Here are the factors, in varying degrees, taken into account in making this ranking – statistics, impact on the game, awards and honors, longevity, playoff performance and my own gut instincts. Feel free to disagree and make cases for others in the comments.
10. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs (2002-Present)
633 G; 15.3 PPG; 3.9 APG; 4.0 RPG; 1.5 3PTM; 44.9 FG%; 83.4 FT%; 1.5 SPG
I decided to put Manu here at No. 1o despite the fact that there were other options who scored more points, the main function of the position. However, all things relative, the lack of outstanding scoring was Manu’s only “deficiency.” The three NBA titles that he was a big part of dilutes the average point production, and while Manu’s placement here is debatable, he’s at least in the argument.
Ginobili played a career-high 80 games this past season and put up enough numbers to earn a place on the All-NBA third team, the second time he’s made an All-NBA team. He’s also been honored with the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award, made the All-Star team twice and, of course, won those titles. Manu owns an impressive 21.7 PER and 115 ORtg, which stacks up fairly well against the players below.
The Argentinian Assassin has proven his place in the arena of basketball, both in the NBA and in international competition. Ginobili is fearless attacking the basket and usually finds himself in awkward positions while in the air. He has the ability to take over a game, both as a facilitator of the offense and as a defender jumping the passing lane. Manu’s career numbers may not be terribly impressive, but his career has been. There is still a few seasons left in him where if he stayed healthy, could jump him a place or two on this list.
9. Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons (1985-1999)
1018 G; 16.1 PPG; 4.5 APG, 2.2 RPG; 1.0 3PTM; 46.0 FG%; 84.3 FT%; 0.9 SPG
Dumars will not wow you with his statistics in the same vein as Ginobili, but if you watched him play, he’s deserving of being in the top 10 . He was the first player to be considered a Michael Jordan “stopper,” which is the stuff of legend. And by that I mean it’s a bit exaggerated as no one could actually stop MJ, but (pardon the cliche) only hope to contain him. This is not to disparage Joe Cool because he earned the hardware and respect as a player to be made a Hall of Famer.
Dumars played in six All-Star games, was named to three All-NBA teams, five All-Defensive teams (four first team selections) and chosen as the NBA Finals MVP in 1989. He’s one of those players that did anything it took to win a game. However, his average PER (15.3) probably doesn’t really show how important Dumars was to the Pistons. Dumars finished his career with a 113 ORtg.
Dumars was boring in comparison to the rest of the Bad Boys, such as the fiery Isiah Thomas, enigmatic Dennis Rodman, wise-cracking John Salley and the eternally grimacing Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn. Dumars just went about his job, which holds a special place to the blue-collar community of Detroit. Humble and hard-working describe Dumars best.
8. Mitch Richmond, Golden State Warriors (1988-1991), Sacramento Kings (1991-98), Washington Wizards (1998-2001), Los Angeles Lakers (2001-02)
976 G; 21.0 PPG; 3.5 APG; 3.9 RPG; 1.4 3PTM; 45.5 FG%; 85.0 FT%, 1.2 SPG
Richmond was a scoring machine straight from the get-go. He, along with Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin, was a part of the short-lived three-headed beast known as Run TMC. After moving up and more inland to join the Sacramento Kings, Richmond continued to snap nets on the regular while becoming a perennial threat to score from anywhere on the court.
He never led the league in scoring, but averaged 20+ points a season for 10 straight seasons, starting with his rookie year when he averaged 22.0 PPG and won Rookie of the Year. Richmond played in six straight All-Star games (1993-98), and won the MVP award at the 1995 contest. He was named to five All-NBA teams and posted a solid 17.6 PER and 110 ORtg for his career.
Richmond was a feared scorer, who could have easily been a superstar had he played in a bigger basketball market. When he was traded from the Warriors to the Kings for Billy Owens, I remember being angry that Run TMC was broken up. I was a Knicks fan at the time, but that team was so entertaining and it was fun to look at the boxscore every morning to see how they did. Richmond did his thing!
7. Tracy McGrady, Toronto Raptors (1997-2000), Orlando Magic (2000-04), Houston Rockets (2004-2009), New York Knicks (2010), Detroit Pistons (2010-Present)
886 G; 20.4 PPG, 4.6 APG; 5.8 RPG; 1.2 3PTM; 43.5 FG%; 74.7 FT%; 1.3 SPG
McGrady could have become one of the best ever if injury didn’t get in his way. Despite that, T-Mac, who also played small forward, devastated squads across the Association. He was a versatile and explosive threat that could score, pass and rebound. For a couple of seasons with the Orlando Magic, T-Mac seemed to be the only member of the team, which is a testament to his fortitude to do all he can to lift his squad.
