No. 1 overall picks in the NBA Draft can make or break a franchise. While it is a lofty expectation, the goal for all first-overall selections is that they will become megastars who even have Hall of Fame caliber careers. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way, and some of the biggest draft busts ever were given that label because they didn’t succeed after being drafted at the top of the draft.

There have been plenty of first-overall picks who truly were the best players in their draft class, though, and those players went on to lead their respective teams for years. This year, the top of the 2024 NBA Draft is viewed as being weaker than almost any draft class before. While you can’t judge a draft class before they have a chance to prove themselves in the NBA, it is assumed that there won’t be a franchise-altering player for the Atlanta Hawks to select first overall. That is somewhat disappointing, especially considering the San Antonio Spurs were able to land one of the most generational prospects ever in Victor Wembanyama last year.

Still, with an all-time prospect going first overall last year, and the top pick up for grabs for several players this year, there is no better time than now to go back and look at every number one overall NBA Draft pick since the ABA-NBA merger. There have been some tweaks to the draft over that time, but the draft’s format has been somewhat consistent since that league-altering time in history.

Of course, players who have already completed their careers will have an advantage on this list, as their resumes are already complete. Even if a recent first overall pick has sky-high potential, they might rank lower on this list than some already retired players because their resumes are incomplete, even if they are on a trajectory to have better careers than the players drafted years before them.

For example, players like Wembanyama, Paolo Banchero, and Cade Cunningham have already gotten off to magnificent starts to their careers, but they were drafted at the top of the last three NBA Drafts. Therefore, they haven’t had much of a chance to rack up career stats and accolades. In contrast, a player like Kenyon Martin was more of a role player than a superstar like Banchero/Cunningham already are, but he ranks higher than the recent number-one selections because he was able to find a good amount of success in the NBA over a long period of time. Banchero and Cunningham will likely pass Martin one day, but we can’t say that will happen for certain, considering anything can happen in the NBA.

With that said, here is our ranking of all 48 No. 1 overall picks selected since the NBA’s first draft post merger in 1976.

48. Anthony Bennett: Cleveland Cavaliers, 2013

Anthony Bennett is the biggest draft bust in NBA history. The 2013 NBA Draft class was one of the worst ever overall, and Bennett was the cherry on top. In his defense, he was never supposed to be drafted at the top of the draft. It shocked the world when the Cavaliers made the UNLV product the first overall pick and, therefore, put the lofty expectations onto his shoulders that he was never going to be able to carry.

Bennett was a tweener who didn’t have a great positional fit at the NBA level, nor did he have a clear translatable skill that he could rely on in professional basketball. Bennett was such a failure that he was traded from the team that invested heavily into him after only his rookie season, and he was out of the league after four seasons, each of which was spent with a different franchise.

The fact that Bennett wasn’t even able to become a decent role player anywhere despite given four different chances in the NBA illustrates just how bad of a pick he was. Some players fail because of a lack of team/schematic fit or because they weren’t given the proper resources to thrive, and a lot of draft busts failed because of injuries. None of that was the case for Bennett, though. He simply wasn’t an NBA-level player.

47. Greg Oden: Portland Trail Blazers, 2007

The Trail Blazers have made a lot of poor draft choices. Mychal Thompson is coming up soon on this list, LaRue Martin is one of the worst number one picks who was taken before the ABA-NBA merger, Sam Bowie was taken at pick number two ahead of Michael Jordan, and Scoot Henderson just disappointed as a rookie after being picked third. The worst of all of Portland’s picks is Greg Oden, the number one pick in 2007, who was taken directly before Kevin Durant.

While Durant has had a career that gives him a case as a top 10 all-time player, Oden only suited up for 105 total games. Injuries forced him to miss the entirety of his rookie season, as well as three straight years from 2010-13. He was a good player when he was on the court, but he was given minutes restrictions when he was able to play, and the times he saw court time were few and far between.

46. Michael Olowokandi: Los Angeles Clippers, 1998

The draft is always a big risk, and Michael Olowokandi is a prime example of that. He was one of the biggest high-risk, high-reward players the draft has ever seen because he had off-the-chart measurable and athletic abilities but a raw skillset that was going to need development.

