30. Kevin McHale – Boston Celtics – Power Forward
A major piece to the great Boston teams of the 80’s, Kevin McHale made his name through his excellent post game. McHale could score in an unlimited amount of ways on the block, and was near impossible to stop with his back to the basket. When an all-time great like Charles Barkley says that you are the toughest player he’s ever guarded, you’re doing something right.
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29. Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers/New Orleans Hornets – Point Guard
If the Clippers can finally put it all together and win a title, we could easily see Paul soar up this list. That’s looking less and less likely with each passing year, but there’s no denying just how good Paul has been over his tenure in the league. Equally as deadly as a distributor and scorer, Chris Paul is an absolute nightmare on the offensive end. Add to that his career average of 2.3 steals a game, and you have the prototypical great point guard.
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28. Scottie Pippen – Chicago Bulls/Portland Trail Blazers – Small Forward
Every great player needs the “Robin” to his “Batman.” Fortunately for Michael Jordan, his “Robin” also happens to be one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Pippen was a monster on the defensive end, with the ability to guard multiple positions effectively. His unselfishness on offense complemented Jordan well, but make no mistake, Scottie could score the basketball if need be.
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27. Jason Kidd – New Jersey Nets/Phoenix Suns/Dallas Mavericks – Point Guard
He wasn’t the star he once was when he finally captured the ever-elusive NBA championship in 2011, but Kidd still found ways to contribute. Kidd’s longevity and ability to stay relevant despite his waning athleticism is a key reason he will be remembered as an all-time great. Few who played the game evolved as well as Kidd did throughout his career. In his heyday, Kidd could run and gun with the best of them. He was an all-time great passer, as well as an elite defender and rebounder at the point guard position.
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26. Rick Barry – Golden State Warriors – Small Forward
A deadeye shooter, Rick Barry would probably be the owner of many of the 3-point records Stephen Curry is currently breaking had 3-pointers been recorded during Barry’s playing career. Barry was the complete offensive player, with excellent outside shooting, finishing and playmaking.
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25. David Robinson – San Antonio Spurs – Center
Due to obligations to the Naval Academy, it took Robinson a few years after he was drafted to make his much-awaited debut with the Spurs. The wait was well worth it, as Robinson helped the Spurs to two titles during his 14 years with the team. ‘The Admiral’ played a traditional style, but his enormous upper body helped him dominate other centers around the league. Robinson attacked the basket with real aggression, and protected the paint on defense as well as anybody that has played the position.
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24. Bob Pettit – St. Louis Hawks – Power Forward
The original “Stretch-4,” Pettit transformed the way teams scout big men. Had he been born a couple of decades later, Pettit could have been one of the most productive three-point shooting big men of all-time. He wasn’t just a shooter though; standing at 6-foot-9, Pettit averaged more than 16 rebounds a game in his career.
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23. Elgin Baylor – Los Angeles Lakers – Small Forward
Baylor was the original slashing forward, frequently playing above the rim and finishing with both finesse and power. An equally prolific scorer and rebounder, Baylor is in strong consideration as the best player in NBA history to never win an MVP award.
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22. John Stockton – Utah Jazz – Point Guard
As tenacious as they come, John Stockton made a career off of intelligent and unselfish play. An all-time great distributor and defender, Stockton did whatever his team needed of him. Sure, playing with Karl Malone makes life a lot easier, but the Mailman can greatly attribute his spot on the all-time scoring list to Stockton.
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21. Kevin Garnett – Minnesota Timberwolves – Power Forward
Pure, raw intensity is the only way to accurately describe Kevin Garnett. He made a career off of playing with a fiery passion. Of course, at 6-foot-11, it also helped that Garnett moved like a guard on the floor. Garnett had a smooth stroke from mid-range, and was the key component of the great Boston defenses of the late 2000’s. Had he been able to escape Minnesota a few years earlier, there’s no telling how much damage KG could have done.
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20. Jerry West – Los Angeles Lakers – Point Guard
‘Mr. Clutch’ earned his nickname through magical postseason performances. From his 60-foot buzzer beater in the Finals, to his 40-point per game average in the 1965 playoffs, West always saved his best performances for the bright lights.
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19. Dirk Nowitzki – Dallas Mavericks – Power Forward
The German sharpshooter solidified his place among the all-time greats with his epic stretch during the Mavs’ 2011 playoff run. Securing his first championship and bringing home a unanimous Finals MVP trophy, Nowitzki shook off all “soft” labels. With his uncanny ability to make difficult shots, Dirk could probably play spot minutes well into his 40’s.
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18. Isiah Thomas – Detroit Pistons – Point Guard
The leader of the Bad Boys, Isiah Thomas constantly played with a chip on his shoulder. Thomas was lightning quick with the ball and was a very good shooter from the outside. However, what he will be most remembered for is his tremendous ability as a leader. One of the original floor generals, Thomas had an innate ability of knowing when to get the ball to his teammates versus getting himself going offensively.
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17. Charles Barkley – Philadelphia 76ers/Phoenix Suns/Houston Rockets – Power Forward
Standing at only 6-foot-6, Barkley used his incredible lower body strength to become one of the best rebounders in league history. Don’t let the weight and the Krispy Kreme doughnuts fool you though, Charles was a force in the open court in his prime. He could finish with authority or use his impressive vision to find his teammates. Call him ‘Sir Charles,’ ‘The Round Mound of Rebound’ or any other name you like, but one thing remains unchanged: Charles Barkley could flat-out play.
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16. Dwyane Wade – Miami Heat – Shooting Guard
It’s difficult to overlook the impressive resume Wade has accrued over his decade playing in the league. With three championships and the title of the best player in Miami Heat history, Wade has proven that he can perform and win in a multitude of situations. In his athletic prime, his slashing ability beared a strong resemblance to a 6-foot-4 version of Michael Jordan. As he has grown older, he’s adjusted his game to stay relevant – a prominent trait for an all-time great player.
