We have seen some unbelievable talent throughout NBA history. Superstar players dominate the game, on the court and off the court. They are the hight of competitiveness in professional sports, and also have an impact that extends to nations all over the world. The most influential NBA players are widely renowned and will forever be responsible for changing the landscape of basketball in their respective eras.
It is time to rank the 15 most influential players in NBA history, starting with the great Charles Barkley at number 15.
15. Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley was an NBA superstar, and one of the most iconic players ever. When it comes to pure impact on the court, very few players contributed to winning more than Barkley. He was a gifted rebounder and scorer, who could not be stopped by a single defender. Charles never won an NBA title, although he accomplished everything else including 11 All-Star teams and induction into the Hall of Fame.
Barkley’s extrovert personality makes him one of the most loved players ever, and he is even making headlines today for the outrageous remarks he makes on a weekly basis as a commentator and analyst on TV. Everybody loves Charles Barkley as a player and even when he retired, and that will never change.
14. Oscar Robertson
Oscar Robertson is the triple-double king. Even before the likes of Russell Westbrook made it commonly known, Robertson was putting up triple-doubles before anyone else. The Big O is widely regarded as one of the best players ever, and many have him in the top ten all-time list. Considering his numbers and impact on the court, it is really hard to dispute that.
Robertson won an NBA title in his career, and has a career stat line of 25.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and 9.5 APG. His knack for grabbing the triple-double has had a wide influence on today’s players, and Robertson was the original stat-sheet stuffer at the point guard position.
13. Jerry West
Jerry West is the NBA logo for a reason. He was an absolute perfect shooting guard, without any real flaws. The only knock against him was the fact that he lost as many NBA Finals appearances as he did, winning only one in nine appearances.
Though no fault of his own, West had an amazing NBA career as a player for the Los Angeles Lakers. When it comes to ranking the top five shooting guards the game has ever seen, West will be mentioned right there.
Even when he retired as a player, West was a coach and later the best GM in the league. Even now, nobody is smarter and more adept at making big money moves than Jerry West. A true icon and basketball genius, West will always be an influence on the NBA.
12. Bill Russell
Bill Russell will forever be known as the greatest winner in basketball history. He won a whopping 11 titles, something that is just impossible in today’s game. Even if Russell’s Celtics would just more talented and dominant than everyone else, winning 11 titles is not easy at all and that kind of consistency is almost inhuman.
Russell is also the best defensive big man in NBA history, who just knew how to affect shots around the rim and block a ton of them. No player has ever been as dominant as Bill Russell defensively, and he was the undisputed leader for a dynasty that won 11 titles in 12 years.
11. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is currently the leading scorer in NBA history. With over 38,000 points scored over his career, I doubt there will ever be a player that can showcase the type of longevity that Kareem has. Barring LeBron James, who might be on his way to getting close to Kareem’s record, no other player has ever come close. The reason is simple: the skyhook.
We have not seen a purely unstoppable shot that can’t be blocked like the skyhook. Kareem could get that shot off whenever he wanted, and that is why he played into his 40’s. Kareem showed the world that longevity was possible, and he might be the most accomplished player ever when taking into account what he did in college and as a professional.
10. Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain owns the record books. He once scored 100 points in a single game, something we will almost certainly never see again. He was just much bigger and more physically gifted than anyone around him during his time, and he also managed to grab 50 rebounds in a single game too.
While there might be criticism as he played in a league with a bunch of ” short white guys”, Wilt would be a dominant force in any era. Chamberlain had a knack for grabbing every single rebound that came off the rim and could score around the basket with a feathery touch. Wilt will forever hold a ton of records and was the original dominant big man before Shaquille O’Neal came into the fray.
9. Julius Erving
Dr. J, the legend, your favorite player’s favorite player. Everybody who grew up in his era absolutely raves about Julius Erving. He changed the game due to his style and flashy play and is one of the most loved and respected athletes ever. Everybody in his era knows about Dr.J, and no one could glide through the air like him.
Erving truly made his mark on the game of basketball and influenced a generation of players looking to share their own style and class to the world. Erving was a 16-time all-star and a very valued member of the Hall of Fame.
