I often wonder, “who are the 5 best ever Cavs players?” The Cavaliers started playing basketball in Cleveland in 1970 and have had some fantastic teams. So, I figured it was time to answer once and for all who is on the list of the 5 best ever Cleveland Cavaliers players?
With it only being 5, inevitably some amazing players will be left off. Furthermore, after I reveal the top 5, I will add some honorable mentions too. Think of the honorable mentions as the bench.
While not the intention, our top 5 best Cavs happens to be a pretty well-rounded starting 5 unit as well. Ultimately, this is not a perfect starting line-up but nevertheless could be incredible in today’s position-less NBA.
Next up, Kevin Love. Love played for the Cavs from 2014-2023 and was a key member of the 2016 team that won the NBA Finals. His Finals ring and 9 years in Cleveland secure him the 5th spot. Additionally, he has averaged 17.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and his 37.2% on 3-pointers was incredible. A worthy start as 1 of the top Cleveland b-ballers.
Brad Daugherty. Daugherty spent his entire NBA career in Cleveland and put up amazing stats along the way. In his 8 years as a Cavalier, the 7-footer averaged 19 points and 9.5 rebounds per game and was a 5-time All-Star and one of the greatest at his position. Back injuries plagued him and certainly cut short his playing career but his role as a commentator has been enjoyable for fans to stay connected with the big man.
Kyrie Irving. Kyrie is considered one of the most talented and finest Cavs players ever. Upon leaving the Cavaliers, he has been at the center of many controversial comments which have complicated his legacy. On the court, he has averaged 23.3 points, shot 39.1% on 3-pointers, and dished out 5.7 assists. Moreover, Irving hit the crucial shot that sealed the Cavs’ 2016 NBA Finals win and will always be remembered for his play in Cleveland. Kyrie, you were one of the best Cavs I have ever seen play,
The second-best ever Cavalier. Mr. Mark Price. Mark Price was a fan-favorite and was a critical cog in the early 1990s Cavs teams. Only 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, Price demonstrated incredible shooting to overcome his physical limitations. Despite criticism of being too short and too slow, Price’s 90.4% free throw shooting and 40% three-point field goal career averages were remarkable. Furthermore, in his 10 years as a Cavalier, the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket endeared himself to fans for his ability to split double teams and has served as a coach and broadcaster after his retirement.
LeBron James. LeBron James is not only the Cavaliers’ best player ever but is probably only behind Michael Jordan as the best NBA player ever. Although NBA fans will debate whether LeBron is the 2nd best-ever basketball player, everyone acknowledges him as the best-ever Cav. Furthermore, the fact that LeBron is from Akron, OH which is just over a 30-minute drive from Cleveland, adds to his legacy.
LeBron led Cleveland to an NBA title in 2016 and has averaged over 27 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.3 assists. In addition, LeBron can play every position and is perhaps the most gifted basketball passer ever. However, he also infamously made “The Decision” to leave Cleveland for Miami in the summer of 2010 which complicates his legacy. Many fans decided to openly burn his jersey in the wake of his move to the Heat and he was the most disliked person in Cleveland for years.
That is until LeBron “came home” in 2014. The redemption of Cleveland’s/Akron’s was in full effect. Obtaining Kevin Love to play with Lebron and Kyrie Irving healed many of the wounds James had inflicted in his Miami move. When the Cavs won the 2016 NBA Finals, Cleveland’s 52-year title drought came to a halt. LeBron then moved to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018 and many Clevelanders wished LeBron well. He had been able to deliver on promises that so many others had been unable to fulfill. The Cavs were NBA champions.
LeBron James’ nickname is the “Chosen One” or “King James.” Ultimately, for many years, LeBron was truly the King of Cleveland as well.
As mentioned at the top, I had to leave off some wonderful players with only focusing on the top 5 best Cavs. Larry Nance, Austin Carr, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are legends in themselves and could be considered the bench for the top 5 players in my opinion.
Lastly, current Cavaliers Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland, while great players, are not on the list yet but are getting closer. If they can deliver numerous years of high-level play and potentially an NBA title, the top 5 list may need some reshuffling.