Making baskets is obviously crucial in the NBA. Many players like to score as much as possible because it looks good and helps in free-agent contract negotiations. But passing is also a critical part of the sport. It’s becoming a lost art in the NBA, and the best passers in league history recognized its value.
The importance of passing
Passing is a key part of basketball. It can help you get the ball to an undefended teammate, who can get an easier shot than you can. A team that passes a lot can keep its opponents on their toes. Players will have to guess where the ball will go and who they must defend, which sets up your team for an easier shot attempt. Teams with a strong passing game are more likely to have players open for uncontested and high-percentage shots. So, which talented passers gave their teams this incredible advantage?
Steve Nash is a two-time MVP, but he wasn’t selfish. The Hall of Famer averaged 8.5 assists per game in his 18-year career, which places him ninth all-time. Nash’s 10,335 total assists put him third on the all-time list. But getting the ball to his open teammates isn’t the only way he helped his teams. The eight-time All-Star was also a prolific three-point shooter, ranking 10th all-time in percentage of three-pointers made. Nash led the NBA in assists five times in his career.
The 10-time All-Star also led the NBA in assists five times during his 19-year career. Jason Kidd retired with 8.7 assists per game — good for eighth place on the all-time list. His longevity allowed him to claim the title of second all-time in total assists with 12,091.
Kidd was one of the best at running the fast break. He was also adept at finding teammates to dish out alley-oops for easy two-pointers. When people think about Jason Kidd, his passing ability is one of the things they most remember about the Hall of Famer.
Many basketball fans consider John Stockton the best passer in NBA history, and he very well could be. How many times in his career did you hear an announcer say “Stockton to Malone?” The 19-year veteran led the league in assists nine times, representing nearly half of the seasons he played in NBA.
The Hall of Famer ranks second all-time with 10.5 assists per game, and he leads all NBA players with 15,806 assists — more than 3,700 more than second-place Kidd. Stockton is also the all-time leader in assist percentage at 50.2.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Magic Johnson is one of the all-time greats. He did a lot of things well in his 13-year career but passing was one of the big man’s specialties. The 12-time All-Star led the NBA in assists four times, and he has the fifth-most career steals in NBA history with 10,141. Johnson would rank even higher if he didn’t miss four years while getting treated for HIV. This is evidenced by the fact that the Hall of Famer averaged 11.2 assists per game — the highest average in NBA history.