When the NBA began in 1949, no one expect the league to become a success world wide sixty years later. The main reason for their success has been the players, especially those who transcended the game and change how the game was played. These are the five greatest basketball players in NBA history that helped develop the league.
When the Chicago Bulls drafted Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA draft, they could not have even predicted what this former Tar Heel would mean to the game of basketball. NBA fans were given a glimpse of what Jordan would become during this rookie season, when he averaged 28.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 6.5 rebounds per game.
By the time his fifteen year career was done, Jordan scored 32,292 points while averaging 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. And do not forget the six NBA championships Jordan won with the Bulls and the five times he won the NBA MVP award. In the end, Jordan’s name and logo would become associated with basketball world wide and start the process of international interest for the sport. There is no question; Jordan is at the top of the list when you are discussing the five greatest players in NBA history.
The Los Angeles Lakers decided to select Magic Johnson with the first overall pick in the 1979 NBA draft with hopes of adding another championship to their storied history. Johnson did not disappoint, as he lead the Lakers to a NBA championship during his rookie season that would eventual lead him to becoming one of the five greatest players in the history of the NBA.
When Johnson retired in 1991, he finished with a total 17,707 points to go with his 6,559 rebounds and 10,141 assists. Johnson was responsible for bringing four NBA championships home for Lakers fans while being named NBA MVP three times during his career. The NBA thrived because of the drama that unfolded during Johnson’s legendary battles with the Celtics and friend, Larry Bird at the beginning of their careers.
When it came to consistency in the NBA, there is no one that defined it better than the Boston Celtics, Larry Bird. When they drafted the kid out of French Lick, Indiana in the 1979 NBA draft, fans fell in love with Bird’s deadly shooting, spectacular defense and constant hustle he displayed on the hardwood.
Bird completed his 14 year career with the Celtics and racked up 21,791 points with 8,974 rebounds and 5,695 assists. During his tenure in Boston, Bird helped guide the team to three NBA championships while earning three NBA MVP awards. Though Bird’s game may have not been flashy, he is still thought as one of the five greatest players in NBA history.
Until Michael Jordan came around, Wilt ‘the Stilt’ Chamberlain was considered to be the premiere player ever to step foot on the hardwood court. The 7’1″ center made a name on the court with his dominating presence. One of Chamberlains most memorable performances was when he scored 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks in March 1962.
Chamberlain holds the distinction of becoming the first player to record 4,000 points in a season. When his career came to an end in 1974, Chamberlain rolled up 31,419 points with 23,924 rebounds and 4,643 assists. Of the players on this list, Chamberlain was only able to win two NBA championships during his career though he was name NBA MVP four times. Despite this, Chamberlain still ranks at the top of the five greatest basketball players in NBA history.
Though he is loved by NBA fans around the world, it was not always for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was drafted out of UCLA in 1969 by the Milwaukee Bucks. List at 7’2″, Abdul-Jabar used his astonishing speed and athleticism to dominate the lanes on the court. His signature shot, the ‘Sky Hook’ became the fascination and obsession of every young boy across the country as they all attempted to learn the unblockable shot
During his twenty year career with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers, he recorded the most total points of any player in the history of the NBA, with 38,387. Along the way he pulled down a total of 17,440 rebounds and was able to block 3,189 shots. Over the length of his career, Abdul-Jabar was able to earn six NBA championships with the Lakers while being named the NBA MVP on six separate occasions, from 1971 to 1980. Abdul-Jabar’s impact on the game over the span of two decades is what has earned him the title as one of the five greatest basketball players in NBA history.
Honorable Mention – Tim Duncan
Though his career is not over, Tim Duncan earns mention for what he has been able to accomplish in his career with the San Antonio Spurs. In his quiet twelve year career, Duncan has already claimed four NBA championships to go with his two NBA MVP awards. In his career he has racked up 19,246 points with 10,547 rebounds, and 2,118 blocks.
Will Duncan end up being one of the five greatest basketball players in NBA history? Only time will tell, but if his career continues on the same path it has been, there is a good chance he will be mentioned in the same breath as some of the greats.