In my opinion, Shawn Kemp was the nastiest dunk artist of all-time. The 6’10” power forward had a combination of height, finesse, and power that earned him the nickname, “The Reign Man” in Seattle. Kemp produced some of the nastiest dunk and alley-oop highlights of all-time.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a highlight video of Shawn Kemp’s best dunks:
Shawn Kemp Top 50 Dunks:
OMG! I find myself reacting to some of those dunks like I’m watching a horror movie while eating a lemon. Nasty!
“Don’t fake the funk on a nsaty dunk.” – Shaquille O’Neal
Well said Shaq. Clearly, Shawn Kemp did not fake the funk. In fact, he was the funk!
Should we try to narrow those dunk highlights down to a top 10? OK, here are the top 10 dunks of Shawn Kemp’s career:
Shawn Kemp Top 10 Dunks:
Here are ten of the best dunks of Shawn Kemp’s legendary NBA career. My favorite? Watch the dunk on Chris Gatling. How often do you see a player get dunked on and then shake hands out of pure respect?
Shawn Kemp Dunk on Rodman:
Don’t forget Shawn Kemp’s famous dunk on Dennis Rodman in the 1996 NBA Finals:
Here it is on video:
Oh, the humanity! Of course, Shawn Kemp had some nasty dunks in NBA dunk contests, too.
There have been some incredible big men in the history of the NBA, so any top-10 list is likely to be a bit controversial. I mean, how do you compare Bill Walton vs. Dikembe Mutombo and leave one of them off the list? Well, we did our best.
Here’s our list of the best NBA centers of all-time:
#10. Dikembe Mutombo
Throughout Dikembe Mutombo’s 18 seasons in the league he built a legend as the most prolific shot blocker in NBA history. In fact, he’s 7th all-time in blocks per game and second all-time in total blocks. More stats
Drafted by the Denver Nuggets his defensive presence helped propel the team from being one of the worst offensive teams in the league to one of the best. He won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award four times, and has a top-30 all-time defensive rating. In Atlanta Mutombo further solidified his status as an all-time great by averaging nearly 13 rebounds and 3 blocks.
His longest playoff run came in the 2001 season where he matched up against Shaquille O’Neal in the NBA Finals. He held his ground averaging 12 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Mutumbo ranks as one of the best rebounders of all time, ranking 19th in total rebounds and eighth in rebound percentage. His signature finger wag says it; there were no easy baskets against Dikembe Mutombo.
#9. Wes Unseld
From one dominant rebounder to another, Wes Unseld was a beast on the boards. He averaged 14 rebounds per game for his career including an amazing rookie season where he averaged over 18 rebounds per game and won NBA Rookie of the Year and MVP.
Unseld is sixth all-time in rebounds per game, 12th in total rebounds, and top-20 in rebound percentage. Wes wasn’t much of a scorer but he didn’t need to be as his defense more than made up for anything he lacked on offense. He has the seventh highest offensive rating ever for the regular season and the playoffs, and Unseld rarely had much of a size advantage over his opponent.
At six feet seven inches Unseld didn’t have the towering height of players like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem abdul-jabbar, and Bill Russell. Unseld was just strong and determined. He was also a great passer averaging nearly four assists per game for his career. He won an NBA Championship with the Washington Bullets in 1978 and was awarded NBA Finals MVP honors cementing his place as one of the ten best NBA centers in history.
As is the case with so many New York stars, Patrick Ewing’s legacy is clouded by disillusionment. Always a bridesmaid and never the bride, Ewing’s legendary career is not always recognized as such. However he most definitely left his mark on the game. He’s 12th all-time in blocks per game, seventh all-time in total blocks, and is top-20 in defensive rating.
Ewing may have come into the league with reputation for defense, but his growing offensive game is what helped him develop into an all-around dominant player, averaging nearly 23 points and 10 rebounds in 15 seasons with the Knicks. He won Rookie of the Year after averaging a near double-double with 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. As mentioned, at the start Ewing had some solid playoff runs, but with Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan between him and a ring, the Knicks just couldn’t get it done.
New York fans will probably always have mixed feelings about Patrick Ewing, but there’s no question that he was one of the most dominant centers the NBA has ever seen.
#7. Moses Malone
Career stats 20.3 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 1.3 BPG, .495 FG%
Championships 1 (1983)
Moses Malone was given the nickname Chairman of the Boards, and rightfully so. He was a dominant rebounder, averaging 13 or more rebounds nine times during his career. That puts him at fifth in total rebounds 15th and rebounds per game and fifth and rebound percentage. He was named NBA league MVP three times, and one NBA Finals MVP in 1983 after averaging 26 points and 18 rebounds en route to a four-game sweep of the LA Lakers with the Sixers.
