The NBA has gone through many transformations throughout its history, with the current iteration of the league being dominated by swift, athletic guards – a marked change from the era of the big men.
However, one thing that’s not changed is the importance of having players who can put the ball in the basket on a regular basis.
Prolific scorers are integral parts of any NBA side and over the years we have witnessed many players who have had the ability to consistently score points and secure wins for their side.
On that note, we take a look at the 10 greatest scorers in NBA history:
#10 Jerry West
Total Points: 25,192
Points per game: 27.0
Field goals: 9016
Free Throws: 7160
Scoring Titles: 1
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers (1960-1974)
Accolades: NBA champion (1972), NBA Finals MVP (1969), 14× NBA All-Star (1961–1974), NBA All-Star Game MVP (1972), 10× All-NBA First Team (1962–1967, 1970–1973), 2× All-NBA Second Team (1968, 1969), 4× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1970–1973), NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1969), NBA scoring champion (1970), NBA assists leader (1972)
One of the first true superstars of the NBA, Jerry West had such an influence during his time on the court that the logo of the league is molded in his image.
West played during a time when there was no three-point line but still managed to rack up over 25000 points, thanks in part to his ability to make shots from all over the court.
West averaged over 30 points per game in four different seasons and won one scoring title, in 1970. He also made history by becoming the only player from the losing side to win the Finals MVP.
He averaged 27 points per game over the course of his career and made over 9000 field goals.
#9 Hakeem Olajuwon
Total Points: 26,946
Points per game: 21.8
Field goals: 10,749
Free Throws: 5,423
Scoring titles: 0
Teams: Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors
Accolades: 2× NBA champion (1994, 1995), 2× NBA Finals MVP (1994, 1995), NBA Most Valuable Player (1994), 12× NBA All-Star (1985–1990, 1992–1997), 6× All-NBA First Team (1987–1989, 1993, 1994, 1997), 3× All-NBA Second Team (1986, 1990, 1996), 3× All-NBA Third Team (1991, 1995, 1999), 2× NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1993, 1994), 5× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1987, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1994), 4× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1985, 1991, 1996, 1997), NBA All-Rookie First Team (1985), 2x NBA rebounding leader (1989, 1990), 3× NBA blocks leader (1990, 1991, 1993)
Hakeem Olajuwon is considered one of the greatest centers to have ever graced a basketball court. ‘The Dream’ was drafted with the first overall pick in 1984 by the Houston Rockets and went on to have a tremendous career, leading them to two NBA championships.
Olajuwon made the All-Star team on 12 different occasions and also won the league MVP award once.
He averaged 21.8 points per game over the course of his career, which might not be the highest ever, but considering his longevity and the calibre of opposition at the time, it’s an admirable number.
Olajuwon totalled 26,946 points across his stints with the Rockets and Toronto Raptors, which puts him at the 11th spot on the all-time scoring list.
#8 Karl Malone
Total Points: 36,928
Points per game: 25.0
Field goals: 13,528
Free Throws: 9,787
Scoring Titles: 0
Teams: Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers
Accolades: 2× NBA Most Valuable Player (1997, 1999), 14× NBA All-Star (1988–1998, 2000–2002), 2× NBA All-Star Game MVP (1989, 1993), 11× All-NBA First Team (1989–1999), 2× All-NBA Second Team (1988, 2000), All-NBA Third Team (2001), 3× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1997–1999), NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1988), NBA All-Rookie First Team (1986)
Karl Malone may have a case for being placed much higher on this list, but the fact that he never won a championship or a scoring title works against him.
Malone was drafted with the 13th overall pick of the 1985 NBA draft by the Utah Jazz. He would go on to become a Jazz legend, representing the franchise for all but one season of his career and forming a formidable partnership with John Stockton.
Malone averaged 25 points per game over the course of his career and retired with 36,928 points to his name. He currently occupies the second spot on the all-time scoring list but is expected to be surpassed by LeBron James in the near future.
#7 Oscar Robertson
Total Points: 26,710
Points per game: 25.7
Field goals: 9,508
Free Throws: 7,694
Scoring titles: 1
Teams: Cincinnati Royals (1960-70), Milwaukee Bucks (1970-74)
Accolades: MVP (1963-64), 12X All-Star, 11X All-NBA selection, Rookie of the Year (1960-61), Hall of Famer, Champion (1971)
Oscar Robertson was a phenomenon during his time in the NBA. He became the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double, achieving the feat in 1962. He also averaged a triple-double for his first 384 games, which is a truly astonishing feat.
