20. John Stockton
Previous Rank: 22
Best Season:17.2 pts 14.5 ast 2.7 stl 51.4%FG 41.6%3PT PER 23.9
Career:13.1 pts 10.5 ast 2.2 stl 51.5%FG 38.4%3PT PER 21.8
Peak:3 years 1988-91 17.2 pts 14.1 ast 2.9 stl 52.0%FG 44.1 win shares PER 23.4
Accolades: 10x Allstar(’89-’97,’00) 11x All-NBA Team (’88-’97,’99) 5x All-Defensive Team (’89,’91-’92,’95,’97) 9x Assists Leader (’88-’96) 2x Steals leader (‘89,92) 1st All-Time Career Leader in Assists. 1st All-Time Career Leader in Steals. Record for most assists in a season (1164) Record for highest Assists per game average(14.5).
Best Game:December 8th, 1990 against the Los Angeles Clippers recorded 27 points on 56.3% shooting 23 assists 4 steals and was responsible for a total of 73 points in the game.
Why he moved: This is where I start to hit on today’s point guard. Yes the overall cast of point guards today is something we have not seen ever. Yet, none of them and I mean not a single one of them will be on Stockton’s level. As a pure point guard he gets vastly underrated time and time again. A lot of people point to Karl Malone as if it tears down who Stockton is as a player. None of us seem to ever say that about Magic though. Magic played with 4 people in this top 50 list and one of them being one of the absolute greatest players to ever step on to the hardwood. If that does not bring down Magic as a player then it should not do it to Stockton either. You see his stat numbers for assists? Steve Nash, Chris Paul, and Jason Kidd all have not surpassed the 12 assists mark. Stockton did it 8 straight years in a row. I felt that after looking that over that there was no way I could not list Stockton higher.
Stockton to Malone. Heard that plenty of times if you watched basketball in the 90s. Stockton thrived in Jerry Sloan’s pick & roll offense. Alongside Karl Malone, Stockton gave the Utah Jazz their best years they have ever had. Leading the team to back to back Finals only to come up short against Jordan twice. Stockton had one of the greatest Playoff moments ever beating the Houston Rockets at the buzzer to end the series. He is the career leader for assists and steals. Showing you that he was a stout defender. I almost wanted to put Stockton and Malone together at a spot because the two are inseparable. You cannot have Malone without Stockton and vice versa. The two are arguably the greatest duo ever.
19. Kevin Garnett
Best Season:24.2 pts 13.9 reb 1.5 stl 2.2 blk 49.9%FG PER 29.4
Career:17.8 pts 10.0 reb 1.3 stl 1.4 blk 49.7%FG PER 22.7
Peak:4 years 2001-05 22.6 pts 13.2 reb 5.5 ast 1.4 stl 1.7 blk 49.4%FG 62.8 win shares PER 27.0
Accolades:NBA Champion (’08) League MVP (’04) 15x Allstar (’97-’98,’00-’11,’13) 9x All-NBA Team (’99-’05,’07-’08) Defensive Player of the Year (’08) 9x All-Defensive Team (’00-’09, ’11-’12) All-Rookie Second Team (’96) 14th All-Time Career Leader in Scoring. 10th All-Time Career Leader in Rebounds. 18th All-Time Career Leader in Blocks. 16th All-Time Career Leader in Assists.
Best Game:Game 2 Western Conference First Round against the Los Angeles Lakers, Kevin Garnett totaled 35 points, 20 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and doing so on 71.4% from the field.
Why he moved: Well part of the reason is that Garnett is top 20 in points, rebounds, assists, and blocks. That can show you his overall impact on the game. It is sad to see him today but even 5 years ago Garnett was a terrific player. In his prime he could effect the game with his passing, his attack on the boards, his rim protection, or his scoring. I could not justify having Garnett behind Clyde any longer.
