In basketball, players who play the position of a point guard are those who have the ability to orchestrate the team’s offense. It is a specialized position that requires the guard to be able to control the ball and facilitate scoring opportunities for either themselves or their teammates. Having any other additional attribute to those mentioned are welcome. This is probably what differentiates between a regular player in that position to one that would be regarded as one of the greatest point guards of all-time.
With these criteria, we have come up with a list of the 10 greatest point guards in the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) history. This list comprises of both active and inactive players that have made great achievements in their careers, and are surely on their way to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame if they have not already been inducted.
10 Greatest Point Guards of All Time
1. Bob Cousy
Teams – Boston Celtics (1950-1963) and Cincinnati Royals (1969-70)
In an era when the game of basketball was dominated by big men, the 6 feet 1 inch tall, 175 pounds heavy Bob Cousy was able to make a name for himself thanks to his wizardry ball handling skills, and impeccable court vision and creativity that helped the Celtics win multiple titles.
The New York native played college basketball for College of the Holy Cross, winning the 1947 NCAA Championship before turning professional in 1950. He went on to join the Celtics to play alongside NBA greats like Bill Russell and Sam Jones, and they all joined forces to help their team win six NBA titles. On a personal note, Cousy, who was nicknamed Houdini of the Hardwood, was named NBA MVP in 1957. He appeared in 13 All-Star games and led the NBA in assists in eight seasons. He is also the only guard in NBA History to be named First-team All-NBA in 10 straight seasons.
2. John Stockton
Team – Utah Jazz (1984-2003)
According to many NBA enthusiasts, John Stockton will forever be the most underappreciated point guard in history. This is because the 10-time All-Star, who is also the all-time NBA assists and steals leader, was more dependable than flashy with his play, but more significantly, he was unable to lead his team over the final hurdle to win an NBA championship, despite playing in back to back NBA finals.
Following a four-year stay at Gonzaga University where he played for the Bulldogs, Stockton was drafted in the first round of the 1984 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz with the 16th overall pick. He went on to play his whole career for the side, forming a formidable partnership with Karl Malone before calling it quits in May 2003.
3. Steve Nash
Teams – Phoenix Suns (1996-1998, 2004-2012), Dallas Mavericks (1998-2004), Los Angeles Lakers (2012-2015)
Unlike many others that appear on these greatest point guards in NBA history list, Steve Nash was just not revered for his outstanding distribution of the ball, but also for his elite 3-point shooting ability. The South African-born Canadian led the league in assists and free-throw percentage at various points in his career and is a distinguished member of the 50-40-90 club, a feat he achieved four times. His style of play was undoubtedly what inspired and gave rise to a new generation of point guards led by Steph Curry.
In his 19-years long NBA career, Nash, who was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the 15th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, was named MVP on two occasions. He further earned 3 All-NBA First Team selections, 2 All-NBA Second Team selections, and 2 All-NBA Third Team selections, as well as 8 NBA All-Star selections.
4. Chris Paul
Teams – New Orleans Hornets (2005-2011), Los Angeles Clippers (2011-2017), Houston Rockets (2017 –present)
Just like Stockton, many people have argued that if Chris Paul is unable to win an NBA Championship in his career, his story will be that of “if only”. But regardless of if he ever gets to win a title, the 2005-06 NBA Rookie of the Year has time and time again proven himself to be the classic definition of a point guard who can orchestrate the offense and also shoot when necessary. His outstanding defensive ability has further made him one of the best two-way small players in NBA history. With all these abilities, it is very obvious that all Paul has lacked to get a ring is a good team.
On a personal note, Chris Paul, who was North Carolina Mr. Basketball in 2003 before he was selected 4th overall by the Hornets in the 2005 NBA Draft, has so far made 9 NBA All-Star appearances. He has further earned 4 All-NBA First Team selections and 7 NBA All-Defensive First Team selections. He is so far a four-time NBA assists leader and six-time NBA steals leader. No doubt, Chris is one of the greatest point guards in the NBA.
5. Stephen Curry
Team – Golden State Warriors (2009-present)
As mentioned above, Steph Curry is a product of the Steve Nash playbook. The 2016 NBA scoring champion is the best 3-point shooter that the NBA has ever seen, an attribute that he has successfully used to destroy opponents and win titles, thereby forcing other teams in the league to regularly employ the tactic. He is also a member of the 50-40-90 club.
