Top 5 Tuesday: All-Time NBA Players

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, WikipediaSport in Law

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Weekend Review

After a thrilling weekend in the world of sports, fans are beginning to recover from two days of constant remote flipping. Carpal tunnel aside, THE SPORTS DISPENCER is here to take a look at what we learned from this weekend’s action.

Flawed Finals Format

For a reason unbeknownst to many, the playoff game format switches once the NBA Finals are reached, varying from a 2-2-1-1-1 to a 2-3-2 setup. Instead of benefiting play, it detracts from it. Take this year for example. The Miami Heat split Oklahoma City’s first homestand one game a piece. With three straight road games, the Thunder faced the daunting task of winning in South Beach to keep the series alive. If David Stern opted for the prefered 2-2-1-1-1 format, Oklahoma City is gifted the home court advantage they rightfully earned, and Miami would be forced to win the series in front of Chesapeake Energy Arena’s raucous crowd.

The U.S. Open Returns to Form

After the world’s best lit up the scorecards in 2011 at Congressional, the 2012 U.S. Open returned to its previous gut-wrenching form. After four days of intense competition, Olympic Club gave us a winner. Webb Simpson emerged from a crowded field to take the tournament with a four-round score of one stroke over par.

Euro’s Team to Beat

Behind a consistently explosive offensive attack, Germany has emerged victorious from Euro 2012’s Group of Death. The Germans held steady, winning three of three. Gomez and Podolski anchored the front line with midfield support from world-class players Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Expect the heavily favored German squad to cruise to victory in their quarterfinal matchup against Greece.

Junior Ends the Drought

After a 143-race losing streak, fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. found victory lane in the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The 37-year-old driver finds himself second in the Sprint Cup Standings and a likely contender to earn his first ever Sprint Cup title.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of Chicago Tribune, ESPN

NBA Finals Preview

After defeating Boston and San Antonio’s veteran squads, the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder are set to showcase the league’s next generation of talent. Both teams sport star-studded lineups, and as “The Thunderdome” prepares for Game 1 on Tuesday, THE SPORTS DISPENCER brings you a preview of this year’s matchup.

Position by Position Breakdown

PG Russell Westbrook vs Mario Chalmers

At the point guard position, Oklahoma City is provided one of its largest advantages. Unlike Chalmers, Westbrook possesses an elite scoring ability. When attacking the basket, Westbrook uses his speed to penetrate defenses, creating opportunities for himself and his teammates. Advantage: Thunder

SG Thabo Sefolosha vs Dwyane Wade 

Sefolosha may be the team’s premier perimeter defender, but it will take all he has to contain Dwyane Wade. As the face of the Heat franchise, Wade has garnered eight All-Star nods and lead Miami to a title in 2006. He poses both the tangibles and intangibles necessary to wreak havoc this series. Advantage: Heat

SF Kevin Durant vs LeBron James

This series’ closest matchup takes place at small forward. Both Durant and James are two of the league’s brightest stars. Both possess the size, speed, and scoring ability necessary to take over games. With nearly identical regular season statistics, a slight edge goes to LeBron based on his ability to distribute the ball. Advantage: Heat

PF Serge Ibaka vs Chris Bosh

Both power forwards have provided intriguing storylines this postseason. In Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, Ibaka was on fire, shooting 11-11 from the field. Bosh, however, has been sidelined throughout most of this postseason with an abdominal injury. His starter status continues to remain up in the air, but even if Bosh returns to the lineup, he is bound to struggle against Ibaka’s unquestioned defensive prowess. Advantage: Thunder

C Kendrick Perkins vs Udonis Haslem

Center provides another clear-cut advantage to Oklahoma City. Haslem is better suited to play at power forward, but beyond him, the Heat have little talent signed to the roster. Perkins is not only younger, he is a better, scorer, defender, and most importantly — player. Advantage: Thunder

Sixth Man James Harden vs Shane Battier

Shane Battier may provide Miami with quality defense off the bench, but he is no match for Oklahoma City star James Harden. The 22-year-old rising talent averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists for the Thunder en route to NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award honors. Advantage: Thunder

X-Factor

Oklahoma City possesses a fanbase as passionate as any in the NBA. Chesapeake Energy Arena creates a college-like atmosphere for the Thunder. The crowd’s intensity has helped will their hometown favorites to an NBA-best 8-0 home record this postseason, and as their success continues, their energy is on the rise. When the Heat come to town, it will not be any different.

Prediction

In this year’s contest, Oklahoma City matches up favorably across the board. Clear-cut advantages at point guard and center bode well for the Thunder. Their rotation of Harden, Durant, Sefolosha, and Ibaka have what it takes to run the floor with Miami’s Big Three, and Chesapeake Energy Arena ensures an electric atmosphere for Game 1 on Tuesday. Prediction: Oklahoma City wins in six behind Durant’s MVP performance.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of Tumblr, Business Insider, Yahoo Sports