Basketball is one of the most popular and storied sports in the world. For decades, the world's best basketball players have achieved international fame and glory through their performances on the court, in some cases becoming true global icons. As successive eras of basketball superstars have passed, the debate over which player is the greatest of all time has evolved with ever-increasing complexity and passion. Taking into account championships, records, accolades, statistics, and impact on the game, which player stands above all the rest? Who is the greatest NBA player of all time?
LeBron James is the best basketball player of all timeShow moreShow less
James already has some of the greatest achievements in basketball history, and he is still building his legacy.
No NBA superstar has faced competition as strong and varied as LeBron James, and he has managed to lead his teams to an extraordinary amount of success despite this exceptional level of opposition. James won his first NBA championship in 2012, defeating an Oklahoma City Thunder team that included three players who would eventually win the NBA's overall Most Valuable Player (MVP) award: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. In three of James's first five NBA finals series (2007 and 2011-2014), his teams faced off against San Antonio Spurs teams led by Tim Duncan and coached by Gregg Popovich. The Duncan-Popovich Spurs teams are widely considered one of the NBA's great dynasties, and the two ultimately won five NBA titles together. James's next four finals series (2015-2018) were contested against another great NBA dynasty, the Stephen Curry-led Golden State Warriors, which set numerous records including the all time record for most wins in a season in 2016, when they won 73 of 82 games. That same year, the Warriors were prevented from achieving the most successful season ever by James's Cleveland Cavaliers, which defeated the record-setting Warriors 4-3 in the NBA finals. The Cavaliers's victory brought the franchise its first ever NBA championship, and James was named the finals MVP.
Complicating the NBA's landscape even further, the timeline of James's career has been concurrent with the development of radical new insights and strategies, driven largely by an explosion of advanced statistical methods. The influential Sloan Sports Analytics Conference was first held in 2006, just a few years into James's NBA career. As teams have developed more and more sophisticated methods of analyzing play, players have been forced to contend with unexpected challenges and innovative new tactics. In particular, the newly emphasized strategic value of three-point shots in the NBA has caused a dramatic shift in play styles, owing in part to the meteoric rise of three-point specialists such as James's rival superstar, Stephen Curry. Amidst all this rapid change, James has somehow managed to set a modern standard for consistency, reaching eight consecutive NBA finals series from 2011-2018. No player since the NBA's merger with the ABA in 1976 has reached the finals so consistently, and James did so even in an era of rapid evolution for the sport of basketball.
[P1] Basketball has changed immensely over the years.
[P2] However, James' performance has remained constant.
[P3] This makes him the greatest player of all time.