We tackled Nylon Calculus’ ‘My Personal NBA Top 50’ skewed based on the values and history of the San Antonio Spurs.
As one of just six franchises to win five or more championships, the San Antonio Spurs have one of the league’s most revered cultures. Even prior to the Gregg Popovich-Tim Duncan era, the Spurs have been a consistently competitive franchise.
Since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, San Antonio has continuously put together winning seasons by instilling the same values of ingenuity, longevity, consistency and camaraderie while going against the grain of the league and building their own brand of basketball.
With these values in mind, we decided to play around with the new ‘My Personal NBA Top 50’ by FanSided’s Nylon Calculus to determine the greatest players of all-time with respect to the San Antonio Spurs. To try the tool out for yourself, click here.
More from Air Alamo
- San Antonio Spurs should focus on getting draft picks for Aldridge
- Dear Adam Silver: The Spurs won’t be ignored, despite your best efforts
- San Antonio Spurs: Grading LaMarcus Aldridge’s career in San Antonio
- San Antonio Spurs: 3 Things that stood out in win over Orlando Magic
- Spurs: Mapping out 5 LaMarcus Aldridge trades in NBA 2K
The following categories were separated by one notch in order of most important to least important traits: Team success (Career Postseason Win Shares), Longevity (Career Regular Season Win Shares), Superiority (League Awards), and Peak form (Best single-season win shares).
As is always with the Spurs, team success goes ahead of anything else. If the team’s not winning then what’s the point of putting up a nice statline? Longevity follows closely behind because sustaining success is almost as important as gaining the success in the first place.
Superiority ranks ahead of peak form because earning the hardware can back up a player’s greatness, as Tim Duncan’s two MVP trophies or Manu Ginobili’s Sixth Man of the Year award have proven. Peak performance is important, but Duncan won multiple championships past his peak and David Robinson exclusively won championships in the latter stages of his career.
In the next set of traits, the most important quality was number of rings followed by career efficiency and then career points per game. All decades and positions were treated equally and Spurs were prioritized ahead of other teams.
Without further ado, here are the results of the top players of all time with a Spurs perspective. Before cracking the top 10, some notable Spurs figures made their way into the Top 50.
Next: No. 49 - Kawhi Leonard
No. 49 – Kawhi Leonard
All things considered, Kawhi Leonard put together an excellent run in his time with the San Antonio Spurs. It didn’t end quite how fans expected, but Kawhi earned two Defensive Player of the Year honors and a Finals MVP while finishing as a top MVP candidate on multiple occasions.
There’s no telling where Kawhi will fall on this list when it’s all said and done but he’s well on his way to the Hall of Fame.
During seven seasons in the Silver and Black, Leonard averaged 16.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals per contest. He improved in every season he played for the Spurs until he suffered his degenerative quad injury ahead of the 2017-18 season.
Say what you want about Kawhi’s ugly departure last year but he gave a lot to the team before things went south. It was a rocky ending and will always invoke mixed feelings for the die-hard fanbase but the city seemed to truly love Kawhi during his time in the silver and black.
Kawhi’s development over the last eight seasons is one of the greatest accomplishments of both Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio development staff. He always had the fire within to become the best version of himself on the court but Pop understood what it would take for Kawhi to become a truly great player and put him in position to blossom.
Whether he settles in the north or heads back home to the west coast in free agency is to be determined, but the final legacy of Leonard’s career is still being written.
Next: No. 46 - Pau Gasol
No. 46 – Pau Gasol
Now in his 18th season in the NBA, power forward/center Pau Gasol continues to contribute meaningful minutes to the San Antonio Spurs. The five-time All Star uses his keen wits, high basketball IQ and daunting frame to initiate offense and protect the rim.
Gasol’s resume grows increasingly impressive with two championships, four All-NBA selections and a spot at the top of the Spanish national team’s all-time scoring list. He cracked the top forty on the NBA’s all-time scoring list and the top 30 on the all-time rebounding list.
For his career, Gasol averages 17.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game on 50.8 percent shooting from the field and 36.9 percent shooting from behind the arc. He’s got championship DNA coursing through his veins and has been relied upon in many creative roles in his career.
