LeBron James is en route to his 4th NBA ring and 4th Finals MVP Award, putting him in a special company. Many rank LeBron among the very best to ever do it, and he will get ever closer to catching Michael Jordan's 6 rings with a win this year. LeBron James is regarded as the best player of all time to a wide range of the younger population, while old heads tend to keep LeBron somewhere in the top five.
Either way, there is no doubt that LeBron James is one of the greatest players to have ever played and certainly the best small forward of all time. Beyond 4 NBA rings, LeBron has brought a level of consistency that is unparalleled. 17 seasons with incredible statistics and individual accolades are truly astonishing, and he has an excellent case for being the GOAT. To settle the debate, it is time to rank the 5 greatest NBA players considering LeBron James captures his 4th NBA ring this season.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Career Average: 24.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 3.6 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.6 BPG
6 x NBA Champion, 2 x Finals MVP, 6 x NBA MVP
Starting off the top-5 list is the greatest big man to have ever played. Many regard Kareem as the greatest basketball athlete, for what he did in college and the pros. No matter where you place Kareem, there is no doubt he is in the top five. Kareem has the single most unstoppable shot in history with his skyhook. Kareem was able to play into his 40's at a high level because he could get his sky-hook shot off at any time. Kareem is currently the leading scorer in NBA history with 38,387 total points (Malone is second with 36,928 and LeBron third with 34,241).
What made Kareem Abdul-Jabbar particularly special was his impact on both ends. Kareem led the NBA in blocks in 4 different seasons, along with holding a career average of 2.6 BPG. Kareem's average of 11.2 RPG is also spectacular, meaning he was a beast at contesting shots and corralling boards. For the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers, Kareem is held in the highest regard for being a near-perfect NBA center.
Abdul-Jabbar is a 6-time NBA champion, 6-time MVP, 15-time All-NBA performer, 2-time Finals MVP, and a 19-time All-Star. To top it off, Kareem also won the Rookie of the Year in 1969 and made a total of 11 All-Defensive Teams. No player in NBA history has these amount of accolades over 20 years of play, and there is no doubt there will never be a big man as dominant as Kareem again.
4. Magic Johnson
Career Average: 19.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 11.2 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.4 BPG
5 x NBA Champion, 3 x Finals MVP, 3 x NBA MVP
The greatest point guard ever without question, Magic Johnson was the best leader and floor general in NBA history. Magic could be dropped on any NBA team and immediately make them a contender due to his impact on the floor. No player in history could run a fast break as well as Magic Johnson, and he could make any pass at any given moment. Magic was created on this Earth to play point guard and dominate the pace of play.
Johnson had a unique style of play with his large shoulders, shielding the ball as he dribbles to scan the floor. His no-look passes and pin-point bounce passes were the stuff of legend, and he was the driving force behind 5 Lakers NBA championships. Perhaps Magic's greatest moment came in his rookie season, where he played as a makeshift center in the NBA Finals to capture his first NBA title and win Finals MVP. There will never be another Magic Johnson.
Johnson made a whopping 12 All-Star Teams, 10 All-NBA Teams, and even won the All-Star Game MVP on 2 separate occasions. As the best passer in the league, Magic led the league in assists on 4 separate occasions and led the NBA in steals for 2 separate seasons as well. No point guard will usurp what Magic did for the game, and he comes in at number 4 on the all-time list.
3. LeBron James
Career Average: 27.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG
**4 x NBA Champion, 4 x Finals MVP, 4 x NBA MVP
**Assuming LeBron James wins the NBA title this year
Assuming LeBron James captures his 4th NBA title, he solidified himself as at least the 3rd greatest player in NBA history. What LeBron James has accomplished in his career is something that cannot be usurped. LeBron James has been the best player on his team since he came into the league and has never once made the press for any off-court issues beyond the harmless showcase of "The Decision" which marked his move to Miami from Cleveland. LeBron James has been a role model for every sports fan and is truly one of the most powerful global icons that we have ever seen.
What James brings to the NBA floor is something that is hard to replicate. At 6'8" and 260 lbs, James is built like an NFL linebacker and can move at the speed of a running back. Gifted with incredible basketball I.Q and passing ability, LeBron can single-handedly lead any team to the NBA Finals because of his impact. LeBron has made an unbelievable 10 NBA Finals appearances, with 3 different NBA teams.