Malone sets several rebounding records during his career, and put up some monster stat lines. He wasn’t always the tallest guy on the court, but he was strong and crafty. He was also a dominant scorer, averaging over 20 points a game for his career, and 8th all-time in total points.
Career stats 21.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 3.0 BPG, .518 FG%
Championships 2 (1999, 2003)
When the Spurs landed David Robinson they had one of the worst records in the league at 21 and 61. In Robinson’s first year he led the Spurs to the greatest single-season turnaround in NBA history at the time, was a 35 game improvement and a record of 56 and 26; mostly due to his 24 points 12 rebounds and nearly four blocks per game.
A couple of years later he won NBA Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 12 rebounds and four blocks per game. After that ’94-95 season, he was awarded league MVP after averaging nearly 28 points 11 rebounds and three blocks per game and leading the team to a 62 and 20 record along with an NBA Conference Finals appearance.
Robinson is fourth all-time in blocks per game, sixth in total blocks, fourth in defensive rating, and tenth in defensive win-shares. After suffering a few injuries and a terrible season, The Admiral was partnered with Tim Duncan and went on to win two NBA Championships.
He’s one of only four players to have a quadruple-double, one of five players to score 70 or more points in a game, one of two players to win NBA Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and MVP, and is the only player in NBA history to rank in the top five in rebounding, blocks, and steals in the same season. Can anyone argue that David Robinson is one of the ten best NBA centers ever?
Plus, he was 7-feet tall and just plain ripped! Those arms used to inspire me to do a lot of curls in high school.
#5. Shaquille O’Neal
Career stats 23.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.3 BPG, .582 FG%
NBA Championships 4 (2000, 2001, 2002, 2006)
With a deadly combination of height and weight, Shaq could dominate the game pretty much anytime he wanted. With four NBA Championship rings, three NBA Finals MVP’s and one regular season MVP, his place in history is pretty much indisputable. Shaq is 6th on the all-time scoring list, 14th in total rebounds, 8th in total blocks, and 10th in total win-shares all-time.
At 7′ 1″ and 325 pounds, there wasn’t really anyone in the league who could match Shaq physically. He overpowered opponents in the low-post night in and night out, averaging 27 points per game on nearly 58% shooting during his best years in LA.
He is the only player in NBA history to record at least 40 points and 20 rebounds in a game at least four times, the only player to be a history to win the NBA scoring title without making a single three-point field goal, and the only player in NBA history to record at least 60 points and 20 rebounds in a game, and holds many franchise records for the Lakers, Magic, and Heat.
No one can arge Shaq ranks highly among the ten best NBA centers in history.
#4. Wilt Chamberlain
Career stats 30.1 PPG, 22.9 RPG, 4.4 APG, .540 FG%
NBA Championships 2 (1967, 1972)
Wilt Chamberlain was basically the original Shaq, just better, and also looked like men among boys on the court. With career averages of 30 points and 23 rebounds per game, he’s second all-time in points per game, first in rebounds per game and total rebounds, and second in total win-shares.
Wilt ranks 5th on the all-time scoring list. It’s hard to say how much of Wilt’s total-dominance was due to skill and ability, and how much was due to the fact that he was just taller and stronger than everyone else on the court. Either way, he was dominant.
Aside from the famous 100 point game, he won seven scoring, nine field goal percentage, and 11 rebounding titles. He even lead the NBA in assists for a season! He’s the only player to average at least 30 points and 20 rebounds per game for a season, which he did seven times. He probably would have also won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award a few times had the award existed when he played. In any event, he was one of the most dominant NBA centers of all-time.
It’s kind of hard to argue with a guy that won 11 rings and five MVPs, right? Bill Russell was so crucial to his team success that the NBA decided to name the Finals MVP trophy after him, since it didn’t exist when he won all those championships.
Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell are numbers one and two in rebounds per game and total rebounds for the regular season and the playoffs, with Wilt winning the regular season, and Bill winning the playoffs. However, the difference is less than half a rebound on both sides. Russell is also number one in defensive win-shares for the regular season, and ninth in total win-shares for the NBA Playoffs.
