With the offseason in full swing, I am going to be breaking down the top players all-time at each position. First, we start with the ones.
Before we start, I want to be clear that I count ABA and BAA/NBL accomplishments because those leagues merged into the NBA.
This wouldn’t be a proper top 10 list without some healthy debate, so make sure to tweet at us at @hoop_social and share your thoughts on the list. With that being said, here are the NBA’s top 10 point guards of all time!
1. Magic Johnson
6’9 Hall of Fame, Lakers (#6 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
5x Champion, 3x FMVP, 3x MVP, 12x All-Star, 10x All NBA, 4x Assist Title, 2x Steals Title, 50th Anniversary Team, 75th Anniversary Team.
Magic was the greatest passer to ever play basketball.
Before I started this list I had Magic as my GOAT. His dynamic Showtime offense was one of the most exciting things in the history of our league; no, the history of America.
Magic wasn’t just a nickname, it was the truth since science could not explain what Ervin Johnson jr. did on a basketball court.
His smile while destroying other teams was magnetic making Johnson the most likable star in the history of sports. Magic could see passes that were impossible and just made them anyway.
Magic was also more clutch than anyone remembers. While not a fantastic shooter if the game was on the line it was just going to go in, no argument he was going to hit the circus shot, the distance heave, or the baby sky hook to win the game. Magic was just that good.
The only knock on Magic is that his career ended so abruptly. If he had played 5 more years there is a very likely chance he is unanimously remembered as the GOAT.
No one in the history of basketball has ever or will ever pass Magic Johnson as the most likable Superstar to exist.
2. Steph Curry
6’3 Combo Guard Warriors (#14 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
4x Champion, FMVP, 2x MVP, 8x All-Star, 8x All NBA, 2x Scoring Title, Steals Title, 75th Anniversary Team.
Chef Curry is someone every player should be familiar with, and probably one of the top 10 most influential players in the history of the league The Baby Faced Assassin shot his way into the public consciousness with back-to-back MVPs becoming the awards only unanimous winner ever.
His ability to lead some of the best offenses ever and his on-court leadership are easy to see.
He takes advantage of off-ball movement and gravity better than any player in history (it also helps that Bogut and Draymond never set a legal screen in their career).
His defense is like Dirk is not as bad as people say, and his rebounding is solid for a guard.
Curry is one of the most influential players to ever grace the hardwood. Coming at the perfect time for medical science to save his ankles, Curry set the world on fire and captured the imaginations of an entire generation coming up.
Two and a half decades from now when the NBA celebrates its centennial the NBA will be shaped by several players. Steph Curry will be high up on that list.
Curry Finally has an FMVP but he probably should have 3.
Curry is probably going to be underrated by the people who didn’t watch him.
3. Oscar Robertson
6’5 Hall of Fame, Royals, Bucks (#16 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
Champion, MVP, 12x All-Star, 11x All NBA, ROY, 6x Assist Title, 35th Anniversary Team, 50th Anniversary Team, 75th Anniversary Team.
The Big O was an all-around marvel of the early NBA. He was sometimes listed as a forward in some games because of his size and rebounding.
Ozzie had gaudy assist numbers even in an era where assists were handed out much more conservatively. He was demanding on teammates and even caused a few to regress because of the tongue lashing he would hand out for mistakes.
His midrange almost one-handed jumper was lights out and his determination was well known.
He didn’t have a championship until paired with Kareem, which is strange because Lucas was also a top 100 guy.
Without Oscar’s example Magic, LeBron, Westbrook, and Bird probably don’t have a prototype to follow.
4. Bob Cousy
6’1 Hall of Fame, Boston (Royals it was 7 games at the age of 41 we won’t be talking about it.) (#28 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
6x Champion, MVP, 13x All-Star, 12x All NBA, 8x Assists Title, 25th Anniversary Team, 35th Anniversary Team, 50th Anniversary Team, 75th Anniversary Team.
The Houdini of the Hardwood was fantastic at making magic with his dribbling, passing, and shot creation.
Having watched what full games I could I was struck by how many things he did that looked like a modern player. His efficiency wasn’t good but at that time it was normal. His athleticism was average but his IQ was tremendous.
Breaking his arm at 13, “Cooz” learned to be ambidextrous and it showed later in his playing style.
Red Auerbach tried hard not to have Cousy on the Celtics but fate almost forced it to happen and the Point Guard from Holy Cross was the best player available when the Celtics picked in a dispersal draft after passing on him once. Red would later be extremely happy he got the flashy guard and the two would make the Celtics a popular team to watch in the 50s and a championship powerhouse when Russell joined the team.
Cousy was the player who made Russell look even better and Russell covered for Cousy’s mistakes.
Cousy was the perfect second guy for basketball’s original GOAT.
5. John Stockton
6’1 Hall of Fame, Jazz. (#29 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
10x All-Star, 11x All NBA, 5x All-Defense, 9x Assists Title, 2x Steals Title. 50th Anniversary Team, 75th Anniversary Team.
Karl Malone wouldn’t be the player he was without Stockton.
Stock could pass like crazy, shoot with the best of them, and Gonzaga probably didn’t need a real mascot in the early 80s because he was a real bulldog on defense.
One thing watching Stockton is not only how he bends his defender to his will but how he uses the threat of the pass or shot to bend the second and third defenders into creating gaps for him to exploit.
It amazes me that he never won a championship but pass-first point guards rarely make it as the best player on a championship team.
In my opinion, Stockton was the best player on the 90s Jazz and the best player in Jazz history. For those of you keeping track of my positions, Stockton is the best Pure Point in NBA history.