Gambles have paid off in the draft before, but this one didn’t for the Clippers. Olowokandi struggled to produce at the NBA level, as he was incredibly inefficient for a center who was over 7 feet tall. The Kandi Man only twice averaged double-digit scoring figures for a season, and he is one of many reasons the Clippers were the league’s bottom-dwellers for decades.

45. Kwame Brown: Washington Wizards, 2001

Kwame Brown Wizards NBA Draft bust
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Drafting a high school player can pay off in dividends, but there are plenty of risks involved. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Amar’e Stoudemire, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard are success stories of players drafted straight out of high school, the latter two of whom were number-one draft picks.

When you draft a young player who will likely need more development than a college prospect and one who hasn’t faced competition greater than that of a high school player, though, there is also a high chance of that player busting out. Kwame Brown, who was drafted out of high school first overall in 2001, is one of the biggest NBA Draft busts ever. The big man had some raw talent, but he didn’t have the drive required to succeed against professionals.

44. Pervis Ellison: Sacramento Kings, 1989

Pervis Ellison is one of many Kings’ draft mistakes, as the team gave up on him after only one season. Ellison was nicknamed “Out of Service Pervis” because he dealt with a number of injuries throughout his career, and those injuries were a big reason why he didn’t become a great player.

He basically had one complete and successful season, the 1991-92 season in which he averaged 20 points per game and was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Besides that, Ellison accomplished little in the NBA. He didn’t average more than seven points per game in any of his final seven seasons.

43. Markelle Fultz: Philadelphia 76ers, 2017

The 76ers mid-2010s rebuild had the potential to be something special, but Philadelphia made a number of poor decisions, some of which were their own fault and some of which were out of their control. Markelle Fultz is an example of the latter, as the start of his career is among the weirdest situations in league history.

Fultz was an excellent scorer in college whose jump shot landed him some James Harden comparisons. In the NBA, he completely lost the ability to shoot. Bizarre injuries, and perhaps some mental blocks, turned the promising young guard into a complete non-factor when it came to shooting, and he hasn’t been able to shake that problem that has haunted him since his rookie season. His struggles forced the team that took him first overall to trade him after only 33 games.

Fultz has turned his career around to become a legitimate rotation piece since getting a fresh start with the Orlando Magic, but his ceiling seems capped because of his lack of shooting. He is a slippery guard who can slash and drive, but he has been a massive disappointment in comparison to what he could have been.

42. Kent Benson: Milwaukee Bucks, 1977

Kent Benson was only the second number-one overall pick after the ABA-NBA merger and only the first when ABA teams were allowed to partake in the draft. He is also the most forgotten number-one overall pick since the merger. This is illustrated by the fact that he is most known for a play that happened only two minutes into his NBA career. After elbowing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the stomach, the former Bucks legendary big man sucker punched the Bucks’ new center square in the face.

Benson only scored 6,168 points for his career, which amounted to 9.1 points per game over 11 seasons. He was serviceable, which means he wasn’t a complete bust, but Benson’s inability to become anything more than a role player means he is one of the worst number one picks since 1976.

41. John Lucas: Houston Rockets, 1976

We just went over Kent Benson’s (the 1977 first-overall pick) lackluster career. The only first-overall pick post-merger before Benson was John Lucas, and his career was also uninspiring. Lucas averaged only 10.7 points per game, although he was an elite assist man who averaged seven assists per game. Ultimately, it was addiction issues that prevented Lucas from reaching his full potential, but a number of comeback attempts led Lucas to playing a respectable total of 14 seasons.

40. Joe Barry Carroll: Golden State Warriors, 1980

Joe Barry Carroll was a decent player during his days with the Warriors, but he was known for not giving great effort, and he was always heavily scrutinized because Golden State gave up two eventual Hall of Famers (Robert Parish and Kevin McHale) to get him. Carroll’s career was a little bit strange, and it even included a one-year hiatus where he played in Italy during the middle of his career. He wasn’t quite a bust, but he certainly wasn’t the right choice for Golden State to make in the 1980 NBA Draft.

