We’ve had a lot of incredible players at shooting guard through the years. Players who have shot the lights out, others who have dominated the defensive end, and then players like Michael Jordan.
So lets count down the top 15 shooting guards of all time!
15. Mitch Richmond
Career: 14 seasons, 21 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.5 APG, 6x All-Star, NBA champion (2002), Hall-of-Fame inductee (2014)
Richmond was a player perpetually on the cusp, of both superstardom and postseason success. Playing in an era with historically-great guards (of which there are several on this list), Richmond seemed to quietly toil on the floor. He was so consistent you’d find yourself surprised to look up and see that he’d already scored 20+ points by the third quarter. He became a star in Golden State alongside Mullin, was the focal point of terrible Sacramento teams and then ended his career in between the Wizards and Lakers. But, throughout his career, “The Rock” was both consistent and great.
14. David Thompson
Career: Nine seasons, 22.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.3 APG, 5x All-Star, Hall-of-Fame inductee (1996)
Thompson is part superstar story and part cautionary tale. As one of the best collegiate players ever, he embarked on a promising NBA career and was supposed to become the face of the league. While his play certainly lived up to the hype, substance abuse and injury prematurely ended his career. For all the respect and fame that Julius “Dr. J” Erving earned for his work above the rim, Thompson (at just 6’4”) was probably the more spectacular athlete. As a high-flying scorer, Thompson inspired a number of players who tried to emulate his game. Ultimately, most of them fell well short. While he never realized all of his incredible potential, for the brief time that he was in the NBA he was – literally and figuratively – above everyone else.
13. Reggie Miller
Career: 18 seasons, 18.2 PPG, 3 RPG, 3 APG, 5x All-Star, USA Gold medalist (1996), Hall-of-Fame inductee (2012)
Miller wasn’t expected to grow into superstardom and his reedy physique didn’t seem built for the part. In his third season, he became the dominant force that he would be for most of his lengthy and storied career. Like many players in the Eastern Conference, Miller and his Pacers were denied championship glory by the Chicago Bulls of that era. But he achieved incredible individual success as the 2nd-most prolific 3-point shooter in history, the 12th-leading scorer and one of only six players that reached the “50-40-90” club (for overall field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage). From talking trash to big shots, Miller always made his presence known on the court and earned his place on this list.
12. Earl Monroe
Career: 14 seasons, 18.8 PPG, 3 RPG, 3.9 APG, 4x All-Star, NBA champion (1972), Hall-of-Fame inductee (1990)
As an electric player in college, he was drafted second overall by the Washington Bullets and became an overnight sensation with his incredible athleticism. He had an array of moves that would freeze defenders and leave them mesmerized. Although he was already a star in Washington, he achieved true cult-hero status when joining the Knicks in 1971. Paired with longtime nemesis PG Walt Frazier, he and Monroe formed the best backcourt in the NBA and won a championship in their first season together. Beyond his statistical worth, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe was an icon and one of the most exciting players of the modern era.
11. Ray Allen
Career: 18 seasons, 18.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.4 APG, 10x All-Star, 2x NBA champion (2008, 2013)
Allen has recently retired. He could shoot from anywhere on the court. As the top 3-point shooter of all time, his ridiculous 40 percent average from long range is a testament to his maniacal work ethic and adherence to routine. And while he’s known mostly for his shooting prowess, a younger Allen could score on you in a number of ways. His defense may be suspect but, even at 38 and as part of the Miami Heat, he was still good for a few surprising moves that took you back to his playing days. And as one of the top free-throw and 3-point shooters of all-time, there are few players that you’d prefer taking a big shot with the game on the line.
10. John Havlicek
Career: 16 seasons, 20.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, 13x All-Star, 8x NBA Champion (1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1978), Hall-of-Fame inductee (1984)
An interesting anecdote about Havlicek explains that when his lungs were x-rayed, he’d have to take two separate images because his lungs were so huge, thereby giving him incredible endurance. Think about that: here’s a player that is physically gifted to outlast his opponent. And he did, often, throughout his incredible career with the Celtics. He was the tireless backbone, sacrificing himself and inspiring others to do the same. A holdover of the early Boston teams, he was the glue that held two separate eras together.
