Among the many wonderful aspects of the NBA game is the mesmerizing athleticism and freakish physical endeavors of it’s players. It would seem that in each succeeding decade, the bar indicating levels of athletic brilliance rises like the arctic water table. The ‘Slam Dunk’ contests In the mid 1980’s were it’s golden age, however it is difficult to ignore the literal heights the modern player is reaching. Some of the feats players are accomplishing in terms of athletic prowess can easily be construed as ‘other worldly’. This list aims to highlight some of the more gifted, and amazing athletes to have graced NBA hardwood.
#15. Russell Westbrook / Speed, Agility, Crazy Handles, Hops & Flair
Blink and you might miss Russell Westbrook running the length of the floor. This 6’3 native of Long Beach, CA is a ridiculous athlete, and a joy to watch play the game.
#14. Andre Iguodala / Power, Speed, Hops
Andre Iguodala is the 6’6 athletic pride and joy of Springfield, IL. For the last 12 years he has showcased his unbelievable physical gifts, putting the NBA on notice. Andre is here.
#13. Marvin Barnes / Grace, Power, Hops
Many a basketball scholar has wondered aloud what would have been had Marvin Barnes truly fulfilled his potential. Nevertheless, he dominated the ABA with a game that stood shoulder to shoulder with the very best of the era, including Julius Erving. His brief NBA career saw a glimmer of the raw athletic talent that once was. This 6’8 dynamo from good ole Providence, RI, was a transcendent athlete, and the real deal.
#12. Blake Griffin / Power, Crazy Hops
Blake Griffin has the kind of pure athletic ability that would cause people to wonder if he was a world class volleyball player, or NFL tight-end disguised as an All-Pro basketball star. He is that kind of athlete. His 6’10 frame was developed in Oklahoma City, OK. and makes you wonder what’s in the water. Blake’s athleticism is simply a marvel to behold.
#11.Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins / Crazy Power, Mad Hops
Darryl Dawkins left us too soon in August 2015, but his basketball legacy is something that will live on for much longer than the 58 years he graced this earth. What kind of power did the 6’11 native of Orlando, Fl have? The NBA had to adopt breakaway rims after Darryl made a habit of shattering their backboards, doing so twice in 1979-80.
#10. Kevin Garnett / Agility, Speed, Hops
When Kevin Garnett was drafted into the NBA directly out of Farragut Academy High School in 1995, he was the first player to do so in 20 years. During his prime, there was literally nothing this 6’11 dynamo from Greenville, South Carolina couldn’t do on a basketball court. His transcendent athletic gifts are now legendary. Now, in the twilight of his career, fans of the NBA are all still amazed at the athleticism Kevin continues to show.
#9. Clyde “The Glide” Drexler / Power, Speed, Mad Hops & Flair
As his nickname would suggest, Clyde Drexler’s 6’7 frame seemed to literally ‘glide’ across NBA hardwoods, and through opposing defenses throughout the 1980’s and into the 1990’s. The New Orleans, LA native did so with a style and grace that were noteworthy even to the occasional fan. His athleticism was transcendent, and his game was formidable. His 2004 induction into the Hall of Fame, well deserved.
#8. Shawn Kemp / Power, Speed, Crazy Hops
Shawn Kemp was a 6’10 ‘man-child’ from Elkhart, IN, whose ridiculous athletic ability, and basketball greatness earned him the 17th overall pick in the first round of the 1989 NBA Draft. The Seattle Supersonics made an excellent choice. Shawn had the kind of physical gifts that made him a force to be reckoned with throughout his 15 year career.
#7. Dominique ‘Human Highlight Film’ Wilkins / Power, Stupid Hops, Agility & Flair
For those who didn’t know how great an athlete Dominique Wilkins was before the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest, they definitely knew afterwards. Although he went on to lose that contest (by two points) to Michael Jordan himself, many in the viewing audience felt that the wrong man had won. I can’t say that I disagree. The 6’8 Wilkins is actually a native of Paris, France. True story. I can’t be certain, but I think that would make him the greatest basketball player to ever come out of the city of light.
