The Greatest NBA Players of All Time, 75th NBA season edition



The debate regarding the greatest NBA players of all time has changed a lot since the last time I ranked the greats. Nine years ago one of the players on this list was just beginning his ascension. At that time the debate regarding the legends of the game was also a bit less fluid. The intricate disagreements regarding specific placement on the list caused fiery disagreement. Perhaps with the hindsight of this year, as the 75th NBA season, the NBA created an anniversary team of the best 75 players. Realistically, that framework is a more appropriate mindset. Creating the elusive perfect ranking is tempting in the age of ultra-analytics. In reality, more of a tiered-echelon ranking is the appropriate methodology. It’s not a “who is 8th best?” or “who has more rings?” question. There’s “levels to this,” as the saying goes.


There is an important point to make, however: defining what it means to be one of the greatest NBA players of all time. The Answer to that question is not synonymous with the most talented basketball players of all time. It is not the most prolific champions of all time. The greatest NBA players of all time is the players who most successfully combined three characteristics: individual talent, team success, and cultural influence. Basketball, as a strong man game, has grown in large part due to its icons so considering cultural influence is a necessary consideration. This is especially relevant as Forbes anoints the NBA's foremost current superstar, LeBron James, a billionaire.


Two notable names left off the list: Kevin Durant and Tim Duncan. Duncan, as a prolific champion and someone that made my previous list, just did not have the same cultural impact as the below top 10. He was an incredible talent and a true leader, but his success never quite translated into the zeitgeist. It is no knock against his resume, just a fact that warrants consideration in ranking the GOATs. And Durant, who I believe has a strong argument as the greatest scorer of all time, took a hit this year. He joined an established Warriors’ team that had just knocked his Oklahoma City Thunder out of the playoffs that further proved in 2022 he was a piece in the puzzle, not necessarily the piece. 


10. Wilt Chamberlain


Wilt was a game changer and one of the two most dominant players in the earliest days of the NBA. He put up 43 and 28 in his first NBA game and did not stop there. But I bumped him down a number of spots since the 2012 ranking. Why? His individual talent translated to just one NBA title in a less talented league and his name and brand does not have the same significance as the nine players above him in this list.


9. Shaquille O’Neal


Shaq was as dominant as any NBA player in history. A four-time champion and former MVP, he was able to lead the early 2000 Lakers to championships then return with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat. When you think about players to start a franchise around, his talent alone is probably top five. Add on top that his voice was always one of the funniest and loudest in basketball, and his cultural influence continues to grow as an analyst on TNT’s Inside the NBA.


8. Kobe Bryant


A lot of the comparative pieces on this site have been notably critical of Kobe. But as I rethought what greatness means in a holistic sense, Kobe belongs in this conversation more than the guys I bumped him for. Prolific scorer, champion, investor and thinker with possibly the second most popular shoe brand in basketball history? The overlap of the Kobe-LeBron era was significant but when you think about the success and impact that Kobe had on the game, he objectively belongs higher than Oscar Robertson and Tim Duncan.





7. Bill Russell


As the namesake of the Finals MVP award, Russell was the original champion. As a player and player-coach, Russell dominated his era more than any other player dominated their era. But as the player from the earliest era of basketball as compared to any others on this list, he is the most difficult to rank. The NBA was a much less talented league that Russell and Wilt undoubtedly physically dominated. And as the preeminent champion of that time and a larger face of the league, you have to give him the edge to the man who scored 100 points in a game.


6. Larry Bird


The most historic franchises in NBA history are the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. And while more recent decades of the NBA have been dominated by the Lakers half of this rivalry, Russell and Bird are the reason that the Celtics held the franchise record for most NBA championships until the Lakers tied them two years ago. Bird’s trash talking, unapologetic style personified that old-school signature style. And to combine that with such shooting excellence as to establish the 50-40-90 club, the three-time champ and three-time NBA MVP will likely be tied to Magic as a fixture in the NBA’s top 10 greatest of all time.


5. Magic Johnson


Magic and the Showtime Lakers dominated the 80s and brought a brand of basketball that mastered the performative artistry that the game had never seen. When you think about all-time champions, game changers, masters of the profession, and the more dominant half of one of the NBA’s most legendary rivalries, you think Earvin Magic Johnson. And with his transition after his career to the player-analyst he has become, you can easily credit Magic as someone who opened the door for future independent-minded artists like Allen Iverson and star-to-analyst transitions that made the way for former Inside the NBA players like Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley.


