Kareem Abdul-Jabbar picks his GOAT point guard, and it’s not Magic Johnson

Mike Battaglino
4 Min Read

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has weighed in on the debate over the greatest point guard of all time, and when asked to decide between Stephen Curry and Magic Johnson, the Los Angeles Lakers legend chose a different former teammate instead.

“I don’t think you’re gonna want to hear this,” Abdul-Jabbar said of his top point guard. “Oscar Robertson, the Big O.”

Abdul-Jabbar and Robertson were teammates on the Milwaukee Bucks from the 1970-71 season through the 1973-74 campaign, which was Robertson’s last in the NBA. They won an NBA championship in their first season together and lost in the NBA Finals in their final one.

“I only had a chance to play with him at the end of his career, but he was awesome,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “And if people had seen him play in the prime of his career and with the 3-point shot. Oscar had 3-point range, but he never got to play when the 3-point shot was incorporated into the game.

“And people don’t really understand how significant he was in how to play the game. But I played with him for those four years. I know Steph Curry and LeBron [James], Kobe [Bryant], Magic, all those guys are superior. But I would have to go with Oscar.”

Robertson averaged 25.7 points, 9.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds per game during his 14-season NBA career, with the first 10 seasons played with the Cincinnati Royals. His 181 triple-doubles were the longtime NBA record until it was surpassed by Russell Westbrook in 2021. The former Lakers player now leads with 198, with Johnson third on the all-time list with 138 and James tied for fourth with Jason Kidd at 107.

The debate over the greatest point guard of all time was rekindled when Curry picked himself over Johnson during a recent interview. That drew a response from none other than Michael Jordan, who replied to Stephen A. Smith after the ESPN pundit said he agreed with Curry. Former NBA player Gilbert Arenas then said he believed James could be considered the best at the position even though he rarely played it for most of his career.

Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson were Lakers teammates from when Johnson arrived for the 1979-80 season through Abdul-Jabbar’s final season in the 1988-89 campaign. They played together on five NBA championship teams, and the center retired with the most points scored in league history, a mark since surpassed by James.

Robertson, Johnson and Curry each played in different eras with different styles of play, so comparing them is a difficult task. As Abdul-Jabbar said, Robertson played long before the 3-point shot changed the NBA, but he still has the best career scoring average of the three.

Johnson is considered one of the best passers in history, and his average of 11.2 assists per game is the highest in history. And Curry’s 3,390 3-pointers made are by far the most ever.

Abdul-Jabbar’s viewpoint as a former teammate of two of the point guards in the conversation certainly is valid, but like any great sports debate it seems like a question that can never be definitively answered.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. He remembers the birth of "Showtime" and has always admired the star power the Lakers have brought to the game.