Top 10 NBA players with Most Turnovers

As LeBron James has become the first ever player to cross an infamous 5,000 career turnovers, here are the top 10 NBA players who have given up possession the most.


Top 10 NBA players with Most Turnovers

NBA players with most turnovers in league history (image: FS)

Turnovers in basketball have almost always been regarded as a negative stat. Losing possession to opponent players during play is termed as turnover on the court. But exactly which NBA players have committed the most turnovers in the history of the league?

A good many turnovers from a team translates to an offensive disaster class. From errant passes and mishandling of the ball, to offensive fouls and steals by the opposing team, turnovers are either committed or forced by opponents. Unlikely as it sounds, some of the best players in the league have committed the most turnovers in their careers.

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Players with the Most Turnovers in NBA History

Forcing turnovers has often been part of a defensive strategy to disrupt the opponent’s offense and create scoring opportunities. However, turnovers are not necessarily a testament to a player’s lack of skill.

Instead, turnovers are more common among players who have an aggressive style of play and a risk-taking mentality. Here are the top 10 NBA players who have committed the most turnovers in league history.

10. Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon is widely regarded as one of the greatest centers in NBA history. His exceptional skills on both ends of the court, including scoring, rebounding, and shot-blocking, solidified his place as an all-time basketball legend.

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Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem Olajuwon (via NBA.com)

Olajuwon entered the NBA in 1984 as the first overall pick by the Houston Rockets. His career with the Rockets spanned over a decade, and he played a key role in leading the team to back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 and 1995. Olajuwon’s footwork, agility, and shot-blocking ability earned him the nickname ‘The Dream.’

When it comes to turnovers, Olajuwon, as a center, did not handle the ball as frequently as guards or forwards. However, he still faced the challenge of turnovers in certain situations. His career total stands at 3,667 turnovers. Nevertheless, his time in the league is not defined by turnovers but by his ability to dominate on both ends of the court.

9. Isiah Thomas

Known for his exceptional skills as a playmaker and scorer, Isiah Thomas played his entire 13-season career with the Detroit Pistons, becoming the face of the franchise. Thomas entered the NBA in 1981 as the second overall pick by the Pistons. 

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His leadership and on-court brilliance guided his team to consecutive NBA championships in 1989 and 1990. Thomas’ ability to distribute the ball and score in clutch moments made him the talisman of the team.

Isiah Thomas
Isiah Thomas (via NBA.com)

Thomas was a primary ball-handler and playmaker for his team. His career total of 3,682 turnovers speaks of the challenges he faced in leading the offense and taking risks to create scoring opportunities. Nevertheless, Thomas is remembered for his impact on the court and his role in shaping the Pistons ‘Bad Boys’ era.

8. James Harden

Now playing for the LA Clippers since his trade from the Philadelphia 76ers, James Harden is an elite shooting guard known for his scoring prowess and ball-handling skills. Harden’s offensive repertoire has made him one of the most dominant players on the court.

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Harden entered the league in 2009 as the third overall pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder before being traded to the Houston Rockets. His tenure with the Rockets was marked by historic scoring performances, including multiple seasons leading the league in points per game. Harden’s step-back three-pointers and crafty ball-handling have earned him multiple scoring titles and numerous All-Star selections.

James Harden has one of the most turnovers among active NBA players
James Harden (via SI)

However, with great offensive output comes the challenge of turnovers. Harden’s high-usage playing style, often involving creating scoring opportunities for himself and teammates, has contributed to his career total of 3,743  turnovers at the time of writing.

7. Moses Malone

Moses Malone was one of the most prolific centers in the history of the league. He had a remarkable career that spanned over two decades. Malone entered the professional basketball scene in 1974, bypassing college to join the Utah Stars in the ABA. 

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Later he joined the NBA and played for various teams, including the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers. Known for his relentless work on the boards and scoring ability, Malone became a three-time NBA MVP. In the 1982-1983 season, he led the Philadelphia 76ers to an NBA title.

Moses Malone NBA player
Moses Malone (via NBA.com)

When it comes to turnovers, Malone as a center was not as involved in ball-handling duties as guards or forwards. Nevertheless, his career total of 3,804 turnovers makes him one of the players with the most career turnovers in league history.

6. Jason Kidd

Jason Kidd is often regarded as one of the greatest playmakers in the history of the league. Known for his exceptional passing ability, court vision, and defensive prowess, Kidd had an illustrious career spanning two decades.

