Tha Sports Junkies 101

What is Kobe’s Rank in the NBA’s Top 10 of All-Time?

Kobe's Rank among the top 10 greatest NBA players Keith Allison / Flickr


What is Kobe’s Rank with NBA’s Top 10 of All-Time?

Kobe Bryant recently joined the exclusive club of Los Angeles Laker greats when he had both jerseys retired in a ceremony at Staples Center. That’s right, both jerseys. Looking back at his decorated career, you can separate his time with #8 and #24 into two separate Hall of Fame caliber stints with the purple and yellow. With that said, what is Kobe’s rank all time? Here are my top 10 players:

1 – Michael Jordan

There’s still no debate here after all of these years. When you associate the NBA with any player, your mind always goes to #23. He is undoubtedly the greatest scorer the NBA has ever seen. Couple that with a 6-0 Finals record with six Finals MVP awards and that’s a career that seems to be nearly impossible to catch.

2 – LeBron James

People need to stop hating on LeBron and start to witness what is actually happening, especially at this stage in his career. He’s in his 15th year and he’s playing some of the best basketball arguably ever. Averaging a near triple-double, but remaining extremely efficient is an incredibly difficult combination to master. On top of that, he’s shooting a career high in 3-point percentage. However, what seems to be the most baffling statistic that nobody gives him credit for is his NBA Finals appearances. LeBron has been to eight straight finals.

I’m aware the Eastern Conference hasn’t been the most challenging, but consider the era we live in now. Players are stronger, faster, and better shooters. Put the Indiana Pacers against a team from the 1980s and I guarantee they would win the majority of the time. There’s also an entirely other debate we could have about whether Jordan could be competitive against the dynasty in Golden State. LeBron has never had that type of support. He has carried bad teams into the Finals, just look back to 2007. He is the best all-around player we’ve ever seen and deserves so much more credit for his accomplishments.

3 – Magic Johnson

Whenever you’re the Finals MVP in your rookie season with a Lakers lineup full of Hall of Famers, you’re destined to be a top 3 player in this league. Magic joins LeBron and Jordan as the only players who have successfully changed the culture of basketball. What that means is that he is original and set an example of how to play the point guard position. He’s one of the best to ever play and is one of 26 players to have at least five rings. Although his career was limited due to HIV, he was still a transcendental talent.

4 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem has scored the most points in NBA history. At the time of his retirement in 1989, he was also the NBA all-time leader in games played, minutes played, field goals made, blocked shots, defensive rebounds, and career wins. He has been a dominant force since high school and played 20 seasons in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Lakers. I don’t think we’re ever going to witness consistency the way we saw it in Kareem.

5 – Larry Bird

During the 1980s, Bird was unstoppable against his opponents. From 1983 to 1986, he won three consecutive MVP awards, while also picking up three championships with the Boston Celtics. Like Jordan, Bird was clutch in the finals seconds, nailing game-winner after game-winner. He still remains a top two small forward to this day.

6 – Shaquille O’Neal

Shaq was one of the best big men to ever step foot on a basketball court. During his prime years with the Lakers, he was impossible to stop in the post and that showed with three consecutive Finals MVP awards. With four championships overall and a nineteen-year career, the “Big Shaqtus” is certainly deserving of an appearance in the top 10 all-time.

7 – Bill Russell

Eleven championships are impressive. Eleven championships in a thirteen-year span is unheard of. That’s exactly what Russell did during his time with the Boston Celtics as a player-coach. Although he played during a time with limited rules, his length and intelligence for the game were still able to propel him into basketball royalty.

8 – Kobe’s Rank

As mentioned, his playing career with the Lakers wearing the #8 could be a hall of fame playing career in itself. Winning three consecutive championships with Shaq, Kobe electrified audiences around the country. He’s also the only player to even come close to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points single-game record when he scored 81 back in 2006 against the Toronto Raptors. When he switched to #24, he was able to lead the Lakers to back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010, winning five in total.

The reason why I have Shaq ahead of Kobe’s rank is that without a star big man, Kobe wouldn’t be able to win a championship on his own. He’s also been the only Hall of Famer I’ve seen where he was never the best player in the league. Between 1996 and 2004, Shaq was the NBA’s best and from 2004 to 2016, LeBron took over. Kobe needed help from other great players to have the success he did. However, he’s still an unbelievable top ten talent.

9 – Wilt Chamberlain

The reason why I have Wilt lower on this list is mainly due to his era in basketball. If Wilt had to play with a paint and the rules we have in today’s game, he would have never been able to score his 100 points. That said, he still holds a number of records in scoring, rebounds, durability categories and won two championships. He was also able to accomplish all that despite experiencing a lot of changes in the then Philadelphia Warriors franchise. Chamberlain was a team player with talent that definitely deserves a spot on this list.

10 – Tim Duncan

Duncan was the epitome of consistency. The “Big Fundamental” is most famous for his run with the San Antonio Spurs during the mid-2000s, winning three championships in five years. His bank shot mid-range jumper was unstoppable and he was a true team player. He set an example for both how to play the power forward position and how to be a good person off the court. Duncan joins the other 25 players as the only ones to win five championships. He just did everything right as a player and is considered to be the best power forward of all time.