Top 5 NBA Players From 1990 - Present
#5 Scottie Pippen
Scottie Pippen was the best defender in all of basketball for a decade. What more needs to be said other than this: Pippen led the Jordan-less Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals. He later showcased his knack for winning by carrying a ragtag Portland Trailblazers to the Western Conference Finals where they were 2 minutes from advancing to the Finals. Remember, his teammate (ahem...MJ) could not defeat the Pistons till Pippen was added to the mix.
#4 Hakeem Olajuwon
Olajuwon achieved the following during a seven-year span in the 90s: MVP, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, three-time 1st team All-NBA (6 total), two-time 2nd team All-NBA (3 total), two-time 3rd team All-NBA (3 total), three-time 1st team All-Defense (5 total), and three-time 2nd team All-Defense (4 total). The Dream was such a masterful offensive player, his services are still sought by current NBA players.
Olajuwon is one of the greatest two-way players of all time. He was just as effective as Kareem on the offensive end, while just as dominant on the defensive end as Bill Russell.
#3 Michael Jordan
Folks who list MJ at the top of every list involving NBA players are unable to separate his many off-the-court contributions to the game. Air Jordan, the athletic footwear mogul, was a special marketing tool. But Michael Jordan the basketball player, was many times the second best player on his own team.
Thus, don't allow nostalgia for His Airness to corrupt objectivity. Jordan may have impacted a sport off the court more than any other athlete in any other sport. He was a consummate showman, and he arrived in an era devoid of universally marketable talent. MJ's emergence brought about the most successful and long lasting sports marketing campaigns the world has ever seen. The "Air Jordan" signature shoe remains an iconic staple in households nationwide (for better or worse).
But none of that translates to basketball skill/productivity. Jordan (and Pippen) dominated the 90s, but not on the level of dominance as Mikan in the 50s, Russell in the 60s, or Bryant in the 2000s.
#2 Tim Duncan
The Big Fundamental's controlled demeanor propelled him to the top of the basketball world five times. Duncan's performance level rose as the lights shined brighter. No stage was too great. No foe too skilled. The Spurs placed much of the front court defensive responsibility on Duncan's shoulders and he proved he was up for the challenge every season.
He was a footwork technician who is not only the second best player of his era, but he is also the greatest power forward to ever play the game. Duncan capitalized on good coaching, and a quality front office staff which provided a winning atmosphere the duration of Duncan's career.
#1 Kobe Bryant
Kobe won championships in 2000, 01, 02, 09, and 2010. Besides Russell and Jordan, no player ever exerted their will over the league for this length of time. Several players had stretches of brilliance worthy of remembrance, but none from the backcourt. That level of dominance was previously reserved for front court players.
If the Black Mamba never tore his achilles and managed to manufacture another championship with another untalented supporting cast, he would have surpassed George Mikan as the Greatest NBA Player of All Time. Regardless, the Mamba is the undeniable leader of his era. His ability to win in spite of an inept front office frequently pairing him with poor role players, unfamiliar with scheme or the nuances of the Triangle Offense, is why Bryant edges out Duncan. Kobe was placed with the likes of Adam Morrison, Smush Parker and Vladimir Radmanović, but still WON!!!
No player in NBA history won more with less than Kobe Bryant. Most impressive is Bryant's success in the most physically talented era in the NBA. Bryant won five championships while the following players were still in their prime: Vince Carter, LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzky, Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade, and Tim Duncan.
Kobe's won more than twice as many championships as every person on that list except Duncan, Wade, and James.
Reaching the NBA Finals is special and many greats never do. James has not only reached the Finals seven times (six consecutive) but he's also won three times. James is one of the most exciting players to ever lace up a pair of sneakers. He can jump through the roof, play and guard up to four positions, and he's avoided major injuries.
James doesn't crack the top 5 for this era due to his frequent losses to inferior teams in the Finals. His most notable loss was the 2014 loss to the Spurs. No team ever suffered a margin of defeat that large in the Finals. The 2014 Finals blowout would not be as damning if James were playing with Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, or Sasha Vujačić. But James was massacred while playing alongside an all-time great supporting cast, including: Ray Allen, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade.