Purpose - The purpose of this study is to develop a list of citation classics published in knowledge management (KM) journals and to analyze the key attributes and characteristics of the selected articles to understand the development of the KM discipline. Design/methodology/approach - This study identifies 100 citation classics from seven KM-centric journals based on their citation impact reported by Google Scholar and analyzes their attributes. Findings - The KM discipline is at the pre-science stage because of the influence of normative studies espousing KM practice. However, KM is progressing toward normal science and academic maturity. While the discipline does not exhibit the signs of the superstar effect, scholars from the USA and UK have made the most significant impact on the development of the KM school of thought. KM scholars should be more engaged in international collaboration. Practical implications - Practitioners played a key role in the development of the KM discipline and thus there is an opportunity to develop more scientific research approaches based on critical and performative research agenda. Originality/value - The study is novel and a must read for KM scholars because it is the first to comprehensively analyze the ideas that are the origins of the KM discipline.