39. Andrew Bogut: Milwaukee Bucks, 2005

Andrew Bogut getting drafted by the Bucks
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Andrew Bogut is best known for winning a championship with the Golden State Warriors, but his best days actually came with the Milwaukee Bucks. His lone All-NBA selection and the season in which he led the league in blocked shots both came with the Bucks.

38. Joe Smith: Golden State Warriors, 1995

Joe Smith stuck around in the NBA for 16 seasons. That is more than other notable number-one overall picks, including Allen Iverson, Magic Johnson, and James Worthy, and it is even double as long as Yao Ming’s career was. Because of that, it might come as a surprise to see Smith ranked as low as 38th for the best number one picks since the merger.

Smith’s low ranking comes because he didn’t become as great of a player as a number one pick is supposed to be. Role players are valuable, but teams need more out of their top picks. Smith spent about half of his career coming off of the bench, and he barely even average double-digit scoring figures for his career.

He was the ultimate journeyman, having a new stint on a new team 15 times during his career. No one was willing to give him a long-term chance despite his high draft status. Still, racking up 16 NBA seasons is impressive, and it prevents him from being looked at as a major draft bust, especially considering Smith was able to perform wherever he went every year despite continuously playing on a new team with new coaches, systems, and teammates.

37. Mychal Thompson: Portland Trail Blazers, 1978

Mychal Thompson is perhaps better known for who one of his sons is; Golden State Warriors superstar Klay Thompson. That is not necessarily what the Trail Blazers hoped Thompson would be most known for when they took him first overall in 1978. Thompson never made an All-Star Game, and he only averaged 13.7 points per game for his career.

Thompson did win two championships, but that didn’t come until late in his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. To make matters worse for the Blazers, they traded up to pick first overall. Larry Bird was their original target, but they couldn’t convince him to make the jump to pro ball, and they had to settle on Thompson.

36. Deandre Ayton: Phoenix Suns, 2018

Some NBA Draft picks are judged just as much by the players who were picked behind them as they are judged for their individual accomplishments and failures. Unfortunately for Deandre Ayton, he was taken at the top of the 2018 NBA Draft rather than Luka Doncic. Ayton hasn’t been bad in the NBA. There was a time when many considered him to be a top-10 center in the league because he has solid mobility for a big man and could still score effectively out of the post.

However, people will forever question his selection at the beginning of the first round because Doncic is already on pace to be an all-time great. To make matters worse for Ayton, he is coming off of arguably the worst season of his career despite the fact that he was expected to have an expanded role on a new team with the Portland Trail Blazers. Ayton is a solid player, but his career outlook isn’t as bright as the other number-one picks drafted within the last six drafts.

35. Cade Cunningham: Detroit Pistons, 2021

Cade Cunningham on the Pistons against the Grizzlies
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Cade Cunningham has had to put the Detroit Pistons on his back, and it hasn’t been easy. The roster construction around him isn’t good, nor are the majority of his Detroit teammates. It has led to the Pistons being the worst team in the league since Cunningham’s arrival to the NBA. The Pistons even earned their place as one of the worst teams in recent memory when they set the record for consecutive losses.

The Pistons’ struggles can’t really be put on Cunningham, though. He has been by far their best player, and his future in the league is still bright. Cunningham has career averages of 20 points, five rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game. He is a jack of all trades who has the versatility to still be looked at as Detroit’s franchise player going forward.

34. Paolo Banchero: Orlando Magic, 2022

Paolo Banchero only has two seasons under his belt, but we are taking him over 15 other number one overall draft picks, because he has been that good through two years. Banchero will likely skyrocket up these rankings in the years to come, but for now, we have to be happy with the 21.3 points per game he has averaged since becoming the Magic’s top option from day one. He beats out the player drafted first overall a year before him (Cade Cunningham) by one spot, largely because Cunningham missed the majority of his second season.

