Fadeaway World

Comparing players from the past and present is a common practice amongst NBA fans, media and even players. Those debates generally include a mix of statistics and subjective opinion, with points, rebounds and assists per game being the traditional go-to metrics.

Most don’t take a player’s total combined per game statistics as a singular number, though, and doing so gives interesting insight into who the best stat sheet-stuffers in NBA history are. This list ranks the top players in NBA history when combining their career points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks averages and subtracting turnovers per game. To make this fair, every player on this list must have played at least half of his career after 1977, the first year turnovers became an official statistic, and played at least eight seasons total.

This exercise doesn’t indicate that one player is better than the next. Statistics don’t tell the whole story for a player’s career and the pace of play and styles from era-to-era sometimes inflate or lessen what an individual puts up in the box score, as does a player’s position. Nonetheless, it’s fun.

 

Honorable Mention

 

Chris Webber – 34.7 Total

20.7 points + 9.8 rebounds + 4.2 assists +1.4 steals + 1.4 blocks – 2.8 turnovers

(via Medium)

Webber barely missed the cut and would have been perhaps the most surprising player to make this list since he isn’t a Hall of Famer and isn’t commonly put in the “greatest NBA players of all time” conversation. Don’t let his lack of notoriety fool you, though, because he was as versatile and athletic of a power forward as basketball has ever seen during his prime. Picked No. 1 overall by Orlando in the 1993 draft, Webber was set to join Shaquille O’Neal’s team and form a young frontcourt tandem, but the Magic struck a deal with the Warriors for Penny Hardaway and dealt Webber to Golden State.

Had Webber and O’Neal played the early parts of their careers together, who knows the heights they could have reached. Webber was a gifted passer and athletic enough to switch and let O’Neal dominate the painted area, but in Golden State, he and coach Don Nelson never got along and Webber only spent his rookie season there. He’d go on to play four years of his prime Washington before truly hitting his peak in Sacramento. Webber’s Kings were an extremely unselfish and likable bunch while unfortunately being the victims of some questionable refereeing in the 2002 Western Conference Finals against O’Neal’s Lakers.

If not for that series and Webber’s subsequent career-altering knee injury in the following year’s playoffs, he may have captured a title. Without it, it seems he’s more forgotten these days for how great a player he was when locked-in and didn’t let his immaturity off the court hinder his focus.

 

15. James Harden – 35.1 Total

25.1 points + 5.3 rebounds + 6.3 assists  + 1.6 steals + 0.5 blocks – 3.7 turnovers

(via Excelsior)

Since Harden joined the Rockets in the summer of 2012 he’s tallied some historically great statistics. His previous three seasons in Oklahoma City as a sixth-man bring his career numbers down a bit, but he appears to have found a way to get around 35 points a night these days. He’s led the NBA in scoring the past two seasons and is in the lead again this year, according to basketball-reference, yet he doesn’t get the ultimate respect of many basketball fans and media members because he’s yet to win a ring.

Harden has appeared to run out of gas at times in the playoffs and Houston’s extremely analytics-heavy style seems to inflate Harden’s numbers some. He is, however, the only player in the league who can find success in that style because of his all-time great offensive abilities. Harden is the only player in league history with a 60-point triple-double, has an MVP and finished in second place in the voting three times. His last few seasons are some of the best offensive displays ever and it looks like he has plenty of jaw-dropping stat lines left in him.

 

14. Allen Iverson – 35.4 Total

26.7 points + 3.7 rebounds + 6.2 assists + 2.2 steals+ 0.2 blocks -3.6 turnovers

Iverson was one of the best offensive players of his generation in a time where isolation basketball was king. His signature crossover and unique ability to finish in traffic from all angles allowed him to lead the league in scoring four times and win MVP in 2001. Iverson’s lack of a true sidekick during his run in Philadelphia allowed him the freedom to take nearly 22 shots per game for his career, which helped his scoring and sheltered his passing skills at times.