6. Walt Frazier
6’4 Hall of Fame, Knicks, (Cavs) (#33 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
2x Champion, 7x All-Star, 6x All NBA, 7x All-Defense, 50th Anniversary Team, 75th Anniversary Team.
“Clyde” played by a philosophy made on the dirt courts of the segregated south. Aggressive defense first, Pass to the open man instead of taking a wild shot. These things would serve him well as the best point guard of the 70s.
Several schools offered him scholarships to be their QB but Southern Illinois University offered him one for Basketball, Frazier desperately wanted to go pro in a sport and there were no Black QBs so he dedicated himself to the hardwood.
Halfway through a lackluster rookie year, a new coach in Red Holzman took over and Frazier as well as fellow rookie Phill Jackson took blossomed. Though we didn’t keep the stat at the beginning of his career Mr. Cool was said to have multiple double-digit steals games.
Frazier deserves at least one of Reed’s Finals MVPs and probably more accolades than he got. Many considered him the greatest defensive guard ever before MJ and some still do.
These days Clyde is still working in MSG as their broadcaster, his colorful clothes hide the fact that he was once the King of the Garden.
7. Isiah Thomas
6’1 Hall of Fame, Pistons (#37 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
2x Champion, FMVP, 12x All-Star, 5x All NBA, Assist Champion 50th Anniversary Team, 75th Anniversary Team.
Zeke is one of the hardest players to rank on this list. His play elevated so high in the playoffs it feels like 33 is entirely too low.
His dribbling was insane, he is, in my opinion, the best ball handler pre-2000. The Baby-Faced Assassin was a killer in the clutch, his shooting stats don’t show how deadly his open jumper could be. Pocket Magic also could pass and be great at knowing which teammates needed touches before they would check out of games. He turned Mark Aguirre into a good teammate, as a Mavs fan I say this might be his greatest accomplishment. He is linked to Stockton by the time period and definitely had a better prime. Now Thomas had no business being on the dream team his body had already started to betray him (although Stockton was injured the whole time so he would have helped there). But, he was definitely the second-best guard of the 80s, as MJ was coming into his own. The leader of the most hated team ever was hated because he was that good.
8. Steve Nash
6’3 Hall of Fame, Suns, Mavericks, (Lakers) (#39 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
2x MVP, 8x All-Star, 7x All NBA, 5x Assist Champion, 75th Anniversary Team.
“Nashty” was the second-best passer in NBA history. His jumper was beyond lethal and his grit was unsurpassed. I want to hit the Elephant in the room. 2 MVPs is probably too high. Duncan, Kobe, Dirk, all of them had better cases for MVP that year but Nash did something special. But, MVSteve was coming off what some thought would be the ending of his career leaving a Dallas team that wouldn’t pay him because of his bad back. He turned his career around and became the puppet master of the first truly modern NBA offense. Every NBA team now uses his High Pick and Roll plays, the “Nash dribble” is part of the NBA vocabulary, and his ability to shoot made Tre Young, Steph Curry, and Damian Lillard’s careers possible. Would he be this high on this list without the underserved MVPs? No, would he still be one of the greatest Pure Points of all time? Absolutely.
9. Chris Paul
6’1, Hornets, Clippers, Suns (Rockets, Thunder). (#42 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
12x All-Star, 10x All NBA, 9x All-Defense, ROY, 5x Assists Title, 6x Steals Title, 75th Anniversary Team.
Chris Paul is one of the best passers in NBA history, one of the greatest mid-range guys ever, and a fantastic performer in the clutch. He can do almost anything on either side of the court including guarding prime Kevin Durant in the playoffs. A super efficient and advanced stats darling he tends to fall short in the playoffs. I don’t think this is totally a fair assessment though. Pass First Point Guards don’t win titles, Magic Johansson, Jason Kidd, Rajon Rondo, Dennis Johnson, Kyle Lowery, Avery Johnson, Louie Dampier, and Bob Cousy, are the only ones to do it in the ABA/NBA (9 guys for 85 titles is not a great track record). When your teammates are that dependent on you creating looks for them it makes it harder to beat great defenses in the playoffs. CP3 is a generational point guard who earned his spot on this list, even if he didn’t win a title.
10. Jason Kidd
6’4 Hall of Fame, Nets, Mavs, Suns (Knicks) (#44 Overall on Jordan’s Rankings)
Champion, 10x All-Star, 6x All NBA, 9x All-Defense, ROY, 5x Assists Title, 75th Anniversary Team.
J-Kidd was so fun to watch. I. Love. Passing. So when Kidd was in the zone it was Jordan’s Basketball Nirvana. Originally mockingly calls Ason Kidd because he had no J, he finished his career 3rd in 3-pointers made, and he is now 10th. Kidd started out with the Mavericks “Triple J” lineup of Jim Jackson, Jamaal Mashburn, and himself. While those 3 all individually were great the team as a whole struggled, and arguments over women became public and caused the Mavs to eventually trade away all 3. In Phoenix he frequently played in a 4 guard lineup (Kevin Johnson, Steve Nash, Rex Chapman, and himself) to have a blistering pace, He was later paired with Penny Hardaway in an attempt to have the best backcourt in the league, injuries kept that from happening. He was traded to the Nets and exploded. That team fit him perfectly and he finished second in MVP voting and made consecutive finals appearances before losing to the Dynasty of the Lakers and Spurs. A trade for Vince Carter was supposed to make the team finally break through but it never worked out. Kidd finally slowing down was returned to Dallas where he had one more all-star appearance and led a fantastic offense built around Dirk Nowitzki to a title. Kidd’s defense on Wade in those finals was extremely important as was his sometimes placement on LeBron. Kidd was one of the greatest Pure Points in NBA and one of the few pass-first point guards to win a title.
RELATED: Check out our NBA top 10 all-time lists at each position!