The conversation for the best point guards in NBA history is not one to be taken lightly, as many greats have walked the hardwood, making waves in the record books. To better analyze the top five point guards in NBA history, a list of their achievements, accolades, and unique contributions to the game is attached below their names.
To do right by these star players is to look at this conversation from more than one lens — not solely looking at the numbers and achievements, but also using the eye test to determine their importance to the game as players at this position. Besides the NBA titles, accolades are weighed as follows: Finals MVP, All-NBA, and All-Star appearances.
While other honors besides the aforementioned will also be taken into account, those top two rows will take precedence as the categories that weigh the most. College, international, and non-NBA awards have been omitted in fairness. Nevertheless, it’s time to take a look at the top five point guards in NBA history.
5. John Stockton
NBA Championships: None
Accolades: 11-time All-NBA selection, 10-time All-Star.
Unique honors: Five-time All-Defensive selection, 1992-93 All-Star MVP, led the league in assists for nine straight seasons (1987-88 — 1995-96), two-time steals leader, all-time assists leader, inducted to the Hall of Fame.
Career stats: 13.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 10.5 assists, 2.2 steals per game.
The only player on this list without an NBA title to his name. John Stockton is perhaps the best example of a pure point guard that exists to this day. The Spokane native posted a career assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.75:1 — a mark that would leave today’s point guards with their mouths agape.
“Stock” was perennially efficient. a true craftsman at his position. He was known for his incredible vision and innate feel for the game, despite standing at a mere 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds.
John Stockton wasn’t the biggest point guard or the fastest, but he was a giant as a floor general, picking apart the opposition with a deadly pick-and-roll game alongside longtime running partner Karl Malone.
There’s a reason Stockton leads the next-best assist man by a whopping 3,715 assists, standing alone as the all-time dime leader in league history with 15,806 helpers — a mark many believe will remain forever untouched. Malone was also the beneficiary of many of those passes, climbing to the second spot of all-time scorers with 36,928 points.
John Stockton was also a stout defensive player, the most decorated one of this list. Stockton and Malone came shy of an NBA ring twice, falling to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in 1997 and 1998, but Stockton made the playoffs each of his 19 seasons in the league as one of the best to play the position.
4. Isiah Thomas
NBA Championships: 2 (1989, 1990)
Accolades: 1990 Finals MVP, five-time All-NBA, 12-time All-Star, two-time All-Star MVP
Unique honors: 1984-85 assists leader, inducted to the Hall of Fame.
Career stats: 19.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 9.3 assists, 1.9 steals per game.
“Zeke” was one of the better point guards of his time, though he had the poor luck to play around the same era as Magic Johnson. Nevertheless, it didn’t take away from his floor general genius, penchant for scoring and innate ability to make plays for the Detroit Pistons.
Isiah Thomas averaged 20 points and 10 assists for four straight seasons (1983-1987), leading the league in assists in 1984-85 with a magical 13.9 per game.
Beyond the numbers, Thomas was a big-time performer, able to step up in clutch moments and deliver the go-ahead shot or find the open man who can. He was the Finals MVP of that 1990 NBA Finals, in which he averaged 27.6 points and 7.0 assists per game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Before Jason Williams and Chris Paul, Thomas was the ultimate on-ball wizard, able to get anywhere on the court with a mix of blazing speed and yo-yo-like handles.
His two titles and strong accolades make him a surefire name among the greats at his position as a legitimate 20-10 threat each night he laced them up.
3. Stephen Curry
NBA Championships: 3 (2015, 2017, 2018)
Accolades: Two-time MVP (2015, 2016), six-time All-NBA, six-time All-Star.
Unique honors: First unanimous MVP (2016), 2015-16 scoring champion, 2015-16 steals leader, 50-40-90 club (2015-16), four-time free-throw percentage leader (2011, 2015, 2016, 2018), Three-Point Contest champion (2015).
Career stats: 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.7 steals per game.
Unlike the two aforementioned talents, Stephen Curry revolutionized the game as a high-scoring point guard, capable of picking apart defenses from distance. His 3-point shooting prowess and the sheer distance from where he buried these baskets pushed the NBA to the era of pace and space we live in.