More than anything, Gasol is a powerful locker room presence wherever he goes. With a genuine attitude and open mind, Gasol has done an excellent job of leaving a positive mark his teams both on and off the court.
Though he’s only spent a brief portion of his career in a Spurs uniform, Pau is already a great embodiment of the Spurs way. He’s got championship experience, longevity and team success that’ll brush off on peers along the way.
Even as the tempo of the NBA has outgrown Pau, he still gives scorers a fit near the basket and rebounds as well as anyone. He’s expanded his range and sets up plays for others while providing a level of offensive versatility that’s rare of veterans in the modern league.
If things continue the way that they have for Gasol, he’ll be able to play for as long as he wants.
Next: No. 34 - Tony Parker
No. 34 – Tony Parker
Not only is Tony Parker the greatest point guard in franchise history, but he’s one of the most renowned international talents the league has ever seen. We’ve seen him evolve his game each season for over a decade, adapting to trends in the game while finding new ways to initiate offense.
Parker’s career averages of 15.8 points and 5.7 assists per game don’t do justice to his actual on-court impact — TP9 is a gamechanger. He compliments his masterful assortment of dribble moves and ball fakes with a soft jumper and keen eye for passing lanes.
Through the course of his career, Parker established himself as one of the deadliest covers out of the pick-and-roll while gradually evolving as a three-point shooter.
Of all of Parker’s moves, the signature floater reigns supreme. Few players in the history of the game have the timing and form that Parker possesses on his go-to shot. For many young hoopers around the world, Parker proved that size doesn’t limit a point guard’s shot-making ability near the basket.
Tony has racked up the hardware to back up his spot on the list. The four-time champion has been selected to six All-Star teams en route to four All-NBA appearances. He earned a spot on the 2002 All-Rookie team because of his early impact on San Antonio in 2002.
I also heard that he might’ve won a Finals MVP Trophy in 2007, you guys know anything about that?
Like his legendary Big Three counterparts, Parker holds a special place in the hierarchy of Spurs legends. His departure from San Antonio brought about a flurry of emotions for the passionate fans but many are glad to see him adapting to Charlotte well.
No matter what, Parker is and always will be a Spur.
Next: No. 29 - Manu Ginobili
No. 29 – Manu Ginobili
Anyone who tracked the career of Argentinian superstar can attest, there are few competitors as driven and spirited as Manu Ginobili. Over the course of his 16 seasons in the NBA, Ginobili pulled off seemingly inconceivable stunts while establishing himself as the game’s most creative scorer.
Many credit Ginobili with the modernization of the euro step. The lefty’s uncanny playmaking talents and high IQ have garnered the respect of basketball purists across the world. Though his career stats don’t necessarily jump off the page, Ginobili is responsible for a considerable amount of San Antonio’s success over the last two decades.
The two-time All Star finished his career with four championships, two All-NBA selections, a selection to the 2003 All-Rookie team and a Sixth Man of the Year title in 2008.
As the heart and soul of the San Antonio Spurs during his playing days, Ginobili’s influence was paramount in sustaining the organization’s culture of success. His intense focus on winning rubbed off on those around him, helping to shape the careers of his peers while holding a foundational position in the lineup.
Ginobili’s performance was crucial to the Argentinian national team’s 2004 Olympic gold medal run. A young and spry Ginobili led his country past the United States and Italy to claim the gold medal in Athens, Greece.
For basketball players across the globe, Ginobili is one of the most influential figures in professional basketball for his ingenuity and groundbreaking offensive ability. Manu welcomed contact and drew charges like no other, putting his body on the line till the very end of his career.
Manu is a sure fire Hall of Famer and will remain a favorite in the Alamo City for centuries to come.
Next: No. 23 - George Gervin
No. 23 – George Gervin
Few player operated as smoothly as George ‘The Iceman’ Gervin over the course of his NBA career. For 15 years, Gervin terrorized defenders with a marvelous acrobatic play style while attacking the boards and giving his all on the defensive end of the floor.
The Iceman played 12 seasons in San Antonio, posting an average of 26.3 points and 5.3 rebounds on 50.8 percent shooting from the field. Not only did Gervin restructure the way wings operated near the basket, but he invented the modern finger roll layup.
