The shooting guard position is possibly the flashiest position in NBA history. With the likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant clearly leading the way, we have seen some of the NBA’s most exciting scorers start at the two-guard spot.
The best shooting guards have won countless individual achievements, team awards, and have made marks in NBA history. After all, arguably the two greatest perimeter scorers of all-time in Micahel Jordan and Kobe Bryant have made the position extremely renowned. But even legends like Jerry West and Dwyane Wade have won multiple individual awards and NBA titles, giving plenty of excitement for fans all over the world.
Still, only a handful of shooting guards can be selected as the greatest to ever do it. To determine which player belongs in which class of all-time great shooting guards, we have divided them into tiers.
Here are all the NBA's greatest shooting guards in Tiers.
Sam Jones, Alvin Robertson, DeMar DeRozan, Richard Hamilton
The Tier 5 shooting guards are all Hall of Fame worthy but do not possess the natural ability and skillsets of the higher tier shooting guards. This may be because they lack what it takes to lead their teams to championships on their own, or they have holes in their games that do not compare to all-time great shooting guards. Still, these guys are All-Star quality with exceptional stats and awards to back their careers.
Sam Jones kicks off this tier as the most successful player out of all shooting guards. That’s right, even beyond Michael Jordan. Jones won a whopping 10 NBA titles with the Celtics, averaging a career 17.7 PPG. It is clear that the Celtics blew away any and all competition back in the day, but Jones deserves credit for being one of the best players for a great Dynasty.
Alvin Robertson is on this Tier because he was an all-time great defensive presence. Robertson won the Defensive Player of the Year Award, an award mainly gifted to bigger players, and is also a 4-time All-Star. Robertson made his living on the defensive end, which resulted in him becoming a three-time steals champ and 6-time All-Defensive team performer.
DeMar DeRozan may not have had enough playoff success to warrant a Hall of Fame berth just yet, he is still one of the best shooting guards in history if you look at stats and production. DeRozan averages 20.0 PPG for his career, and has had great individual success playing in the NBA with the Raptors and Spurs. He is a 4-time All-Star and a phenomenal athlete who deserves a spot on the top-25 shooting guard list because he was automatic from mid-range and a tremendous slasher.
Richard “Rip” Hamilton made a career off of ball-movement. He, along with Ray Allen, were exceptional at moving without the ball and coming off screens for a patented perimeter shot. Hamilton won an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004 and was part of a “Big Five” alongside Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace. Hamilton was also a three-time NBA All-Star.
Reggie Miller, Klay Thompson, Ray Allen, Pete Maravich, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Hal Greer, Bill Sharman, Earl Monroe, David Thompson, Joe Dumars, Mitch Richmond, Manu Ginobili
The Tier 4 shooting guards are a step above the Tier 5 group mainly due to their extraordinary scoring ability and unique intangibles. These guys are superstar talents with the ability to score the ball at a superstar level, and possibly be the number one option on a very good team. For many of these players, they have played in the NBA Finals and even managed to win NBA championships. Overall, these guys played prominent roles in their teams throughout their careers.
Reggie Miller is one of the most clutch players in NBA history, and possibly a top-five shooter ever. Before Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson went on their hot streaks, it was Miller who stole the headlines as the best shooter ever. Miller was also the best player for an Indiana Pacers team who made the Finals and a Pacer legend.
Ray Allen surpassed Reggie Miller in total three-pointers made, and many regarded him as the better version of Miller because of that. Ray Allen was a dominant scorer earlier on in his career, before winning an NBA title with the Celtics as the third option as mainly a spot-up shooter and clutch shot-maker. Allen also hit one of the most clutch shots in history when he played for the Heat, essentially giving them the chance to win the NBA title - which they did.
Klay Thompson is the best shooter in this group, and that is amazing because we never would have thought that someone could possibly out-shoot Allen or Miller. Klay has won 3 NBA titles with the Warriors and is part of a dynamic frontcourt with Stephen Curry. Klay is a better defender than both Miller and Allen, which is a big plus for him.
