Ranking the top 10 players with the most steals in an NBA game

Ranking the top 10 players with the most steals in an NBA game

Kevin Omuya
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:08 PM

Unlike blocks, a steal is a turnover by the opposing team and almost always ends in your team-keeping possession. From former greats like Hakeem Olajuwon to contemporary luminaries like Chris Paul, the NBA has seen some superb defenders enter the court. Forwards and guards primarily dominate the top 10 list for the most steals in an NBA game.

Players with the most steals in an NBA game
Photo: canva.com (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Built men are usually known for their defensive prowess, but guards and shorter players are uniquely qualified to take away the ball from their opponents with speed and precision. When a defensive player forces a turnover by either pick-pocketing the ball from the ball-handler or deflecting a pass or dribble, he is said to have affected a steal.

What counts as a steal in NBA?

A steal is when a player legitimately robs an opponent of the ball, intercepts a pass, or gains possession of the ball following an opponent's turnover. The player is credited with a steal if the ball has remained inbounds and the time has not stopped.

Here is a list of the top 10 career steals in the NBA

Allen Iverson is the only player to have nine or more steals in a playoff game. The NBA did not track steals until the 1973–74 campaign. According to the latest statistics, the following are the top 10 NBA most steals.

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10. Alvin Robertson, Shooting guard 2,112

most steals in a NBA game
Alvin Robertson is #21 of the Milwaukee Bucks during an NBA basketball game circa 1989 at The Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Robertson played for the Bucks from 1989-93. Photo: Focus on Sport
Source: Getty Images

The number of basketball steals by Alvin Robertson has been astounding. Although he has never received recognition for it, he is among the best defensive players in history. San Antonio Spurs selected him in the 1984 draft. Robertson was a phenomenal defender with nearly 2112, with an average of 2.71 per match in 779 matches.

Team: San Antonio Spurs (1984–1989), Milwaukee Bucks (1989–1993), Detroit Pistons (1993)

9. Hakeem Olajuwon, Center 2,162

What is the NBA record for most steals in a game?
Former Houston Rocket and today Honorary Texans Captain Hakeem Olajuwon is introduced before the AFC Wild Card football game at NRG Stadium on January 4, 2020, in Houston, TX. Photo: by Ken Murray
Source: Getty Images

Olajuwon was a superb shooter from the outside and had an unbeatable inside game. The "Dream Shake," which he popularized, is still among the most lethal moves in basketball today.

He had 2,162 career steals with an average of 1.75 per match in 1238 games. Abdul Olajuwon ranks among the top steals leaders. In 1984, the Houston Rockets selected him first overall, and he later joined them to win two titles. His membership in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is another accomplishment.

Team: Houston Rockets (1984–2001), Toronto Raptors (2001–2002)

8. Clyde Drexler, Shooting guard 2,207

Who holds the NBA record in steals?
San Antonio Spurs Vinny Del Negroh (L) gets trapped by the Houston Rockets Clyde Drexler during the Western Conference finals game at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, 30 May. Photo: Jeff Haynes
Source: Getty Images

Clyde Drexler was a fantastic NBA player. He was capable of shooting, stealing, and many other things. He always seemed to have the game under control as one of the greatest shooting guards in his basketball history. Drexler was a fantastic player.

Team: Portland Trail Blazers (1983–1995), Houston Rockets (1995–1998)

Average: 2.03 steals per match

7. Scottie Pippen, Small forward 2,307

what's the record for most steals in a nba game
In the Brooklyn borough of New York City, NBA Legend Scottie Pippen during the Degree Shooting Stars Competition at Barclays Center on February 14, 2015. Photo: Elsa
Source: Getty Images

He has made the NBA All-Defensive First Team eight times and the NBA All-Defensive Second Team twice. This achievement is remarkable for someone who spent his whole career playing with Michael Jordan. He won two gold medals at the Olympics in 1992 and 1996. With 2,307 career steals and an average of 1.96 per match in 1178 games, he was a small forward and one of the top leaders. Additionally, he is one of the rare players with six championships.

Team: Chicago Bulls (1987–1998, 2003–2004), Houston Rockets (1999), Portland Trail Blazers (1999–2003)

6. Maurice Cheeks, Point guard 2,310

most steals in a nba game by team
Assistant coach Maurice Cheeks of the Oklahoma City Thunderwarming up with a player before facing the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on March 1, 2013, in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Doug Pensinger
Source: Getty Images

He is one of the top point guards in the NBA and holds the record for most career steals. Maurice Edward Cheeks, born on September 8th, 1956, last participated in the New Jersey Nets in 1993. He participated in 1101 games throughout his career, stealing 2310 with an average of 2.10 per game.

