After an impressive 4-1 series win, LeBron James finally has the championship ring he has long coveted. The win is crucial to ultimately cementing James’ legacy as one of the NBA’s all-time greats, but for now, LeBron is on the outside looking in. As the debate rages on, THE SPORTS DISPENCER has scoured the records to compile five of sports history’s finest.
Honorable Mentions: Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Bill Russell, Tim Duncan
5. Larry Bird
A 12-time All-Star and three-time MVP, Boston Celtics star Larry Bird begins our countdown. Throughout his storied career, Bird found success with the help of his well-rounded playing style and high basketball IQ. With career averages of 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game, Bird helped lead Boston to three NBA titles, including a seven-game series win over the “Showtime” era Los Angeles Lakers. The series was one link in the legendary saga of the Bird-Magic rivalry. Largely cited as the cause for professional basketball’s 1980s boom, the pair’s heated encounters fueled both careers. Since his retirement, Larry has remained involved in the game he loves. Bird is the first and only person to garner MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year honors.
4. Wilt Chamberlain
Perhaps history’s greatest scorer, Wilt Chamberlain posted mind-boggling numbers throughout his career. While sporting career averages of over 30 points and 20 assists per game, Chamberlain peaked in 1961-62 with a record-breaking average of 50.4 points. A quick jaunt throughout any NBA record book proves the extent of Wilt’s domination. Of the more than sixty 60-point outbursts in league history, Wilt accounted for 32, most notably a 100-point performance in March 1962. Chamberlain may lack Bill Russell’s 11 championships, but in 1960 against Russell’s Celtics, Wilt dominated the Boston big man on the boards en route to an NBA-record 55 rebounds, proving his place as early basketball’s premier player.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Behind his signature sky hook, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar soared to success throughout his illustrious 20-year career. At 7’2,” Abdul-Jabbar towered over opponents, but his finesse and footwork helped the Lakers great total an NBA record 38,387 points. On defense, Abdul-Jabbar was a fearsome shot blocker. Had the NBA tracked the stat in his early career, Kareem would likely be the statistical all-time leader, but even without it, he ranks third in history. Kareem’s size and skill translated to success on both ends of the court and ultimately earned Abdul-Jabbar an NBA-record six MVPs.
2. Magic Johnson
As the undisputed greatest point guard in basketball history, Magic found success at every level. He totaled 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 11.2 assists per game. Under his leadership, the “Showtime” Lakers took the ’80s by storm, winning five NBA titles over the course of the decade. The well-documented rivalry with Boston Celtics star Larry Bird ended in Magic’s favor. In four championship matchups between the two, Johnson won three of four, resulting in two NBA titles and a 1979 NCAA Tournament championship. A 12-time All-Star and three-time MVP, Magic career spanned three decades before it was tragically cut short by HIV in the early ’90s, but had Johnson continued to play, the NBA’s all-time list may have a different king.
1. Michael Jordan
Whether you call him “M.J.,” “Air Jordan,” or “His Airness” — Michael Jordan’s name is synonymous with greatness and the obvious choice to top this list. The Bulls star accumulated six championships, six Finals MVPs, five regular season MVPs, and 14 All-Star nods. Jordan totaled an NBA-record career average a 30.12 points per game en route to an NBA-record record ten scoring titles. With his signature drive, MJ proved unstoppable around the basket, and his success continued to spread on and off the court. From Space Jam to the “Flu Game,” from “The Dream Team” to “The Final Shot,” Michael Jordan idealized the NBA and earned a spot as history’s all-time great.
What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.
* Photos Courtesy of The Hoops Journal, Wikipedia, Sport in Law