Basketball is a team game, but over the years there have been many prolific scorers that have the ability to shoulder a lot of the scoring for their team. This may not always translate over into victories and championships, but the ability that these players possess to score has to be admired. There are some players that have a deadly weapon such as their 3-point shooting ability, a dazzling array of post moves or the ability to finish at the basket, and there are of course many players that are capable of scoring in all kinds of different ways.
Watching a team flawlessly execute offensive sets can be highly entertaining, but we all also like to see individuals go on scoring rampages and rack up 30+ points. When a player gets in the zone there is nothing that can stop them, and all the elite players in NBA history have been able to do this in key games in the postseason to help their team progress, and this is what has helped them to become the legends that they are today.
The best players and scorers in the NBA will all be able to adjust too. There have been countless players to enter the league who possess terrific driving and athletic ability but struggle to shoot the ball, and similarly there have been high percentage shooters that are reluctant to put the ball on the floor and take it to the hoop. NBA defenses are too good and can take your preferred offensive weapon away if you are weak in other areas, so the best players will work tirelessly at their game to be more complete offensively. This is something that players also need to do as they age and begin to lose their athleticism, with many of the greats on this list finding other ways to impact games and score the ball once their body begins to restrict their play.
Here are the top 20 total point scorers in NBA history. All of these players have proven themselves to be elite scorers throughout NBA history, and there are a few active players that will be eager to leapfrog a few of their heroes before hanging up their boots.
* Denotes players that are still active
20 Patrick Ewing (24,815 points)
19 Jerry West (25,192 points)
18 Reggie Miller (25,279 points)
Reggie Miller provided NBA fans with many years of great entertainment during his career, and not just for his incredible shooting ability. Miller had a knack for getting under players' and even fans' skin (especially the Knicks), and he was not one to hide his feelings or emotions. He is one of the greatest shooters to play the game, and also one of the most clutch players too, which would endear him to many but also infuriate others.
17 Tim Duncan (25,433 points) *
16 Paul Pierce (25,506 points) *
Although Paul Pierce is not expected to chip in 20 a game anymore (although he is still capable of doing so), I wouldn’t be surprised for him to add a fair amount more to his tally before retiring. Pierce is now in his 17th season in the NBA, with 15 of these spent in Boston. It was here that he became an elite player and scorer in this league, spending a lot of this time carrying the team before Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett were brought in to form a championship team.
15 Alex English (25,613 points)
14 Kevin Garnett (25,849 points) *
KG has had a sensational career in the NBA, and when the veteran finally hangs up his shoes (which will be soon) he can take a well deserved break and look back on everything that he has achieved. He is in his 20th season, and although it may be beginning to take its toll, KG will always be remembered as a warrior, leader, elite defender and NBA champion.
13 John Havlicek (26,395 points)
12 Dominique Wilkins (26,668 points)
11 Oscar Robertson (26,710 points)
10 Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946 points)
9 Elvin Hayes (27,313 points)
8 Moses Malone (27,409 points)
7 Dirk Nowitzki (27,471 points) *
Dirk Nowitzki recently leapfrogged Malone into 7th place, and the question is now whether or not he will be able to climb any higher. Dirk is having yet another great season, so there is no reason why he can’t play another year or two and especially as he will be desperate to add another ring to his collection. Dirk is in his 17th season and is putting up 18.5 PPG on 46.4 FG%, still sinking jumpshots like they are layups, and is now surrounded by talent with the addition of Rajon Rondo so there is a good chance that he will add a considerable amount to his tally.
6 Shaquille O’Neal (28,596 points)
5 Wilt Chamberlain (31,419 points)
Wilt Chamberlain’s scoring antics are legendary, and of course he holds the record for most points in a single game with a jaw dropping 100 points. It is difficult to compare his scoring with other elite players because the game was so different back then and there were a few different rules, but for any player to dominate and score so much over their entire career it is truly remarkable.
4 Michael Jordan (32,292 points)
The greatest to play the game, Michael Jordan played around 500 games less than the no.1 spot and around 200 less than those around him, so to rank as highly as he does speaks volumes about what a terrific scorer he was. Completely unstoppable and able to score in all kinds of ways, the game seemed to come so easily to Jordan and his play was breathtaking at times.
3 Kobe Bryant (32,449 points) *
When Kobe leapfrogged Jordan into 3rd earlier this season you got the feeling that it was a huge relief for Bryant, and he perhaps saw it as the last thing to accomplish before retiring. Kobe is struggling (although still averaging 22.7) and will not win another ring, so now he sits 3rd it seems the right time to call it a day. It has been difficult to watch Kobe labour through last few seasons, which is why it is important to remember what an incredible talent and bright star he has been over his career which has lasted 19 seasons.
2 Karl Malone (36,928 points)
The Mailman sits safely in 2nd for the foreseeable future, and he reached this lofty height through incredible consistency throughout his career where he spent 18 seasons with Utah and an injury riddled final season with the Lakers. His rookie year and final year were the only seasons where he did not average at least 20 PPG, and he averaged as high as 31 in 1989-90. In 18 seasons with the Jazz, Malone remarkably only missed 10 games. This consistency helped him to rank so highly, despite not being a scorer quite as explosive as some of the other entries on this list.
1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 points)
Topping the pack is none other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an unstoppable player throughout his career that holds dozens of individual accolades and is a 6-time NBA Champion. The 7-foot-2 center played with incredible grace and elegance for a man of his size, and he is famous for his trademark “sky-hook” shot, a shot which is impossible to defend when done by such a tall player. He played for 20 seasons in the NBA (6 with the Bucks and 14 with the Lakers) averaging a huge 24.6 for his career, and as high as 34.8 PPG one season.
His size, speed, intelligence and versatility allowed him to score at will against defenders, and even with 38,387 points it has to be said that he was much more than a scorer. He was also a fantastic defender and he sits 3rd on the total rebounds list, and has to be included in the conversation of greatest of all time.
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