As the League celebrates it’s 75th anniversary, there’s quite a few Top 75 lists out there already. In fact, we’ve got quite a few of our own, from SLAM’s Top 75 Players of All Time Special Issue to most recently our Top 75 NBA Teams of All Time (shop here). We could’ve easily left it at that, but after checking out Tracy McGrady’s new Ones Basketball 1-on-1 League, we started thinking about the best 1-on-1 NBA players of all time.
So, we decided to have some fun with it and put together a bold list, categorized based on height, of all of the names that should be included in that conversation.
6-3 AND BELOW
1. Allen Iverson
A one-man revolution where the cross was just the beginning. He’s the master mixer on
our list for a reason.
2. Kyrie Irving
Hang it in the Louvre. KAI’s game is entirely its own art form.
3. Stephen Curry
The greatest shooter of all time needs just a sliver of space to make you pay, all while
staring down the crowd as the ball drops through the net. Uncanny.
4. Derrick Rose
Athleticism that was unparalleled and the nonexistence of fear had D. Rose bullying the
League as the youngest MVP ever.
5. Chris Paul
A mid range savant. A floor general. A Point God.
6. Gilbert Arenas
Agent Zero was lethal, tactical and surgical in leaving defenders guessing what portion
of the bag was about to be unleashed.
7. Damian Lillard
You can pick him up, but what comes next is entirely on you.
8. Russell Westbrook
Shot out of a cannon, if No. 0 is barrelling down the court, you best clear the runway.
9. Isiah Thomas
Lower to the ground just meant more ways to attack as the handle powered the
creativity that No. 11 enacted on his way to snagging two.
10. Jerry West
The Logo was constantly carving up defenses to drop buckets and dimes left and right.
11. Ja Morant
The ascension has been recognized. Call 12, and he’s always gonna answer.
A blend of everything. Baron gave birth to the uber athletic displays of guard play that
we’ve become enthralled with over the years.
13. Trae Young
There’s a new villain in town and he’ll take your heart and your team’s straight to the
14. Tiny Archibald
Ain’t nothing tiny about this man’s game. Nothing.
15. Stephon Marbury
The inspiration behind one of the greatest hoops flicks of all time attacked the game entirely on his own terms.
16. Tim Hardaway Sr
Having a killer crossover named after you is a mic drop moment.
17. CJ McCollum
The slipperiest shooting guard in the L. Shaking and baking is his M.O
18. Deron Williams
D Will mastered his own pace to the game. Separation was key and once he created it, you might as well just head back down for O.
19. Donovan Mitchell
Picking up this man is like taking a trip throughout the Spida-Verse, sprawling, spinning and overstimulated with flashes of colorful creativity and blinding moves.
20. Jrue Holiday
Always reliable, always locked in, always ready to pull it in your eye. Second-guessing is the greatest compliment a hooper can recognize and Jrue sees it often.
21. Steve Francis
Constantly sending defenders stumbling, Steve Francis doesn’t often get his due as one of the shiftiest guards to ever step on the hardwood.
22. Tony Parker
Some speed is built, some is gifted. TP’s froze defenders in a picture frame as he weaved around the paint for dimes and buckets.
23. Kemba Walker
We know y’all remember THE step back. Nuff said.
24. Chauncey Billups
Decidedly different. Big guard, big body, big buckets.
25. John Wall
Revolutionary athleticism instilled John Wall as the next box-office point guard. Go do your Google searches and watch his mixtapes to see what we’re seeing.
26. Lou Williams
Lou Williams is too smooth with it: a certified bucket, 3x NBA Sixth Man Player of the Year and a derserver of the utmost respect.
27. Monta Ellis
Those 360 layups were just a regular thing for Monta Ellis. That’s what type of time he was on.
28. Nick Van Exel
Nick Van Exel was waaaaaay too quick with it, from the crossovers to the high-flying drives to the lane to those insane dishes and dimes.
29. Jamal Murray
We’ve already told you this before: there’s music in Jamal Murray’s game. Try not to get lost in the melody, though, because he will drop 50 on you. Again and again.
30. Brandon Jennings
Dropping 55 points as a rookie is quite the statement, but then again, Brandon Jennings was never one to shy away from any moment. His game was too electric.
6-4 TO 6-8
- Michael Jordan
The greatest. Put MJ in any situation, matchup or moment and you already know the outcome. Nothing more needs to be said.
- Kobe Bryant
He was constantly ascending past the depths of what competing truly meant. He knew your next move before you’d even had a chance to formulate the thought.
- Tracy McGrady
Scoring 13 points in 33 seconds is wild, but that’s just what T-Mac was about. One of the most complete scorers in the history of the Association.
- Carmelo Anthony
The fadeaway. The jab step. The spot-up jump shot, and his signature “washing machine” spin move. Carmelo Anthony remains one of the game’s most unstoppable scorers of all time.
- Kawhi Leonard
Best believe, any matchup against the Klaw will result in him getting the last laugh. Trying to defend him in a 1v1? Now that’s pure comedy.
- Dwyane Wade
The nickname was fitting: the Flash was one of most elite and efficient shooting guards who attacked the basket with an explosiveness that couldn’t possibly be contained.
