I’m not even going to try to introduce these guys. Basically cause they don’t need it. I’ll just say this:
– 44 Championships
– 27 MVPs
– And the reasons for every dynasty in NBA history
Enjoy, and the review is coming up next week.
10. JERRY WEST-Shooting Guard-1960 to 1974-Los Angeles Lakers
THE NUMBERS: 27 ppg, 6.7 apg, 5.8 rpg, 2.6 spg, .474 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, 14 x All-Star, 10 x All-NBA, 2 x All-NBA 2nd, 4 x All-Defense, Finals MVP (1969), All-Star MVP (1972)
THE +/-: Greatest perimeter based guard ever….who’s place in history is hurt by lack of markers to recall it
As player well before his time, West was the first great distance shooter in league history, but it was when range didn’t improve points. This didn’t stop his productivity, as he averaged better than 30 points four times. Far from a one trick show, at barely 6’3, he snatched at least seven rebounds a night four times, and finished his career with 3 consecutive years of 8.8 assists a game or better. His greatest all-around effort came in the form of a 44 point (on 16 of 17 shooting and 12 of 12 free throws), 12 rebound, 12 assist and 10 block game. Considered one of the greatest defenders ever, but it is largely unnoticed since until the end of his era, All-Defense teams didn’t exist. In the postseason, he earned his title of “Mr. Clutch” by averaging 29.1 points per game over his playoff career. He also holds the record for highest scoring average one series with 46.3 in 1965, and set another record that year by averaging 40.6 points for the entire playoffs. He led the Lakers to 33-game winning streak in route to his first championship, and two years before that effort he became the only player to ever win Finals MVP….while playing for the losing team.
9. OSCAR ROBERTSON-Guard-1960 to 1974-Cincinnati Royals, Milwaukee Bucks
THE NUMBERS: 25.7 ppg, 9.5 apg, 7.5 rpg, 1.1 spg, .485 FG %
THE HONOR ROLL: 1 Championship, MVP (’64), 12 x All-Star, 9 x All-NBA, 2x All-NBA 2nd, 3 x All-Star MVP (’61, ’64, ’69), Rookie of the Year (’60)
THE +/-: Most uniquely talented guard ever….who often pushed too hard to win single-handedly
A unique blend of physical power, scoring prowess and court vision, the Big O has inserted himself in history on an overall level like no other player. He is the only player to average a triple-double for a season, when in 1962 he averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists. Overall, his total numbers from his first five seasons averaged out would equal a triple-double as well. Overall his 181 triple-doubles are by far the NBA record, better than 40 from the runner-up. He had five seasons of averaging 30 points and at least 10 assists, and is the first player to ever average more than 10 dimes a night in league history. Robertson averaged eight assists or better for 11 consecutive seasons. Off the court, his challenge of the NBA contract structure via an antitrust lawsuit led to what has resulted in free agency and what built up into today’s contractual levels.
8. TIM DUNCAN-Power Forward-1997 to present-San Antonio Spurs
THE NUMBERS: 20.7 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 3.2 apg, .507 FG %
THE HONOR ROLL: 4 Championships, 2 x MVP (’02, ’03), 13 x All-Star, 9 x All-NBA, 3 x All-NBA 2nd, 8 x All-Defense, 5 x All-Defense 2nd, 3 x Finals MVP (’99, ’03, ’05), Rookie of the Year (’97)
THE +/-: The most consistent player of all-time…who’s reserved demeanor often shields him from scrutiny other high-profile stars receive
The best overall power forward ever and the most decorated defender in League history, Duncan is perhaps the steadiest Championship-caliber player ever. Duncan has averaged over 11 rebounds and 20 points nine times, respectively, and 2 blocks a game 10 times. All while never putting up higher than 25.5 points, 12.9 rebounds or 2.9 blocks in any one season. He has headed, quietly of course, one of the most successful teams in the last 20 years since he debuted in 1997. His 13 overall selections to the All-Defensive Team are a record, and he is the only player in history to be chosen for both an All-NBA and All-Defense Team for the first 13 years of his career. Among those selections, he is one of four players to make the All-NBA First Team for first eight years. An underrated in the clutch, all of his career averages are higher in the course of his 176 Playoff games.
7. LARRY BIRD-Small Forward-1979 to 1992-Boston Celtics
THE NUMBERS: 24.3 ppg, 10 rpg, 6.3 apg, 1.7 spg, 496 FG %, .886 FT %
THE HONOR ROLL: 3 Championships, 3 x MVP (’84, ’85, ’86), 12 x All-Star, 9 x All-NBA, 3 x All-Defense 2nd, 2 x Finals MVP (’84, ’86), Rookie of the Year (’79)
THE +/-: The most well-rounded forward ever….who’s back injuries robbed him of his game early.
