Michael Jordan is the GOAT – because he’s the most complete guard ever to play and has more titles than Wilt does so he goes #1. 6–0 in the Finals, 10 scoring titles, 5 MVPs, 6 Finals MVPs, DPOY, he’s simply the most decorated player ever and thus deserves to be GOAT
Wilt Chamberlain is my #2 – next to Jordan, the most complete player ever to play. Offensively he had the best prime of any player ever averaging 50 pts a game and Defensively he was probably the second best defensive player ever next to Bill Russell. He holds over 70+ NBA records, including most point/rebound/stamina related ones. He had the misfortune of playing on bad teams early in his career. So he goes second.
I put Kareem Abdul-Jabbar third because really he had all the awards and accolades as well – just a hair short of Jordan, thats all. All time, he holds more records though due to his longevity. 6 rings, 6 MVPs, 2 scoring titles, 2 finals mvps, offensively and defensively he was not up to Wilt/Jordan but definitely above par – and he maintained this high level of play for 20 seasons. So Kareem is #3 for me.
Bill Russell is #4 for me – no other player in professional sports has won as many championships as Bill Russell. No other player in NBA history had as much impact on the defensive side. The first black superstar in the NBA. The first black coach in American sports. The center of the most dominant dynasty in NBA history, for people who say that Russell had a stacked team, lets not forget that Bill Sharman and Bob Cousy won nothing before Russell came on the team, and John Havlicek had to wait until he got Dave Cowens to win anything again. Russell, Sam Jones and Tom Heinsohn really was the core of that dynasty. Russell’s weakness was his shooting as both his FG% and FT% were quite terribe.
Lebron James is my #5. the most dominant player in the modern era (2010s-) he made 9 NBA finals which is the most Finals out of any player post 1960s, and he did it with the rigors of the modern NBA – 7 game series, 4 playoff series. He won more MVPs (4) than any other player at his position. He’s currently averaging 28/8/8 as a 34 year old. This kind of dominance hasn’t been seen since Jordan – although unlike Jordan, he also rebounds like a PF and assists like a PG. His 3–1 comeback in 2016 to beat a 73–9 team secured his position in the top 5 all time.
Magic Johnson next. The best PG ever to play, Magic elevated his teammates like no other player except maybe Russell and Duncan. He holds 5 rings which is second most rings for a PG after Bob Cousy, he won by far the most MVPs and Finals MVPs (3) out of any PG. He was the centerpiece of a juggernaut Showtime Lakers dynasty that went to 9 Finals in just 12 years. I had Magic above Lebron at #5 until Lebron made that remarkable comeback in 2016. Magic’s weakness has always been his defense, although he led league in steals twice.
Larry Bird. I often switch between Larry Bird and Tim Duncan for my #7 spot. Depends on my mood. They are both awesome franchise players and great team players that could step up in the heat of the moment. Larry Bird has less rings but more MVPs. He was probably more versatile than Duncan was. Bird could shoot the lights out, play decent defense (though not as good as Duncan), rebounded as well as Duncan did, and passed better than anyone in his era not named Magic. Bird had a habit of making clutch plays. His only flaw was having a shortened career plagued by injury.
Tim Duncan. As I said, I often swap between Bird and Duncan because they are so close. Duncan tied Kobe for the most rings in his era, but has more MVPs and more Finals MVPs, and was probably a better teammate. He didn’t care about stats so much, just about helping his team win games, and win games he did – he never missed the playoffs in his career, something that only Russell and Magic could say in my top 10. Duncan was a complete player, although he never led the league in scoring or had a DPOY – his offense and defense were often low key but valuable in crucial moments of the game.
Kobe Bryant. A very polarizing player, some people rank Kobe in the top 3, some people rank Kobe outside the top 10. The reason he’s so polarizing is due to his style of play. Since he’s almost a clone of Jordan – many fans think he should be ranked next to Jordan – although this is false premise, because Kobe trails Jordan (and often significantly) in every statistical category and award category except for 3PT shooting. Nevertheless, Kobe is in my top 10 because of his great work ethic and desire to win. He wasn’t a great shooter (he was league average at shooting which is considered low for an all time great), but that never stopped him from trying to step up in the big moments. He has the second most accolades of any shooting guard and thats why I have to rank him in my top 10 (but not higher than #9).
Jerry West. Some people might wonder, why Jerry West here? Why not Oscar Robertson? Hakeem? Shaq? other players that some people put in their top 10. I’m not opposed to anyone putting Oscar/Hakeem/Shaq over West, I mean that’s their list, and those guys all have MVPs and in Hakeem/Shaq’s case more rings than West. But Jerry West is my favorite player ever. Before Jordan, he was probably the most complete guard to play the game. And unlike Wilt, he was relatable. We’re not physical freaks like that guy was. West was more of the every man that got his points, rebounds and assists through hard work and determination alone. He was a better defensive player than Oscar, and a better teammate by all accounts as well. He went to a total of 10 NBA Finals, which is the most by any non 60s Celtics player. He was unlucky – several of his NBA Finals like in 1962, 1969 and 1970 came down to an unlucky game 7. He was nicknamed Mr Clutch because of his ability to step up in close moments. He played point guard equally as well as shooting guard – leading the league in both scoring and assists before. He still holds the NBA record for most PPG average in any playoff series at 46 PPG. He is the only player ever awarded Finals MVP on a losing team – a testament to how badly he wanted to win. And let’s not forget – he’s probably the GOAT of NBA executives as well. That’s why he’s the NBA Logo and why I put him ahead of Oscar, Hakeem and Shaq despite not having as many MVPs/Rings.