The NBA has seen plenty of stars throughout its long existence, but there are only a handful few that have shined with the less-commonly dominant hand. In honor of National Left-hander’s Day, here are the best left-handed shooters and players of all-time.
Other notable NBA lefties: Chris Mullin, Artis Gilmore, Billy Cunningham, Dave Cowens, Bob Lanier, Gail Goodrich, Manu Ginobili, Chris Bosh, Michael Redd, Damon Stoudamire.
Known to vintage fans as “Tiny,” the 6-foot-1 point guard wasn’t the tallest, but boy did he have some tall game to go with his stature. The afro-wearing Archibald exemplified what a New York City point guard was all about back in his day — brash, unafraid, and ruthless as a scorer and playmaker — a complete destroyer of the hardwood. Those words are usually associated with big men that play above the rim, but do watch some clips of Tiny and you will quickly see the ferocity he approached the game with.
Archie put up 16,481 points, 6,476 assists, 2,046 rebounds, and 719 steals (which could have been more if they started counting on his rookie year in 1970. His career was cut short due to an Achilles injury right at the apex of his venture in the league and he was never the same since.
Archibald missed the latter part of the 1976-77 season as well as the entire 1977-78 campaign with this injury, only to see his 20.5-point average nearly folded in half upon his return to the court in 1978-79 with 11 points per game at age 30.
Despite being slowed down by his injury, Tiny won a championship with the Boston Celtics later in his career, rounding up his resume after winning the scoring crown in 1973 (34 points per game) along with winning the All-Star Game MVP in 1981.
Harden would not have been on this list at the start of this decade, matter of fact, not even two years ago, yet his latest exploits make him well-worthy of consideration in this prestigious list. A former NBA MVP and multi-finalist for the award and now a two-time scoring champion, The Beard is inching his way among some of the titan left-handed players of the sport. Harden has the best scoring average in a season of any lefty in league history, surpassing the record set by Nate Archibald in 1973.
The Beard has yet to win a championship, unlike any of the other members of this list, but he is the only active player with many years left in his career and great opportunities ahead.
Harden led the NBA in scoring with a stout 36.1 points per game a few seasons ago. He could challenge for a few of the top spots in this list if he can win a championship and enjoy the same type of success in the next few years.
Willis “The Captain” Reed is mostly known by this generation for his iconic moment in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, as he took the court despite having a severe thigh injury, a torn muscle that had previously kept him out of Game 6, rendering him unlikely to play in Game 7.
Reed warmed up with the team, inspiring the home crowd at Madison Square Garden to roar with applause as he prepared to make a start. He scored the New York Knicks’ first two field goals on his first two shot attempts, which would be his only points of the game through 27 minutes. Known journalist Howard Cosell told Reed on national television a phrase that is still engraved in the memories of many: “You exemplify the very best that the human spirit can offer.”
Yet Reed was much more than his legendary moment, a former Rookie of the Year, NBA MVP, two-time champion and two-time Finals MVP among the long cornucopia of accolades to his name.
Reed had his career cut short due to injuries, but he was a dominant player nonetheless. It’s a true shame his career numbers: 12,183 points, 8,414 rebounds, and 1,186 assists, weren’t boosted by blocks and steals — which would only start to be recorded in his last season (1973-74).
David “The Admiral” Robinson was the result of an era dominated by the development of big men as the driving force of several franchises. At a time where big men had started to evolve as more than “dump-it-down guys,” Robinson was a swift, skilled big with a feathery-smooth lefty jumper that separated him from others of his class.
He was a former Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, the 1994-95 NBA MVP, and a two-time champion (1999, 2003). He led the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating three times and finished among the top-10 in the category in 11 of his 14 seasons.
Many have accused him of being a class guy and not having the killer instinct that other greats have been characterized for, but does anyone remember the savagery that occurred in the season finale of the 1993–94 season?
Robinson was locked in a duel for the NBA scoring title with Shaquille O’Neal of the Orlando Magic, so he proceeded to score a career-high 71 points (breaking George Gervin’s single-game franchise record of 63 points) against the Los Angeles Clippers to win it by a landslide after Shaq only mustered 32 points. Robinson averaged a career-high 29.8 points per game that season, along with 10.7 rebounds, another career-high in 4.8 assists, and 3.3 blocks per game.
The Hall of Famer put up 20,790 points, 10,497 rebounds, 2,441 assists, 2,954 blocks, and 1,388 steals per game throughout his 14-year career, a true menace at both ends of the floor and a pillar of what the San Antonio Spurs would become even a decade after he retired.
Who can compare to the Lord of the Rings himself? Russell is not only a perennial winner, a notable social activist, and the most successful player-coach in the history of professional sports, but also a lefty.
Russell wasn’t breaking through the scoring charts (only averaged 15.1 points per game for his career), but he was dominating the glass in ways only right-handed rival Wilt Chamberlain could back in the day. His average of 22.5 rebounds per game was only second to The Stilt during his playing days, but no one defended the paint more ruthlessly than the Louisiana native — making it a shame that blocks were not a recorded statistic until the 1973-74 season, four years after he retired from playing the game.
Russell has more rings (11) than he can place on his fingers, and was part of a Boston Celtics tradition that rings true to this day. “The House that Russ built” was very much a testament to the consistency of his play during the Celtics’ golden era of basketball, as the 85-year-old once put together 10 straight years averaging 21 or more rebounds per game, two seasons shy of his rival and good friend Chamberlain.
The longtime Celtics legend put up 14,522 points, 21,620 rebounds and 4,100 assists throughout his 13-year career, making him among the most-admired Hall of Famers and surely the most-respected lefty in the history of the game.