Up Next

NBA

These are the top 10 finishers of all time

Remember when ‘getting to the cup’ was a thing?

We talk. That’s what we do. Best this, greatest that. Best handles, greatest dunker, most underrated, greatest to never make it to the league, best to ever defend Michael Jordan. We do this in barbershops and bars, on televisions and corners.

Here’s one that’s always littered the conversations of real hoops heads: the greatest finishers. The little guys, though. Not Shaq or ‘Nique or Barkley or Vince Carter or DeAndre Jordan — the point guards.

Did you see Steph get the inbound, blow by Russ and put it up off the top of the glass on KD and Ibaka?

Forget, Steph. YouTube “Kyrie’s best finishes.”

In basketball culture, finishing doesn’t just involve scoring. It’s an exhibition in embarrassment. It’s not just about getting to the rim, it’s how a player got there and what he does once he gets there. Making the impossible, possible. Making the abnormal, normal. So while there may be players who have higher shooting percentages inside the restricted area or have, over the course of their careers, scored more and been more efficient in the lane and around the basket, none (at least, none for their size) finished the way the 10 below did.

Is it a cultural thing? Sorta. It’s the new argument. It’s the debate that has replaced the greatest dunkers, since Carter officially shut that conversation down in 2000. Will everyone “get” this list? Nope. And that’s the beauty of it. Like Wesley Snipes said in “White Men Can’t Jump”: They listen to Jimi Hendrix, we hear him.


GETTIN’ TO THE BUCKET

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook, No. 0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder, dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre on March 28 in Toronto.

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Never, ever, ever, ever… ever, ever has there been anyone — at any time, in any era — to combine the speed, the force, the anger, the vertical, the imagination, the IDGAF mentality. Along with an inhumane gift to either softly lay the ball of glass (with either hand) or do something that might win a dunk contest while going full speed. As someone once said: Instagram was made for when Russell Westbrook goes to the hole.

Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls goes for a dunk during the NBA game against the Houston Rockets on December 4, 2010 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Derrick Rose, No. 1 of the Chicago Bulls, goes for a dunk during the NBA game against the Houston Rockets on Dec. 4, 2010, at the United Center in Chicago.

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

(Pre-injury) The basketball version of a contortionist. Derrick Rose was Westbrook before Westbrook. D-Rose probably made more improbable shots in the lane than any player in NBA history — regardless of size.

Tony Parker

Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots against Ray Allen #34 of the Miami Heat during Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on June 15, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.

Tony Parker, No. 9 of the San Antonio Spurs, shoots against Ray Allen, No. 34 of the Miami Heat, during Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on June 15, 2014, in San Antonio.

Andrew D Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

He perfected a shot that many already felt Mark Jackson had minted. The teardrop to Tony Parker is what the skyhook is to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It’s a thing of beauty. But more “deadlier than a mutha…”

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket against DeMarre Carroll #5 of the Atlanta Hawks in the first half during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 26, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Kyrie Irving, No. 2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers, drives to the basket against DeMarre Carroll, No. 5 of the Atlanta Hawks, in the first half during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2015 NBA playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 26, 2015, in Cleveland.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

Ambidextrous with the innate (and studied) ability to use angles off the glass that no one has ever conceived. Part NBA, part EBC, part EA Sports. But, all prodigy when it comes to finishing. Plus, his career 57.9 percent finishing in the restricted area makes the data geeks love him, too. Shot per shot, Irving may end up the best overall finisher we’ll ever see.

John Wall

 John Wall #4 of the Washington Wizards drives to the basket for a dunk in first quarter action of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Bulls during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 25, 2014 in Washington, DC.

John Wall, No. 4 of the Washington Wizards, drives to the basket for a dunk in first quarter action of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Bulls during the 2014 NBA playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 25, 2014, in Washington, DC.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

“With speed, I’m agile, plus I’m worth your while/100 percent intelligent black child.” Sums up every attribute John Wall takes to the hole with him when he plays. Speed, agility, worth the price of admission, makes intelligent decisions once he gets to the rim. Leaves defenders “crazy, sad and alone.”

Nate Archibald

Nate Archibald, No. 7 of the Milwaukee Bucks, circa 1983 at the MECCA Arena in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Nate Archibald, No. 7 of the Milwaukee Bucks, circa 1983 at the MECCA Arena in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Robert Lewis/NBAE via Getty Images

The original penetrator. Once “Tiny” Archibald got in the lane, no one could figure out what he was going to do. And, more importantly, he did it against most of the best bigs to ever play. Wilt Chamberlain, Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Willis Reed, Nate Thurmond … Artis Gilmore. Bill Russell retired the year before Tiny came into the League. Russell was probably lucky.

Rod Strickland

Rod Strickland #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves goes for the reverse layup during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Target Center on January 24, 2003 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Timberwolves defeated the Clippers 88-85.

Rod Strickland, No. 1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves, goes for the reverse layup during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Target Center on Jan. 24, 2003, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves defeated the Clippers 88-85.

David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

Strick’ didn’t just finish by scoring, he dropped dimes once he got to the lane that led to baskets no one could see coming. More than anyone on this list, Strickland wanted to embarrass defenders. He took pride in it. And he was so good at it that players admired him more than they despised him.

Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson #3 of the Philadelphia 76ers battles to the basket for an ally-oop layup against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center during the 1997 NBA season in Los Angeles, California.

Allen Iverson, No. 3 of the Philadelphia 76ers, battles to the basket for an alley-oop layup against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center during the 1997 NBA season in Los Angeles.

Jon SooHoo/NBAE/Getty Images

From The King: “They say he was 6 feet, but A.I. was like 5-foot-10½. Do we even want to say 160? 170? Do we even want to give him that much weight? And he played like a 6-foot-8-inch 2-guard. He was one of the greatest finishers we’ve ever seen. You could never question his heart. Ever.” – LeBron James.

Kevin Johnson

Kevin Johnson #7 of the Phoenix Suns shoots against the Utah Jazz during a game played on November 2, 1990 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan.

Kevin Johnson, No. 7 of the Phoenix Suns, shoots against the Utah Jazz during a game played on Nov. 2, 1990, at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in Tokyo.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Ask Hakeem Olajuwon.

Baron Davis

Baron Davis #5 of the Golden State Warriors goes for the slam dunk against Francisco Garcia #5 of the Sacramento Kings during the game at Oracle Arena on April 8, 2008 in Oakland, California. The Warriors won 140-132.

Baron Davis, No. 5 of the Golden State Warriors, goes for the slam dunk against Francisco Garcia, No. 5 of the Sacramento Kings, during the game at Oracle Arena on April 8, 2008, in Oakland, California. The Warriors won 140-132.

Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Baron Davis had all kind of “stuff” around the basket, but he could dunk on you, too. Having to try to stop both from happening every time he had the ball in his hands was the ridiculously constant problem that Davis was.

The Honorable 5

Stephen Curry (doesn’t finish enough, in all honesty, his jump shot hurts the “perception” of his finishing greatness); Earl Monroe (pull-up jumper in the lane overshadows all his great finishes at the rim); Tim Hardaway (the inventor of the killer crossover got to the hole better than almost all on the list, but Bug’s unexplosive leaping ability, once he got to the rim, diminishes his overall impact); Dwayne “Pearl” Washington (didn’t do enough in the NBA to be considered Top 10 ever — but in college and all around New York City, he was the finishing god); Isiah Thomas (pound-for-pound, coast-to-coast might be the greatest small finisher ever. But the overall gift he had to score from anywhere kinda negates his finishing ability being greater than other aspects of his game).

Liner Notes

This video was produced by Lois Nam.