The 10 Greatest Ball Handlers in the NBA

Last updated on May 8th, 2022 at 11:41 am

In the early years of the NBA, dribbling was not part of the rules and thus players were not allowed to do any sort of dribbling. Technically speaking, players were only allowed to pass the ball once they received a pass.

However, in 1987, a team of college basketball team introduced dribbling and the game took a different turn from then.

Over the years, there have been some amazing ball handlers in the history of the NBA. From Pete Maverich to Randy Smith to Kyrie Irving Jr. All these players had a unique set of skills that set them apart from the crowd.

Due to the strict rules back then, many of the best dribblers often had to stick to the basics. The league had a set of rules specifically geared towards drilling.

For instance, players were restricted from placing their hands close to the base of the ball while dribbling. However, as the game continued to evolve many of these rules ultimately became extinct.

Players like Allen Iverson, Tim Hardaway, and Earl Monroe were now able to fully realize their potential.

While we’ve seen some amazing ball handlers over the years, many of the players on this list checked more than one box. Apart from their amazing dribbling skills, these players are also amazing passers of the ball.

That said, these are the 10 greatest ball handlers in the history of the NBA.

10. Pete Maravich

Although he was one of the leading scorers in the NBA, it is not Pete Maverick’s impressive scoring that brought fans in large numbers. Instead, it’s his spectacular ball-handling skills and showmanship.

Widely referred to as the showman before the show, Pete Maravich played a crucial role in opening up the game during the 1970s.

Pete Maravich’s soccer shots, dog passes, and playground moves were considered outrageous by many.

However, despite his unique playing Style Pete Maravich often attracted criticism from many critics and basketball purist. Many of them often argued that Pete Maravich was more of style rather than delivery.

Instead of addressing his critics directly Pete Maravich often let his game do the talking. Often at times, Pete Maverich did put up big numbers day in day out.

With NCAP tomorrow which made history by becoming An all-time leading scorer before he ultimately joined the NBA. In the NBA, he became a force to reckon with the New Orlean Jazz and the Atlanta Hawks. During his teenage years Pete maravich’s was considered to be a gym rat, spending a bigger part of his day and the gym perfecting his craft.

After an impressive High School career, Pete Maverick ultimately joined Louisiana State University. Due to NCAA rules that prohibited young players from playing for the varsity team.

Pete Maravich had no option but to join LSU junior team where he averaged a monstrous 43 points.

9. Tyreke Evans

Like most NBA players on this list Tyreke Evans was a player who did not possess superior athleticism. Instead, Evans occasions often relied on his niftiness and unique dribbling abilities. Despite being an explosive player back in his college days a string of injuries greatly impacted his athleticism and niftiness.

By the time Evans was drafted by the Sacramento Kings, Tyreke Evans was nothing but a shell of his former self.

Nonetheless, a lack of athleticism did not stop Tyreke Evans from developing his Arsenal of moves. Evans’s relentless in attacking the defense opening the courts and has impressive Court vision so him draw comparisons to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

In his first season in the NBA Tyreke Evans not only got the job done but also in the process made other players look foolish. In his first season in the NBA Tyreke Evans averaged 20.1 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds per game. 

With these incredible statistics, Evans joined a special tea that included Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Oscar Robertson. This special category included players to average 20 points 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in their rookie seasons.

However, unlike all the players on this list, Evans did not manage to match their greatness on the Court in the long term. As Tyreke Evans’s career with the Sacramento Kings progressed the kings continued to bring in more young players.

Thus Tyreke Evans’s overall effectiveness and usage rates continued to decrease over the next few seasons.

In no time, Tyreke Evans found himself pushed out of position and often played in the number 2 guard or small forward position especially with the inclusion of players such as Isaiah Thomas.

8. Dwayne Wade

If there is a player who could easily take the opposing team with his dribbling skills it has to be Dwayne Wade. A cold-blooded killer on both ends, Wade is undeniably one of the greatest Miami Heat players of all time.

In his prime years, Dwyane Wade was simply unguardable.