He was the true leader of his team, going 11-0 in playoff elimination games, averaging 18 points and 30 rebounds in those games. Wilt put up incredible numbers, but Russell was always right behind him, leading the Celtics to 11 NBA Championships in 13 years. In an era marked by high-octane offenses, Russell infused the game with defense and forever change the perception of how to win, making him one of the best NBA centers ever.
#2. Hakeem Olajuwon
Career stats 21.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 3.1 BPG, .512 FG%
Championships 2 (1994, 1995)
When you play in the same league as Michael Jordan it’s hard to stand out, and Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon is a perfect example of that, and had amazing footwork and agility for a big man. While in Houston he averaged 22.5 points, 11 rebounds, and over three blocks per game. He’s third in blocks per game 1st in total blocks 13th and total rebounds and tenth on the all-time scoring list. He’s also in the top 15 in defensive rating. Those are some impressive numbers!
Hakeem is the only player in NBA history to win the NBA MVP Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP awards in the same season. Hakeem was a complete player, as he was a top defender, rebounder, and scorer.
Hakeem’s signature move, The Dream Shake, is one of the most deadly moves ever. He used that move to dominate his counterpart, dropping 33 points on Robert Parish, 40 on Kareem, 35 on Shaq, 41 on David Robinson, 45 on Karl Malone, and 30 on Patrick Ewing; all in the playoffs.
He’s 12th in total rebounds for the playoffs, third in blocks per game for the playoffs, 1st in total blocks for the playoffs, and ninth in points per game for the playoffs. He won two NBA Championship rings, two NBA Finals MVP awards, two NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, and a regular season MVP award.
#1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Career stats 24.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.6 BPG, .559 FG%
There is so much you could say about Kareem. He’s number one in total points, number three in total rebounds, and number three in total blocks. Kareem has six NBA Championship rings, two NBA Finals MVP awards, and six regular season MVP awards; a record unlike other. Big men like Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal could simply bully their way to the rim, but Kareem killed you with finesse and skill, using his signature sky-hook to score over defenders.
But, it wasn’t just about offense for Kareem. He was also a legendary defender, averaging 2.6 blocks per game for his career putting him at ninth all-time in blocks per game. The list of Kareem’s personal records, achievements, and awards is almost endless. What Kareem was able to do as a player year-after-year (even into his late 30’s and early 40’s) is nearly unmatched.
That’s why we think Kareem Abdul Jabbar is the undisputed best NBA center of all-time!
Other Legendary NBA Centers:
Honorable Mentions: Centers like George Mikan and Bill Walton certainly deserve to be on this list, but we had to limit our list to 10!
Well, that’s Nasty Dunk‘s list of the greatest centers in NBA history. I know that a couple of the rankings are controversial, but I hope you enjoyed!
So, how did we determine our list of the best NBA point guards ever?
We looked at essential stats like assists steals and points as well as a player’s ranking in assists percentage PER (player efficiency rating) and win shares just to name a few. We also took into consideration their individual achievements, NBA playoff performances, and any other pertinent accolades. You probably saw a few of these players on our recent list of the best ball-handlers in NBA history, too!
Okay here’s our list of the 10 best point guards in NBA history:
#10. Walt Frazier
Career stats 18.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.1 APG, .490 FG%
NBA Championships 2 (1970, 1973)
“Paradoxically tough on the court and flashy off of it, Frazier epitomized the ’70s-era backcourt style in which roles were less defined.”– Doolittle
Walt, or Clyde Frazier, set many franchise records while playing for the New York Knicks. While many of them were eventually broken, he still holds the franchise record for the most career assists with 4791. While with the Knicks, he won two championships and one all-star MVP in 1975.
He made the NBA all-defensive team seven times, and the All-NBA First Team four times. In the 1970 NBA Finals, while matched up against greats like Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain, Walt scored 36 points, dished out 19 assists, and had five steals to seal a championship for the Knicks. It’s hard to say what Frazier is known more for; his stellar defense or his stylish attire. Either way, teammate Willis Reed put it best when he said, “It’s Clyde’s ball, he just lets us play with it once in a while.”
#9. Gary Payton
Gary Payton played for several franchises including the Miami Heat where he won an NBA championship as a part of his farewell tour. However, he’s best known for his time with his Seattle Super Sonics where he earned the nickname, “The Glove” for his inescapable defense and sick handle. Oh, and setting up all those nasty dunks for Shawn Kemp!
In fact, Gary Payton is the only point guard to win Defensive Player of the Year, and was selected to the NBA All-Defensive First team nine times; a record he shares only with Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant. Pretty elite company! Gary Payton is number four all-time in total steals, and 20th all-time in steals per game.