Kevin Garnett was one of the few guys who came out of high school and was immediately ready for the NBA. He did things nobody saw big guys with his lanky frame doing. The way he played was very unique and he ran the floor better than any other big man of the time. He took the Timberwolves places they never thought they could go. He made a completely unknown franchise make prime time tv. As great as he was in Minnesota he just did not have the help he needed to beat any of the elite teams of the time. To fix that issue Garnett joined the Boston Celtics to join forces with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. They dominated everyone and won a championship the very first year the team was put together. Even though Paul Pierce won Finals MVP, everyone who really payed attention to the games realized that Garnett deserved that more than anyone dominating the boards and completely taking the Lakers 2nd best player Pau Gasol out of the game.
18. Charles Barkley
Previous Rank: 23
Best Season:23.0 pts 14.6 reb 4.9 ast 1.8 stl 1.5 blk 59.4%FG
Career:22.1 pts 11.7 reb 3.9 ast 1.5 stl 54.1%FG
Peak:6 years 1987-93 25.9 pts 11.6 reb 4.1 ast 56.7%FG 90.2 win shares PER 26.8
Accolades League MVP(’93) 11x Allstar (’87-’97) 11x All-NBA Team (’86-’96) All-Rookie First Team (’85) 2x Rebounding Leader (’86-’87) 23rd All-Time Career Leader in Scoring. 18th All-Time Career Leader in Rebounds. 23rd All-Time Career Leader in Steals.
Best Game:Game 3 1994 Western Conference First Round against the Golden State Warriors, Charles Barkley scored 56 points,and totaled 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, and shot 74.2% from the field.
Why he moved:Charles came up big in playoff time and had probably 3 of the best 20 playoff performances of all time. This along with his extremely high efficiency put him up a bit higher than I had done before.
The Round Mound of Rebound. Known nowadays for his TV time analyzing games on TNT, Barkley you need to understand was a monster. One of the greatest rebounders to ever play and he could score from anywhere. He was known mostly for his fast breaks. You see at the time it was a custom for all big guys (PFs and Cs) to pass the ball to a guard to bring the ball down the court. Barkley on the other hand, decided he would take it down himself and was like a freight train attacking the rim. He was drafted by the Sixers, but that is not the team he is known for anything good. The place where his career was revived was when he went to Phoenix. With the Suns he finally had a shot to get a championship and had his sights on Jordan the entire way. Without a doubt his best year had to be when he won the MVP and took the Suns to the finals only to be stopped by Jordan. (A problem for many in the 90s.) Many young viewers of the NBA do not seem to know enough about him, but believe it when people say Charles Barkley at one point was the best player in the league.
17. Dirk Nowitzki
Previous Rank: 21
Best Season:24.6 pts 8.9 reb 50.2%FG 41.6%3PT 90.4%FT PER 27.6 16.3 win shares
Career:22.0 pts 7.9 reb 47.4%FG 38.1%3PT 87.9%FT PER 23.0 198.8 win shares
Peak:3 years 2004-05 25.7 pts 9.2 reb 48.0%FG 40.6%3PT 87.0%FT 49.7 win shares PER 27.2
Accolades: NBA Champion (’11) Finals MVP (’11) League MVP (’07) 12x Allstar (’02-’12,’14) 12x All-NBA Team (’01-’12)
Best Game: Game 1 of the 2011 Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder Dirk scored 48 points on 80% shooting from the field 6 rebounds 4 assists and 4 blocks
Why he moved: Many people after my top 50 originally either said I had Dirk too high or too low. I looked over his career and those in the same area as he was. I have always had Dirk as either the 3rd or 4th best power forward ever. My opinion on where he ranks among those playing the same position as him has not changed. It became a comparison of other guys outside of his position and nobody seems to notice the best players he has had in his career was Michael Finley when Dirk was very young and raw and honestly Monta Ellis at the very end of his career. You could throw Nash in there as well who was also very young playing with a very young Dirk. Even the 2011 playoff run Dirk’s best teammate was out for the entire playoffs in Caron Butler. The only time he missed the playoffs is when he was out for a good portion of the year and his teammates were Darren Collison and OJ Mayo. With those two it was a miracle that they almost made the playoffs.