33. Andrea Bargnani: Toronto Raptors, 2006

Andrea Bargnani didn’t become a superstar, and he gets a lot of hate because of it. However, he was still an influential player, as he helped popularize the stretch forward position. He never made an All-Star Game, and he dealt with injuries during the back half of his career, but he was still a quality starter in the NBA.

32. Andrew Wiggins: Minnesota Timberwolves, 2014

Numbers and accolades don’t always tell the full story, and that is evident with Andrew Wiggins. He sat around 20 points per game for the five and a half seasons he played with the Timberwolves, but his stats could be considered empty and didn’t tend to lead to winning.

Wiggins was even named an All-Star starter in 2021-22 with the Golden State Warriors, but that accolade has to be taken with a grain of salt, too, as an endorsement from a K-Pop star named BamBam can be attributed to why Wiggins got the voting boost. Few would say he was actually deserving of that accolade.

Regardless, Wiggins is far from a bad player. The Kansas product has played 10 seasons now as a starting-caliber player. His efficiency, especially from deep, has improved in recent seasons, as has his perimeter defense.

31. Ben Simmons: Philadelphia 76ers, 2016

Ben Simmons is one of the hardest number one overall picks to rank. He was named an All-Star in three of his first four healthy seasons in the NBA. However, Simmons is a flawed player, and health has been a major issue for him. Since his last All-Star appearance three years ago, Simmons has been traded to the Brooklyn Nets, and he has only appeared in 57 total games.

Simmons’ lack of a jump shot allows defenses to sag off of him and clog the lane. That, in turn, prevents him from being at his best, which is as a playmaking driver. Even with a lack of a jumper, there have been moments of greatness for Simmons. He is an elite defensive player, and his playmaking ability at 6-foot-9 is truly special. Additionally, he is an impressive finisher at the rim.

Despite entering what should be his prime years, Simmons’ career trajectory is headed in the wrong direction, and he will need to get back on track sooner rather than later.

30. Kenyon Martin: New Jersey Nets, 2000

The 2000 NBA Draft is one of the worst ever, and Kenyon Martin’s selection first overall was the last time that a college senior was taken number one. There was a fundamental shift in draft philosophy after Martin was drafted, but he was far from a failure.

Martin was a solid role player who played with a high motor. Being that he was drafted older than most top picks this century, he was more of a play-now player than a project, which was beneficial for the Nets, as the team reached the NBA Finals in Martin’s second and third seasons in the NBA.

29. Victor Wembanyama: San Antonio Spurs, 2023

Rookie Victor Wembanyama Spurs
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Many considered Victor Wembanyama the greatest prospect ever not named LeBron James, and despite the unrealistic expectations placed on him, the last number one pick taken is already living up to the calling. Wembanyama’s rookie season was special. He immediately became arguably the best defensive player in the league.

The rookie finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting after leading the league with 3.6 blocks per game. He puts fear into the eyes of opposing offenses because of his rim protection, but he is just as incredible on offense. Wembanyama stands 7-feet-4, yet he is able to handle the ball with a variety of dribble moves like a guard and hit step-back jumpers from well behind the three-point line. Those are skills that are unlike anything we’ve ever seen from someone his size. Wembanyama has all of the potential in the world, but he ranks this high because he has already broken a number of teenage/rookie records.

The Spurs know how to hit on their first overall picks, as they had previously drafted David Robinson and Tim Duncan at the top of their respective drafts. San Antonio has seemingly gotten another number one overall pick right, and no one would be surprised if Wembanyama is one day mentioned with or above the two as all-time great NBA players.

28. Elton Brand: Chicago Bulls, 1999

Elton Brand wasn’t the worst first overall pick ever, but he certainly wasn’t known for his playing days with the team that took him number one in 1999. Brand was a bruising center who made two All-Star Games, but the majority of his success came after he was traded from the Bulls. While he did put up numbers in Chicago, the Bulls traded him to the Los Angeles Clippers after only two seasons. In Los Angeles, he became the rare Clippers player to make the All-Star Game.

