The 1990s were a golden era for the NBA. While Michael Jordan’s Bulls reigned supreme, he had plenty of competition from teams like the Pistons, Lakers, Knicks, Rockets, Blazers, and Suns. The decade also featured the Dream Team, an Olympic squad made up of the best the professional ranks had to offer.
The NBA draft lottery shuffled a ton of talent into the league during the decade and they helped push the league into the next era. Below is a list of the best NBA players of the 90’s based the Win Shares metric. This metric helps rank the players by stats that fall outside of the traditional line.
Dennis Rodman: 71.5 Win Shares
Dennis Rodman’s impact on the game was never easily picked up on the stat sheet. The Worm helped his team in so many different ways and advances in analytics help show just how dominant he was.
While he only averaged 7.3 ppg, he pulled down 13.1 rebounds per contest and shot 52.1% from the field. He also played for a lot of great teams. Over the course of his career Rodman took home 2 rings with the Pistons and 3 more with the Bulls.
Tim Hardaway: 72.3 Win Shares
Tim Hardaway was a part of two different great teams during the 90’s. He began his career with the Warriors as a member of the vaunted RUN-TMC crew with Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond. He ended the decade playing on the Heat alongside Alonzo Mourning.
He was a dominant Point Guard who could score the ball as easily as he could dish out assists. While he never won a title, he was a five time NBA All-Star and averaged 17.7 ppg and 8.2 apg.
Shaquille O’Neal: 75.5 Win Shares
Of course, Shaquille O’Neal was more than the 17th best player of the 1990’s. He got a much later start than many of these other players, though, he didn’t begin his NBA career until 1992. He was an immediate phenomenon.
The Hall of Famer had career averages of 23.7 ppg, with 10.9 rpg and 2.3 bpg. O’Neal began his career with the Orlando Magic before moving over the the Lakers in 1996. While he never won a title in the 90’s, he took home four rings during the 2000’s.
Patrick Ewing: 92.6 Win Shares
The Knicks won the right to select Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing in the most famous NBA Draft Lottery of all time. The Center spent the majority of his career with Knicks before moving to the SuperSonics and Magic for the final two seasons of his career.
The only knock you could have on Ewing’s career was that he never won a title. He was an 11-time All-Star who also made 3 NBA All-Defense Second Teams. For his career, he averaged 21.0 ppg, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks.
Kevin Johnson: 76.1 Win Shares
Many NBA fans probably don’t remember that Kevin Johnson began his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He only spent one season there, though, before becoming the face of the Phoenix Suns. Johnson led that Suns team through a number or grueling playoff series along with Charles Barkley and Dan Majerle.
Johnson was a force on the court who could both score (17.9 ppg) and set up his teammates (9.1 apg). He was also a ferocious defender who could lock down the other team’s top scorer. He made 3 All-Star teams during his career.
Gary Payton: 80.3 Win Shares
After a standout career at Oregon State, Payton began his career with the SuperSonics in 1990. He was a near-immediate star in Seattle known as much for his incredible defense as he was for his capable scoring (16.3 ppg) and smooth passing (6.7 apg).
Payton ended his career with a laundry list of honors that included nine All-Star appearances, nine First Team All-Defense nods, and the 1996 Defensive Player of the Year award. He finally won an NBA Title in 2006 as a member of the Miami Heat.
Shawn Kemp: 80.7 Win Shares
Not only does Shawn Kemp appear this high on the list, he did so in just a handful of years. Kemp was an early 90’s phenom for the SuperSonics scoring efficiently, rebounding like a mad man and playing tough defense.
Kemp made all six of his NBA All-Star teams between the years of 1993 and 1998. Following the 1998 season, he fell off a cliff for a multitude of reasons. The Power Forward finished his career with averages of 14.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg, and 1.2 bpg.
Hersey Hawkins: 81.7 Win Shares
A lot of people would be surprised to see Hersey Hawkins this high up a list like this. The Shooting Guard, who had much of his success with the 76ers was a strong two-way player whose analytics now shows was better than remembered.
Hawkins made one All-Star team while he was in Philadelphia in 1991. He averaged 22.1 points a game that season and finished with a career average of 14.7 ppg. He also threw in 1.7 steals.
Clyde Drexler: 82.9 Win Shares
Hall of Famer Clyde "The Glide" Drexler was still a dominating player at the beginning of the 90’s. He began his career in the mid-80’s though and retired following the 1998 season. By the mid-90’s he was more of a complimentary piece than a top option.
Drexler made a total of 10 All-Star games during his career and was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary team. For his career he averaged 20.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game.
