October 19, 2017

Top 5 NBA Players of All-Time: Jordan, Magic, Bird, Kobe Bryant #8

2010/06/25 9:40 am 10471 22 comments

Before the 2010 NBA finals began, Interbasket asked 54 sportswriters, analysts, and basketball experts from around the country to name the top 5 NBA players of all-time.  Not a completely surprising list, but there are some interesting results.

The list of voters include Fran Blinebury, Woody Paige, Stephen A. Smith, Kevin Cowherd, Dave D’Alessandro, among others. Here are the results of our survey:

1. Michael Jordan 50 of 54 (92.6%)
2. Magic Johnson 44 of 54  (81.5%)
3. Wilt Chamberlain 37 of 54  (68.5%)
4. Larry Bird 35 of 54 (64.8%)
5. Bill Russell 30 of 54 (55.6%)
6. Oscar Robertson 24 of 54 (44.4%)
7. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 22 of 54 (40.7%)
8. Kobe Bryant 10 of 54 (40.7%)

Others Receiving Votes: Kobe Bryant (10), Elgin Baylor (4), Julius Erving (3), Jerry West (3), Tim Duncan (2), Lebron James (2), Shaquille O’Neal (2), Karl Malone (1), Hakeem Olajuwon (1).


Was there really five voters that believed Michael Jordan is not one of the five best players ever to play an NBA game? And ten voters that didn’t have Magic Johnson in their top five? I find these voters’ judgements suspect. Another question that is sure to be asked – should #8 Kobe Bryant be that high up on the list? That much higher than Shaquille O’Neal who has similar accolades? Or was that a product of the assumption that Kobe Bryant was likely to get his fifth championship this year?

I defintely think that Bryant (and LeBron James at #12) benefited because both are considered the two best players in the game today. They’re top of mind. Anyways, check out the players’ respective résumés and you be the judge.

1. Michael Jordan (1984-1993, 1995-1998, 2001-2003)

• NBA Finals: 6 Titles, Finals (6), Finals MVP (6)
• Playoffs: 33.45 PPG (1st), Total Points (1st), Total Assists (7th), Total Steals (2nd)
• Honors: All-NBA 1st Team (10), MVP (5), All-Defensive 1st Team (9), Defensive Player of the Year (1)
• Career: 30.12 PPG (1st), Total Points (3rd), 2.35 SPG (3rd), Total Steals (2nd), Triple-Doubles (9th)
• Season Leader: PPG (10), SPG (3)
• Season Highs: 37.1 PPG (5th), 8.0 RPG (1988-89), 8.0 APG (1988-89), 3.2 SPG (8th)
• Notable Game Highs: 69-point game (1990)

What separates Jordan from the rest of this list is the lack of a formidable adversary. Magic had Bird. Russell had Wilt. Oscar had West. Jordan had the Monstars in Space Jam. Most consider him the greatest player ever. Some believe there was no one in the league (during his title runs) to stand in the way. Magic’s post Showtime Lakers were no exception…

2. Magic Johnson (1979-1991, 1996)

• NBA Finals: 5 Titles, Finals (9), Finals MVP (3)
• Playoffs: Total Points (11th), 12.35 APG (1st), Total Assists (1st), Total Steals (3rd), 30 Triple-Doubles (1st)
• Honors: All-NBA 1st Team (9), MVP (3)
• Career: 11.19 APG (1st), Total Assists (4th), SPG (15th), Total Steals (15th), 138 Triple-Doubles (2nd)
• Season Leader: APG (4), SPG (2), FT% (1)
• Season Highs: 23.9 PPG (1986-87), 9.6 RPG (1981-82), 13.1 APG (8th), 3.4 SPG (3rd)
• Notable Game Highs: 24-assist game (x2)

He faced Dr. J’s Sixers, Bird’s Celtics, Isiah’s Pistons, and Jordan’s Bulls in the Finals (9 times) and came out ahead more times than not. With Kareem at center, and Worthy on the wing, the Showtime Lakers dominated an epic era of  basketball. Since then, the Magic/Bird/Jordan debate has been decided by rings. 3 is less than 5. 5 is less than 6. They all surpassed Wilt’s 2…


