As we await the return of NBA basketball, we’re taking a trip through the record books to find every team’s all-time Win Shares leader.
If you have ever spent any time perusing the one and only Basketball-Reference, you have surely noticed that every team’s landing page includes a list of the All-Time Top 12 Players for every franchise based on Win Shares.
Win Shares is an advanced stat calculated to quantify exactly how much a player contributes to winning. It’s not a perfect metric but it’s a good shorthand for overall productivity and it has the benefit of being available historically so it can be used for comparisons across eras.
Below is a comprehensive list of all the players that lead every franchise in all-time Win Shares, in descending order beginning with the team with the lowest Win Shares leader total.
30. Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker, 48.5 Win Shares
The amount of time that a franchise has been around certainly plays a factor in this list. With only 33 seasons under their belt, the Charlotte Hornets have played the fourth-fewest seasons among all 30 NBA teams, ahead of only the Grizzlies, Raptors, and Pelicans, all featured in the bottom five of this list.
Kemba Walker played the first eight years of his career in Charlotte (the infamous Bobcats for his first three years), running the show as a pick-and-roll master with a strong love for the in-and-out dribble, leaving defenders in the dust while gliding into the trees for layups off the glass. Cardiac Kemba has a narrow Hornets Win Shares lead over Gerald “Crash” Wallace (45.9) and 5-foot-3 Muggsy Bogues (44.8).
29. Brooklyn Nets: Buck Williams, 62.8 Win Shares
If you are not familiar with Buck Williams’ work for the Nets in the 80s, you will likely recognize some familiar names that round out the rest of the Nets’ top five: Jason Kidd, Julius Erving, Richard Jefferson and Brook Lopez.
Just like the previously stated Kemba, Buck Williams played the first eight years of his NBA career for the Nets, who were actually the New Jersey Nets at the time. Williams was an NBA Iron Man, playing more than 80 games in 12 seasons. He is also seventh on the Blazers in All-Time Win Shares, playing seven years in Portland after his eight-year stint in New Jersey.
28. Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry, 74.5 Win Shares
No surprise here, the famously touted Greatest Toronto Raptor of All Time is also No. 1 in total Win Shares for the franchise. Kyle Lowry played nine seasons north of the border in The 6, which actually came after 2.5 years in Memphis and 3.5 years in Houston. Some might call him a late bloomer. Lowry’s first trip to the All-Star Game wasn’t until he was 28 years old.
Pascal Siakam is currently seventh for the Raptors while Fred VanVleet is 10th. But it’s difficult not to wonder if the top spot will be reserved for Scottie Barnes one day. Barnes’ Win Shares total in his rookie season was 6.6, a number that Lowry bested just once in his first nine years in the league.
27. New Orleans Pelicans: Chris Paul, 76.4 Win Shares
The Pelicans were the New Orleans Hornets over the first six years of Chris Paul’s career, and they played his first two seasons in Oklahoma City in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Paul led the NOLA Hornets to a franchise record 56 wins in just his third season in the league. He has a 4.4 Win Shares lead over second place Anthony Davis (72.0), who might be featured in this space had he played out his final year in New Orleans in 2018-19 when he demanded that trade to L.A.
Brandon Ingram (14.2) has already cracked the Pelicans’ top 12 at No. 11 after just three seasons in the Big Easy. And Zion Williamson has got to be super close at 10.6 Win Shares after just 85 games played.
26. Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol, 77.4 Win Shares
There is no doubt that Grit ‘N Grind left a lasting mark in Memphis, and the same goes in relation to Win Shares. The Brothers Gasol have two of the top-3 spots while Mike Conley is second and Zach Randolph is fourth. (Tony Allen is ninth.)
Marc Gasol played the first 10 seasons of his NBA career in Memphis. The Big Spaniard is also the franchise leader in numerous categories, including minutes played, made field goals, rebounds and blocks.
Also, shoutout to one of the original Grizzlies, going back to the Vancouver days: Shareef Abdur-Rahim is seventh all-time in Grizz Win Shares.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul, 78.2 Win Shares
Fun fact: Chris Paul is the only player in the history of the NBA to currently lead two teams in total all-time Win Shares. CP is also currently ninth in NBA history in total career Win Shares at 198.9.
If Grit ‘N Grind left its mark in Memphis, then the same can be said for Lob City for the Clips: Deandre Jordan is a close second at 76.3 Win Shares and Blake Griffin is fourth at 65.4. That leaves Elton Brand (68.3) at third.
You probably would not have guessed that Eric Piatkowski is in the Clippers’ top 12 at 11th. The Polish Rifle!
24. Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard, 87.5 Win Shares
Dwight Howard leads the Magic in all-time Win Shares while Nikola Vucevic is third, ahead of Magic legends Shaquille O’Neal, Tracy McGrady and Penny Hardaway. Second place? Nick “Missed Free Throws” Anderson.
Dwight played his first eight seasons (a common theme) in Orlando. He led the league in rebounds four times and in blocks twice. He also played all 82 games a surprising five times.
23. Phoenix Suns: Shawn Marion, 93.2 Win Shares
If you expected to see Steve Nash here and not Shawn Marion, you are not alone. Nash (82.7) is actually third on the Suns’ all-time list, also behind Kevin Johnson (90.9).
How many seasons did The Matrix play in Phoenix to begin his NBA career? Yep, the magic number of eight. Marion might have had one of the uglier-looking jump shots in NBA history, but he did have seven straight seasons in the desert averaging at least 17 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals and a block.
22. Denver Nuggets: Dan Issel, 94.8 Win Shares
A legend at the University of Kentucky, Dan Issel played five seasons for the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels before joining the Denver Nuggets in 1975. Issel would play the last 10 years of his basketball career with the Nuggets as one of the game’s consistent scorers.
Nikola Jokic (79.6) is already third for the Nuggets in all-time Win Shares. And if The Joker has another season with his Win Shares total over 15 (which he has accomplished in each of his last two seasons as the back-to-back MVP), then Jokic will pass Issel sometime at the end of next season (!!).
21. Detroit Pistons: Bill Laimbeer, 98.4 Win Shares
As highlighted previously in our Every NBA Team’s Greatest Enforcer of All-Time piece, Bill Laimbeer was seriously as durable as it gets. During the first 13 years of his career, Laimbeer never played less than 79 games in a season. He was an evil iron man who incessantly brought the smoke.
The Bad Boys Pistons (Laimbeer, Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas) and the 2000’s Pistons (Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton) take up over half of the Pistons’ top-12 all-time Win Shares list.
20. Portland Trail Blazers: Clyde Drexler, 108.7 Win Shares
Clyde the Glide Drexler put in 11 years of Hall of Fame work for the Blazers in the 80s and 90s, and he never missed the playoffs once in his entire NBA career.
However, Damian Lillard (94.1) is hot on Drexler’s heels. If Dame gets back to his usual ways of 10+ Win Shares a season, then he should pass Drexler sometime during the 2023-24 campaign.
19. Washington Wizards: Wes Unseld, 110.1 Win Shares
Wes Unseld also made our Every NBA Team’s Greatest Enforcer of All Time list. Unseld was known for rifling full-court outlet passes and unleashing brutal, bone-jarring screens. He led the Bullets to the Finals in 1978, earning Finals MVP in the last and only Wizards/Bullets championship to date.
Bradley Beal is fourth for the Wizards at 48.8 Win Shares, so it is safe to say that he is probably not going to catch his coach’s dad.
18. Milwaukee Bucks: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 114.7 Win Shares
It only took six seasons in a Bucks uniform for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to achieve the highest Win Shares total in Bucks franchise history. Kareem averaged a preposterous 30.4 points per game in those six years for Milwaukee. He also won the MVP award twice in addition to being the 1971 Finals MVP. He is the NBA’s all-time Win Shares career leader at 273.4, and he posted the highest Win Shares season ever in 1971-72 at 25.4.
It must be noted that Giannis Antetokounmpo is already third for the Bucks at 87.5, averaging 12 Win Shares over the last six seasons. If he keeps that pace, Giannis should pass Kareem just three seasons from now as Milwaukee’s new No. 1.
17. Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade, 116.1 Win Shares
There is a reason why they call it Wade County. Dwyane Wade spent 15 years in Miami and would have been a Heat lifer if not for that one strange year in Chicago with Jimmy Butler and Rondo and that even weirder half-season in Cleveland with his best friend LeBron.
Speaking of The King, LeBron James is second for the Heat in total Win Shares at 65.3, achieved in just four seasons in South Beach. The Heat have only been around for 35 seasons, which helps explain how Hassan Whiteside and Mario Chalmers crack the top 12.
16. Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry 120.2 Win Shares
Steph Curry not only finally claimed his Finals MVP this past season, but he also passed Wilt Chamberlain (112.4) as the Warriors’ all-time Win Shares leader. Steph’s buddies Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are also in the top 10 at ninth and tenth, along with Chris Mullin who is sixth.
As the only current active player in the NBA playing on the same team that he leads in total Win Shares, Steph will absolutely keep climbing up this list before it’s all said and done.
15. New York Knicks: Patrick Ewing, 123.0 Win Shares
Patrick Ewing played for 15 years in New York repping the blue and orange. (The photos of Ewing on the Sonics and Magic are so, so weird). Ewing is joined in the Knicks top-3 by 60’s and 70’s Knicks legends Walt “Clyde” Frazier (108.8) and Willis Reed (74.9) while iconic 90’s Knicks Allan Houston and John Starks make the top 12.