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Jason Kidd (via NBA.com)

He entered the NBA in 1994 as the second overall pick by the Dallas Mavericks. Throughout his career, Kidd played for various teams, including the Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, New Jersey Nets, and New York Knicks.

As a point guard, Kidd was a primary ball-handler and playmaker for his teams. His incredible passing skills and basketball IQ led to numerous assists, and he is one of the top 5 assist providers in the history of the league. However, Jason Kidd also recorded 4,003 turnovers to his name during his career.

5. Kobe Bryant

Known as the ‘Black Mamba,’ Kobe Bryant‘s career with the Los Angeles Lakers spanned two decades, from 1996 to 2016. Bryant’s playing style with a relentless work ethic and a killer instinct on the court placed him among the NBA’s greatest. 

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Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant (via Imago)

However, even the iconic Kobe Bryant faced challenges, including turnovers. With a total of 4,010 turnovers in his career, Bryant is among the players with the most giveaways in NBA history. 

His high usage rate, especially during his prime years, contributed to this statistic. Nevertheless, it was Bryant’s remarkable ability to take over games that earned him five NBA Championships for the Lakers.

4. John Stockton

John Stockton is widely regarded as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history. His exceptional passing and basketball IQ made him stand out in the NBA during his time.

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John Stockton
John Stockton (via NBA.com)

Stockton entered the league in 1984 as the 16th overall pick by the Utah Jazz, where he spent his entire 19-season career. His partnership with Karl Malone formed one of the most formidable duos in NBA history. Stockton’s incredible passing ability and court vision led to him becoming the all-time leader in assists and steals.

While Stockton was known for his ball-handling abilities, even he faced the challenge of turnovers during his career. His aggressive style of play and active involvement in running the offense contributed to his career total of 4,244 turnovers.

3. Russell Westbrook

Known for his iconic triple-doubles, Russell Westbrook has been one of the most beloved superstars in the NBA. Westbrook entered the league in 2008 as the fourth overall pick by the Seattle SuperSonics, who later became the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

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Russell Westbrook has one of the most turnovers in NBA history
Russell Westbrook (via Imago)

Throughout his career, Westbrook has played for the Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards, LA Lakers and is now playing for the LA Clippers. His exceptional rebounding ability as a guard and scoring prowess have made him a perennial All-Star.

Despite his dazzling displays on the court, Westbrook has encountered turnovers as a part of his playing style. His aggressive drives and high-energy approach, while effective in many aspects, have contributed to his career total of 4,469 turnovers at the time of writing.

2. Karl Malone

Karl Malone ‘The Mailman’ is widely regarded as one of the most dominant power forwards in the history of the league. Malone’s illustrious career spanned from 1985 to 2004, during which he became one of the best scorers in the league.

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Karl Malone the player with the second most turnovers in NBA history
Karl Malone (via NBA.com)

His scoring prowess and physicality made him a force to be reckoned with. However, even in the midst of his extraordinary career, Malone grappled with turnovers. 

His aggressive playing style and willingness to take risks made him the player with the second most turnovers in NBA history, totaling 4,524. Nevertheless, Malone’s ability to score, rebound, and compete at the highest level earned him a seat among the all-time greats.

1. LeBron James

Even at 38, soon to be 39, LeBron James is faring strong in the NBA, performing day in and day out for the Lakers. Known for his versatility, LeBron has excelled as a scorer, playmaker, and dominant force on both ends of the floor.

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However, even a player of LeBron’s caliber has faced challenges, including turnovers. With a career spanning multiple teams, including the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron has accumulated 5,003  turnovers at the time of writing. He has now become the player with the most turnovers in NBA history and the first ever to cross the 5,000 mark.

LeBron James now has the most turnovers in NBA history
LeBron James (via Imago)

LeBron’s turnovers can be attributed to his aggressive style of play, often taking on the role of the primary ball-handler for his team. Despite the occasional giveaways, LeBron James remains one of the most important players in the LA Lakers squad and among the best in the league.

FAQs

Q. Which player has the most career turnovers in the NBA?

LeBron James has the most career turnovers in NBA history.

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Q. Which team does James Harden play for now?

James Harden plays for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Q. Has any player committed over 5,000 turnovers?

LeBron James is the first player to have recorded over 5,000 turnovers in NBA history.

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