27. Zion Williamson: New Orleans Pelicans, 2019

In 2019, Zion Williamson was viewed by many as the best prospect since Anthony Davis. When he has been on the court, Williamson has shown why draft experts thought that, but availability has been Williamson’s worst enemy. The Pelicans draftee is a unique player. He stands only 6-foot-6, and he doesn’t have much of a jump shot. Additionally, he hasn’t been great on defense.

Even so, Williamson’s athletic abilities are unlike anything we have seen before, and he is an absolute tank in the interior. He has averaged 24.7 points per game so far, and he has all of the makings to become a true megastar. The former Duke player has only played in 184 games in the five years since being drafted, though.

His injuries have been untimely, too, as Williamson hasn’t been able to partake in any if New Orleans’ playoff runs. His conditioning certainly hasn’t helped his case, but Williamson’s potential is still through the rough. It is still to be determined if Williamson will be able to shake the injury bug and put it all together, but if he can, then he could solidify a case as one of the best players in the NBA for years to come.

26. Larry Johnson: Charlotte Hornets, 1991 

Danny Manning, Derrick Coleman, and Larry Johnson were taken first overall in three drafts out of a four-year span, and they all put up comparable numbers throughout their careers. Manning had 12,367 career points, Coleman had 12,884 career points, and Johnson scored 11,450 times.

Johnson didn’t have quite the longevity of the two players taken in the years before him, which forces him to rank lower than Manning and Coleman, but he had the best peak of the bunch. Johnson joined the Hornets in 1991 and immediately became their first superstar. His numbers dropped significantly after leaving Charlotte, but Grandmama was an All-Star caliber player every year with the Hornets.

25. Danny Manning: Los Angeles Clippers, 1988

Danny Manning was one of the best college basketball players of all-time, and while he didn’t reach that level of superstardom at the NBA, he was solid player who stuck around for a long time. He played for 14 seasons, two of which he was an All-Star, and one of which he was voted the Sixth Man of the Year. Manning was a rare All-Star to be traded during a season in which he was selected to the game.

24. Derrick Coleman: New Jersey Nets, 1990 

There have been first overall picks who were massive successes and number one picks who became big draft busts. Both outcomes are memorable. Derrick Coleman is one of the most forgotten number one picks because his career was somewhat average (for number one pick standards). Coleman averaged 16.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game for his career, but he only made one All-Star team.

23. Anthony Edwards: Minnesota Timberwolves, 2020

Anthony Edwards Timberwolves Western Conference Finals
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Anthony Edwards only has four seasons under his belt, so we may be jumping the gun by ranking him within the top 25 first overall picks ever. However, Edwards is quickly becoming one of the best players in the NBA, and he might even be the face of the league here in a couple of years.

His skills have dazzled since his rookie year, but this past season was his true breakout campaign. Edwards played elite basketball on both ends of the floor, and it led to the Minnesota Timberwolves reaching only their second-ever conference finals. Edwards may not have the career numbers of some of the players ranked just below him on this list, but none of them reached the level of superstardom that the Timberwolves’ star has already reached.

22. Ralph Sampson: Houston Rockets, 1983

Ralph Sampson was 7-foot-4 and was a three-time National College Player of the Year. He also played in a time where centers were viewed as franchises building blocks. That made him the easy choice at the top of the 1983 NBA Draft. Sampson came out of the gates hot in the NBA, too. He averaged 21 points per game en route to winning the Rookie of the Year award.

Although the Rockets improved in Sampson’s rookie season, they were still bad enough to end up with the number one pick again, and they took another generational center at the top of the draft (Hakeem Olajuwon). The twin tower duo formed one of the best interior combinations ever, as they scored with ease in the paint while their opponents struggled to get shots up inside.

Sampson made the All-Star Game in each of his first four seasons, but he started to struggle with injury issues, and the Rockets started to prioritize Olajuwon. The Rockets traded Sampson during his fifth season, and he was never able to replicate the success that he found with the team that drafted him outside of Houston. Sampson’s prime wasn’t long, but there was a period in time when he was one of the best centers in the NBA.

21. Brad Daugherty: Cleveland Cavaliers, 1986

Brad Daugherty was one of the better centers in the NBA during the late ’80s-early ’90s, and he was an important piece to some underrated Cavaliers teams. Just as his career was truly taking off, it was ended because of back injuries, and Daugherty never played again after the age of 28.