He may not be thought of as a player who did much else besides score, but Iverson’s motor was high enough to carry his untalented teams as few players can. He also led the league in minutes per game seven times and often played well beyond 40 minutes a night. That workload partly led to his quick decline as a player after 2008 and gave him time to fill the box score enough to make this list.

 

13. David Robinson – 36.2 Total

21.1 points + 10.6 rebounds + 2.5 assists + 1.4 steals + 3.0 blocks – 2.4 turnovers

Robinson was one of the best athletes to ever play the center position. Just look at a picture of him in his prime. The man was a specimen capable of accumulating absurd numbers, and he did so in an era dense with great big men.

The San Antonio center is one of only four players in NBA history to earn a quadruple-double, which he earned on February 17, 1994, when he scored 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 blocks against the Detroit Pistons. Robinson also notched one of few non-Wilt Chamberlain 70-point games in history, which he did on April 24, 1994. He had all the tools to dominate the game with the only thing perhaps hindering him being his kindness. Robinson is regarded as one of the nicest guys to ever play and a great teammate, sometimes lacking a “killer instinct” as a result.

Still, it’s no surprise “The Admiral” makes the cut. Had his athleticism not declined from his Achilles tendon tear in 1996 — which was arguably to the Spurs’ benefit since it allowed them to tank for Tim Duncan — he may have given fans a few more elite seasons and been higher on this ranking.

 

12. Magic Johnson – 36.3 Total

19.5 points + 7.2 rebounds + 11.2 assists +1.9 steals + 0.4 blocks – 3.9 turnovers

It might be surprising to see Johnson ranked 11th on this list since he’s commonly regarded as a top-five player of all time. Scoring is a big separator for this exercise, however, and Johnson didn’t have to do too much of it. Excluding his sophomore season in which he only played 37 games, Johnson never scored over 20 points per game for an entire season before 1986-1987 when he was asked to be more aggressive as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skills were declining from age. His increased scoring that led to that year’s Lakers team possibly being the best iteration of “Showtime” ever and they eventually won the championship.

But his all-around skillset still earns Johnson a spot. At 6-foot-9, he was a good rebounder as a guard and his career average for assiist is the highest of all time. His knack for disrupting passing lanes was also underrated. Although, you would think for being such a physically-dominant point guard that he would have gotten more blocks.

 

11. Russell Westbrook – 36.6 Total

23.2 points + 7.1 rebounds + 8.3 assists + 1.8 steals + 0.3 blocks – 4.1 turnovers

(via ABC13 Houston)

Before being traded to the Rockets last summer, Westbrook was the first player since Oscar Robertson in the 1960s to average a triple-double for an entire season. In fact, he did it for three consecutive seasons and earned MVP in 2016-2017 for accomplishing a feat no one thought possible.

Fans new to the NBA might think he was always filling the box score to the brim, but the first half of his career was more “normal.” Westbrook was always a great scorer and passer, as well as an underrated rebounder from the point guard position, especially on the offensive glass. His many triple-doubles, though, didn’t start coming in bunches until Kevin Durant left for Golden State. That freedom allowed Westbrook to run wild and expend his seemingly endless supply of energy and intensity even though the team wasn’t great and his decision making at the end of games was still highly criticized.

He may not be a great shooter and comes off as hard-headed, but there’s no denying he’s one of the best playmakers of his era and could have been near the top of this list if he was always the No. 1 option on his teams.

 

10. Charles Barkley – 36.9

22.1 points + 11.7 rebounds + 3.9 assists + 1.5 steals + 0.8 blocks – 3.1 turnovers

Barkley is best known for his scoring prowess from the post and his tremendous rebounding as an undersized power forward. His incredible strength allowed him to bully his way around the rim and his intensity and confidence vaulted him into the category of one of the best players of all time.

What’s less discussed about Barkley was his playmaking ability. In an era where the “point forward” wasn’t implemented yet, Barkley showed flashes as a ball-handler and passer that would bode well in today’s NBA. He could grab a rebound and go coast-to-coast in his younger days and his ability to pass out of post evolved as his career went along. Unfortunately, he never earned a ring, but he was truly a force in his day. While not a great defender, he could disrupt passing lanes with his surprising quickness and timing for a big man, and his box score would be filled as a result.

