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ESPN ranks the greatest NBA players of all time. Do you agree?

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

To celebrate the NBA’s 74-year history, ESPN has decided to set the world on fire by ranking the best 74 players in league history, combining both current and past players.

And as expected, basketball fans are tearing the list apart from top to bottom, pick by pick.

According to ESPN, the expert panel “voted on thousands of head-to-head matchups, taking into consideration both total career value and peak performance.” Several current players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis were included specifically for current value and production, along with specific long-term potential caveats.

So what did they come up with? Here’s the entire list, 1-74:

  1. Michael Jordan
  2. LeBron James
  3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  4. Bill Russell
  5. Magic Johnson
  6. Wilt Chamberlain
  7. Larry Bird
  8. Tim Duncan
  9. Kobe Bryant
  10. Shaquille O’Neal
  11. Oscar Robertson
  12. Hakeem Olajuwon
  13. Stephen Curry
  14. Kevin Durant
  15. Julius Erving
  16. Jerry West
  17. Karl Malone
  18. Moses Malone
  19. Dirk Nowitzki
  20. Kevin Garnett
  21. Scottie Pippen
  22. Elgin Baylor
  23. Charles Barkley
  24. David Robinson
  25. Kawhi Leonard
  26. Dwyane Wade
  27. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  28. John Stockton
  29. Allen Iverson
  30. Steve Nash
  31. Isiah Thomas
  32. James Harden
  33. John Havlicek
  34. George Mikan
  35. Jason Kidd
  36. Kevin McHale
  37. Patrick Ewing
  38. Bob Pettit
  39. Walt Frazier
  40. Chris Paul
  41. Bob Cousy
  42. Russell Westbrook
  43. Rick Barry
  44. Elvin Hayes
  45. Anthony Davis
  46. Dominique Wilkins
  47. George Gervin
  48. Bill Walton
  49. Reggie Miller
  50. Wes Unseld
  51. James Worthy
  52. Tracy McGrady
  53. Gary Payton
  54. Paul Pierce
  55. Vince Carter
  56. Ray Allen
  57. Clyde Drexler
  58. Manu Ginobili
  59. Bob McAdoo
  60. Willis Reed
  61. Robert Parish
  62. Dennis Rodman
  63. Alonzo Mourning
  64. Earl Monroe
  65. Pau Gasol
  66. Dave Cowens
  67. Alex English
  68. Pete Maravich
  69. Bernard King
  70. Tony Parker
  71. Bob Lanier
  72. Damian Lillard
  73. Dikembe Mutombo
  74. Artis Gilmore

Now is where the fans come in. After reading the list, let us know in the comment section what you think of the list, specific rankings you agree/disagree with, and your age.

If you saw, say, Bob Cousy or Bob Pettit play and believe they’re criminally underrated, why? If you’re younger and feel, say, Jason Kidd or Russell Westbrook should be higher on the list, give your reasoning.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

50 Comments for ESPN ranks the greatest NBA players of all time. Do you agree?



  1. UKiyaoyas
    4:32 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    To have Kobe that far under Lebron is criminal.



    • 4everUKBlue
      4:34 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      To have LeBron at 2 is criminal.



    • sa_hunt
      4:34 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      I agree with you. I’d have my top 3 as Jordan, Bryant and Lebron.



    • espn8122
      5:02 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      Did Governor Beshear give us freedom to comment on this thread? We have to follow all directives from our lord.



    • KyZoneBlitz
      7:52 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      Lol, that’s the way it feels….



  2. jakew60
    4:38 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    Kobe should definitely be higher as should bird, clutch and bird lit it up every night



    • robman181
      5:38 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      I love Bird but If you started a team today you’d take him over Shaq, Duncan or Hakeem?



    • UKNUTZ
      8:09 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      My thoughts exactly on Kobe and Bird, in that order. And yeah, in today’s game, I’d take Bird over Shaq, Duncan, Hakeem all day long



  3. rockyou
    4:44 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    to have Lebron in the top ten is criminal, and as much as I love Shaq, he doesn’t belong in the top ten, all he did was bully people and run through them. I would switch Jabbar and Wilt and move everyone in top 10 up



  4. kyfan200587
    4:50 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    This was a joke!!!



  5. BBN556
    4:51 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    LeBron is so overrated he should be like 5, 6 or 7



  6. BBN556
    4:52 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    Tmac is easily top 40



    • KyZoneBlitz
      7:54 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      Loved TMac, if not for the injuries, he’s much higher IMO.



