The Greatest Shooting Guards of All-Time

By Chris Le

(Original post on 3/10/07)

  1. Michael Jordan – What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? The consensus greatest basketball player of all-time, His Airness, was Finals MVP in each of his 6 titles, a 5-time regular season MVP, a 9-time selection to the All-Defense First Team, a 10-time All-NBA First Team, and he did all this while missing two years in his prime. As the game’s most prolific scorer and stingiest defender, Jordan did anything and everything he wanted on the court. He was the epitome of a perfectionist and was as ruthless as they come when it comes to winning. It didn’t matter who was in his way, MJ would leave his opponents beaten and battered. No one was even close. And he remains the lone exception to the rule that a dominant big man is needed to win championships. I just feel sorry for the likes of Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, Gary Payton, Karl Malone and John Stockton—those that possibly could’ve won titles had they had the fortune of playing in another era.
  2. Jerry West – In many ways, “Zeke from Cabin Creek” was Jordan’s equal. Okay, maybe not equal, but definitely not far off. Like Jordan, West combined expert ability to put the ball in the hoop with a stifling defense that gained him five All-Defense selections. Just look at their career numbers—Jordan: 30.1 pts, 6.2 rebs, 5.3 asts, West: 27.0 pts., 5.8 rebs, 6.7 asts. Those look pretty close to me. But when you talk about Jerry West, you have to bring up his postseason play. They didn’t call him “Mr. Clutch” for nothing. In 55 Finals games (a ridiculous stat in itself), West averaged 30.5 points a night, and who can forget his famous half-court heave as time expired against the Knicks in 1970? It is unquestioned that West is the greatest player to never win an MVP, placing 2nd four times to Wilt Chamberlain in 1966, Willis Reed in 1970 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1971 and 1972. Perhaps he can take solace in his 1969 Finals MVP, a series in which his team lost—the first time a Finals MVP was awarded to a member of a losing team. That’s how great West was. Even in a losing effort, he was the most valuable player on the court.
  3. Kobe Bryant – The closest we’ve ever seen to Jordan athletically but maybe with better range on his jump shot. The comparisons are inevitable. Bryant shares Jordan’s position, all-around athletic ability and even his flair for the dramatics. However, it has only been recently that Kobe has shown a true potential to reach Jordan’s level. He always had the capability to put on a show by himself but with a young cast that includes Smush Parker, Andrew Bynum, Kwame Brown and Ronny Turiaf, it seems that Kobe has learned to make his teammates better. The points and spectacular plays are still there, but now he is making sounder decisions with the ball in his hands. This season, Bryant has turned an extremely inexperienced team into a viable playoff contender. In order to be on par with Jordan and West though, Kobe has to jump to the next level, display his newfound understanding of the game in the postseason and win a championship.
  4. Sam Jones – Okay, his career numbers (17.7 pts, 4.9 rebs and 2.5 asts) aren’t spectacular. And I know what you’re thinking: “He played with Bill Russell and Bob Cousy!” Well, even while playing alongside basketball gods, Jones never failed to shine through. He made his presence felt in the postseason and particularly, in the waning seconds of a game. In clutch situations, Jones was the go-to guy, not Russell or Cousy, and he rarely missed. He was an integral part of his 10 championship teams, and the most impressive stat of his career may be his record in Game 7’s: 9-0. Before Jordan, before Robert Horry and before West, Sam Jones was “Mr. Clutch.” He may have been overshadowed by his two Hall of Fame teammates, but his value to the Celtics’ dynasty will always be remembered by Boston fans. Plus, he used the glass like no other. I just love guys who utilize the bank shot (ahem, Tim Duncan).
  5. George Gervin – Few scored as easily as “The Iceman,” and even fewer looked better doing it. Smooth as silk is a fitting description when seeing him glide down the court and to the hoop, setting free the most gorgeous finger rolls you’ll ever see. And his rail-thin frame only added to the aesthetic. But what separates Gervin from other slashing scorers was his efficiency and deadly mid-range shot. He had every offensive move in the book, and they were all in full force on April 9, 1978, when Gervin scored an NBA-record 33 points in a quarter against the Jazz. He would go on to amass 59 points in a mere 33 minutes. What keeps Gervin behind the four men ranked above him was a lack of defense. All of his efforts were made on the offensive end of the court.

