Top 10 lists in sports shift all the time, but there are some whose legend is so ironclad they may never be ousted. Take a look at the current top 10 NBA players by statistics, whether they’re familiar icons or fast-rising up-and-comers hungry to make their mark.
It seems almost a given that when naming legends of the NBA, Michael Jordan will come out at the top of the list.
He defined the game of basketball and what it meant to be a champion who turned natural raw talent into a fine-honed skill that dominated the game every time he was on the court. Yet with stunning new players coming up in current rankings all the time, you might assume someone would have knocked Jordan off his throne.
Not so. No one yet has come to match the cumulative career performance of Michael Jordan, and it may be some time before anyone does. Let’s take a look at the top 10 NBA players of all time by scores and rankings, starting with the great Jordan himself.
The Top 10 NBA Players
There is no question why Michael Jordan ranks as top in this list.
Chicago Bulls #23 leads across nearly every category, averaging 41.8 minutes of play time per game and 33.8 points scored per game for a whopping 179-game career, supplemented by amazing stats in everything from rebounds to assists. One of his top highlights was scoring an amazing 63 points versus Boston in 1986. Jordan has always been such a consistent player that his defection to professional baseball left the NBA with a hole it could never fill.
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Even with only nine games under his belt, Anthony Davis’s scoring averages as the power forward and center for the New Orleans Pelicans have earned him a reputation as a hard-hitting player who doesn’t back down from a challenge. Maybe it’s something about the number 23, but Davis has gained a position on two All-NBA First Teams and is a five-time NBA All-Star.
No wonder, when after his rookie season Davis led the NBA in blocked shots per game. He then progressed to become the youngest player to score 59 or more points in an NBA game. The 25-year-old native of Chicago received the 2017 NBA All-Star Game MVP Award.
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During Iverson’s 14 seasons in the NBA, he built up an impressive track record and reputation as shooting guard and point guard. He had played for the Philadelphia 76ers, the Denver Nuggets, the Detroit Pistons, the Memphis Grizzlies, and Turkish Super League team Besiktas before retiring in 2013.
He began strongly with an impressive college career, and despite derailments due to personal issues continued to 11 straight selections on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. His career has included multiple MVP votes. He’s also cited as a strong leader who supported the 76ers in improving their seasons overall.
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While Jerry West may be more familiar to some young bloods as a coach and executive, back in the day, he lit up the basketball court for the Los Angeles Lakers.
West was so prolific that even though his career as a player ended in 1974. Accordingly, he still holds the number four position on this list for his amazing scores and ability to thrive in a clutch situation. This earned him the name Mr. Clutch for feats such as a 60-foot shot that beat the buzzer and tied a major game.
His other nicknames, such as Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside, referenced his versatility and ability to score no matter his position. This is also along with the strong leadership he provided to his team. West is one of the greats who shaped the foundation of basketball as we know it today.
Though he currently plays for the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant previously made a name for himself with the Seattle SuperSonics and the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was during this time after the SuperSonics migrated and became the Thunder that the D.C. native would break out with record-breaking Rookie Challenge performances and a dramatic rise in scoring averages.
For two years running, he led the NBA in scoring. He also won an NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award for scoring his first 50-point game against the Denver Nuggets in the 2011-2012 lockout. His scoring average rose even higher during his 2013-2014 MVP season. His career briefly paused due to injury, only to resume in 2016 with the Warriors. There he continues to set record-breaking numbers across key scoring areas.
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Few names in modern basketball are more familiar than LeBron James.
The Cavs powerhouse is a championship player who needs no introduction. He has an MVP record as long as he is tall. And a stellar performance as both an offensive and defensive player. His ability to improve a previously weak defensive game over time to become a star in both roles only proves the dedication that has won him a place on this list. It even earned him a place on the U.S. National Team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
He also played at the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan and was selected for the 2008 and 2012 Olympics teams.
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Donovan came straight out of college basketball into a 2017 draft pick for the Denver Nuggets. This New York native was then immediately traded to the Utah Jazz to begin his career as a rookie.
In 2017 he immediately went on to rank as the number one scoring player in the 2017 NBA Summer League. This is when he scored 37 points against the Memphis Grizzlies. Not only has he broken the Utah Jazz’s rookie scoring record, but he also beat the NBA’s record since 2011 for the number of points by a rookie. He had ousted Blake Griffith with a 40-point game.
As a fast-rising star, Mitchell has won Rookie of the Year awards. He also earned a place as an injury replacement for Aaron Gordon on the 2018 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, resulting in a win. One of his most notable accomplishments? Breaking a Michael Jordan record. Previously Jordan held the record for 53 points by a shooting guard in the first two postseason games. Only to be shattered by Mitchell in 2018 with 55 points.
When you think of the Lakers, you think of Elgin Baylor. Baylor began playing college ball back in 1958 for Seattle University before being drafted to the Lakers. He spent 14 seasons driving the Lakers to victory as a small forward.
He represented the end of an era in basketball before forwards began to shift to men of larger stature. However, his height never stopped him from being an excellent guard who racked up over 23,000 points throughout his career. He then set a 1962 record that holds to this day for scoring 61 points in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
He’s been an 11-time NBA All-Star and a 10-time NBA First Team Selection. Even more, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Yet even that isn’t enough to describe his legacy when Baylor is one of the names always remembered as the greats.
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You may know George Gervin better as The Iceman, and a staple of ABA and NBA history. Starting in 1972 with the Virginia Squares, he went on to put over a decade’s worth of seasons under his belt. He played for the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs before playing in European leagues.
Gervin was known for his trademark “finger-roll” shots. Furthermore, he was able to pull off shots from a distance that would have daunted others. The Spurs retired his #44 jersey in his honor, and he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996. He’s also been awarded numerous honors and “best of” list placements by prestigious publications.
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Billy Ray Bates
With a name like Billy Ray, Bates had a lot to defend. He came out swinging in the 1978 draft for the Houston Rockets. However, he was cut and played instead for the Maine Lumberjacks with the former Continental Basketball Association.
Bates didn’t get a chance to prove himself with the NBA until 1980. That’s when he signed with the Portland Trail Blazers. Bates gained a reputation for impressive showmanship with flying leaps and dramatic dunks. He then quickly became a crowd favorite and earned Rookie of the Week scores.
His real chance to shine, though, was after being cut, going through rehab, and joining the PBA. Bates brought major change to the PBA as a high scorer playing a strong offensive game. It threw off league legends to create fierce competition and crowd-pleasing theatrics. His scores from the field and point averages were off the charts. They elevated him to the ranks of one of the most impressive, awe-inspiring players in basketball history.
A Few Final Thoughts
Finally, with so many newcomers rising in the ranks, it can be a challenge to see who will remain in the top 10 as time progresses.
While some heavy hitters have cemented their place in history, others are still vying to carve a mark for themselves while standing among legends. The 2018 season has already seen multiple upsets and surprising break-outs for younger, hungrier competition. So sit back and watch those scoring averages to see who comes out on top next.
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