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Basketball's Five Greatest Players of All-Time

Dan Johnson
CONTRIBUTOR
Top 5 / Top 10
Timeless

Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

NBA Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar turned heads earlier this month when he commented on the idea of the "greatest of all-time" in the game he once dominated.

"The reason there is no such thing as the GOAT is because every player plays under unique circumstances. We played different positions, under different rules, with different teammates, with different coaches. Every player has to adapt to their circumstances and find a way to excel. This isn’t Highlander. There can be more than one.”

Barbershops around the world gasped. These conversations have been around for decades, and have been exasperated in recent years as current stars such as LeBron James and Stephen Curry have thrown their names in the fire. That being said, I happen to believe this conversation can be had with five different players in the NBA's history. At least at this moment. Using the measurements of stats, impact, influence, and championships, here are the five goats of the NBA.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Before LeBron, the most hyped up athlete in basketball was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And how did he live up to that hype?

Becoming the figurehead for what might be the greatest teams in NCAA history in the UCLA Bruins, making an immediate impact in the NBA by winning a title in his second season, winning five MVPs in the 1970s, and then becoming (along with Magic Johnson) the most valued player on the team of the 1980s in the Showtime Lakers.

All the while becoming the all-time leader in points with the single most unstoppable shot the game has ever seen in the skyhook.

Bill Russell


Bill Russell
Bill Russell

Why Russell over Wilt Chamberlain, the other dominant player of the 1960s?

Well, many of Wilt's records have been since broken by Kareem, Michael Jordan, and others while no one will ever come close to Bill Russell's mark in championships. Russell was the architect of the greatest dynasty in sport's history, winning 11 championships in his 13 years with the Boston Celtics, including a streak of eight straight titles from 1958-1966. So for people who say, "Michael has six titles to LeBron's three", well, Russell literally has enough rings to fill his hand with one left over. Also, Russell found more success as a coach, first as a player-coach with the Celtics and then in the seventies with the Seattle Supersonics.



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