Much has been made of the NBA GOAT debate, especially during the onset of ESPN/Netflix’s hit docu-series “The Last Dance.” The show centered around the career of the one and only Michael Jordan and his journey with the Chicago Bulls. It was an ultimate showing of MJ’s greatness, which placed him atop the leaderboard of many GOAT lists — be it from experts and pundits to every other basketball fan in the planet.
So what does it take for an NBA player to be considered the greatest of all time? Is it the number of titles he’s won throughout his career? Individual Most Valuable Awards perhaps? Or maybe it’s also all about how he single-handedly revolutionized the game of basketball? The truth is that there is no one ultimate answer. Every single person will have their own set of categories, and it is without question that personal bias will certainly come into play. One thing is clear, however: a player’s ability to put the ball in the basket is one of, if not the most important category in any GOAT prerequisite list. After all, this is what basketball is all about.
Today we take a look at the Top 5 best pure NBA scorers of all time.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
It would be disrespectful to not have Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on this list. After all, he is currently the record holder for the most points scored in the history of the NBA at 38,387 total career points.
It’s all about longevity for the 7-foot-2 big man. Abdul-Jabbar averaged over 20 points in 17 out of the 20 seasons he played in the league. At one point, the Hall of Famer put up 34.8 points on a ridiculous 57.4 percent shooting clip (1971-72 season). If we’re talking about truly unstoppable NBA scorers, not many will be above the great Kareem Abdul-Jabber on that list.
4. LeBron James
The funny thing about LeBron James is that the general belief is that “he is not a scorer.” He is primarily a playmaker that just happens to be really good at scoring the basketball.
As of writing, James is the only active player on our list here, and to date, he has already amassed 34,087 points, which is good for third overall in the all-time scoring list. Currently, he is just behind Utah Jazz legend Karl Malone by 2,841 points, and odds are, James will be able to overtake Malone by the time he calls it a career. Do we dare say that James will be able to score at least 4,300 points to claim the top spot in the NBA all-time scoring list? Whatever the case may be, there’s no denying that this is pretty impressive for a pass-first kind of guy, right?
3. Kobe Bryant
Not many know that as an 18-year-old rookie, Kobe Bryant averaged just 7.6 points in 71 games played. However, he more than doubled that in his sophomore year, and the rest, as they say, is NBA history.
Bryant was criticized throughout his career as a ballhog, which many consider to be the very reason why he was able to score so many points. It’s worth noting, though that he averaged 5.2 assists per game in his career. Be that as it may, it’s hard to deny that Bryant was one of the most gifted scorers ever. His 33,643 career points (fourth all-time) is testament to this fact, and so is the 81 points he scored in 2006 — the second all-time record for points scored in a single NBA game.
2. Wilt Chamberlain
You can’t score 100 points in a single NBA game and not be one of the greatest scorers of all time. Moreover, Wilt Chamberlain once averaged 50.4 points in a season (1961-62), and while the rules were different back then, there is just no way this record is going to be broken ever.
We earlier said that Abdul-Jabbar was an unstoppable force during his time, but it is beyond crystal clear that Chamberlain was an even more unrelenting NBA scorer. The 7-foot-1 center is edged out in our list by just one individual.
1. Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan retired with 32,292 career points, which is currently just fifth all-time in the NBA. Three out of the four other players on our list here ranks above MJ, but still, there’ nos denying that the Bulls legend remains to be the greatest scorer of all time. Why do you ask? Well, the biggest factor that comes into play when looking at the numbers is the fact that Jordan played for just 15 seasons. His career average of 30.1 points per game is actually the highest scoring average of all time. Who knows how many total points Jordan would have scored in his career if he did not retire twice (the third time was the final one)?
Aside from his competitive nature and his win-at-all-costs demeanor, his ability to score is undeniably Jordan’s greatest strength. This does not only make him the greatest NBA scorer of all time, but it also makes the strongest case for being the overall GOAT, regardless of the category.