75); Spirits of St. Louis (ABA) (1975-76); Buffalo Braves (1976); Houston Rockets (1976-82); Philadelphia 76ers (1982-86, 1993-94); Washington Bullets (1986-88); Atlanta Hawks (1988-91); Milwaukee Bucks (1991-93); San Antonio Spurs (1994-95)
Main accolades: One NBA title, three MVPs, one Finals MVP, two All-Defensive Team selections, eight All-NBA selections, 12 All-Stars
Something of an NBA journeyman, Moses Malone competed for no fewer than seven teams during his basketball career in the ‘70s and ‘80s. And he made a significant impression with most of them, too. Malone remains one of only eight players to have picked up at least a trio of MVP awards and also has 13 All-Star and eight All-NBA selections to his remarkable name.
21. Charles Barkley
Teams: Philadelphia 76ers (1984-92); Phoenix Suns (1992-96); Houston Rockets (1996-2000)
Main accolades: One MVP, 11 All-Stars, 11 All-NBA selections
Younger NBA fans may know Charles Barkley better as the analyst on TV show Inside the NBA. But the star was even more talented on the court. Barkley guided the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals in the early ‘90s, winning the MVP award in the process. He was also a vital member of Team USA’s gold medal-winning teams at both Barcelona and Atlanta.
20. Elgin Baylor
Teams: Minneapolis Lakers (1958-60), Los Angeles Lakers (1960-72)
Main accolades: 11 All-Stars, ten All-NBA 1st Team selections
Forget the fact that Elgin Baylor finished his career without a championship ring. The Los Angeles Lakers great still more than earned his place in NBA history as an 11-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year winner, and first player ever to reach the 70-point mark in a single game. Just ask Oscar Robertson, who when asked about the league’s all-time great remarked, “I’d love to see some of today’s greats playing against Elgin. They couldn’t guard him. Nobody could.”
19. Kevin Garnett
Teams: Minnesota Timberwolves (1995-2007, 2015-16); Boston Celtics (2007-13); Brooklyn Nets (2013-15)
Main accolades: One NBA title, nine All-NBA Teams, one MVP, 15 All-Stars, nine All-Defensive 1st Team selections, one Defensive Player of the Year award
Kevin Garnett’s career spans a remarkable 21 seasons. More than half of that period was spent with the Minnesota Timberwolves. But it was only when Garnett transferred to the Boston Celtics to team up with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce that he tasted NBA-Championship success. The one-time Defensive Player of the Year still remains in the all-time Top 20 for rebounds, blocks, and steals.
18. Julius Erving
Teams: Virginia Squires (ABA) (1971-73); New York Nets (ABA) (1973-76); Philadelphia 76ers (1976-87)
Main accolades: One NBA title, five All-NBA 1st Team selections, one MVP, 11 All-Stars
Before Michael Jordan there was Julius Erving. The 11-time All-Star played a pivotal role in the NBA and ABA’s smooth merging in the mid-1970s. In fact, in the inaugural season he guided the Philadelphia 76ers all the way to the finals. Erving has therefore undeniably earned the right to be hailed as the godfather of the modern game.
17. Dirk Nowitzki
Team: Dallas Mavericks (1998-2019)
‘3’s Per Game (3PG): 1.3
Main accolades: One NBA title, 14 All-Stars, one MVP, one Finals MVP, 12 All-NBA selections
Dirk Nowitzki proved that Europeans could be every bit as tough as Americans on the basketball court during his 21-year stint in the NBA. The German guided the Dallas Mavericks to the championship title in the 2010-11 season, picking up an All-Star selection in the process. And Nowitzki was also one of the first seven-foot players to command a game through their shooting touch.
16. Karl Malone
Teams: Utah Jazz (1985-2003); Los Angeles Lakers (2003-04)
Main accolades: Two MVPs, 14 All-Stars, 11 All-NBA 1st Team selections, three All-Defensive 1st Team selections
Karl Malone had the misfortune to enter his prime at an era when Michael Jordan dominated the NBA. He lost two finals with the Utah Jazz to the Chicago Bulls, after all. But Malone is still considered to be one of the greatest power forwards of all time thanks to his 14-All Star appearances, 25.0 points per game average, and second-highest scoring record.
