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The 2023-24 NBA season is officially underway, which means it’s time for you to refresh your basketball knowledge and get familiar with the biggest names. The NBA is in an unprecedented era of parity where many teams can win the championships, so there are several candidates for the best basketball player in the world. We’ve narrowed it down to five elite players, plus five young stars who could become the next big thing.
Kings of the Basketball World
Let’s start by establishing the best player in the world and the guys who are in the running. These five players have vastly different playing styles and possess more than enough hardware, so there’s a legitimate argument for all of them. But there can only be one. Here are the top five contenders entering the 2023-24 NBA season.
1. Nikola Jokić
As of right now, the player with the best case is Nikola Jokić. The seven-foot Serbian center for the Denver Nuggets just led his team to its first NBA championship and won Finals MVP. He also just had the greatest playoff run ever, averaging 30 points, 13.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists Despite his bulky frame, he shoots, passes, dribbles and rebounds at a high level. He is unguardable.
Jokić was in the running for world number one before the 2022-23 season, but he received criticism for underperforming in the playoffs. He was just the 13th player to win back-to-back regular season MVP awards in 2021 and 2022, but they didn’t amount to any playoff success. Now that “The Joker” has the hardware for the regular season AND playoffs, nobody can deny that he’s the best basketball player in the world today.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Before Jokić took the big leap in 2023, Giannis Antetokounmpo was widely considered the best player in the world. He also has two regular season MVPs and one NBA title, leading his Milwaukee Bucks to the 2021 championship. The Greek Freak is the most physically dominant player in the league, standing at 6’11” but having the athleticism of a 6’4” guard.
Giannis is indisputably the best defensive player in the NBA, and his offensive skillset is only getting better. In 2023 he averaged a career-high 31 points in just 32 minutes per game. His jump shooting still needs to improve, but he’s so freakishly athletic that he can impose his will in all other facets of the game.
3. Steph Curry
Steph Curry has defied the odds for his entire career. Undersized guards have no business being this great, but Curry’s transcendent shooting ability makes him the best offensive player in the world. He continues to put up ridiculous scoring numbers, averaging 29.4 ppg on 58% shooting in 2023. Nobody else scores with that kind of efficiency besides Nikola Jokić.
Curry is also on this list because of his intangibles. His leadership and unselfish style of play have been the foundation of the Golden State Warriors dynasty. His teammates adore him and his opponents can’t help but respect him. He’s the consummate professional and the perfect face of an NBA franchise.
4. LeBron James
The 38-year-old LeBron James is still one of the best players in the world. Although he’s not the same athlete as he was a few years ago, his game is still evolving. He has changed from a hyper-aggressive scoring forward to a pass-first facilitator with the Los Angeles Lakers. Even so, he still manages to average 28 ppg at an efficient 55%.
LeBron doesn’t strike fear into opponents the same way he used to, but he’s still elite at every facet of the game. If his health holds up, he will compete for the MVP once again in 2023-24. He is arguably the best basketball player of all time and still has a lot left in the tank.
5. Kevin Durant
The fifth player in the running for best basketball player in the world is Kevin Durant, the seven-foot scoring forward for the Phoenix Suns. His health is a major concern at this point in his career, but he’s still the most well-rounded scorer in the NBA today. He can create shots for himself anywhere on the floor and play off the ball in any offensive scheme.
If Durant manages to stay healthy for the 2023-24 season, the Suns will be a terrifying force. He deserves a spot in the top five, but he could be as high as number two by the end of the year. Nobody denies his talent, but his body just needs to hold up.
Contenders for the Throne
While the five players discussed above have an argument for the current best player in the world, the five players below are the upcoming contenders. Any one of them could seize the throne as early as this season if the cards fall in their favor. Be sure to keep these names on your radar.
1. Victor Wembanyama
Where do we begin with this kid? The 7’4” rookie out of France has the most unique frame and skillset in NBA history. His height immediately makes him one of the best defenders and rebounders in the league, and he has shown a great scoring ability in the preseason. He has legitimate potential to be the best player of all time when his career is over.
2. Luka Dončić
The next player on the list is another European, the Slovenian phenom Luka Dončić. He is a one-man offensive engine for the Dallas Mavericks, averaging 32 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists in 2022-23. Despite being only 24 years old, he plays like a seasoned veteran thanks to his experiences in Europe’s professional leagues. He is the perfect posterboy for international basketball and could become the world’s best player shortly.
3. Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum came into the NBA at 19 years old and has matured into a great all-around player at 25. He’s coming off a career-high 31 ppg with the Boston Celtics, but questions remain about his mental toughness and scoring versatility in the playoffs. Nobody denies his potential to be an all-time great, but he needs to check off a few more boxes to be worthy of world number one.
4. Anthony Edwards
Anthony Edwards finds himself in a similar situation. The former #1 overall pick in 2020 has made great strides in his first three seasons, but we’re still waiting for him to take the leap into megastardom. He possesses all of the physical tools and has shown fortitude in the playoffs, but he needs to get more wins under his belt.
5. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SGA quietly went #11 overall to the Charlotte Hornets in 2019 and got traded to the LA Clippers before getting a long-term deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has proven worthy of the contract, averaging 31 ppg and becoming an elite pick and roll player. If he maintains this unguardable style of play, he could become the best in the world.
Only One Can Be The Best
If your favorite player is on this list, leave a comment below and present your case for why he should be the best basketball player in the world. All of these players will have legitimate cases moving forward, but only one can be the best. Will Nikola Jokić hold onto the crown, or will one of these players snatch it away in 2024? Let’s see how the season plays out.