The Best NBA Draft Class Of All Time: Top 10 Rankings

Depending on who you ask Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and Pete Maravich were all members of the best NBA draft class.

The best NBA draft class represents a pivotal milestone in NBA history. Yet, looking into the archives, one discovers a plethora of brilliance and legacy spread throughout the best NBA draft classes.

From the class of ’84, led by Michael Jordan, to the LeBron James era and beyond, we have seen dynasty-defining superstars emerge from the NBA draft, as well as overlooked gems who went on to become legends. 

In this article we will answer the question “what is the best NBA draft class ever?” Join us as we take you on a journey through the hardwood archives to discover the best NBA draft class of all time and rank the top 10 draft classes that have forever changed the course of the sport we love.

Criteria For Rankings

When assessing the greatest NBA draft classes, criteria such as the number of Hall of Famers and perennial All-Stars produced play a crucial role. The success of a draft class is often measured by the long-lasting impact its players have on the league, with Hall of Fame inductions and consistent All-Star appearances serving as benchmarks for greatness.

These indicators reflect not only individual excellence but also the collective influence of a draft class in shaping the competitive dynamics and legacy of the NBA. A draft class that produces players with sustained success, earning spots in the Hall of Fame and consistently participating in All-Star events, holds a special place in NBA history, showcasing the enduring talent and impact of its selected players.

The Best NBA Draft Class – 1984 

Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton are members of the best NBA draft class ever.

The 1984 NBA Draft introduced us to the greatest baller to ever play the game and is often hailed as one of the most talent-laden drafts in NBA history. Multiple perennial All-Stars and Hall of Famers came from this draft class. It’s famous for featuring the selection of greats such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and John Stockton.

Hakeem Olajuwon, a dominant center, led the Houston Rockets to two NBA championships and became one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the sport. Michael Jordan, widely regarded as the GOAT (Greatest of All Time), redefined the game with his scoring prowess, athleticism, and six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls.

Charles Barkley, a dynamic power forward, had a stellar career marked by his versatility and tenacity on the court. John Stockton, whose basketball IQ and court vision made him the all-leader in assists and steals, personified the point guard position.

Alvin Robertson, Otis Thorpe and Kevin Willis are additional noteworthy players from the best NBA draft class that went on to have prosperous NBA careers.

The 1984 draft class not only shaped the careers of these legends but also played a pivotal role in defining the NBA’s golden era cementing its place in basketball history as the best NBA draft class ever.

2. 1996 NBA Draft

Many people ask Is “1996 the best NBA draft class?” The 1996 NBA Draft, known as the “Draft of the Century,” produced many Hall of Famers. Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, and Steve Nash were drafted in 1996.

The legendary Kobe Bryant won five NBA titles and left an unforgettable mark on the Los Angeles Lakers. The electrifying point guard Allen Iverson was an MVP and 11-time All-Star. Ray Allen, a legendary NBA shooter, helped the Celtics and Heat win several titles. Two-time MVP Steve Nash was an exceptional playmaker.

The 1996 class’s talents left a lasting mark on the NBA and its global fans. This draft year was so good that it even features one of the league’s rare undrafted NBA Hall of Famers and perennial All-Star in Ben Wallace.

3. 2003 NBA Draft

The 2003 NBA Draft is widely regarded as one of the most star-studded classes in league history. Headlined by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony, this draft produced generational talents who have left an enduring impact on the NBA.

LeBron James, often considered one of the greatest basketball players ever, has won multiple championships, MVP awards, and All-Star selections. Dwyane Wade, a three-time NBA champion, and Carmelo Anthony, an elite scorer, have also enjoyed illustrious careers.

The 2003 class not only elevated the individual achievements of its stars but also reshaped the league’s landscape, setting the stage for a new era of basketball greatness.

4. 1970 NBA Draft

Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton are members of the best NBA draft class ever.

The 1970 NBA Draft is widely regarded as one of the best NBA draft classes, featuring basketball legends who left an enduring impact on the sport. Notable players from this class include Bob Lanier, Pete Maravich, Dave Cowens, Calvin Murphy, Nate Archibald, Charlie Scott, and Dan Issel.

Bob Lanier showcased his skills as a dominant center, while Pete Maravich, known as “Pistol Pete,” dazzled with his extraordinary ball-handling and scoring abilities. Dave Cowens and Nate Archibald were instrumental in leading their teams to success, with Cowens earning NBA MVP honors. Calvin Murphy, Charlie Scott, and Dan Issel also contributed significantly to the league’s rich history.

The 1970 draft class not only produced individual stars but collectively shaped the competitive landscape of the NBA, solidifying its status as an iconic draft year.

