- Kenneth Cotterill
Top 5 NBA Shooting Guards Ever
The second part of this five-part series looks at the other backcourt position; the shooting guard. Now while point guards are typically shorter, distributors who provide plenty of steals, the shooting guard position is much different. Players are typically much taller, around 6 foot 6 inches tall, and are phenomenal scorers. Now this list will have a very similar criterion to the first, with accolades and statistics being important, while the number of championships gives you an edge on your spot on this list. And this article is once again in response to the All-Time Shooting Guard discussion from my latest podcast episode (link is here) So let’s take a look at what players made it into my top 5 shooting guards of all time.
5) James Harden
People may say having this guy on my list is premature, but I believe James Harden is the fifth-best shooting guard ever. James, as of today, is a two-time scoring champion and about to add his third. He is one of the greatest ever when it comes to scoring the basketball and his ability to manipulate foul calls is an art form. I may not enjoy watching the Houston Rockets play basketball, but I do appreciate his talent. James is also a phenomenal passer, as he is also an assist champion as well. Throw in eight all-star appearances, five All-NBA selections and a league MVP and James is an elite-level talent. The one knock on James is his lack of championships, but his peak is higher than any other shooting guard that I could have considered here. Allen Iverson is close, as they both play similar styles, but I am taking James here because of his passing ability.
4) Jerry West
Just edging out James Harden on this list at number four is the logo himself, Jerry West. Now Jerry played in the dark ages of basketball history, right after the 60’s Celtics and right before the Celtics and Lakers of the ’80s. But that did not prevent Jerry from being a star in his era, as he was an all-star fourteen times and was an All-NBA selection twelve times. For his career, Jerry averaged over twenty-seven points per game and over six assists, which shows he was an all-around player. Where Jerry truly thrived was in the playoffs, as he was nicknamed Mr. Clutch for his impeccable play in big games. West is still the only player in NBA history to win Finals MVP, despite being on the losing team. West averaged over forty points per game in the 1965 playoffs as well, which is a feat that only Michael Jordan has accomplished outside of him. Now late in Jerry’s career, he switched to the point guard position, but Jerry was at his best as a shooting guard. Jerry finally got his elusive title late in his career in 1972, alongside Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. A scorer, a Finals MVP, and an NBA champion, West did it all and that is why he is number four on my list of all-time shooting guards.
3) Dwayne Wade
The greatest player in Heat history comes in at number three, and that guy is Dwayne Wade. Now I looked at many lists written by other publications, and all of them had Jerry West ahead of Dwayne Wade. So why do you think I picked Wade as my third best shooting guard ever? Well firstly, Wade had one of the greatest finals performances ever, when he averaged thirty-four points, eight rebounds, and four assists to beat the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 playoffs. Wade also was the best player at his position in the Eastern Conference for almost a decade, which shows that he was consistently great. Wade on his career averages twenty-two points, four rebounds, and five assists. Dwayne also was an elite scorer as he even won the scoring title in the 2008-09 season. Wade is a thirteen-time all-star and eight-time All-NBA selection, and unlike players on this list before him, he was also an elite defender, making All-NBA defense 3 times. My reasoning for putting Wade above West truly lies in his championships as Dwayne Wade has three titles. Now many people will say “But Wade had Lebron for two of his”, which to me is the most bogus argument in sports. All great players need help to win titles, and West also had help winning his. Wade’s 2006 finals were so impressive because he lacked a lot of talent around him and still got it done. Dwayne Wade to me is easily the third-best shooting guard of all-time.
2) Kobe Bryant
Now we come to a player that has been bashed for the last few years of his career but is undoubtedly the second-best player to ever play the shooting guard position. Kobe came into the league out of high school, being drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th pick in the 1996 draft. Thankfully Kobe was quickly traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and he became a household name quickly. His rough playoff games against Utah early in his career really drove him to be the hardest working guy in the league. Kobe’s accolades are endless: eighteen time all-star, NBA MVP in 2008, a fifteen-time All-NBA selection, and a twelve-time All-NBA defensive selection. Kobe was the best offensive player at his position, winning the scoring title twice, as well as the best defender at his position, as evident by the defensive accomplishment I named earlier. Kobe also has the titles to go along with his statistics, winning five titles and winning NBA finals MVP twice. The Black Mamba is a top ten player all-time and should not be criticized for his last few years with the Lakers. Over the last few years, I believe people truly recognized Bryant’s brilliance and that is why Kobe is the second-best shooting guard of all time.
1) Michael Jordan
For the second straight list, the number one slot is pretty tough to argue, as it is His Airness, Air Jordan himself, Michael Jordan. Whether you consider him the greatest to ever play the game or you are wrong and consider him the second-best, the one thing people do not dispute is how important MJ is to the game of basketball. He went from a guy that was cut from his high school basketball team to winning an NCAA title with North Carolina just a few years later under Dean Smith in 1982. He then was drafted by the struggling Chicago Bulls in 1984 with the third selection and the team prospered. Jordan early in his career was a scoring machine, but lacked playoff success, always being eliminated by Larry Bird’s Celtics or Isaiah Thomas’s Detroit Pistons. The Bulls brought in Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson and Jordan would go on a tear in the nineties that no one could have expected. The Bulls would win six titles, with Jordan winning all six finals MVP’s and Jordan solidified his spot as the greatest of his generation and of all time. So what was so great about MJ? Well for starters, he was the best scorer of his era, winning ten scoring titles in his career. Jordan was also a fourteen-time all-star and the best defender at his position, earning an all-defensive first team nine times. There is so much more that I could say about Michael Jordan, but the fact of the matter is he was on a whole other planet than everyone else that played against him. This five-time league MVP will never be forgotten and he is by far the best shooting guard to ever play the game of basketball.
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