Payton wasn’t just an elite defender, he’s also eighth all time in total assists. He was a complete point Garten able to score, defend, and grab rebounds.
#8. Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is always held in high esteem by NBA fans, but he’s even more amazing to talk about when you look at some of his career achievements. He ranks sixth all-time in assists per game for the regular season and the playoffs, ninth all-time in assists percentage, eighth all-time in assists percentage for the playoffs, and 11th all-time in offensive rating.
In just his second season in the NBA Johnson averaged over 20 points and 12 assists. That same year in the playoffs he averaged nearly 21 points and 11 assists while shooting almost 50% from the floor. Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas are the only other players to average at least 20 points and 12 assists and Kevin Johnson did it in his second year in the league!
He averaged at least 20 points and 10 assists for the next three seasons, joining Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas as the only players to do that for three consecutive seasons. He never won a championship but he had several remarkable player performances out-playing Magic Johnson, beating John Stockton, and of course dunking on Hakeem Olajuwon while on his way to scoring at 38 points. (see video above!)
NBA Championships 6 (1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963)
Career stats 18.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 7.5APG, .375 FG%
“The undisputed first great point guard, Cousy remains the only guard in NBA history to be named First-Team All-NBA in 10 straight seasons.”– Adams
Now it’s time to go real old-school. Bob Cousy was ahead of his time, or maybe he was just the beginning of everything, and everyone has just been copying him ever since. Cousy was magic before Magic Johnson. His flashy passes were something no one had really seen before. Aside from winning six NBA championships, he also won League MVP in 1957.
He’s 15th all time in total assists, 19th all-time in assists per game for the regular season, and ninth all-time in assists per game in the playoffs. He actually led the league in assists for eight consecutive seasons. With an attitude that matched his game, Cousy was not just a fan-favorite. He was considered by many to be the greatest basketball player ever; or, at least of his generation.
Cousy set the tone for future players like Magic Johnson and Steve Nash. He had excellent court-vision and amazing ball handling and passing skills. His behind the back dribble moves may not seem flashy today, but it got the ball rolling in the direction of creativity and showmanship. That’s what makes him one of the best NBA point guards ever.
There was a time when Chris Paul was on his way to becoming the greatest point guard of all time. However, after 10 seasons in the league without making it past even the second round of the playoffs, he started to slide in the minds of some NBA fans; and rightfully so. However, he is still done plenty through his career to earn this spot.
He’s third all-time in assists per game, third all-time in steals per game, second all-time in assists percentage, sixth all-time in PER, and has the highest offensive rating ever. In the playoffs he’s top ten in PER, assists per game, assists percentage, and offensive rating That’s incredible! His short playoff runs are definitely a black mark on his career, but he’s still one of the greatest point guards of all time.
#5. Jason Kidd
Career stats 12.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 8.7 APG, 1.9 SPG
NBA Championships 1 (2011)
Probably the most versatile point guard in NBA history, Jason Kidd had a long and illustrious career. After 21 seasons he finished second in total assists, second in total steals, and seventh in assists per game. His size made him an excellent all-around player. He could score, pass, rebound, and defend. In fact, he’s the only player in NBA history with at least 15,000 points, 10,000 assists, and 7,000 rebounds. He’s also third all-time in triple-doubles.
Despite having a reputation for being a terrible jump shooter, he’s actually fifth all-time in three-pointers made. His defense and smart play helped win him a championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. Before that, he made back-to-back Finals appearances with teams featuring Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin, and Keith van Horn. Pretty impressive, and without a doubt Kidd is one of the best point guards in NBA history!
#4. Isaiah Thomas
Career stats 19.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 9.3 APG, 1.9 SPG
NBA Championships 2 (1989, 1990)
“The only players in NBA history with more games with 20 points and 10 assists are Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.” – Adams
Known as the point guard that led the bad-boy Pistons to back-to-back championships, Isaiah Thomas was part of some of the most memorable Playoff moments ever. His battles against the Celtics Knicks and Lakers made for great TV, and solidified his reputation as an elite player who could score pass and defend. Any team that beats Jordan has to be great, right? He won two rings with the Detroit Pistons, and won Finals MVP for his efforts in the 1990 playoffs.
He’s often known for his grittiness, toughness, and style, and the numbers back up his elite reputation. He’s seventh all-time in total assists. Not bad for a guy that had a relatively short career! He’s also 5th all-time in assists per game, in the regular season, and seventh all-time in assists per game in the playoffs. On top of that, he’s top-20 all-time in steals and assists percentage.
