Advanced Stats Guides NBA Top 10 All Time Greatest
This latest championship and finals MVP for LeBron James makes him the 6th-best player of all time in our rankings. We based them on league MVPs, championships, finals MVPs, top 10 all-time cumulative statistics and top 10 advanced statistics.
Basketball consists of one-on-one concepts within a team game. Understanding how players perform against certain types of players/positions matters a lot. It’s important to understand that there is no perfect analytical device. There is no singular metric that explains basketball any more than there is a singular metric that explains life. That being said, advanced stats is what keeps Kobe Bryant out of the top 10 in spite of his 5 championships. Here’s our top ten in NBA history:
Michael Jordan was a five-time league MVP and six-time champion, winning the finals MVP 6 times. All time, he’s 4th in field goals made and attempted, 5th in free throws made and 10th in free throws attempted, 3rd in steals (4th per game), and 4th in points (1st per game).
Looking at advanced stats all time, Jordan is 1st in PER, 1st in usage rate, 1st in value over replacement, 2nd in plus/minus, and 4th in winshares. By every conceivable measure, the best team of all time. The biggest separation is the steals as it’s remarkable he could wreak that kind of havoc offensively while still being so disruptive defensively.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a six time league MVP and six time champion, winning finals MVP twice. All time he’s 2nd in games, 1st in minutes, 1st in field goals made and attempted, 10th in free throws made and 6th in attempted, 8th in defensive rebounds and 4th in rebounds overall, 1st in points, and 3rd in blocks (9th per game).
Looking at advanced stats all time, Kareem is 1st in winshares, 10th in plus/minus, and 7th in value over replacement. Pretty definitively the 2nd-greatest player of all time and the greatest center of all time. The finals MVPs separate him and Jordan.
Bill Russell was a five-time league MVP and 11 time champion. All time, he’s 2nd in rebounds (2nd per game) and 5th in minutes per game.
Looking at advanced stats all time, Russell is number 1 in defensive win shares. He’s the greatest defensive player and greatest winner in NBA history.
Magic Johnson was a three-time league MVP and five-time champion, winning three finals MVPs. All time he’s 5th in assists (1st per game) and advanced statistics rank him 6th in plus/minus. Magic is the best point guard in NBA history.
Tim Duncan is a two-time league MVP and five time champion, winning finals MVP thrice. All time, Duncan is 8th in rebounds and 6th in blocks.
Looking at advanced stats all time, Duncan is 6th in winshares and 6th in value over replacement. He’s the best power forward of all time.
LeBron James is a four-time league MVP and three-time champion, winning finals MVP three times. All time, he’s 7th in minutes per game and 5th in points per game.
Looking at advanced stats all time, LeBron is 2nd in PER, 2nd in value over replacement and 1st in plus/minus. He’s already the best small forward in NBA history.
Wilt Chamberlain was a four-time league MVP and two time champion, winning a finals MVP. All time, he’s 7th in minutes (1st per game), 3rd in field goals made and 7th in field goals attempted, 3rd in free throws attempted, 1st in rebounds (1st per game), 5th in points (2nd per game).
Looking at advanced stats all time, Wilt is 5th in PER, 1st in usage rate and 2nd in winshares. Wilt was the most dominant player in NBA history.
Larry Bird was a 3-time league mvp and 3-time champion, winning finals MVP twice. Advanced stats all time show he’s 7th all time in plus/minus and 10th all time in value over replacement player. Bird is the only person to win MVP three years in a row.
Shaquille O’Neal was a league MVP and 4 time champion, winning 3 finals MVPs. All time, he ranks 7th in field goals, 4th in free throws attempted, 7th in offensive rebounds, 9th in defensive rebounds, 9th in blocks, 2nd in field goal percentage, and 8th in points. Advanced stats all time reveal he’s 3rd in PER and 2nd in effective field goal percentage. Shaq was the most dominant player of the post Jordan era.
Oscar Robertson was a league mvp and champion. All time, he’s 4th in assists per game, 4th in free throws made and 7th in free throws attempted, 6th in assists, 9th in points per game, and 3rd in minutes per game.
Looking at advanced stats all time, Oscar is 3rd in offensive win shares and 10th in overall win shares. He was the precursor to LeBron James with LeBron’s versatility defensively being what separates them.