There is something about elite scorers that draw the attention of fans across the world. The greatest scorers in the game are usually the most popular players, and receive the most recognition for their talent on the floor. After all, the point of basketball is to outscore your opponent and nobody did it better than these 7 players.
We have collected the 7 most skilled scorers in NBA history, based on their full arsenal of scoring numbers and offensive accolades. By determining their ability to score in all aspects of the game, it will be hard for any other player to usurp what these 7 superstars have done on the offensive end. These players were all guards or forwards, and there is no space for big men who averaged a lot of points but were not able to score in the variety of ways that these guys can.
7. Tracy McGrady
Scoring Awards: 2
Career PPG: 19.6
Top 3 Highest Season PPG: 32.1, 28.0, 26.8
People will never forget how dominant Tracy McGrady was in his prime. The Hall of Famer was a dominant scorer for the Orlando Magic and also for the Houston Rockets, where he made his name as arguably a top-three shooting guard in the league. McGrady blossomed into a great player as soon as he was traded to the Orlando Magic in 2001 and immediately won Most Improved Player.
Taking his average from 15.4 PPG to 26.8 PPG in one season was extraordinary, and the All-Star would average a career-high 32.0 PPG two seasons later. The Magic never had a player of McGrady’s capabilities in their history, even if they had postseason success with other superstars such as Dwight Howard.
McGrady could do it all on offense, including getting to the rack of rising up for jumpers over helpless defenders. His 13 points in 33 seconds might be the greatest streak of offense we had ever seen from a player, and the 6’8” scorer was truly an unstoppable force in clutch situations. Injured derailed his career, but McGrady was a special scorer for the time he was in the league.
6. Stephen Curry
Scoring Awards: 2
Career PPG: 24.2
Top 3 Highest Season PPG: 32.0, 30.1, 27.3
It is amazing how a slender 6’3” point guard can change the game, but Stephen Curry did it as soon as he became an All-Star. Curry alerted all NBA teams, and the world, on the value of the three-point shot. The future Hall of Famer is on track to shatter the record for most three-pointers made in an NBA career, and it is only a matter of time.
Curry has 2 scoring titles to his name, the second coming last season to almost lead a young Warriors team to the playoffs. We have seen some great shooters throughout NBA history such as Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, and Larry Bird; but none of them could create their own shot from 30 feet like Curry can.
The Baby-Faced Assassin is a threat as soon as he steps in front of the half-court, and teams are willing to give up layups in favor of not letting Curry shoot from three. Cury has shown he can take over games with his marksmanship, and 2 MVP Awards are a testament to that. But beyond shooting, Curry has an array of flip moves and layups around the rim to make him a complete offensive superstar.
5. James Harden
Scoring Awards: 3
Career PPG: 25.1
Top 3 Highest Season PPG: 36.1, 34.3, 30.4
What James Harden has done over the past few seasons is the stuff of legends and many are already claiming that The Beard is the greatest isolation player of all time. Based on stats and impact, it is kind of hard to argue against that. Harden does it in a way that irks fans of other teams, which is probably why he receives a ton of criticism.
James Harden makes a living at the three-point line, free-throw line, and around the basket. He hardly attempts mid-range shots and is a master at drawing fouls to get easy points. Not since the likes of Wilt Chamberlain have we seen a player score points as easily as Harden has the past few years.
While he is clearly benefitting from modern NBA rules, The Beard has captured 3 scoring titles and managed to drop an average of 33.7 PPG between 2018 (his MVP season) and 2020. While he is playing with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn which could affect his scoring numbers, Harden has shown enough that he is a top-7 scorer in NBA history.
4. Kevin Durant
Scoring Awards: 4
Career PPG: 27.0
Top 3 Highest Season PPG: 32.0, 30.1, 28.2
It is amazing how the Oklahoma City Thunder had James Harden and Kevin Durant on one team at some point because the 6’10” swingman is one of the most dominant offensive players of all time. Durant has 4 scoring titles, which is 3rd most behind Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. His ability to score the ball against any defender is his greatest strength.
