Publish date:

10 Best No. 1 Draft Picks in NBA History

10 Best No. 1 Draft Picks in NBA History

LeBron James has certainly lived up to the billing as the No. 1 pick of the 2003 NBA Draft

The 2021 NBA Draft was held on July 29 the Detroit Pistons took Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham with the first pick.

With that decision, Cunningham now joins a class made up of many NBA legends. Here are the 10 best No. 1 picks of all time.

10. Elvin Hayes, F, Houston

1968 Draft – Minneapolis Lakers

Elvin Hayes

Hayes is 10th all-time in scoring and fourth in rebounds. He also never missed more than two games in any of his 16 seasons.

9. Oscar Robertson, PG, Cincinnati

1960 Draft – Cincinnati Royals

Oscar Robertson

Robertson is one of two players to average a triple-double for a full season and actually had a triple-double average over his first five seasons.

8. David Robinson, C, Navy

1987 Draft – San Antonio Spurs

After serving his active-duty obligation for the Navy, Robinson joined the Spurs in 1989 and led one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in NBA history. San Antonio had gone 21-61 in the 1988-89 season and then went 56-26 upon the Admiral’s arrival.

Related: 25 Greatest Centers in NBA History

7. Elgin Baylor, F, Seattle

1958 Draft – Minneapolis Lakers

Former Lakers owner Bob Short famously said if Baylor had not turned the team around,  “The club would have gone bankrupt.”

6. Hakeem Olajuwon, C, Houston

1984 Draft – Houston Rockets

Recommended Articles

Hakeem Olajuwon

Olajuwon was the first player taken in arguably the most talent-laden draft in NBA history. He “held his own,” winning two titles and retiring as the league’s all-time leader in blocked shots.

5. Tim Duncan, F, Wake Forest

1997 Draft – San Antonio Spurs

The 15-time All-Star averaged 19 points and and 10.8 rebounds per game, winning five NBA titles during his remarkable career.

4. Shaquille O’Neal, C, LSU

1992 Draft – Orlando Magic

The most physically gifted center to ever play the game was named NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week in the opening week of his rookie season. It only got better from there.

3. LeBron James, F, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School

2003 Draft – Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James

With everything he has accomplished, it's easy to forget that James is only 36 years old and can experience more greatness before he hangs it up.

Related: LeBron James’ 10 Greatest NBA Playoff Moments

2. Magic Johnson, PG, Michigan State

1979 Draft – Los Angeles Lakers

Magic Johnson

Johnson won his first NBA title his first season and became the only rookie to be named Finals MVP for his play. He won four more championships after that.

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, C UCLA

1969 Draft – Milwaukee Bucks

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The NBA’s all-time leading scorer won six titles with two different teams and six MVP awards during his career.

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.