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Players with most steals in NBA history
My team, the New Jersey Nets, has two players on the top 10 list of players with the most total steals in NBA history, though one player just closed out his NBA career with the Nets. The greatest player for steals ever on the Nets was Michael Ray Richardson, who led the league 4 times in steals - once with the Nets.
Richardson was a great player. In 1984 my friends and I drove down to the old Spectrum in Philadelphia on April 26, 1984 to watch Michael Ray score 24 points and make six steals as the Nets shockingly upset the defending NBA Champion Philadelphia 76ers 101-98 in the 5th and deciding game in the 1st round series.
Richardson averaged 2.63 steals per game in his career which is the 2nd best total in NBA history but he is not on this list because he could not stay off drugs and his career was never what it could have been.
Five of the players on this list of players with most steals in NBA history are or were guards, three players were guard-forwards and one each was a center and a forward. Steals were not recorded in the NBA until the 1973-74 season so players like Oscar Robertson are not on the list.
Top 10 List Most Steals in NBA History
1) John Stockton - 3,265 steals
John Stockton is the all time leader in steals in NBA history with 3,265. Despite being the all time steals leader Stockton only led the league twice (1988-89 and 1991-1992) in steals. Stockton played 19 seasons all with the Utah Jazz and of course never won a championship. He averaged 2.17 steals per game in his career which is 6th best all time.
2) Michael Jordan - 2,514 steals
Michael Jordan led the league in steals 3 times in his career including 1987-88 when he won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Jordan averaged 2.35 steals per game in his career which is 3rd best all time. Michael Jordon has the all time highest scoring average in NBA history.
3) Gary Payton - 2,445 steals
Gary Payton led the league just once in steals (1995-96) and averaged 1.8 steals per game in his career. He was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year during the 1995-96 season.
Jason Kidd is the only active player on the list. He has led the league once in steals in 2001-02 for my team the New Jersey Nets and has averaged 1.97 steals per game in his career. He will likely pass Gary Payton this season for 3rd place all time.
5) Maurice Cheeks - 2,310 steals
Mo Cheeks never led the league in steals and averaged 2.1 per game which is 8th best all time. He finished up his career in 1992-1993 playing 35 games for the New Jersey Nets.
6) Scottie Pippen - 2,307
Scottie Pippen was a great defensive player. He led the league once in steals (1994-95) and averaged 1.96 steals per game in his career.
7) Clyde Drexler - 2,207
Clyde the Glide Drexler never led the league in steals but has the 7th highest total in NBA history. He averaged 2.03 steals per game in his career which is 9th best all time.
8) Hakeem Olajuwon - 2,162
Hakeem the Dream Olajuwon is the only center on this list. He won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in back-to-back seasons 1992-93 and 1993-94. Hakeem never led the league in steals but he played in three decades from 1984 to 2002 and averaged 1.7 steals per game.
Still shocking that the Phi Slama Jama Houston Cougars team never won a NCAA Championship with Olajuwon and Drexler on the team.
9) Alvin Robertson - 2,112
Alvin Robertson led the league 3 times in steals including 1985-86 when he was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Robertson is the all time leader in steals per game with a 2.71 average.
10) Karl Malone - 2,085
Karl Malone rounds out the list as the only pure forward in the top 10. The Mailman never led the league in steals and averaged 1.4 steals per game as the longtime Utah Jazz teammate of the top player on the list John Stockton.
Note - Julius Erving had 2,272 steals in his pro basketball career which would put him 7th on this list. Doctor J had 764 steals in the ABA and 1,508 steals in the NBA. His ABA total is 2nd best all time, and his NBA total is currently 34th.
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