Also in the Knicks’ top 12 are Charles Oakley and Bill Cartwright, who were traded for each other in 1988 as highlighted in The Last Dance.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Gary Payton, 123.8 Win Shares
Seattle Sonics trash-talking legend Gary Payton played for 12.5 years in the Emerald City. The Glove is joined by Kevin Durant (107.9) and Russell Westbrook (96.9) in the Thunder/Sonics top three. (Serge Ibaka is 11th.)
And it must be noted that Detlef Schrempf is eighth because anytime you get the opportunity to mention Detlef Schrempf, you do it.
13. Atlanta Hawks: Bob Pettit, 136.0 Win Shares
Kobe, Dirk and Tim Duncan are the one-team wonders you most often hear about, but Bob Pettit played his entire NBA career for the Hawks franchise. (Although it was back in the 50s and 60s, so maybe that’s why.) The team originated as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks for two years, then became the Milwaukee Hawks, the team that Pettit played for in his Rookie of the Year season before the team moved to St. Louis the following year in 1955. (The Hawks moved to Atlanta in 1968.) The Bombardier from Baton Rouge, Bob Pettit was MVP of the league in both ‘56 and ‘59, and he was the All-Star MVP four times.
The Human Highlight Film, Dominique Wilkins, is second for the Hawks at 107.4. Al Horford is fifth and Doc Rivers is 11th.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Garnett, 139.8 Win Shares
For the first 12 years of his NBA career, Kevin Garnett perused the wilderness of Minnesota, lurking as a lone wolf, leading the T-Wolves in Win Shares in 11 of those 12 seasons. Garnett finished 10th on the NBA’s all-time career Win Shares list.
KG returned to Minnesota for his NBA swan song in 2015, but a new pup had arrived. Karl-Anthony Towns has led the T-Wolves in Win Shares each of the last seven seasons. KAT is already second on the T-Wolves’ all-time list. Of the surprising variety: Gorgui Dieng is sixth and Nikola Pekovic is 11th. (The T-Wolves have been around for only 34 seasons.)
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Dolph Schayes, 142.4 Win Shares
Like the aforementioned Bob Pettit, Dolph Schayes played his entire career for the same franchise. Before they were the Philadelphia 76ers, they were the Syracuse Nationals. Schayes did get to play his final year in Philly in the inaugural 76ers season in 1964. That was the same season that he was the player-coach of the team.
The 76ers are one of just four teams in the NBA to have four or more players with over 100 Win Shares. The other three players are Julius Irving (106.2), Charles Barkley (106.1) and Hal Greer (102.7).
10. Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James 154.1 Win Shares
LeBron James has an 88.7 Win Shares lead over Cleveland’s second-place Mark Price (65.4). If LeBron had not returned to Cleveland in 2014, he would still be the Cavs’ No. 1 in a landslide. The King led the NBA in total Win Shares for five straight seasons from 2008-09 to 2012-13, and he is No. 2 on the NBA’s all-time career Win Shares list at 249.5.
It’s not too surprising to see that Kevin Love (ninth) and Kyrie Irving (10th) are in the Cavs’ top 10. But you might be surprised to know that Anderson Varejao (seventh) and Tristan Thompson (eighth) are ahead of both K-Love and Kyrie.
9. Sacramento Kings: Oscar Robertson 154.2 Win Shares
Before they were the Sacramento Kings, they were the Kansas City Kings. And before that, they were the Cincinnati Royals. That’s the team that triple-double legend Oscar Robertson played for. Of course, the Big O was way too good to play for the actual Kings.
In fact, the Kings have such few modern-day players on their top-12 all-time list that most of the players have black-and-white photos shown on Basketball-Reference. The only players with non-black-and-white photos are Peja Stojakovic (fourth), Tiny Archibald (sixth), Mitch Richmond (eighth), Chris Webber (11th), and Scott Wedman (12th). #Kangz
8. Houston Rockets: Hakeem Olajuwon, 160.6 Win Shares
Save for his swan song season on the Toronto Raptors, Hakeem Olajuwon played his entire NBA career for the Houston Rockets. The Dream put in 17 years of work in H-Town, averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game in each of his first 12 seasons. He was the MVP in 1994 and Finals MVP in both 1994 and 1995. Olajuwon is the NBA’s all-time career leader in blocks.
James Harden (115.0) is second for the Rockets, leading the NBA in Win Shares in five out of six seasons from 2014-15 to 2019-20. While the Beard can’t catch the Dream on the Rockets list, he does still have a chance to catch him on the NBA’s all-time list: Olajuwon is 21st in all-time career Win Shares at 162.8, and Harden is currently 27th at 149.6.