4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar


Kareem is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. A numbers discussion beyond such a prolific scorer and champion that thrust Los Angeles into the throne as the most successful franchise post-Russell would be difficult without placing Kareem higher on this list. Many former players and many pundits argue he should be no. 1. As an outspoken advocate for justice in America, Kareem was literally at the table with Muhammad Ali, possibly the most influential athlete of all time. So when you combine his individual talent, team impact, and cultural influence, I only count three players above him.


3. Stephen Curry


Steph Curry’s resume has similar rings to Jordan and LeBron. Four championships, the winningest NBA season of all time, the only unanimous NBA MVP season, a 2022 Finals Game 4 now compared to The Flu Game, revival of a previously completely irrelevant Under Armor company in the basketball shoe game, and a play style that destroyed previous three-point records like they were amateur records. Curry changed the game and style of players that entered the game even before his career ended. Curry is already cemented as the third greatest of all time. And if perhaps his largest aspiration, below, becomes a reality…

2. LeBron James


After winning with his third franchise in 2020 with the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron became fairly unanimously the second-greatest player of all time. His combination of individual talent, team impact, and cultural influence is only surpassed by one.


1. Michael Jordan


Jordan owns six championships, endless signature shots and moments, the most famous shoe brand, and a legendary game that even one of the greats on this list emulated. Even when I wrote a head-to-head comparison 10 years ago on LeBron vs. Jordan, the conclusion was simple.

Betting on the NBA with OddsJam

As more and more states legalize mobile sports betting, with even more on the way, there has been a ton of action betting on the NBA this past NBA season. 

OddsJam has NBA odds and betting lines from over forty sportsbooks, including DraftKings and FanDuel. 



The screenshot above highlights one of the most important strategies when it comes to sports betting: line shopping


Take this screenshot above for example. This Celtics/Bulls game is important in terms of how the East playoff seeding will shake out. It is a meaningful game that I’m guessing a lot of NBA fans are going to watch. 


That screenshot includes some of the most popular sportsbooks in the United States: BetMGM, DraftKings, Caesars, and FanDuel. As we can see, not every book has the same exact moneyline odds for this game. 


If an individual decided they wanted to bet on this game, they would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t use the OddsJam NBA odds page to find the best lines. 


Let’s say you think the Bulls have a legit chance at the upset tonight so you want to bet their moneyline. If you just looked at BetMGM and placed the bet at +240 odds, you wouldn’t be maximizing your profit potential. 


Instead, the bet should be placed on FanDuel at +260 odds. Of course, line shopping doesn’t guarantee that your bet will win, but it will guarantee that you are maximizing your earnings. The more you look for the best NBA lines and odds, the more profitable of a sports bettor you will become. 

Overall, the sports betting scene is taking over the sports landscape as a whole. You can’t watch TV for more than 5 minutes without seeing at least one advertisement for a sportsbook. 


Now, even sports teams and leagues are starting to take advantage of this movement. What was once taboo for people affiliated with sports teams to even mention has now become an arms race to partner with a sportsbook. 


At OddsJam, our goal is to help enhance your sports watching and also betting experience. The odds screenshot of the Bulls/Celtics game is a completely free feature that we offer. We also offer a bet tracker so you can track your profits and loss for free as well. 


Whether it is through Arbitrage betting, which is a risk-free approach to sports betting, or just converting a free bet you have on a sportsbook to cash, OddsJam has you covered. 


If you are interested in sports betting, we recommend checking out the OddsJam Positive EV Sports Betting software.


Updated NBA Futures: Nets and Lakers Continue To Top Markets





The race for the Larry O’Brien Trophy is underway, and the NBA futures markets are taking shape as the season reaches the first-month mark.

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Going into the 2021-22 NBA season, the Brooklyn Nets were the prohibitive favorites across market operators to win the NBA finals. The Los Angeles Lakers were the second-best bet and the defending champions Milwaukee Bucks were the third-best bet overall.

After this top trio, the Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and Atlanta Hawks all emerged, amongst several others, as legitimate contenders as per the oddsmakers and NBA basketball betting stats. However, they were a good distance off the Nets, Lakers and Bucks with odds that represented much lower probability of winning (less than 5%).

It’s early days yet. The NBA landscape is only just settling into place, and while a few preseason contenders are in the mix, there are a few surprise stories emerging already.

The Nets (10-4) are exactly where many predicted they’d be: at the top of the Atlantic Division and tied for second place with the Chicago Bulls at the top of the Eastern Conference. However, it’s not been smooth sailing for the Nets, who got off to a 2-3 start in their first five games that included an opening 127-104 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and a 111-95 loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

Durant and company hit an early season-low with a 103-96 loss to the Miami Heat in their fifth game of the season, prompting some candid remarks from Brooklyn’s star about his teammate Kyrie Irving.


