There are so many NBA greats that choosing the top five really comes down to randomly choosing from the top ten. Our picks for the top five takes into consider the players influence both on and off the court.
Michael Jordan is a household name when it comes to basketball. MJ played 15 seasons in the NBA, winning six championships with the Chicago Bulls, and is considered to be the greatest basketball player of all time. He quickly became a star with his high scoring efforts and athleticism, winning Slam Dunk Contests. With the Bulls, MJ led the team to NBA's fourth ever Threepeat (winning three championships in a row) from 1991-1993. He's won MVP six times, has ten scoring titles, and ten elections to the All-NBA First Team. Off the court, he was sponsored by Nike and the successful Air Jordan line which is still popular today. He is also currently a principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets and leads numerous charity efforts for his community.
Kobe Bryant entered the NBA straight from high school and played his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He played 20 season in the NBA, winning five championships, and is considered to be one of the greatest players of all time. He was a fan favorite for his playing style and intensity, popularizing Mamba Mentality and inspiring the younger generation. He was named MVP in 2008, an eighteen time All-Star, and had 15 selections to the All-NBA Team. He had numerous sponsorships including Adidas during his rookie years, the Coca-Cola Company, McDonald's, Spaldings, etc. and was one of the most commercially successful NBA players. After retiring in 2016, he was active in his community and became involved in coaching for the younger generation until his untimely death in 2020 in a helicopter crash.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played 20 seasons in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. He was a record six time MVP, nineteen time All-Star, and fifteen time All-NBA selection. He is perhaps most well known for his iconic skyhook shot, which many players since have used. Many consider Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to be the greatest NBA center of all time and continues to hold records to this day in the league for points scored, field goal mades, and career wins. Since retirement, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been active in many fields including film and TV, writing and activism, and has also been appointed to be the cultural ambassador of the US in 2012.
Magic Johnson played 13 seasons in the NBA, all for the Los Angeles Lakers. He won MVP three times, a twelve time All-Star, won Finals MVP his rookie season, and is the NBA's all time leader in assists at 11.2 per game. Magic Johnson abruptly announced his retirement in 1991 after announcing that he has HIV but returned to play a few times after his intiail announcement. Since his retirement, he's been actively involved in the Lakers organization, serving as part owner and president of basketball operations. He is also active in promoting HIV/AIDS prevention and often speaks about the disease to help dispel stereotypes.
Lebron James entered the NBA straight from high school in 2003 after selecting as the number one pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played his first six seasons in Cleveland, winning MVP among other awards but failed to win the championship. He chose to go to Miami during the 2010 offseason in a controversial announcement and went on to win two championships in Miami. He returned to Cleveland in 2014 vowing to bring a championship and was able to do so after coming back from a 1-3 deficient in the NBA finals in 2016. Growing up in nearby Akron, Ohio, the championship established Lebron James as an all time great and ended the 52 year championship drought in Cleveland. Off the court, Lebron James is active in his community, especially the Akron community where he has established schools and provided funding for education.