Gervin was dubbed the Iceman for his cool, calm and collected demeanor while distributing buckets. The Hall of Famer was selected to a whopping 12 All Star games and made seven All-NBA teams in his career. He led the league in scoring four times and was responsible for keeping San Antonio competitive through the transition from the ABA to the NBA.
To this day, Gervin is a cherished member of the San Antonio community. The legend remains active in the area with multiple organizations aimed at helping underprivileged youth in San Antonio. He’s a class act and is respected as such for his long term impact on both the city and the game.
At the time of his retirement, Gervin was atop the all-time blocks list for NBA guards and currently ranks 10th in points per contest for any player in the history of recorded stats.
While his time in Chicago was brief, Gervin was crucial in the Bulls’ transition to the Michael Jordan era in the mid 80’s. Gervin’s place in NBA history is equally as notable as his influence on each of the organizations he touched.
Next: No. 10 - Bill Russell
No. 10 – Bill Russell
There have been plenty of great players who’ve set incredible personal records but few have had careers as illustrious as that of William Felton Russell. The argument for Russell’s place as a top 10 player of all time is simple: he’s won the most rings of any individual to ever play.
From the time that he was drafted till the day he retired, Bill Russell led the Boston Celtics to championship victories in all but one of his 13 seasons between 1957 and 1969. He finished with a career average of 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game while holding down the paint as one of the greatest rim defenders to ever play.
Blocks and steals were not recorded during Russell’s day so it’s hard to prove just how impactful Russell was on the defensive end. With that said, Russell was an elite rim defender with the timing and instinct to block shots easily.
To be fair, Russell played in a very different NBA with ‘average joes’ lacing up for a small pool of teams. Still, he set the tone for all bigs to come with his defensive intensity and emphasis on protecting the paint.
Russell wasn’t a particularly versatile scorer and is often criticized because of the lack of competition he faced, but the basketball world generally regards him with immense respect and affection. No one can truly gauge how effective he’d be in another era but the stats speak for themselves — Russell is a legend in his own right.
If his 11 NBA championships, five MVP awards and 12 All Star appearances didn’t make it clear, Russell easily slides in as one of the game’s all-time greats.
Next: No. 9 - David Robinson
No. 9 – David Robinson
Before there was a Big Three, there was David Robinson, a physical specimen whose sheer domination of the court stretched to both sides of the game. Maybe even more so than Tim Duncan himself, ‘The Admiral’ is synonymous with the city of San Antonio.
Robinson’s military background and high quality of character formed an instant connection between the superstar and the city that drafted him.
For 14 seasons, the Admiral asserted his will onto defenders with a deadly post game and immense interior presence. Standing at 7-foot-1 with roughly 250 lbs of muscle, the 10-time All Star ranks sixth all time in blocks and finished with a career average of 21.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and three blocks per game.
At his peak, Robinson was a one-of-a-kind player as his traditional big man skill set was complemented by an overlooked ability to handle the ball and find teammates. He’s the type of player that could easily play in any generation of basketball and excel because of his wide array of offensive capabilities.
In 1995, Robinson was named the league’s most valuable player for leading San Antonio to a 62-20 record in the regular season. The Admiral posted 27.6 points per game on 53 percent shooting in addition to 10.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 1.2 steals.
Few players can match the hardware earned over the course of Robinson’s career. The two-time champion won the 1990 Rookie of the Year, the 1992 Defensive Player of the Year award for leading the league in blocks and earned the scoring title in 1994. Furthermore, he was selected to 10 All-NBA teams and eight All-Defensive teams over the course of his career.
Robinson is one of four players to record a quadruple-double and scored the eighth most points in a single game with 71 points in a 112-97 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in 1994.
Even with all of these accolades to boast, Robinson is a humble and kind individual who loves and cares about San Antonio deeply. For many Spurs fans, Robinson is remembered as the GOAT for his commitment to the Alamo City both on and off the court.
Next: No. 8 - Magic Johnson
No. 8 – Magic Johnson
Before he was part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and president of basketball operations for the Lakers, Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. was the hottest commodity in basketball. From an early age, Magic dominated the competition with the size of a forward and the quickness of a guard.
