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The greatest NBA shooting guards of all time: Top 10 list
Aptly named, a shooting guard's primary responsibility is to score the basketball. The greatest NBA shooting guards of all time are scorers at heart, who can get hot and fill it up from all angles of the floor. An elite two guard will beat stiffs off the dribble, post up, hit the turnaround jumper, and of course, knock down open shots from deep. In some cases, the shooting guard is the offense, because he is able to put the ball on the floor, break down the defense and create his own shot at will. At the end of close games, we already know where the ball is going.
Beyond simply putting the ball in the hoop, the greats are all-around players who can control the action in all phases of the game. Think of your favorite two-guard running the point in a pinch—to draw defenders at foul line extended and drop off a sweet dime to an eager big man for the jam. On the other end of the floor, the greatest shooting guards of all-time don't mind getting down and dirty to lock up the opposition's best scorer, harass him into bad shots, and crash the boards to control the basketball. After 40+ minutes of play, the best two guards just might mess around and get a triple double.
At any time, the all-time great shooting guards could just kick it into that extra gear, go bonkers and drop 50-12-11 in your face. At home, these showmen delighted crowds with slick ball handling, silky-smooth jump shooting, pretty finger rolls, and no-look passes in transition. On the road, the best shooting guards transform into the ultimate villains, who are looking for any excuse to dominate the basketball, run rough shod over the competition, shut up the home crowd, and seal a victory with clutch free throws.
Did you say somethin' bout my Momma?
I am about to cross you over and throw down a 360 - tomahawk dunk right on top of your head.
You are soft.
Indeed, the game of basketball is up close and personal, and fueled by trash talk. In this case, however, the greatest NBA shooting guards of all time have the collective game to back it up.
As the tenth greatest shooting guard of all time, Ray Allen is getting the slight nod over Reggie Miller as an all-time great. As scorers, Allen and Miller will always be compared against each other—due to their deft shooting touch, superb conditioning, and vintage off-the-ball movement. In the screen game, Ray Allen will run his man ragged, as he accelerates through, over, and around pin-down screens to get an open look. With just one inch of separation, Allen takes the pass, and locks and loads to rain down a three-ball from the corner on a quick release. Indeed, Ray Allen sounds a lot like Reggie Miller.
Reggie Miller could never get past Michael Jordan.
Before it's all said and done, Ray Allen will quietly overtake Reggie Miller's career record of 2,560 career three point field goals. I say quietly, because the underrated Ray Allen has never telegraphed the choke sign on the floor, torched the Knicks and Spike Lee beneath the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, or gotten spanked repeatedly by Michael Jordan in the NBA Playoffs. Allen, however, has simply been all business in Milwaukee, Seattle, and Boston—to the tune of a 20-point per game career scoring average over a now 15 years in the League. As The Man in Seattle, Allen was dropping 26 points a contest, prior to the 2007 dream trade that united the Big Three in Boston.
Ray Allen is too quiet to be overrated.
#9 Greatest NBA Shooting Guard of All Time: Earl "The Pearl" Monroe
Smooth as a pearl, Earl Monroe came out the womb ready to drop 40.
A pure scorer, The Pearl went from Philadelphia schoolboy legend to dominate the League with his flamboyant style. In between stops, Earl The Peal Monroe managed to average 42 points point per game as a senior at Winston Salem State. Monroe took his high-octane act to the professional ranks as the second overall pick in the 1967 draft for the Baltimore Bullets. In 1971, Monroe was shipped up north where he teamed up with Walt "Clyde" Frazier to own New York and take home a 1973 NBA Championship.
Over a 13-year career, Monroe made it look easy as he averaged 19 points per game as a professional. The Pearl was a silky smooth scorer, who would pin the defense on his back with a spin move before dropping a floater into the net.
#8 Greatest NBA Shooting Guard of All Time: Pete "Pistol Pete" Maravich
Pistol Pete Maravich is one of the most unique athletes to ever don a pair of basketball shorts. From his days at LSU and into the NBA, Maravich electrified crowds with his scoring ability, showmanship, and slick ball handling. In the 1970s, Pete Maravich helped introduce a street ball style to the professional ranks. Vintage Pistol Pete would don his sloppy socks, receive an outlet pass in the backcourt, cross over between his legs, and go behind the back before raising up for a clutch jumper on the wing.