 

9. Hakeem Olajuwon – 37.2 Total

21.8 points + 11.1 rebounds + 2.5 assists + 1.7 steals + 3.1 blocks – 3 turnovers

Olajuwon is the only player in NBA history to rank in the top-10 in each of the major five statistical categories at the time of his retirement. His scoring ability in the post is highly respected and his defensive instincts were some of the best, as was his unselfishness and leadership.

Had his scoring numbers not dipped heavily in his final few years he may have ended up in the top-five of this list. For a player so fundamentally sound and who does most of his damage from the low block, it’s a bit surprising that he wasn’t a 20-plus point per game scorer even in his old age. In his prime, though, there are few ever better at all facets of the game. Like Robinson, Olajuwon is one of four players in league history to record a quadruple-double, which he did on March 3, 1990, against the Golden State Warriors when he scored 29 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists and 11 blocks.

 

8. Kevin Durant – 37.3 Total (tie)

27.0 points + 7.1 rebounds + 4.1 assists + 1.1 steals + 1.1 blocks – 3.1 turnovers

With Durant being one of the best scorers the game has ever seen, it’s no surprise he ranks high on this list. His tall and long frame also allows him to grab his fair share of boards despite not having much strength in his early years, as well as accumulate a decent amount of blocks and steals.

What’s improved in his game over the years is his passing. Durant averaged only 2.8 assists per game in his first five seasons and has averaged 5.1 per contest in his seven seasons since. A lot of it has to do with his ball-handling skills for a man his size and mastery of the drive-and-kick, which was a major reason his stacked Warriors teams never had a problem with sharing the wealth. His post-Achilles tendon tear seasons in Brooklyn may or may not bring his career numbers down, but up until this point, he has had some of the best averages ever and did so from day one in the league.

 

7. Shaquille O’Neal – 37.3 Total (tie)

23.7 points + 10.9 rebounds + 2.5 assists + 0.6 steals + 2.3 blocks – 2.7 turnovers

(via Bleacher Report)

O’Neal being tied with Durant on this list after his subpar last few seasons is a testament to how truly great he was for the first decade of his career. His combination of strength, agility, confidence and touch around the basket was simply too much for opposing defenses to overcome in an era that allowed for more physical play. When he aged and the game began to become more perimeter-oriented, his numbers dipped and his weight increased.

The great tragedy of O’Neal’s career is that he probably could have been the best player ever if he committed himself to the game year-round. Part of he and Kobe Bryant’s beef was that Bryant was a tireless worker and O’Neal often coasted. Even with his lack of offseason dedication, O’Neal averaged 27.6 points and 12.1 rebounds in the first 11 seasons of his career. Had he been able to sustain that level a little longer, his legacy might be even greater than it already is.

 

6. Karl Malone – 37.8 Total

25.0 points + 10.1 rebounds + 3.6 assists + 1.4 steals + 0.8 blocks – 3.1 turnovers

Photo credit: GEORGE FREY/AFP via Getty Images

Malone is the best scorer from the power forward position ever and did so for nearly the entirety of his 19 seasons. Starting from his third season in the league, Malone averaged over 25 points per game for 11 straight seasons all while seldom missing a game. His remarkable consistency combined with his durability is why he ranks second on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Some players on this list rank higher on all-time lists and had better peaks than Malone, but many of their career statistics are lessened by multiple lesser seasons at the beginning and ends of their careers. Malone was truly a top-end scorer and rebounder in every season excluding his rookie and final year, and his underrated court vision and quick hands on defense also helped boost his numbers. Playing with John Stockton didn’t hurt, either.

 

5. Anthony Davis – 38.5 Total

24.0 points + 10.4 rebounds + 2.2 assists + 1.4 steals + 2.4 blocks – 1.9 turnovers

Davis is by far the youngest player on this list yet ranks so highly because of his extreme versatility on both ends of the court. Drafted No. 1 overall in 2012, Davis was touted as an adept defensive player who would need to bulk up if he were to be an offensive force as well. He somewhat surprisingly showed a diverse offensive skill set early in his career, partly stemming from him playing guard growing up, and eventually developed into the all-around weapon everyone knows today.