Magic was the face of showtime in Hollywood during a pivotal moment in American culture. In a media-driven world, Johnson became an international superstar for his unorthodox play style and unfathomable playmaking.
He wasn’t typically the type of player that’d blow you away with his own scoring, though he did on many occasions. His specialty was serving up passes to his teammates and making everyone else on the floor better. Just with his presence, Magic commanded the attention of defenders and made passes that many point guards couldn’t dream of throwing.
When it was all said and done, Magic walked away with five championships and three MVP trophies in Los Angeles. His career was tragically cut short due to illness but he still managed to rack up enough dimes to place fifth on the all-time assist list.
For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points, 11.2 assists and 7.2 rebounds along with some astonishingly effective guard defense for a player of his size. He averaged just under two steals per game and led the league in steals twice.
Johnson brought an unmatched sense of swagger that transformed the landscape of point guards forever. He revolutionized the fastbreak by make passing and ball handling glamorous which set the pace for the future of his position.
Next: No. 7 - Kobe Bryant
No. 7 – Kobe Bryant
Oh, Kobe. Where do I even begin?
For 20 years, the Black Mamba was a pain in the side of Spurs fans everywhere. To be fair, he was a pain for anyone who he competed against, but the Kobe-led Lakers and Timmy-led Spurs battled for reign of the Western Conference for over a decade.
San Antonio and L.A. represented the West in 13-of-16 seasons between 1999-2014 with both franchises winning five championships each in that span.
Kobe’s competitive nature is not only on par with the greatest players in the history of the game, but it borders the greatest competitors in human history. His unrelenting need to be great drove him in all of his endeavors, oftentimes to the detriment of the Spurs.
There is nothing that Bryant couldn’t do with a basketball in his hands. He was an All-NBA quality defender for most of his career and was a threat to score from anywhere on the floor. He was a quality passer and ball handler with the timing and knowhow to create open shots for himself and his teammates.
He finished his career third on the all-time scoring list with 33,643 points for a career average of 25 points per game. Kobe was an All-Star in 18 of his 20 seasons and made 15 All-NBA teams.
It’s easy to nitpick at Bryant’s career since he finished with the most missed field goals of any player, but he was forced to carry bad teams through various transitionary periods for his Lakers. The fact of the matter is that Bryant finished his career with the achievements and glory to back up his status as an All-Time great and no stat can negate that fact.
Kobe was a great sidekick to the real MVP of the mid-2000’s Lakers, Pau Gasol.
Next: No. 6 - Shaquille O'Neal
No. 6 – Shaquille O’Neal
Shaq Diesel is more than a Hall of Fame basketball player, he’s an American icon. The man of many nicknames is one of the most recognizable individuals of the last two decades for his huge personality and vested interests in acting, policing, music, television and Gold Bond skin care products.
During his playing days, Shaq was the most prolific paint scorer of post-Jordan era. By using his immense size and strength, Shaq manned the middle and took complete control of the interior on both ends of the floor. He had no problem blocking a shot, running down the floor and dunking on whoever dared to hover under the rim.
Unlike many of the greats mentioned previously, O’Neal wasn’t necessarily versatile. He wasn’t a jump shooter or an exceptional passer but instead used his footwork and confidence to overwhelm his opponents. He had an array of ball fakes and drop steps that he used embarrass defenders and score with relative ease.
The Big Aristotle averaged 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds over 19 seasons in the NBA. He earned 14 All-NBA selections in that time and took home four championships (three in Los Angeles and one in Miami).
Shaq is currently eighth on the All-Time scoring list with a final total of 28,596 points scored in his pro career. His career player efficiency rating (PER) is 26.43 which is the third highest of any player in NBA/ABA history. Few players manage to remain effective late in their careers but Shaq always managed to make the game look effortless.
For any student of the game that wants to learn how to use physicality to abuse their competition, O’Neal is the perfect player to analyze.
Next: No. 5 - Wilt Chamberlain
No. 5 – Wilt Chamberlain
More so than many of the players that’ve been compared with him, Wilt Chamberlain paved the way for prevalent seven-footers to take over the game. For 14 seasons, Wilt asserted himself as basketball’s greatest scorer and rebounder. He made 10 All-NBA teams en route to two championships and four MVPs.