The slow start to the season wasn’t only down to Irving’s absence, although the brouhaha over the circumstances around it was a distraction in itself.

The Nets started the season without the seven-time All-Star due to his stance against Covid-19 vaccination and his absence was sorely felt. New York City’s vaccine mandate prevents players who aren’t vaccinated from playing.

Although Irving could have been a part-time participant (playing exclusively on the road where rules aren’t so stringent), the team decided that he would not play unless he could be a full-time player.

Whether Irving will play for the Nets at some point this season remains to be seen, but as Brooklyn starts to right the ship, it’s possible his value for the team will diminish over time. Durant continues to be his stellar self, underscoring his value as Brooklyn’s most influential player on the court.

The Los Angeles Lakers remain the second favorites across the board despite their early-season troubles, which included losing LeBron James to injury. Their worst-case scenario after limping to the finish line with a decimated starting line-up last season.

King James’ absence is a big blow to Los Angeles as they slip to a modest 8-7 start in the first month. Bookmakers are reluctant to hang too low a price on the Lakers right now because of their bounce-back ability upon LeBron James’ return.

As things currently stand, the Lakers are fourth overall in the Pacific Division, four games back of the surging Golden State Warriors who lead both the division and the Western Conference.

Trading for Russell Westbrook in the offseason was supposed to help the Lakers weather such storms, but it’s easy to understand why that hasn’t gone quite to plan. Westbrook has only just joined the team, and LeBron’s injury came way too early for the Lakers and Westbrook to adjust or assimilate cohesively enough so those big-name absences aren’t felt as much.

The good news for the Lakers, LeBron is expected to return soon. As early as this Friday against the Boston Celtics, according to the latest reports.



The Milwaukee Bucs are 6-8 on the season and struggling something huge. Considering they were the last team off the court this summer after winning the NBA title, their slow start isn’t surprising at all.

The Bucks have had the shortest offseason and a rash of injuries is catching up to them already. Nevertheless, odds makers are loathe to drop Milwaukee’s odds just yet too. It would be an overreaction to the first month sample, which could prove costly down the road. After all, as the team gets healthier, their potential to bounce back is high.

The Golden State Warriors (11-2) are off to a fabulous start, which isn’t surprising. Stephen Curry and the Warriors have championship pedigree, and they were amongst the contenders from the start.

The Phoenix Suns (10-3), who lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA finals, are off to a better start than most expected, but their odds have remained largely the same because the Western Conference is loaded in talent and that will make a repeat final appearance tougher.

The biggest movers and shakers on the odds board is Miami. The Heat appear to be tapping into their 2020 NBA finals form – they’re up to 9-5 on the season and fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.

Finally, the Chicago Bulls are the quintessential surprise package of the first month. Few saw the Bulls coming this season, but they’re up to second in the standings with a 10-4 record. Whether they can maintain this form remains to be seen though.

What are the latest NBA power rankings?

 


This season’s NBA campaign kicked off on the 20th of October, as the defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks took on the Brooklyn Nets. As was expected, the Bucks carried on their strong form from the previous campaign and didn’t look overly troubled, with the final score ending up 127-104. 


Since then, however, their form has been fairly mixed. At the time of writing, they have played 11 times, winning 5 matches, but losing 6. This means they are quite unpredictable, so fans using sports betting sties like draftkings sportsbook might think twice before placing bets on them to win in their upcoming fixtures, against the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics.


The current official power rankings on the NBA website have the Bucks as low down as 16th. They have injuries to Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez to contend with, so it will be hard to see them climbing up the rankings in the next few weeks.


Let’s take a look at which teams are thriving this season in the NBA, and who already looks like they will be struggling to make it to the playoffs.

Miami bringing the heat

After 9 games played, the Miami Heat are top of both the Eastern Conference and the power rankings, despite losses to the Celtics and the Denver Nuggets in the last week (the rankings were published before the game against the Nuggets, so this could well change in the next few days).

 

Instead of focusing on the defeats, which have been fairly shocking, instead let’s look at the positives, which saw them win all but 1 of their opening 8 matches. The stand out results would be a 137-95 of the current NBA champions (even if, as mentioned previously, the Bucks haven’t hit their stride just yet) and the big score achieved against the Memphis Grizzlies, which finished 129-103 to the Heat.


