As we lean towards the upcoming NBA draft and everybody updates their mocks on a daily basis, it’s pretty nice to look back into the past and at those great players that took the league for assault from the very first day they stepped a foot onto an NBA court.
We’ve seen some great flops and busts that were a complete waste of a lottery pick, but we’ve also seen guys that extremely dominated through their high school and college years, and proved that scouts were right with their reports that stated that they were the best youngster in the nation.
Today, we’ll take a look at those guys, naming and ranking the top 10 greatest 1st overall picks in NBA draft history.
Honorable Mentions: James Worthy, Patrick Ewing.
10. Elgin Baylor
Right after George Mikan retired, the Minnesota Lakers were struggling mightily to get anything going and get back on track, and that’s when Elgin Baylor came into the picture, being drafted 1st overall way back then in 1958.
Baylor came to the Lakers' rescue, winning the Rookie of the Year award and leading the team to the NBA Finals, although the Boston Celtics wound up defeating them. Sadly, he was never actually able to win the ring, retiring due to a knee injury until the very next year, the team won the championship. Oh, the irony.
9. David Robinson
One of the greatest players in San Antonio Spurs history and one of the most dominant big men in NBA history also makes our list, being drafted 1st overall out of Navy U in 1987 after leading them to their 1st NCAA title in 25 years against all odds.
During his NBA career, he didn’t miss a beat, completely shattering everybody else, winning the Rookie of the Year award as well as one MVP, a Defensive Player of the Year award, 3 Olympic medals and 2 NBA championships in 14 years in the Association.
8. Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson was a complete monster during his high school years, leading his team to the championship in both basketball and football, where he played in more than 4 different positions in both offense and defense.
Sadly, his NBA journey had to be put on hold due to some legal problems, but the Answer was no questions asked one of the most incredibly talented players the league has ever seen, winning the Rookie of the Year, 1 MVP and leading the league in steals in 3 different seasons and scoring in 4.
7. Oscar Robertson
Before Russell Westbrook, there was Oscar Robertson, the 1st overall pick by the Cincinnati Royals out of Cincinnati U back then in 1960, being known as Mr. Triple-Double and even making the NCAA name a trophy in his honor as the best college player in the country.
The Big O was a triple-double machine and could fill up the stat sheet on a nightly basis, leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the ring in 1971, winning the 1961 Rookie of the Year award and the MVP 3 years later, leaving career averages of 22.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 8.9 assists per game at point guard.
6. Tim Duncan
And right after Robinson, we have to name The Big Fundamental here, as the Virgin Islands native is no questions asked one of the greatest players to ever lace them up, being the ultimate leader for the San Antonio Spurs during the Gregg Popovich era.
Duncan was one of the greatest two-way players in league history and the Spurs are definitely missing his strong presence in the paint, as Duncan won 5 rings, 3 Finals MVPs, 2 MVPs, the Rookie of the Year award and made 8 All-Defensive 1st teams as well as 7 All-Defensive 2nd teams, being drafted 1st overall out of Wake Forest.
5. Hakeem Olajuwon
If you want to have an idea of how great Hakeem The Dream was, just think about this for a second: Have you ever heard a Rockets fan complain about them landing him instead of Michael Jordan? I bet you haven’t.
Well, Hakeem Olajuwon was as gifted on offense as he was on defense, being the all-time leader in blocked shots in NBA history while also averaging over 21.8 points per game, winning the Defensive Player of the Year twice, one MVP award and 2 NBA championships being drafted 1st overall in 1984.
4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Of course, we can’t leave the all-time leading scorer of the Association out of our list as we approach the podium, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a scoring machine with his sky hook and his long athletic body during his Milwaukee Bucks stint and as the go-to-guy on the Lakers.
Kareem won 6 MVP awards as well as leading the Lakers to 6 Championships, winning 2 Finals MVPs and the Rookie of the Year award, leaving career averages of 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.7 blocks per game through his entire career.
3. Shaquille O'Neal
We finally reached the podium, with the bronze medal going to the 1st overall pick of the 1992 NBA draft out of Louisiana State, the most dominant center in the history of the game: Shaquille O’Neal, the Shaq Attack.
Shaq won the Rookie of the Year, an Olympic Medal, 1 MVP, 3 Finals MVPs, 4 NBA rings and led the league in scoring in a couple of opportunities, averaging 23.7 points, 10.9 boards, 2.5 assists and 2.3 swats per game as well as making the league change the material of the backboards on a couple of occasions and making them change a couple of rules.
2. LeBron James
The 2nd spot on our list goes to an active player, LeBron “The King” James, arguably the greatest small forward in the history of the game and one of the smartest, most talented two-way players in the history of the league.
Bron took the league for assault from the very first day coming out of high school, winning 3 Olympic medals, the 2004 Rookie of the Year, 4 MVPs, and 3 Rings with 3 Finals MVPs, being the primary playmaker and leading scorer in Cleveland Cavaliers history and pursuing his second consecutive championship.
1. Magic Johnson
And the greatest 1st overall pick definitely has to go to Earvin Magic Johnson, the ultimate face of the Showtime Lakers, playing as a 6’9 point guard that was extremely gifted on both ends of the court, as well as being a nightly triple-double threat.
Magic led the Lakers to 5 NBA championships, winning 3 Finals MVPs as well as 2 regular season MVPs. Besides, he led the league in assists on 4 occasions and has the highest assist per game average in NBA history, as well as leading the league in steals on 2 different seasons and winning the gold medal with Team USA in 1992, making his debut as a backup center just to completely dominate the league at point afterwards.