T-Mac led the league in scoring in his last two seasons (2002-03 and 2003-04) with the Magic. His four seasons in Orlando saw him average an incredible 28.1 PPG. He played in seven straight All-Star games, was voted to seven All-NBA teams (two first team selections) and named the 2000-01 NBA Most Improved Player. His career 22.4 PER is the 25th best of all-time, despite finishing with a relatively lackluster 108 ORtg.
McGrady never played a full season in his career, but played 70+ games in seven of 13 full seasons and 49 games in the strike-shortened 1998-99 season. Nagging injuries hampered T-Mac for a good chunk of time, but isn’t enough to hamper his place on the list. Still, he could have been so much better
6. Ray Allen, Milwaukee Bucks (1996-2003), Seattle SuperSonics (2003-07), Boston Celtics (2007-Present)
1102 G; 20.2 PPG; 3.6 APG; 4.3 RPG; 2.4 3PTM; 45.2 FG%; 89.3 FT%; 1.2 SPG
Allen is the greatest three-point shooter of all-time and flat-out one of the best shooters ever. He possesses what is arguably the most beautiful quick release and stroke in the history of the game. Allen appeared in one of the essential hoops movies, “He Got Game,” playing Jesus Shuttlesworth, which is apropos as his and Kevin Garnett’s arrival helped save the Boston Celtics and brought them back to being champions.
He averaged 20+ points per contest in eight consecutive seasons before joining the Celtics. In 11 of the last 12 seasons, Allen has averaged at least 2.1 makes from beyond the arc and never averaged less than 1.4 in a season. He is the NBA’s career leader in triples drained (2,612) and also has the single season record of 269. Allen led the league in three-point makes in three seasons, played in nine All-Star games and was named to two All-NBA teams. He owns a 19.2 PER and 114 ORtg, both excellent numbers.
Allen simply makes it rain from the perimeter and has enjoyed a fairly durable career, seeming to also age like fine wine. At 35 years old, he shows no sign of slowing down as a shooter and is the ubiquitous cagey veteran. It wouldn’t surprise me if he played at a fairly high level for the next few seasons.
5. Reggie Miller, Indiana Pacers (1987-2005)
1389 G; 18.2 PPG; 3.0 APG; 3.0 RPG; 1.8 3PTM; 47.1 FG%; 88.8 FT%; 1.1 SPG
If you were ever a Knicks fan during the 1990s, you indubitably hated, even loathed, Reggie Miller. Eight points, nine seconds … enough said. Miller obviously came up big in high pressure situations. He was one of the first, and probably the best, at shooting the trey and kicking his feet out in hopes of drawing a foul. Miller is one of the best shooters the game has ever seen and loved being a villain.
Before Ray Allen came along, Miller was the career three-point field goals made leader (2560), and also led the league in makes in two seasons. As prolific as he was from beyond the three-point line, he was as proficient from the charity stripe, leading the league in free-throw percentage in five seasons. He’s the ninth best shooter from the free-throw line with his 88.8 percent. Miller played in five All-Star games, made an All-NBA three times and finished with a 19.5 PER and excellent 119 ORtg.
Miller was one of those players that you hated, but secretly wished he played on your team. If you weren’t an Indiana Pacers fan, it was easy to both hate and respect him. Miller talked a ton of trash and got into the mind of opponents. Just ask John Starks. He was competitive and hid behind boyish looks and reminded me of the the schoolyard instigator. Miller played all 18 seasons of his career with one team, which is a rarity nowadays.
4. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat (2003-Present)
547 G; 25.4 PPG; 6.3 APG; 5.1 RPG; 0.6 3PTM; 48.5 FG%; 76.9 FT%; 1.8 SPG
Wade’s time in the league has been relatively short compared to those in the top five, but his impact on the floor can be felt like a haymaker to the face. In fact, it wouldn’t be crazy to rank him third. Wade makes his living by attacking the basket like the rim owed him money. However, he is more than just a slasher and penetrator looking to score, because he has great skill in setting his teammates up. The numbers speak for themselves, but they don’t show you the blood and guts of the player on the floor.
He led the league in scoring one season (2008-09 at 30.2 PPG) and after his rookie season that saw him average 16.2 PPG, Wade has never averaged less than 24.1 PPG in seven seasons. He’s made seven straight All-Star games, starting in 2005, and won the game’s MVP in 2010. He was named to six All-NBA teams and three All-Defensive teams. He owns one NBA championship (2006) in which he was also named the NBA Finals MVP. His 25.7 PER is sixth-best of all-time and he currently has a 111 ORtg.