Among other things, Wilt holds the record for most points scored in a single game with 100 on 63 shots against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962.
Chamberlain is often praised for his scoring but he reinvented the role of a center within an NBA offense. For a large portion of his career, mainly in Philadelphia, Wilt facilitated his team’s offense from the low post. Since he commanded the undivided attention of multiple defenders, Wilt did a great job of finding teammates around the perimeter or off of cuts to the basket.
He averaged 4.4 dimes per game over the course of his career including a three-year window when he averaged 7.2 assists per game. In addition to his passing, Chamberlain was an incessantly ferocious rebounder with a career average of 22.9 boards per contest.
Wilt is the NBA’s all-time leading rebounder by a comfortable margin with 23,924 rebounds corralled over the course of his playing days.
Chamberlain bulked up to over 300 lbs in his days as a Laker and used his muscle to sustain his excellence deep into his run. Even in his last season at 36-years-old, Wilt grabbed 18.6 rebounds per game and shot a career-high 72.7 percent from the field.
Because of the era in which he played and his unique physicality, there will never be another player quite like Wilt.
Next: No. 4 - Michael Jordan
No. 4 – Michael Jordan
There’s not much that can be said about Michael Jeffrey Jordan besides that which has already been said. His killer mentality, enigmatic confidence and inexplicable jurisdiction over the flow of games made him the most dominant player of his era, a feat achieved by only the upper echelon of NBA guards.
Regardless of where he falls in the All-Time rankings, Jordan stands on a pedestal of his own for his revolutionary influence on the sport. His reign over the NBA is considered by many as the golden age of basketball, largely in part to his presence. The culture surrounding the sport evolved and expanded as a result of Michael Jordan’s legendary career from 1984 to 2003.
From the very beginning, Jordan fought through adversity for the opportunity to elevate his game. MJ was famously cut from his high school varsity team as a teenager but the young baller refused to settle for anything less than excellence. That undersized kid from North Carolina honed his craft for many years before assuming the title of ‘GOAT.’
Jordan earned a wide assortment of awards in his playing career including six Most Valuable Player awards, six championship rings, six Finals MVP trophies, 10 scoring titles and 11 All-NBA selections. He was the 1985 Rookie of the Year and was named Defensive Player of the Year three seasons later.
Space Jam is also the greatest basketball movie ever made, so tack that on to his list of accomplishments.
‘His Airness’ is fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 32,292 points tallied in the duration of his career. His 214.02 win shares ranks fifth all-time and his final player efficiency rating (PER) of 27.91 is the highest recorded by any player in the history of the NBA.
There are plenty of talented players that’ve emulated Jordan’s playstyle and made it there own, but there’s never been a player to successfully replicate the dominance of MJ himself.
Next: No. 3 - LeBron James
No. 3 – LeBron James
Early on, the world knew LeBron James would achieve something great in his lifetime.
In addition to his talent, James was mentally prepared for the burdens and responsibility of superstardom as a teenager. The King went directly from high school to the NBA and immediately began carrying the Cavaliers organization to new heights.
Now in the latter stages of his career, we’ve grown accustomed to LeBron’s massive presence in the landscape of the league. He continues to dominate headlines and uses his platform to promote a more positive and open-minded world.
When evaluating his skills and flaws, it’s easy to reach the conclusion that LeBron is, in theory, the perfect basketball player. He’s sustained a level of peak athleticism that’s never been seen before while keeping himself in excellent health with an ever-changing set of skills.
James has the physicality and expertise to score from wherever he wants. Since entering the league, he has expanded his range and is now one of the game’s most proficient shooters from range. He drives to the basket like a bull charging at a matador and finishes near the rim with an array of signature styles that’ll influence generations to come. He’s one of the best dunkers the game has ever witnessed despite never participating in a Slam Dunk contest.
As a passer, LeBron takes advantage of his unique court vision by hurling passes through tight lanes. An average player can get hot and step up for their team but it’s not often that a player can set himself apart by elevating those around him.
Much of his story is left unwritten and there’s no telling how long James can keep this up but he’s already got a resume to back his historical importance. With a career average of 27.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game, LeBron has made both the All Star and All NBA teams in every season he’s played besides his first year as a pro.
