Smartest NBA Players of All Time

The Top Ten

Kevin Garnett Kevin Maurice Garnett is an American professional basketball player for the Minnesota Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association.

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.

Bill Russell William Felton "Bill" Russell is 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.

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.

His basketball IQ is insanely high how is he not number 1

He's the best. Period.

He's dumb

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!

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.

Chris Paul Christopher Emmanuel Paul is an American professional basketball player for the Oklahoma City Thunder of the National Basketball Association.
Michael Jordan Michael Jeffrey Jordan, also known by his initials, MJ, is an American retired professional basketball player.

The great basketball leader

Do I need to say why?

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 ...read more.
Isaiah Thomas Isaiah Jamar Thomas is an American professional basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers of 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

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.

The Contenders

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].

Stephen Curry Wardell Stephen Curry II is an American professional basketball player for the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association. Many players and analysts have called him the greatest shooter in NBA history. He is one of the most beloved, as well as hated, stars in the NBA today.
Hakeem Olajuwon Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon, formerly known as Akeem Olajuwon, is a Nigerian-American retired professional basketball player.
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.
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. ...read more.
Rajon Rondo Rajon Pierre Rondo is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association.
Russell Westbrook Russell Westbrook Jr. is an American professional basketball player for the Oklahoma City Thunder of the National Basketball Association.
Kwame Brown

Best of all time

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.
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.
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.
Jerry Lucas

Jerry Lucas had a photographic memory. He often showed off his ability to walk down a lineup of 100 people he had never met, ask their name, and then turn around and be able to recall the name of all 100 of them!

Does not specify basketball IQ or actual IQ.

Bill Walton
Kevin Durant Kevin Wayne Durant is an American professional basketball player for the Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association. He has played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, and the Nets. He was MVP of the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals.
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.
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