Every generation of NBA basketball has its stars. Players that are named to All-Star teams, capture championship gold and grab the headlines. To put it simply, players that are just better than the rest. However, some go beyond stardom in their impact on the basketball court. This rare breed’s effect on the hardwood is so significant, they literally change the way the game is played.
George Mikan was one such player; the Lakers legend was so vastly superior to his peers in the physical sense that the league was forced to change its rules to give them a chance to compete. During the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers won two games in one of the most mismatched series in recent memory for no other reason but LeBron James’ complete dominance.
The common thread? Mikan and James were unguardable. Despite the other players that were on the floor, regardless of the circumstances around them, there was simply nothing opponents could do to stop them.
So just which players were the most unguardable in the history of the NBA? Here is TickPick’s Top 5.
5.) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
There are many reasons why Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points. Not only was he simply bigger and better than the competition, but he also had one of the most unstoppable moves in hoops history at his disposal.
The sky hook.
4.) LeBron James
I hate to be the broken record, but I’m going to continue to tell anyone that will listen–LeBron James is arguably the most physically-impressive athlete in NBA history.
Make no mistake about it, the Cavs did not steal two Finals wins from the Golden State Warriors. LBJ stole two (nearly three) Finals wins from the Golden State Warriors. Coach Steve Kerr’s team simply had no answer for the King.
Of course, the same could be said for every other team in the Association. Combining the size of Karl Malone, court vision of Magic Johnson and MJ-like killer instinct, James is truly one of the most unguardable players ever to play the game.
3.) Michael Jordan
His Airness in the flesh, Michael Jordan is arguably the most iconic figure in sports history. He reached this status for a litany of reasons, the utter impossibility of hoping to stop him being chief among them.
I could give you numbers; a 30.1 points per game average that ranks No. 1 all-time in the NBA, 32,292 total points, six world championships with the Chicago Bulls, etc. etc. But honestly, who needs them? This is Michael Jordan we’re talking about.
2.) Shaquille O’Neal
The Diesel, Superman in the flesh, Shaquille O’Neal was Mikan-like in that he was simply too large to contend with on the low block. People will argue that all one had to do was foul O’Neal to keep him from scoring the ball, but isn’t this the ultimate admission that he can’t be guarded?
Indeed, the only person capable of stopping big Shaq was Shaq himself. Nobody affected a basketball game in his day like O’Neal. Even the referees were unsure how to handle the bruising center with his unique brand of footwork and physicality.
If injuries and conditioning issues hadn’t slowed him down or if he had stayed with the Lakers, there’s no telling how many championships O’Neal’s drop-step could have delivered.
1.) Wilt Chamberlain
I’ve tried to avoid reciting statistics to you, but Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain’s numbers are so gaudy that they simply must be recounted. Their epic nature reaches video game levels of ridiculousness.
As a member of the Philadelphia Warriors in 1961-62, Chamberlain averaged 50 points per game. FIFTY. The following season was an off-year for Wilt the Stilt–he managed only a meager 44.8 PPG in 1962-63.
1962 also marked the year that Chamberlain had the single greatest game performance that will ever be recorded. In a game against the New York Knicks, Wilt scored 100 points.
One. Hundred. Points. Most unguardable player of all time. The end.