Honorable Mentions: Hal Greer, Clyde Drexler, Bill Sharman, Allen Iverson.

12 responses to “The Greatest Shooting Guards of All-Time

  1. do you consider pistol pete a shooting guard? Sam jones can suck it!

  2. Reggie F-ing Miller

  3. Coming back as a Celtic?


  5. Reggie Miller, are you kidding me? Let’s not get carried away with his famous late-game heroic against the Knicks. Don’t get me wrong, he’s one of the best three-point shooters ever but nowhere near among the greatest shooting guards of all-time.

    B-Lack, your name should be W-Lack because you lack wisdom. Instead of looking at the pictures, you would have read that A.I. was an honorable mention so he wasn’t forgotten. Not to mention the fact that you stated he was a point guard, which he is not. But if he was, he wouldn’t be in an article about shooting guards, would he?

  6. Two interesting things I just read:

    1) Jerry West. Glad you mentioned his 5 All-Defense selections. “It is a widely held view that West would be the all-time leader in steals per game by a huge margin if the statistic existed during his time, with some of his seasons projected to near an average of 5 steals per game.”

    2) Pistol Pete. “At the age of 25…Maravich told Pennsylvania reporter, Andy Nuzzo, “I don’t want to play 10 years in the NBA and then die of a heart attack at 40.” He did just that.

  7. Pingback: Jerry West » Blog Archive » BEST DAMN GUARD: JERRY WEST

  8. Pingback: Jerry West » Blog Archive » Rooster Cogburn (...and the Lady)

  9. WHY ISNT AI in the top 5? he is the greatest little man to play the game and is always among the leaders in Steals,Scoring,Assists he is always overlooked in shit like this

    hes 5’11 and is 3rd all time in scoring! i highly doubt that KOBE would be the player that he is if he was AI’s height, if AI was around Kobe & MJ’s height he would be the best player to grace the court

  10. he also owns kobe in Scoring,steals,assists over their whole careers & seeing as i guess these he should be 2nd or 3rd in this list Sam Jones shouldnt be there TOP 10 YES! 4th? HELL NO!

    Kobe as 2nd? BULLSHIT!

  11. lamoni, is your alias B-Lack? I won’t tell, I promise. But seriously, Kobe’s not second on this list so your inability to read concerns me that your man crush on A.I. can allow you to comprehend anything other than praise for the guy.

    I don’t think A.I. himself buys into the argument that he should be awarded any benefit because of his height. Let’s not bring size into the argument as I move forward.

    Firstly, I don’t think the two’s careers should be compared given that they’re not over yet. A.I. might have better stats now, but Kobe’s got better sustainability. A.I. is averaging career-lows in points and steals this season while Kobe is third in the league in scoring and one of the best in the game. I don’t think you can say the same for A.I.

    Two more things. 1) Kobe’s enjoying his three rings over A.I.’s zero and 2) Kobe’s a much better shooter than A.I., and the stats would be reversed if Kobe was on a one-man team his whole career.

    No one has A.I. over Kobe in any list for obvious reason. A.I.’s a great player, but definitely not one of the top five all-time like Kobe is.

  12. AI is 6’0″; Kobe is 6’6″–end of discussion. You can debate hypotheticals all you want, I just judge what players can do. And by virtue of his height and weight advantage, Kobe can do things AI cannot. But I couldn’t care less about how their offensive games match up (though I can’t imagine anyone doubting Kobe’s scoring prowess). What truly separates Kobe from AI is defense.

    However, the more I think about it, the more I wouldn’t mind putting Iverson in my top five. Not in the top four, but I view him being on the same level as George Gervin. Both are insane scorers, and not much else.

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