How many NBA fans will remember Dwyane Wade for his iconic dunk and posters, it is his dribbling skills that also made it quite memorable. In February 2006  Dwyane Wade took Cleveland Cavaliers Power forward Sasha Pavlovic to school. 

Wade not only dribbled the ball behind such as black but also managed to retrieve the ball on the other end. This is definitely one moment that  Sasha will definitely want to forget about.

Despite being an all-around player Dwyane Wade was often overshadowed by other great players such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony. Simply put, these were players with whom well with him this in the same draft.

For more than three seasons Dwyane Wade’s numbers were more similar to that of LeBron James.

These numbers not only include the points per game but also rebounds, blocks, and assists.

7. Allen Iverson

Considered to be one of the most polarizing NBA players of all time, AI all the answers who’s undeniably one of the greatest ball-handlers of all time. According to his critics, AI was a ball hog who never passed to his teammates and on many occasions always wanted the spotlight to be on him.

On the other hand, his supporters had nothing for Allen Iverson pointing out that he had a rather rough upbringing and was one of the few small men in a league mostly dominated by towering giants.

Growing up Allen Iverson’s life was filled with violence and crime.

By the time he reached High School Allen Iverson was highly talented in both football and basketball leading his team to the state championship.

Just when it had appeared that Allen Iverson had found a way out of the life in crime he would be arrested and charged after an altercation between a group of white boys and black boys.

Even though Allen Iverson pleaded not guilty to the charges the court still found Allen Iverson guilty and sentenced him to 15-year imprisonment. As luck would have it Allen Iverson ended up only serving four months in prison and received clemency from the state governor Mainly due to insufficient evidence. 

Immediately after leaving jail Allen Iverson received a scholarship from Georgetown University. In his rookie year, Allen Iverson not only managed to win the Rookie of the Year award but also won the defensive player of the year. 

AI was quite dominant in his rookie season averaging 23 points per game. It is also during this time that Allen Iverson created some of his signature moves including his iconic crossover, Step-back jumper, and the up-and-under layup.

After an impressive rookie and sophomore year, Allen Iverson declared for the NBA draft and would be picked by the Philadelphia 76ers. 

6. Steve Nash

Unlike most guards on this list, Steve Nash was a player who could not put up 30 points per game nor put up highlight reels of Dunks. However, his court presence, ability to dribble the ball and control the game made him one of the best point guards of all time.

Anytime Steve Nash had the ball the opposing team did not know what he was going to do next. Simply put, Steve Nash was quite unreadable. At any given point in time, Steve Nash could take a step back three passes and no-look pass or A pick-and-roll. 

Moreover, Steve Nash could shoot at any position on the basketball court which made him quite unguardable. By the end of his NBA career, Steve Nash had managed to win 2 NBA MVP awards and 8 NBA All-Star Appearances.

Apart from being one of the best NBA players of all time, Steve Nash has also transitioned smoothly into coaching. As the coach of the Brooklyn Nets, Steve Nash was successful in leading his team to its fast conference finals appearance.

5. Isiah Thomas

Long before Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, and Steve Nash we had Isaiah Thomas.  However, unlike all these three guards Isaiah Thomas’s in-court performance was often overshadowed by the criticism surrounding his name.

In his last year’s NBA career Isaiah Thomas managed to win two NBA championships As well as an assist title and a Finals MVP title. Being a member of the 90s Detroit Pistons Isaiah Thomas is often found executing dirty plays which did not sit well with the NBA fans as well as other NBA players.

However despite everything that went in and out of the court Isaiah Thomas still remains one of the most effective ball handlers of all time.  A feisty performer Isaiah Thomas always gave his heart day in day out on the NBA Court.

Just like Magic Johnson Isaiah Thomas process to the school to take over the game at will at any time. As one of the key members of the Detroit Pistons Isiah Thomas helped his team win back-to-back championships during the 1985 1986 season.

Even though Isaiah Thomas of inspired from time to time he was still a member of one of the dirtiest teams the NBA has ever seen that was ultimately dubbed The Bad Boys Detroit.