Pistole Pete Maravich was a sharpshooting playmaker who was just a beast offensively. He was also one of the iconic legends of the game to put professional basketball in the limelight, and an incredible talent with the ball in his hands. One does not need more than to simply watch and admire this man’s highlight reels on Youtube, because he truly was an integral part of the league’s popularity.
T-Mac, Tracy McGrady, would easily be Tier 3 - or possibly higher - if he was able to remain healthy. McGrady struggled with back problems which effectively ended his career, but he was an absolute beast in his prime. With the Magic, he was on par with Kobe Bryant as the best guard in the game and possibly the most dominant scorer. Even with the Rockets he was the go-to player and put forth an iconic 13 points in 33-seconds performance that will forever be remembered in history.
Vince Carter, McGrady’s cousin, is possibly the greatest dunker of all-time. While that is admirable, this isn’t the only thing Carter could do on the floor. He put Toronto on the map many years ago and carried that franchise for a long-time. Even when he was traded to the New Jersey Nets, he was the man on that team and one of the best scorers at the off-guard spot. Carter is still in the league now and has played with and against some of the best players ever.
Hal Greer was a 10-time All-Star who played at a high level for over a decade in a very consistent manner. Greer also managed to capture a title with Philadelphia in 1967 and is a valued member of the Hall of Fame. His consistency on the offensive end and multiple All-Star game selections make him a worthy player for Tier 4.
Bill Sharman played 11 seasons in the NBA, making 8 All-Star teams and 7 All-NBA selections. Sharman was mainly part of an excellent Celtics team, winning 4 NBA titles and averaging 17.8 PPG for his career. His scoring and NBA titles earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Earl “The Pearl” Monroe was a 4-time All-Star, former ROY, NBA champion, and valued member of the NBA's Hall of Fame. Monroe averaged 18.8 PPG and did the bulk of his damage by destroying opponents in one-on-one situations and using an array of dazzling dribble moves to his advantage. To many who played against him, Monroe was just too much to handle.
David Thompson was an all-time great scorer s a member of the Denver Nuggets and might be their best talent ever. He won a Rookie of the Year Award, by averaging 26.0 PPG, and averaged 22.7 PPG for his career. Thompson was just a phenomenal scorer, who did the bulk of his damage from the mid-range inward. It would be scary to imagine if Thompson had the ability and desire to shoot three’s in today’s NBA.
Former Finals MVP Joe Dumars was part of an all-time great backcourt that featured Isiah Thomas, and a member of the Hall of Fame. Dumars was a two-way guard who was a 6-time All-Star and 5-time All-Defensive Team Selected player. He is mostly known for his bulldog play for a legendary “Bad Boy Pistons” team that ran the league for two straight years and winning two straight NBA titles.
Mitch Richmond is a very undervalued talent in NBA history. He was a scoring machine and an absolute monster at getting buckets. Richmond averaged 21.0 PPG over his career, won the ROY Award in 1989, and a member of the Hall of Fame. The highlight of his career was averaging 25.9 PPG for the Sacramento Kings, along with winning the 1994-1995 All-Star game MVP Award.
Finally, Manu Ginobili is possibly the most unselfish player in NBA history. The Argentinian would start on any NBA team and could have made many more All-Star teams if he only cared about his stats. Instead, he sacrificed for his team and it led the Spurs winning 4 NBA titles with Manu forming a part of a storied Big Three with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. Ginobili is a clear Hall of Famer and possibly the best 6th man to ever play the game.
Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson, Jerry West, Clyde Drexler, James Harden, George Gervin
The Tier 3 shooting guards are the superstar players who are among the very best to ever do it. These four men are capable of carrying a team to the Finals, impacting the floor at an extremely high level, and capturing countless individual achievements.
Current superstar James Harden is already in Tier 3. Needless to say, he will always be there. Harden is an absolutely gifted scorer, who has unbelievable efficiency when it comes to scoring points or creating for his teammates. After starting his carer backing up Russell Westbrook and winning 6th Man of the Year, Harden blossomed into an unstoppable offensive force with the Rockets and is already the best scorer in the league today. A single-player simply cannot stop him, and his mixture of passing and scoring makes him a walking offensive machine on his own. He has yet to capture an NBA title or play in the Finals, but has won an MVP Award and is already one of the 10 best scorers ever.