Team: Philadelphia 76ers (1978–1989), San Antonio Spurs (1989–1990), New York Knicks (1990–1991), Atlanta Hawks (1991–1992), New Jersey Nets (1993)

5. Chris Paul, Point guard 2,344

most steals in a NBA playoff game
Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks vs Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on May 15, 2022, in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: Christian Petersen
Source: Getty Images

Chris Paul is a point guard, and one of the all-time leaders with 2,344 steals with an average of 2.14 per game in 1096 games. He has been selected to the All-NBA First Team four times and has been an All-Star 11 times. Since entering the league, he has guided his team to the playoffs every year.

Team: New Orleans Hornets (2005–2011), Los Angeles Clippers (2011–2017), Houston Rockets (2017–2019), Oklahoma City Thunder (2019–2020), Phoenix Suns (2020–present)

The NBA's most steals per game in a season

Alvin Robertson holds the record for 301 steals with an average of 3.67 per game in a season, achieved in the 1985–86 season. Among active players, Chris Paul had the highest season total (217) in the 2007–08 season and the highest season average (2.77) in the 2008–09 season.

4. Gary Payton, Point guard 2,445

NBA most steals per game in a season
In New York City, Gary Payton II #0 of the Golden State Warriors in action against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on December 14, 2021. Photo: Jim McIsaac
Source: Getty Images

One of the greatest NBA players ever was Gary Payton. His 2,445 career steals with an average of 1.83 per game in 1335 matches are evidence of his capacity to impede plays and enter passing lanes. He has a talent for getting inside opponents' heads and making them question their every action. He is a savvy point guard who can read plays, call out screens and switches for teammates, and anticipate plays.

Team: Seattle SuperSonics (1990–2003), Milwaukee Bucks (2003), Los Angeles Lakers (2003–2004), Boston Celtics (2004–2005), Miami Heat (2005–2007)

3. Michael Jordan, Shooting guard 2,514

most steals in a nba game
Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls dribbles past Darrell Walker #5 of the Washington Bullets at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. Photo: Focus on Sport
Source: Getty Images

A Michael Jordan is among the NBA's all-time leaders with 2,514 career steals with an average of 2.35 per game in just 1072 matches. He constantly tried to take off the ball from the opposing squad—what a brave man.

Team: Chicago Bulls (1984–1993, 1995–1998), Washington Wizards (2001–2003)

2. Jason Kidd, Point Guard 2,684

Has anyone had 10 steals in an NBA game?
Jason Kidd #5 of the New York Knicks in action against the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden on November 2, 2012, in New York City. The Knicks defeated the Heat 104-84. Photo: Jim McIsaac
Source: Getty Images

Jason Kidd plays with grit and determination and consistently keeps his team in the game. In addition, he has one of the top steal rates in the league. This memento is a wonderful way to honour him and everything he has accomplished.

As one of the NBA's record leaders, he has 2,684 career steals with an average of 1.93 per match in 1,391 matches. He has a great all-around game and works hard.

Team: Dallas Mavericks (1994–1996, 2008–2012), Phoenix Suns (1996–2001), New Jersey Nets (2001–2008), New York Knicks (2012–2013)

1. John Stockton, Point Guard 3,265

who holds the NBA record in steals?
During a National Basketball Association game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, CA, John Stockton of the Utah Jazz. Photo: Matt A. Brown
Source: Getty Images

One of the greatest point guards of all time, John David Stockton, holds the NBA record for most career steals. He played 1,504 games throughout his career, stealing 3,265 with an average of 2.17 per game. He played for the Utah Jazz from 1984 until 2003.

Team: Utah Jazz (1984–2003)

What's the record for most steals in an NBA game?

The Seattle SuperSonics holds the record for most in an NBA game. The record had 27 in 1997.

Most steals in an NBA game by a team?

The Seattle SuperSonics team have the most (27). This was in their match against the Raptors

Most steals in an NBA playoff game

Allen Iverson has the most in a playoff game. This occurred in his team Philadelphia 46ers vs the Magic, with 10 in Game 3 of the 1999 First Round.

Most steals in an NBA finals game

Robert Horry has gotten the most in an NBA Finals. He managed 7 versus the Magic on June 9, 1995.

Has anyone had 10 steals in an NBA game?

Many players have recorded nine or ten in every game in the history of the NBA. But, it only highlights how exceptional Gill and Kenon's stats are in every match.

Players with the most steals in an NBA game are mostly not found on the box score, but that does not make them any less impactful. Getting a few in a game is hard enough. What the above players managed to do, especially in the postseason or Finals, is noteworthy.

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Kevin Omuya photo
Kevin Omuya
Kevin Omuya is a Content Writer with 4 years of experience who joined Sports Brief in 2022. In 2019 he held a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Digital Media from KCA University.