The vast majority of Nash’s 8-season career was spent as a member of the Phoenix Suns. It was in Phoenix that Nash won back-to-back NBA MVP awards.
Nash’s crafty passing made household names out of players such as Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire. Marion and Stoudemire were fantastic players, but if not for the artistry of Nash’s passes, their career numbers would be considerably less.
Nash retired with over 10,000 assists, averaging 8.5 assists per game. Nash was first in the NBA in assists 5 times in his career. A Hall of Fame career earned mostly for passing the basketball would be rare in today’s NBA, but Nash is still regarded as one of the elite point-guards of all-time.
4. Oscar Robertson
The “Big O,” Oscar Robertson, made passing the ball his job and inspired the play of current NBA players like Russell Westbrook, who like Robertson, averaged a triple-double for an entire season. Westbrook and Robertson are the only players to ever average a triple-double in a season.
Robertson was in fact, the first player to average a triple-double, at least 10 PPG, 10 RPG, and 10 APG. He was the NBA Assists Leader 6 times in his career.
Robertson was not dissimilar to his Hall of Fame brethren Stockton and Johnson, and he had a main target who would also enter the Hall of Fame. Lou Alcinder, better known as Kareem Abdul Jabbar, manufactured a great career for himself under the passing wizardry of Johnson and Robertson.
With a championship, an MVP, and 12 NBA All-Star appearances, Robertson earned every single one in his Hall of Fame votes. 14 years in the league and Robertson averaged over 25 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and 9.5 APG.
5. Russell Westbrook
It is perhaps a surprise to some that Russell Westbrook has made our Top 5, but that shouldn’t be the case. Westbrook is almost literally a walking triple-double.
Westbrook, as mentioned before, and Oscar Robertson, are the only 2 players in NBA history to average a triple-double in points, assists, and rebounds over an entire season.
Westbrook is currently the only player to have more than one triple-double season. Westbrook averaged a triple-double in 4 out of 5 seasons and has passed Robertson for the NBA record in total triple-doubles.
Westbrook is the only current player to make our Top 5 list. The 3-time NBA Assists Leader is still racking up the assists, playing alongside another great passer who did not quite make our list- Lebron James.
Honorable mention goes to “Pistol Pete,” Pete Maravich. Maravich did not only pass the ball with accuracy and precision, he also owns the footage of some of the most outstanding passes ever in the NBA.
Legends of the game of basketball and the NBA like Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Bad Boys, Steve Nash, and Magic Johnson all credit Maravich’s awesome assists as inspiration for their careers.
No disrespect to Thomas, Nash, and Johnson, but while Maravich was artistic with his passes, he was more of a scorer. Maravich 24.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and only 5.4 APG.
Maravich is in the Hall of Fame, but it was his offensive talent, 1977 NBA Scoring Champion, that earned him that vote.
The Assist, an offensive statistical category that gets little to no love from basketball enthusiasts, has provided some of the NBA’s best highlights, while making the career of both the passers, and the recipients.
Shawn Kemp, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and others dominated the NBA with their spectacular acrobatics in the air while dunking, but if not for a great pass, there would be no alley-oop, one of basketball’s most exciting plays.
There are many who did not make our list, who would you put up there as the greatest passers in NBA history?