The best shooting guards in NBA history
Earlier this week we ranked the greatest point guards in NBA history. Now it’s time to turn our attention to the most sensational shooting guards to ever lace 'em up. From unstoppable scorers to unbeatable winners, our top five includes some of the best players to ever grace the hardwood.
5. George Gervin
NBA teams: San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 12x All-Star, 4x scoring champion
George Gervin was far from a perfect player. He never averaged more than 3.7 assists in a season and didn’t seem to be interested in doing anything that required actually breaking a sweat. His laissez faire attitude likely prevented him from winning a championship, but it certainly didn’t prevent him from lighting up the scoreboard.
The Ice Man led the NBA in scoring four times and finished his 13-year NBA career with an eye-popping 26.2 average. His scoring chops made Spurs games must-see TV, even though his many baskets didn’t always result in wins.
Should this spot have belonged to Clyde Drexler, who powered the Portland Trail Blazers to a pair of Western Conference titles? Maybe, but Gervin gets the nod because of his off-the-charts scoring prowess and his graceful finger roll, which remains one of the most iconic shots in basketball.
4. James Harden
NBA teams: Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets
Accolades: 8x All-Star, Sixth Man of the Year, 3x scoring champion
In many ways, James Harden is everything that’s wrong with today’s NBA. He dribbles the air out of the ball, he reduces his teammates to bystanders, and he relies on refs to bail him out. His game can be downright ugly at times, but there’s no questioning its effectiveness.
The Beard has led the league in scoring in each of the last three years and is the only player in NBA history to register a 60-point triple-double, or to record at least 2,000 points, 900 assists, and 600 rebounds in a single season.
Harden’s step back threes and Euro steps are a big reason for his many buckets, but it’s his ability to get to the charity stripe that makes him truly elite. The eight-time All-Star has led the NBA in free-throw attempts in seven of the last eight seasons, and is second among all active players in free-throws made. Those freebies may not be thrilling to watch, but they’re a big part of what makes Harden great.
3. Dwyane Wade
NBA teams: Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers
Accolades: 13x All-Star, 3x NBA Champion, NBA Finals MVP, scoring champion
Dwyane Wade will forever be linked to LeBron James, but it’s worth remembering just how dominant he was before the "Chosen One" brought his talents to South Beach.
The 6-foot-4 Chicago native was a fearless driver and ferocious finisher who led the Miami Heat to their first NBA championship in franchise history in 2006 when he averaged 28.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.2 steals in the playoffs. D-Wade later led the NBA in scoring in 2009, and made his first of two All-NBA First Teams that season.
Wade sacrificed his touches after James and Chris Bosh arrived, but remained an integral part of Miami’s back-to-back championship teams in 2012 and 2013, and was also a two-time Olympian whose clutch shooting and tenacious D were critical to the Redeem Team’s success in 2008.
2. Kobe Bryant
NBA team: Los Angeles Lakers
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 18x All-Star, 5x NBA Champion, 2x NBA Finals MVP, NBA MVP, 2x scoring champion
No player came closer to filling Michael Jordan’s shoes than Kobe Bryant, who modeled every jab step, fadeaway jumper, and spin move after His Airness. Kobe even possessed Jordan’s pathological need to not only beat his opponents, but to thoroughly humiliate them.
The result was 18 All-Star selections, 15 All-NBA selections, 12 All Defensive Team selection, five NBA Championships, four All-Star Game MVP awards, and a legacy that goes way beyond basketball.
1. Michael Jordan
NBA teams: Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 14x All-Star, 5x NBA MVP, 6x NBA Champion, 6x NBA Finals MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, 10x scoring champion
"Every kid that wanted to play basketball, that could play, that couldn't play, you tried to emulate Michael Jordan," Wade said. "That's why there will never be another one of him. He the first of his kind. Everything he did was groundbreaking. He did it with so much flare and so much pizazz that even today people are still trying to be like Mike."
LeBron James may eventually surpass Jordan as the greatest player of all time, but no one will ever erase his status at the greatest shooting guard ever.
Honorable mentions: Ray Allen, Clyde Drexler, Reggie Miller, Klay Thompson