Pick-Six: Top NBA Players Of All-Time

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There has been a lot of debate the last few weeks about ESPN’s recent release of their list of the NBA’s greatest players of all-time, specifically about Kobe Bryant’s position on the list. Many feel Bryant should be at least Top 10 or Top 5 on the list, rather than his current spot as the 12th greatest player of all-time, and those same people say the list is flawed for that very reason. I figured I would take a crack at fixing the list and give my own list of the top NBA players of all-time.

6. LeBron James

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LeBron James definitely has a case to be higher on this list, and I think he may end up higher after his career is all over. However, I think right now he deserves to be in the number six spot on the list. James has changed the game since he was drafted back in 2003, and has established himself as one of the biggest names the NBA has to offer. The one thing he suffers in, however, is how many NBA Finals rings he has. James has only won twice in his 12-season career in six appearances, and only won when surrounded by the likes of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. However, he has been dominant in his Finals appearances, and carried both of his Cleveland teams in their two chances. Last year, he became the first player in NBA Finals history to lead all players in points, rebounds and assists. He scored or assisted on 57.7 points per game, the most by any player in NBA Finals history. Many may not like James now, but I feel a lot of people will appreciate him and what he did for basketball after he’s gone.

5. Kobe Bryant

Los Angeles Lakers' Bryant celebrates after his teammate Howard scored during their NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks in Los Angeles

Kobe Bryant, like Tim Duncan, has been winning since a lot of his current fans were even born. He’s the only player in NBA history to play 20 or more seasons with one team, and has dominated ever since he came into the league back in 1996. He’s earned himself five NBA Finals rings in seven appearances, and was the Finals MVP in two of those wins. He’s a two-time NBA scoring champion, and is one of the most clutch players in NBA history. Bryant has always come through in key situations, and he has succeeded in the league whether he had Shaquille O’Neal or Pau Gasol backing him up. Bryant may not be as dominant today, but his success has earned him respect around the world and has also earned him a spot in the top five on my all-time best players list.

4. Tim Duncan

Spurs' Duncan points to the bench during a break in play against the Heat during Game 3 of their NBA Finals basketball playoff in San Antonio

Tim Duncan gets left out of a lot of people’s all-time lists, but you can’t argue against the success he’s had in his long, illustrious career. He’s a two-time MVP, three-time NBA Finals MVP, and has won five NBA Finals in six appearances, all with the same team. Duncan has been the core of the San Antonio Spurs for the last 18 seasons, and has kept the team relevant throughout his career, even in his old age. Some players on the lineup may change around him, but Duncan has been there through everything, and has established himself as one of the premier players to ever step foot in the NBA. ESPN had him as number eight on their list, which isn’t totally far off, but I believe he deserves a spot in the top five when it comes to the best of all-time.

3. Magic Johnson

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Magic Johnson may not have had a long career, but he accomplished as much as many of the guys on this list in that short amount of time. In just 13 seasons, Johnson won five NBA Finals in nine appearances, was a three-time league and Finals MVP, and made history as one of the best to ever play in the postseason. He is the only player in NBA Finals history with multiple triple-doubles in series-clinching games, and actually made history in a somewhat-negative way by having the lowest average points per game (16) for an NBA Finals MVP. Those numbers may seem low, but it shows just how versatile Johnson was, and how important he was to his team’s success. It would’ve been interesting to find out how Johnson’s career would’ve ended up with six or seven more seasons like Bryant and Duncan had, but he was still just as successful in a shorter amount of time.

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Action Portrait

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

It may seem like a joke to put Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the number two spot on this list, and he definitely has an argument to be considered the greatest of all-time. He was a six-time league MVP, won six NBA Finals in 10 appearances, and was a two-time Finals MVP. He scored more points than anyone else in NBA history, and surpassed the second place player (Karl Malone) by about 1,300 points. He averaged a double-double for his entire career with double digits in points and rebounds, and was truly one of the best to ever play the game of basketball. There will always be some doubts about this decision, as close as it may be, but I feel Jabbar is very much deserving of this number two spot.

1. Michael Jordan

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Michael Jordan is probably the most well-known, most memorable, and most missed players in NBA history. He had a huge impact on the game of basketball, and was the guy in the NBA. Fans loved to watch him, and opponents hated to play against him. He was a five-time league MVP, won six NBA Finals in his six appearances, and was the Finals MVP in all of those wins. He delivered some of the most clutch moments in NBA postseason history, and was truly a man amongst boys. He’s arguably the most influential player the NBA has ever seen, and every player in the league since he retired has strived to be “Like Mike”. It’s tough to go against a perfect NBA Finals record, especially when that record includes six appearances, and I personally believe no one will ever achieve more success than Jordan had during his career. Jordan is the best the NBA has ever seen, and is almost a lock for the number one spot on this list.

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