All-time Best NBA Players: LeBron James Joins Michael Jordan, Others as NBA’s Greatest Players

Almost two years ago, CNN ranked the top three all-time NBA players. That particular list included three others who "just missed the cut." With a new longevity criteria for this list, players with less than 12 years in the NBA are eligible.

NBA all-time best player criteria

Unlike our first ranking of all-time best NBA players, this new list uses just the following three criteria.

  • Longevity is still judged, but this list requires just five seasons of NBA play.
  • All-around statistics must be considered. No one-dimensional players can make our all-time best NBA player list.

The top 5 all-time best NBA players in reverse order

5. Wilt Chamberlain -- The Big Dipper missed the original list, but he edges his way into the last spot on this list, based on statistics that can't be overlooked, no matter how much bigger he was than everyone else playing in his era.

Chamberlain averaged 30 points, a ridiculous 23 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game in his career. Even if he were a whole foot taller than his peers, Wilt Chamberlain deserves to make the list of all-time best NBA players.

4. Larry Bird -- Larry Legend made CNN's original list of the 3 all-time best NBA players, but he gets bumped one spot with a new addition to the top three. Bird revolutionized the 3-point shot and is still regarded by many as the greatest NBA shooter ever.

When the game was on the line, Bird's inside-outside game certainly made him unstoppable. Throw in 24 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists per game to go with just under 90% free throw accuracy and Bird is a shoo-in for this list.

3. LeBron James -- When CNN's original list was first published, King James was still in the infancy of his NBA career. Now, in year six, Lebron has established himself as a perennial MVP candidate and the most dominant active NBA player. LeBron's per game averages rival another great on this list, Oscar Robertson.

James averages 27 points, 7 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He has already led his Cleveland Cavaliers team to one NBA Finals appearance, and James has proven in the playoffs that he has an "unstoppability" perhaps surpassed only by Michael Jordan.

In knocking out the Detroit Pistons from the 2007 NBA playoffs, LeBron rallied the Cavaliers with 24 straight points in a 49-point game. At that moment, LeBron James became one of the all-time best NBA players.

2. Oscar Robertson -- The Big O hasn't lost his original ranking. His stats are just too good. No one in history other than Oscar Robertson can claim career numbers of 26 points, 7.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists. Robertson even averaged a triple-double in one season -- still the only one in NBA history.

1. Michael Jordan -- The man who became just Michael remade the game of basketball. He may one day be overtaken by LeBron James, but not yet. Jordan's career numbers -- 30 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals -- are secondary to the majesty of his slam dunks and uncanny big shots in playoff games (Michael Jordan has broke more hearts with buzzer-beating jumpers than a rock star playing to thousands of screaming teenagers).

Michael Jordan created everyone's "unstoppability factor." Today, any NBA player considered to be unstoppable is measured against Michael Jordan -- truly the all-time best NBA player. At least for now.

About the Author Michael Jordan

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