20. John Wall: Washington Wizards, 2010

Elite athleticism, speed, and leaping ability are some of the most coveted traits in an NBA player. However, there are injury risks that come with having such rare athletic abilities. John Wall, as well as the next player on this list, are examples of the high highs and low lows that sometimes come with freak athletes.

John Wall was unstoppable in transition and a beast when driving to the basket, but injuries ultimately forced him to miss two full seasons. The regression his game saw because of these injuries ended up prematurely ending his career. At his peak, though, Wall was a force to be reckoned with. He was a highlight waiting to happen, and he even had five straight All-Star appearances before injuries started to get the better of him.

19. Derrick Rose: Chicago Bulls, 2008

Derrick Rose is the hardest player on this list to rank. He is a former MVP, and NBA MVPs are held to an extremely high standard. Unfortunately, he is also one of the biggest what-if situations in NBA history. He won that MVP in only his third season, and the explosive guard seemed primed to dominate the league for years to come.

It didn’t work out that way, as Rose tore his ACL the following year. The injury sapped him of the athleticism that made him so special and led to a number of other lower-body injuries. Rose was never the same player post injury, and he struggled to stay on the court for the rest of his career. However, he should be praised for sticking out a 15-year (and counting) career which has included memorable moments even after his Chicago Bulls days. His 50-point game with the Timberwolves is one such moment that comes to mind.

18. Glenn Robinson: Milwaukee Bucks, 1994

At the time that Glenn Robinson was drafted first overall, there wasn’t a wage scale for rookies, so drafted players were allowed to sign contracts as big as they demanded. Robinson signed a 10-year, $68 million deal that is still the largest ever for a rookie. While he didn’t quite play to the standard that you would hope for with the contract he signed, he was a very good NBA player. Robinson scored more than 20 points per game in eight of his first nine seasons before (successfully) ring chasing at the end of his career.

17. Mark Aguirre: Dallas Mavericks, 1981

Mark Aguirre wasn’t the most efficient player, but he could score in bunches, as evidenced by his third season in the league, where he scored 29.5 points per game. Aguirre wasn’t just some shot chucker, though. He was actually the missing piece that helped the Bad Boy Pistons get over the hump. He won two rings in Detroit and finished his career as a three-time All-Star and 20 points-per-game scorer. Aguirre was one of the league’s best scorers with the Mavericks, and then he sacrificed numbers to contribute to winning in Detroit.

16. Blake Griffin: Los Angeles Clippers, 2009 

Blake Griffin complaining about a call on the Clippers
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Blake Griffin is one of the best dunkers in league history, and his high-flying ways led the Lob City Clippers to the most relevancy that the franchise has ever had. As his athleticism regressed, Griffin improved as a passer and as a shooter, which allowed him to extend his career.

15. Karl-Anthony Towns: Minnesota Timberwolves, 2015

Karl-Anthony Towns is still only 28-years-old, which makes him the youngest player and the only player who hasn’t hit his 30s yet who is ranked in our top 20. That is a testament to how much success Towns quickly found in the NBA after Minnesota took him first overall.

Despite having plenty of time to improve his resume, Towns is already the best three-point shooting center of all-time. He already has 975 career makes from deep, and he will only continue to separate himself from the pack of fellow big men. He is a four-time All-Star who has averaged more than 20 points per game in each of the last eight seasons.

The exciting part for Timberwolves fans and Towns believers is that more accolades and career accomplishments can be expected for the former number one pick. Towns spent years leading a Timberwolves team that wasn’t that good, but now he has superstars around him, and his team has become legitimate title contenders. They made it as far as the Western Conference Finals this year, and adding a championship to Towns’ resume would do wonders for his career outlook.

14. Chris Webber: Orlando Magic, 1993

Chris Webber was drafted by the Orlando Magic but immediately traded to the Golden State Warriors. He was then traded from the Warriors to the Washington Bullets after only one year, and Washington isn’t even the team he is most known for. All of that would make one assume that the 1993 first-overall pick was a bust, but that is the furthest thing from the truth.