  7. UKFanSC
    4:55 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    Eye of the beholder……it’s impossible to compare players of different eras. Hell, PJ Washington would dominate the NBA of 1956.



  8. RAGE
    4:56 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    I disagree with a lot on that list..



    • RAGE
      4:57 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      Honestly I know this won’t be popular but what has Anthony Davis done at this point to be ranked 45… He hasn’t won a MVP or anything other than a Rookie of the Year… I think he very well could be a lot better than that at some point.. But at this point in his career what has he really done to merit that ranking



    • RAGE
      4:58 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      But with that said there is a lot of players on that list I think shouldn’t be there or not near as high as they are.. Plus some that should be higher..



  9. bigtaters6957
    4:59 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    Just like with their Duke/ACC bais, ESPN stays on Lebron’s dick. MJ, Chamberlain, Russel, Bird, Kareem, Shaq, Duncan & Kobe should all be ahead of Lebron. You could argue that Magic should be. Lebron is all media hype and fluff stats. Hes never been the clutch guy on any of his championship teams.



    • CatsfaninFL
      6:31 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      I’ll play Devils Advocate to you and everyone doubting Lebron. He’s not #1. I’m fine with 2-5 based on criteria. But he has won 3 titles and been to 8 finals. In those 8 finals, his team has only been the odds on favorite twice. The Cleveland team after Lebron left the first time had the #1 draft pick, the year AFTER making conference finals. Jordan left for 2 years and the Bulls still made conference finals. He has done a lot with consistently subpar help for a star player minus a few years in Miami.

      He’s spent 17 years in the league with a 27+ ppg average, 7+ rpg average and 7+ apg average. All in a PF? SF? Body. You can not like him or ESPNs coverage, but he’s pretty good.



    • 4everUKBlue
      7:02 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      How many teams did he have to play for to win those titles? LeBron is the first NBA player in two decades to get swept in the finals twice. LeBron is a great athlete no doubt about it but he can’t beat a team with Kawhi Leonard on it and he’s not top five IMO.



    • KyZoneBlitz
      7:56 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      Nor could he, Wad and Bosh beat a Mavericks team with Dirk on it, lol.



    • bigtaters6957
      8:11 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      The bulls did it one year without him and went in the tank the next year. In Miami it took LeBron and 3 other potential hof-er. He deferred to Bosh and Kyrie for last second shots. In Cleveland round 2 he had a top 5 pf, a top 5 pg, and a host of very good vets chasing a ring. In LA he has the 4th-5th best player in the league, and slew of talent. I don’t want to hear the he didn’t have talent excuse, he’s had plenty around him.

      Hes also spent 17 years not getting fouled. Much easier to hold up when people can’t touch you. I’m not saying he’s not good, but I am saying there are plenty better and he doesn’t belong in same convo with MJ.



  10. crazycatfan65
    5:04 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    Jordan, Kareem, Wilt, Bill Russell, Magic, LeBron James, Kobe, Bird, Oscar and Duncan are my top 10. I don’t think Curry or Durant should rank as high as they are.



    • JASUN74
      5:50 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      You’re a lot closer than ESPN. Change Kobe to 6 and LeBron to 8 and you’re right on the money. I’d have to have Shaquille instead of Duncan, but I’d have him at 11. Very close.



    • 4everUKBlue
      7:03 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      Shaq over Duncan??? Nay not I.



  11. UKLugo
    5:05 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    Hell no. LeBron, Duncan, Steph, and KD are all too high. Kobe and Pistol Pete too low.



    • WatchutalkinboutWillis
      5:18 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      Duncan Ian the greatest PF to play the game, won five championships and led a small market franchise to 20 straight winning seasons…you’re crazy if you think he is overrated.



  12. Han
    5:14 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    Lebron and KD are both too high. Need more chips, no matter how talented or dominant they are at their best..



  13. WatchutalkinboutWillis
    5:17 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    David Robinson behind Barkley, Kevin Durant and Scottie Pippen is dumb.



  14. robman181
    5:34 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    Overall a really good list Imo. I’d probably move Kobe to the 5-7 range and drop Bird to the 10-12 range but overall can’t argue much.



  15. IrishCat
    5:37 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    It’s hard to gripe too much. I personally believe Kevin Garnett is vastly under rated, but it’s splitting hairs. Impossible to compare across eras.



  16. ThatsAShame
    5:38 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    As soon as I saw Dave Cowens at 68 I knew this list was a joke



  17. MrRational
    5:42 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    To me (and I never saw him play) Bill Russell is the best all time. 11 titles in 13 years and was the Head Coach and a player for 3 of them.