He even set the record for the highest assists percentage in league history at 13.9 in the 1984-85 season. That record was later broken by John Stockton. After several injuries, Isaiah Thomas retired at only 32 years old. What more could he have done if he had stayed healthy? It’s hard to say, but he still earned a high spot as one of the best NBA point guards in history.
#3. Steve Nash
Career stats 14.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 8.5 APG, .428 3P%
NBA Championships None
“Today’s children will ask, ‘Who was the Steph Curry before Steph Curry?’ Steve Nash is the answer.” – Haberstroh
“Wayne Gretzky on the court.” For the younger generation, Steve Nash is probably the greatest point guard we actually got to watch we’ll just ignore his two years of the Lakers. After growing as a player with the Dallas Mavericks, Nash had his best years with the Phoenix Suns; perfectly orchestrating their high-octane offense with Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, and Shawn Marion.
it’s there that he won two MVP awards beating out Shaquille O’Neal and becoming just the third point guard ever to win the award and the second to win it multiple times along with Magic Johnson. Steve Nash is third all-time in total assists, 10th and assists per game, 3rd in assists percentage, and 10th all-time in offensive rating. Basically, he was one of the greatest passers of all time.
However, Nash was also a very underrated shooter. He’s actually 10th all-time in three-point shooting percentage, and had four 50-40-90 seasons. He and Larry Bird are the only players to do that more than once, and even Larry Bird only did it twice.
What could Nash and Dirk have accomplished if they had stayed together? Probably multiple rings, but it’s hard to say. Either way Steve Nash cemented his legacy as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history.
#2. John Stockton
Career stats 13.1 PPG, 10.5 APG, 2.2 SPG, .384 3P%
NBA Championships None (doh!)
Did you know that John Stockton led the NBA in assists for 9-straight seasons starting from 1987-1996?
It’s true. John Stockton might be the most under-appreciated player in NBA history.
We all think we know how great John Stockton was, but chances are he’s even better than you think. Just listen to some of his accomplishments: he’s number one all-time in total assists, a record he holds by a margin of more than three thousand assists. Number one in total steals, number two in assists per game for the regular season and the playoffs, number one in assists percentage for the regular season and the playoffs, and number four in offensive rating
He holds the record for assists per game average over one season at 14.5, led the league in assists for nine seasons; a record, and had five of the top six assist seasons in NBA history. Stockton is known for his offense and passing and rightfully so but he wasn’t a bad defender either.
Stockton was number one in total steals and number seven in steals per game. He was also selected to the NBA all-defensive second team five times and was known to be one of the toughest players in the league. The Jazz never missed the playoffs during Stockton’s career and they reached the Western Conference Finals five times in a seven-year span.
We could go on with these stats, but the point is that Stockton owned the court. He was the quintessential point guard and set records that will probably never be broken. He was never able to beat Jordan and win a ring and surprisingly he never won MVP, but he’s still easily one of the greatest point guards of all time.
#1. Magic Johnson
Career stats 19.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 11.2 APG, .520 FG%
NBA Championships 5 (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)
“No one was more dynamic, or magical, with the ball in the open court than Earvin Johnson. He lifted the Lakers, and transition basketball, to ethereal levels. He was transcendent.” – Rob Peterson
You can probably already guess that we were going to put Magic at the top of the list of best point guards of all time, and with good reason. Of the 15 point guard related stats, Magic is top-20 in 13 of them and top 10 in 8. On top of that, Magic Johnson won five championships, is a three-time MVP, and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He’s number five in total assists, number one in assists per game for the regular season and the playoffs, number five in assists percentage, number three in offensive rating, number one in offensive rating for the playoffs. He also has a 5th most win-shares for the playoffs in NBA history!
Those achievements are amazing playing alongside other NBA Hall of Fame players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy Magic could have blended into the scenery and let his teammates run the show. Instead, he had the greatness to stand out among those legendary players and established himself as the leader of the team.
His size, mobility, and ball handling skills made him one of the most complete players ever. Proof of this is the fact that he’s second only to Oscar Robertson in triple doubles! Magic Johnson is our choice for the best point guard to ever play in the NBA!
A Number of Other NBA Point Guards Could Have Made This Top 10 List:
OK, that’s Nasty Dunk’s list of of the top 10 point guards in NBA history.
There are a few legendary players that you won’t see on this list including Steph Curry, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Allen Iverson. That’s because we are listing those players as shooting guards.