He was tall, athletic and a deadly shooter, capable of scoring at will from anywhere on the court. Robertson averaged 25.7 points across a 1040-game career which helped him rack up over 26000 points and also win one scoring title.
A one-time champion and league MVP, Robertson was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1980.
#6 Shaquille O’Neal
Total Points: 28,596
Points per game: 23.7
Field goals: 11,330
Free Throws: 5,935
Scoring Titles: 2
Teams: Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics
Accolades: 4× NBA champion (2000–2002, 2006), 3× NBA Finals MVP (2000–2002), NBA Most Valuable Player (2000), 15× NBA All-Star (1993–1998, 2000–2007, 2009), 3× NBA All-Star Game MVP (2000, 2004, 2009), 8× All-NBA First Team (1998, 2000–2006), 2× All-NBA Second Team (1995, 1999), 4× All-NBA Third Team (1994, 1996, 1997, 2009), 3× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2000, 2001, 2003), NBA Rookie of the Year (1993), NBA All-Rookie First Team (1993), 2× NBA scoring champion (1995, 2000), NBA 50th Anniversary Team
During his heydey, Shaquille O’Neal was the most dominant force in the NBA. His combination of speed and power made him virtually unguardable throughout his career.
Shaq averaged 23.7 points per game on 58.2% shooting from the field and racked up a total of 28596 points.
Shaq represented as many as six teams during his career, with his most famous stint coming with the Lakers. Shaq and Kobe formed a formidable partnership on the court, although chemistry issues meant they never truly hit the heights they could have.
Shaq is currently eighth on the all-time scoring list but could have been so much higher had he improved his free-throw shooting over the years.
#5 Kobe Bryant
Total Points: 33,643
Points per game: 25.0
Field goals: 11,719
Free Throws: 8,378
Scoring titles: 2
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers
Accolades: 5× NBA champion (2000–2002, 2009, 2010), 2× NBA Finals MVP (2009, 2010)
NBA Most Valuable Player (2008), 18× NBA All-Star (1998, 2000–2016), 4× NBA All-Star Game MVP (2002, 2007, 2009, 2011), 11× All-NBA First Team (2002–2004, 2006–2013), 2× All-NBA Second Team (2000, 2001), 2× All-NBA Third Team (1999, 2005), 9× NBA All-Defensive First Team (2000, 2003, 2004, 2006–2011), 3× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2001, 2002, 2012), 2× NBA scoring champion (2006, 2007), NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion (1997), NBA All-Rookie Second Team (1997)
Possibly the most clutch player of all time, Kobe Bryant had the ability to take over games in the fourth period and find the basket at will.
Kobe could hit any shot asked of him; he had the ability to drive to the rim, shoot mid-range jumpers and was no mug from beyond the arc either.
Kobe led the Lakers to as many as five NBA titles during his career and he averaged 25 points per game as a player.
An 18-time All-Star, Kobe won two scoring titles – in 2006 and 2007 – and finished his career with a tally of 33,643 points.
He also made a whopping 11,719 field goals which is among the highest in NBA history.
#4 LeBron James
Total Points: 32,543
Points per game: 27.2
Field goals: 11,838
Free Throws: 7,140
Scoring Title: 1
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers
Accolades: 3× NBA champion (2012, 2013, 2016), 3× NBA Finals MVP (2012, 2013, 2016), 4× NBA Most Valuable Player (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013), 15× NBA All-Star (2005–2019), 3× NBA All-Star Game MVP (2006, 2008, 2018), 12× All-NBA First Team (2006, 2008–2018), 2× All-NBA Second Team (2005, 2007), All-NBA Third Team (2019), 5× NBA All-Defensive First Team (2009–2013), NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2014), NBA Rookie of the Year (2004), NBA All-Rookie First Team (2004), NBA scoring champion (2008)
(Stats as of Nov 1st)
The only active player on this list, LeBron James has slowly been climbing the all-time scoring list. At the time of writing, James’ 33,290 points are good enough for the fourth spot on the all-time scoring list. He recently passed Michael Jordan but remains 5000 points behind the leader, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
LeBron is a three-time NBA champion and three-time Finals MVP. He also won the NBA scoring title in 2008, a season in which he averaged 30 points per game.
He is also the youngest player in NBA history to reach 15,000 points. James currently averages over 27 points per game and has continued to dominate the league at the age of 34. If he continues putting up monster performances on a regular basis, he could well surpass Abdul-Jabbar by the time he calls time on his career.