7. Boston Celtics: Bill Russell, 163.5 Win Shares
The greatest winner in professional sports history, 11-time NBA champion Bill Russell leads the way for the Boston Celtics storied franchise that has six players with a Win Shares total over 100: Larry Bird (145.8), Paul Pierce (138.4), John Havlicek (131.7), Robert Parish (122.4) and Kevin McHale (113.0). For more context, there are 10 teams that do not have a single player over 100 Win Shares.
Bill Russell was and always will be a legend in the truest sense of the word. R.I.P.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant, 172.7 Win Shares
Kobe Bryant is widely referred to as the Greatest Laker of All Time, and he leads the illustrious franchise in total Win Shares, playing his entire 20-year career repping the purple and gold. Black Mamba was as vicious a competitor as they come.
Not only are the Celtics and Lakers tied with an NBA record 17 championships, but the Celtics and Lakers are also tied with having an NBA record six players with a Win Shares total over 100. Kobe is joined by Jerry West (162.6), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (158.7), Magic Johnson (155.8), George Mikan (108.7), and Elgin Baylor (104.2). Shaq was close at 97.0 Win Shares in his eight seasons in La La Land.
5. Indiana Pacers: Reggie Miller 174.4 Win Shares
A common theme among this list is players who only played for one team in their NBA career. Reggie Miller fits that bill, playing his entire 18-year career for the Indiana Pacers. There is a very steep 110.9 Win Shares drop off from Miller to the Pacers No. 2 in Roger Brown (63.5), who played for the ABA version of the Pacers back in the 60s and 70s. That’s the second-largest Win Shares deficit from a team’s all-time No. 1 to No. 2.
A surprising name in the Pacers top-10 is Jeff Foster, averaging just 4.9 points for his career. But Foster did play all 13 of his seasons for the Pacers. Another one-team wonder!
4. Chicago Bulls: Michael Jordan, 204.5 Win Shares
For as much as he is widely considered the GOAT, people don’t talk enough about Michael Jordan’s durability. M.J. played all 82 games nine times and 80 or more games in 11 of his 15 seasons in the NBA. His Airness was a 10-time scoring champ. You might or might not know that he was 6-0 in the Finals, a perfect record vanquishing opponents on the game’s biggest stage.
Scottie Pippen (forever the No. 2) is second for the Bulls at 99.7 Win Shares. Of the surprising variety: Luol Deng is currently sixth and Kirk Hinrich is 11th.
3. Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki 206.3 Win Shares
From 1998-99 to 2018-19, Dirk Nowitzki played 21 seasons for the Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Mavericks alone. Dirk’s 136.0 Win Shares lead over the Mavs No. 2 in Rolando Blackman (70.3) is the largest lead among all 30 NBA teams from a team’s all-time No. 1 to the No. 2.
Jason Terry (The Jet!) is fourth for the Mavs while current Dallas Maverick Dwight Powell is 11th after 7.5 seasons in The Big D. Chances seem pretty good that Luka Doncic will enter the Mavs top-12 someday and someday soon.
2. San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan, 206.4 Win Shares
Tim Duncan (206.38) has the slimmest 0.04 Win Shares lead over the previously stated Dirk Nowitzki (206.34) on the NBA’s all-time list. Duncan played two years less than Dirk, all 19 of his NBA seasons in San Antonio, of course. The Big Fundamental might be known for being the most mundane superstar ever, but let this be a reminder that one time he hit Birdman in the face with the ball, dunked on top of him, and then pulled him to the ground – all on the same play.
The Spurs have five players with over 100 Win Shares: David Robinson (178.7), Tony Parker (110.4), George “Iceman” Gervin (107.4) and Manu Ginobili (106.4). Then there is quite the drop off to the No. 6, James Silas at 57.9. (It must be noted that Silas is rocking quite the afro and shells necklace combo in his Basketball-Reference photo.)
1. Utah Jazz: Karl Malone, 230.3 Win Shares
Karl Malone is fourth in NBA history in all-time Win Shares at 234.6 (4.3 Win Shares in his final, forgettable season as a Laker) and John Stockton is sixth all-time at 207.7. The Stockton-Malone pick-and-roll flourished for 18 years together. (Did you know that John Stockton played all 82 games in a season an insane 16 times?! Malone only pulled it off in 10 seasons.)
The Jazz are definitely the only franchise in the NBA to have two players over 200 total Win Shares considering there are currently only eight players in NBA history to achieve that number. (Chris Paul is knocking on the door at 198.9 and will join as the ninth sometime this season.)
And finally: Who is third for the Jazz in all-time Win Shares? That would be Rudy Gobert.