While it’s impossible to compare players, we hope you enjoyed this post, and agree with most of the rankings!
No basketball team at any level can be great without at least one great ball handler. When you don’t have one, it’s like college basketball coach Herb Sendek once said: “it’s like having a running back play quarterback, and no matter how well your line blocked, the ball isn’t going to get where it needs to go.”
Although you could move a few of these players around, or substitute a couple of our honorable mentions into the top 10, these players could never be accused of failing to get the ball where their teams needed it. On the contrary, they’ve often dazzled fans and opponents with how well they get the ball to where it needs to be.
Best Ball Handlers in NBA History:
This video of the best ball handlers is pretty sweet! OK, here’s our list of the best ball-handlers ever:
Honorable mention: John Stockton:
John Stockton’s skills would never be described as flashy by anyone, but the NBA’s all-time assist leader has to be on this list. Not only was Stockton the best the game has ever seen at finding his teammates to set up easy baskets, but he took care of the ball.
You can’t average 10.5 assists a game without taking some chances, but Stockton still managed to average less than three turnovers a game. That’s the mark of a man who was almost no flash, but plenty of substance. When you get those kinds of results, it doesn’t matter how little flash there is to your game; you’ve got to get some respect.
#10: Chris Paul:
There’s a reason people immediately got excited about the Los Angeles Clippers when CP3 joined their lineup, and it’s because of how well the guard combines style and substance to devastate opponents. Whether it’s knifing through a defense to create his own shot, or finding a teammate for an easy finish, Chris Paul is one of the most difficult guards to contain if you’re a defender. Much like Stockton, he relies more on substance and intelligence to get the job done, and that deserves a lot of credit.
#9: Isiah Thomas:
If speed was what you needed, Isiah Thomas was who you wanted in your lineup. The Pistons’ guard was a running and jumping machine who adapted his game to become what Detroit needed him to be when they began to compete for titles. Thomas wasn’t as flashy as his career continued, but that was more of a case of him choosing substance over style to allow the Pistons’ Bad Boys to dominate the league in the late 1980’s. When he was at his best, though, he could really make a defender look foolish with his dribbling skills.
#8: Muggsy Bogues:
At 5-foot-3, the diminutive guard had to be a great ball handler because it was the only way he’d be able to compete with the giants he went up against every night. Compete he did, and he often made them look silly in the process.
Bogues turned his lack of size into an advantage, as bigger players couldn’t keep up with his dribbling skills or his vision on the court. He didn’t rack up assists the way Stockton did, but he really took care of the basketball. Speaking of handling the ball, Bogues is the all-time career leader in assist-to-turnover ratio, boasting a career ratio of slightly over 5. You don’t get to those kinds of numbers without being a great ball handler.
#7. Jamal Crawford:
When you play for as many teams as Jamal Crawford has during his NBA career, that’s either a sign that you’re struggling with your skills or that your skills are in high demand. In Crawford’s case, it’s definitely the latter. He’s competed for six different teams because he’s an expert at moving around the court and making defenders look silly with his ball-handling skills. He can stop on a dime and shift between hands before a defender has any idea what’s happened, usually allowing him to create an open look at a 3-pointer.
#6. Jason Williams:
White Chocolate would be higher on this list of the best ball handlers of all time if he wasn’t such a feast-or-famine player. When he was at his best, his “handle” was insane; doing things with the basketball that nobody else could. He made passes that were nothing short of ridiculous to set his teammates up for some easy baskets.
But too often, he got a little too flashy for his own good and would set up his opponents for some easy baskets by trying to make the spectacular move when a simple one would have done the job. Still, when he was on, nobody was as much of a master with the rock.
#5. Bob Cousy:
Take a look at any video or article about top ballhandlers in NBA history, and there’s a good chance that you’re going to see people asking “Where’s Bob Cousy?” in the comments. There’s a good reason: the Celtics’ point guard was a magician on the court, finding teammates with brilliant passes that made the impossible look easy.
Plus, Cousy’s vision and shot selection led to wins and championships, as the Celtics rode his skills to become a dynasty in the 1960s. Because he played before the NBA became what it is, Cousy is often overlooked by younger fans. That can’t continue. His ball handling skills and his passing vision were second to none in his era, and he’s easily one of the best dribblers in league history.(*You can also get a coupon for $10 off those sweet Chuck Taylor’s from Finish Line here!)