Pete Maravich could and would fill it up.
Over the course of eleven seasons, Maravich shredded defenses for his 24-point, 4-rebound, and 5-assist per game averages. In his best season, Maravich led the 1977 NBA in scoring - with 31 points per game. To boot, The Pistol also averaged five rebounds and assists per game that season for the New Orleans Jazz.
#7 Greatest NBA Shooting Guard of All Time: Clyde Drexler
Clyde "The Glide" Drexler was a raw athlete.
Because of his explosive first step and other worldly leaping ability, Drexler could get by on a jump shot that may have been described as serviceable, at best. The poor man's Michael Jordan electrified Portland crowds with his end-to-end high-wire act. A founding member of Phi Slamma Jamma, The Glide was well known for his ability to throw down a thunderous tomahawk jam and swing the momentum of an entire ball game. Clyde Drexler ran the floor like a gazelle, glided through the paint, and dunked the basketball with pure grace and power.
As a Trailblazer, Drexler averaged more than 25 points per game during three separate seasons and made two trips to the 1990 and 1992 NBA Finals. In the Finals, Drexler's Blazers were stopped short by the likes of Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan. Via trade, Drexler was to return back into the Houston / Clutch City fold and win the 1995 Asterisk - Championship with long-time buddy Hakeem Olajuwon.
Michael Jordan, of course, was out of basketball that season.
#6 Greatest NBA Shooting Guard of All Time: John Havlicek
In true Boston Celtic form, John Havlicek was an overachiever, whose overall game is greater than the collective sum of its parts. Largely playing beneath the rim, Havlicek earned his spot as the all-time Celtics scoring leader through grit, hustle, and determination. Hondo did not necessarily beat you with a quick first step and rim-rocking jam. Instead, John Havlicek wore you down through conditioning, and would run you into the ground down the stretch into the fourth quarter on both ends of the floor. A model of consistency, Havlicek averaged 21 / 6 / 5 after putting in 16 years of service at the NBA level.
As a winner, Hondo claimed eight championships with the Celtics dynasty that included Red Auerbach, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, and Sam Jones.
John Havlicek simply wanted it more.
Pound-for-pound, Allen Iverson is the toughest man to ever play basketball.
Standing 6'0 and weighing in at a svelte 165, Allen Iverson had no regard for his own body. Relentless, A.I. remained locked into attack mode from the opening tip. Love him or hate him, no reasonable NBA fan can question this man's tenacity, aggressiveness, and overall swagger. In terms of stats, Iverson reigned as the NBA's scoring champion on four separate occasions and finished up his League career with a 27-point per game average. Beyond the stats, cornrows, tattoos, and practice talk, A.I.'s career can be crystallized by his 1997 encounter with The King.
In Philadelphia, Allen Iverson took on Jordan at the top of the three-point circle. Controlling the ball, A.I. crossed up Jordan with his patented left-to-right D.C. Crossover shimmy, before lighting up His Airness with a no-net jump shot.
Allen Iverson refused to back down from anybody.
#4 Greatest NBA Shooting Guard of All Time: George Gervin
George Gervin could finger roll.
As cool as the other side of the pillow, The Ice Man knew how to score the basketball. Seemingly at will, Gervin could get hot from the outside, post up, and drive the lane. To finish, George Gervin would elevate and finger-roll the ball into the hoop, over the outstretched arms of big men stiffs time and time again. Working the perimeter in the ABA and the NBA, The Ice Man averaged 25 points per game as a professional basketball player between 1972 and 1986. #44, of course, did most of his damage in San Antonio - where he led the NBA in scoring four out of the five seasons from 1978 to 1982. In his best season, Gervin cooked the opposition for 33 points per game.
Again. George Gervin could finger roll.
#3 Greatest NBA Shooting Guard of All Time: Jerry West
Jerry West is The Logo.
