I'd like to preface my ranking by reminding everyone that this is subjective. I will use objective facts to make my subjective arguments and I would love to hear where you disagree. This ranking is based on my experience in competitive sports and my knowledge of the NBA; I was born in 1981 so this list skews modern,despite my affinity for research.
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    A few notes before getting into the list:
    Like my father used to say when I was playing sports as a kid, "winning isn't everything but the other thing won't go out with you if you're a loser." This statement (right or wrong) shaped and helped define my view of competition from a young age; be a good teammate, play fair, but above all else play to win. The most important aspect of my rankings is championships. (spoiler alert, Russell is not #1).
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    The Robert Horry rule (formerly the Scottie Pippen rule):
    Championships are the most important part of my rankings but they are not the only factor. The players role on the team plays a major factor: Horry has 7 πŸ† but was never considered the best player on his team(or even an all-star). Pippen has 6 πŸ† and is a hall of famer but was never the best player on his team and even though he took the Bulls further without MJ than MJ did without Pippen, the credit for those πŸ† in relation to this ranking goes to Jordan. Will discuss more when we get to Kobe.
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    The "Secret"
    In Bill Simmons "Book of Basketball" there's a chapter on the "secret." It argues that having the best players doesn't ensure that you have the best team. It uses the Pistons trade of Dantley for Aguirre as an example. This idea is used as a tie-breaker on my list; if I swap Wilt for Russell do the Celtics get 11 rings? Probably not. Do the 76ers, Warriors, Lakers get more than the 2 Wilt won? Probably. Boston was stacked, beyond Russell, so perhaps it's not a great example but you get the idea.
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    Peak vs Career
    Maybe the most difficult aspect of the rankings for me. Do I give more weight to a players peak or body of work? Another sports related quote I got from my father, "the best ability is availability." Bill Walton's career was cut short by injury, even though his peak might warrant inclusion on this list, he doesn't have the body of work to crack the top10. Mark Jackson has excellent career numbers but never had the peak of an all-time great, so he doesn't make the list either.
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    Honorable Mention
    All of the top10 meet the above criteria; they were the best player on multiple championship teams, they the had hall of fame peaks, as well as hall of fame careers and they figured out the 'secret.' For active players there will also be a trending arrow⬆️(getting worse) or ⬇️(improving). 15)Elgin Baylor[no rings] 14)Oscar Robertson[1ring, second best player on team] 13)Julius Erving[1ring in NBA] 12)Jerry West[1ring] 11)Hakeem Olajuwon[passed by Lebron after last season].
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    ⬇️Lebron James πŸ†πŸ†(6 finals) 4xMVP 2x Finals MVP 11x All-star #6 all-time in WS/48 (win-shares per 48min)
    The Chosen One cracked the top10 after making a fifth consecutive finals run last year. He's the youngest to achieve every important milestone. He's lived up to the hype and faced more scrutiny than almost anybody in the top10. His only flaw is his inability to win more πŸ†. 6th all-time in ws/48, which means he's probably closer to 6th best player ever, but he's also the only one on this list I've seen mentally give up with the championship on the line. Can move to 8th with another πŸ† or MVP.
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    Wilt Chamberlain πŸ†πŸ†(6 finals) 4xMVP 1xFinals MVP 13x All-star #3 all-time in WS/48.
    7x scoring leader(ppg). 11x rebounding leader. 1x assist leader. Holds 72 NBA records including 23,924career rebounds and 22.9 rebounds per game. Wilt and Shaq are the only players on this list to take 3 different franchises to the NBA Finals. "The Stilt" racked up insane stats, but only brought home 2 rings. Wilt and Lebron are the only two in the top10 with a losing record in the finals. I would love to see what Wilt or Russell could achieve with the benefits afforded to the modern athlete.
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    Larry Bird πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†(5 finals) 3xMVP 2xFinals MVP. 12x All-star #20 all-time in WS/48.