    • CatsfaninFL
      6:55 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      I dunno if it’s just me, but I hate the championship argument for best players. That is such a team driven achievement and minus maybe the Spurs, most dominant players like that are from teams that consistently field high level teams. BR is easily top 5 to 10 for me but he also only competed against 2 centers his size and there were anywhere from 10-15 NBA teams during his run. You don’t see runs like that in any sport anymore.



    • Aar
      7:42 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      For all his accolades, Russell, like Jordan, looks much better due to his teammates. His teams did everything you state but he wasn’t even definitively the best player at his position in his era. It was probably the best time to be a big in the NBA – due to the presence of Wilt Chamberlain.



  18. Wildfelinebeeline
    5:51 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    AD got robbed. There’s at least a few that he should be above. But he’s from UK so ESPN had to keep our guys from competing with Duke guys.



  19. suppie
    5:56 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    clyde the glide is easily top 50.



  20. bbn606
    6:14 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    Shaquille does not need to be on the list while Dr J definitely does. With 4 MVPs, only Jordan and Kareem have more than Dr J of those listed in the top 10.



  21. BIGblueFootBallGuy
    6:38 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    Kobe at 9 is unreal. I think he is 2 and Bron is maybe 3.



    • CatsfaninFL
      6:57 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      I really don’t think most of the people commenting here read the article. ESPN did a good job listing stats, accomplishments and wrote up a paragraph on every player. Worth the read… especially if you’re not as familiar with a lot of the older guys.



    • CatsfaninFL
      6:58 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      Sorry man.. didnt mean to reply to you. Thought I was commenting at bottom.



  22. j4stone
    6:38 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    Bill Russell and Larry Bird should be higher



  23. TonyMontana
    6:41 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    Do yourself a favor and go look at Lebron’s accomplishments and records. It’s freaking crazy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_career_achievements_by_LeBron_James

    He is Top 10 all time in points, ppg, field goals, free throws & assists. He’s #1 for just about every playoff record including points, field goals, free throws and steals. He has 27 different records that start out “Only player in NBA history to…” He owns every “Youngest player to reach…X amount of points” record that you can think of. He went to the NBA finals 8 straight years! I’m definitely a Jordan over Lebron guy myself… it’s hard to put guys who are still playing in the same league with Jordan, Magic, Bird, Kareem, etc… but when its all said and done, Lebron can only be #2 or #1. If you think otherwise, you are not paying attention to the data and are most likely bias for some reason.



  24. CahillsCrossingNT
    6:50 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    Agree with it entirely since it’s ESPN that made the list. They know far more than any of us and are the Worldwide Leader for a reason.



  25. The Seed v. 2.0
    6:56 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    I’m not a basketball historian by any means but whoever ranked Shaq 10th over Oscar Robertson at 11th is should be sent to a Siberian prison. Shaq routinely airballed free throws, Robertson averaged a triple double over the course of a season back when they were still playing with leather balls and peach baskets. Dude was a straight baller.



    • KyZoneBlitz
      7:59 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      The Big-O should be top-5 IMO. Dude dominated in his time.



  26. Aar
    7:31 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    At a glance, I’d move Jordan to 3rd and Dr J up to 7th. Other than LeBron, it’s probably too early to put so many active players on this list.



  27. KyZoneBlitz
    7:52 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

    Love this stuff, of course it’s all opinion based, but IN MY OPINION, my top 3 personally would be…
    #1. – Michael Jordan
    #2. – Wilt the Stilt Chamberlain
    #3. – Kobe Bryant
    #4. – Oscar Robertson
    #5. – Bill Russell
    #6. – Lebron James

    That’s just my opinion, to give reasoning behind each spot would take up way too much space to post, lol…

    Also think several players are too high, namely…

    Chris Paul
    Russell Westbrook
    Allen Iverson
    Kevin Durant
    Stephen Curry
    James Harden

    I think all those guys are great players, but none of them deserve to be where their at on an ALL-TIME list. I do think several of them will earn their spots on it before it’s all said and done, but at this current time, none of them IN MY OPINION, should be where they are listed right now. Also, and this may be just my Blue-Tinted Glasses but, I think Anthony Davis will end up passing all of them (the list that I have as too high, not the top-5, although he could end up passing Lebron, lol.) Before he retires. A.D. just now scratching the surface, and entering his prime IMO.



    • UKfanman01
      10:14 pm May 14, 2020 Permalink

      Pistol Pete Maravich is number 68 rofl. That list is a joke.



  28. Al B. Frank
    2:41 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink