Top 10 All Time Steals Leaders In NBA History

Nothing can turn the tide of a basketball game faster than a few steals. Whether it’s a crucial fourth quarter strip or just an extra possession early on, steals lead to great offensive opportunities for any team. Today, there are some NBA players with tremendous active hands. However, there have been even better players with a nose for stealing the ball in the history of the league.

From MJ’s overlooked defensive skills to CP3’s quick hands and John Stockton’s insane numbers, these players have gone down in the record books as all-time steal leaders. Some have had longer careers and some haven’t, but their numbers speak for themselves. When your team is in need of the ball and can’t wait to get a rebound, these players stand up and steal it. Someone should call the cops.

Here are the top 10 all-time NBA steal leaders:

10. Alvin Robertson

Career Steal Stats 

SPGGames PlayedCareer Total 

2.7

779

2112

Despite a checkered past, including some criminal offenses, Alvin Robertson remains an NBA defensive legend.

When looking strictly at his on-court performances, there is no denying that he was one of the best defenders to play the game.

He still holds the record for steals per game with a whopping 2.7. Yes, that’s an average maintained over his entire career. 

Robertson also holds the title of NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1986. It is fitting he played for the Spurs, a longtime defensive powerhouse.

Today’s Spurs follow the same defensive-minded strategy, but no one has matched the steal prowess of Robertson.

9. Chris Paul

Career Steal Stats 

SPGGames PlayedCareer Total 

2.2

950

11,954

Though his time with the Rockets has been less impressive than most people expected, CP3 is one of the premier players in the league today.

He is often praised more for his assists and offensive skills rather than defensive ability, but he can stand on his own against the all-time steal leaders.

In fact, he joined a select club during the 2019 season, becoming only the fourth player to crack the all-time top ten lists in both assists and steals. He giveth the ball and taketh it away.

Still in the prime of his career, Paul has a chance to keep climbing up this list as the seasons tick on. Though it is highly unlikely that he (or anyone) will catch John Stockton, he could find himself in the top five by the time he hangs it up.

He averages over two per game, giving him the ability to climb by 200-300 steals each season.

As the only active player on this list, it will be interesting to continue watching history unfold.

8. Hakeem Olajuwon

Career Steal Stats 

SPGGames PlayedCareer Total 

1.7

1238

2162

If Hakeem Olajuwon was still playing today, he would be at the top of every fantasy basketball player’s draft board. This man could do it all on the court.

He had the ability to go for a 20-20 game every night and is one of just four players to record a quadruple-double.

In fact, he did it twice, but the NBA revoked one on a bogus claim of “stat-padding.” 

Even though he was doing all the scoring, rebounding, blocks, and assists, he somehow found time to steal the ball. Amidst a 34-point, 20 rebound game he snagged 8 steals and got 7 of them in a triple-double game with 38 points.

Even though the Rockets passed on drafting MJ to get Hakeem, they could have done far worse. With this stat stuffer on the court, they always stood a chance.

Unless they were playing MJ that is. We’ll get to him later.

7. Clyde Drexler

Career Steal Stats 

SPGGames PlayedCareer Total 

2.0

1086

2207

Clyde the Glide is one of the most celebrated players in Trailblazer history besides current superstar Damian Lillard.

Through 11 seasons with the team he played with flair as a quick-draw shooting guard that didn’t hesitate to take it to the rim either.

He was an All-Star by his third season in the league and made two NBA Finals appearances. Though he didn’t win either of them, he did secure a gold medal in the 1992 Olympics as part of the original Dream Team.

Perhaps he learned some of his tremendous leadership on the court and in the community from the experience of representing the United States in Barcelona.

He was also feared and revered across the league for his defensive prowess, always ready to pick your pocket if you weren’t careful.

He also played in the “golden era” of the NBA so it’s impressive he was able to run with the other greats on this list.

6. Scottie Pippen

Career Steal Stats 

SPGGames PlayedCareer Total 

2.0

1178

2307

There aren’t many players who are as instantly recognizable as Scottie Pippen. He can be seen sitting courtside at games and partaking in festivities during the All-Star break most years.

Of course, this fame is because of his incredible play on the court.

Modern NBA fans remember “The Block” by Lebron James in the Finals that saved the championship for the Cavs. Fans from the 90s will remember “The Steal,” the infamous play made by Scottie Pippen to seal the deal on a fifth ring for the Bulls.

Despite playing with a severely injured toe, he was somehow able to make an all-time highlight reel play that went down in history.

An example of perseverance, perfect timing, and extreme athleticism, The Steal alone earns him a spot on this list.