James is a 16-time All-Star, 16-time All-NBA performer, 3-time All-Star Game MVP, and also the 2003 Rookie of the Year. James managed to lead the league in scoring in 2007, lead in assists in the 2019 season, and made a total of 6 All-Defensive Teams. LeBron James is the greatest small forward ever and is behind two all-time great shooting guards in the pecking order.
2. Kobe Bryant
Career Average: 25.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.5 BPG
5 x NBA Champion, 2 x Finals MVP, 1 x NBA MVP
The Black Mamba is the second greatest player of all time. LeBron James has been on such a tear for so long, Kobe Bryant is often overlooked with his 5 NBA rings and consistency of dominance since his 3rd NBA season. Kobe Bryant had a forgettable rookie season, averaging only 7.6 PPG in 15.5 MPG, which is a major reason people tend to overlook him in the LeBron James comparison. But Kobe sprung to live in his 3rd season, averaging 19.9 PPG in 37.9 MPG as a full-time star. Kobe shortly won 3 straight NBA rings alongside Shaquille O'Neal in the most dominant duo of all time.
While Shaq captured 3 straight NBA Finals MVPs, Kobe Bryant was just as responsible for the Lakers’ rings as Shaq was. Kobe was the dominant perimeter player and go-to clutch player whenever Shaq was in foul trouble or was a liability from the free-throw line. Even after Shaq, Kobe was the best player in the NBA and managed to drop a legendary 81 points in a single game vs the Toronto Raptors. When Kobe acquired a big man to help him in the paint in Pau Gasol, he won two more NBA rings in a row and two straight Finals MVPs. Kobe always got it done when he had a big man to help him, as he was a slender 6'6" who dominated his position better than any player outside of a certain Chicago Bull.
Kobe made 16 All-Star Teams, 15 All-NBA Teams, 12 All-Defensive Teams, and won the All-Star Game MVP 4 separate times. Bryant's 5 NBA rings are just a tad better than LeBron's 4, and he never had to join a superteam on multiple occasions to get it done. For years, Kobe had to fight on a very poor Lakers team before he got Pau Gasol. Kobe is arguably the most clutch player to have ever lived and had a killer instinct that simply cannot be compared. Only one player has managed to beat out Kobe's accolades, perfect skillset, and dominance on both ends of the court.
1. Michael Jordan
Career Average: 30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG
6 x NBA Champion, 6 x Finals MVP, 5 x NBA MVP
The GOAT himself. Michael Jordan is by far the greatest player of all-time. LeBron James has consistency and longevity on his side, and Kobe Bryant has the 5 NBA rings to come close. But Jordan is simply on another level. There is a reason MJ is regarded as the greatest athlete in all of sports history. Every person on Earth knows who Michael Jordan is because no player has the impact MJ had.
Jordan dominates any debate about the greatest NBA player ever. In terms of individual accolades, no one comes close. Jordan won 6 NBA Finals MVPs and 5 MVPs, made 14 All-Star Teams, 11 All-NBA Teams, 9 All-Defensive Teams, and captured the 1984 Rookie of the Year. MJ also won the Defensive Player of the Year, something unheard of for a score-first shooting guard. Not to mention, MJ is the greatest scorer of all time having an unbelievable 10 scoring titles with a career average of 30.1 PPG. Want more greatness? Jordan is undefeated in the NBA Finals with a 6-0 record without ever playing in a Game 7. Jordan killed off all competition every year, making it clear that no one will ever be as good as him. When Jordan was on the court, no one could touch him.
Whether from the perimeter or at the rim, Jordan was completely unstoppable. He had an unstoppable fadeaway jumper that every NBA player including Kobe Bryant mimicked and had the most graceful finishes at the rim ever. Defensively, Jordan could shut down anybody along the length of the court. Mentally, nobody was better. Jordan had complete confidence to make any shot and is simply the greatest winner in NBA history. Jordan's killer will paired with his perfect skillset led him to a host of unbeatable individual and team accolades which will forever place him as the king of the NBA.