Davis has an uncanny ability to fill the box score on a nightly basis. He is one of the most fluid athletes ever at his size and has the length to disrupt opposing teams’ offenses from any spot on the floor. His activity is truly unmatched in today’s NBA, and he’s even developed a solid long-range jumper in effort to adapt to the modern game. He’s been criticized for his lack of team success in New Orleans, but it looks like he and LeBron James will be on one of the top teams in the league for the foreseeable future.

 

4. Larry Bird – 40.0 Total

24.3 points + 10.0 rebounds + 6.3 assists + 1.7 steals + 0.8 blocks – 3.1 turnovers

Credit: Getty Images

Bird is often placed amongst basketball’s greatest players, yet it still seems surprising that he was this much of a stat-sheet stuffer for his entire career. He was somehow able to average double-digit rebounds for 13 years from the small forward spot while playing alongside one of the best frontcourt duos ever in Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, although they helped increase his assist totals.

He undoubtedly played on some great teams that helped his numbers look good. Still, Bird’s otherworldly basketball instincts, confidence and I.Q. allowed him to control a game like few have before or since. He was often lacking in athleticism compared to his opponents yet dominated the league for a decade and often went toe-to-toe with Johnson. Had it not been for a series of foot and back injuries limiting him in his final few years, Bird’s numbers might look even better than the next man on this list.

 

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 40.2 Total

24.6 points + 11.2 rebounds + 3.6 assists + 0.9 steals + 2.6 blocks – 2.7 turnovers

Abdul-Jabbar is the oldest player on this list and is still ranked so highly because of his prolific statistical output during the first half of his career and his rare longevity in the second half. He was by far the most dominant player in the NBA in the 1970s, during which he won six MVPs, and his signature skyhook kept his scoring numbers high while other aspects of his game declined with age.

He’s the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and his 19 All-Star games are the most ever. He’s the epitome of sustained basketball excellence and aged gracefully when teammates like Johnson and James Worthy assumed bigger roles in the late 1980s. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see as consistent of a player for 20 years from the center position ever again.

 

2. LeBron James – 40.8 Total

27.1 points + 7.4 rebounds + 7.4 assists + 1.6 steals + 0.8 blocks – 3.5 turnovers

Credit: Getty Images

James has seemed to etch himself in second or first place in many people’s all-time player lists, so it’s fitting he ranks so high in even this goofy statistic. The reason he’s so high in this ranking despite already playing 17 seasons is that he’s been in his prime the entire time. Aside from his rookie season, which was remarkable for an 18-year-old, James has been inhumanly consistent in his nightly production. He’s hovered around 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for 16 consecutive years and appears to always be adding something new to his game even when his athleticism may be slightly declining.

There’s not much to write that hasn’t already been addressed regarding James’ basketball acumen and legacy. It’s truly a gift that basketball fans around the world have been able to experience his talents for almost two decades, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be putting up numbers to bring him down on this list anytime soon.

 

1. Michael Jordan – 42.0 Total

30.1 points + 6.2 rebounds + 5.3 assists + 2.3 steals + 0.8 blocks – 2.7 turnovers

It’s only fitting that many people’s G.O.A.T. would still rank first in this meaningless statistic. It’s no surprise since he’s the all-time leader in points per game, is third all-time in steals totals, second in blocks totals for a guard and has solid passing and rebounding numbers for a wing. He truly had no weaknesses and his relentless competitive fire allowed him to wrack-up the numbers every night.

Who knows what Jordan’s would look like if he hadn’t retired in the middle of his prime. He may have more rings and maybe would have forgone his years in Washington for more elite seasons in Chicago. It doesn’t matter, though, because he’ll always be the NBA’s greatest player in the minds of many. Obviously, this metric doesn’t prove it, but it doesn’t hurt his case, either.