Considering the fact that LeBron’s team are perennial title contenders, he will have plenty of games to do so.
#3 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Total Points: 38,387
Points per game: 24.6
Field goals: 15,837
Free Throws: 6,712
Scoring titles: 2
Teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers
Accolades: 6× NBA champion (1971, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988), 2× NBA Finals MVP (1971, 1985)
6× NBA Most Valuable Player (1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1980), 19× NBA All-Star (1970–1977, 1979–1989), 10× All-NBA First Team (1971–1974, 1976, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1986), 5× All-NBA Second Team (1970, 1978, 1979, 1983, 1985), 5× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1974, 1975, 1979–1981), 6× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1970, 1971, 1976–1978, 1984), NBA Rookie of the Year (1970), NBA All-Rookie First Team (1970), 2× NBA scoring champion (1971, 1972), NBA rebounding champion (1976), 4× NBA blocks leader (1975, 1976, 1979, 1980)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won two scoring titles during his time as a player, in consecutive seasons (1971, 1972).
Abdul-Jabbar’s lethal skyhook was virtually unguardable and he put it to good use to average 24.6 points per game over the course of his career.
At the time of his retirement, Abdul-Jabbar sat at the top of the all-time scoring list, having racked up an astonishing 38,387 across 1560 games. His tally of points was so far ahead of anyone else at the time that he still holds the record till date.
Abdul-Jabbar finished with six NBA championships to his name and also won the MVP award six times.
#2 Wilt Chamberlain
Total Points: 31,419
Points per game: 30.1
Field goals: 12,681
Free Throws: 6,057
Scoring titles: 7
Teams: Harlem Globetrotters, Philadelphia / San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers
Accolades: 2× NBA champion (1967, 1972), NBA Finals MVP (1972), 4× NBA Most Valuable Player (1960, 1966–1968), 13× NBA All-Star (1960–1969, 1971–1973), NBA All-Star Game MVP (1960), 7× All-NBA First Team (1960–1962, 1964, 1966–1968), 3× All-NBA Second Team (1963, 1965, 1972), 2× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1972, 1973), NBA Rookie of the Year (1960), 7× NBA scoring champion (1960–1966), 11× NBA rebounding champion (1960–1963, 1966–1969, 1971–1973), NBA assists leader (1968)
Wilt Chamberlain, along with Michael Jordan, boasts the record for the highest ever points per game average.
In a career that spanned 1,045 games, Chamberlain averaged 30.1 points per game and won a whopping seven scoring titles.
His efforts on the offensive end of the floor propelled his side to two championship runs and he also won the Finals MVP in 1972.
Chamberlain set a plethora of scoring records during his time in the NBA and he even became the only player in NBA history to score 100 points in a single game, when he torched the New York Knicks back in 1962.
He also averaged over 50 points over the course of an entire season, a record that will never be broken in the future.
#1 Michael Jordan
Total Points: 32,292
Points per game: 30.1
Field goals: 12,192
Free Throws: 7,327
Scoring titles: 10
Teams: Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards
Accolades: 6× NBA champion (1991–1993, 1996–1998), 6× NBA Finals MVP (1991–1993, 1996–1998), 5× NBA Most Valuable Player (1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998), 14× NBA All-Star (1985–1993, 1996–1998, 2002, 2003), 3× NBA All-Star Game MVP (1988, 1996, 1998), 10× All-NBA First Team (1987–1993, 1996–1998), All-NBA Second Team (1985), NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1988), 9× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1988–1993, 1996–1998), NBA Rookie of the Year (1985), NBA All-Rookie Team (1985), 10× NBA scoring champion (1987–1993, 1996–1998), 3× NBA steals leader (1988, 1990, 1993), 2× NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion (1987, 1988)
The greatest defender, scorer, and player of all time. Michael Jordan was a scoring machine during his time with the Chicago Bulls.
Although he was a heavy scorer in regular-season games, comfortably averaging over 25 points per game, he took his game to a whole new level in the playoffs.
Jordan was at his best during clutch time and had the ability to take over games down the stretch and lead his Bulls side to victories.
Over the course of his career, Jordan averaged a whopping 30.1 points per game. He tallied 32,292 points in total and at the time of writing, sits in the fifth spot on the all-time scoring list.
Jordan won an astonishing 10 scoring titles over the course of his career and easily makes it to the top spot on this list.
He is also one of just two players – the other being Wilt Chamberlain – to rack up 3,000 points in a season.