In its current state, the National Basketball Association (NBA) consists of 30 teams – 29 in the U.S. and one in Canada. Since the league began in 1946, its popularity has grown exponentially. It is now a worldwide phenomenon.
There have been many great players who have stood out throughout the decades. In 1996 the NBA tried to whittle down the greats to its Top 50 Players of All Time. By now, that list is outdated but it gave a glimpse of the type of greatness needed to be considered one of the best.
Fast forward to present day and its time anew to shine a spotlight on where the greatest shooting guards rank in NBA history.
While James Harden is a very talented basketball player, as long as he sports ‘the ugly beard’ he cannot be considered for any accolades. He is too ugly. We are not discriminating against ugly people. Harden is ugly because of that bird’s nest on his face. He doesn’t have to be ugly. He chooses to be ugly. As long as he insists on being the ugliest creature known to man, Harden willfully and knowingly sacrifices all eligibility for any kind of praise. It’s a matter of principle.
10) Dwyane Wade – Playing most of his career with the Miami Heat, Dwyane Wade is a three time NBA champion and 13 time NBA All-Star. Despite being undersized for a shooting guard (6’4”), Wade is equally dangerous on defense as he is at scoring. He is an eight-time member of the All NBA Team and three time member of the All Defensive Team. After leading the Heat to their first championship and won the 2006 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP). He earned a gold medal on the 2008 Olympic Men’s Basketball Team. In the 2008-09 season, Wade led the league in scoring. Alongside LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Wade brought the Heat championships in 2012 and 2013. During the later stages of his career he also played for the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but finished his career with the Heat.
9) George Gervin – Nicknamed “The Iceman”, George Gervin was a star shooting guard in both the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA). From 1972-1986 Gervin played for the Virginia Squires, San Antonio Spurs, and Chicago Bulls. Prior to Michael Jordan, Gervin had the most scoring titles of any guard in league history. Gervin’s first scoring title was in the 1977-78 season. He held the title four times during his NBA career. His trademark move was the finger roll.
8) Manu Ginobili – Hailing from Argentina, Manu Ginobili is one of only two players to have won a EuroLeague title, and NBA championship, and an Olympic gold medal. Coming from a basketball family, Ginobili spent the early years of his professional career in Argentina and Italy. Playing for Italy’s Kinder Bologna, he helped win the 2001 Italian League Championship and the 2001 EuroLeague, for which he was named Finals MVP. Ginobili joined the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA in the 2002-2003 season – initially the backup to Steve Smith. Although he found it difficult to adjust to the physical style of play in the NBA, he became an integral part of coach Greg Popovich’s playoffs rotation to help win an NBA title in his rookie season. Ginobili played his entire NBA career with the Spurs, earning three additional titles alongside such players as Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. The Spurs retired Ginobili’s No. 20 jersey in 2019.
7) Tracy McGrady – Entering the NBA draft straight out of high school, Tracy McGrady went on to become a seven-time NBA All Star, seven-time All-NBA Team selection, and two-time NBA scoring champion. He was drafted by the Toronto Raptors in the 1997 NBA draft. Over the course of his career, he played alongside Vince Carter with the Raptors and Yao Ming with the Huston Rockets. He also played for the Orlando Magic, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, and the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA and the Qingdao DoubleStar Eagles in the Chinese Basketball Association. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017.
6) Vince Carter – Regarded as one of the greatest dunkers to have ever played the game of basketball, Vince Carter is the only player in NBA history to play 22 seasons and in four different decades. He debuted in 1999 and retired in 2020. He was an eight-time NBA All Star and a two-time All-NBA Team selection. Carter played his college ball with the North Carolina Tar Heel, twice advancing to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament. With the Toronto Raptors, Carter earned the NBA Rookie of the Year Award as well as the NBA Slam Dunk Championship. Over the course of his career, he also played for the New Jersey Nets, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, and Atlanta Hawks. He earned a gold medal representing the U.S. in the 2000 Summer Olympics.
5) Reggie Miller – Over the course of 18 seasons in the NBA, Reggie Miller is recognized as one of the greatest three-point shooters in league history. Playing his whole professional career with the Indiana Pacers, Miller was a five-time All-Star selection. When he retired in 2005, he held the record for the most 3 pointers made. Since that time, Ray Allen and Stephen Curry surpassed his record. He won an Olympic gold medal representing the U.S. in the 1996. Miller is regarded as the greatest Pacers’ player of all time.
4) Ray Allen – After earning a reputation as a distance shooter in college with the Connecticut Huskies, Ray Allen was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1996 NBA Draft. After being traded to the Seattle SuperSonics, Allen broke league records for three-point shooting and free throws. After being traded to the Boston Celtics in 2007, he teamed with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to win the 2008 NBA Championship. He ended his career with the Miami Heat, earning another championship in 2013. Over the course of his career, he was a ten-time NBA All Star, and in 2000 he won an Olympic gold medal representing the U.S. He holds the record for most career three point field goals made in the regular season. He also starred as a high school basketball prodigy in the 1998 Spike Lee film He Got Game.
3) Clyde Drexler – Nicknamed “Clyde the Glide”, Clyde Drexler played 15 seasons in the NBA and was on the NBA’s Top 50 Players of All Time list released in 1996. He played the majority of his career with the Portland Trailblazers, twice leading them to the NBA Finals. He eventually won a championship with the Houston Rockets in 1995 – reteaming with his collegiate teammate Hakeem Olajuwon. He was a ten-time NBA All Star and was named an All-NBA First Team selection in 1992. He was also a member of the 1992 Olympic gold medal team commonly referred to as the “Dream Team.” He was twice inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame – in 2004 for his individual accomplishments and in 2010 as a member of the Dream Team. Drexler stands out from the rest of the shooting guards on the list because he is a true gentleman off the court, embracing and honoring his fans.
2) Kobe Bryant – Playing his entire 20-year professional basketball career for the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant entered the NBA straight from high school. He was an 18-time NBA All Star and helped lead the Lakers to five NBA championships. He won the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player award and was twice the NBA Finals MVP. He was a two-time NBA scoring champion. As a rookie, he won the 1997 All Star Slam Dunk Contest. He won three consecutive championships alongside Shaquille O’Neal. He also led the team to two consecutive championships without O’Neal. In 2006 he scored a career-high 81 points, which is the second most points scored in an NBA game behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point performance in 1962. He retired after the 2015-2016 season.
1) Michael Jordan- Widely regarded as the greatest player to ever play in the NBA, Michael Jordan is a non-shocker as the best shooting guard in NBA history. Jordan played 15 seasons in the NBA, twice leading the Chicago Bulls to three consecutive NBA championships – 6 championships total. Playing his college ball with the North Carolina Tar Heels, he was a part of their 1982 national championship team. Jordan was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1982 where he instantly turned the league on its head. During his career he earned six NBA Finals MVP Awards, ten scoring titles, five MVP awards, ten All-NBA First Team designations, fourteen NBA All Star Game selections, and the 1988 Defensive Player of the Year awards. In addition to incredible talent and an unmatched will to win, Jordan had a very carefully crafted image which led to a number of high-profile product endorsements – making MJ a household name and the most popular athlete on the planet during his heyday.