Clyde Drexler was the king of the shooting guard position before Michael Jordan arrived. Drexler was the flashiest player, the most dominant high flyer, and a capable scorer in the league for many years. He is also a legend and one of the most iconic figures in NBA history. Drexler managed to capture an NBA title with the Rockets in the 1994-1995 season and is a 10-time All-Star which resulted in him earning his Hall of Fame spot. Drexler is clearly a Tier 3 shooting guard and one of the best to ever play the position.
Allen Iverson is one of the most beloved and iconic players ever. Even if he did not win an NBA title, he carried a mediocre team to the NBA Finals and won the first game against the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers with prime Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Iverson is one the best scorers ever, and possibly the best little man to have ever played. The only thing standing in Iverson’s way as a player was his size, and the fact that he never had a great team behind him to catapult him to an NBA title. Still, A.I. will go down in history as the highest-scoring little man ever.
When it comes to the king of Tier 3, this has to be Dwyane Wade. As great as Allen Iverson was as a scorer, he could not impact the game defensively like Dwyane Wade could and that was the difference. In almost any case, Wade is the 3rd best shooting guard ever. He put together arguably the most dominant Finals run in the 2005-2006 season and knocked off the favored Dallas Mavericks. Wade won Finals MVP that year and has 3 rings in total. Wade is also the best shot-blocking guard in history and is a complete player with no real weakness. Wade was the only player to carry a franchise on his back and win a title in Tier 3, and he deserves recognition for that.
George Gervin was a scoring machine and 12-time All-Star who is one of the best scoring guards to have ever played. In his prime, he could score the ball in isolation circumstances better than 90% of the league. He averaged a career 25.1 PPG and did his damage mainly with the Spurs. The Iceman fell short of an MVP Award twice in his career, finishing second place, and even managed a whopping 407 straight games of scoring in double digits. In terms of being a consistent scorer at the highest level, Gervin is truly one of the best to ever do it.
Jerry West, the logo, is a part of the esteemed Tier 3. A Lakers legend, West shot a career 81.4% from the free-throw line and 47.4% from the field while averaging 27.0 PPG. Clearly, he was a sharpshooter and scorer of the highest order and one of the best shooting guards of all time. Unfortunately for him, West has one of the most shockingly bad Finals records in history by going 1-9 in the Finals. While not entirely his fault, that is one bad stain on a legendary career.
This next tier contains only one player, and his name is Kobe Bryant. Because Kobe is so far ahead of the rest of the pack, he deserves a place as the second-best shooting guard of all-time. This is nothing to sneeze at, especially when many consider Michael Jordan to be the best player ever regardless of position. When mentioning the greatest players of all time who have made a global impact on the game, Kobe Bryant is usually one of the first names uttered. A no-ballot Hall of Famer and extremely gifted scorer, Kobe was the MJ of the modern generation of players.
He won 5 NBA titles with the Lakers, staying his whole career and consistently made his case as a top-two shooting guard to have ever lived. What he did for the game of basketball was truly special, as he brought a “Mamba Mentality” and killer will every time he stepped on the court. He dedicated his whole life to dominate the game of basketball, and we are all truly grateful for that.
5 NBA titles, 2 Finals MVPs, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, and 11-time 1st Team All-NBA make him the second-best shooting guard ever and it is not close.
Best of the Best: Michael Jordan
In a league that has been historically filled with fantastic talent at the shooting guard position, Michael Jordan is the man. He is the man, the myth, and the legend for the NBA and the single almost unearthly athlete we have ever seen. Jordan was an obsessed winner, blessed with incredible talent and athleticism, and simply hardly did anything wrong in his career.
Jordan’s 10 scoring titles, 6 NBA titles, 6 Finals MVPs, and Defensive Player of the Year Award puts him far ahead of every player we have ever seen. It was Michael Jordan who was the face of the league and still remains the most iconic and well-known player in the world.
He won at every level, both individually and as part of a team, and provided countless memories for all fans and media to enjoy for the rest of eternity. Michael’s scoring ability and defensive prowess was near perfection, and there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do well on the court. MJ sits firmly atop Tier 1 as the best shooting guard ever.