Without a doubt the greatest European player and stretch big man, Dirk dominated competition with his patented fadeaway. (In my opinion the 2nd most unstoppable shot in the game right behind the sky hook.) He came in as a stretch forward and was not expected to be anywhere close to where he is today. The true beginning of his legacy came when offensive genius Don Nelson became the head coach of the Mavericks. The Dallas Mavericks became an offensive juggernaut with Steve Nash, Michael Finley, and Dirk as the 3 lead the offensive assault. Then Nash left and a new Dirk emerged. He lead the Mavericks to the finals in 2006 playing one of the greatest games I have seen along the way. In Game 7 against the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio Dirk lead the charge at the end and solidified himself as a great player. He wasn’t done. Then came the 2011 season. Dirk had the greatest Playoffs run I had seen. Sweeping the previous champion Lakers and beating the Thunder in 6. They went head to head with LeBron and Dwayne Wade. Dirk beat them in 6 winning the ring that seemed impossible to catch before. His career is not done yet and likely will be a top 5 scorer of all time before he is done. The Mavericks have reloaded so do not be surprised if he moves farther up this list as they have a real chance to do something this year.
16. Elgin Baylor
Previous Rank: 15
Best Season:38.3 pts 18.6 reb 4.6 ast PER 26.5
Career:27.4 pts 13.5 reb 4.3 ast PER 22.7
Peak:3 years 1960-63 35.3 pts 17.3 reb 4.9 ast PER 27.2
Accolades:11x Allstar (’59-’65,’67-70) 10 All-NBA First Team (’59-’65,’67-’70) Rookie of the Year (’59)
Best Game: April 14th, 1962 game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals recorded 61 points and recorded 22 rebounds in what is widely considered one of the best finals performance in a single game of all time.
Why he moved: I have gotten a much greater understanding for the pace of the game back then compared to today, and how it inflated numbers. That along with the fact that he never got a championship or an MVP dropped him slightly for me.
Elgin is where it all began. Without Elgin there would be no Julius Erving. There would be no Michael Jordan. There would be no Kobe. There would be no LeBron. Regarded as the greatest player ever to not win a ring. His stats were video game numbers. His rookie year averaging 24.9 points 15 rebounds and 4 assists, Elgin made an impact immediately in the NBA. He is one of five players to ever score over 70 points. With his 71 points at the time he had the greatest game ever offensively until Wilt Chamberlain beat it later on in the next season. The 1961 season Baylor was called to serve as an army reserve and was only able to play on weekends, and despite only playing 48 games, Baylor was able to score over 1,800 points that season. He owns the record for most points in an NBA Finals game with 61 points. His career would have been even more ridiculous than it already was, but had major issues from the 1963 season to when he retired. He would have a ring if not for retiring nine games into the 1971-72 season. That year the Lakers had the longest winning streak in history and went on to win a championship that year.
15. Moses Malone
Previous Rank: 18
Best Season:31.1 pts 14.7 reb 1.5 blk 51.9%FG PER 26.8
Career:20.3 pts 12.3 reb 1.3 blk 49.5%FG PER 18.9
Peak:5 years 1978-83 26.8 pts 15.4 rebs FG%.517 70.2 win shares PER 25.0
Accolades: NBA Champion (’83) Finals MVP (’83) 3x League MVP (’79,’82-’83) 12x Allstar (’78-89) 8x All-NBA Team (’79-’85,’87) 2x All-Defensive (’79,’83) 6x Rebounding Champion (’79,’81-’85)
Best Game: April 8th, 1984 against the Indiana Pacers recorded 38 points on 52.4% shooting 24 rebounds 2 assists and 8 blocks.
Why he moved: Moses was a 3 time league MVP. He dominated for many years. He was able to win two of those in back to back years on two different franchises. Which means he went into two completely different environments and was the best player in the league no matter what. That is an unbelievable feat all on it’s own. He was unstoppable around the rim and that’s in every sense. He was the best rebounder in the league as well. If it was not for the high powered Lakers and Celtics storming through both sides of the league, Moses could have easily gotten more rings.