Durant is hardly affected by great defense because he is extremely long with a high-release in his jumper. That means Durant can get a good look whenever he wants and is an extremely efficient scorer. Over his career, Durant averages 27.0 PPG on 49.4% from the field, 38.4% from three, and 88.3% from the free-throw line.
But beyond a sniper of a jumper, Durant has incredible handles which allow him to slice and dice to the basket. When he is at the rim, the “Slim Reaper” can jam it over helpless defenders or finish with an easy two. Former superstar and current Hall of Famer George Gervin was a similar build as Durant and won 4 scoring titles, except Durant adds a better jumper with range extending to the three-point line. Kevin Durant is one of the greatest and there is not much else to say about that.
3. Allen Iverson
Scoring Awards: 4
Career PPG: 26.7
Top 3 Highest Season PPG: 33.0, 31.4, 31.1
Most pundits across the NBA world believe that if Allen Iverson was at least 6’6”, he would have been the greatest player and it would not be close. The Answer had everything as a scorer: shooting ability, handles, speed, and unlimited heart. Whenever Iverson drove to the basket, he would take hits but would still finish his shot and often get to the free-throw line.
As a creator of his own offense, Iverson was elite. He had stepbacks, cross-over moves, and every layup in the book. The miniature 6’0” guard dominated the game for so long by winning 4 scoring titles, an MVP, and having the achievement of carrying the 76ers to the Finals in 2001.
People still goof on Iverson about his “practice” rant, but Iverson was great enough to not have to practice in the first place. Looking back at every player in NBA history, hardly anyone played as hard as Iverson did and dominated the scoring charts like him. Iverson had a total of 4 seasons averaging over 30 PPG and is without a doubt, one of the greatest scorers ever.
2. Kobe Bryant
Scoring Awards: 2
Career PPG: 25.0
Top 3 Highest Season PPG: 35.4, 31.6, 30.0
While Bryant’s scoring titles and career PPG average are below that of others in this list, his offensive game was perfection. Only one player had the argument for being a better scorer than Kobe Bryant, and he happened to be the “Black Mamba”’s idol. In a nutshell, Bryant was so far ahead of anyone else that he should be placed on a level of his own.
Kobe won 2 scoring titles over his career and had 3 seasons where he averaged over 30 PPG. His 2006 season, where he averaged 35.4 PPG, might be the greatest scoring year by a player since Wilt Chamberlain. Bryant dropped 81 points in a single game and also 62 points through 3 quarters while outscoring the Dallas Mavericks singlehandedly.
In terms of skill, nobody compares to what Bryant brought to the game as a scorer. He had immense footwork, the greatest-ever by a non-center, and was capable of going 1-on-5 if it meant that was needed for his Lakers teams to win. Kobe was unstoppable as a young, afroed #8 and later as a mature #24. Only one man has managed to usurp Bryant as a scorer and he happens to be the greatest player who ever lived.
1. Michael Jordan
Scoring Awards: 10
Career PPG: 30.1
Top 3 Highest Season PPG: 37.1, 35.0, 33.6
The GOAT, the biggest rockstar in NBA history, and the man who has 10 scoring titles is none other than Michael Jordan. Jordan broke new grounds as a basketball player, taking what Magic Johnson and Larry Bird did and made the game worldwide. Everyone on Earth knows who Michael Jordan is, and it is hard not to.
Jordan was the greatest winner in basketball history, and arguably in sports history. He never lost a single championship game, whether it was in college, the NBA, or an international stage. Jordan went 6-0 in the Finals with 6 Finals MVPs, led the NBA in scoring 10 times out of his 15 seasons, and had every offensive move in the book.
Simply the greatest scorer ever, Jordan was also the most spectacular athlete at his position. Jordan almost levitated in games, rising over defenders to score and making one highlight-reel play after another. Jordan is simply the GOAT and his unstoppable scoring ability is the main reason why, along with his killer instinct. Simply look up Jordan’s greatest offensive moves to explain how he was not human and was able to stay in the air longer than any other player could to get his points. There will never be another MJ, so he gets the nod as the most skilled scorer in NBA history.