Friday, May 24

GOAT of Basketball – The Greatest Ever Players in the Game

GOAT in sports is a continuously argued topic. There is simply no conclusion. Different eras come into arguments and different names are thrown around with various points of backing. Basketball has the likes of Jordans, Kobes, and James’ but the long-standing history of the NBA has given many great players who deserve a shout in these conversations. Here are a few of them, in no particular order, of course- the greatest basketball players of all time.

11. Hakeem Olajuwon

Standing at 7 feet tall, Hakeem Olajuwon played center and is regarded as the most skilled man ever in the NBA. He played primarily with the Houston Rockets and later with the Toronto Raptors.

Olajuwon’s signature move, the “Dream Shake,” was the pick of his prowess giving him the nickname- “The Dream”. He possessed remarkable defensive abilities, holding the NBA record for most blocked shots by a landslide, and was a two-time NBA champion, leading the Rockets to back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995. His impact on the game extended beyond scoring and defense; he was an excellent passer, rebounder, and leader, earning him numerous accolades, including two finals MVP, two finals MVP, and one regular season MVP.

10. Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson, born Earvin Johnson Jr. played 13 seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers. Johnson primarily played as a point guard but was known for his versatility, standing at 6 feet 9 inches tall. He was a key member of the Lakers during the 1980s, winning five NBA championships (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988).

Johnson was a 12-time NBA All-Star and a member of the All-NBA First Team nine times. He also won the NBA Regular Season MVP Award three times (1987, 1989, 1990). Johnson played a significant role in the Lakers’ rivalry with the Boston Celtics, particularly his matchups against Larry Bird. His exceptional passing ability and court vision led him to become the NBA’s all-time leader in average assists per game, with 11.2. His abrupt retirement in 1991, after contracting HIV, shocked the sports world. However, he made a brief comeback in 1996 and finally retired for good in the same year. Johnson is regarded as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history.

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9. Larry Bird

Larry Bird played 13 seasons for the Boston Celtics and was a versatile forward. He led the Celtics to three NBA championships (1981, 1984, 1986) and won the NBA Regular Season MVP Award three consecutive times (1984, 1985, 1986).

Bird was a 12-time NBA All-Star and a member of the All-NBA First Team nine times. He was also a great defensive player, earning three NBA All-Defensive Second Team selections. Bird’s fierce rivalry with Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers during the 1980s is legendary and significantly contributed to the NBA’s rise in popularity.

After his playing career, Bird transitioned into coaching and became the head coach of the Indiana Pacers in 1997. Under his leadership, the Pacers made several deep playoff runs, including an NBA Finals appearance in 2000. Bird later served as the Pacers’ President of Basketball Operations, earning the NBA Executive of the Year Award in 2012.

8. Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain played for the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Los Angeles Lakers during his 14-season NBA career from 1959 to 1973. Standing at 7 feet 1 inch tall, Chamberlain was a dominant force on the court.

Chamberlain’s career achievements include two NBA championships (1967, 1972) and four NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards (1960, 1966, 1967, 1968). He was a 13-time NBA All-Star and a member of the All-NBA First Team seven times. Chamberlain’s most notable feat occurred on March 2, 1962, when he scored an astounding 100 points in a single game, a record that still stands today.

Known for his scoring prowess, Chamberlain led the league in scoring for seven consecutive seasons and holds the highest points-per-game average in NBA history at 30.1. He was also a dominant rebounder, leading the league in rebounds for 11 seasons and averaging 22.9 rebounds per game for his career, the highest in NBA history.

7. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr., played 20 seasons in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers. Standing at 7 feet 2 inches tall, Abdul-Jabbar is the second-highest leading scorer in NBA history with 38,387 points, eclipsed by Lebron James very recently. Known for his skyhook shot, he was a dominant force on the court.

Abdul-Jabbar won six NBA championships during his career (1971, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988) and was named the NBA Regular Season MVP six times (1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1980). He was a 19-time NBA All-Star and a 15-time All-NBA Team selection. Abdul-Jabbar also excelled defensively, being selected to the NBA All-Defensive Team 11 times.

After his retirement, he was a socially conscious athlete, advocating for civil rights and social justice issues. After retiring from basketball, Abdul-Jabbar became a successful author, cultural ambassador, and philanthropist, leaving an enduring legacy both in and outside of the basketball world.

6. Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan spent his entire 19-season NBA career with the San Antonio Spurs. Duncan is widely regarded as one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history. He won five NBA championships with the Spurs in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2014.