#6. Jason Richardson / Hyper Speed, Handles, Mad Hops & Stupid Flair
Jason Richardson is a 6’6 freak of athletic nature who hails from Saginaw, MI. During his NBA prime ‘Jay Rich’ was virtually un-guardable. He had other worldly speed and ball handling skills, but what really set him apart was his agility and jumping ability. He had the kind of sheer athletic capability that was easy to be envied.
#5. Shaquille O’Neal / Ridiculous Power, Hops, Handles & Flair
From the moment Shaquille O’Neal set foot on an NBA court, the league had never seen an athlete of his size that could move with that kind of grace, and ease. When you add raw power and agility to the mix, you have one of the greatest big men to ever lace them up in the NBA. Simply put, ‘Shaq’ was a freak of the universe. The 7’1 center from Newark, NJ is a lock for the Hall of Fame if there ever was one. His likes might never come around again.
#4. Julius “Dr. J” Erving / Speed, Power, Crazy Hops, Stupid Flair, Agility
It could be argued that Julius Erving is the ‘Babe Ruth’ of the NBA. I would be willing to argue that point. Dr. J showcased jaw-dropping athletic feats that have achieved mythical status in our culture. With very good reason. Not only was he was the greatest basketball player of his era, but also the greatest athlete. East Meadow, New York’s own, Julius was among the original Rucker Park legends. A reputation he took with him to the ABA, and then the NBA. Before there was ‘Air Jordan’ there was the ‘Doctor’.
#4. Kobe ‘Black Mamba’ Bryant / Crazy Speed, Grace, Mad Handles, Flair, Stupid Hops
This NBA season (2015-16) marks the final go-around for one of the best pure athletes the NBA has ever seen. In his prime, there wasn’t anything Kobe Bryant couldn’t do, and could’t do at a level that superseded his NBA contemporaries. He was that kind of ball player, he was that kind of athlete. This 6’6 baller originally from Philadelphia, PA has a legacy that is the envy of many, and rivaled by few. A remarkable specimen.
#3. Vince Carter / Other Worldly Hops, Agility, Speed, Mad Flair & Handles
Do you remember where you were when Vince Carter ‘posterized’ that guy? Well, try and trim it down to the most memorable half dozen times. I’m not sure that the NBA has ever seen a player that could jump through the rafters and have a sandwich before he landed. When you think of a transcendent NBA athlete, it’s difficult not to think about Mr. Carter. This 6’6 ‘amazo’ from Daytona Beach, FL, is one of the greatest athletes the NBA has ever seen and that is in no way an overstatement.
#2. Michael “Air” Jordan / Astronaut Hops, Crazy Flair, Agility, Handles, Speed, Name it.What can you say that hasn’t been screamed from every rooftop worldwide, with regards to Michael Jordan? It’s all true. He is the greatest professional basketball player in the history of professional basketball. Needless to say, there’s a significant athletic component to him that made that possible. He was a once in a generational athlete, and competitor, and winner. But let’s focus on athleticism. Not many can rival him, in fact the only man who can is next and 1st on this list, mainly due to his size advantage, nothing more. This 6’6 shooting guard originally from Brooklyn, NY has a legacy that will remain unrivaled, perhaps forever, and certainly in my lifetime. I feel fortunate to have witnessed.
#1. LeBron James / Locomotive Power, Speed, Agility, Hip Hops, Flair & Handles
When you are 6’8 and weigh in the neighborhood of 250-260 pounds, and can move as if you were 5’5, it is safe to say that you are a supremely gifted athlete. LeBron James is everything Michael Jordan was as an athlete, except that he has the additional quality of chiseled size and brute strength. At his peak LeBron could go around you, or through you. This was up to the defender, and the status of his health insurance. If you were to mix Shaq O’Neal, and Michael Jordan, you might get LeBron James. The Akron, OH native is still building his already amazing legacy. When it comes to pure athletic ability in the profession of the NBA, there is LeBron James, and then everyone else. #Unreal