15. Jerry West
Team: Los Angeles Lakers (1960-74)
Main accolades: One NBA title, four All-Defensive 1st Team selections, ten All-NBA 1st Team selections, one Finals MVP, 14 All-Stars
Jerry West reached the NBA Finals on no fewer than nine occasions, yet only once emerged victorious. The shooting guard might not have had luck on his side but his impressive points-per-game average of 27 means he’ll always be regarded as one of the game’s greatest. It’s West’s silhouette, in fact, that you can see on the league’s famous red-blue-and-white logo.
14. Hakeem Olajuwon
Teams: Houston Rockets (1984-2001); Toronto Raptors (2001-02)
Main accolades: Two NBA titles, one MVP, two Finals MVPs, six All-NBA 1st Team selections, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, 12 All-stars, five All-Defensive 1st Team selections
Hakeem Olajuwon certainly lived up to his “The Dream” nickname. The Nigerian-American was crowned MVP in both of the NBA Finals titles that he won with the Houston Rockets. His blocking tally of 3,830 also remains the league’s all-time highest. Olajuwon’s coolest contribution to the sport, though, was undoubtedly his creation of the Dream Shake move.
13. Kevin Durant
Teams: Seattle SuperSonics (2007-08); Oklahoma City Thunder (2008-16); Golden State Warriors (2016-19); Brooklyn Nets (2019-)
Main accolades: Two NBA titles, one MVP, two Finals MVPs, 11 All-Stars, six All-NBA 1st Team selections
Kevin Durant picked up no fewer than four scoring titles during his eight-year spell with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He also later added two NBA championships to his resume when he moved to the Golden State Warriors. Still going strong with the Brooklyn Nets, Durant may well climb inside the Top Ten if he can steer clear of injury.
12. Stephen Curry
Team: Golden State Warriors (2009-)
Main accolades: Three NBA titles, four All-NBA 1st Team selections, two MVPs, seven All-Stars
Hailed by some as the NBA’s best shooter ever, Stephen Curry helped to revolutionize the sport with his versatility. The Golden State Warriors icon has earned a brace of MVP awards and guided his franchise to three NBA titles during his glittering career. And in the 2015-16 season he became the first MVP in the history of the league to be a unanimous selection.
11. Oscar Robertson
Teams: Cincinnati Royals (1960-70); Milwaukee Bucks (1970-74)
Main accolades: One NBA title, nine All-NBA 1st Team selections, one MVP, 12 All-Stars
Oscar Robertson still holds one mightily impressive NBA record. The Cincinnati Royals legend is the only NBA player to feature in the all-time top ten of both assists and points per game. Nicknamed The Big O, Robertson also achieved the first single season triple-double average in league history. His only title victory, though, came when he formed a partnership with Lew Alcindor at the Milwaukee Bucks.
10. Shaquille O’Neal
Teams: Orlando Magic (1992-96); Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2004); Miami Heat (2004-08); Phoenix Suns (2008-09); Cleveland Cavaliers (2009-10); Boston Celtics (2010-11)
Main accolades: Four NBA titles, one MVP, three Finals MVPs, eight All-NBA 1st Team selections, three All-Defensive 2nd Team selections, 15 All-Stars
Shaquille O’Neal is one of those NBA names that have undoubtedly transcended the sport. The larger-than-life center first made his name with the Orlando Magic before cementing his iconic status with the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat. O’Neal amassed 15 All-Star appearances, a trio of Finals MVPs, and four NBA titles during his glittering career.
9. Kobe Bryant
Team: Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2016)
Main accolades: Five NBA titles, 18 All-Star, one MVP, two Finals MVPs, 11 All-NBA 1st Team selections, nine All-Defensive 1st Team selections
The late Kobe Bryant spent his entire 20-year career with the same NBA team, the Los Angeles Lakers. As well as winning five titles with the franchise, the shooting guard was also crowned the 2008 MVP and posted a points-per-game average of 25.0. Bryant’s strong work ethic, self-described as “Mamba mentality,” has become just as integral to his legacy as his stats.
8. Tim Duncan
Team: San Antonio Spurs (1997-2016)
Main accolades: Five NBA titles, two MVPs, three Finals MVPs, eight All-Defensive 1st Team selections, 10 All-NBA 1st Team selections
Tim Duncan might not have been as showy as some of his fellow NBA superstars. But “The Big Fundamental” was always dependable. During his 19 years with the San Antonio Spurs Tim picked up five championship titles and recorded an incredible tally of regular-season wins: 1,001 of them to be exact. No other player has achieved as many victories with the same franchise.