3. Wilt Chamberlain (*1959-1973)

• NBA Finals: 2 Titles, Finals (6), Finals MVP (1)
• Playoffs: Total Points (14th), 24.46 RPG (2nd), Total Rebounds (2nd) 9 Triple-Doubles (4th)
• Honors: All-NBA 1st Team (7), MVP (4), All-Defensive 1st Team (2)
• Career: 30.06 PPG (2nd), Total Points (4th), 22.89 RPG (1st), Total Rebounds (1st), 78 Triple-Doubles (4th)
• Season Leader: PPG (7), RPG (11), Assists (1), FG% (9)
• Season Highs: 50.4 PPG (1st), 27.2 RPG (1st), 8.6 APG (1967-68), 72.7 FG% (1st)
• Notable Game Highs: 100-point game (1st), 55-rebound game (1st)

The most dominant player ever (numerically). Wilt the Stilt was hell-bent on setting records. He lead the league in points, minutes, rebounds, field goal percentage, free throws, and even assists one season. Some believe his goals revolved around statistics more than winning. Most agree we will never see anything like him again. We can only hope to see another player like Larry Legend…

4. Larry Bird (1979-1992)

• NBA Finals: 3 Titles, Finals (5), Finals MVP (2)
• Playoffs: Total Points (8th), Total Rebounds (10th), Total Assists (3rd), Total Steals (5th), 10 Triple-Doubles (3rd) 89.03 FT% (10th)
• Honors: All-NBA 1st Team (9), MVP (3)
• Career: 24.29 PPG (16th), 59 Triple-Doubles (5th) 88.77 FT% (9th)
• Season Leader: FT% (4)
• Season Highs: 29.9 PPG (1987-88), 10.9 RPG (1980-81), 7.6 APG (1986-87)
• Notable Game Highs: 60-point game (1985)

Bird may have been the best all-around player the game has ever seen. A playmaker who could shoot, score, rebound and defend. The only member of the 20/10/5 club (points, rebounds, assists) for an entire career. The first member of the 50/40/90 club (FG%, 3-Pt%, FT%) for an entire season. Although, he may not be the greatest Celtic ever…

5. Bill Russell (*1956-1969)

• NBA Finals: 11 Titles, Finals (12), Finals MVP named after Russell (2009)
• Playoffs: 24.87 RPG (1st), Total Rebounds (1st), Triple-Doubles (4th)
• Honors: All-NBA 1st Team (3), MVP (5), All-Defensive 1st Team (1)
• Career: 22.5 RPG (2nd), Total Rebounds (2nd)
• Season Leader: RPG (5)
• Season Highs: 18.9 PPG (1961-62), 24.7 RPG (4th), 5.8 APG (1966-67)
• Notable Game Highs: 51-rebound game (2nd)

In an era highlighted by the offensive exploits of Wilt, Elgin and Oscar, a defensive presence (known simply as Bill) willed his teams to 11 titles in 13 years. Including a 16-1 series edge over all three in the playoffs. Cousy, Sharman and Havelick played a large part in the Celtics’ success, but the one constant was Russell. He kept Oscar out of the Finals in his prime…

6. Oscar Robertson (*1960-1974)

• NBA Finals: 1 Title, Finals (2)
• Playoffs: 8.94 APG (4th), 8 Triple-Doubles (5th)
• Honors: All-NBA 1st Team (9), MVP (1)
• Career: 25.68 PPG (9th), Total Points (9th), 9.51 APG (4th), Total Assists (5th), 181 Triple-Doubles (1st)
• Season Leader: PPG (1) APG (7), FT% (2),
• Season Highs: 31.4 PPG (1963-64), 12.5 RPG (1961-62), 11.5 APG (1964-65), 41 Triple-Doubles (1st)
• Notable Games Highs: 56-point game (1964), 22-assist game (x2)

The Big O averaged a Triple-Double through his first five seasons. A nice line to recite for many, but it doesn’t define an entire career. Some argue Jerry West was a superior player by the time they retired together. Particularly in the playoffs. Oscar won his first and only title with the league’s best player (Kareem) in 1971. West won his first a year later with Wilt and Baylor…


7. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1969-1989)

• NBA Finals: 6 Titles, Finals (10), Finals MVP (2)
• Playoffs: Total Points (2nd), Total Rebounds (4th)
• Honors: All-NBA 1st Team (10), MVP (6), All-Defensive 1st Team (5)
• Career: 24.61 PPG (15th), Total Points (1st), Total Rebounds (3rd), Total Blocks (3rd), FG% (10th)
• Season Leader: PPG (2), RPG (1), BPG (4), FG% (1)
• Season Highs: 34.8 PPG (10th), 16.9 RPG (1975-76), 5.4 APG (1978-79), 4.1 BPG (13th)
• Notable Game Highs: 55-point game (1971)

Kareem nearly bridged the gap between Wilt and Shaq. Won titles with Oscar and Magic. Earned Finals MVP honors 14 seasons apart. Scored over 20 points per game in 17 consecutive seasons with the greatest weapon in basketball (the sky-hook). To put it in perspective, Kobe would have to sustain his current career scoring average (25.3 ppg) over the next 6 and a half seasons to challenge Kareem’s all-time scoring record (38,387 points)…

* The Finals MVP and All-Defensive teams weren’t named until the 1968-69 season. Steals and Blocks weren’t an official statistic until the 1973-74 season. Defensive Player of the Year wasn’t selected until the 1982-83 Season. 

8. Kobe Bryant (1996-Present)

• NBA Finals: 5 Titles, Finals (7), Finals MVP (2)
• Playoffs: 25.52 PPG (11th), Total Points (4th), Total Steals (7th)
• Honors: All-NBA 1st Team (8), MVP (1), All-Defensive 1st Team (8)
• Career: 25.26 PPG (11th), Total Points (12th)
• Season Leader: PPG (2)
• Season Highs: 35.4 PPG (8th), 6.9 RPG (2002-03), 6.0 APG (2004-05)
• Notable Game Highs: 81-point game (2nd), 12-three pointer game (1st)

Maybe the most polarizing figure in the history of the NBA. He’ll have to one-up Magic and win 6 rings to be considered the greatest Laker ever. Then win ring number 7 to be in the discussion of greatest ever. For some, it will never be enough. For now, the Kobe/LeBron debate should be continued at a later date…

Poll: Has Kobe earned a place in the Top 8?

T-12. LeBron James (2003-Present)

• NBA Finals: 0 Titles, Finals (1)
• Playoffs: 29.31 PPG (3rd) 7.32 APG (14th)
• Honors: All-NBA 1st Team (4), MVP (2), All-Defensive 1st Team (2)
• Career: 27.83 PPG (3rd)
• Season Leader: PPG (1)
• Season Highs: 31.4 PPG (2005-06), 7.9 RPG (2007-08), 8.6 APG (2009-10)
• Notable Game Highs: 56-point game (2005)

Right now, 0 titles and 2 MVPs puts him in the same company as Steve Nash. Not Shaq and Duncan. LeBron needs to team with a fellow free agent star this summer if he cares about his place in history.Players are measured by titles in the NBA. Not MVP trophys. Let’s wait another 10-15 years before we crown him king.


