Every NBA fan has a favorite point guard. While it varies from team to team, in general the point guard’s job is to handle the ball, set up the offense, distribute the ball, and defensively shut down the opposing team’s primary ball handler. They should score their fair share of point as well. Over the NBA’s long and celebrated history there have been many great point guards. Some led their teams to titles. All of them made an impact on the game.
10) Gary Payton – Known to teammates and fans alike as “The Glove”, Gary Payton is the only point guard to win the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award. He played 13 years with the Seattle SuperSonics and holds the franchise records for points, assists, and steals. He guided the SuperSonics to the NBA finals in 1996. He was a nine-time NBA All Star and was selected to the NBA All Defensive Team nine times – more than any other point guard. He won an NBA Championship with the Miami Heat in 2006. During his career he also played for the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, and Boston Celtics. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
9) Steve Nash – A veteran of 18 seasons in the NBA, Steve Nash did not make an immediate splash when he was selected 15th overall by the Phoenix Suns in 1996. Playing behind Kevin Johnson, Sam Cassell, and Jason Kidd, Nash saw little playing time and was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks. In the 2000-2001 season, Nash led the Mavericks to the playoffs – their first appearance in over a decade. After six stellar years with the Mavericks, he returned to the Phoenix Suns as a free agent in 2004 and led the team to the Western Conference Finals. He played his final two years with the Los Angeles Lakers. Over the course of his career, he was named NBA Most Valuable Player twice. He was an eight-time NBA All Star. He was a five-time regular season leader for assists per game, six-time regular season leader for total assists, and two-time regular season leader for free throw percentage. He holds the second-highest career free throw percentage in NBA history.
8) Jason Kidd – As a point guard, Kidd earned NBA All-Star team status ten times over the course of his career. He was also a five-time All-NBA First Team member and a nine-time All-NBA Defensive Team member. He earned co-Rookie of the Year status with Grant Hill, after being drafted by the Dallas Mavericks with the second pick of the 1994 NBA draft. Over the course of his career, he also played for the New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks. He led the Nets to two consecutive NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. In his second go-round with the Mavericks late in his career he won an NBA Championship in 2011. Kidd ranks second on the NBA all-time lists for career assists and steals. He retired ranked third all-time for NBA regular season triple-doubles, as well as third in playoff triple-doubles.
7) Walt Frazier – In 1967, Walt “Clyde” Frazier was drafted fifth overall by the New York Knicks. He made the All-Rookie Team that season. By his second year in the league, his point averages went from 9 points a game to 17 points a game. Also in his sophomore year he averaged 7.9 assists. Frazier continued to improve, making the All-Star team in the 1969-70 season. He was selected to the All-Star team seven times during his 10 years with the Knicks. In the 1969-70 season Frazier led the Knicks to a championship. In the 1971-72 season, Frazier was paired with Earl “the Pearl” Monroe; combined they were nicknamed the “Rolls Royce” backcourt. Frazier led the Knicks to another championship in 1973. Frazier at one point held the Knicks franchise records for most games, minutes played, field goals made, free throws made, assists, and points. He was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers after the 1976-77 season. He retired midway through the 1979-80 season.
6) Stephen Curry – Many sportscasters have gone on record to call Steph Curry the greatest shooter in NBA history. The son of former NBA player Dell Curry, a great shooter in his own right, Steph Curry has won three championships with the Golden State Warriors. Selected by the Warriors in the 2009 draft, by 2014 he had earned his first championship and league MVP award. The next season he became the only player to ever be elected MVP by a unanimous vote while leading the league in scoring. He is a seven-time All-Star and a six-time All NBA selection. He earned the 2011 NBA Sportsmanship Award and in 2014 earned the NBA Community Assist Award. He is the Warriors franchise leader in assists, three-point field goals made, assists in the playoffs, three-point field goals in the playoffs, steals in the playoffs, and points in the playoffs. He has been the NBA three-point field goal leader five times. He has been the NBA free-throw percentage leader four times. In 2016 he was also the NBA steals leader.
