When watching a lefty shoot the basketball, it looks cleaner. Fresh. Pure. Compared to a typical right-handed jump shot, the shot just looks crisp. The reason for the look might be that we just don’t get to see it as much. Around 10% of the world is left-handed, so that means that the talent pool in the NBA is scarce.
Just think about the all-time greats. We have Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant, who are all right-handed. However, despite the low percentage of lefties in the world, there has been a fair share of all-time greats that have represented the other 10%.
Without further ado, here are the 10 greatest left-handed players of all-time.
In fact, the group is deep enough that I wasn’t able to put in someone who, before I began to research, came to mind as a shoo-in: Manu Ginobili. The Argentinian certainly belongs on a list of the greatest NBA Draft bargains, as the Spurs selected him with one of the last picks of 1999 and were rewarded with an extremely productive guard who was a two-time All-Star and four-time NBA champion. But Manu and his devastating euro step just missed the cut, as did Hall of Famers Lenny Wilkens and Billy Cunningham, rebounding and dunking machine DeAndre Jordan, and longtime Los Angeles baller Lamar Odom.
13.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Outside of Michael Redd, there have been only a few left-handed players that have come close to greatness in the modern era. Unfortunately, Ginobili is just on the outside of the top-10. The Argentinian is one of the greatest pickups from the 1999 NBA Draft after the Spurs picked him with one of the last selections.
Ginobili ended his career as a two-time All-Star and a four-time NBA champion in San Antonio. He helped bring the Eurostep to fruition during the modern era. His contributions will forever live on with the Spurs franchise but there are 10 other players just ahead of him.
10. Lenny Wilkens
16.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 6.7 APG, 0.2 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Wilkens was a nine-time All-Star, the 1971 All-Star Game MVP, and led the league in assists in 1970. His No. 19 is retired by the Seattle SuperSonics. When it came to guards, Wilkens wasn’t just good, but he was great.
He averaged 22.4 points and 8.2 assists during his first season in Seattle and continued to build off that first season. Despite never playing on great teams, he was one of the best players on the floor. At the time of his retirement, he trailed only Oscar Robertson on the all-time assists list.
9. Willis Reed
18.7 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG
As Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain were fizzling out of the league, a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was emerging as the new face of the league. Before Kareem’s career took off, Willis Reed held the role of the most dominant center in the NBA during the early 70s. Thanks to Reed, who brought home an MVP trophy during the 1969-1970 season, the Knicks captured their last two championships.
Reed was a two-time Finals MVP and a five-time All-NBA selection. His Game 7 performance of the 1970 NBA Finals will always live long in New Yorker’s minds. Not to mention, Reed was an undersized center. Despite standing 6-foot-9, Reed weighed just 240 pounds, which makes his game even more impressive.
8. Chris Bosh
19.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.0
Think about this for a second. Bosh essentially left the league at only 31 years old. Due to a heart condition, Bosh had to hang it up early after LeBron James returned to the Cavaliers. Still, Bosh entered the league at 19 years old and had a Hall of Fame-worthy career. That includes 11 All-Star appearances, two championship rings, and was once the Raptors all-time leader in points.
Bosh later developed a three-point shot and was the main postman during the Heat’s four-year stretch to the NBA Finals. He was a dominant big man for over a decade. It’s too bad his career had to end early.
7. Artis Gilmore
17.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.9 BPG
Before Gilmore entered the NBA, he dominated the ABA for five seasons. When the ABA and NBA merged, Gilmore continued to play as a dominant center in the league. In eight NBA seasons, Gilmore averaged a double-double but never was able to win an NBA championship.
He did win an ABA ring in 1975 with George Gervin and remains the all-time ABA leader in defensive rebounds. In the NBA, he is the all-time leader in blocks for the Chicago Bulls, the one record that Michael Jordan couldn’t get.
6. Nate Archibald
18.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 7.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.1 BPG
During the 1972-1973 season, he became the only player to ever lead the league in scoring and assists per game. This is a record that remains today. Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, nor Trae Young have ever accomplished that feat. All have come close but “Tiny” Archibald is the only player to ever do it.
In 1977, Archibald’s career was derailed and he never played the same. Before the injury, Archibald averaged 24.8 points per game and averaged 8.0 assists per game. After the injury, he averaged 12.0 points and 6.7 assists. The 6-foot-1, 150-pound lefty made six All-Star appearances and five All-NBA selections.
5. Chris Mullin
18.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Mullin is just one of 29 players to ever record a 25-5-5 season. He was the lite-version of James Harden in the late 80s and early 90s. This is where he showcased his versatility and how dominant he was during his peak seasons.
In a five-year span from 1988-1993, only Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, and Dominique Wilkins averaged more points than Mullin. That was because he had one of the most lethal three-point shots, including averaging over 41% from the three-point range over the last eight years. A player that can shoot, rebound, and assist. Think of anybody that reminds you of that from this season?
4. Bob Lanier
20.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.1 BPG
Lanier recorded at least 21 points and 11 rebounds per game for seven straight years. Considering the 70s were a decade that featured dominant big men, what does that say about big, bad Bob Lanier? During that decade, 12 players recorded a seven-year stretch of that king.
What separates Lanier from the boys is that he was an incredible defender to go along with his offensive interior presence. He is one of 29 all-time players to record at least 70 offensive win shares and 40 defensive win shares. He is a true legend.
3. James Harden
25.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Harden’s story began in Oklahoma City as the team’s sixth man before becoming the superstar in Houston. From 2013 to 2016, Harden averaged 27.0 points per game. Over the last three seasons, Harden has averaged 33.7 points per game and has captured the last three scoring titles. There was a point in time where we truly believed he was going to average over 40 points per game.
Harden’s dominance could continue as he is just 31 years old. He is on pace to win the MVP after coming over to the Brooklyn Nets. Could Harden climb his way to the top of this list when it is all said and done?
2. David Robinson
21.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 3.0 BPG
“The Admiral” doesn’t need anyone’s help in convincing the viewers that he is one of the best left-handed players of all time. Who knows how much better his career would be if he didn’t serve two years in the Navy before coming to the NBA. He is one of the few players to ever achieve a quadruple-double. He helped the Spurs win two championships and formed a terrifying twin tower with Tim Duncan in the 90s.
Robinson wasn’t just an offensive force but a great defender too. Out of all left-handed players, he leads the team in blocks. During Michael Jordan’s brief absence, he was the best player in the league.
1. Bill Russell
15.1 PPG, 22.5 RPG, 4.3 APG
If the NBA counted steals and blocks during Russell’s time in the league, who knows what those numbers would have looked like? In 13 seasons, Russell was as good as it came as a basketball player, especially a left-handed basketball player.
No player has more defensive shares in history than Russell (133.6). That has a lot to do with his rebounding average, where he ranks second-best all-time. He owns five MFP awards and 11 NBA Finals rings. There is not a single lefty in the NBA that will ever top his greatness.