Who Are Considered The Best Players In American Basketball As Of 2023? Our Guide

From Shaquille O'Neal to Bill Russell, from Lebron James or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Michael Jordan, discover the legends of American basketball and the players who made history in the NBA and The Olympics.

Basketball was invented by the Americans, which is why it still has a huge following in the United States. Most players that are currently playing in the NBA are American, and it does not look like this will change any time soon. Americans have always been some of the best players on the basketball court. But who do fans think is the best?

History has given us some truly great basketball players, and some of these individuals have achieved accolades that still make them relevant in 2023. Therefore, these players can be considered as the best players in American basketball history.

Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O’Neal is a phenomenal basketball player whose accolades have allowed him to reach fame long after his career as a player ended. Known as Shaq to most fans, he regularly appears in cameos on TV or as a guest in late-night chat shows. Some of you may even be unfortunate enough to remember his starring role in the superhero movie Steel in the late 90s. He also owns his own clothing companies and record labels.

Despite his modern-day success off the court, most of Shaq’s greatest achievements happened during his basketball career. The seven-foot and one-inch center is often balked at by some fans who claim that his scoring record of sixty-one points in one game was only made possible because of his height. However, Shaq also demonstrated some serious skills during his nineteen-year NBA career. Try to remember these details next time you look at college basketball odds. His impeccable timing allowed him to block around two thousand shots in this time, and he also achieved over thirteen thousand rebounds in his career. Even the smaller professionals aren’t athletic enough to pull that off.

Michael Jordan

Another player who is more famous for his deeds off the court in recent memory, Michael Jordan, started his professional basketball career in 1984 at the Chicago Bulls. However, many of you probably know his name because of the 1996 Space Jam film that he starred in alongside the Loony Toons. He also has a popular brand of sports shoes called air Jordans.

Michael Jordan retired from professional basketball in 1993 after three consecutive championship titles. However, Jordan wasn’t content to sit out as one of the best basketball players of all time and returned to the sport in March 1995. His return seemed to be exactly what the Bulls needed as Michael Jordan won an additional three consecutive NBA titles before retiring again in 1999. This was another retirement that would not stick as he returned in 2003.

Michael Jordan did not come back to play for the Chicago Bulls this time. Instead, he played for the Washington Wizards. His return to the game for the third time was only short-lived, as the wizards could not topple the Chicago Bulls to win the league. Michael Jordan would then retire for good at the end of that season. Despite all this, retiring and returning, Michael Jordan was still named the most valuable player in the NBA and is considered the best defensive player of all time.

Bill Russell

Bill Russell may not be a recognizable name to people who do not know basketball, like Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jordan. However, Bill Russell is just as accomplished.

Playing for the Boston Celtics in the 1960s, Russell also won the NBAs most valuable player award five times and he also managed to claim nine titles in eleven seasons. Bill Russell is considered a legend as a professional basketball player and off the court. Instead of chasing fame and fortune, Bill Russell decided to retire as the first African American basketball coach in the professional NBA leagues. He coached the Celtics to another two seasons as title champions before retiring for good in 1966. Bill Russell also has an Olympic gold medal to his name, which takes his number of basketball accolades above Michael Jordan’s total and ensures that he is still a relevant name in basketball in 2023.

LeBron James

One of the most recent additions to make a claim as one of the most popular basketball players of all time, Lebron James started his career in 1999. However, James did not start to gain people’s attention until he began playing for the LA Lakers in 2018. Lebron James currently holds the title for the most goals scored by a single player in the NBA. He also has four most valuable player titles, two Olympic gold medals, and four NBA championship titles. In fact, Lebron James is so popular among modern basketball fans that he took Michael Jordan’s role in the Space Jam sequel in 2021.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, and inventor of the skyhook amassed a staggering 38,387 points in his illustrious career. With six MVPs, 19 All-Star appearances, and unmatched longevity, he’s undeniably the greatest center in league history. While Russell and Chamberlain boast impressive accolades, neither could rival Abdul-Jabbar’s offensive skills or staying power. Although LeBron James eventually surpassed his scoring record, it took a Herculean effort and several decades to dethrone The Captain’s monumental legacy.


If you are ever going to have a discussion about the most popular basketball player of all time, it must contain these four individuals. Some other names may crop up, but you will inevitably land on one of these names.