A  big test for them is in their next game, against the LA Lakers. It is made all the more interesting as the Heat’s former star player (and NBA MVP during his time in Miami) , LeBron James, now plays for the Lakers, helping them to win the 2020 Championship. Will the Heat show LeBron what he is missing by beating them this week at the Staples Center? Given LA’s average start, we wouldn’t be surprised to see this happen.



The Warriors topping the Western Conference

Over on the other side of the NBA, the Golden State Warriors are looking like a force to be reckoned with, having won 9 and lost just 1 of their opening fixtures. They opened up the campaign with a 121-114 win over the Lakers, and also ran out big scores against the New Orleans Pelicans (126-85) the Charlotte Hornets (114-92) and the Sacramento Kings (119-107). 


Given that their next 2 matches see them take on the Minnesota Timberwolves in front of their home crowd at the Chase Center, before welcoming the Chicago Bulls there on Saturday the 13th, we expect their record to not only improve, but for them to also rise up to the top spot in the NBA power rankings.


The Warriors were the dominant force in basketball for a period, winning 3 championships between 2015 and 2018. With Stephen Curry still looking like a world-beater, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see them lift another championship later this year.

Nets and 76ers looking beyond the Conference Semifinals

Last year in the playoffs, both the Brooklyn Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers made it as far as the Eastern Conference Semifinals, before being beaten by the Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks respectively. While making it to the last 8 is certainly admirable, both sides will be wanting to go even further if possible this year.


It could be achievable, as both sides are in good form in this early part of the season. The 76ers have a record of 8-4 so far, recording positive results against the Detroit Pistons and the Hawks. However, they are currently on a 2 game losing streak, having lost to the New York Knicks and the Bucks in their most recent fixtures. They will be hoping to turn things around against the Toronto Raptors next time out.


The Nets meanwhile have recovered from their opening day defeat to the Bucks, with solid wins against the Washington Wizards, the Indiana Pacers, and the 76ers. They were on the wrong end of a 118-95 scoreline against the Bulls in game 11, so will be looking to get back on track against the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center.

Rockets not firing

Spare a thought for the Houston Rockets, who are currently rock bottom of the power rankings. It is not a good time for the city of Houston, who also have the Houston Texans at the bottom of the NFL power rankings. Hopefully the Rockets will pick up their second win of the season against the Pistons in a few days time.


Kevin Durant and James Harden Beginning to Show Why Brooklyn Nets Are the Big Favorites in NBA Title Chase



In the opening weeks of the season, it would be fair to say that the overwhelming favorites for NBA title glory were a shadow of the team that many had predicted. Defeats to Milwaukee, Charlotte, and Miami left the Brooklyn Nets 2-3 after five games of the new season, and there was a lot to do in order to get Steve Nash's side back where they should be. 


Some may have felt the absence of Kyrie Irving was a factor, but Kevin Durant and James Harden have been in spellbinding form of late, and now the Nets side top of the Atlantic Division after a series of eight wins from nine games. 


Now the Barclays Center side is way out in front in terms of the NBA betting, which can be seen at sidelines.io/nba; the Nets are now placed at (+275) some way ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers (+700) and the in-form Golden State Warriors (+800). 


As an illustration of the work put in by their star duo, you only have to note that Kevin Durant sits top of points per game stats (at 29.6), and James Harden sits in the second spot in assists (at 9.3 per game). 


The pair's efforts unsurprisingly led to them both getting roundly booed on their first joint return to the Oklahoma City Thunder; during a match that the Nets ran out 120-96 winners, the pair amassed 49 points between them, and Harden put in 13 assists. 


That win brought an end to Oklahoma's own four-win streak, and Harden was pleased with the effort put in by the Nets;


"They've been playing well. They'd won four straight prior to this game. We didn't take them lightly and came out and tried to play very good Brooklyn Nets basketball on both ends of the ball," Harden commented. "I think we did that." 


Nash commented on how far both players have come since their respective stints at the Paycom Center side, where they played a combined 11 seasons;


"I think the last time James was here, he wasn't the MVP James that has had such an impact on the game," explained Nash. "So much success, such prolific numbers, had the rules changed because of him. That player was in there somewhere, but it was not fully formed yet. So while everyone could see the talent and effectiveness, he's definitely become something in the last ten years or however long that's been that's totally different and historic."


"I think Kevin [has become] refined as well; in a different way, you know Kevin, we could see the prodigious talent and effectiveness and efficiency even back then. But he's just now in such a different state of being on the court; there's a mastery to what he does where there was a little more rawness to his game back then, still doing it at an incredible level and doing it with more knowing." Added Nash.


The Nets are looking good, but the season is long, and Nash knows that other members of his roster will need to put in the hard work to support their marquee stars.