Kawhi Leonard still has the best winning percentage in NBA history

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard still has the best winning percentage in NBA history


Kawhi Leonard still has the best winning percentage in NBA history

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Winning in the NBA isn’t easy… for most players. For others, it’s almost a second nature. Some of the players on our upcoming list were the primary reasons their teams won so much, while others were excellent complementary pieces through their tenures as basketball professionals while others still were simply players lucky enough to be a part of the ride. What’s interesting is that the player coming up No. 1 on our rankings, ahead of so many legends, is still in the midst of his prime and could rise even higher than everyone else or fall from the top spot before his career is over.

Below, the 20 winningest players in NBA history based on win percentage (minimum: 250 games played):

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

20. TIAGO SPLITTER: 69.6 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 64.6 percent

Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter spent the majority of his prime as a role player with the San Antonio Spurs, which is where his high winning percentage comes from.

Splitter spent five seasons in San Antonio, often starting games for them alongside another big man who will come up later on our list.

An NBA champion once, in 2013-14, Splitter averaged 8.3 points and 5.3 rebounds over five seasons with the Spurs and would go on to play just 44 games after his time with San Antonio.

19. DRAYMOND GREEN: 69.6 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 69.9 percent

The muscle behind all of those elite Golden State Warriors of the mid- to late-2010s, Draymond Green played a huge role in the dynasty out of California, defending, rebounding and playmaking at an extremely high level for a team that was missing toughness prior to his arrival.

Green, a three-time NBA champion, three-time All-Star and one-time Defensive Player of the Year, was instrumental to a lot of the winning that went on in Golden State, even if he usually doesn’t get much credit for his contributions outside of his instigating.

Green actually would rank higher on this list if it were not for the fact that he is the only healthy Warriors star playing games this season when they own the league’s worst record.

18. TOM SANDERS: 69.7 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 62.3 percent

Better known as “Satch” in his heyday, he spent 13 seasons as a member of the Boston Celtics, winning an astounding eight titles during his time there. Sanders, a 2013 Hall-of-Fame inductee, wasn’t much of a scorer for Boston, but his defense and rebounding were important for the Celtics dynasty of the 1960s and early ’70s.

After his playing career, Sanders became the first African-American head coach in Ivy League history with Harvard and even had a brief stint as coach of the Celtics, though a 2-12 start to the 1977-78 season led to his dismissal.

17. DENNIS RODMAN: 69.8 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 68.6 percent

Remembered fondly for his funky hair colors and on-court extracurriculars, Dennis Rodman was a rebounding machine for two of the greatest teams of all time, the late-1980s Detroit Pistons and the second threepeat Chicago Bulls, winning five NBA titles throughout his Hall-of-Fame 14-year career.

Rodman led the league in rebounding seven straight years throughout his prime, putting up 6.4 points and 16.7 rebounds (!) nightly over that stretch. Far from just a rebounder, though, Rodman made eight All-Defense teams (seven 1st Teams) and won Defensive Player of the Year twice before hanging them up following the 1999-00 season.

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16. KLAY THOMPSON: 70.2 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 69.9 percent

A teammate of Green’s with Golden State, Klay Thompson is likewise a good defender, but he makes his money more on the perimeter, knocking down triple after triple for various title-winning Warriors squads.

For his career, Thompson ranks fourth among high volume three-point marksmen (minimum: 3,000 attempts) in outside accuracy, hitting 41.9 percent of his three-pointers since reaching the NBA. Thompson also has three NBA titles to his name, as well as one 2nd Team All-Defense, proving that he’s more than just a shooter.

15. JIM LOSCUTOFF: 70.3 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 66.7 percent

A no-nonsense hard-nosed forward for the Celtics from 1955 to 1964, Jim Loscutoff was part of seven title winners in Boston throughout his nine-year career.

Loscutoff didn’t put up big numbers whatsoever, averaging 6.2 points and 5.6 rebounds for his career, but alongside a Hall-of-Fame center coming up soon on our list, he helped turn the Celtics into a defensive juggernaut and dynasty they became during his time there.

14. FRANK RAMSEY: 70.5 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 64.9 percent

Frank Ramsey was a teammate of Loscutoff’s for most of his career, suiting up for Boston from 1954 to 1964 (except for the 1955-56 season, a campaign that Ramsey missed due to military service) and winning seven titles in an eight-year stretch.

Ramsey is often credited as one of the NBA’s original Sixth Man, a player talented enough to start for most teams, but who was willing to come off the bench for the greater good knowing that he would close games on most nights. For his winning impact and contributions off the bench for a dynasty in Boston, Ramsey was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2006.

13. PASCAL SIAKAM: 71.0 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 55.6 percent

One of the fastest rising players in basketball over the past two seasons, Pascal Siakam went from being a decent-but-limited reserve in 2017-18 for the Toronto Raptors to averaging 19.8 points and 7.1 boards over the two campaigns since then.

Siakam, a first-time All-Star in 2019-20, was vital to Toronto’s championship run of 2018-19, manning the frontcourt alongside the player coming up at No. 1 on this list, terrorizing foes in transition and defending multiple positions ably and admirably.

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

12. TONY PARKER: 71.1 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 60.6 percent

The only player in league history with a positive record against all 30 NBA teamsTony Parker was as big of a winner at point guard as the NBA has ever seen. A staple of the Spurs dynasty who won four championships during his time there, Parker boasts one of the most impressive resumes for any non-American player ever.

Parker, who made 2nd Team All-NBA three times throughout his playing days, even has a Finals MVP to his name, which proves his importance to the operation in San Antonio. He received the award after the 2007 Finals, one that saw him average 24.5 points (on 56.8 percent shooting) and 5.0 rebounds in a four-game sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

11. BILL RUSSELL: 71.7 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 64.8 percent

In his 13-year career, Bill Russell won a still-league-record 11 championships – and was the driving force behind all of those titles. Russell led the league in rebounding five times throughout his playing days, averaging 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds for his career.

To this day, Russell ranks second all-time in rebounds with an unfathomable 21,620 boards and would likely rank pretty high up there in total blocks, too, if they were a recorded stat in his prime. Russell won five MVP awards in his 13 seasons, was either 1st or 2nd Team All-NBA 11 times and earned Hall-of-Fame honors in 1975 for his incredible contributions to the sport.

10. SAM JONES: 71.9 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 64.9 percent

Like a lot for the aforementioned Celtics of the dynasty years, most of Sam Jones’ seasons ended with hoisting a championship trophy. Jones played 12 seasons for Boston and won titles in 10 of them, playing the role of perimeter scorer for the team in green.

Jones had a seven-year stretch where he averaged 21.5 points nightly and still ranks seventh in Celtics history in total points scored with 15,411. He also earned All-Star honors five times in his career, 2nd Team All-NBA three times and was named a Hall-of-Famer in 1984.

9. TIM DUNCAN: 71.9 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 62.5 percent

Like Russell in Boston, Tim Duncan was the engine behind the Spurs dynasty which won five NBA championships over a 15-year stretch. Duncan’s defensive prowess, rebounding tenacity and low-block scoring touch made him a truly special big man – and arguably the greatest power forward of all time.

Duncan ranks 14th in league history in points scored (26,496), sixth in total rebounds (15,091) and fifth in blocks (3,020) after averaging 19.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks for his 19-year career.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

8. MANU GINOBILI: 72.1 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 61.9 percent

Duncan’s teammate for most of his career, Manu Ginobili had the talent to start for just about any team in his prime but was selfless enough to come off the bench for the Spurs, where he became one of the greatest sixth men in NBA history.

Over a seven-season stretch between 2004-05 and 2010-11, Ginobili averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.7 three-pointers per contest, shooting 45.4 percent from the floor, and in two separate occasions, he actually outpaced Duncan in overall win shares for the campaign.

As if we needed more proof of Ginobili’s impact to winning: only the Argentinian 2-guard and Hall-of-Famer/New York Knicks legend Bill Bradley can claim to have earned an Olympic gold, a Euroleague title and at least one NBA championship in their careers.

7. TOMMY HEINSOHN: 72.6 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 66.3 percent

Yet another player from the Celtics dynasty of the ’50s and ’60s, Tommy Heinsohn won eight titles in his nine-year career and played a major part in those championships.

Heinsohn averaged 18.6 points and 8.8 rebounds nightly throughout his playing days, made six All-Star teams and was named 2nd Team All-NBA four years in a row from 1961 through 1964, proving that he was much more than just a role player.