Have no doubt that Wade wants the pill at the end of the game and is better suited than teammate LeBron James to make things happen in the clutch. Overlook Game 6’s turnovers this season because Wade has taken his team on his back and drove them to a title. And for all the praise heaped on LeBron, if the duo stays together, Wade will always be a plus-one when it comes to titles.
3. Clyde Drexler, Portland Trail Blazers (1983-1995), Houston Rockets (1995-98)
1086 G; 20.4 PPG; 5.6 APG; 6.1 RPG; 0.8 3PTM; 47.2 FG%; 78.8 FT%; 2.0 SPG
For a time, Drexler was considered to be the Western Conference version of Michael Jordan. He was a prolific scorer, but also dropped dimes, grabbed boards and ripped rocks in bunches. Drexler led the Portland Trail Blazers to two NBA Finals, eventually winning a title with Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in 1995.
Drexler averaged 20+ points in seven seasons, but never averaged less than 18.4 PPG after starting fairly regularly during the 1985-86 season. He played in 10 All-Star games and was voted to five All-NBA teams. As proof of his versatility, Drexler is 25th overall in NBA career points (22,195), 27th in career assists (6,125), 36th in career offensive rebounds (2,615) and seventh in steals (2,207). He finished with a 21.1 PER and 114 ORtg.
Drexler was a hidden talent in Portland until they started making playoff appearances on the regular. I remember hearing from people that he had as good hops as Michael Jordan and I didn’t believe it. I knew about Phi Slamma Jamma, a nickname for the a group of players that played for the University of Houston when Drexler was there, but I was dubious to the claim. Until I read that he dunked on a 11-foot-7 rim at an event. The comparison to Jordan because they played during the same time will probably always be there, but while he didn’t achieve the things that Jordan did, Drexler has nothing to be ashamed of.
2. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (1996-Present)
1103 G; 25.3 PPG; 4.7 APG; 5.3 RPG; 1.3 3PTM; 45.4 FG%; 83.7 FT%; 1.5 SPG
Bryant is one of the most polarizing players the game has ever seen. You either love him or hate him, but there’s no denying his greatness. He’s as competitive as they come and has come off cocky to the extreme. Bryant’s game to some degree mimics Michael Jordan’s and Kobe has been almost as successful as His Airness, winning five titles compared to Jordan’s six.
Kobe has not averaged less than 22.5 PPG a season starting in the 1999-00 season, making it a dozen straight years of putting the ball in the basket a whole lot. He’s finished in the top 10 in scoring average in 10 of the last 11 seasons. He’s currently sixth all-time in points scored (27,868), and with Shaquille O’Neal retiring, is the active career points leader. Bryant has made 13 All-Star games, including 12 straight, won the All-Star game MVP four times (2002, 2007, 2009, 2011). He’s been named to 13 All-NBA teams, including nine first team selections. Kobe also made the 11 All-Defensive teams, including nine first-teams. He was the NBA Finals MVP twice and the regular season MVP once.
Bryant is the closest thing to Jordan and will probably be the closest thing ever. His fire, competitiveness and desire to kill opponents is comparable to Jordan, but Bryant will never be what Jordan is/was — The GOAT — since he needed Shaquille O’Neal to win his first three championships. And if you don’t think Bryant wants four more titles to equal Jordan’s six chips as the main man, you’re crazy.
1. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (1984-1993; 1994-98), Washington Wizards (2001-03)
1072 G; 30.1 PPG; 5.3 APG; 6.2 RPG; 0.5 3PTM; 49.7 FG%; 83.5 FT%; 2.3 SPG
Air. This is where Jordan resides as a player relative to every other person that has stepped foot on the NBA hardwood. He is the GOAT, a killer on the court and the player every high-flying shooting guard gets compared to, before eventually crashing to Earth, unable to hold Jordan’s jockstrap. Simply the best ever.
Jordan led the league in scoring 10 times, in strings of seven and three straight seasons. He is the career leader in points per game average and is third overall in total points (32,292). For all his offensive acumen, he was just as good on defense, leading the league in steals three times. He’s the second-best ball thief of all time (2,514). Jordan played in 14 All-Star games, winning the game MVP three times (1988, 1996, 1998). He won the NBA Rookie of the Year, as well as the Defensive Player of the Year. Jordan was the regular season MVP five times, but where His Airness really stands out is winning the NBA Finals MVP six times!