Throughout basketball history, we've witnessed the most talented athletes in the world take the NBA by storm. Then again, just a handful of them is able to step up from the rest and build a legacy of their own.
Some players can dominate for a couple of seasons. Then, poor work ethic, bad luck, injuries, or defenses making adjustments take a toll on their game. Others never take the foot off the gas and torch their rivals for decades.
That's why today, we're going to honor the latter, talking about the top 15 NBA scoring leaders of all-time. Note: we're not going to include players from the defunct ABA, and their numbers are udpated as of the 2019-20 season.
15. Carmelo Anthony - 26,446 Points
Carmelo Anthony deserves a huge apology from the NBA. He was mistreated, labeled as a scapegoat, and robbed of over a year of his career a couple of seasons ago. Now, he's back where he was always supposed to be.
Anthony is one of the greatest offensive talents of all time. Even if his game isn't exactly suited for today's full-motion offense, he'll still go down as one of the deadliest scorers to ever do it, posting a career average of 23.6 points per game.
14. Tim Duncan - 26,496 Points
If you thought of Tim Duncan, the word 'scorer' perhaps isn't the first to pop out. However, The Big Fundamental's efficiency and durability helped him crack the list of the 15 leading scorers in NBA history.
Duncan took it upon himself to lead the San Antonio Spurs to the top of the basketball world and you better believe he made it. Averaging just 19.0 points per game, he averaged double-digits in scoring in all but his final year in the NBA.
13. Dominique Wilkins - 26,668 Points
Dominique Wilkins is by far one of the most underrated players of all time. He was one of the most electrifying dunkers to ever live, and one of the most influential players of his generation, believe it or not.
Also, the fact that Wilkins rarely played with a good supporting cast around him also took a toll on his chances to win a ring. Still, he made it to the Hall Of Fame after averaging 24.8 points per game per his career.
12. Oscar Robertson - 26,710 Points
The Big O! Oscar Robertson was Russell Westbrook before Russell Westbrook. In fact, he's the first player to ever average a triple-double for a full season, something that seemed impossible until a couple of years ago.
Robertson could literally do it all on the floor, including scoring. He was bigger, faster, stronger, and way more athletic than the average point guard, and that helped him average 25.7 points per game.
11. Hakeem Olajuwon - 26,946 Points
Some people think of this as a bit of a hot take, but I honestly believe that Hakeem Olajuwon is the greatest two-way big man in NBA history. He could swat shots into the stands and then light the best defenders on earth in the post as not many other players have ever done it.
Olajuwon made sure no one else ate when Michael Jordan retired for the first time and became one of the few players to ever record a quadruple-double. He constantly led the league in blocked shots while averaging 21.8 points per game.
10. Elvin Hayes - 27,313 Points
If you're a younger hoops fans, likely you've never heard of Elvin Hayes. Well, if I were to sum p his game with a word, that would have to be 'dominant'. The Big E was a driving force on both ends of the floor and he was never going to be denied.
Elvin Hayes's physicality and athleticism often gave him a huge strength over his defenders. In fact, he even led the league in rebounds more than once despite being undersized (6'9'') for a center. Also, he averaged 21.0 points per game.
9. Moses Malone - 27,409 Points
Moses Malone was one of those few players whose prime lasted his entire career. Everybody expected him to fall off a cliff with age and that never happened, not even after his team traded him despite being the reigning MVP.
Malone was a physical presence below and above the rim that every team had to reckon. He made a living out of bullying and outhustling opposing defenders, averaging 20.3 points per game until he retired at 39 years old.
8. Shaquille O'Neal - 28,596 Points
When people refer to you as 'The Most Dominant Ever', then you know that you've left your print in the league. That's Shaquille O'Neal's case, as he was the most unstoppable force in the NBA during his prime.
Some people argue that Shaq could've retired as the greatest player to ever do it if he had taken better care of his body and I won't be the one to disagree. Even so, he averaged 23.7 points per game over his career. Imagine if he could make his free-throws!
7. Wilt Chamberlain - 31,419 Points
The man, the legend. Wilt Chamberlain was so dominant and physically gifted that the league had to enforce multiple rule changes to prevent him from having an unfair advantage over his rivals. It didn't work.
Chamberlain is considered the most athletic player in NBA history. He still holds most of the records and many of them aren't likely to be taken down. Ever. That includes his historical 100-point game. Also, he holds the 2nd-highest points-per-game average at 30.07
6. Dirk Nowitzki - 31,560 Points
No one, not even the most optimistic Dallas Mavericks fan ever thought that Dirk Nowitzki was going to go down as the greatest foreign scorer in NBA history. Fast-forward to today, and you know he's responsible for changing the way the power forward spot was played.
Dirk was the greatest shooting big ever. His ability to stretch the floor and efficiently score from all three levels made him deadly until the very day of his retirement, as well as his signature one-legged fadeaway. He averaged 20.7 points per game over his 20-year stint.
5. Michael Jordan - 32,292 Points
There aren't many things we could say about Michael Jordan that haven't been said before. There are plenty of reasons why he's considered the greatest player to ever do it, and his scoring ability might as well be at the top of that list.
Jordan won an NBA-record 10 Scoring Titles (all consecutive). On top of that, he still holds the highest points-per-game average ever with 30.12, and he would've been the league's all-time scorer if he hadn't retired in the middle of his prime.
4. Kobe Bryant - 33,643 Points
If you grew up watching basketball in the 2000s then you must know that there wasn't a better scorer than Kobe Bryant. Kobe lit up opposing defenses in ways the league hadn't seen since Michael Jordan.
Up to this day, Bryant is still the only player to ever come close to Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point outing, scoring 81 vs. the Toronto Raptors. He averaged 25.0 points per game over his 20-year career with the Lakers.
3. LeBron James - 34,241 Points
It's crazy to think that most people don't actually think of LeBron James as an elite scorer despite the fact that he holds the 4th-highest points-per-game average in NBA history at 27.1. I mean, what else does he need to do?
LeBron has only won a scoring title over his career but he's never averaged fewer than 20.9 points per game over a season, and that was during his rookie year. He's a lock to retire as the league's all-time leading scorer.
2. Karl Malone - 36,928 Points
Karl Malone's name isn't mentioned when discussing the greatest players of all time but he should at least crack the top 10 if you take a look at the numbers. At the end of the day, not many players were able to put up the kind of stats he did.
Averaging 25.0 points per game over his 19-year career, The Mailman scored in double-digits throughout every single season of his career. Sadly, issues off the court and the lack of silverware took a massive toll on his reputation.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 38,387 Points
Is it crazy to say that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is somehow underrated? I mean, he's got an NBA-record 6 MVP awards, holds the record for most All-Star Game appearances, won 6 NBA championships, and is the league's all-time leading scorer.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was as crafty as they came on both ends of the floor. He anchored one of the most dominant dynasties in NBA history and averaged 24.6 points per game over a 20-year span.