5. 1962 NBA Draft

The 1962 NBA Draft holds a significant place in basketball history, introducing a crop of talented players who made lasting contributions to the NBA. Notable figures from this draft class include Dave DeBusschere, Jerry Lucas, Zelmo Beaty, John Havlicek, and Chet Walker.

Dave DeBusschere, recognized for his versatile skills, became a key player for successful teams during his career. Jerry Lucas, known for his exceptional rebounding and scoring abilities, earned multiple All-Star selections. Zelmo Beaty, a skilled center, left his mark on the league, as did John Havlicek and Chet Walker, both of whom became Hall of Famers known for their scoring prowess and versatility.

The 1962 draft class played a pivotal role in shaping the NBA’s landscape, contributing to the league’s rich history and captivating basketball enthusiasts with their remarkable talents.

6. 1987 NBA Draft

The 1987 NBA Draft is revered for introducing a host of talented players who left an indelible mark on the league. Notable selections included David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, and Reggie Miller.

David Robinson, often known as “The Admiral,” became a dominant force in the paint and led the San Antonio Spurs to multiple successful seasons, ultimately winning two NBA championships. Scottie Pippen, alongside Michael Jordan, played a crucial role in the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty, contributing to six NBA championships. Reggie Miller, a sharpshooting guard, became one of the greatest clutch performers in NBA history during his tenure with the Indiana Pacers.

The 1987 draft class, with its diverse array of talent and significant contributions to team success, stands as a cornerstone in shaping the competitive landscape of the NBA.

7. 1985 NBA Draft

The 1985 NBA Draft, often referred to as the “Conspiracy Draft,” is renowned for producing a plethora of Hall of Fame talent, including Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Joe Dumars and Charles Oakley.

Patrick Ewing, the first overall pick, had a stellar career with the New York Knicks, becoming an 11-time All-Star and an iconic figure in the franchise’s history. Karl Malone, one of the greatest power forwards, amassed numerous accolades and became a two-time MVP. Chris Mullin, known for his scoring prowess, was a five-time All-Star.

The 1985 class not only featured individual greatness but also had a collective impact on the competitiveness and legacy of the NBA, making it one of the most memorable drafts in history.

8. 2009 NBA Draft

Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton are members of the best NBA draft class ever.

The 2009 NBA Draft is noteworthy for its deep pool of talent that has made a lasting impact on the league. This class produced perennial All-Stars such as Stephen Curry, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan and Blake Griffin.

Stephen Curry revolutionized the game with his unprecedented shooting ability, leading the Golden State Warriors to multiple championships and earning multiple MVP awards. James Harden, an elite scorer and playmaker, has consistently been one of the league’s top performers. Blake Griffin, known for his athleticism and versatility, became a six-time All-Star.

The 2009 draft class not only boasted individual brilliance but also played a pivotal role in shaping the modern style of play in the NBA, emphasizing three-point shooting and offensive creativity.

9. 2011 NBA Draft

Despite its youth, the 2011 NBA Draft has made an indelible impression on the game with several significant players. Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, and Jimmy Butler led the class.

Kyrie Irving, a talented point guard, helped the Cleveland Cavaliers win the 2016 championship and remains a force. Klay Thompson’s shooting and defense helped the Golden State Warriors’ to a dynasty. Kawhi Leonard, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, helped the Spurs and Raptors win titles. Jimmy Butler, a tough and versatile player, leads the Miami Heat.

The 2011 draft class’s flexibility and effect shaped NBA competition in the 2010s. It features 7 All-Stars and at least 4 potential Hall of Famers.

10. 1999 NBA Draft

The 1999 NBA Draft holds a special place in basketball history, notably marked by the emergence of standout players who made significant impacts on the league. This class is very unique as it can be viewed as one of the best or one of the worst classes depending on what criteria you use to rank them.

Among the notable figures from this draft class are Hall Of Famer Manu Ginobili, known for his crafty and versatile playing style, Shawn Marion, a dynamic forward with exceptional defensive skills, and Steve Francis, an explosive guard who brought excitement to the court. Rip Hamilton, Baron Davis, Elton Brand, Andrei Kirilenko, Metta World Peace and Wally Sczerbiak also contributed to the league, showcasing their talents and achieving success in various capacities.

The 1999 draft class, much like its predecessor, left an enduring mark on the NBA, with these players’ legacies standing as a testament to the talent that emerged from that pivotal draft year.

Honorable Mentions For Top Draft Classes

The NBA Draft – A Showcase Of Talent And A Catalyst For The League’s Growth. 

The NBA has witnessed several remarkable draft classes, each contributing unique talents and shaping the league’s history. From the iconic 1984 and 1970 classes to the star-studded 2003 and 1996 drafts, these classes have produced legends who left an indelible mark on the sport.

With each passing generation, these drafts continue to define the NBA’s landscape, showcasing the enduring impact of extraordinary talents and their lasting contributions to the game of basketball.

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