5) John Stockton – Playing his entire career for the Utah Jazz, John Stockton was the quintessential point guard. He had an uncanny way of distributing the ball. He and running mate Karl Malone perfected the pick and roll game. Despite having an angelic face, inside the locker rooms Stockton was known as one of the dirtiest players in the game. The Jazz made the NBA playoffs in each of Stockton’s 19 seasons. He and Malone led the team to the franchises’ only two NBA Finals appearances in in the 1996-97 season and the 1997-98 season. Stockton was a ten-time NBA All-Star and a member of the Gold Medal 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team that is often referred to as the Dream Team. He holds the NBA records for most steals and most assists.
4) Jerry West. – The NBA at one point was so identified with Jerry West that it adopted his silhouette as the league’s official logo. Only Michael Jordan with Nike has achieved such a marketing feat. Playing small forward in high school and college, West led the West Virginia University Mountaineers to the 1959 NCAA championship game. Even though his team lost the game, he was awarded the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player Award. In the NBA, West moved to the guard position playing his entire career for the Los Angeles Lakers. Although he was a hybrid player who could play either shooting guard or point guard, he is most identified as a point guard (ESPN would beg to differ, having proclaimed him one of the all-time best shooting guards in 2008). He was a 14-time NBA All-Star. In 1972 he won an NBA title with the Lakers, as well as 1972 NBA All-Star Game MVP. He ended his career with 12 All-NBA Team selections and 5 All-Defensive Team selections. Although the record is technically “unofficial”, he once scored a quadruple double (44 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists, and 10 blocked shots. He also won an Olympic Gold Medal in 1960 as co-captain of the USA team.
3) Oscar Robertson – Nicknamed “The Big O”, Oscar Robertson led his Indiana high school team to two consecutive state championships. In his senior high school season, he was named Indiana Mr. Basketball. As a collegiate athlete he took University of Cincinnati to two NCAA Final Four appearances. He co-captained the 1960 U.S. Olympic Gold Medal Basketball team with Jerry West. Over the course of his NBA career, Robertson played for the Cincinnati Royals and the Milwaukee Bucks. Robertson had a rookie scoring average of 30.5 points per game. This is the third highest of any rookie in NBA history. In fact, Robertson averaged more than 30 points per game in six of his first seven seasons. He was the first player in history to average a triple-double for a whole season. He was a 12-time NBA All-Star and 11-time All-NBA Team selection. He won an NBA Championship with the Bucks alongside Lew Alcindor (who would later become known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
2) Isiah Thomas – Named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, Isiah Thomas was the definition of point guard. As a sophomore he led the Indiana Hoosiers to an NCAA championship and then declared himself for the NBA Draft. He was the second overall pick in the 1981 NBA Draft and made the All-Star team in his rookie season, as well as the All-Rookie Team. He went on to be a 12-time NBA All-Star. He played his entire career for the Detroit Pistons as a member of the “Bad Boys”. In 1987 he took the Pistons to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1987. The following year, he led the Pistons to the NBA finals. The Pistons then won two consecutive NBA championships in 1989 and 1990. He was named the 1990 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. Thomas remains the Piston’s all-time career leader in minutes played (15,904), points scored (18,822), assists (9,061), and steals (1,861).
1) Magic Johnson – Regarded by many to be the greatest point guard to ever lace up in the NBA, Earvin “Magic” Johnson redefined the position. At 6’9 he was not the stereotypical small-ball point guard. He had the greatest court vision of anyone to play his position and was equally adept at running a slowdown, post up offense or leading the fast break. As a high school senior, he led Michigan’s Everett High School to the state championship. As a sophomore at Michigan State, he led the team to an NCAA championship over Larry Bird’s Indiana State. Entering the 1979 NBA draft, he was selected first overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. In his rookie season he led the Lakers to an NBA championship. He is the only rookie to have won the NBA Finals MVP award. Over the course of his playing career, he earned 5 NBA championships, three NBA MVP awards, and 3 NBA Finals MVP awards. He was a 12-time NBA All-Star, and twice won the All-Star Game MVP award. He won an Olympic gold medal with the 1992 U.S. Dream Team.
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