Webber put up big numbers even as he bounced around in his early days. He really found his grove with the Sacramento Kings, though. The power forward finished his career as a five-time All-Star and 20.7 points-per-game scorer who secured 9.8 rebounds per game.

13. Yao Ming: Houston Rockets, 2002

Only five players made the All-Star Game every year of their career. The 2002 first-overall pick, Yao Ming, was one of these players. Ming stood 7-foot-6, which made him an absolute force in the paint, but he also had the touch to step outside of the paint and shoot a mid-range jump shot. Lower body injuries limited Ming’s time on the floor and forced him to retire after only eight seasons, but he was an unstoppable freak of nature when he was on the court.

12. Kyrie Irving: Cleveland Cavaliers, 2011

Number one NBA Draft pick Kyrie Irving on the Cavaliers
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving is both arguably the best ball handler and the best below-the-rim finisher the game has ever seen. Being so elite at two traits is awe-inspiring, and it has led to Irving being viewed as one of the best offensive players and one of the greatest point guards in NBA history.

Irving’s post-Cleveland Cavaliers tenure has been filled with drama, but he has seemingly found a home with the Dallas Mavericks. Although Irving’s team lost in the NBA Finals this year, the former number one overall pick proved he still has a lot left in the tank, and his pairing alongside Luka Doncic (Irving now plays more shooting guard) should be a problem for the rest of the league for years to come.

11. James Worthy: Los Angeles Lakers, 1982

The Showtime Lakers are one of the most memorable teams in NBA history, and James Worthy was a big part of the team. He won three NBA Finals and went to seven All-Star Games during his time with the Lakers. Worthy was a winner in college with UNC, and his winning ways continued at the professional level.

Worthy joined a Lakers team that won the Finals the year prior, as well as two years before that. With Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as his teammates, he didn’t need to do too much, and that led to his statistics being lower than they probably could have been had he been drafted elsewhere.

10. Dwight Howard: Orlando Magic, 2004

Dwight Howard is known for his prime that included three Defensive Player of the Year nods, five seasons being top 10 in MVP voting, and a season in which he led a talent depleted Orlando Magic team to the NBA Finals. His physicality made him a monster on the glass and one of the best shot blockers the league has ever seen.

Although his post-Magic days had their fair share of drama, people are quick to forget that carving out an 18-year-long career is incredibly rare and super impressive. Howard did just that, and while he didn’t go to any All-Star Games in his last eight seasons (he went to eight straight previously), Howard contributed enough late in his career to get that coveted championship in 2020.

9. Anthony Davis: New Orleans Hornets, 2012

Anthony Davis is the poster boy for a modern-day big. He has the skills to step outside and hit jump shots off of the bounce, but he is also one of the league’s elite defensive players. Not only can he block shots at a high level, but he is even able to guard perimeter players.

For years, it seemed Davis would take the next step and become an MVP. While he never reached the pinnacle of individual success, you can’t really complain about nine All-Star appearances and a championship victory in the weird environment that was the 2020 season.

8. Patrick Ewing: New York Knicks, 1985

A lot of the NBA’s biggest market teams haven’t had the number one overall pick that many times, because the teams tend to rarely be bad enough to get that pick. The Knicks had the first selection in 1985, though, and they drafted a franchise staple in Patrick Ewing. The center was one of the best centers in the ’80s and ’90s, and he will forever be remembered by the basketball community for his post-play on the Knicks during that time.

7. Allen Iverson: Philadelphia 76ers, 1996

Allen Iverson is one of the most influential basketball players ever. He ushered in both a cultural movement for the sport as well as a new and entertaining style of play. Iverson was undersized, but he played without fear, and he could score on anybody. Iverson famously crossed up Michael Jordan before hitting a jump shot during his rookie season.

The draft pick from Georgetown was the MVP in 2001, and he won the scoring title four times. Nicknamed The Answer, Iverson is, without a doubt, one of the greatest number one overall NBA Draft picks ever.

