The Most Influential NBA Players

Since its origin, basketball has depended on it’s players to keep the game going. A number of players have come in and influenced the game like no other. This has not only kept basketball interesting, but it has given the fans something to root for or, in some cases, root against. Here are some of the most influential players of all time.

Michael Jordan

Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Jordan’s reign of terror throughout the 1990’s changed basketball forever. Not only was he elite on the offensive side of the ball, his defense was complete lockdown. Players like this existed before Jordan, just not on his level. He proved that a player could be considered the best defensive player in the league and the best offensive player at the same time. His athleticism was unmatched, which helped him to make opposing defenses look silly by doing insane layups and reaching heights no man should ever be able to reach. If all that wasn’t enough, he arguably inspired the most people of any player to ever touch the court. The phrase “Be Like Mike” is still commonly used today, and was huge when he played. The phrase basically says be like Jordan, which every aspiring basketball player lived by at the time. To this day, kids grow up watching his highlights and deeming him as their basketball role model. Not many players can say that 20 years after giving up the game of basketball professionally, they still are inspiring people to become better. Truly one of the most influential players to ever play the game. 


Allen Iverson

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Allen Iverson influenced the new generation like no other. From his fashion style to his highlight reel esque play, millions upon millions wanted to be just like Iverson when they grew up. Infamous for his stepping over of Lakers guard Tyron Lue and his practice tirade to the media, Iverson was certainly a character. This persona he pursued off the court certainly translated to great play on it, as over his career he racked up 11 all-star appearances and an MVP award. He was one of the main influences for the dribble savvy type of play we see today in players like James Harden and Kyrie Irving. In this persona, he portrayed a somewhat nonchalant, not trying to impress anyone attitude, which proved to everyone that through all the fame and triumph, Iverson was the same person he has always been. On the flip side, many fans didn’t like his attitude and the way he approached the game. However one person looks at it, there is no denying that Iverson’s impact on the game was like no other. 

LeBron James

Photo: Mark J. Terrill/AP

An influential players list simply cannot be made without having LeBron James on it. Easily the most hyped up high school player of all time, James’s time in the NBA has been nothing short of magnificent. Along with 16 all-star games and three MVPs, James is a three time world champion. He is consistently mentioned in the greatest player of all time debate, usually coming down to himself and Michael Jordan. Along with his influence on the court, his influence off of it is arguably bigger. Not only does he donate millions of dollars to charity, the Lebron James Family Foundation opened up the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio. This is a public elementary school that is aimed towards at-risk children. This school has a food pantry for the families in need and gives out free bicycles to the students. No NBA player has done something like this and it’s truly a work of art. James has not only left his mark on the game of basketball, he has left it on communities around the world. 

Stephen Curry

Ben Margot/AP

Stephen Curry changed the landscape of the NBA. Before he arrived, the three point shot was not nearly as popular as it is today. In fact, it was pretty rare to see a team shoot over 15 threes a game. In today’s NBA, it is common to see a team shoot 25+ on any given night. Some teams are even reliant on the three point shot to succeed, such as the Houston Rockets. Curry has little kids all around the world working on their own three point shot, in hopes that they can one day shoot from everywhere on the court like him. One thing that makes Curry so idolized is his relatability. He isn’t insanely tall and he doesn’t have superhuman strength, he relies on his shooting ability and game sense to help his team win and it worked. He is a six time all-star, a three time world champion and a two-time MVP. Not many players have changed the entire landscape of the NBA, but Curry is one of them. 

Wilt Chamberlain

There are plenty of players over the course of NBA history who have influenced the game. Sometimes, Chamberlain’s name is failed to be brought up and it’s hard to wonder why. He owns 68 individual NBA records. That number seems fake in the context in which it’s used, but surprisingly, it’s true. Scoring 100 points in a single game, grabbing 55 rebounds in a game against the Boston Celtics and scoring over 65 points on 15 different occasions in his career are just some that he has to his name. Over his playing career, Chamberlain averaged 22.9 rebounds per game and just over 30 points. His stats while in the NBA are arguably the most impressive by any player to ever touch the court. He created the model for various big men after him on what an NBA center should play like. His influence is certainly overlooked.

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