Related: ESPN lists their 100 Greatest Players in NBA History

Panel: Mike Baldwin (Oklahoman), Fran Blinebury (NBA.com), Dave Boling (Tacoma News Tribune), Mike Bresnahan (LA Times), Frank Burlison (Long Beach Press-Telegram), Matt Calkins (Socal Press-Enterprise), Jeff Caplan (ESPN Dallas), Bill Conlin (Philadelphia Daily News), Kevin Cowherd (Baltimore Sun), Dave D’Alessandro (New Jersey Star-Ledger), Jay Dieffenbach (Arizona Republic), Doug Fernandes (Sarasota Herald-Tribune), Jennifer Floyd Engel (Fort Worth Star-Telegram), Ryan Greene (Las Vegas Sun), Alan Hahn (Newsday), Wally Hall (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette), Buck Harvey (San Antonio Express-News), Joe Hawk (Las Vegas Review-Journal), Reggie Hayes (Fort Wayne News-Sentinel), Kurt Helin (NBC Sports), Dave Heller (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), Scott Howard-Cooper (NBA.com), Jan Hubbard (Forth Worth Star-Telegram), Trey Kerby (Yahoo! Sports), Eric Koreen (Toronto National Post), Steve Luhm (Salt Lake Tribune), Bob Lutz (Wichita Eagle), Darnell Mayberry (Oklahoman), Mark McGuire (Albany Times Union), Sam Mellinger (Kansas City Star), Mike Monroe (San Antonio Express-News), Scott Ostler (San Francisco Chronicle), Woody Paige (Denver Post), Dave Perkins (Toronto Star), Shaun Powell (Newsday), Ray Ratto (San Francisco Chronicle), Ray Richardson (St. Paul Pioneer Press), Steve Schrieber (Pender Times), Dan Shaughnessy (Boston Globe), Gary Shelton (St. Petersburg Times), Stephen A. Smith (Philadelphia Inquirer), Seku Smith (NBA.com), Tom Sorensen (Charlotte Observer), Greg Stoda (Palm Beach Post), Tim Sullivan (San Diego Union-Tribune), Jeffrey Tomik (Washington Examiner), Berry Tramel (Oklahoman), Mike Vaccaro (New York Post), Dan Ventura (Boston Herald), Ailene Voisin (Sacramento Bee), Michael Wallace (Miami Herald), Michael Whitmer (Boston Globe), Ira Winderman (South Florida Sun-Sentinel), Mike Wise (Washington Post).



  • Kobe can win 10 championships and won’t be the greatest Laker of all-time. magic won 5 in 7 finals over his first 9 years. Kboe did 5-7-14, not even close. He comes up short of Magic in every statistical category other than ppg, he was gifted far too many d-teams he has not business being on. While Magic should have 4 FMVP’s (over Worthy’s one and done performance against the pistons, MJ averaged 21-13-6) and LA lost 3 finals series to the Bulls, Sixers, and Pistons only due to injuries, Magic would have 8 titles and 1 7-game series lost to the Cletics were he (in ’89), Worthy, Nixon, McAdoo (’83), and Worthy, Scott (’91) healthy for those games. Magic should top this list. Jordan had to wait him and Bird out. Magic never missed the playoffs like Jordan and Kobe and never lost 30 games in a season. The guy was sick!

  • wally sparks

    Magic was a winner from day one. He could do almost anything on the floor. Whatever it took to win. He made everyone else around him better and it wasn’t just another cliche. If that’s your criteria for the greatest player ever, then I’m all with you. Just don’t tell us Kobe and Jordan aren’t in the conversation. That’s ludicrous!

  • thanks for post, a have one question, is this default theme, or what is her name?



  • An additional 1 bites the dust , or at minimum another web log post stings the dust. Your weblog rocks my article mesh hold up the terrifying causes .

  • 1. Kareem
    2. Magic
    3. Wilt
    4. Oscar
    5. Russel
    6. Bird

  • Jordan

  • major payne

    I’m not a fan of Shaq, but he was better than Hakeem in his prime. Hakeem played some of the best basketball I’ve ever seen in the Rockets title runs, but Shaq was an even more dominant force for a longer period of time. Hakeem is probably top 15. 5th best center of all-time, but he wouldn’t make Mt. Rushmore…

  • Jordan is 7th

  • And lower than that if he hadn’t have gotten so many questionable calls.

  • LeBron James is #1 !!!!!!!!! 🙂

  • dont even put lebron in this list…he dont even know the rules of bball have you look at his games? he traveles every run and he cant do anything else only run run dunk + travel

  • For the reason that Kobe bryant all through his basketball career won titles while facing larger, tougher, more athletic players than what Jordan took on…I rank Kobe as the best shooting guard ever…Any differing thoughts?

  • I don’t understand how anybody cannot put Jordan as No. 1 in this list. The best all-round player who did it at both ends of the court – no. 1 in points and no. 2 in steals. I was priviliged to live in Chicago between 92 and 96. Magic Johnson – don’t make me laugh! Magic was the best at assists – that’s it.

