Despite being in an era where team basketball and ball movement is the norm, there is still an assortment of dominant one-on-one players who give it to defenses every night. Superstar offensive players often have unbelievable one on one skills, and that has been the case throughout history.
But what if there was a list to combine the greatest one on one players throughout history? We all know the likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant come to mind when you think of scoring, but some modern NBA stars come to mind as well. James Harden has been lighting up the league for a few years now, while Kevin Durant might be the most unstoppable scorer in history when taking into account his length and skills. But where do James and Kevin rank all time?
Here is the list of the 10 greatest one on one players in NBA history.
Stephen Curry is the greatest shooter of all time, and that alone places him in the conversation for the ten greatest one on one scorers. The only reason he misses out is that he is more of an off-ball scorer, running through screens and launching threes at a rapid pace. Curry is still a dominant one on one player thanks to his dribbling, but he just misses out of the top ten.
10. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal, in his day, had no answer. He was too big and too powerful for any defender in NBA history to handle, and he absolutely dominated the post. From post-hooks to monster flushes, Shaq had enough moves to score the ball every time without fail.
While Shaq was a center and needed a guard to get him the ball, he was so incredibly dominant in one on one situations that he has to appear on the list. O’Neal was truly one of a kind and he starts off this list of amazing one on one scorers.
9. LeBron James
LeBron James is one of the greatest scorers in NBA history because he uses his size and skill to get to the basket at will. As a matter of fact, he very well might go down as the single greatest scorer of all time if he passes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most points scored in an NBA career.
But the reason LeBron isn’t higher is that he tends to get his points in the flow of an offense, rather than purely one on one situations. LeBron isn’t a naturally gifted shooter and he is more of a battering ram inside. This isn’t a knock against him as he is still one of the pantheon greats, but he checks in at number 9.
8. Kyrie Irving
LeBron’s former running partner Kyrie Irving is the 8th best one on one scorer in NBA history. He is simply too talented with the ball in his hands, and he very well might be the greatest dribbler we have ever seen. Kyrie can break any defender’s ankles and he is truly unstoppable on offense.
Irving is also a great shooter, who can step back or turnaround with ease. There is a reason why Kyrie Irving hit the game-winning shot over Stephen Curry in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals because he is simply one of the 10 greatest one on one scorers of all time.
7. Carmelo Anthony
People tend to forget just how dominant Carmelo Anthony was in his prime. With the Denver Nuggets, we saw arguably the scariest scorer of all time. He had the size to post up any defender with ease and the explosiveness to get to the rim anytime he wanted. He also had a silky smooth jumper with a very soft touch. Melo was simply unguardable.
Later on with the New York Knicks, injuries set him back a bit, but he was still a dominant scorer and one of the most clutch stars we have ever seen. Carmelo Anthony will forever be remembered as one of the great one on one scorers, as we inch closer to the top five.
6. Tracy McGrady
If only Tracy McGrady stayed healthy during his career, we might be talking about him the way we talk about the great Kobe Bryant. T-Mac with the Orlando Magic was the single best scorer in the league, and he was unguardable even with two or three defenders draped on him. McGrady was far too explosive and too skilled to handle because he had no weakness. He could shoot over anybody and score at the rim every time.
With the Houston Rockets, McGrady became more of an all-around superstar but he was still a dominant scorer. His 13 points in 33 seconds is a testament to how great he is. Injuries derailed him, as he could have been remembered for being much greater, but T-Mac was a bucket every time down the floor.
5. Allen Iverson
There is no top-five scorers list without Allen Iverson. The Answer was arguably the most dominant pound for pound scorer that we have ever seen because he had the highest desire out of every player on the court. He wanted to win and often willed the ball in the basket. He was also tremendously gifted with speed and handles, and might be the best scorer in motion ever.
Iverson, if he stood a couple of inches taller, might be the single greatest player ever. He led the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals and stole Game 1 against the Shaq and Kobe juggernaut Lakers. That alone is enough to justify his greatness.
4. James Harden
James Harden, as of right now, is the most unstoppable offensive force in the NBA. He cannot be handled one on one, because he is too strong and too quick for any defender. Harden has mastered the ability to draw fouls and create space for his patented step-back three. In the modern NBA with little defensive resistance, Harden is taking full advantage.
James Harden gets a lot of criticism for his style of play, but he will end up being one of the 5 greatest scorers we have ever seen. He is too lethal and he has been doing it for nearly a decade. It is time to respect The Beard.
3. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant, the Slim Reaper, enters the top three as an all-time great scorer. Durant has no weakness, using a mix of his 7-foot tall frame and high-arcing release to dominate the defense. KD cannot be handled one on one, no matter who is guarding him. He can just shoot right over him every time. If a coach puts a taller defender on him, KD will blow past him for easy baskets at the rim.
With KD, it’s picking your poison. He will either hurt you from the perimeter or at the basket because he is too skilled and too talented to be defended by anybody.
2. Kobe Bryant
No surprise here, Kobe Bean Bryant is the second greatest one on one scorer in NBA history. Kobe had every move in the bag, and every counter move in case the defender knew what Kobe was doing. Bryant’s head fakes and pump fakes before drilling jumpers were iconic, and he made it look so effortless and beautiful as well.
Even if a defender did not fall for Kobe’s fakes, he was skilled enough to drain contested jumpers with a hand or two in his face. Kobe was one of the most feared scorers who was also a world-class athlete in his prime, meaning he could attack the rim at any given time. Kobe is only second to the greatest scorer of all time.
1. Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan is the best one on one player of all time. He might not be as creative at making tough shots like Kobe was, but he was incredibly methodical at scoring the ball. Jordan never had to rush to get a bucket, reading the defense and deciding which way to score on each possession. MJ was literally a phenom because he could not be stopped going left or right, and has a fadeaway jumper as his secret weapon.
There is a reason why Michael Jordan has 10 scoring titles and is regarded as the greatest player to have ever played the game. He had unbelievable efficiency at scoring the ball and did so better than anyone else when defended one on one.