Founded in June 1946, the NBA has showcased thousands of great basketball players throughout its history. In 1996 to celebrate the league’s 50th anniversary, the NBA revealed its distinguished list of the Top 50 ballers to ever take the basketball court. While it was a difficult task because of the wealth of athletic talent and the reality of these NBA stars playing in different eras, here’s my list of the Top 5 NBA players of all time.
5). Julius Erving (1971-1987). Julius “Dr. J” Erving enticed me as well thousands of others to want to play basketball as a youngster during the ’70s and ’80s. He brought unparalleled electricity into the arena every time he touched the ball. Primarily known for his high-flying dunks, Erving was actually a great all-around basketball player. During his professional career, he averaged 24.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, and two steals a game.
While playing with the ABA’s Virginia Squires and New York Nets as well as the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, Julius Erving won three championships, four MVP awards, and three scoring titles. He was a true ambassador of the sport and definitely made the NBA more exciting and engaging for fans.
4). Larry Bird (1979-1992). Larry Bird just knew how to play the game of basketball. What he lacked in athleticism, he definitely made up for it with his pure determination and high basketball I.Q. Sometimes while watching Larry Bird play, I would say “he’s not that good.” Moments later, he would drain a big 3-pointer, steal a key pass, or pull down a needed rebound and then I would say “Damn, he’s that good.”
Bird probably doesn’t get the major accolades of other NBA greats, because he lacked flash to his overall game. However, he was perhaps the best clutch shooter ever and along with Earvin “Magic” Johnson staged one of the best rivalries in sports history. His career achievements, all with the Boston Celtics, included being a three-time
NBA champion, a three-time NBA MVP, a 12-time NBA All-Star, and a two-time NBA Finals MVP.
3). Earvin “Magic” Johnson (1979-1996). I simply wish more NBA players nowadays appreciated and played the game of basketball like Earvin “Magic” Johnson did during his heyday. He seemingly had an innate sixth sense of when he had to get his teammates more involved or when he had to take control of the game himself. At 6-foot-9, 255 pounds, Magic Johnson was a physically-imposing point guard who could virtually play every spot on the basketball floor.
During the 1980 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, Johnson, a rookie, started at center in Game 6 for the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and racked up 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and three steals in the decisive win. His performance is still recognized as one of the greatest ever in professional sports. For his NBA career, Magic Johnson averaged 19.5 points, 11.2 assists, and 7.2 rebounds a game. He won five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and was named league MVP three times.
2). Wilt Chamberlain (1959-1974). Before NBA centers like Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and Shaquille O’Neal dominated the low-post area, there was the 7-foot-1, 275 pound Wilt Chamberlain. Chamberlain was a superior athlete during his era who actually played professional volleyball after his pro basketball career ended in 1974. Because of his physical frame and athletic skills, some say watching Chamberlain play basketball was like watching a man play against boys. Many of the records he set during his NBA career will most likely never be broken.
We know about the 100 points in a single game, but he also is the only NBA player to average 40 or 50 points a game during a season. While certainly considered one of the greatest NBA players ever, Chamberlain’s also regarded as one of the most dominant players in the history of professional sports. During his career with the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, and San Diego Conquistadors, Wilt Chamberlain won two NBA titles and four NBA MVP awards.
1). Michael Jordan (1984-2003). As much as I would like to create a stir, Michael “Air” Jordan lands in my No. 1 spot of my list of the Top 5 NBA players of all time. What makes Michael Jordan the greatest ever is actually his endless determination during his basketball career to become the greatest. Every offseason, Michael Jordan seemed to add a different element to improve his overall game. In the beginning of his career, he was primarily a high-soaring dunker and average shooter, but by the twilight of his career he was one of the best long-range shooters as well as passers in the league.
Michael Jordan strived for perfection and came as close to it on the basketball court than any other player. Of course, he’s lauded as one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, but he’s also one of the toughest defenders the game’s ever seen. His career highlights include: six NBA championships, five NBA MVP trophies, 14 All-Star appearances, and one NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. Because of his superior basketball skills on the court and personal charisma off it, it’s just hard to imagine any current or future NBA player dethroning him from the top spot for a long time. Sorry Kobe Bryant and LeBron James fans.
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Erving, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Bird, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_Johnson, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilt_Chamberlain, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Jordan