  • BEST top 5 players all time.
    1. Michael Jordan
    2. Lebron James
    3. Kobe Bryant
    4. Magic Johnson
    5. Larry Bird

    Other 5
    6. Oscar Robertson
    7. Julious Erving
    8. Wilt Chamberlain
    9. Kareem Abdul Jabaar
    10.Bill Russell

  • Lebron is can do it all, rebound, assist, score, block, steal. His strength and speed combination is best in history. Better shooter then Magic. Played with Cavs who had nobody, brought them to 04 finals. 2nd season in Miami wins championship. Is better athelete then Magic, Bird, and Kobe. All defensive 1st team. Will win multiple championships. Better rebounder and passer then Jordan. Could make case for best ever. He is a freak of nature. Can dribble too. He’s the best.

  • Tim Carter

    You say who has the most rings is the best player then Russell is no.5 .people get teams mixed up with players.But I do agree with your top 5 just in different order. Wilt should be the best player it wasn’t wilt wanting the stats he was just that good of a scorer and rebounder shot blocker . Then they wanted him to get the rest of his team involved more so he led the league in assists .If jordan or any other player could score as much as wilt they would have to .If your talking player I don’t see how any one can touch what he did.averaged 50 points 23 rebounds over his career one year he averaged 48.3 minutes a game played every minute but 6 because he got ejected plus overtimes over 250 double doubles .They talk about how they were not many 7 footers well they were only 8 teams in the league so th played the best more times in a season when he got the record 55 rebounds in one game he got them againsr bill russell

  • 1.Jordan

  • Bugs Bunny

    How would you rate a player? how would you rate a team? isn’t that basketball is a team game? From teams like miami heat, lakers and boston…they have at least 3-4 all-stars. how about Jordan’s Bulls, Wilt’s, hakeem’s, shaq’s? didnt you realize that their team became basketball players because they were inspired by these guys! i played basketball since i was 8yrs old, i was not great! but when you see you best player plays great! you’ll also becomes better because you want to contribute and support your superstar! That’s how team game plays! Wasn’t able to play in college because I am only 5’3 and I am not Mugsy! Statistics + accomplishments and who’d you dominate each game! that’s how you rate a player! I agree to all of our comments! however, you cannot judge unless you’ve experience how they do it or did it! For me, MJ still the best above all! Lebron might be better now, kobe was! but can they do what JM did? Who created Space Jam? Who wrote “I wanna be like Mike?” who created Nike air jordan? it was Michael Jordan’s charisma guys! He was not good in all aspecs, but his games and highlights helped several basketball players achieved their careers now! By the way, just to add, why would Karl Malone did say that Pippen is better than Jordan? Because is Jordan is not around, they might able to get the 2 championship! but sorry Karl, MJ made you cry didn’t even get any! ehehehe

    Best NBA players for me:

    1. Michael Jordan
    2. Magic Johnson
    3. Larry Bird
    4. Bill Russel
    5. Lebron James
    6. Kobe Bryant
    7. Wilt Chamberlain
    8. Julius Irwving
    9. Hakeem Olajuwan
    10. Shaquille O’neil
    11. Kareem Abdul Jabaar
    12. Osacar Robertson

    That’s completes my list! That’s my DREAM TEAM!!! Or course the Original DREAM is my second!

    Now, how would you know if a CHESS player is great! :)that’s even better!

  • Bugs Bunny

    Sorry, my 12th is Tin Duncan!!!

  • julian correa

    allen iverson
    scottie pippen
    hakeem olajuman

  • julian correa

    pete maravich
    bill russell
    drazen petravich
    chauncey billups

  • Everyone kills me when they say Magic Johnson had a lot of help… Well Kareem was in LA 4 or 5 years before magic even got there and didn’t win a ring until the ROOKIE came into town.. And where was all the help when magic got hurt in that one season?? And when he retired? And another thing that’s always said is he couldn’t score.. Give me a break.. Half of magic assists were made when he was already in the hole at the basket.. He could have scored just as much as those other Hogs but decided to be a little more serving!!!

    Please don’t tell me about Lebron being a good passer, he only passes the ball when he can’t do anything with it.. On accident. Magic passed the ball on purpose!! Knew what he wanted to do and when!

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