Debates surrounding the greatest players in NBA history often come down to the question of which athlete is capable of playing all 5 positions on a basketball court. The utility of a player can be determined by his ability to guard positions from 1 to 5. Some of the game's greatest players had the skill to lock down superstars on the opposing teams no matter where they started from on the floor.
5 NBA legends with the ability to play all 5 positions
Versatility is an attribute that sets the top players apart from the rest of the league. Playing 1-5 isn't easy and requires a rare combination of skill, size and speed. Versatile players are highly valued by coaches, as they can help a team run a variety of plays without switching personnel.
LeBron James might be the perfect example of a player who receives lots of praise for his versatility, especially on the defensive end.
Magic Johnson was another star who startled everyone back when he entered the league in 1979 as a 6' 9'' point guard.
In this piece, we list five NBA greats who could play all positions on a basketball court.
#5 Wilt Chamberlain
It would have been a tough task to ask Wilt Chamberlain to run the point guard position while he was averaging 34 points through the 1960s, while making 53% of his field goals.
However, the late, great Wilt Chamberlain was capable of producing at a high clip from anywhere on the court. His athleticism was unmatched and he was exceptionally effective from anywhere on the floor.
In his last two years with the Philadelphia 76ers, Chamberlain sacrificed a little bit of his scoring to showcase his passing abilities. It resulted in two seasons (1966-67 and 1967-68) in which he averaged 7.8 and 8.6 assists per game, respectively.
In 1967, Chamberlain guided Philadelphia to an NBA title, averaging a whopping 9 assists per game in the postseason.
He eventually finished the 1967-68 season as the league leader in assists, which was just a small sample of his well-rounded basketball abilities. Chamberlain had enough tactical acumen to cover any spot on the court.
#4 Kevin Garnett
Unlike Chamberlain, Kevin Garnett was a power forward who never operated like most of the other PF's in the league did back then.
Garnett was a 6' 11' forward who was gifted in all aspects of the game. Unlike many of his contemporaries, the Boston Celtics legend was very comfortable shooting the ball from mid-range instead of using his height on the post.
In his early years in the NBA, while playing as the lone star for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Garnett had to do it all, and unsurprisingly he did better than many expected.
Garnett averaged 18 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists in his NBA career. He is one of five players to win both the NBA MVP and the Defensive Player of the Year award in his career (along with Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, and Giannis Antetokounmpo).
He had a streak from the 1999-2000 NBA season until 2004-05 during which he averaged more than five assists per game and even reached a career-high of six. Kevin Garnett was an adequate passer who would have been fine guiding a team's offense during his early days in the NBA.
Also Read: Who is Magic Johnson's wife, Cookie Johnson?
#3 Kevin Durant
There aren't any doubts about Kevin Durant's ability to perform at a high level in every role assigned to him on the basketball court. Kevin Durant is a 7-footer who can do virtually everything in the game.
KD can bring the ball up the court, is a solid passer, can shoot from outside, attack the rim, has a lovely mid-range game, and is also a great rim protector. Moreover, with his agility and quickness, he can defend all five positions.
Durant is simply a freakishly-talented athlete. Not only does he have the potential to play all five positions, but he's also done it efficiently. Simply stunning.
#2 Magic Johnson
The LA Lakers legend who redefined versatility, Magic Johnson was unlike anything the league has seen at the point guard position, with his 6' 9'' frame.
Johnson's passing skills were the greatest in NBA history, but he could carry out many other roles if his team needed it.
In fact, he stunned the world in the sixth game of the 1980 NBA Finals when he played as the LA Lakers' center after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was injured. Did it work? Well, he scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and dished out seven assists.
Johnson won five NBA championships with the LA Lakers, three Finals MVPs, and three regular-season MVPs. He is also the all-time leader in Triple-Doubles in the postseason (30).
#1 LeBron James
LeBron James is arguably the greatest player in NBA history. His playing style is not about scoring, assisting, rebounding, or playing defense. It is about all of them. LeBron James is probably the most complete basketball player in NBA history, and his massive frame complements his sharp basketball IQ.
At 6' 9'', James is as strong as the biggest center and as quick as any guard. He is one of the most gifted passers in NBA history, as well as one of the best scorers.
LeBron's scoring does not get much recognition due to all the rest of his abilities, but James averages 27 points per game in his career and has made more than 50% of his shots in his 18-year long NBA career.
If you had to pick just one player that could play every position on the floor, LeBron James would be the most sensible choice.