#4. Stephen Curry:
Stephen Curry is perhaps the biggest name in the league besides LeBron James. You know that the ball is coming his way as often as possible. In most cases, teams design their entire defense around slowing him down. And yet they still can’t contain Stephen Curry, in large part because the guard is so good at creating his own shot. Yes, his range is one of the deepest the NBA has ever seen, but he’s also incredible with his ball handling skills; creating that separation that gives him the fraction of a second he needs to get a great look at the basket.
#3. Kyrie Irving:
Whether he’s starring in his own right or helping LeBron James shine on a nightly basis, Kyrie Irving has a well-warranted spot on this list. Since coming into the league, he’s been the one constant the Cavaliers have always had and has done whatever they’ve asked of him with the ball.
He’s quick enough to get around just about anyone and has the touch to finish off a move from wherever he needs to when he’s in the paint. James might get the lion’s share of the attention in Cleveland, but the opportunities created by Kyrie’s ball handling makes James look even better. (and he has a sweet shoe deal!)
#2. Pete Maravich:
Imagine Pistol Pete on a team that had a supporting cast. Instead, Pete Maravich often had to do everything himself because he just didn’t have anyone else who could produce at the level he could. The results were often special, as Maravich regularly posted 40 and 50-point outings despite opposing defenses focusing almost all of their efforts on keeping him under wraps.
His fakes and ball-handling maneuvers were a trademark all the way back to his college days, and the only thing that ever stopped the Pistol on the court were his knee problems. Gone long before his time, there probably never will be another Pete Maravich, who did things with the ball that haven’t been seen before or since. (*You can use a Foot Locker coupon towards Old School Adidas like Pistol Pete wore!)
#1. Allen Iverson:
Without Allen Iverson, the Philadelphia 76ers of the late 1990’s would probably have looked like… the Philadelphia 76ers of 2014-16. The Answer became one of the best to ever grace the court when it came to creating space.
He was so good at handling the ball, the NBA even attempted to crack down on palming in an effort to even things up… but Iverson was good enough with the rock that even if he were palming the ball, his hands were too quick for him to get caught. No matter how people felt about him, they didn’t dare look away when the ball was in A.I.’s hands. (*Iverson wore some sweet Reebok’s, which you can get at finishline.com (get coupon)
Other honorable mentions: Best dribbling skills / ball handlers ever:
NBA players are the highest paid professional athletes in the United States with the average NBA player now averaging $4.9 million per year from the league alone. When you factor in endorsements deals from places like athletic wear companies, sports drinks, and electronics manufacturers, that number can easily double or triple.
Did you know that approximately 1 out of every 2 NBA players will sign with Nike before they even play their first game? Most don’t. In fact, there is a misconception among many people on how shoe deals for NBA players work.
It is often a lengthy, complicated contract with a lot of risk and little money being made for the players in the beginning. Read on to find out how NBA shoe deals work
Chuck Taylor and the History of Shoes in the NBA
In order to understand why NBA shoes are a multi billion dollar business today, we have to look at how we got here. In 1917, Converse began outfitting NBA players with the first ever performance basketball sneaker known as the “All-Star”.
An All-American high school basketball player by the name of Charles “Chuck” Taylor began wearing the shoes and soon after graduating high school, traveled to the Converse sales office. He was hired immediately and became the first “spokesman” for NBA shoes, despite not being an NBA player.
Taylor traveled around the country promoting the “All-Star” shoes to basketball players at the professional level as well as high school and college level. Within 6 years, his signature was added to the sole and the shoe was renamed the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Soon enough, Chuck Taylors were synonymous with the NBA.
In the 1970’s, Nike jumped into the NBA shoe business by debuting their Blazer shoe. Puma followed soon after that. In response to the threat of competition after dominating the industry for 50 years, Converse released the Weapons shoe and signed Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to wear them.
Michael Jordan Creates His Own Shoe With Nike
In 1984, Michael Jordan chose to sign his shoe deal with Nike, for $250,000. While Adidas offered $500,000, Nike was offering something that nobody else had ever done: a revenue deal. Nike proposed that Jordan take a smaller payment up front in exchange for a percentage of the revenue earned by the shoes.
They also stipulated that if the shoes didn’t earn $3 million in the first 3 years, the contract was over. In 1985, Air Jordans grossed $130 million in revenue and the NBA shoe industry was born.
Michael Jordan’s first branded shoe, Air Jordans. 1984.