While Curry isn’t as highly decorated in terms of All-Star appearances and All-NBA teams, he has more rings than the two aforementioned put together. His reputation as a shooter opens up his entire game, showcasing other areas like his strong rebounding and playmaking.
But why is he so high on this list of top five point guards in NBA history?
Considering his career trajectory and what he can still achieve in the league, Curry can easily be an All-NBA and All-Star name for years to come due to his unparalleled shooting ability. A career 43.5% 3-point shooter, Curry has shot 40% or more from deep in each of his first 10 seasons.
He broke the record for most threes in a season during the 2015-16 season, making 402 through 79 games. No player in league history had bent defenses powerless as much as he has during the last few seasons.
With three titles, two MVPs, and a pantheon of broken records in his name, Curry can only climb up on this list in the next few years.
2. Oscar Robertson
NBA Championships: 1971
Accolades: 1963-64 MVP, 11-time All-NBA, 12-time All-Star.
Unique honors: Three-time All-Star MVP, 1961 Rookie of the Year, 1967-68 scoring champion, six-time assists leader, two-time free-throw percentage leader, inducted to the Hall of Fame.
Career stats: 25.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 9.5 assists per game.
A pioneer at his position, “The Big O” was the first “point god” as we know it, changing the point guard position from a player tasked to run a team’s plays to an action kickstarter.
Oscar Robertson was the original “Mr. Triple Double” before Russell Westbrook came along, making his mark in the league as a young 22-year-old. He put up the only triple-double season in the first 68 years of NBA history, a feat that stood for 55 years until Westbrook mustered three in a row, staring with his first in 2017.
Robertson is highly-decorated, but he could have added a lot more awards to his name if the NBA had recorded steals and blocks a couple of decades earlier. The Indiana native was an athlete of rare air, a game-changer in every sense of the word with a mix of raw ability and incredible wit.
His size, strength, and unique feel for the game made him a player that stood shoulders above the competition. Robertson earned his only title playing with a young Lew Alcindor, years before he became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Robertson was a dynamite scorer and a stellar playmaker, averaging 30 points or more in six of his first seven seasons and putting up 30 points and 10 assists for a season in six of them — a record unmatched to this day.
1. Magic Johnson
NBA Championships: 5 (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)
Accolades: Three-time MVP (1987, 1989, 1990), three-time Finals MVP (1980, 1982, 1987), 10-time All-NBA, 12-time All-Star.
Unique honors: Two-time All-Star MVP (1990, 1992), four-time assists leader, two-time steals leader, 1988-89 free-throw percentage leader, inducted to the Hall of Fame.
Career stats: 19.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 11.2 assists, 1.9 steals per game.
A man so special he’s known as “Magic.” Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. was as unique an act as the name indicates.
Besides the cornucopia of accolades in his name, the man brought the flair back to the point guard position after the NBA had grown enamored with big, hulking centers as their cornerstone players.
Johnson broke into the NBA fresh off winning a title with the Michigan State Spartans, playing under legendary coach Jud Heathcote. His pass-first instincts lent perfectly to a Lakers team in need of a distributor to players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes.
Magic was a rookie when he captured his first NBA title, helping Abdul-Jabbar get his first title in La La Land since making his way to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975. His performance in the 1980 NBA Finals is among the most brilliant in history. To this day he is the only rookie to ever win a Finals MVP.
Johnson played as a point guard for coach Jack McKinney despite many thinking he should play as a forward, due to his 6-foot-9 frame. Paul Westhead, who replaced McKinney after a near-fatal bicycle accident, played him at center in Game 6 of the Finals, which resulted in Magic putting up 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and three steals in a 123–107 win over Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers.
He took the Lakers to unprecedented heights, introducing the Showtime era of Los Angeles basketball and reeling in five titles in one decade, a feat that stood as the Mount Everest of the modern NBA until Michael Jordan came along and netted six in eight years.
Magic put up double-digit assist numbers for nine straight years before retiring due to HIV, though he already had cemented his place as the best point guard of all-time.