Career: 11 seasons, 23.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 5.3 APG, 5x All-Star, Hall-of-Fame inductee (1987)
Of all the players in NBA history, perhaps none is more synonymous with flashy play than “Pistol Pete” Maravich. Many critics look at the mid-to-late 70s as a weak time in basketball, as fundamentals supposedly eroded and drug use ran rampant. Even if that is the case, Maravich stood out for the incredible showmanship and ability to make plays that seemed simply impossible. He was an incredible, unparalleled dribbler, threw wild passes that were pinpoint sharp and made shots that looked straight out of a game of H.O.R.S.E. But he was sensational, individual talent that could barely be contained by the lengths of the hardwood floor. Perhaps, as some would have you believe, he was too showy but in an era marked by excess and the pursuit of pleasure, there was no greater joy than watching Maravich work his magical artistry on the court.
Career: 17 seasons, 26.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 6.2 APG, 2.2 SPG, 11x All-Star, 7x All-NBA, 2000-01 NBA MVP, 1996-97 Rookie of the Year
It’s almost impossible to define Iverson, as a player or as a person. Was he a point guard? At barely 6’ and over six assists per game, you’d think so. But as one of the top scorers of his era and playing alongside more “traditional” guards, Iverson was seen as a SG. As a person, his tattoos, clothing and braided hair was easy to label and dismiss. Yet, he was also hard-working, fiercely competitive and, as many have claimed, “pound-for-pound” one of the best players of all time. Iverson redefined basketball for a lot of fans and bridged the gap between generations. Both throwback and evolutionary, blue-collar and “hip-hop,” it’s difficult to know where to place him.
Career: 15 seasons, 25.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.6 APG, 3x ABA All-Star/9x NBA All-Star, 9x All-NBA, Hall-of-Fame inductee (1996)
Gervin was one of the best scorers in NBA history. He led the league in scoring four times and his career 51 percent field goal percentage is incredible for someone who didn’t just work in the low post. Thin and long-limbed, he was a nightmare matchup and used every inch of his 6’7” frame to shoot over, under or through a defender. He’s known for his finger roll (which he would unleash as he swooped toward the basket) but he was an excellent mid-range shooter as well. The “Iceman” was rarely phased and just coolly went about his business. Starting his career in the ABA, he didn’t get the recognition he justly deserved but as an offensive force, he was a threat from anywhere and at any time in NBA history.
6. Clyde Dexter
Career: 16 seasons, 20.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 5.6 APG, 10x All-Star, NBA champion (1995), USA Gold Medalist (1992)
Clyde “The Glide” was often overlooked as poor man’s Michael Jordan. He was on the Portland roster in 1984 and thus the Trail Blazers passed over Jordan to select Sam Bowie, whose career was derailed by numerous leg injuries. It was an unfair comparison for Drexler and one that Jordan relished in reminding everyone that he fell considerably short of reaching. But Drexler was a supreme talent, mixing a quiet demeanor with a smooth athleticism that was (mostly) unmatched. He could swipe the ball away at one end and take several long, graceful steps before swooping in for a powerful slam. While he wasn’t quite as explosive, he paired with former college teammate Hakeem Olajuwon to win a ring in ’95.
Career: 14 seasons, 25.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 9.5 APG, 12x All-Star, Rookie of the Year (1961), NBA MVP (1963-64), NBA champion (1971), Hall-of-Fame inductee (1980)
Robertson played both guard positions but did most of his damage as a SG. Regardless, the “Big O” was one of the finest to ever play the game. He was, simply, ahead of his time, combining an intensity that bordered on anger with an incredible athleticism that would have fit in any era. He could simply do it all, even averaging a triple-double for an entire season (1961-62). He was arrogant, surly and perceived as difficult to work with. But, like many who dominated the game, he expected everyone to perform at a high level and was often disappointed when teammates feel short of the impossible standard he set.