Every NBA Player Signs a Shoe Deal
The vast majority of players are never going to be Michael Jordan. Since it is essentially a gamble on who will become a star NBA player, every player signs a shoe deal. Timofey Mozgov, center for the Los Angeles Lakers candidly detailed his experiences for Sports.ru:
“…here in the League, all the players, even those who are just starting, have a personal relationship with sportswear manufacturers. No matter how much stardom a player has, the companies consider it their professional duty to make it so that “even that new guy” represents their brand. It doesn’t matter how much playing time he gets and what year of his contract it is, because he’s already a part of the elite club: the NBA. And this already means a lot in America.
…I signed my contract with Nike on October 11. And I played my first game, as I recall, only on 27th. But here it’s normal.”
While Mozgov signed with Nike for his shoe deal, Under Armour and Adidas are also becoming major contenders in the NBA shoe market. While virtually every single NBA player will sign their shoe deal with one of these three companies, Nike still holds court, commanding a dominant share of the basketball shoe market.
Shoe Deals: Little Money Up Front; Opportunities for Bonuses
Contrary to popular belief, when an athlete signs a contract with a professional sporting organization, the number that is announced is actually the maximum that player can earn during those contract terms.
For example, if the hot new NBA player signs a three year, $50 million dollar contract, that means that $50 million is the maximum amount he can make from the NBA in that three year period.
In order to achieve that $50 million pinnacle, he must hit every single metric that his contract stipulates to make the money that isn’t “guaranteed.” This includes per game metrics, per season metrics, awards, no fines or injuries and no benching.
The same exact concept applies to shoe contracts for NBA players.
Mozgov spoke very frankly about the structure of his deal:
“Right now I’m not getting any money from them directly. Yes, in my contract there are generous bonuses for all sorts of individual achievement – getting on the list of the top players of the week, top rookie lists, Rookie of the Year award, and so on. And also for game performance: points, minutes, rebounds, blocked shots… So, for almost every positive stat on the boxscore.”
Mozgov’s shoe deal is structured so that he got a signing bonus upfront and is then given an account with Nike where he is able to order merchandise from them from his balance with them. That is to say, Nike is paying part of his earnings out in merchandise rather than cash. When he hits certain pre-determined metrics, he is finally paid out in that sweet, sweet cash.
Why Do Athletic Shoe Companies Pay? Michael Jordan!
Michael Jordan has not played in the NBA in nearly 15 years but his Jordan branded shoes through Nike rang in nearly $3 billion dollars in 2016. Additionally, the Jordan shoe line has a marketshare of 64% of the entire basketball shoe market. Nike branded shoes follow with 29%, followed by Under Armour with 3.6% and Adidas SportsOneSource with 2.3%.
Michael Jordan will end up making about $100 million from his Nike Jordan collaboration for 2016. Forbes estimatesthat $100 million actually beats the $94 million he made in total from the NBA in all 15 seasons combined!
When lightning strikes, it is a very lucrative business for everyone involved. It is projected that Nike has made nearly $25 billion from it’s Michael Jordan collaboration.
NBA Shoe Deals: In Closing
So while an NBA player will sign their shoe deal with one of the major companies, they won’t get a significant amount of money up front. Much of their payment comes in the form of credit to their account with the company and they can achieve cash bonuses based on performance. As you can see, signing an NBA shoe deal is as complicated as signing with the NBA itself.
*Ever wonder why new shoe releases for top players cost so much and are never eligible for coupons from Finish Line or free shipping at Foot Locker? These mega-shoe deals are definitely to blame, although if you can wait a few months, they might become eligible for coupons when they aren’t so hot.
Calendar for new product launches at Finish Line, Including Nike Air Jordans – I was looking for when the new Jordans were coming out, and stumbled upon Finish Line’s handy launch calendar on their site. This calendar actually is a little hard to find unless you do a search on-site, or follow their blog or Facebook page. In any event, you can get to the calendar quickly right here:
New Shoe Releases at Finish Line: Mark Your Calendar!
The release calendar is easy to use, and updates itself automatically to show you both recent and upcoming releases. Dominated by Nike and Jordan, the calendar lets you know when the hottest signature shoes from players like Lebron and Kyrie Irving are going to hit the market and when they’ll be available at finishline.com
Finish Line usually posts these as soon as they hit the wire, so maybe you want to bookmark their release calendar if you haven’t already.
Calendar for new product launches at Finish Line, Including Nike Air Jordans, & New Air Max Release Dates
You can also get notified of these releases instantly and earn rewards on purchases if you are a Winner’s Circle member. Need a coupon? Check out their latest featured promo codes here.