Out of all the stats and measures you use to calibrate how good a player is the most glaring and obvious one is scoring. If you score a lot of points you are obviously a good basketball player. It’s the same in the NBA. Scoring is easily the most talked about statistic because that is the main goal of the game; to score more points than the opposition.
Scoring is the most glamorous stat of them all and the one that most fans pay big money to go see live. The NBA has produced some unbelievable talents in this areas; the guys who have the total package when it comes to putting the ball in the hole.
I will be attempting to rank the 10 greatest scorers to have ever laced them up. My method for ranking scorers is a combination of 3 things; how many points they score/scored, how they scored their points and what scenario they were in.
For example, if a guy averaged 35 PPG but only shot 40% from the field then someone who scored 35 PPG but shot 50% from the field is obviously a better scorer. Someone who averaged 30 PPG on 50% from the floor but only scored in 1 way is not as good as someone else who averaged 30 PPG on 50% from the floor who scored in a variety of ways. You have to take into account the whole package.
With that being said, here are my top 10 scorers in NBA history.
10. Hakeem Olajuwon
My favorite player in NBA history is the Dream. He is easily the greatest post-scorer of all time and could hit the mid-range jumper to keep defenders on his toes. He averaged 21.8 PPG over his amazing career and shot over 70% from the foul line, something most centers find hard to do.
His career field-goal percentage of 51.2% is a testament to how easily he could dance past his defender with an array of moves that made him one of the greatest players in NBA history.
A true legend through and through.
9. Jerry West
The Logo himself, Jerry West is one of the most iconic scorers this game has known. The only person to win the Finals MVP on the losing side West averaged an astounding 27 PPG and shot 47.4% from the field as a 6 foot 2 guard.
West had 4 seasons averaging over 30 PPG and won the scoring title in 1970. He also had a lethal jump-shot and had the 3-point line existed in his time he would have scored even more.
8. Shaquille O’Neal
The most physically imposing force ever seen in the NBA Shaq dominated the league for well over a decade and had he taken his conditioning more serious could have been the greatest center of all time.
Shaq averaged 23.7 PPG on 58.2% from the field and is 21st all-time in PPG. He would have been higher on this list but his poor free-throw shooting (52.7%) and lack of diversity in scoring let him down a little.
7. LeBron James
If LeBron James keeps playing the way that he is he could well become the all-time leader in career points surpassing the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That is incredible when you consider that people don’t think of LeBron as a scorer.
His career average thus far is 27.2 points per game and he’s shot 50.4% from the field as well. His free-throw shooting isn’t outstanding (74%) and his 3-point shooting could be better (34.4%) but it is now at the point where NBA defenses do have to close out on him due to the amount of work he has put into his jumper.
6. Wilt Chamberlain
This man averaged over 50 points a game for an entire season. This guy is the only player ever to score 100 points in a game. He is 2nd all-time in PPG at 30.07 and was just too big and strong for the NBA in the 60s and 70s.
Wilt won 6 straight scoring titles and 7 overall and is 5th all-time in total career points. He’s not so stellar free-throw shooting (51.1%) and lack of diversity hit him a little though.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The NBA’s all-time leader in career points, Jabbar had the most unstoppable move in the history of basketball; the sky-hook. Why all centers don’t master that move from a young age I’ll never know.
Jabbar averaged 24.6 PPG on 55.9% from the field and shot a tasty 72.1% from the foul line. Although his post game was incredible his shooting game wasn’t amazing which is why he only gets to be number 5 on this list.
4. Larry Bird
The Hick from French Lick averaged 24.3 PPG over his career for the Celtics whilst shooting nearly 50% from the field, 38% from the 3-point line and 89% from the foul line. Wherever you put this guy he just got points.
He could do it in the post, from the outside and was a great finisher as well. The only thing that hurts Larry is his lack of athleticism but only by a small amount.
3. Kobe Bryant
Nobody has hit more types of shots than the Black Mamba. Imagine any angle, difficulty or level of dexterity and I have no doubt that Kobe has done it. He averaged 25 PPG for the Lakers and not only scored in every possible way, but he did it well.
He was amazing in the post, had great footwork, was a terrific finisher, a lethal jump-shooter and was very athletic in his prime.
There’s a good reason why he’s the closest thing we have to Michael Jordan.
2. Kevin Durant
Durant is currently averaging 27.1 PPG which puts him at 5th all time so far in his career. He’s won 4 scoring titles and is a threat from everywhere on the floor. His 6 foot 9 frame and 7 foot 4 wingspan allow him to get his shot up over anybody.
He’s a great finisher at the rim hitting over 73% of his shots at the basket. He regularly shoots around 40% from the 3-point line, around 90% from the foul line and has hit over 50% of his shots for the past 6 seasons.
This guy is just built to score points and had not played with ball-dominant scoring point guards he would have averaged even more.
1. Michael Jordan
No nonsense here as MJ takes the crown. Not only did he win 7 straight scoring titles with 10 overall but he has the highest career PPG at 30.12. Nobody could stop him he was that good. The Detroit Pistons even had to develop ‘The Jordan Rules’ just to try and slow him down.
He was as athletic as they come and was incredible going to the rim. A great free-throw shooter, he even developed his 3-point game to the point where it was lethal.
Jordan was the only other person other than Wilt to score more than 3,000 points in a season. Nobody was better at putting the ball in the hole and that’s why he’s rightly a the top on this list.