Throughout NBA history, there have been elite players fighting to make a name for themselves. Some come into the league with so much hype that it isn’t always easy to live up to it. And that can make or break their career, especially if they are the first pick of their draft.
Being the number one pick isn’t easy, and sometimes players fail to reach their expectations. As a result, they are labeled a “bust” and could travel from team to team. Of course, that is if they are in the league at all.
But what about the No.1 picks that have great careers? Let’s take a look at some of the best No. 1 picks of all time.
1.) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the greatest players of all time. He has the record for most points in a career with 38,387 points, and he is third in all-time rebounding with 17,440. The only two players to have more rebounds than Abdul-Jabbar (excluding Moses Malone in his time with the ABA) are legendary centers, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.
Abdul-Jabbar was the first pick of the 1969 draft when he was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks. At this time, he was known as Lew Alcindor. Abdul-Jabbar won a championship in the second year of his career, giving the Bucks their first championship in history.
He remained with the Bucks for four more years before the Bucks traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers. And history was made.
Abdul-Jabbar went on to win five more championships throughout his time with the Lakers. He also added three more MVPs to his resume for a total of six.
The great center had so many accolades under his belt, and it’s safe to say he’s one of the best No. 1 picks of all time. But one of his teammates should be in conversations as well.
2.) Magic Johnson
Earvin “Magic” Johnson was the first pick of the 1979 draft. He was a star in college (Michigan State), and with his exceptional skills and personality, he was bound to be a star in the NBA.
The Lakers drafted Johnson to play alongside Abdul-Jabbar, and in Johnson’s rookie year, he helped the Lakers win a championship. He became one of four players to win an NCAA and NBA championship in consecutive years.
Johnson had an illustrious career, including five championships, three MVPs, and a 12-time All-Star. He changed the game and, in a way, paved the way for tall guards like Luka Doncic. Johnson was a great first pick, and he has the accolades to prove it. And more former Lakers could be on this list.
3.) Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal is one of the best centers in NBA history. He dominated opponents unlike any other. He was the first pick of the 1992 draft. It was the year of big men as center Alonzo Mourning was the second pick, and power forward Christian Laettner was third.
O’Neal won a total of four championships, including one with the Miami Heat in 2006. He won an MVP award in 2000 in a season where he averaged 30.7 points and 15.4 rebounds (both career-highs). O’Neal was a unique talent, and he had the ability to turn a franchise around.
4.) LeBron James
LeBron James is the only active player on this list. He was the first pick of the 2003 draft, and since then, he’s made an impact.
James is a four-time champion, four-time MVP and more.
James started his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and after joining the Miami Heat, he returned to Cleveland. But James currently plays for the Lakers, where he won his fourth championship.
The Lakers forward is still going strong despite recent injuries. He still has a few years left, and before it’s said and done, he’ll have more accolades. James, along with others on this list, were great No.1 picks. And they (along with others) made an impact on not only their teams but the league period.