7. Larry Bird
Team: Boston Celtics (1979-92)
Main accolades: Three NBA titles, three MVPs, two Finals MVPs, 12 All-Stars, nine All-NBA 1st Team selections
Larry Bird is credited with giving both the Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers rivalry and the NBA as a whole a new lease of life. His passing, shot-making, and pure basketballing instincts saw him crowned the league MVP three seasons in a row in the mid-1980s. Bird also guided the Celtics to three championship titles during his 13-year spell with the team.
6. Wilt Chamberlain
Teams: Philadelphia Warriors (1959-62); San Francisco Warriors (1962-65); Philadelphia 76ers (1965-68); Los Angeles Lakers (1968-73)
Main accolades: Two NBA titles, 13 All-Stars, four MVPs, one Finals MVP, seven All-NBA 1st Team selections, two All-Defensive 1st Team selections
Wilt Chamberlain famously broke NBA records when he posted a 50 points-per-game average across a whole season. He also added to his legacy when he scored an incredible 100 points in just one game. Chamberlain spent three years apiece with the Philadelphia Warriors, the San Francisco Warriors, and the Philadelphia 76ers in the mid-20th century before winding up his career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
5. Magic Johnson
Team: Los Angeles Lakers (1979-91, 1996)
Main accolades: Five NBA titles, three MVPs, three Finals MVPs, 12 All-Stars, nine All-NBA 1st Team selections
Standing 6 feet 9 inches tall, Magic Johnson remains one of the most physically imposing point guards ever to grace the NBA. His initial 12-season spell with the Los Angeles Lakers resulted in nine NBA Finals, five of which the franchise won. Johnson’s natural charisma and competition with fellow superstar Larry Bird also helped to open up the sport to a whole new international audience.
4. Bill Russell
Team: Boston Celtics (1956-69)
Main accolades: 11 NBA titles, 11, All-NBA selections, five MVPs, 12 All-Stars
Bill Russell’s remarkable achievement of 11 NBA titles in the space of just 13 years is unlikely to ever be surpassed. The center won each and every single championship with the Boston Celtics in the post-war era, too. Russell’s accolades also include nearly a dozen All-NBA selections and five MVPs.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Teams: Milwaukee Bucks (1969-75); Los Angeles Lakers (1975-89)
Main accolades: Six NBA titles, six MVPs, two Finals MVPs, ten All-NBA 1st Team selections, five All-Defensive 1st Team selections, 19 All-Stars
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wasn’t much of a showboater on the court, but then he didn’t need to be. The center’s signature skyhook helped him rack up the highest number of career points in the history of the NBA. During his lengthy spells with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers, Abdul-Jabbar also picked up six titles, was crowned MVP on the same number of occasions, and was selected as an All-Star no fewer than 19 times!
2. LeBron James
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers (2003-10, 2014-18); Miami Heat (2010-14); Los Angeles Lakers (2018-)
Main accolades: Four NBA titles, four MVPs, four Finals MVPs, 13 All-NBA 1st Team selections, five All-Defensive 1st Team selections, 17 All-Stars
LeBron James proved that age is nothing but a number in 2020 when he steered the Los Angeles Lakers to victory at the NBA Finals in his mid-30s. The 250-pound, 6 feet 9 inches superstar has previously used his imposing athletic frame with success at the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat. And with four MVPs to his name, James is widely considered to be the greatest player of the modern era.
1. Michael Jordan
Teams: Chicago Bulls (1984-93, 1995-98); Washington Wizards (2001-03)
Main accolades: Six NBA titles, five MVPs, six Finals MVPs, ten All-NBA 1st Team selections, one Defensive Player of the Year award, 14 All-Stars, nine All-Defensive 1st Team selections
Recent documentary series The Last Dance has only confirmed Michael Jordan’s status as one of the all-time sporting greats.The shooting guard posted a points-per-game average of 30.1 during his illustrious playing career which spanned from 1984 until 2003. Jordan may have finished up at the Washington Wizards, but his name will always be synonymous with the Chicago Bulls. He enjoyed two separate spells with the franchise, guiding it to six titles as well as picking up MVP honors on five occasions.