Round Table: Top 5 NBA Players of All-Time
If you couldn’t tell, we like top 5s at OTG …. A LOT. So we asked some of our most knowledgeable writers for their top 5 greatest NBA players of all-time.
Mike Ricci (@MikeRicci5):
MJ is the greatest, there shouldn’t be any arguments there. In a post-MJ league, Duncan has been the standard for excellence and is my pick for second greatest player in league history. Boring? Sure. But only if you count 15 All-Defensive and 15 All-NBA teams boring--and there is the matter of 5 rings.
LeBron is third for me--although ask me again in five years, he could bump Timmy and wind up number two. Rounding out my top five, I have Bird at four and Bill Russell at five. So there you have it--three of the most tenacious competitors in league history (Jordan, Bird, Russell) and a couple of more recent legends (Duncan and LeBron). 28 rings.
Jonathan Ebrahimi (@awrashoo):
1. Michael Jordan
2. LeBron James
3. Magic Johnson
4. Hakeem Olajuwon
5. Shaquille O’Neal.
I’ll start off by saying anyone who played before the NBA/ABA merger in 1976 is disqualified in my eyes. You don’t get points for dominating a weak, watered-down league.
It’s hard to argue MJ at the number one spot so outside of that is where it gets interesting for me. I have LeBron James at number 2. He’s the greatest individual talent the league has ever seen and the argument for keeping him any lower gets weaker and weaker with each passing season. Next, Magic might be the most skilled player of all-time and that’s coupled with the fact that he’s one of the greatest winners in NBA history, so he has to be next. Then I’ve gone with the most talented and most dominant centers in NBA history. Both Hakeem and Shaq stood out and won MVP awards and championships during an era that was teeming with elite big men.
Alex Perlman (@THE_three32two):
MJ is #1. There’s no argument, debate, or even a conversation to be had for that matter. Moving on.
Wilt the Stilt had career averages of 30 points and 23 rebounds per game, in an era where blocks weren’t even recorded. Stop it. Next.
In his 20-year career, Kareem became the all-time leader in scoring, third in rebounds, all-time leader with six MVP awards, won six championships, and earned two Finals MVP awards. Aside from hardware, Kareem, at 7’2”, perfected and dominated over a 20-year span, the most unstoppable post move in the history of the NBA.
Magic pretty much controlled the entire game in the palm of his hands. In just 12 years in the league, Magic became fifth all-time in assists and second all-time in triple doubles. Of his five championship rings, Magic additionally won three Finals MVP honors.
LeBron is essentially Magic Johnson with a jump shot. We haven’t seen an NBA Finals series without LeBron since 2010, and I seriously don’t think we’ll see one potentially for another five or six years. Yes, he’s lost a few, which is the only reason he’s not higher on this list. He’s already won four MVP awards and has shown no signs of slowing down. I predict he’ll earn his way closer to MJ on this list, and might even surpass him when it’s all said and done, but we’re not there yet.
Matthew Shear (@matthewjshear):
1. Michael Jordan
2. Magic Johnson
3. Bill Russell
4. Larry Bird
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
There should be no debate about who holds the position as greatest basketball player ever, but what can be discussed are the players that follow. It’s impossible to ignore the contributions that Magic Johnson and Larry Bird made to the NBA as individuals and as a pair of rivals. They were the catalysts that lead to the rise of the NBA in the United States, ultimately laying the groundwork for future global superstars like Jordan. Magic paved the way for position-defying players like LeBron and Penny Hardaway, while Bird revolutionized what it meant to be an efficient shooter. Kareem and Russell were both generational centers who dominated in their prime. Russell was one of the most intimidating defenders of all-time, while Kareem was one of the greatest scoring centers of all-time. Equally as important, both were (and continue to be) important figures in the fight for civil rights for African-American athletes.
Shaw Gadsden (@ShawnGad):
2.Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Coming in at number one is a no brainer, no other than your airness, Michael Jordan. MJ is not only the greatest scorer but arguably the greatest perimeter defender of all-time. Leading the team during all 6 championships during his run in the 90s and completely dominating that era is the reason why he comes in at number one. Coming in at number two is Kareem Abdul Jabbar, probably the greatest ball player in history if you include high school and college. Six championships and the most unstoppable move, the hook shot. Number three is the King, LeBron James. Lebron delivering a chip to Cleveland this past June cemented him a spot in the top 5 of all-time. He is the greatest all-around player we have ever seen. At number 4 is Wilt Chamberlain, can’t deny this man a spot in the top 5. He holds the most records in NBA history and regarded as one of the most dominate players ever. And last but not least coming in at number five is Magic Johnson. The greatest Laker of all-time, thwe greatest point guard of all-time, 5 championships and one of the faces along side Larry Bird that saved the NBA in the 80s. We will never see another point guard like Magic Johnson in our lifetime.
Brett Carroll (@Neva_4Brett_ME)
MJ needs no explanation.However, I’m starting to jump on the bandwagon that LeBron may still be able to catch MJ by the time he’s done playing. I could fully explain why, but I have a word limit. Shaq is one of the most dominant players of all-time, and was a force in the league since the first day he stepped on the court. Duncan is the greatest power forward of all-time, yet I still think that he’s one of the most underrated superstars of all time. I put Magic at five because I usually only use players that I’ve seen play. So Larry Bird , Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and others all miss out because of this. However, Magic was LeBron before LeBron, and if it wasn’t for his illness, his greatness could have even reached Jordan’s level. That’s why I made an exception for him and not the other all-time greats.