Here’s a column I wrote for on top North American basketball players across the decades. Join the discussion, participate in a debate by adding your thoughts.


To distill the greatness of North American basketball since the inception of the NBA’s predecessors in 1946 into a single article requires broad brush strokes and a few quick impressions on a metaphorical canvas. A primer on the best NBA players of all time is a worthwhile place to start.

The vast geographic region of North America, stretching from Canada to Panama has invented and reinvented the game with innovations and trend-setting moves. The lineage of stars from the outset of the NBA to the current fan favorite charts a who’s who of accomplished athletes. Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving, and Connie Hawkins, for instance, paved the way for Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. And LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

The impressive growth of the NBA — westward expansion, increased media exposure — and the remarkable talent that elevated the league, included the infusion of all-time greats from the ABA in the 1970s.

For the sake of brevity, this rundown of the greatest basketball players from North America features a top five at each position. But a few standouts whose names ought to appear on any reputable list of legends are featured to expand the scope of the discussion — the catalyst for debate — for years to come.