The Top 5 NBA Players of All Time

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The 2000s were one of the greatest decades in the 64-year history of the NBA, and many current players are undoubtedly going to be shoo-ins, when the time comes, for the Basketball Hall of Fame. But when the NBA celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1996, it was still possible to rattle off an easily digestible list of the game’s greats. Setting aside pros who played primarily after 2000, let’s look at the top 5 NBA players of all time.

5. Larry Bird: Larry Bird, widely regarded as the quintessential player’s player, was one of the few true superstars in his generation. Over the course of his 13 years on the Boston Celtics, he was the personification of all-out effort and selflessness. He lead the way to three championships during the 1980s, and he was selected for the All NBA team on 10 different occasions.

4. Wilt Chamberlain: Chamberlain played as center for three different teams—the San Francisco Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Los Angeles Lakers—through the 60s and early 70s. Although he is not the first NBA superstar, he set new standards for performance in the game, breaking records that still hold to this day. He’s still the only player to score 100 points in a single NBA game, and he’s the only player to average more than 50 points in a season. The four-time MVP lead his team to two NBA titles in 1967 and 1972.

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Upon retiring in 1989, Abdul-Jabbar had scored more points than any other player in the history of the game, and he won MVP a record six different years. On top of this, he led the Milwaukee Bucks to a national championship in 1971, and later won with the L.A. Lakers in five different years. Over his long and storied career, he was on the All-Star team 19 times, including in his final year, at age 42.

2. Magic Johnson: Magic Johnson could have been considered the greatest of all time, but he retired at the tender age of 32 due to his contracting HIV. Even with such a truncated career, he was still able to rack up some big accomplishments, including five championships with the Lakers, three MVP awards, and 12 All-Star appearances. His skillful and team-oriented style revolutionized the sport for all future players.

1. Michael Jordan: In terms of raw talent, Michael Jordan is undoubtedly the greatest of all time. By all accounts, Jordan was an intensely driven hard worker, and this came across in the fundamental soundness of his game, which combined with a grace, speed, and artistry that is rarely seen even among great players. With the Chicago bulls, he accomplished three straight championships on two occasions, and be was the NBA MVP six different times.

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