While box score stats dominate the NBA today, leadership quality often goes unrecognized and it is one of the most important attributes a player can have. A player can be skilled, but if he doesn't have the qualities of a leader, he can't be the best player on a team that delivers championships.
We have seen some of the greatest leaders in sports history play in the NBA, and two of them are currently still playing in 2020. By ranking the ten greatest leaders to have ever played basketball, we narrow down the single most dominant leader in NBA history.
10. Kevin Garnett
KG starts off the list as being one of the game's best leaders at the power forward position. His competitiveness and intensity made him a dominant player on both ends of the floor, and he is one of the most iconic players to ever grace the court.
KG was an MVP with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he had the most success with the Boston Celtics. He was traded to Boston to join Paul Pierce and immediately transformed the Celtics into the best defensive team in the league. Garnett won a DPOY Award in 2008, making him a true leader on the court.
9. Chris Paul
The best leader at the point guard position right now is Chris Paul. Even at 34 years of age, he plays at consistency and desire that is unparalleled at his position. Chris Paul is a master playmaker because he knows exactly how to read a defense, and can decide to shoot or pass in an instant. CP3 runs the point better than most point guards in history, so of course, he appears on this list.
CP3 knew his limitations physically but fought harder than most players on a nightly basis. The definition of a pure point guard is what Chris Paul brings to the table, so he is an easy inclusion in this list.
8. Isiah Thomas
The great Isiah Thomas is the second-greatest leader at the point guard spot in NBA history. He led the Detroit Pistons to two straight NBA titles and he earned himself a Finals MVP as well. Thomas and the Pistons were known as the main villain that prevented Michael Jordan from winning his first NBA title.
Isiah Thomas had it all as a leader, from vocal leadership to an exceptional offensive and defensive game. Thomas could control the pace of play with his scoring, and always knew when he should be a playmaker. Thomas is one of the greatest of all time and deserves to be on this list.
7. Tim Duncan
Many fans don't realize how Tim Duncan was an exceptional leader. He was soft-spoken and often looked disconnected from reality, but this was not the case. Duncan was the main reason why the San Antonio Spurs Dynasty won five NBA championships with Gregg Popovich at the helm. He was not only a vocal leader in the locker room but the best power forward to ever play on the court.
Tim Duncan was the main guy on defense and on offense because he knew how to play the game at the highest possible level and make sure his teammates were held accountable. 5 NBA Titles, 3 Finals MVPs, and legendary status for the great Tim Duncan earns him a spot on this list.
6. Larry Bird
Larry Legend is one of the most iconic players in NBA history and also one of the greatest leaders ever. He just misses out on the top five, but Bird is still an exceptional leader who was ultra-competitive. Few players in NBA history have the ability to have an off shooting night and still lead his team to victory. Bird had every tool in the bag and his excellent all-around game means he's one of the best leaders ever.
Bird won 3 MVPs and 3 NBA championships with the Boston Celtics and was the main reason why they had tremendous success. With a guy like Larry Bird on the team, you always knew who could deliver in the clutch and lead your team to victory because of his self-confidence and belief in himself.
5. LeBron James
Without a doubt, LeBron James is one of the greatest leaders in sports history. Standing 6'8" and weighing 260 lb pounds, he is a force of nature and one of the greatest playmakers in NBA history. His unselfishness and even his dominant vocal leadership makes him the best in the game today. He makes everyone around him better, and can lead any supporting cast to the NBA Finals. His productivity and efficiency at his position is something that we will never see again.
But it is LeBron's ability to guide his teammates on and off the court that makes him such a valuable sports figure. He has 3 NBA titles with 3 Finals MVPs, 4 MVPs, and made 9 NBA Finals in his career. LeBron is pristine off the court and an example for every player in the NBA to follow.
4. Bill Russell
The great Bill Russell is considered one of the greatest leaders we have ever seen. He was a monster rebounder and is regarded as the greatest defensive presence in NBA history. Russell led by example on defense, because opponents struggled to score on him. He was too tall, too gifted, and too impactful on defense.
The main reason Russell was a great leader was his consistency. He did it every single game and every single year, winning 11 NBA titles in the process. No other player has had that type of postseason success, and credit must be due to one of the best winners ever.
3. Kobe Bryant
It took Kobe Bryant some time, but he became one of the greatest and most iconic leaders in NBA history. Every player in the league looked up to Kobe Bryant because he was the one who received the torch from MJ and dominated the league with exceptional skills and athleticism.
Kobe in his younger days had some growing up to do, as he was just an offensive explosion and athletic monster who wanted to prove himself. But the #24 Kobe Bryant was a mature, grounded, and focused man who led the Los Angeles Lakers to two straight NBA titles. Kobe was at his best here, since he knew the game inside and out and was truly an unstoppable force. His vocal leadership and hardworking nature make him one of the best leaders ever.
2. Magic Johnson
No surprise here, Magic Johnson makes the top-two. Magic is the greatest point guard of all time and the greatest leader at his position ever. He would be the greatest leader in NBA history without a doubt if a particular player from North Carolina doesn't earn the first spot.
Magic had the best vision on the court, and literally played the game to get his teammates involved. Magic controlled the pace of play and set up his teammates perfectly every time, always making sure he did the right things to win. Every player in history would love to play with Magic, and 5 NBA titles mean he sure did a ton of winning.
1. Michael Jordan
Unsurprisingly, Michael Jordan tops the list as the greatest leader of all time. While he was not as affable or unselfish as Magic Johnson, Jordan simply played at too high a level to not be a great leader. The way he trained, practiced and performed means everyone on his team had to fall in line. He worked harder than anybody else and wanted to make sure there wasn't any player that would ever surpass him.
Jordan could be abrasive at times and was a selfish scorer by nature, but he did it to win. He led his teammates and held them accountable to win. Everything MJ did was for the sake of winning and delivering championships to Chicago. There will never be another Michael Jordan, and his dedication to his craft easily makes him the greatest leader ever.