4. Jerry West
Career: 14 seasons, 27 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 6.7 APG, 14x All-Star, NBA champion (1972), Hall-of-Fame inductee (1980)
West, like Robertson, is difficult to place because of the time he played. While the overall level of athleticism was lower, West was simply a dominant player that did whatever he could to win. He played through a number of injuries, at times willing himself onto the floor as he nursed breaks and sprains that would keep most others on the bench. He was often possessed, motivated by a rough childhood to excel at all costs and prove himself worth. He was unlucky for most of his career and faced an unstoppable Celtics team that kept West from numerous championships. But he gave it his all whenever he was on the court, even winning the Finals MVP in 1969 although he was on the losing side. His long-range shooting was perfected in an era without a 3-point line or else his point averages might have been much higher. It’s the only restriction on a player that did it all to guarantee a victory.
3. Dwayne Wade
Career: 14 seasons, 24.3 PPG, 5 RPG, 6 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1 BPG, 10x All-Star, 8x All-NBA, 3x NBA champion (2006, 2012, 2013)
There might be a recency bias with Wade but, as you can’t limit players of the past, you can’t deny the greatness of today’s modern era. As a rookie, he shuffled between the PG (an area of need for Miami) and SG positions. But he eventually settled into his position as a do-it-all facilitator, scorer and defender. As one of the top shot blockers in NBA history, he used his 6’10” wingspan (despite being no taller than 6’4”) to swat attempts as effectively as any big man. He broke ankles with lightning quick athleticism, took big shots and carried teams to postseason greatness. Despite having Hall-of-Famers Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning in 2006, those players were well past their prime and the Heat won that title because of Wade and his individual brilliance. Injuries and overall usage limited his individual productivity in recent years but he simply went about becoming a more effective player than ever before. Now with the Chicago Bulls, Wade’s legacy is being looked upon as one of the greatest the league has ever seen.
2. Kobe Bryant
Career: 20 seasons, 25.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.5 SPG, 18x All-Star, 15x All-NBA, NBA MVP (2008), 5x NBA champion (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010)
Perhaps no player in the modern era has been as divisive as Kobe Bryant. His off-the-court issues have fueled his detractors, while his supporters praise Bryant’s accomplishments with near-religious zeal. Was he a difficult teammate? Did he force the ouster of O’Neal in 2004? Has he taken too many shots to inflate individual numbers?Maybe and it doesn’t matter in the slightest. As a player, Bryant’s abilities were virtually unlimited. He had a flair for capitalizing at big moments and always rose the occasion. He flourished on historically-great teams and carried poor teams single-handedly. As his incredible career has ended, he’s finished as one of the top scorers in NBA history. But even that incredible number of points only speaks to a small part of what Bryant had done in the NBA. Love him or hate him but you can’t deny his place among the top players of all time.
1. Michael Jordan
Career: 15 seasons, 30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 14x All-Star, 5x NBA MVP, 11x All-NBA, 9x All-Defense, 6x NBA champion (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998), Hall-of-Fame inductee (2009)
Could there have been any doubt? There’s different criteria for rating Jordan as (or not) the best player of all time. But as a shooting guard, he did what everyone else on this list could do – defend, shoot, score, everything – better than anyone. If you didn’t get a chance to watch him during his prime, it’s hard to explain the impact he had. No player, not even Kobe or LeBron, ever came close to seeming as invincible. He was an assassin on the court and unstoppable; everyone knew the last shot was going to him and it was impossible to stop him from getting it off. His impact off the court might be just as important. At a time when the NBA’s ratings were struggling and there was no internet to discuss a player’s faults or strengths, Jordan achieved a legendary status. Fans on the periphery were aware of him and his overwhelming ability and he did everything on the court to support the stories about his prowess.