Horace Grant: 88.1 Win Shares
Horace Grant was considered, at best, a third banana on the legendary 1990’s Bulls teams. While Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did a bulk of the scoring, Grant remained in the trenches during the dirty work. And analytically, that dirty work was quite valuable.
The Power Forward from Clemson made one All-Star team in 1994, was a member of four All Defensive Second Teams and won three titles. For his career he averaged 11.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 2.2 assists.
Jeff Hornacek: 88.5 Win Shares
During his 15 year career, Jeff Hornacek spent time with the Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz. The Shooting Guard, who provided knock down shooting and tenacious defense was the perfect third piece on the good Utah Jazz teams.
Hornacek made his only career All-Star game with the 76ers in 1992. For his career he averaged 14.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg and 4.9 assists. The Utah Jazz honored the Shooting Guard by retiring his number 14 after his career ended.
Detlef Shrempf: 91.1 Win Shares
German-born Detlef Schrempf was once of the first European born players to make a major impact in the NBA. Throughout the 1990’s the Forward played for both the Indiana Pacers and Seattle SuperSonics. Both teams made regular deep playoff runs.
While with the Pacers, he won the NBA 6th Man award twice. He also made 3 All-Star teams as a member of the SuperSonics. For his career, Shrempf averaged 13.9 ppg to go along with 6.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
Scottie Pippen: 98.0 Win Shares
Scottie Pippen tended to be a bit overshadowed during his playing career. That, of course, is an unfortunate side effect of playing alongside Michael Jordan. Pippen, however, was a marvelous two-way player in his own right.
Pippen was a 6-time All-Star who averaged 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. He was perhaps, better known as a tenacious defender who often guarded the other team’s best player. Pippen made the NBA’s All-Defense First Team eight times in his career.
Hakeem Olajuwon: 100.3 Win Shares
Though he began his career during the 1984 season, Hakeem Olajuwon remained a dominant player throughout the ’90s as well. In an era that featured Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O’Neal, and David Robison, the Dream might have been the best all-around Center of all.
He captured world titles in 1994 and 1995. He was a one time MVP, a two-time Defensive Player of the year and a 12-time All-Star. For his career, Olajuwon averaged 21.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks.
Reggie Miller: 110.8 Win Shares
Reggie Miller was a supremely talented and confident player who tended to save his best performances for when it mattered the most. The Shooting Guard never did win a title though. The NBA’s Eastern Conference was especially tough in the 90’s with Jordan’s Bulls, Ewing’s Knicks and Mourning’s Heat to contend with.
Miller was a sharp shooter who averaged 18.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists. Famous for his feuds with Knicks fan and director, Spike Lee, Miller was a five time All Star and one time Olympian who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
Charles Barkley: 112.2 Win Shares
Charles Barkley began his career as the Round Mound of Rebound. He eventually worked himself into shape and became a fantastic player for the 76ers, Suns and Rockets.Barkley never won a title as his teams typically went up against Michael Jordan’s Bulls.
A prolific offensive player, the Power Forward averaged 22.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and assists. He was also a member of 1992’s Dream Team, played in 11 All Star games and was a five time First Team All NBA player.
John Stockton: 120.6 Win Shares
The Utah Jazz never had better fortune than they did in the mid-1980’s when they drafted John Stockton and Karl Malone. That partnership, along with Coach Jerry Sloan won tons of game and got the Jazz into the finals 3 separate times.
Stockton was a floor leader who was also known for his tenacious defense. He typically led the league in assists each year and averaged 10.5 helpers per game to go along with 13.1 points. He made 10 All-Star teams and was a member of 1992’s Dream Team.
Michael Jordan: 131.1 Win Shares
It is pretty remarkable that Michael Jordan could be the 3rd player on this list despite missing two full seasons in his prime. But Jordan, inarguably the greatest player of all time just kind of did things like that on his way to 6 NBA Titles.
The stats on Jordan are breathtaking. He averaged 30,1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He became a global phenomenon during his career and was a fourteen time All Star as well as a five time MVP.
David Robinson: 137.8 Win Shares
Unlike any other previous lottery pick, David Robinson had to serve two years in the military before beginning his NBA career. The wait was well worth it for the Spurs who became a dynasty once Robinson stepped onto the court for them.
The Admiral was a ten time All Star who won the MVP Award in 1995. He also won two NBA Championships during his time in San Antonio. For his career, Robinson averaged 21.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks.
Karl Malone: 146.9 Win Shares
Karl Malone was not only the best player in the NBA during the 1990’s, he was the best player by a fair margin. The Power Forward did everything like a maniac whether is was rebounding, playing defense or getting to the basket.
For his career, Malone averaged 25.0 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He made 14 All Star games, won two MVP Awards, made First Team All Defense three times and was a member of the 1992 Dream Team.