The shooting guard position is a thing of beauty. Michael Jordan came into the league and dominated his spot and the NBA like no other player has ever done. Aside from Jordan, other players such as Clyde Drexler, Jerry West, Earl Monroe and many others were, at one point in time, considered one of the top talents at shooting guard.
Without the off-guard, it is fair to assume the NBA would not be the household name that it is today, despite the way the position has fallen off over the last generation. Here are the ten greatest players to ever play the spot.
Honorable Mention: Reggie Miller (1987-2005)
Career stats: 18.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.0 APG and 1.1 SPG
Career accomplishments: 5x All-Star, 3x All-NBA, Hall of Fame Inductee
Reggie Miller might be the greatest shooter in NBA history–some might take Ray Allen, Stephen Curry or Jerry West, but we will leave that debate for another day. Granted, Miller only went to the NBA Finals one time in his career, but looking at the team that was built around him, it is understandable why this is the case. He was a menace to anyone he played against, just ask John Starks or Michael Jordan. His veteran savvy made him frustrating to deal with. Make no mistake about it, Miller’s best moment came when he torched the Knicks for eight points in nine seconds.
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10. Earl Monroe (1967-1980)
Career stats: 18.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.9 APG and 1.0 SPG
Career accomplishments: 1968 Rookie of the Year, 1968 All-Rookie team, 4x All-Star, 1x All-NBA, 1x NBA Champion and a Hall of Fame Inductee.
Earl the Pearl, a.k.a. Black Jesus, was a legend in the streets of Philadelphia. Monroe was not an easy defensive task for his era. His handle of the ball was so advanced, and his midrange abilities were so lethal, he had coaches scrambling to find the proper defense to contain the Pearl. When he was traded to the Knicks to pair with Walt Frazier, it created a tandem of brilliance. Together, they won the 1973 NBA championship.
9. Ray Allen (1996 – present)
Career stats: 18.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.4 APG and 1.1 SPG
Career accomplishments: 1997 All-Rookie team, 10x All-Star, 2x All-NBA and a 2x NBA champion
Ray Allen is the all-time leader in three-pointers made, but the silky smooth sharpshooter was not just a shooter. Allen, the fifth overall draft pick in 1996, was a jack-of-all-trades. He could handle the ball and initiate offense, finish at the rim and defend the opponents’ best player. Ray Allen’s ability can be analyzed in a couple of simple steps. He was a standout with the Milwaukee Bucks, and then he dealt with mediocre play with the Sonics, but as soon as he was traded to the Celtics to team with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, they became instant contenders that resulted in Allen’s first NBA title. At the moment, Ray Allen is a member of the Miami Heat, chasing his third NBA title.
8. Sam Jones (1957-1969)
Career stats: 17.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 2.5 APG
Career accomplishments: 5x All-Star, 3x All-NBA, 10x Champion, Hall of Fame Inductee
Sam Jones is the most decorated player to appear on this list. The ten-time champion was clutch, to be frank. He came through when the Celtics needed him the most. He owned the bank shot before Tim Duncan, and it translated to him being the leading scorer on multiple championship teams. Not only was his offensive with the ball one of a kind, his movement away from the ball made him a terror on a nightly basis. Sam Jones is the original Mr. Fundamental.
7. Allen Iverson (1996-2011)
Career stats: 26.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 6.2 APG and 2.2 SPG
Career accomplishments: 1997 Rookie of the Year, 1997 All-Rookie team, 11x All-Star, 7x All-NBA and a 1x MVP.
Allen Iverson was the answer to any team’s offensive problems. The small guard could score with anyone. The only two cons about having Iverson, as a teammate, is that he often sacrificed defense for high-octane offense, and he never really made his teammates better. Iverson was an ultimate competitor, and that was proven when he took a less than stellar squad to the NBA Finals against the Lakers. He managed to win Game 1 with a 48-point effort. He influenced a new culture in the Association, and it is only a matter of time before he is inducted into the Hall of Fame.
