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Who Is The NBA's Greatest Of All-Time?

Image licensed from USA Today Sports

Goat: A hardy domesticated ruminant animal that has backward curving horns and (in the male) a beard. It is kept for its milk and meat and is noted for its lively and frisky behavior. Also: A lecherous man. Plus, it can also be used in place of scapegoat.

But, despite the negative connotations, when discussing the Greatest of All-Time, GOAT has a very positive meaning. Recently, the debate about the NBA's GOAT has heated up. Everyone has an opinion. Old school guys talk about Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.  If you grew up later, it was all about Jordan, and then Kobe. And now? Well, it's Lebron James, of course. Who's right? Let's dig into some of the numbers and count down from number five to number one.

Boards-A-Plenty For Bill Russell

Number five on the list is Bill Russell. He played from 1956 to 1969 for the Boston Celtics, and all he did was win. As in 11 NBA Titles and five MVP trophies. No other player has that many championships. He was probably the best rebounder of all-time (sorry, Worm) and grabbed at least 20 rebounds per game in 12 of his 13 NBA Finals. Russell averaged 24.9 boards PER GAME and 16.2 points in 165 career playoff games. During the regular season, he averaged 22.5 boards along with and 15.1 points. He was very consistent and he was also extremely durable, playing in 78 games or more in each of his final nine seasons. You can certainly make a case for Russell as GOAT, but here, he's number five.

King James Is The Only Active Player On the List

Checking at number four is King James. Many have him in the number two slot, but on this list, he is at number four. Unlike the others on this list, he's is still playing and could eventually move up. James has had a great career and has led his teams to the NBA Finals in eight straight seasons. The bad news is, he's come up empty five times, including three of the last four with the Cavs. He is a four-time NBA MVP and a three-time NBA Finals MVP, plus he was on the all-defensive team six times. His 2015 NBA Finals performance will go down as one of the best of all time as he scored or assisted on 57.7 points per game, the most by any player in NBA Finals history. Lebron has averaged 28.9 points, 7.1 assists, and 8.9 rebounds per game in 239 career playoff games, but his dismal record in the finals plants him firmly at the number four.

Astronomical Numbers By Wilt The Stilt Puts Him At Number Three

At number three is Wilt (The Stilt) Chamberlain, who played 14 years for the Philadelphia Warriors, the San Francisco Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers. He was also very durable as he played at least 73 games in 12 of his last 13 seasons. He averaged 45.8 minutes per game,  most in NBA history. Damn, give that guy a few minutes off. Wilt averaged 30.1 ppg in his career, including 50.4 ppg in just his 3rd NBA season, but he was not all about points as he also hauled in 22.9 boards per game. Chamberlain hit 54.0% of his shots from the field overall, which is incredible for a guy that played 1045 games in his career. He had 118 50+ point games and 32 60+ point games and he had a streak of 186 games in which he had at least 15 boards. Despite the astronomical numbers he had, he still won just two titles, but still, he is one of the best of all-time.

Jabbar Just Missed Out On The Top Spot

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (A.K.A Cap), played his first six seasons for the Milwaukee Bucks, before moving onto the Los Angeles Lakers for the final 14 years of his career. Jabbar was a six-time league MVP, a two-time Finals MVP and he participated in 19 All-Star games. Would you like more? He also was on the all-defensive team 10 times and won six NBA Titles. Jabbar played in at least 76 games in 18 of his 20 seasons in the league, averaging 24.6 ppg on 55.9% shooting, while also grabbing 11.2 boards per game and blocking 2.6 shots per game over the stretch of his career. He has had a great career but has also had some help as he played alongside Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson and never won a title without those two on his team. Still, he has had one of the best careers in the history of the league and is second only to… Drum Roll Please….

Air Jordan Tops The List

Michael Jordan. Was there really any doubt. Jordan won the league MVP five times, led the league in scoring 10 times, he won the NBA Finals MVP six times and was on the all-defensive team nine times. Jordan was also an all-star 11 times and he won six NBA Titles with the Bulls. In his six NBA Titles run, the Bulls were a perfect 24-0 against teams seeded lower or the same, so they were never upset in a series. Jordan averaged 30.1 ppg in his career and is just one of two players (the other is Lebron James) to average 30+ points in four or more seasons in their career. He also averaged 33.4 ppg on 48.7% shooting in 179 career playoff games. Jordan is the best of all time and his numbers back it, plus he was also the most exciting player in the history of the league.  

There is the top five NBA players of all time. Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan and Shaq all had great career, but they just weren’t enough to crack the top 5 list. Maybe in time we could see others like Kevin Durant, Seth Curry or James Harden move into this list. It’s unlikely, but they could at least be in the top 15 or the top 10.  

David Hess

I have always had a fascination with numbers and sports, so I combined the two to become a handicapper and a blogger. I love sports and I love writing about them and all the info I put in my blogs is well-thought-out and well-researched. I am a big fan of all the major sports and the colleges, plus I know golf pretty well, tennis and the WNBA. I am very versatile. Hope you enjoy my content.

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