Top NBA 10 Best Players of the 90s

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In what most experts and analysts call the “golden age of basketball”—the 1990s—the hardwood was graced by some amazing players. From Michael Jordan to Karl Malone to David Robinson, the 1990s brought fans some of the greatest individual and team matchups in the history of the game.

In a decade filled with Hall of Famers and NBA legends, selecting the best 25 players is no easy task, but it’s certainly possible.

To be considered for this list, a player must have played at least five seasons during the 1990s, which are defined as the 1989-90 through the 1998-99 seasons.

Ahead is a breakdown of the best 10 players to play during the 1990s.

10. Patrick Ewing, C, New York Knicks

Eight-time NBA All-Star, 1990 All-NBA First Team

Patrick Ewing owned the 1990s by leading the Knicks to a playoff appearance from 1990-1999 and two NBA Finals appearances too. Unfortunately, the NBA title eluded him in the 90s, and it’s the one accomplishment he was never able to acquire.

When you look solely at production, though, Ewing rises to the top of dominant centers of the 90s, as he averaged a double-double and 50-percent shooting over the 10 year span.

Unlike other centers mentioned on this list before him, Ewing was able to spread the court with his mid-range jumper, and that made him that much more deadly. With his seven-foot, 240-pound frame, he was also a beast on the defensive side of the ball. It’s a shame he never won an NBA ring because he certainly deserved one.

9. Clyde Drexler, SF, Portland Trail Blazers

1995 NBA Champion, Seven-time NBA All-Star, 1992 All-NBA First Team

Clyde “The Glide” Drexler barely missed the list of the 25 best players of the 1980s, but he’s the first player to crack the top 10 in the 90s. When you look at his production across the board, it’s clear to see why.

Putting up the production over nine years that Drexler did is no easy task, and the best part of his production is that it helped the Houston Rockets win the 1995 NBA title.

Drexler was known best for the way he flew around the court with ease, but he was much more than just an athletic player. He was complete in every fashion of the term. He played defense, he rebounded and he knew how to find teammates. Drexler was a truly special talent and one of the best players to grace the golden age of basketball.

8. John Stockton, PG, Utah Jazz

Eight-time NBA All-Star, 1993 NBA All-Star Game MVP, Two-time All-NBA First Team, Seven-time NBA Assists Leader

John Stockton may have been one of the most intelligent players to ever play in the NBA. He picked apart defenses in the pick-and-roll transition and made it look way too easy.

The fact that he shot 51.6 percent in the 90s doesn’t show that was the NBA’s greatest shooter. It shows his intelligence and his impressive ability to create high-percentage shots for himself.

Better than any player not named Magic Johnson, Stockton knew how to draw defense toward him in the paint and dish the ball to wide-open big men for high-percentage shots. Stockton’s intelligent play showed that there is more to excelling in the NBA than being an athletically-gifted player.

7. Charles Barkley, PF, Phoenix Suns

1993 NBA MVP, Eight-time NBA All-Star, Two-time All-NBA First Team, 1991 NBA All-Star Game MVP

Charles Barkley made dominating nearly every facet of the game in the 90s look so easy. While he certainly put the work in, the way Barkley played made it look like he was rarely trying. That’s just how good he was.

The “Round Mound of Rebound” was also an extremely cerebral player. He knew how to get into the head of his opponents, which made it that much easier for him to dominate in the paint.

Barkley’s carefree attitude, and the fact that he never won an NBA title, certainly hurts his legacy. But when you look at production, he’s one of a few, elite players in the 90s who dominated at a double-double and 50 percent shooting average level.

6. Shaquille O’Neal, C, L.A. Lakers

Six-time NBA All-Star, 1995 NBA Scoring Champion, 1998 All-NBA First Team, 1993 Rookie of the Year, 1993 NBA All-Rookie First Team

Shaquille O’Neal came into the NBA in 1992, and he dominated from day one. From winning the 1993 Rookie of the Year award to winning the 1995 scoring title two years later, O’Neal showed he was ready to be take over the NBA.

While he did that on an individual level in the 90s, it wasn’t until the next decade when he turned his individual success into rings.

O’Neal may not have been the most versatile in the league, but he certainly knew how to make the most of his size, and that’s all that mattered for the Big Diesel. It’s not often that a player is able to dominate over the span of two decades, but O’Neal did just that, and his stranglehold on the NBA started in the 90s.