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15. Karl Malone – Utah Jazz – Power Forward
‘The Mailman’ recorded 36,928 points and 14,968 rebounds over his illustrious 20-year career. Malone was a matchup nightmare for any player that had the displeasure of having to defend him. He was one of the strongest players of all-time, but could run in transition with the very best. His money mid-range game set him over the top as an unstoppable offensive force.
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14. Moses Malone – Philadelphia 76ers – Center
Malone played for nine teams in his career in both the ABA and NBA, but found the most success when he teamed up with Dr. J on the Philadelphia 76ers. Ruthless on the boards and a terrific finisher around the rim, Moses was one of the very best players in the league during the early 80’s.
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13. Julius Erving – Philadelphia 76ers – Small Forward
Dr. J might be more remembered more for his nickname and beautiful head of hair, but the 16-time All-Star was also one of the best ball players in league history. He stuffed the stat sheet, putting up big scoring, rebounding and defensive numbers, and did it all with a flair the league had never seen before.
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12. Oscar Robertson – Cincinnati Royals – Point Guard
To this day, Oscar Robertson is still the lone player that has gone through an entire season averaging a triple double. Robertson’s 1961-1962 season will live in history as one of the most impressive feats in the history of sports.
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11. Hakeem Olajuwon – Houston Rockets – Center
A common similarity with the players near the top of this list is their individual uniqueness. Hakeem Olajuwon was the “unicorn” of centers in the 80’s and 90’s. He could dribble the ball and move his feet like a guard, but coupled this gracefulness with the overwhelming size of a legitimate big man. Hakeem captured glory with back-to-back championships in Houston, blocked the most shots in NBA history (3,830), and his patented “Dream Shake” move is still used by players today.
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10. Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs – Power Forward
The recently retired Duncan has solidified his spot as the best power forward the game has seen, and is easily deserving of a top 10 spot on this list. “The Big Fundamental” impacted the game on both ends of the floor from the moment he joined the Spurs. He’ll be remembered for his calm demeanor, silky bank shot and his consistent, winning nature.
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9. Bill Russell – Boston Celtics – Center
As the defensive stalwart for the early Celtics teams, nobody experienced more success winning basketball games than Bill Russell. An 11-time champion and 5-time regular season MVP, Russell spent the majority of his career filling in his expansive trophy case.
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8. Larry Bird – Boston Celtics – Small Forward
From one great Celtic to another, Larry Bird – with the help of Magic Johnson – helped resurrect the game of basketball in the ’80s. As a player, Bird was an assassin. He was a terrific shooter, passer, and rebounder, and played his best in the biggest games. Had it not been for chronic back issues later in his career, he could certainly have a case for a top-5 spot.
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7. Shaquille O’Neal – Los Angeles Lakers – Center
When there’s a legitimate strategy teams implement to their game plan that is named after you, your spot on this list is certain. The “Hack-A-Shaq” was truly the only way you could slow down this monster. O’Neal was a powerhouse from the get-go, and it’s almost criminal that the most dominant big man of recent memory ended his career with only one MVP trophy. With three Finals MVP trophies though, I’m sure he sleeps just fine.
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6. Wilt Chamberlain – Los Angeles Lakers – Center
With a 100-point game on his resume, Wilt Chamberlain just barely edges out Shaq and Russell in this top 10. Chamberlain was truly unstoppable on offense, scoring around the basket at will. He holds the record for most points (the aforementioned 100) and most rebounds (55) in a game, and has a season under his belt in which he averaged 50 points and 25 rebounds a night. Stat lines like these are truly “video game numbers.”
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5. LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers – Small Forward
Facing higher expectations than anybody that has played the game, LeBron James has delivered as well as anybody could have hoped. The versatile forward has done everything for the teams he has played for, and then some. His spotty record in the Finals will ultimately be his “downfall” in any sort of debating concerning his place among the all-time greats, but his impact on the court speaks for itself.
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4. Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers – Shooting Guard
He wasn’t quite as athletically gifted as the other greats. He didn’t have the speed of Jordan, the size of Magic, or the strength of LeBron, but he made up for it by being the most skilled player in history. From immaculate footwork to impossible fadeaway jumpers, Kobe Bryant truly had every basketball skill you would want in a player. With the unlimited skillset, hyper competitiveness, and a resume that includes five championship rings, it just doesn’t seem right leaving Bryant out of the top-5.
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3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – Los Angeles Lakers – Center
Never has a player had a single move in their arsenal more dominant than Kareem’s patented sky-hook. The unorthodox shot helped “KAJ” win six NBA championships and a record six NBA regular season MVPs. In a sport filled with giants, Kareem was the best big man of all-time.
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2. Magic Johnson – Los Angeles Lakers – Point Guard
The most revolutionary player in the history of the sport, Magic Johnson’s uniqueness will have him on the top of these lists for decades to come. With size and vision that the game had never seen before, Johnson took the league by storm, heading the attack for the electric “Showtime” Lakers. Players like LeBron, Tracy McGrady, Penny Hardaway and most recently Giannis Antetokounmpo all resemble bits and pieces of Magic’s style, but the league may never see a floor general with Magic’s size and leadership again.
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1. Michael Jordan – Chicago Bulls – Shooting Guard
Were you expecting anything different? His Airness reigns supreme over the basketball world, and is in contention for the greatest athlete (across all sports) of all-time. Equally impressive on the offensive and defensive sides of the floor, Jordan’s sheer dominance over the 90’s may never be seen again. With an unblemished 6-0 record in the Finals, it will take a Herculean effort to unseat the true king of the hardwood.
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