1 Kevin Garnett
Kevin Maurice Garnett is a former professional basketball player who played for 21 seasons in the National Basketball Association, for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston Celtics, and Brooklyn Nets.
Gets into your head. He the best trash talker EVER! And that's how he's smart. He knows how to get into people's heads.
2 Bill Russell
William Felton "Bill" Russell was an American retired professional basketball player. Russell played center for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association from 1956 to 1969.
If this is about "Basketball IQ" its impossible to pick anyone but Bill Russell. His personal scoring was average at best, although he is the #2 rebounder and #2 shotblocker of all time, and he always found a way to win. He has almost twice as many NBA titles as Jordan.
3 Magic Johnson
Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr. is a retired American professional basketball player who played point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association for 13 seasons.
Magic is by far the smartest basketball player that ever lived. The greatest PG of all time you have to be smart to be the floor general and magic was the greatest him leading his team and that his team was so great they dubbed the team Showtime. Magic is a 3 x MVP and 3 x finals MVP he's number 5 on the all time assists list. He went to 9 NBA finals in his 13 year career won 5 out of those 9, his career was cut short due to him contracting hiv so who knows what other accomplishments he could have completed.
Magic was the best, I have yet to see any player, play like Magic. When I'm watching a tight game, I'm like, "why don't they just throw the ball at someone's calf and let it bounce out of bounds like Magic would". Magic would calculate how many points were needed in 2 minutes left in the game, and he would make it happen like a magician 🎩! No one, no other player does this! He could literally will the basketball to the basket!
4 LeBron James
LeBron Raymone James is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association. LeBron has played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and the Lakers.
Absolute genius. Undoubtedly the most intelligent leader the league has ever come in contact with. The man is not only a player, but he is a role model, a coach, a caring teammate, and a community contributor. His memory is second to none. He remembers random plays from games 2 years ago and uses those memories to learn new techniques which add to his never ending skillset. It will be 20 years after he has retired before we ever see an intellect like LeBron's in the NBA again.
He's the best. Period.
5 Tim Duncan
Timothy Theodore "Tim" Duncan is an American professional basketball player who has played his entire career for the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association.
Just because he's quiet doesn't mean he's the 4th most intelligent player to play the game. Duncan is made to look smarter than he is by his overachieving coach, who happens to be the best of his era and one of the best ever.
6 Chris Paul
Christopher Emmanuel Paul is an American professional basketball player for the Phoenix Suns of the National Basketball Association.
7 Michael Jordan
Michael Jeffrey Jordan, also known by his initials, MJ, is an American retired professional basketball player.
Do I need to say why?
8 John Stockton
John Houston Stockton is an American retired professional basketball player. He spent his entire professional playing career as a point guard for the Utah Jazz of the National Basketball Association, from 1984 to 2003. Stockton is regarded as one of the best point guards of all time, holding the NBA records for most career assists and steals by considerable margins.
Greatest point guard to ever play the game!
9 Isiah Thomas
Isiah Lord Thomas III is an American former basketball player who played professionally for the Detroit Pistons in the National Basketball Association.
There is no doubt that Isiah Thomas is one of the TOUGHEST minds ever to play in the NBA. However, when you look at the fact that he was President of NBA Players Association, President of basketball operations for Toronto and new York, as the undisputed leader of the Bad Boy Pistons, orchestrated defeat of the three greatest teams in the history of the NBA (Jordan's, Bulls, Bird's Celtics, and Magic's, Lakers), does play-by play of NBA, is the go-to person to explain situations that arise in the NBA (have you ever listened to him break down anything? Well, its amazing), was an NBA and college head coach, drafted future hall of fame players, and was the most difficult player for Michael Jordan to LEARN to win against, you have to say that not only is Isiah Thomas one of the TOUGHEST players in the history of the NBA, but he is one of the SMARTEST.
Bad boys for life
10 Larry Bird
Larry Joe Bird is an American retired professional basketball player who played for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association. Bird is a 3x champ, 1x ROTY, 1x Finals MVP, 3x 3PT Contest winner, all with the Boston Celtics. (1979-1992)
Smartest ever when it comes to basketball, not even close! Kareem, Magic, Dr J, and even MJ al, said that he was the smartest player that they ever played against! These are all players that could considered for GOAT, when they all say you're the smartest of all I don't know how you can debate it!
On defense he could map out just how offense's play was going to do long before finishing.
Its unbelievable that he's at #12 when he should be top 4.
11 Jeremy Lin
Jeremy Shu-How Lin is an American professional basketball player for the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Association.
I'm bias because he is my favorite player ever (as a person). However, he does play incredibly smart basketball.
Not sure if you mean "Basketball Smart", or just generally Intelligent. If you mean generally Intelligent, Jeremy Lin is the smartest person to ever play in the NBA, followed closely by Bill Bradley [who was almost president of the USA].
12 Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant (1978 - 2020) was an American retired professional basketball player. He played his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association. Kobe Bryant has won 5 NBA championships with the Lakers and was the all-time leading scorer in Lakers franchise history.
He Retired in 2016. He died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California at age 41.
During his career, he meticulously picked apart every little detail in the game. From things like knowing when the referee isn't going to see if he made a dirty play, and so on and so forth. After his career; was a successful businessman, granity studios, books, etc. etc.
13 Stephen Curry
Wardell Stephen Curry II is an American professional basketball player for the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He is widely considered to be one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, if not the greatest. He is one of the most beloved stars in the NBA today, as well as one of the most controversial.
14 Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon, formerly known as Akeem Olajuwon, is a Nigerian-American retired professional basketball player.
15 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an American retired professional basketball player who played 20 seasons in the National Basketball Association for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers.
16 Rajon Rondo
Rajon Pierre Rondo is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association.
17 Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook Jr. is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association.
18 John Havlicek
John Joseph "Hondo" Havlicek is a retired American professional basketball player who competed for 16 seasons with the Boston Celtics, winning eight NBA championships, four of them coming in his first four seasons.
19 Oscar Robertson
Oscar Palmer Robertson, nicknamed "The Big O", is an American retired National Basketball Association player who played for the Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks.
20 Jerry West
Jerry Alan West is an American retired basketball player who played his entire professional career for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association.
21 David Robinson
David Maurice Robinson is an American former professional basketball player, who played center for the San Antonio Spurs in the National Basketball Association for his entire career.
22 Yao Ming
Yao Ming is a Chinese basketball executive and retired professional basketball player who played for the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association and the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association.
23 Dennis Rodman
Dennis Keith Rodman is an American retired professional basketball player who played for the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks in the National Basketball Association.
24 Kwame Brown
Best of all time
25 Nikola Jokic
Nikola Jokić is a Serbian professional basketball player for the Denver Nuggets of the National Basketball Association.