While the modern NBA has shifted into an offense-first mindset, with players launching threes on sight and totals of over 130 being racked up on a regular basis, the game was not always played in such a gung-ho fashion.
Defense used to be a key aspect of the NBA decades ago and teams with the best defenders often ended up winning championships.
Shooting guards play an important role in the NBA by not only generating points for their side, but also forcing turnovers through steals, thereby helping their side gain extra possessions.
Some of the greatest players in NBA history have made the shooting guard position their own over the years, and here, we take a look at the 10 best defensive shooting guards of all time.
(Note: Current players have been excluded from this list).
#10. Jerry West
An offensive juggernaut, Jerry West is one of the greatest shooting guards of all time. He averaged a whopping 27 points and 6.7 assists per game over the course of his career and his stellar contributions on offense overshadowed his ability on the defensive end of the court.
West was a terrific defender capable of guarding almost any player he was matched up with. West averaged 2.6 steals and 0.7 blocks over the course of his career.
Despite being among the best players of his generation, West managed just one NBA championship, with the Lakers in 1972.
He was also named Finals MVP in 1969 and is a 14-time NBA All-Star. His defensive accolades include being named in the All-Defensive first team four times and All-Defensive second team once.
His legacy was tarnished slightly by the fact that his side lost eight NBA Finals in nine attempts, but he remains one of the most clutch players to have ever stepped foot on a basketball court.
#9. Jerry Sloan
Jerry Sloan had a rather underrated NBA career. He was drafted with the fourth overall pick of the 1965 NBA Draft by the then Baltimore Bullets.
Sloan went on to have a successful if not spectacular career, making the All-Star team twice. He was also a Four-time All-Defensive First Teamer and Two-Time All-Defensive Second Teamer, but never went on to win a championship, which tarnished his legacy to an extent.
Sloan was a brilliant reader of the game and averaged 2.2 steals per game. At the time of his retirement, he also ranked in the top 10 of the all-time steals list, although he has since been displaced.
Sloan’s career was ravaged by injuries and he finally announced his retirement in 1976, with his No. 4 jersey being retired by the Chicago Bulls.
#8. Joe Dumars
Dumars was drafted 18th overall in the 1985 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons. Dumars, who stayed with the Pistons for his entire career, won back-to-back championships with the side, in 1989 and 1990.
Dumars wasn’t an elite defender like some of the other players on this list, but he was one of the best two-way players in the league at the time.
Dumars averaged 0.9 steals and 0.1 blocks per game during his time with the Pistons and was nominated in the All-Defensive First Team four times and All-Defensive Second Team once.
Following his retirement, Dumars’ No. 4 jersey was retired – he remains the only Detroit player to have ever worn that number – and he’s since been nominated into the Basketball Hall Of Fame as well.
#7. Alvin Robertson
Alvin Robertson notched up a host of accolades during his 16-year career in the NBA. The highlight of his career was undoubtedly the Defensive Player of the Year award he picked up in 1986, just two years after being drafted by the San Antonio Spurs with the 7th overall pick.
Robertson also made history when he became the first player to notch up a quadruple-double with steals as one of the categories.
Robertson averaged 2.7 steals and 0.4 blocks over the course of his career and currently ranks 10th in the all-time steals leaderboard.
During his time at the San Antonio Spurs, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons, and Toronto Raptors, Robertson found himself being named to the All-Defensive First Team and Second Team on two and four occasions respectively.
Robertson was also a three-time steals leader but never managed to win an NBA championship.
#6. Michael Cooper
Not much was expected of Michael Cooper when he was drafted 60th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers way back in 1978.
However, through sheer hard work and determination, Cooper ground out a successful career for himself. He was not a prolific scorer of the ball, but his effort on the defensive end of the floor more than made up for his offensive shortcomings.
Cooper averaged 1.2 steals and 0.6 blocks over the course of his career and earned several other accolades, including One-time Defensive Player of the Year, Five-time All-Defensive First Team and Three-time All-Defensive Second Team.
He is also a five-time NBA champion, having won the league in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988.
Cooper was often lauded for his defensive prowess, with Larry Bird once labelling him the best defender he had ever faced.
#5. Tony Allen
A rather surprising name on this list, Tony Allen was drafted with the 25th overall pick of the 2204 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics.
Allen went on to win a championship with the Celtics before opting for a move to the Memphis Grizzlies. It was at the Grizzlies that his defensive potential truly came to the fore, as he was named in the All-Defensive First-Team on three occasions.
Allen was also named in the All-Defensive Second-Team three times and retired with career averages of 1.4 steals and 0.4 blocks per game.
#4. Sidney Moncrief
Moncrief was drafted with the fifth overall pick of the 1979 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks and went on to enjoy a rather successful career.
Although he never managed to win a championship, Moncrief is still regarded as one of the NBA’s greatest players.
He even had his jersey retired by the Milwaukee Bucks.
At the time of his retirement, Moncrief had racked up 1,931 points, 3,575 rebounds and 2,793 assists. He also averaged 1.2 steals and 0.3 blocks per game and earned a spot on the All-Defensive First Team four times.
Moncrief is also a two-time Defensive Player of the Year which is evidence of his prowess off the ball.
#3. Dwyane Wade
A Miami Heat legend, Dwyane Wade was drafted by the Heat with the fifth overall pick of the 2003 draft. He went on to have a stellar career with the Heat, forming a formidable Big 3 alongside Chris Bosh and LeBron James.
Wade won three championships, in 2006, 2012, 2013, and was named the Finals MVP on one occasion as well.
A tenacious on-ball defender, Wade had the ability to shut down even the most prolific scorers in the league and his defensive contributions were often overshadowed by his prowess on the offensive end of the court.
Wade averaged 1.8 steals and 1.0 blocks over the course of his career and was named to the All-Defensive Second Team on three occasions.
#2. Kobe Bryant
The greatest clutch shooter of all time, Kobe Bryant developed a career out of making near impossible baskets.
Over the course of his career, Kobe Bryant averaged a whopping 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. He became the first guard in NBA history to play for 20 seasons when he kitted up for the Los Angeles Lakers in his final season in 2016.
A legend of the game, Kobe ended his career as a one-time MVP, two-time Finals MVP, 17-time All-Star and two-time NBA scoring champion.
Coming to his defensive exploits, he was as close to a perfect perimeter defender as you can get. Kobe averaged 1.5 steals and 0.5 blocks and was named to the All-Defensive First Team nine times and the All-Defensive Second Team two times.
#1. Michael Jordan
Inarguably the greatest player of all-time, Michael Jordan achieved everything there was to achieve in the NBA over the course of his memorable career.
A six-time champion and six-time Finals MVP, Jordan was at the heart of the Chicago Bulls’ success in the mid-1980s and ’90s, and also one of their most marketable athletes.
Jordan finished his career with stunning averages of 30.1 points, 5.3 assists, and 6.2 rebounds per game. Although he is best known for his ability to take over games and dominate oppositions, he was also among the greatest defensive players of all time.
Jordan averaged 2.3 steals and 0.8 blocks over the course of his career and was named to the All-Defensive First Team on nine separate occasions. He’s also a one-time Defensive Player of the Year and 14-time All-Star.
Jordan is currently the owner of the Charlotte Hornets franchise and continues to have a major role to play in the NBA.