Moses was the first player ever to be drafted straight out of high school. He was a monster rebounder and he was unstoppable down low. Until he came to the Sixers, Julius Erving was seen as the guy who could not get it done. That changed when the team got Moses Malone. Malone dominated the competition scoring and rebounding at will. He owns the record for most offensive rebounds in a season with 587. He is the only NBA player to ever win consecutive MVP awards on two different teams. (Out of all the four major sports Barry Bonds is the only other athlete to accomplish this). Moses lead the 76ers in the 1982 Playoffs where they only lost 1 game throughout the entire run sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers to win a championship. The 12-1 record by the 76ers that Playoff run is the second most dominant run ever behind the Lakers who went 15-1 in 2001. That entire run despite how much people talk about Dr. J was led by Moses Malone. There were a lot of good big men during the 80s, but if I had to pick one guy out of that decade I would say the best was Moses Malone.
14. Karl Malone
Previous Rank: 16
Best Season:31.0 pts 11.1 reb 1.5 stl 56.2%FG PER 27.2
Career:25.0 pts 10.1 reb 51.6%FG PER 23.9
Peak:3 years 1995-98 26.7 pts 10.0 reb 4.0 ast FG%.533 48.2 win shares PER 27.6
Accolades:League MVP (’97,’99) 14x Allstar (’88-‘98,00-02) 14x All-NBA Team (’88-’01) 4x All-Defensive Team (‘88,97-’99) All-Rookie Team (’86)
Best Game: January 27th, 1990 against the Milwaukee Bucks recorded 61 points on 80.8% shooting 18 rebounds 2 assists 3 steals.
Why he moved: Karl was an unstoppable force. It is truly sad that this great player had to face one of the best ever, because otherwise he would most definitely have a ring. With saying that he was probably the best roll man to ever live. Sloan knows how to make the pick & roll nearly unstoppable and that knowledge along with the talents of Stockton and Malone was something special. In my eyes Karl Malone is the 14th best player to ever step foot on the NBA court.
Stockton to Malone. Many of many NBA fans have heard that a thousand times. Malone thrived under Jerry Sloan’s pick & roll offense with one of the greatest point guards ever. Malone was a monster offensively and built like a truck. Nobody was able to match his strength when he bulldozed to the rim. He won an MVP when he was 33 and 35. Malone was great for a really long time posting the 2nd most points ever behind Kareem. The most notable years for him was his back to back years to the Finals in epic duels against the Chicago Bulls. Only one bad issue with Malone is the thing people remember most about him. He is the man getting the ball taken from him near the end of game 6 in the ’98 finals where Jordan made his last shot as a Chicago Bull.
13. Jerry West
Previous Rank 12
Best Season:31.3 pts 7.1 reb 6.1 ast 49.7%FG PER 24.6
Career:27.0 pts 5.8 reb 6.7 ast 2.8 stl 47.4%FG PER 22.9
Peak:4 years 1967-71 27.8 pts 4.8 reb 7.6 ast FG%.493 48.3 win shares PER 23.5
Accolades:NBA Champion (’72) Finals MVP (’69) 14x Allstar (’60-’74) 12 All-NBA Team (’62-’73) 5x All-Defensive Team (’69-’73) Scoring Champion (’70) Assists Leader (’72)
Best Game: April 23rd, 1969 game 1 of the NBA Finals recorded 53 points 3 rebounds 10 assists and when down 10 points late in the 4th West had a 17 point surge that led his team to victory.
Why he moved: Jerry West only moved back because of another player’s rise on this list. Nothing against him.