6. George Gervin (1976-1986)
Career stats (NBA and ABA): 25.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.2 SPG and 1.0 BPG
Career accomplishments: 12x All-Star, 5x All-NBA First Team, Hall of Fame Inductee
The Ice Man was one of the smoothest players in NBA history, patenting the finger roll and making scoring look as easy as any player this side of Tracy McGrady. Gervin averaged nearly 22 points per game in the ABA before really blowing up in the NBA, dominating as the Spurs leading scorer for most of the late-70s and early-80s. The 6-7, 180-pound guard led the league in scoring six straight years and had his best season in 1978-79 when the Spurs lost a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Gervin, unfortunately, never won a championship.
5. Clyde Drexler (1983-1998)
Career stats: 20.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 5.6 APG and 2.0 SPG
Career accomplishments: 10x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, 1x NBA Champion and a Hall of Fame Inductee
Clyde “the Glide” Drexler was one of the most athletic shooting guards the NBA has ever seen. The scary part about him is that he could have been Michael Jordan’s teammate. Aside from his offensive prowess, he was a defensive ace who constantly stymied opposing players. Drexler left crowds in amazement. He was a great team player, almost averaging six assists per game. Drexler never really experienced a decline in production; taking his rookie season out of the picture, Drexler never averaged less than 17 points per game. In the later stages of his career, he aided Hakeem Olajuwon in winning his second consecutive NBA title, and Drexler’s first.
4. Jerry West (1960-1974)
Career stats: 27.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 6.7 APG and 2.6 SPG
Career accomplishments: 14x All-Star, 12x All-NBA, 1x NBA Champion and a Hall of Fame Inductee
Jerry West was an all-around combo guard with playmaking skills like a point guard and he could score like a shooting guard. Some might place him on an all-time point guard list, but due to his ability to score at will, it is appropriate to label him a shooting guard. West was dubbed “Mr. Clutch” for his late-game heroics. West once scored 44 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished out 12 assists and recorded an unofficial 10 blocks, resulting in an ultra-rare quadruple-double.
3. Dwyane Wade (2003-present)
Career stats: 24.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.0 APG and 1.8 SPG
Career accomplishments: 2004 All-Rookie team, 10x All-Star, 8x All-NBA, 3x All-Defense, 3x NBA champion and a Finals MVP
At a glance, some might be surprised to see Dwyane Wade so high. If someone was asked to really examine all the top shooting guards in NBA history, and players better than Wade, they would be hard pressed to give a valid and fair answer. Granted, his prime was short, but few off-guards peaked like Wade. It is a travesty that he has not made one All-Defensive First Team in his career. The Miami fan-base knew Wade was special when he brought the Heat back from an 0-2 deficit in the 2006 Finals. In Miami’s four-game winning streak in the 2006 Finals, Wade averaged 39 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 steals. Wade is now in a reduced role for the Heat due to LeBron James being the best player in the NBA, but make no mistake about it, Wade is still a top-tier shooting guard in the NBA.
2. Kobe Bryant (1996-present)
Career stats: 25.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.8 APG and 1.5 SPG
Career accomplishments: 1997 All-Rookie team, 15x All-Star, 1x MVP, 15x All-NBA, 12x All-Defense, 5x NBA Champion and a 2x Finals MVP
Kobe Bryant had a slow start to his NBA career, but with time, he evolved into one of the most lethal scorers in NBA history. He was a tenacious defender, too. Kobe was fortunate enough to team up with Shaq for his first three championships, but after O’Neal left, Bryant proved he was capable of carrying a team to a title. He won two more titles knocking off the Magic and the Celtics the following season. Bryant is recovering from various injuries, but he will return next year ready to put the finishing touches on an illustrious career.
1. Michael Jordan (1984-2003)
Career stats: 30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG and 2.3 SPG
Career accomplishments: 14x All-Star, 1985 Rookie of the Year, 1985 All-Rookie team, 11x All-NBA, 9 All-Defense, 1x Defensive Player of the Year, 5x MVP, 6x NBA champion, 6x Finals MVP and a Hall of Fame Inductee
Jordan… the greatest player in NBA history, he changed the game from a style and marketing standpoint. He made everything look easy. For the ultimate competitor, losing was not an option. When the right pieces were put around him, Jordan went 6-0 in the NBA Finals with six Finals MVPs, and he never saw the floor for a Game 7. Into his older age, Jordan was still a force on the court. He posted great numbers for the Wizards and earned his final All-Star Game appearance where Vince Carter generously gave up his starting spot for Michael. There will never be another Jordan.
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