8. Shaquille O’Neal
We have not seen a physical force of strength and physicality like Shaquille O’Neal. Even Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell did not possess the kind of pure raw strength than Shaq had. For four straight years, Shaquille was the most dominant player in NBA history. There was no answer for him, two or three defenders could not stop him from throwing down dunks or finishing around the rim with contact.
Shaq won three straight Finals MVPs and also a fourth NBA title when he joined the Miami Heat. Off the court, Shaq is also known for his unbelievable marketing which includes shoes, movies, advertisements, and food products. Shaq is also one of the funniest people alive, and truly a gift for the world due to his charitable causes.
7. Larry Bird
Larry Bird was just an icon and a superhero for the people who grew up in his era. For a player without any real athletic ability, he was just too darn good.
Bird was a fantastic shooter, rebounder, and passer of the ball. He was also extremely clutch, and one of the game’s most iconic trash talkers. Bird was known for telling you what he was going to do, and then going out and doing it.
Larry Legend was the best player in the league alongside Magic Johnson, and was the superstar of the league for a Celtics team that won NBA championships and made their mark on NBA history.
6. Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson is one of the best players ever, and also one of the most influential sports figures known to man. Magic was the original superhero of the NBA before Michael Jordan took over, and won everything in the game of basketball that there is. Magic goes down as the best point guard ever, the original larger point guard, and one of the most impactful superstars ever.
Magic changed the game because he was a 6’9″ point guard, with exceptional playmaking and an overall game. Magic retired as the best passer ever, and the winner of 5 NBA titles as a Los Angeles Lakers legend.
5. Stephen Curry
The modern-day spread offense involving three-point shooting and off-ball movement is all because of Stephen Curry. He has changed the game, probably forever, because he showed that the three-point shot can help you win NBA titles.
Even if old heads don’t like the modern way of playing, it is probably here to stay. It is just easier to score a ton of points by launching threes, and nobody has ever done it as well as Curry. The entire league has followed his lead, and Curry has had the most impact on a particular style of play in NBA history.
4. Allen Iverson
There probably isn’t a person alive who doesn’t like or at least admire Allen Iverson. With all odds stacked against him, as a miniature guard in a big man’s league, Allen Iverson left his heart and soul on the basketball court. He had more heart than anybody in history and even carried the weight of the city of Philadelphia to the NBA Finals on his back. A.i is one of the game’s best scorers, and his impact on the court is undeniable.
But he made a mark off the court as well, showing everyone how to stay true to yourself in your character and style of clothing. Iverson is as authentic as a human could be, and every single NBA player ever respects him for it.
3. LeBron James
LeBron James is undoubtedly one of the most influential people on Earth, not just basketball players. LeBron has changed the entire league by showing everyone how a player can take his entire career into his own hands. No other player has ever been in more control than LeBron James, who had the power in an organization to dictate which players come to the team and also which coach to keep.
LeBron’s I .Q. is well respected and he knows basketball more than most people so that is why he is so impactful. As the most hyped player ever, LeBron has enough success in his career to influence countries all over the world. His off-court endorsement deals and exceptional track record of being a fine human being is another example of LeBron’s greatness as an influential athlete.
2. Kobe Bryant
Many people did not realize just how admired and well-known Kobe Bryant was until he passed away earlier this year. Even people who never watched a game of basketball in their lives mourned over the great Kobe Bryant because his reach extended continents all over the world. Kobe’s style of play might be the most beautiful we have ever seen, and that is what so many young kids dream of playing basketball.
For the modern generation of NBA players and fans, Kobe was Michael Jordan for their era. And he was.
Kobe won 5 NBA titles, had countless historic moments, and wanted to win at all costs. Even off the court, he was charming and very likable as a person and that is why the entire world froze when news of his passing came out. Kobe is one of the greats and the second most influential player ever.
1. Michael Jordan
Without a doubt, Michael Jordan is the most influential player in NBA history. You could go into the deep ends of a desert, and whoever is there would know who Michael Jordan is.
He was the Michael Jackson and Muhammad Ali of professional basketball, everyone knew who he was and he was a rockstar of the highest order.
But it wasn’t just his swagger and style that made people admire him, it was his unbelievable success as a winner and as an athlete. Jordan dominated basketball more than any other player we have ever seen. He went undefeated in the NBA Finals, won the most individual achievements awards, and has a career built off success and dominance of his peers. There will never again be a player as dominant and as impactful as Michael Jordan.