Basketball is a team sport. In it, to win, all five players on the field must strive. And in the NBA, we see from time to time how even the most convincing performance by the team leader can’t save her from offensive defeat. But there were also those in league history whose contribution to the game was so significant that losses for their teams became a real rarity.
Here’s a list of the five players with the highest personal winning percentage in NBA history. By the way, it only takes into account those who participated in 500 or more matches in their career.
And don’t be surprised that neither Michael Jordan, nor LeBron James, nor Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, nor Wilt Chamberlain, nor even Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant are included here.
Michael Cooper – 72.9% (636 wins – 237 losses)
Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Race Stats: 8.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks.achievements: five-time NBA champion, best defensive player of the year (1987), eight hits in the symbolic five of defenders.
Los Angeles Lakers legend and one of the greatest defensemen of the ’80s era. From 1979 to 1990, when Cooper played with the Lakers, his winning percentage never fell below 65.9.
It was he who in that legendary team was given the task of sponsoring the best attacking players of the opponent, in particular on the perimeter. The legendary Larry Bird once called Cooper the best defenseman he ever played against. He was highly respected by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And it is not surprising that Michael not only has five championship rings in his piggy bank, but also the title of the best defending player in the NBA (1987), as well as eight hits in the corresponding symbolic five: five in the first and three in the second.
When he left the team in 1990, he was in the top 10 players in Lakers history in 3-pointers made (428), games played (873), minutes played (23,635), steals (1,033), blocked shots (523), assists (3,666), defensive rebounds (2,028), offensive rebounds (741) and free throw percentage (83.3).
KC Jones – 73.1% (494 – 181)
Photo: Walter Iooss Jr./Getty Images
Race Stats: 7.4 points, 3.5 steals, 4.5 assists.Achievements: eight-time NBA champion, two-time NCAA champion.
One of the most titled players in NBA history, KC Jones won as many as eight trophies in nine seasons with Boston.
He was far from the most important figure in that Celtics championship dynasty and often receives little recognition. Jones had modest statistics and was one of the players on his long bench, where he most often entered the court from. But his basketball IQ and tenacious defensive game complemented Bill Russell, his legendary Boston teammate and close college friend.
In only one of Jones’ nine seasons with the Celtics did they have a winning percentage below 70, the 1965/1966 championship (67.5%), Red Auerbach’s last as head coach. But that year they still became champions.
Jones continued his coaching career. In the NBA, he started out as an assistant but eventually led Boston and led the team to championships twice. However, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player: Jones is one of only eight basketball players in history to win the NCAA, NBA, and Olympic gold medals.
Kawhi Leonard – 73.56% (462 – 166)
Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Race Stats: 19.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.6 blocks.Achievements: two-time NBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, five-time All-Star, five NBA All-Stars, seven All-Defensive Fives.
The only current player on this list. It’s hard to believe, but one of the most traumatic basketball players in the NBA is also one of the winningest players in history. In 11 years in the NBA, Kawai lost just 166 games he played in (out of 628 total).
Only in 1 of those 11 seasons did his team win a percentage below 60 – the 2017/2018 championship, in which Leonard played only nine games…
In seven years in San Antonio, a good half of the wins were due to Kawhi’s mere presence on the court. In 2014, when he became the Finals Series champion and MVP, the Spurs won 54 of 66 games against him, or 81.8%. The same was repeated in Toronto, which Leonard dragged to his first championship with one of the best playoff streaks in modern NBA history.
Of course, in none of his last four seasons did Kawai appear in more than 60 games. But not only in the top five, but even in the top ten, there is no other active basketball player in this ranking. Among them, Leonard’s closest pursuer is Danny Green with a 70.7% win rate (12th result).
Larry Bird – 73.57% (660 – 237)
Photo: Getty Images
Race Stats: 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.8 blocks.Achievements: three-time NBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, three-time MVP, Rookie of the Year (1980), 12-time All-Star, 10 NBA All-Stars, three All-Defensive Fives.
A true basketball icon of the 1980s and one of the greatest players of not only his time, but the NBA has ever seen. With Boston, Bird won three league titles, as well as three consecutive MVP awards.
Bird was good at everything: as a scorer, as a passer, as a rebounder, as a defender, and of course as a clutch. His best season was the 1985/1986 championship, in which Legend Larry was named the league’s most valuable player for the third time in a row. The Celtics then issued the second record in franchise history: 67-15 (81%). At the same time, Bird himself participated in all 82 games of that draw.
The only time Bird had a negative win-loss balance was in the 1988/1989 season, which he was forced to end after six games due to the required operation.
After that Larry had back problems which kept him from getting back to the top of his form and then forced him to end his race. However, he maintained his status as one of the top players in the league. In his last three seasons with the Celtics, Bird averaged 21.6 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game, and averaged a career winning percentage of nearly 70%.
Magical Johnson – 74% (670 – 236)
Photo: Mike Powell/Getty Images
Race Stats: 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 11.2 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.4 blocks.Achievements: five-time NBA Champion, three-time Finals MVP, three-time MVP, 12-time All-Star, 10-time NBA All-Stars.
And here is Larry Bird’s main rival, the best point guard in NBA history, Magic Johnson. From 1980 to 1988, he helped the Lakers win five league titles, was named MVP three times, and won three Finals Series MVP awards, the first in his rookie season.
He spent 13 years in the NBA with a four-year hiatus due to illness. During this time, his personal win percentage surpassed the 70% mark as many as 11 times. Even in Johnson’s worst season (1983/1984), the Lakers were 46-21 (68.7%) when he was on the court and eventually reached the NBA Finals.
Magic was an incredible playmaker and had a unique ability to take out his teammates. When Johnson led the attack, he was simply unstoppable, especially when it came to playing fast breaks.
Magic’s merits like to downplay, bringing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and their other star teammates into the conversation. But it was Johnson who ultimately became the winningest player in NBA history. And that is.