    Larry Legend never lost a playoff series against Michael Jordan. He was the first player in NBA history with a 50-40-90season (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/50–40–90_club) and he did it twice. He won three 3pt shooting contests during all-star weekend. Bird was the undisputed best player on a Celtics team that featured two other Hall of Famers. Never led the league in scoring, rebounding or assists but made 9 consecutive all-NBA first team's.
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    Shaquille O'neal πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†(6 finals) 1xMVP. 3xFinals MVP. 15x All-star. #15 all-time WS/48
    Shaq(along with wilt and lebron) has the best combo of size and athleticism in NBA history but doesn't quite crack the top5. Maybe it's a perception bias against what could've been accomplished; as dominant as he was, Shaq never led the league in rebounds or blocks. Where Wilt used his superior size to put up video-game numbers, Shaq used his to win championships. He's the only player on this list to win with and without Phil Jackson (Riley and Wade certainly made that a lot easier to achieve).
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    ⬆️Kobe Bryant πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†(7 finals). 1xMVP. 2xFinals MVP. 18x All-star. #51 all-time WS/48
    MJ never won without Pippen, but they also didn't break that team up in the middle of his prime. Remember the '99 Bulls after they got rid of everyone? That's what Kobe had to deal with after "winning" the feud with Shaq/Phil. Yet, somehow within 5 seasons they played in 3more finals and won two. Kobe was not Robin to Shaq's Batman, Kobe was Batman to Shaq's Superman. Shaq was in LA, in his prime, for 4 seasons before they won, he needed Kobe as much as Kobe needed him. Last note on Kobe... 81!
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    ⬇️Tim Duncan πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†(6 finals) 2xMVP 3xFinals MVP. 18x All-star. #12 all-time WS/48
    The Big Fundamental made the NBA all-defensive first or second team 15 times. The only argument against Duncan as the greatest power forward in NBA history is that in any other era he would've been a center; his resume at power forward is unmatched. In relation to this list, he won the most championships with the least acclaimed supporting cast. Duncan, Shaq and Kobe should probably all have at least 1 more MVP, but in the post MJ NBA the voters have tried to share the trophy with more players.
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    Magic Johnson πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†(9 finals). 3xMVP. 3xFinals MVP. 11x All-star. #8 WS/48.
    Magic played 12 seasons and went to 9 NBA finals. To put that into perspective, Michael Jordan played 12 seasons in Chicago and went to 6 NBA finals. Magic took the Lakers to the finals without Kareem. Magic probably understood the "secret" as much as any other player on this list, his best attribute was making the players around him better.
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    Bill Russell πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†(12 finals). 5xMVP. 12x All-star. #20 All-time WS/48.
    The Celtics had Red Aubach; Bob Cousy; Bill Sharman; Ed McCauley, all hall of famers, all together for the first half of the decade and couldn't get out of the second round of the playoffs. Bill Russell gets drafted and they win the championship in his rookie season! The next season Russell wins MVP. The next season the Celtics win the first of 8 straight championships! EIGHT! Then they win two more with Russell as player/coach! Boston has only won 6 championships in the 50yrs since he retired.
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    Michael Jordan πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†(6 finals). 6xMVP. 6xFinals MVP. 13x All-star. #1 All-time WS/48
    The best all-around player and greatest competitor in the history of the game. Couldn't beat the Celtics in Bird's prime or the Pistons in Isiah's prime. Needed Phil and Scottie but when MJ left, they took the Bulls to the East Finals without him. If you think Jordan is the greatest ever, I really have no argument against that - the only thing I can say is that we don't know what would've happened had he not retired prematurely, twice! With Kareem, we know you get two decades of greatness.
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    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†πŸ†(9 finals). 6xMVP. 2xFinals MVP. 19x All-star. #7 all-time WS/48
    This is an NBA list, but Kareem won 71consecutive games in High School and 3 straight championships in college before the Bucks drafted him #1. He spent only 6 seasons in Milwaukee and is STILL the all-time franchise scoring leader. #1 all-time win shares, offensive win shares and #3 defensive win shares. Picture MJ with the Wizards, Kareem was older when he won the Finals MVP with the Lakers in '85. Until MJ or anyone else can stop the skyhook I'm drafting Kareem first in any all-time draft!