Great scorers are often remembered throughout NBA history because points on the board win games. While defense is equally as important, it is impossible for teams to be relevant with at least one or two All-Star scorers on a team. That is why the majority of the greatest players of all time are some of the greatest scorers ever.
But that doesn’t automatically mean that great scorers win NBA scoring titles. While the vast majority of great scorers have scoring titles, some legendary players have actually never managed to win one. In order to determine who the greatest scorer without a scoring title is, it is time to rank the ten greatest in NBA history.
10. Vince Carter
Career PPG: 16.7 PPG
Highest Scoring Season: 27.6 PPG (2000-2001)
Total Career Points: 25,728 Points
Vince Carter, Half-Man Half-Amazing, is one of the ten greatest scorers to not have a scoring title. Carter is one of the most iconic stars in NBA history, mainly because he was a sensational scorer in his prime and possibly the greatest dunker ever.
Carter was a monster with the Raptors, having his best scoring seasons with them, but was even effective with the Nets as the primary option on offense. Carter played a whopping 22 years in the league so he had plenty of time to add to his career points total.
9. John Havlicek
Career PPG: 20.8 PPG
Highest Scoring Season: 28.9 PPG (1970-1971)
Total Career Points: 26,395 Points
Havlicek is mainly renowned for his sensational all-around play because he could dominate both the guard and forward positions. Havlicek was blessed with an almost inhuman motor because he would play hard every second without ever looking gassed. His versatility and complete game mean Havlicek is recognized as one of the greatest Celtics to have ever lived.
Havlicek was also a great scorer in his day, posting a career-high 28.9 PPG in 1970. Havlicek was one of the best players for a Celtics dynasty that won 4 straight NBA titles, so he deserves to be on this list.
8. Julius Erving
Career PPG: 22.0 PPG
Highest Scoring Season: 26.9 PPG (1979-1980)
Total Career Points: 18,364 Points
Dr. J would have a total of 30,026 points if we counted the amount of scoring he did in the ABA and NBA combined. Erving was a natural scorer of the highest order, due to his ability to swiftly attack the rim and pull up from mid-range. Few players in history were as graceful in the air as Erving, and he brought a swagger and on-court persona that was unique and loved.
Erving would be higher on this list, but he only played 11 seasons in the NBA despite putting up strong point totals.
7. Paul Pierce
Career PPG: 19.7 PPG
Highest Scoring Season: 26.8 PPG (2005-2006)
Total Career Points: 26,397 Points
It is time to put some respect on Paul Pierce’s name. Pierce is one of the most clutch players in NBA history, and one of the most consistent scorers ever. He played his best years with the Celtics, never complaining about the lack of talent on his team and doing what he does best: getting buckets.
Luckily for him, the franchise rewarded him for his loyalty and acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to help him win his first chip and Finals MVP. Pierce is one of the best scorers ever and deserves to be on this list.
6. Charles Barkley
Career PPG: 22.1 PPG
Highest Scoring Season: 28.3 PPG (1987-1988)
Total Career Points: 23,757 Points
The younger generation does not understand how dominant Charles Barkley was. When naming the greatest power forwards ever, Barkley’s name always comes up. He played with aggression and ruthlessness that is seldom seen in today’s NBA, and this allowed him to dominate defenses every night.
It was not uncommon for Barkley to go off for a 40 point double-double, because he was unstoppable down low and a true legend of the game. Barkley never won a scoring title because he played in the same era as MJ so it is not really his fault.
5. Dirk Nowitzki
Career PPG: 20.7 PPG
Highest Scoring Season: 26.6 PPG (2005-2006)
Total Career Points: 31,560 Points
Dirk Nowitzki climbed the scoring charts all his career and sits firmly as the 6th greatest scorer ever in total points scored (after Michael Jordan). Dirk had an unstoppable move, his one-legged fadeaway, which he could pull out at any given moment. Dirk’s shots could not be blocked, because he was 7-feet tall with a very high release.
Dirk shot 47.1% from the field, 38.0% from three, and 87.9% from the free-throw line which is unheard of for a big man. Dirk’s shooting is the reason he is a Hall of Famer, NBA champion, Finals MVP, and one of the 5 greatest scorers to have never won a scoring title.
4. Hakeem Olajuwon
Career PPG: 21.8 PPG
Highest Scoring Season: 27.8 PPG (1994-1995)
Total Career Points: 26,946 Points
Hakeem Olajuwon was a perfect scorer as a big man because he had no weakness. He had every move in the textbook down low, including pump fakes and turnaround jumpers. When defenders sagged off him, he would drain the mid-range jumper. Hakeem was simply an unstoppable force for the Houston Rockets and he was the MVP for the franchise that won 2 straight NBA titles.
“The Dream” is recognized as a top-five center ever, and until today, players flock to learn from him how to score the ball in the paint.
3. Larry Bird
Career PPG: 24.3 PPG
Highest Scoring Season: 29.9 PPG (1987-1988)
Total Career Points: 21,791 Points
Larry Legend was a phenomenal scorer, due to his toughness at attacking the rim and his all-time great marksmanship. The 12-time All-Star and Hall of Famer shot 49.6% from the field and 88.6% from the line over his career, including a career 37.6% 3-pt FG. Bird would be as dominant as a player like Stephen Curry in today’s NBA because he could shoot the lights out even with a hand in his face.
Bird was more of an all-around player than a selfish scorer, but he was still one of the best scorers of all-time. He played on great teams over his career so that is the reason he never won a scoring title.
2. Karl Malone
Career PPG: 25.0 PPG
Highest Scoring Season: 31.0 PPG (1989-1990)
Total Career Points: 36,928 Points
It is absolutely astonishing that Karl Malone did not win a scoring title during his career. Malone is currently ranked as the second greatest scorer of all time in terms of total points scored, and truly one of the most feared big men to have ever played. There is a reason Malone went to two NBA Finals, as the leader and main scorer for the Utah Jazz franchise.
Karl Malone was an automatic scoring machine down low and from mid-range, and never shot under 45% in a season. Malone was just sensational, and the fact that he does not have a scoring title can be due to MJ’s dominance in the ’90s.
1. Elgin Baylor
Career PPG: 27.4 PPG
Highest Scoring Season: 38.3 PPG (1961-1962)
Total Career Points: 23,149 Points
Without a doubt, Elgin Baylor is the greatest scorer to never have won a scoring title. All we have to do is look at the numbers. His career 27.4 PPG is ranked third all-time, and he is probably one of the best scorers ever regardless of position.
Baylor never won a scoring title because he played in the same era as stat-sheet stuffer Wilt Chamberlain. Nobody gets scoring or rebounding titles ahead of Wilt, and that’s the only reason why Baylor doesn’t have one.
Elgin Baylor still did everything in the game of basketball and he will go down as the undisputed #1 scorer to never have won a scoring title.