5. Scottie Pippen, SF, Chicago Bulls

Six-time NBA Champion, Seven-time NBA All-Star, 1994 NBA All-Star Game MVP, Three-time NBA All-First Team, Eight-time NBA All-Defensive First Team

Some will say that Scottie Pippen rode the coattails of Michael Jordan’s success, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Looking at Pippen’s production in the 90s shows just how complete of a player he was. It doesn’t even aptly display how dominant of a defensive player he was. It’s shocking that he never won a Defensive Player of the Year award, but that shows the kind of dominant play he was going up against.

Pippen was an enormous piece of Jordan’s success. Pippen’s ability to keep opposing defenses honest on the wing made life easier for Jordan, and it also helped display just how complete of a player he truly was. Pippen doesn’t get near the level of attention he should for the Bulls’ dominance in the 90s.

Pippen gave the Bulls the tough-nosed, gritty attitude that helped them dominate in the 90s. If you don’t believe me, just ask Patrick Ewing.

4. Karl Malone, PF, Utah Jazz

Two-time NBA MVP, Nine-time NBA All-Star, 10-time All-NBA First Team, Three-time NBA All-Defensive First Team, 1993 NBA All-Star Game MVP

The only times when Karl Malone averaged less than 20 points per game during a season were during his first and last years in the NBA. That kind of consistency is what made Malone such a dominant player in the 90s.

With Malone in the 90s, the Jazz never missed a playoffs, and they even made back-to-back NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998. While they lost those battles with the Chicago Bulls, it shows how dominant Malone was during the decade.

Malone had to consistently go up against players in the Western Conference like David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley, and that shows just how impressive his production in the 90s truly was. It’s a shame the “Mail Man” could never turn his dominance into a title, though, because he’ll forever be known as another player who just couldn’t get it done.

3. David Robinson, C, San Antonio Spurs

1999 NBA Champion, 1995 NBA MVP, 1992 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Eight-time NBA All-Star, Four-time NBA All-Star, Four-time NBA All-Defensive First Team, 1990 NBA Rookie of the Year, 1990 NBA All-Rookie First Team

The Admiral, David Robinson, was a truly special player. Not only did he dominate on the court with ridiculous, double-double averages in the 90s, he also carried himself like a true professional off the court.

While Robinson looked like a professional bodybuilder, he was a polished player on both sides of the ball, as evidenced by the fundamental skills that defined his game.

That’s not to say that he wasn’t explosive on either side of the ball. He even scored 71 points in the final regular season game of the 1994 season, trailing Shaquille O’Neal by 33 points for the 1994 scoring title. More importantly, Robinson was a leader, a mentor and a disciplined player. His character on and off the court defined his legacy, and that’s why he’s in the top end of legendary players of the 90s.

2. Hakeem Olajuwon, C, Houston Rockets

Two-time NBA Champion, Two-time NBA Finals MVP, 1994 NBA MVP, Seven-time NBA All-Star, Three-time All-NBA First Team, Three-time NBA All-Defensive First Team

There’s a reason why LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Amar’e Stoudemire want to work out with Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, and it’s because he’s one of the greatest post players in the history of the game.

Not only was he dominant in the post, he was also able to spread the floor with his deadly stroke from anywhere within 15 feet of the basket. His up-and-under and his “dream shake” were absolutely deadly, and they helped him lead the Rockets to back-to-back NBA titles against the Knicks, with Patrick Ewing, and the Magic with Shaquille O’Neal.

Olajuwon was a man of few words, which meant he did his speaking on the court. During the golden age of basketball, Olajuwon out-shined flashier and more athletic players by simply beating them with the fundamentals of the game.

1. Michael Jordan, SG, Chicago Bulls

Six-time NBA Champion, Six-time NBA Finals MVP, Four-time NBA MVP, Seven-time NBA All-Star, Two-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, Seven-time NBA Scoring Champion, Two-time NBA Steals Champion, Seven-time All-NBA First Team, Seven-time NBA All-Defensive First Team

You saw this one coming, right? Michael Jordan isn’t just the greatest player in the history of the game. He’s also the most dominant player of the 1990s.

When you consider the talent he went up against, his production looks that much more impressive. Thirty points per game, all while shooting above 50 percent over eight years, is absolutely unbelievable, and it’s something that we may never see again.

While I gave Jordan’s court partner, Scottie Pippen, a lot of love a few slides ago, there’s no doubt that without Jordan, the Bulls would’ve never been the team they were during the 90s. Jordan out-shined every player he went up against, and he did so on the biggest of stages in the NBA Finals. Here is a list of players he beat in the NBA Finals: Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton and Karl Malone.

Not too shabby, especially when you consider that Jordan never lost an NBA Finals series that he played in. Greatness isn’t handed out; it’s earned, and that’s the story of Jordan’s career. His hard work and will to win is why he’s the greatest player of the 90s.

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