Years ago, I took the time to compile an “All Time” best fantasy player list. The following shows the first two rounds along with stats and commentary. I adjusted these teams slightly from my original lists which can be found here. Here’s a breakdown of the best fantasy players ever at their respective positions (with Utility listed, too, which can be a player from any position). The players are listed from the team they played their best basketball with.
All Fantasy – 1st team
PG – Oscar Robertson (PG – Mil)
Best Career Year: 1961-62
Stats: 30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 11.4 apg, 47.3% FG, 80.3% FT
This might be the highest ranking season of anyone listed in this group except Wilt Chamberlain. Oscar still remains the only NBA player to AVERAGE a triple double. Jason Kidd has been the closest since with several seasons with 10+ ppg, 10+ apg, and 7-8.5 rpg. But Oscar did it all while scoring 30+ ppg, something Kidd could never hope to eclipse. Steals and blocks were not recorded until the 73-74 season, so we have nothing to base his numbers on except hypothetical play, which would undoubtedly left him in the upper 2.0s in steals with maybe an occasional block.
SG – Michael Jordan (SG – Chi)
Best Career Year: 1988-89
Stats: 32.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 8.0 apg, 2.9 spg, 0.7 bpg, 0.3 threes/g, 53.8% FG, 85% FT
Obviously, the one considered to be the greatest player ever would also be considered one of the greatest fantasy players ever. It is said that when the goons used to play fantasy using paper and calculators back in the 80s, Jordan had to be excluded from the player pool because his numbers were so dominant that whatever team had him automatically won. It’s easy to see why. While Jordan didn’t offer the threes that today’s players do, his sheer dominance would have tilted the scales in any team’s favor.
G – Magic Johnson (G – LAL)
Best Career Year: 1986-87
Stats: 23.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 12.2 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.1 threes/g, 52.5% FG, 84.8% FT
During the Showtime era, Magic’s stats were phenomenal. He averaged more than 10 assists per game nine consecutive seasons and averaged between 16.8 and 23.9 ppg while doing so. While his rebounding fell off from his early seasons when he averaged 9+ rpg, his scoring production made up for it. He also had healthy percentages. Any time a guard shoots 50%+ from the field, it helps your team tremendously because it is a bonus stat from a guard. Normally they shoot between 45 and 47%
SF – Kevin Garnett (SF – Min)
Best Career Year: 2003-04
Stats: 24.2 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.5 spg, 2.2 bpg, 0.1 threes/g, 52.5% FG, 84.8% FT
The Big Ticket did it all when he played for the Timberwolves, and mainly out of necessity. He was never able to carry the team far because he always lacked a supporting cast, but he did the best he could with the lack of help always being an issue. With a better supporting cast he probably would have averaged 6 to 7 assists per game to go with his already gaudy line. He consistently led the league in rebounding and was able to get steals to go with his blocks. He was probably the most versatile seven footer in the history of the league when he played for the Wolves, frequently controlling the ball as though he were a point guard, and on defense he roamed the court, often picking up guards and stopping dribble penetration. That kind of stuff doesn’t really show up in the stat line, but it was a testament to his agility and skill as a player.
PF – Bill Russell (FC – Bos)
Best Career Year: 1959-60
Stats: 18.2 ppg, 24.0 rpg, 3.7 apg, 46.7% FG, 61.2% FT
I list Bill Russell at PF because if he played in today’s game, he likely would play PF since he was only 6′9″ What is going to kill his stat line is that they didn’t keep track of blocks during his era, and he likely would have been in the neighborhood of 6-8 per game! He’s definitely the type of legend whose skill set would transfer well to the modern era of basketball because he had the body frame and athletic talent that would allow him to excel in any era of the NBA. His free throw percentage would not hurt as much as one might expect since he only shot 5.2 FTs per game.
F – Larry Bird (F – Bos)
Best Career Year: 1984-85
Stats: 28.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.6 spg, 1.2 bpg, 1.6 threes/g, 52.2% FG, 88.2% FT
It’s an elusive club of players in today’s game that average 1 stl/1 blk/1 three per game, and even more so in Bird’s day because threes were not shot at the volume they are today. Few of today’s fans remember that Bird really made due with what were once above average athletic skills and averaged over 10 rebounds a game and blocked a shot per game, too. Even in his declining years though, he still averaged 8-9 rpg, making due mostly with his guile and craftiness to get position.
C – Wilt Chamberlain (C – PHI)
Best Career Year: 1961-62
Stats: 50.4 ppg, 25.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 50.6% FG, 61.3% FT
Like Russell, we can only speculate on Wilt’s block numbers. But how can you wrap your mind around fifty points per game? Fifty point games come around a few times per year for the league’s elite players, and Wilt did it on average for an entire season! The 61% FT would really hurt because he took 17.1 shots a game, but the overall dominance in the other categories would make up for it, especially in a head-to-head league, where you could just punt free throw percentage and win every other category easily.
C – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (C – MIL)
Best Career Year: 1971-72
Stats: 34.8 ppg, 16.6 rpg, 4.6 apg, 57.4% FG, 68.9% FT
We don’t know Kareem’s exact block totals from that season, but in the following seasons he averaged between 3.5 and 4 a game, and over a steal per game too. The 4.6 assists from the center position are especially nice in a Brad Miller sort of way because it overcompensates what you get from your guards and makes you nearly unbeatable in that category. His percentages are nice too, and later in his career he shot as high as 76% from the line.
Util – David Robinson (C – SA)
Best Career Year: 1993-94
Stats: 29.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 4.8 apg, 1.7 spg, 3.3 bpg, 50.7% FG, 74.9% FT
The Admiral led the league in points per game this season, barely edging out Shaquille O’Neal. He offers help in every category, and like many of the other elite centers on this list, he had guard-like assists numbers. The 1.7 steals were also guard-like and he shot the ball well from the field and from the line as well.
Util – Hakeem Olajuwon (C – HOU)
Best Career Year: 1989-90
Stats: 24.3 ppg, 14.0 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.1 spg, 4.6 bpg, 50.1% FG, 71.3% FT
The Dream was one of the best two-way centers in the history of the game. Though Dwight Howard just accomplished the feat last night, Hakeem was the only player in the history of the game to record at least 30 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 blocks in a game… and he did it twice.
During the 89-90 season, he became the only center since steals began being recorded to average 2+ spg and 4+ bpg in the same season. He also snatched up the rebounds just like Dwight does today, pulling down 14 a game.
Util – Kobe Bryant (SG – LAL)
Best Career Year: 2005-06
Stats: 35.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.8 threes/g, 45% FG, 85% FT
As everyone knows, Kobe holds the mark for the second most points in a game by any player and in 05-06 he became the first player since Jordan to average 35+ ppg, too. His scoring makes him a top fantasy player and he is lethal from the free throw line where he averaged 10.2 FT/g, which would help your team immensely in that category because of the high volume. Kobe will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, offensive player ever to play.
Bench – Tracy McGrady (GF – Orl)
Best Career Year: 2002-03
Stats: 32.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.5 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.8 bpg, 2.3 threes/g 45.7% FG, 79.3% FT
Before his back and shoulders started giving him problems in Houston, Tracy did it like no other in Orlando. Looking at him now, it’s hard to remember that just five seasons ago he was one of the elite players in the NBA. His 02-03 season was as good or better than what Lebron is doing now since T Mac also hit threes. He led the league in scoring in 02-03 and took the Pistons to 7 games in the playoffs after leading 3-1 in the series. They finally found an answer for him with Tayshaun Prince, one of the league’s premier defenders, but it took a team effort to really slow down T Mac, and during his prime, no one player could do it alone.
Bench – LeBron James (GF – CLE)
Best Career Year: 2007-08
Stats: 30.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.2 apg, 1.8 spg, 1.1 bpg, 1.5 threes/g, 48.4% FG, 71.2% FT
Though he’s only in his sixth season, Lebron has already worked his way onto the all time fantasy first team. He’s a bit of a hybrid between Jordan and Magic, with a body built like the Mailman, and it enables him to dominate every facet of the game. He’s a triple double threat every night. His only achilles heel is his free throw percentage, which could bear some improvement. It’s hard to complain about a guy that gives you 30/8/7 though. He’s just a notch away from putting up a statline like Oscar’s 61-62 campaign.
Bench – Karl Malone (PF – Uta)
Best Career Year: 1989-90
Stats: 31.0 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.6 bpg, 0.2 threes/g, 56.2% FG, 76.6% FT
The Mailman was second in career scoring, only edged out by Kareem, a fellow first team player. He averaged 20+ ppg for 17 of his 19 career seasons (only failing to in his rookie season and his last year with the Lakers). Everyone knows that Stockton is partly responsible as the two formed the deadliest pick and roll combo ever to grace the court. 36,928 career points have to get you something, and it got the Mailman on the All NBA first fantasy team.
Honorable Mention: Jason Kidd, Jerry West, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Chris Paul, Pete Maravich, Patrick Ewing, Kevin McHale, Adrian Dantley, John Stockton, Dirk Nowitzki, George Gervin, and Amare Stoudemire
Brett Roberts is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Brett in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Nene.
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