The game of basketball is poetry in motion. Fans sometimes envision their favorite teams operating as a five-man jazz ensemble, in which each member spaces the floor to improvise, deliver pinpoint passes, and score. On the other end of the court, a cohesive group coordinates traps, rotates to the ball on dribble drives, and recovers back in to help on defense for timely rebounding off the glass.
This is team basketball. The greatest basketball players of all time, however, can still perform at high levels despite apparently breaking all of the rules in their respective positions. As individual talents, it is impossible for the greatest basketball players of all time to merely blend into the action. By nature of the very definition of greatness, these athletes must dominate.
A dominant player will set up shop on the low block before fending off double and triple teams to wheel and deal in the post and put the ball in the hole. Meanwhile, the greatest wing players are all-around performers who can create instant offense from all spots out on the floor, wreak havoc on the defensive end for timely steals and blocks, and even stand tall in the paint to get physical. The point guard is the ultimate facilitator. An elite point guard accepts responsibility to deliver the ball at impossible angles and keep his teammates involved with easy buckets, either in transition or through half-court sets.
It can often be hard to describe individual greatness with mere words because the aura of excellence is best observed through eyewitness accounts. Basketball fans often simplify the meaning of greatness to a collection of first names: Wilt, Larry, Magic, and Michael.
While the following list of great players for each position involves some opinion, on its day, this composition cannot be defeated. (All facts and figures are from Basketball-Reference.com and Hoophall.com.)