The Logo of the NBA. Jerry West outside of Wilt Chamberlain was the most skilled player during his time. If there was a 3-point line at the time he would’ve been in consideration for best shooter ever. He made a name for himself making clutch shots at the end of games. He wasn’t just a great scorer, he knew how to get people in scoring position as well having lead the league in assists one year. His assists numbers are not as good as they should be but that’s in part because he shared the backcourt with Gail Goodrich as they shared responsibilities being the ring leaders of the offense. What I find to be his greatest achievement is the year he won Finals MVP despite being on the losing side of the series. Think he didn’t deserve it? Well find me another guy who puts his team in a better chance to win than Jerry West did in game 7 against the Celtics when he recorded 42 points 13 rebounds 12 assists in one single game. Jerry West’s greatness cannot be denied.
12. Oscar Robertson
Previous Rank: 11
Best Season:30.8 pts 12.5 reb 11.4 ast 47.8%FG PER 26.0
Career: 25.7 pts 7.5 reb 9.5 ast 48.5%FG PER 23.2
Peak:4 years 1960-65 30.2 pts 10.7 reb 10.4 ast FG%.487 66.3 win shares PER 26.0
Accolades: NBA Champion (’71) League MVP (’64) 12x All Star (’61-’72) 11x All-NBA Team (’61-’71) Rookie of the Year (’61) 6x Assists Leader (’61-62,’64-’66,’69)
Best Game: not available due to the lack of solid data
Why he stayed: Oscar Robertson did not move any further down in favor of Bill Russell because overall it is hard for me to say that Bill Russell was a better player. This one all about preference to me and I can see it going either way honestly. I prefer the guard that is affecting every aspect of the game over the big man who was pretty much strictly rebounding ad defensive. Oscar did not have nearly enough talent on his team to win against the Celtics were slim to none and I cannot hold that against him.
The Big O played the game by dominating every aspect of it. He’s the only player to ever average a triple-double in a season and being off by a hair in 4 other seasons. What is even more incredible is if you average out his totals over the first 4 years of his career he averaged 30.2 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. Oscar strived to make everyone on his team better. The only reason Oscar does not have more than 1 ring is because he was supremely outmatched for most of his career, until the great Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) joined his team. He never had a chance in 60s when he had nobody and the Celtics had about 30 different Hall of Famers on their team. He was a monster during his career and many guys today look up at him and have him as one of the best.
11. Bill Russell
Previous Rank: 10
Best Season:18.9 pts 23.6 reb 4.5 ast PER 18.1
Career: 15.1 pts 22.5 reb 4.3 ast PER 18.9
Peak:5 years 1962-67 14.4 pts 23.2 reb 5.0 ast 71.6 win shares
Accolades:11x NBA Champion (’57,’59-’66,’68-’69,) 5x League MVP (’58,’61-’63,’65) 11x All-NBA Team(’58-’68) All-Defensive Team (’69) 4x Rebounding Champion (’58-’59,’64-’65) 2nd All-Time Career Leader in Rebounds.
Best Game:April 18th, 1962 game 7 of the 1962 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers recorded 30 points and 44 rebounds.
Why he moved: I had to ponder the thought of how good of a player Russell was. Many people from back in the day always claim he “chose” not to score on offense and was fully capable of doing so, but I always have ask how is a player who was 44% from the field able to score whenever he wanted? He always had the best players in the league on his team. Even though I do label his 1962 MVP as his greatest one, should he have really gotten it? His points per game, rebounds per game, and field goal percentage were all lower than what Wilt did that season. Wilt was literally carrying his team and had arguably the greatest season ever. With all of that being said I had to drop Russell a few spots. Now I’m not going to act like Russell was Robert Horry or something of that nature. He still is the second best rebounder to ever play the game and the best defensive big man to ever live.
The champion of all champions. Bill Russell has more rings than fingers winning 11 out of his 13 year career. Never averaging more than 19 points as he preferred to stay on the defensive side of things he benefitted from playing with players of the likes of Sam Jones, Bob Cousy and John Havlicek. Despite those players he won 5 MVP awards and his greatest achievement probably ever was the 62′ MVP which was the same year Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 points a game and Oscar averaged a triple double.