James has five MVP awards and three Finals MVP awards for his three rings. He was named the Rookie of the Year in 2004 and the rest was history. Though they’ve faced off in the Finals multiple times, the rivalry between LeBron and the Spurs is one based in mutual respect and love for the game.
Next: No. 2 - Tim Duncan
No. 2 – Tim Duncan
For 19 seasons, San Antonio Spurs icon Tim Duncan led his team to the postseason while serving as the model of consistency and sustained excellence in the NBA.
With the exclusion of a lockout year, the Spurs won 50 games or more in every year that Timmy played with five championship victories in six Finals appearances. Even into the twilight of his career, Duncan was a reliable rim protector, calculated passer and effortless scorer.
Duncan finished his career with an average statline of 19.8 points per game on 50.6 percent shooting from the field along with 10.8 rebounds, three assists and 2.2 blocks.
The greatest accomplishment of Duncan’s career is the precedent he set for a franchise cornerstone in the modern league. From the minute he arrived, Duncan set the foundation for the team to build a culture based in work ethic, dedication, innovation and family values. He worked tirelessly to evolve his game to fit the needs of his team while remaining flexible as the team developed.
Right off the bat, Duncan became a transcendent force in the league. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1998 and led the Spurs along with David Robinson to the franchise’s first title in 1999. From that point on, Duncan was a constant in the landscape of NBA stardom.
15 was the magic number for Duncan – he made 15 All-NBA teams, 15 All Star teams and 15 All-Defensive team selections during his career. Furthermore, Duncan is sixth on the all-time rebounding list with 15,091 boards in total.
Timmy finished his career with the second most defensive win shares of any player in history with 106.34. He also finished his career fifth in blocks with 3,020.
His stats, while impressive, don’t tell the whole story with Duncan. The casual fan may see his all-time rankings and shrug him aside in favor of other players behind him on this list. Duncan differentiated himself from the traditional superstar by redefining the way we look at the game’s best players. From the minute he was drafted, Duncan committed himself to the San Antonio Spurs way, writing the script as time went on.
Coach Pop best described Duncan’s impact in an interview with News 4 San Antonio’s Jeff Garcia in 2017:
“Everybody just responded to his example on and off the court, the way he practiced, coming early and staying late. The way he handled wins. The way he handled losses.”
“He was such a competitor on the court without wanting to be in front of the camera or anything like that. I think more than anything, that was the basis for our long-term success.”
Everything Duncan did for 19 seasons was for the greater good of his team. For this reason, he’ll always be considered the GOAT by Spurs fans.
Next: No. 1 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
No. 1 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Although he’s often overshadowed in the mainstream ‘GOAT’ conversations, Kareem Abdul- Jabbar’s case as the greatest player of all time is firm. First and foremost, Kareem is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer by a country mile.
His 38,387 points came over the course of an illustrious 20-year career that earned six Most Valuable Player awards and six championships. Formerly known as Lew Alcindor, Kareem demolished his competition on the low block with an elite selection of ball fakes and post moves.
Not only did he invent the sky hook, but he proved that centers could do more than just attack the rim with his reliable mid range jumpshot. His soft touch around the basket allowed the seven-footer to score through contact and draw fouls.
Kareem covers all of the criteria for the No. 1 spot: incredible longevity, sustained team success, multiple championships, individual success and statistical excellence. He may not be as flashy or popular as Jordan or LeBron but he’s still equally as distinguished in the scope of basketball history.
He made the All Star team in 19-of-20 seasons played and made 11 All-Defensive team appearances during that time. Abdul-Jabbar transitioned from Milwaukee to Los Angeles without losing a step on either end of the floor and adapted to all of the circumstances he endured between the two organizations.
Off the court, Kareem is still a social activist with strong views on the way the world functions. He used his platform to promote peace and positivity amongst people of all races and religions. Abdul-Jabbar is a published author, cultural ambassador and is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his ongoing contributions to important conversations in our world.
Even though Timmy will always be the GOAT in the heart of Spurs fans, Kareem takes the cake for his complete body of work and outstanding impact on the world around him.