Duncan was a dominant force on both ends of the court, equipped with skills in scoring, rebounding, and shot-blocking. He was named the NBA Finals MVP three times (1999, 2003, 2005) and the NBA Regular Season MVP twice (2002, 2003). Duncan was a 15-time NBA All-Star and a 15-time All-NBA Team selection. He also earned NBA All-Defensive Team honors 15 times.

Duncan’s unselfish playing style and leadership on and off the court were instrumental in the Spurs’ success. He retired in 2016 and later transitioned into coaching.

5. Bill Russell

BOSTON, MA – 1968: Bill Russell #6 of the Boston Celtics poses for a portrati circa 1968 at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1968 NBAE (Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)

Bill Russell played center for the Boston Celtics in the NBA from 1956 to 1969. Regarded as the best defensive player of all time, he won an unparalleled 11 NBA championships with the Celtics, a record that still stands today.

In addition to his scoring and rebounding prowess, he was a dominant defensive player and a master of shot-blocking. He was named the NBA Regular Season MVP five times during his career (1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965). Russell was a 12-time NBA All-Star and a remarkable 11-time All-Defensive Team selection.

He was instrumental in the success of the Celtics dynasty during the 1960s. After retiring as a player, Russell transitioned to coaching, becoming the first African-American head coach in the NBA with the Celtics in 1966. He led the Celtics to two more championships in 1968 and 1969 as both a player-coach. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975 and remains an icon in the sport.

4. Shaquille O’Neal

Widely known as Shaq, he is arguably the most dominant player in NBA’s history. Standing at 7 feet 1 inch tall with a massive build, he played as a center for six NBA franchises, most notably for Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat.

Shaq won four NBA championships in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2006- the first three with the Lakers and the fourth one with the Heat. He earned NBA finals MVP thrice from 2000 to 2002 and was also named the NBA Regular Season MVP in 2000. He was an NBA All-Star 15 times. Shaq ranks eighth in the all-time list for most points scored in NBA history.

Apart from scoring, he was an excellent rebounder and a shot-blocker. His physical presence and basketball IQ made him one of the most dominant centers in NBA history. Post-retirement, Shaq is a sports analyst and TV personality. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

3. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant spent his entire 20-season career with the Los Angeles Lakers, becoming one of the most celebrated athletes in the history of the sport. Bryant was a shooting guard primarily, winning five NBA championships with the Lakers (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010).

He was named the NBA Finals MVP twice (2009, 2010) and the NBA Regular Season MVP in 2008. Bryant was an 18-time NBA All-Star and he earned All-NBA Team honors 15 times. He was also selected to the NBA All-Defensive Team 12 times. Bryant’s scoring ability was highlighted by his career-high 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, the second-highest single-game scoring performance in NBA history. Off the court, he was an Academy Award winner for his animated short film “Dear Basketball” in 2018. Bryant tragically passed away at the age of 41 on January 26, 2020, in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles.

2. Lebron James

LeBron James, the only active player on this list, has played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Miami Heat and currently plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. He is the player with the most points in NBA history- 38740 and counting.

LeBron has won multiple NBA championships, capturing titles with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013, the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020. He has been named NBA Finals MVP four times (2012, 2013, 2016, 2020) and has earned the NBA Regular Season MVP Award five times (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2020). He is a 17-time NBA All-Star and has been selected to the All-NBA First Team 13 times. In addition to his scoring ability, LeBron is a remarkable playmaker, ranking fourth on the NBA’s all-time assists leaderboard as well. He is also the youngest player in NBA history to reach 30,000 career points.

1. Michael Jordan

In the conversation on basketball GOATs, there will be no list without Michael Jordan. Widely regarded as the greatest basketball player in history, Jordan played 15 seasons in the NBA, primarily for the Chicago Bulls and later the Washington Wizards.

During his career, Jordan won six NBA championships with the Bulls, earning NBA Finals MVP honors each time (1991-1993, 1996-1998). He was a five-time NBA Regular season and a ten-time scoring champion. Jordan earned 14 All-Star selections and was named to the All-NBA First Team ten times. Jordan was instrumental in the NBA’s popularity worldwide. His deal with Nike brought Air Jordan shoes to the world, later establishing him as a billionaire and transforming him into a global brand.

He briefly retired from basketball in 1993, pursued a career in baseball, and returned to the NBA in 1995. Jordan retired for the second time in 1999 before making a comeback with the Washington Wizards from 2001 to 2003.

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