The perfect blend of shooting touch, court vision, toughness and clutch flare, who could seemingly will his way to victories using his wide variety of talents. There never was, and has never been, another Larry Legend. He dominated the mid-80’s when the NBA was at its strongest, and won 3 consecutive MVP awards, becoming one of three to ever accomplish this. In ’84 and ’86, he added Championships and Finals MVP nods as well. In NBA history, only Bird has averaged at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists, and his 59 triple doubles are fifth most ever. In addition, he was best trash talker ever, and would often tell opponents where and how he would score, before doing it.
6. KOBE BRYANT-Shooting Guard-1996 to present-Los Angeles Lakers
THE NUMBERS: 25.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.5 spg, .454 FG %
THE HONOR ROLL: 5 Championships, MVP (’08), 13 x All-Star, 9 x All-NBA, 2 x All-NBA 2nd, 9 x All-Defense, 2 x Finals MVP (’09, ’10), 4 x All-Star MVP (’02, ’07, ’09, ’11)
THE +/-: Nearly unparalleled overall talent….who is one of the most polarizing figures in history as well.
A tour de force of talent and owner of one of the most complete games ever. Bryant has had a career that has been dominant statistically, in addition to being a near fixture in championship scene for the last decade. From 2000 to 2010, he played in 7 of 11 NBA Finals, and currently has the 3rd most postseason points ever. He is the most successful prep-to-pro player of all-time, and made his first All-Star team while still a teen. His 81 point outburst in 2006 is second most prolific performance in league history. Overall, he has five 60 point and twenty-four 50 point efforts. He is the only player to score 600 points in 3 straight postseasons. On the other side of the ball, his 9 All-Defensive 1st team selections are tied for the most ever.
5. MAGIC JOHNSON-Point Guard-1979 to 1991, 1996-Los Angeles Lakers
THE NUMBERS: 19.5 ppg, 11.2 apg, 7.2 rpg, 1.9 spg, .520 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: 5 Championships, 3 x MVP (’87, ’89, ’90), 12 x All-Star, 9 x All-NBA, 3 x Finals MVP (’80, ’82, ’89), 2 x All-Star MVP (’90, ’92)
THE +/-: The most versatile player in history….that was taken from the game too early due to HIV contraction
No player has ever made the players around him better, in more ways, than Earvin Johnson. He revolutionized the game as a 6’9 guard that could create and impact a game from anywhere, and in every way possible. As a rookie, he switched from point guard to center in the decisive game 6 of the Finals and put up 42 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists (and threw in a game winning hook shot as well) to seal the series for the Lakers. From there he launched the fast paced “Showtime” Laker squads, and was often the decisive factor in many of their showdowns with the Larry Bird-led Celtics, in what was the greatest head-to-head rivalry in league history. His 1982, his averages of 18.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 9.5 assists are the closest a player has come to averaging a triple double since Oscar Robertson did it. Magic’s total of 138 triple-doubles are the second most in league history, but his most consistent impact was as a distributor of the ball, especially on the fastbreak. His 11.2 assists per game is the highest average in league history, and he led the league in total assists four times. From ’83 to ’91, he never averaged less than 10.5 a night and t0p 12 per game five times, with a high of 13.1 in 1984.
4. WILT CHAMBERLAIN-Center-1959 to 1973-Philadelphia/Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers
THE NUMBERS: 30.1 ppg, 22.9 rpg, 4.4 apg, .540 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: 2 Championships, 4 x MVP (’60, ’66, ’67, ’68), 13 x All-Star, 7 x All-NBA, 2 x All-NBA 2nd, 2 x All-Defense, All-Star MVP (’60), Rookie of the Year (’60)
THE +/-: The most dominant overall low post player ever….who didn’t get the results from his stats/talent that he should have
No player had dominated the box score and record books of the NBA like the Big Dipper did. He was apart of the first great one-on-one rivalry in sports history versus Bill Russell, who he struggled to overcome in the Finals often. He holds 72 different records, and has been retired for nearly 40 years. His 50.4 point per game average in 1962 is single season record that will never be approached. As a matter of fact, it is only approached by his 44.8 average his followed that season up with the next year. During the course of that historical ’62 season he scored 100 points in a game, which remains perhaps the greatest feat in pro sports history. He scored 50 points or better 45 times that season alone, and also holds the record for rebounds per game in both a season (27.2) and for a career. As a measure, he averaged better than 20 rebounds a game 12 consecutive times. He led the NBA in rebounds 11 times, holds the record for highest single season field goal percentage (72.7% in 1973), he even led the league in assists once and had 9 consecutive triple doubles in 1968. While blocked shots were not recorded during his career, it would be another category that Wilt would be far away from the pack in as well.
3. KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR-Center-1969 to 1989-Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks
THE NUMBERS: 24.6 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 3.6 apg, .559 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: 6 Championships, 6 x MVP (’71, ’72, ’74, ’76, ’77, ’80), 19 x All-Star, 10 x All-NBA, 2 x Finals MVP (’71, ’85), 5 x All-Defense, 6 x All-Defense 2nd, Rookie of the Year (’70)
THE +/-: Most durable and effective player of all-time….who’s greatest successes came when joined by amazing point guards only
Kareem is the most prolific scorer of all-time, and performed at higher level, for longer, than any other player. His records for most points (38, 387) and minutes played (57,446) are testaments to this durability. He didn’t just stick around either, and was highly productive for his entire career, averaging 21 points or better for 17 of his 20 seasons. Many of these points came on his unblockable skyhook shot, that very few players could even attempt to reach. Standing at 7’4 and jumping with his arm fully extended, he deployed this shot often and with great accuracy. He had 3 consecutive years of averaging at least 30 points and 16 rebounds from 1971 to ’73. He also blocked at least 3 shots a game for seven consecutive season, and retired third all-time in the stat, although it was recorded until his fifth season. No player was elected an MVP or an All-Star more than Abdul-Jabbar. Among his most remarkable feats over his long and distinguished career is that he won his Finals MVP honors 14 years apart, in 1971 at age 24 and again at 38 in 1985.
2. BILL RUSSELL-Center-1956 to 1969-Boston Celtics
THE NUMBERS: 15.1 ppg, 22.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, .440 FG%
THE HONOR ROLL: 11 Championships, 5 x MVP (’58, ’61, ’62, ’63, ’65), 12 x All-Star, 3 x All-NBA, 8 x All-NBA 2nd, 1 x All-Defense, All-Star MVP (’63)
THE +/-: The greatest winner in sports history….who didn’t dominate both side of the court like his other contemporaries.
Saying that Russell is the just the greatest winner of all-time is both simple and an understatement, simply because the margin isn’t even close. His impact exceeds pure statistics, he is the ultimate team player of all-time so his impact must be measured well outside of just what his individual numbers indicate. In a 13-year career, he won 11 titles and made his Celtics clubs the greatest professional dynasty ever. The other most winningest players of all-time (#’s 50 and 18 on this list) built their legacies by association with him. His dominance is the reason why no other player in the 60’s won more than one title while he was active. His career record in game 7’s stands at 10-0, so he knew how to close it down and get the tough win.
Far from being just a team figure, on his own he is the greatest defensive player in history, all without his greatest contribution (blocks) being kept track of during his career. He was the definition of a stopper at the rim; His 22.5 rebounds per game are the second most ever and he never turned in a season with a total below 19 rebounds a game. He once grabbed 51 boards in a single game, and his record of 32 in one half will most likely stand forever. In addition to his accomplishments as just a player, he became the first African-American coach in professional sports history in 1968, and won his final two titles as a player-coach.
1. MICHAEL JORDAN-Shooting Guard-1984 to 1993, 1995 to 1998, 2001 to 2002-Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards
THE NUMBERS: 30.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.3 spg, .497 FG%, .835 free throw %
THE HONOR ROLL: 6 Championships, 5 x MVP (’88, ’91, ’92, ’96, ’98), 14 x All-Star, 10 x All-NBA, 9 x All-Defense, 6 x Finals MVP (’91, ’92, ’93, ’96, ’97, ’98), Defensive Player of the Year (’88), Rookie of the Year (’85), 3 x All-Star MVP (’88, ’96, ’98)
THE +/-: The greatest overall player in NBA history….who came back one too many times
No player in NBA history has ever combined individual dominance and team success at the level Michael Jordan did. Not only is he without a doubt the greatest overall offensive player in history, he has claim to being the greatest defensive guard ever as well. He won a total of 10 scoring titles, with seven coming consecutively. He is both the top scorer per game all-time in the regular season and playoffs (33.4). He averaged better than 30 points eight time, and seven times in row, with a high of 37.1 in 1987. He once scored 23 consecutive points in a single game as well. His combined 14 MVPs between the Finals, regular season and All-Star game make him the most decorated player of all-time. In 1988 he became the first player to win the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season, and remains the only guard to achieve this. He is the all-time blocks leader for guards, and his 2,514 steals are the second most in history. His 9 All-Defense First Team nods are tied for the most ever.
After leading the Bulls to a three-peat championship run in the early 90’s, he retired only to return a year and a half later and restart another three-peat run his first full season back. Jordan led the 1996 to a single-season record 72 wins and took home both the MVP and the first of title of his second three-peat in his return season. Looking at his full body of work, what sets Jordan apart is consistent and unparalleled effectiveness at the highest level of the game. He was Finals MVP in every championship series he reached, was 6-0 in Finals play and never reached a game 7 in the course of his Finals career.
In the end, its more than just on-court success that defines Jordan. His style, legacy and impact on the game simultaneously redefined the standard for the NBA and professional sports as a whole. It placed him in an elite place among not just athletes, but as popular figures in American history. Not bad for a kid that cut from his high school club, right?
For reflections on this, the NBA Playoffs and even what I’m having for lunch, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan