Ranking the 50 greatest NBA players of all time

The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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(Original Caption) December 22, 1971 – Baltimore: Jerry West drives up the middle and scores in 1st period of Laker 127-120 win over Bullets. West scored 37 points in game that was 27th consecutive win for the Lakers. The Laker victory set an all time consecutive win record for all of pro sports, the 1916 N.Y. baseball Giants had held the old record of 26 consecutive wins. Wilt Chamberlain (#13) and Phil Chenier (#45) of Bullets. /

18. Jerry West

  • Resume: 14 seasons, 1 NBA championship, 1 NBA Finals MVP Award, 12-time All-NBA selection, 14-time NBA All-Star, NBA All-Star Game MVP, 1-time NBA leader in scoring, 1-time NBA leader in assists, Hall-of-Famer
  • Stats: 27.0 PPG, 6.7 APG, 5.8 RPG, .474/—/.814 shooting splits, 22.9 career PER, 162.6 win shares

The Logo — who agrees the NBA’s logo should probably have been updated to someone else by now — is one of the greatest shooting guards of all time. Like Elgin Baylor, he had the misfortune of facing Russell’s Celtics over and over again in the championship round. Unlike Baylor, however, West finally did break through and win a title in 1972, the year that Baylor quit nine games into the season because he felt he was holding the team back.

So what sets West apart from the other great shooting guards on this list? You know, aside from leading the Lakers to nine NBA Finals appearances? Well, for one thing, West holds the record for most points in a playoff series (46.3 PPG), he’s the only player in NBA history to win a Finals MVP Award while playing for the losing team, and his determination while toiling away on those Lakers teams is evident from the 840 free throws he made during the 1965-66 season — an NBA record that still stands.

West’s one championship doesn’t do “Mr. Clutch” justice. He was a tremendous defender, one of the most effective scorers in league history and a crunch-time scorer who made sense as the NBA logo at the time.

As the “Mr. Outside” to Baylor’s “Mr. Inside,” those Ice Cream Paint Job Lakers were clean, but they never reached their full potential because Elgin’s body broke down. It’s unfortunate, but West’s 26-5-10 stat line during the Lakers’ NBA-record 33-game win streak gives you a pretty good idea of how he did everything his teams needed him to do.