6. DANNY GREEN: 72.7 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 61.3 percent

A three-point shooting defensive specialist at 2-guard, Danny Green has been on a playoff team every year of his career, from his time with the Cavaliers, Spurs and Raptors.

Green has two titles to his name, one with San Antonio in 2013-14 and one with Toronto last season, and even held the record for most three-pointers made in a Finals series with 27 back in 2013 before Stephen Curry broke the record three years later. For his playoff career, Green is a 39.7 percent three-point shooter and has proven he’s someone you can trust in important games.

Green has actually moved up in these rankings from last year when he had “just” a 72.1 percent win rate. Playing for a 49-14 Lakers team this season probably helps.

5. MICHAEL COOPER: 72.9 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 68.5 percent

Michael Cooper was similar to Green in that he did a whole lot of winning in his career and played the role of a defensive-minded shooting guard, but he did so without providing the floor-spacing that Green did.

At the same time, however, Cooper’s defense far outweighed that of Green’s, as Coop was named to the league’s 1st Team All-Defense five times in his playing days while earning 2nd Team All-Defense three more times. He was even the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1986-87, an extremely difficult honor to achieve for non-big men.

Cooper spent all 12 seasons of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers and won five championships while there, all as a role player for the Showtime years of the franchise alongside a player coming up on our list.

4. KC JONES: 73.1 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 63.8 percent

The final player of the early-NBA Celtics dynasty to make our list, KC Jones spent nine seasons in Boston and won a championship in eight of them, all in a consecutive fashion from 1958-59 to 1965-66.

Jones wasn’t much of a scorer, averaging just 7.4 points per game during his playing days, but his tenacity on the defensive end of the floor helped propel the Celtics to the heights they reached. What’s more, he’s one of just seven players in basketball history with an Olympic gold medal, an NCAA championship and an NBA title on their resume.

The guy just knew how to impact games in the win column.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Turner Sports

3. LARRY BIRD: 73.6 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 60.4 percent

Our first Celtic not from the ’50s or ’60s, Larry Bird suited up for the green-and-white franchise for his entire career from 1979-80 to 1991-92.

In that 13-season span, Bird made 12 All-Star teams, nine 1st Team All-NBA’s and was awarded league MVP three seasons in a row. Oh, and he won three NBA championships throughout his playing days, too.

For his career, Bird averaged 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game and ranks third in Celtics history in points scored (21,791), fourth in rebounds (8,974) and third in assists (5,695). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.

2. MAGIC JOHNSON: 74.0 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 67.4 percent

Bird’s chief rival throughout his playing days was Magic Johnson, who just outpaces him in career win percentage for the purpose of our rankings. Like Bird, Johnson spent the entirety of his time in the NBA with one team, the Lakers, though he won two more titles than his Celtic rival and just as many league MVP trophies (three).

Johnson led the NBA in assists per game four times in his career and in nightly steals twice, and to this day, ranks fifth in total dimes with 10,141. He’d be higher up that list, too, if not for HIV tragically cutting his career short after the 1990-91 season.

1. KAWHI LEONARD: 75.3 percent
Playoff winning percentage: 65.8 percent

Los Angeles Clippers forward and reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard finishes up our rankings at the No. 1 spot, and he’s done it while suiting up for three different teams for his career, proving that for a lot of the winning he’s done, it has been thanks to him and he wasn’t just along for the ride.

Winning so many games in his career is a credit to Leonard at this point and not just the Spurs, which is easy to see now two years after his departure from San Antonio, as Leonard has won a title since then and the Spurs have barely been in the playoff hunt.

Leonard has already done enough in his career (despite not being close to being done) to be considered one of the greatest two-way players of all time, with much-improved scoring since he entered his prime (24.5-point-per-game average over the last five seasons) and airtight defense that was stout enough to win him two Defensive Player of the Year awards, an honor usually bestowed for big men.

Leonard has two titles to his name already, both of which earned him Finals MVP honors, but if he can win one with his new team in L.A., that might be his most impressive accomplishment considering how long the Clippers have been an afterthought in the NBA prior to his arrival.

HoopsHype’s Alberto de Roa contributed research to this report.

You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.

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