He also averaged 2.0 steals per game throughout his career and racked up an impressive 2307 in total. Talk about disruption.

5. Maurice Cheeks

Career Steal Stats 

SPGGames PlayedCareer Total 

2.1

1101

2310

Maurice Cheeks isn’t a player that you’ll find on many all-time lists. However, his impact on the game was always present.

It wasn’t always obvious, but after carefully reviewing the game film, it was always there. Whether it was a pass that led to an assist or relentless defense for 48 minutes, Cheeks never failed to make the right play. 

He landed a spot on the All-NBA Defensive Team four times en route to securing an NBA title with the Philly 76ers.

At the time he retired, Cheeks held the title for the most steals of all-time with 2310. While it has since been passed, the amount was unprecedented in his time.

In fact, he was one of the first players to show just how devastating consistent steals can be to an opponent.

We certainly appreciate the footprint he has left on the game. No matter how difficult it may be to see.

4. Gary Payton

Career Steal Stats 

SPGGames PlayedCareer Total 

1.8

1335

2445

Gary Payton entered the league with defense first and foremost on his mind. He was a nightmare for guards all around the league and quickly earned the nickname “The Glove.”

Every night he would stick close to his assignment, inevitably pulling the ball away more than a few times.

He impacted the league as a part of a new, outspoken generation of players unafraid to let their emotions flair.

Throughout his time with the Seattle SuperSonics, he became the franchise leader in points, assists, and steals. As a point guard who could do it all, Payton played pivotal roles on several playoff teams and appeared in the All-Star game annually.

Though he became somewhat of a journeyman at the end of his career, Payton will always be one of the great defenders in the NBA.

Today, you can find him coaching amateur (semi-pro? Kinda pro?) ballers in the Big3 league. His personality is perfect for the street ball league and his resume backs it up.

3. Michael Jordan

Career Steal Stats 

SPGGames PlayedCareer Total 

2.3

1072

2514

Michael Jordan is remembered for many, many things. However, steals are not what usually comes to mind first. 

He actually led the NBA in steals a record three times but no one seems to recall it. Perhaps the fact that he is arguably the best offensive player of all-time has something to do with it.

His record-setting numbers on defense propelled him to third all-time in steals. It’s almost hard to believe considering everything else he was able to accomplish on the court.

MJ did it in style though. Whether it’s racking up 8 steals in a half (another record) or locking up Defensive Player of the Year in 1988, it is impossible to ignore the defensive greatness. We’ll also never forget the time he stripped Karl Malone and took the ball down the court to hit one of the coolest game-winners in Finals history.

Another example of steals being the difference between heartbreak and a ring.

So, while you daydream about gravity-defying dunks and game-winning shots, don’t forget MJ’s dazzling work in the steals department.

2. Jason Kidd

Career Steal Stats 

SPGGames PlayedCareer Total 

1.9

1391

2684

While people can’t seem to agree if Kidd was a good coach in Milwaukee, it is impossible to argue about his prowess on the defensive end of the court as a player. At second in all-time steals, he was a force to reckon with.

He started his career at the top by winning Rookie of the Year and didn’t look back. 

The ten-time All-Star worked 17 seasons to finally capture a championship and had 9 All-Defensive Team nods during that time.

He then went on to play one more season and added another 125 steals to his already impressive resume.

Kidd sits only behind John Stockton for the most steals in NBA history. Though both point guards were stellar, many consider Kidd’s championship more valuable than the few hundred more steals Stockton holds.

Whether or not it’s true, the greatness and quick hands Kidd displayed throughout his career put him in limited company.

1. John Stockton

Career Steal Stats 

SPGGames PlayedCareer Total 

2.2

1504

3265

He certainly didn’t have the build or the look of an all-time great, but John Stockton has gone down in history as arguably the greatest point guard to ever play. Only Magic and Isiah Thomas (the first one) could give him a run.

He was an absolute well-rounded player that could do everything and then some on the court.

Still, what stands out most about his storied career is the insane amount of steals he was able to snag. Three thousand two hundred sixty-five. 

In just over 1500 games, he lifted the all-time steals record totally out of reach. It is highly unlikely that the record will be broken anytime soon, if at all.

Any player that wants to break it will need to average more than two steals per game for an unusually long career without letting up.

This five-time All-Defensive team member and two-time NBA steals leader did something truly legendary by taking the ball away from the offense more than anyone to ever do it and deserves the top spot on this list without a doubt.

Here is the key for the stats included:

SPG = Steals Per Game

Games Played = Total Number of NBA Games Played By Player

Career Total = Total Career Steals

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