Curry was drafted in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors with the 7th overall pick. In his career thus far, he has been named MVP on two occasions, made six All-Star appearances, and earned 2 All-NBA First Team selections.
6. Isiah Thomas
Team – Detroit Pistons (1981-1994)
Despite only standing at a height of 6 feet 1 inch and weighing about 180 pounds, Isiah Thomas was as tough as any of his bad boy Pistons teammates. In addition to that, he was as talented as any other point guard that the NBA has ever seen. He was ultra-quick with the ball and had the ability to stop at any moment to score a very lethal jump shot, attributes that all helped him become one of the greatest point guards of all time.
The Chicago native is a two-time NBA Champion who played college basketball at Indiana where he won the NCAA title just before he was selected 2nd overall in the 1981 NBA Draft. He made 12 NBA All-Star appearances and earned 3 All-NBA First Team selections. The baller was so good that another basketballer in the NBA was actually named after him – Isaiah Jamar Thomas (Isaiah Thomas).
7. Jason Kidd
Teams – Dallas Mavericks (1994-1996, 2008-2012), Phoenix Suns (1996-2001), New Jersey Nets (2001-2008), New York Knicks (2012-2013).
Jason Kidd is unarguably the most versatile and strongest point guard in NBA history. His ability to rebound the ball and assist his teammates made him a regular triple-double threat as he went on to retire with the most career rebounds of any guard in NBA history. His stats further placed him third on the NBA all-time regular season triple-double list, second on the NBA all-time career assists and steals list, and ninth in the 3-point field goals made category.
The San Francisco, California native, who was named Mr. Basketball USA in 1992, and California Mr. Basketball in 1991 and 1992, was selected 2nd overall by the Mavericks in the 1994 NBA Draft. In his first season, he was named NBA co-Rookie of the Year. He went on to win one NBA title and make 10 NBA All-Star appearances while earning 5 All-NBA First Team selections and 4 NBA All-Defensive First Team nods in his illustrious career.
8. Walt Frazier
Teams – New York Knicks (1967-1877) and Cleveland Cavaliers (1977-1980)
For all the glitz and glamour that surrounds the New York Knicks franchise today, the team would not have won its only two NBA championships if not for the brilliance of its 70’s era floor general, Walt Frazier, who started the great Knicks ball-movement offense. In addition to that, he was also a menace in the backcourt, an attribute that earned him 7 NBA All-Defensive First Team selections.
Frazier played college basketball for Southern Illinois before he was selected by the Knicks with the 5th overall pick in the 1967 NBA Draft. As mentioned previously, he won two titles and made 7 NBA All-Star appearances while garnering 4 All-NBA First Team selections.
9. Oscar Robertson
Teams – Cincinnati Royals (1960-1970) and Milwaukee Bucks (1970-1974)
Oscar Robertson is undoubtedly one of the greatest point guards of all time. The Big O or Mr. Triple Double, as he was famously nicknamed, was known for his ability to score from both inside and outside the arc, as well as his stellar playmaking skills and rebounding ability that made him a triple threat. He is the first guard in NBA history to ever average more than 10 rebounds per game in a season, a feat he managed three times.
Robertson, who was Mr. Basketball USA in 1956, was drafted in the 1960 NBA Draft and named NBA Rookie of the Year in 1961. He was named MVP in 1964 and went on to win his only NBA championship in 1971. He further made 12 NBA All-Star appearances in his 14-year-long career and garnered 9 All-NBA First Team selections.
10. Magic Johnson
Team – Los Angeles Lakers (1979-1991, 1995-1996)
Regarded by many as the ultimate point guard, Magic Johnson certainly has a claim to being the best player to ever play that position. This is thanks to his unparalleled vision, dynamism, and magical ball ability that helped create a brand of basketball called Showtime. At 6 feet 9 inches, Johnson was able to combine his size with his one on one skill set and ball handling ability when dominating a game. Second only to Oscar Robertson in career triple-doubles, Magic is also one of the most dangerous triple-double threats of all time.
Johnson played college basketball at Michigan State where he won the NCAA title before he was selected by the Lakers with the 1st overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft. In his 13-year-long NBA career, the two-time NBA steals leader and four-time NBA assists leader was named MVP three times and he won the NBA championship on five occasions. He further made 12 NBA All-Star appearances and garnered 9 All-NBA First Team selections.