4. Damian Lillard

One of the best clutch players in recent times, Damian Lillard Is an effective shooter off the three-ball and handler. A Virtuoso performer Damian Lillard has proved to be one of the elite point guards in the NBA. In his rookie season with the Portland Trailblazers, Damian Lillard averaged 24.2 points And 6.3 assists per game.

While many analysts and critics have compared Damian Lillard’s game to Steve Nash, Lillard has proven that is not only more aggressive but also more Athletic.

While Damian Lillard is not the most effective shooter in the NBA his ability to draw fouls And take care of the baskets has seen him transcend into one of the highest-paid and valuable players in the NBA. He’s yet to win an NBA championship or make a finals appearance Damian Lillard still remains one of the hardest workers in the NBA.

His most recent display at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics just shows what type of a player he is, his mentality, work ethic, and ability to close the game when it matters the most.

Unlike most ball handlers in the NBA Damian Lillard is a player who happens to be the only star player in his team with no form of support. 

3. Chris Paul

Standing at 6 ft tall Chris Paul had to improvise his game since he was not the tallest on the basketball court. Apart from his impressive court vision, Chris Paul can dribble in circles leaving defenders in total chaos.

Being a seasoned NBA player Chris Paul has had the time to perfect his skills and Craft making him a valuable asset for any team in the NBA. For more than 10 seasons Chris Paul has led the NBA in assists. His hunger drive And work ethic have seen him develop into a Clutch player.

Like any other great point guard, Chris Paul is also an efficient scorer Nsuta thanks to his agility and niftiness. 

Despite the fact that he has been in the NBA for more than two decades Chris Paul finally managed to make his first-ever finals appearance during the 2020-2021 NBA season.

Despite the fact that Chris Paul and his team fell short to the Milwaukee Bucks Chris Paul still had an epic game Averaging 19.2 points per game and 8.6 assists. 

2. Magic Johnson

One of the most flashiest NBA players, Magic Johnson is undeniably one of the greatest NBA players of all time. As an NBA player Magic Johnson always played basketball at a much higher level and on many occasions at the grandest stage of all the NBA Finals.

Looking at the statistics only 13 players have more rings than Magic Johnson’s five.

Moreover, only three players have made more NBA finals appearances than Magic Johnson. These players include Bill Russell, Karim Abdul-Jabbar, and Sam Johnson. 

As an NBA player Magic Johnson often portrayed his all-around brilliance with his dribbling skills, court vision, and scoring.  In his rookie season, Magic Johnson averaged 18 points per game 7.3 rebounds per game and 7.7 assists per game.

As a result, Magic Johnson was not only named into the 1980s NBA All-Star team but was also named as a starter becoming the first player in history all the NBA to start in an all-star game as a rookie.

Despite having an impressive rookie season Magic Johnson will fall short of Larry Bird who won the NBA rookie that season. However, despite losing the Rookie award, Magic Johnson would lead his team to the year’s NBA championship In an impressive fashion.

After losing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to an ankle sprain in Game 5 of the NBA finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, Magic Johnson will begin in the central position before rotating to all the other positions.

Magic Johnson will ultimately lead the LA Lakers to an MBA championship in an impressive fashion by tallying 42  points, 7 assists, and 15 rebounds.

1. Kyrie Irving

Considered to be the best ball-handler in the NBA, Kyrie Irving‘s dribbling skills have made him one of the most unguardable players in the NBA.

On numerous occasions, Kyrie Irving has stated that his intention is to keep his dribble simple. However, Kyrie Irving often ends up unleashing a series of dribbling drills and maneuvers that often leaves the defenders flat-footed or down on the ground.

Kyrie Irving states that his move is usually very simple but usually executed at a very fast pace.

Kyrie’s ability to change his dribbling pace is what makes him one of the most lethal guards in the NBA. Although Kyrie Irving realized that he had uni reading skills by 8th grade It is only when he turned 21 that he began to use his imagination to the fullest.

In the process, Kyrie Irving ended up learning a series of dribbling combination Bones that helped him prepare for multiple defensive scenarios. 

To perfect his craft Kyrie Irving began first by learning simple moves such as crossovers behind-the-back dribbles And between the legs. 

He would then combine these moves all in isolation, coming up with five different moves and countermoves for each scenario.