The center dominates beneath the basket, the forward pours in the points, but it is the point guard that really controls a team’s offense, and how he plays ultimately determines the success of his team. Throughout the history of the league, these mid-sized players have been overshadowed by their higher scoring teammates, but a few of them have been so dominant that they have broken through, and are recognized as some of the greatest players at any position in the history of the NBA. Here is my list of the top 10 NBA point guards of all time:
10 – Gary Payton
“The Glove” spent the bulk of his career with the Seattle Supersonics, where he thrilled fans as a setup man for spectacular dunker, Shawn Kemp. He earned the nickname, “The Glove” as a result of his ferocious defensive play, which is highlighted by virtue of his ranking of 3rd all time in career steals. He was no slouch at the offensive end of the court either, and currently sits 21st in career points, and 7th in career assists.
9 – Kevin Johnson
Some might be surprised by the inclusion of Johnson on the list of the top 10 NBA point guards of all time, but the numbers he put up, particularly early in his career, are weighty enough to deserve consideration. He is one of only 3 players in NBA history to average more than 20 points and 10 assists per game in 3 consecutive seasons. Johnson was actually such a gifted athlete he was drafted by the Oakland Athletics, and actually played with the A’s minor league team before deciding to concentrate on basketball.
8 – Jason Kidd
Considered one of the best all around players in the recent history of the NBA, Jason Kidd controlled all aspects of the game, putting up triple doubles on a routine basis. In fact, he ranks 3rd all time in career triple doubles with 100. With over 17,000 career points, over 12,000 assists, and with over 2,700 steals Kidd is an easy pick for the top 10 list.
7 – Steve Nash
This creative Canadian was the hub of the Phoenix Suns’ offense, and his passing skills were second to none in his prime. Some of his dishes are eerily reminiscent of another famous point guard by the first name of Magic. Together with Amare Stoudemire, Nash picked apart opposing defenses, confounding them with his slick passes, and draining jump shot after jump shot when they manage to take away his passing options. Though he is obviously in the twilight of his career now, his back to back NBA MVP nods make him a no-brainer for one of the top 10 NBA point guards of all time.
6 – Bob Cousy
The first player on the list from days gone by, Bob Cousy was dubbed “The Houdini of the Hardwood” and the nickname was well earned. A Boston Celtic for almost his entire career, Cousy helped the Celts to an amazing 11 championships, pouring in almost 17,000 points along the way to ignite the offense while Bill Russell provided the defense.
5 – Walt Frazier
This former New York Knick turned broadcaster is ranked alongside Patrick Ewing as perhaps the greatest player in the history of the franchise. His quick hands earned him 681 steals over the course of his career, and he practically invented knocking the ball from the hands of opposing players. He racked up over 15,000 points and more than 5,000 assists during his time in New York and Cleveland.
4 – Isiah Thomas
Nicknamed the “Smiling Assassin” for his lethal competitiveness on the court, and his big smile off, Isiah Thomas is one of the best ever at any position and certainly one of the top 10 point guards in NBA history. A Detroit Piston for his entire 13 year career, this fiercely loyal player amassed almost 19,000 points, and set up his teammates more than 9,000 times all the while leading them to consecutive championships in 1989 and 1990, garnering finals MVP honors in the latter year. Thomas went on to coach but has yet to replicate the success he had as a player.
3 – John Stockton
The setup man in one of the deadliest duos in NBA history, John Stockton spent his entire career playing alongside Karl “The Mailman” Malone on the Utah Jazz. Like Steve Nash and Magic Johnson, Stockton was a brilliant passer, always seeming to get the ball through multiple sets of arms or legs, right into a teammate’s waiting hands, even when his head was turned the other way. Though he had almost 20,000 points in his career, he was a passer first, and his NBA record 15,806 career assists is head and shoulders above anyone else in the history of the sport.
2 – Oscar Robertson
It takes a special kind of athlete to finish ahead of a guy like John Stockton on the list of the top 10 NBA point guards of all time. Well, Oscar Robertson was a special kind of athlete. So special, in fact, he accomplished a feat that no NBA player before or since has matched when he averaged a triple double in 1961-62 season, only his second year in the league! He came close to replicating the feat on several occasions, never quite making it, but his career totals of 26,710 points, 9,887 assists, and 7,804 rebounds more than make up for his “failure” in this regard.
1 – Magic Johnson
One of the true legends in the world of sport, this giant among point guards lived up to his name throughout his career. Arguably the most creative player to ever pick up a basketball, Magic wowed the crowd and frustrated opponents with his fakes, no-look passes, and his highlight reel drives. He led the Lakers to 5 NBA titles during the 1980s, and was a perennial All-star throughout his career. The only clear choice as the best ever point guard to play in the NBA.
Featured image by Keith Allison