As testimony to his all-around play, Mr. Clutch averaged 27 points, 7 dimes, and 6 boards throughout his 14-year NBA career. With this stat line, Mr. West proved that he was equally adept as a playmaker, as he was as a scorer. In 1972, Jerry West actually led the League - with a 9.7 assists per game average to go alongside 26 points each contest. In the NBA Playoffs, West earned his Clutch moniker, despite the fact that he lost eight out of his nine bridesmaid trips to the Finals.
Mr. West holds the record for playoff scoring average - with an unreal 46 points per game in 5 match-ups versus the 1965 Baltimore Bullets. Also of note, Jerry West took home the 1969 Finals MVP trophy - in a losing effort against the Boston Celtics. In the clinching Game 7 defeat, West slapped together 42 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists. Thwarted by the Boston juggernaut yet again, Jerry West would not taste NBA Championship victory until he teamed up with Wilt Chamberlain to beat the 1972 Knicks. A team player, West easily transitioned into his role of scout, general manager, and team builder for the Lakers after ending his playing days.
Although great, Jerry West' Legacy has lost ground to his own draft day trade for Employee #8, Kobe Bryant.
#2 Greatest NBA Shooting Guard of All Time: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is that rare athlete whose career arc has actually exceeded the obscene hype that preceded his first professional warm up session. As a young pup fresh out of high school in 1996, Kobe Bryant quickly established himself as a dangerous slasher to the goal and the next big thing. Like any great, Bryant improved each year as he worked tirelessly on his game each summer to add to his bag of tricks: turnaround jumper, D.C. crossover, and the Hakeem - Dream Shake. Both off an on the court, Kobe has gone full circle from wunderkind to despised brat to cagey veteran.
Within three short years, Kobe was hands down the most talented player in the League and began to chase championship hardware as Robin to Shaquille O'Neal's(notes) Batman. The two, of course, could not co-exist as Kobe grew to resent his role as second banana. It was only a matter of time before Bryant allegedly threw Shaq under a double-decker L.A. celebrity home tour bus and effectively booked the Big Aristotle a one-way ticket out of time. Following a 2000-2002 three-peat, embarrassing shellacking at the hands of the 2004 Detroit Pistons, Colorado rape trial, and Andrew Bynum(notes) trade rant, Bryant transitioned from the lovable semi-fro kid and into the trust fund baby we all loved to hate.
In response, Kobe Bryant simply put in work.
As his game slowly loses its giddy-up with age, Bryant's approach has become more cerebral. In the triangle offense, The Black Mamba can play the angles to knock down open shots, pin overmatched guards on his back, and slip gracefully into the lane. With time, two more championships as Top Gun, and one ill-fated LeBron James(notes) Decision, fans have gradually returned back into the Kobe Bryant fold.
Indeed, a true winner can never be denied the accolades.
Kobe Bryant is the closest thing that we have seen to Michael Jordan.
#1 Greatest NBA Shooting Guard of All Time: Michael Jordan
A sensational move by Michael Jordan.
Michael Jordan was unquestionably the greatest, baddest, meanest, fiercest, and most competitive son of a gun to ever step on the hardwood. To go with his athleticism and work ethic, Michael simply took a sick pleasure in ripping your heart out and stomping on it at mid-court, before making you eat it. For motivation, Jordan would make up false demons of disrespect - so that he could drop 50 on your head - by the end of the third quarter.
Again, did you say something about my Momma?
When Jordan made the perceived slight a reality, the tongue wagging and aerial acrobatics came out in full force. Jordan would demand the basketball and go on the attack to torch your favorite team as he had his way out on the floor. At any moment, Jordan could go off and steamroll the defense—because he could never be contained by mere mortals. There was no weakness to this man's game.
Jordan drives the lane. Michael Jordan spots up and hits the three. Michael posts up and connects on the fade away. Michael Jordan steals the basketball and feeds Pippen in transition for the jam.
After 40 minutes of action, Jordan is well on his way to another victory, NBA Championship, epic performance, and title as the all time greatest to ever lace 'em up.
It's gotta be the shoes.
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