The Best Basketball Players in History

The best basketball players in history are characterized by their wonderful plays, their effectiveness in free throws, the number of titles won and all those other characteristics that make them unique.
The Best Basketball Players in History

Last update: 17 March, 2020

Even if you’re not a fan of basketball, the names of the best basketball players in history will resonate in your head as you read them. Find out which are the first positions in the Hall of Fame of this sport in the following article.

The six best basketball players of all time

Mostly American, the best basketball players in the world have broken records, won championships and scored hundreds of points. Find out who they are below:

1. Michael Jordan

Born in New York in 1963, many consider him to be the greatest basketball player of all time. During his professional years (between 1984 and 2003), he won six championships with the Chicago Bulls, where he spent 13 seasons, with an average of 30 points per game.

Before retiring, he played for the Washington Wizards, and also participated in two Olympic Games (Los Angeles 1984 and Barcelona 1992); he won the gold medal both times. He also won the three-peat (three consecutive championships) twice.

2. LeBron James

The second member of this list of great basketball players is the only one who is still active. He was born in Ohio in 1984 and plays in the eaves position, but he also serves as a point guard and power forward.

The King James began his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003, went through the Miami Heat, returned to the Cavaliers, and he’s been on the Los Angeles Lakers team since 2018.

Regarding his achievements, he’s received the NBA All-Star Game distinction for 10 consecutive years and was the first NBA player to achieve more than 30 points in six games in a row; 2000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in seven seasons. At the Olympic Games, he won two gold medals (Beijing 2008 and London 2012) and one bronze (Athens 2004).

LeBron James is one of the best basketball players in history

3. Shaquille O’Neal

This former center born in New Jersey in 1972 has achieved four NBA championships (three with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with the Miami Heat) and two runner-ups (with the Orlando Magic and the Lakers). Furthermore, he has an Olympic gold medal (Atlanta 1996) and is the eighth-highest scorer in the NBA with 28.596 points.

Shaquille (pictured in the cover image) began his career in 1992. He also played for the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Boston Celtics. He retired in 2011, having been called up for the All-Star Game 14 consecutive times.

4. Kobe Bryant: a legend among the best basketball players

Among the outstanding records of one of the best basketball players in history, the fact that he’s played 20 seasons on the same team (the Los Angeles Lakers) doesn’t go unnoticed. He was part of the squad as a shooting guard between 1996 and 2016 and won five championships.

This former player born in Philadelphia in 1978 is the third-highest scorer in NBA history. He’s also been chosen the most times to form the quintet of the season, in 11 opportunities. As if this wasn’t enough, Bryant was also summoned 18 times in the All-Star Game.

Kobe Bryant wearing the Lakers jersey

5. Magic Johnson

His name is Earvin, but everyone knows him as ‘Magic’. He’s another one of the best basketball players in history. After his time with the Michigan Varsity team, he was always on the Los Angeles Lakers squad between 1979 and 1991 and during 1996. He had to leave the sport after contracting HIV.

Magic Johnson bears that name for his great ability to pass the ball and therefore, get assists. Throughout his entire career, this player achieved an average of 19.5 points per game and great effectiveness in free throws (almost 85 percent).

Magic Johnson is one of the best basketball players in history

6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: one of the basketball players with the best shots

The last on the list of the best basketball players in history (at least in this article) was also one of the great figures of the Los Angeles Lakers. He began his career with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969.

He retired 20 years later when he was 42 years old. For all basketball fans, Abdul-Jabbar will always be remembered for his unique hook-shot, known as the skyhook. This player took advantage of his height and the length of his arms to launch practically from above the basket.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar about to perform his famous skyhook

Some other records of this New Yorker are: top scorer, defensive rebounder and player with the most minutes in NBA history. He was an All-Star 19 times, and six MVPs.

To finish up the top ten best basketball players in history, we can add Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Bill Russel, and Wilt Chamberlain. Which is your favorite player out of all the ones we listed?

Cover image courtesy of

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.