Jay C. Brandriet
This is not an all time list. It’s not even a “my time” list. There are several players I watched that I did not include (Kareem. Moses, and more). I wanted to focus on those I felt I saw at their best. It’s a challenge not to list about 125 guys. Here are the 35 I’d claim are the best I’ve seen to date. Kyrie, Dominique, and Alonzo Mourning just missed the cut.
#35- TRACY MCGRADY – If you can score 13 points in 35 seconds to beat the Spurs, you’re hired.
#34- JAMES WORTHY– I picture him waving the ball around like it’s a grape fruit. First step, spin move, two points.
#33- PAUL PIERCE- I always thought of Paul as a grind it out, low-level superstar. In the end, he had a phenomenal career.
#32- GRANT HILL- He was such a big deal as a new age point forward. As an older player, Grant became a defensive guy.
#31- KEVIN MCHALE– Karl Malone and Charles Barkley both called McHale their toughest matchup. Kevin was a back to the basket stud.
#30- JASON KIDD- Pushing the ball with that hard dribble, J Kidd had eyes everywhere.
#29- CHRIS WEBBER – His hands were basketball magnets. Sensational passer. Chris hit the top five player level in the pros.
#28- GARY PAYTON – In his defensive crouch, Palms showing. Rocking his head side to side, and chewing his gum like the cockiest man alive. “The glove” was legit.
#27- JAMES HARDEN – Point flurry’s, step back threes, makes you foul him…Harden is an offensive witch.
#26- RUSSELL WESTBROOK- More than all these triple doubles, Westbrook’s competitive fire is the story.
#25- PATRICK EWING- Patrick had the size, rugged traits, and one of the most elegant shots from the baseline.
#24- SCOTTIE PIPPEN- On six title teams, Pippen ranged anywhere from the third to twelfth best player in the world.
#23- CLYDE DREXLER- Clyde was a classic aerial player and finisher at the basket. Rare Drexler note: He finished in the top ten in steals, seven times.
#22- STEVE NASH- He almost glided as he ran. Nash was a degree of difficulty shot maker, and his percentages are clean.
#21- KAWHI LEONARD- Before he went down with injury last May, I thought Kawhi was ready to challenge LeBron James as the best in the game.
#20- ALLEN IVERSON- His blinding quickness, aggressiveness, and long arms made him so unique. Iverson mopped up the floor with his body.
#19- CHRIS PAUL- He competes like he wants to bite your face off. Chris has led the league in steals six times.
#18- JOHN STOCKTON- He destroyed bigger people fighting through picks. John’s precision and decision-making were an art.
#17- ISIAH THOMAS– Isiah played the game like he knew he was being watched. He was a showman, built for the big moment.
#16- CHARLES BARKLEY- He shot 58 percent from the field over his first six seasons. Chuck’s work on the boards is still baffling for his height.
#15- DIRK NOWITZKI- His Finals MVP performance in 2011, is etched in my mind as true greatness. Five players in history have more points than Dirk,
#14- DWYANE WADE- I remember those hesitation dribble moves, before he’d explode to the hoop. Wade was a closer from day one.
#13- DAVID ROBINSON – Robinson was chiseled, mobile, and cat quick. He owns the NBA’s last quadruple-double.
#12- KARL MALONE – “The Mailman” running the outside lane, and rattling the rim in his early days was a scary sight.
#11- KEVIN GARNETT- One of the most versatile players to live. KG wouldn’t even let the other team score, after the whistle.
#10-STEPHEN CURRY- He became the first player to attempt a three point shot from 29 feet….early in the shot clock…and it still felt responsible.
#9- KEVIN DURANT- Looking at Durant’s controversial move a couple years ago, he’s now covered himself by his June performances.
#8- TIM DUNCAN- Tim was a coaches dream. Poise. Brains. Worker. Unselfish. All time winner.
#7- SHAQUILLE O’NEAL- Shaq couldn’t be guarded in his prime. He was an automatic dunk, and led the NBA in field goal percentage ten times.
#6- HAKEEM OLAJUWON- At his apex, his offense and defense were both a ten. He covered space in the blink of an eye.
#5- LARRY BIRD– For all the attributes he brought to the game, Bird also had an intimidating swagger.
#4- KOBE BRYANT- For my money, the most over all skilled player in NBA history.
#3-MAGIC JOHNSON- Most fitting nickname in all of sports.
#2- LEBRON JAMES- Think of the career he has had. LeBron will dominate for at least five more years and it’s mind-blowing.
#1- MICHAEL JORDAN – From what I’ve seen over 32 seasons, Jordan is the clear standard by which basketball excellence is measured.
Jay C. Brandriet