- James Harden
Equipped with a signature-move so iconic, a few names on this list have tried it out, the Beard is truly lethal with the rock in his hands.
- Julius Erving
A wizard who truly transcended the game. Every move was a symphony of basketball played at its finest.
- Charles Barkley
A relentlessly physical rebounder with an attitude to match, Sir Charles was a force to be reckoned with.
- Devin Booker
With the words “Be Legendary” tattooed on his forearm, D-Book has continued to transcend his game towards just that no matter if he’s pullin’ up from midrange or hitting clutch shots from deep.
- Scottie Pippen
One of the game’s greats could really do it all, from dishing out dimes and orchestrating an offense to snagging boards and holding it down on the defensive end. Versatility at it’s finest.
- Paul George
PG’s all-around game is just one of the many things that define his greatness. His explosiveness and ability to create his own shot is another.
- Paul Pierce
The Truth can be hard for many to accept, but his dominance was nothing but pure facts. Shaquille O’Neal had a thing for nicknames, and when Paul Pierce dropped 42 on the Lakers in ’01, Shaq went over to the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett and told him to write this down: “My name is Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce is the truth. Quote me on that and don’t take nothing out.” Enough said.
- DeMar DeRozan
The King of the Fourth is a true revolutionary when it comes to the art of the midrange.
- Jimmy Butler
They call him Jimmy Buckets for a reason. That’s exactly what you’re gonna get.
- Jayson Tatum
JT moves different out there on the parquet floor, from the lethal step back and sidestep threes to the sheer dominance every time the rock touches his hands. That’s what happens when you’re mentored by none other than the Mamba.
- Vince Carter
Once Vince Carter got within eyesight of that line, it was over before it had even begun.
- Zion Williamson
You can’t be contained when the limits never existed. The same goes in the paint, or anywhere on the floor, when it comes to Zion Williamson.
- Penny Hardaway
One of the greatest guards ever. That spin fake into a stepback, move? Pure magic.
- Luka Doncic
Luka plays at his own pace while completely dominating in the process. Different.
- Dominique Wilkins
With legs like propellers and arms that could absorb contact, Nique had underrated shot-making ability that went along with his otherworldly athleticism.
- Grant Hill
Versatility in a human being. Grant Hill was a threat to score from all three levels.
- Elgin Baylor
Surrender the skies to Elgin Baylor. Aerially gifted with merciless finishes at the rim.
- George Gervin
Smooth, refined, patient, disciplined and measured. Ice’s game was where fundamental met flash.
- Alex English
Nobody scored more points in the 1980s than Alex English. Nobody.
- Joe Johnson
His nickname is Iso Joe. Nothing more needs to be said.
- Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal technically has a perfect jumpshot. Pair that exquisite form with his handles and the result is a scoring machine.
- Klay Thompson
One of the best shooters ever is also a big body that precisely clamps players of all heights and weights.
- Gary Payton
Possibly the best perimeter defender to ever play, Gary Payton could also get to the tin whenever he wanted.
- Jamal Crawford
Jamal Crawford is creativity unleashed through instinct and intellect.
6-9 AND UP
- Shaquille O’Neal
The most physically dominant player ever. Realistically, there’s nobody stopping the Diesel.
- Kevin Durant
Size, skills, smarts. There have been very few other players that are more offensively complete than Kevin Durant.
- LeBron James
The case can be made that LeBron James is the best player ever. Full stop.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
Try guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo without any help defense. Get the picture?
- Kevin Garnett
The only part of Kevin Garnett’s game that outshined his skills on both sides of the ball was his competitiveness, a trait that’s gone nearly unmatched throughout history.
- Hakeem Olajuwon
Possibly the best two-way center ever, who dominated with equal doses of agility and nimbleness, power and force.
- David Robinson
Dunks and jumpers with the left, blocks and steals with both of his hands and a compressed trampoline in his right leg, David Robinson’s basketball IQ was just as ridiculous as his athletic capabilities.
- Karl Malone
Brute strength. Left side of the post to the right side of the hoop every single time. Never could be stopped.
- Wilt Chamberlain
Scored 100 points in a game, averaged 50 points for a season and if blocks and steals were tallied when he played, Wilt Chamberlain’s mythic status would be even greater than it already is.
- Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid is a guard stuck inside a 7-2, 280-pound body.
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The author of the game’s most unstoppable shot, its leading scorer and a shot-blocking terror.
- Larry Bird
Larry Bird was so good at scoring that he would tell bigger, stronger and more athletic defenders exactly what he planned to do with the ball and they still couldn’t contain him.
- Anthony Davis
Middies, catch-and-shoot threes, barrels to the rim, pick-and-roll ball containment, weakside shot-blocking and passing lane invader properly describes Anthony Davis.
- Moses Malone
Quite possibly the most underrated great in NBA history, Moses Malone was unstoppable from the block and even if he did miss, he’d consume offensive rebounds with such ferocity that the ensuing putbacks would be uncontested.
- Dirk Nowitzki
It’s real when a singular shot is credited to a player. Basketball now has the one-legged fadeaway thanks to Dirk Nowitzki.
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Follow host Theus McBee on Instagram @theuselijah and Ahmad Smith, @akisnba.