6. David Robinson: San Antonio Spurs, 1987 

First overall picks usually come into a situation where they are playing on a very bad team, and therefore, they are usually asked to do a lot. While David Robinson was in the U.S Navy for two years before he joined the team that drafted him, he was perfect for this role because of how versatile he was.

The Admiral could do it all, as illustrated by the fact that he led the league in scoring, rebounding, and blocks at one point or another. The Spurs know how to draft big men, and Robinson was the first great one that they drafted.

5. Tim Duncan: San Antonio Spurs, 1997

Number one NBA Draft pick Tim Duncan on the Spurs
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs found a generational player at the top of the draft in 1987, but they got an even better one in the same spot a decade later. Tim Duncan is the most common choice for the best power forward in NBA history, which makes it incredibly hard to believe he only ranks fifth for best number one overall NBA Draft choices.

Duncan was fundamentally sound, which led to him leading a Spurs dynasty that stood the test of time. His Spurs were championship contenders for the entirety of his 19-year long career. The team won five championships during that time, and Duncan’s success is a big reason why the Spurs have the best winning percentage in league history.

4. Hakeem Olajuwon: Houston Rockets, 1984

The fourth and fifth slots on this list of best number-one overall NBA Draft picks ever were incredibly hard to rank. We wouldn’t be mad if you had Duncan over Hakeem Olajuwon, but we are going to give the slight edge to 1984’s top pick. We ranked Olajuwon just one spot above Duncan in the greatest defensive players of all-time list, and that is a big reason why he gets the slight edge here, considering defense was both players’ strong suit.

Olajuwon won two Defensive Player of the Year awards, he led the league in blocks three times, he was an All-Defensive player nine times, and he is still the all-time blocks leader (3,830). He wasn’t just all defense, though. The center is known for having the best footwork out of the post of any player ever, and it led to him scoring 26,946 total points.

During his prime which included four straight seasons being top four in MVP voting, The Dream was consistently a player who would score close to 30 points per game. He actually scored more than 20 points per game for 13 straight seasons, and he even won back-to-back championships in the mid ’90s. On top of all of that, Olajuwon was the first overall pick in what went down as the best NBA Draft class in league history.

Shaquille O’Neal is often given the label of “the most dominant player of all-time.” That description is fair for O’Neal because he was so big and so strong that nobody could stop him inside. O’Neal scored 28,596 points, grabbed 13,099 rebounds, he was a 15-time All-Star, he won four championships, and he was the league MVP in 2000, yet somehow, all of those accolades don’t even do his career justice.

2. Magic Johnson: Los Angeles Lakers, 1979

Debates go back and forth on who is the greatest point guard ever between Stephen Curry and Magic Johnson, but it is hard to go against the 1979 No. 1 NBA Draft choice. Johnson’s creativity and flashy play style brought newfound popularity to the NBA, and there may never again be a rivalry as important as Johnson’s Showtime Lakers against Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics.

Johnson averaged an astonishing 11.2 assists per game for his career, as he was a wizard in the fast break. Had his career not been halted for four years because of an HIV diagnosis, Johnson would probably be viewed as a consensus top three player ever. Even with his career being stopped earlier than it should have, Johnson went down as one of the greatest players in NBA history. Johnson was a 6-foot-9 point guard who revolutionized the game of basketball more than almost any player before or after him.

1. LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers, 2003

young LeBron James posting up on the Cleveland Cavaliers
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody has had higher expectations coming into the league than LeBron James, and somehow, the 2003 first overall pick lived up to everything he was hyped up to be and so much more. James just wrapped up his 21st season in the NBA, and he appears to have plenty left in the tank. That longevity and durability combined with the elite level he has played at during the entire duration of his career is why there are plenty of supporters for The Chosen One being called the GOAT.

James has made 20 All-Star appearances, he has four Finals MVPs, and he is a four-time regular season MVP. He is the league’s all-time leading scorer and is well on his way to playing the most games in league history. The list of James’ accomplishments goes on and on.

You very well may consider Michael Jordan to be the greatest basketball player ever, but there is no doubt that LeBron James is the best No. 1 pick in NBA history.