This past summer in an interview with Sports Illustrated, 3-time and reigning NBA Champion LeBron James acknowledged Michael Jordan is his motivation. He said “My motivation…is this ghost I’m chasing. The ghost played in Chicago.” James went on to say being considered one of the greats is cool, but implied he’d like to be considered one day THE best. While those who are witnessing LBJ, that didn’t see MJ and other greats in their prime, already say he’s the G.O.A.T. But his buddy, and former teammate Dwayne Wade recently told ESPN “It’s impossible” for him to catch MJ, and “the only thing he can do is tie it.” While I agree with D-Wade, I have to say LeBron has already moved into the upper echelon of NBA all-time greats. I even consider him on the League’s all-time Mount Rushmore, and these are the others that join him.
Without a doubt, Michael Jordan. His “Airness” was 6-0 in NBA Finals winning the Most Valuable Player award each time, but that’s just the beginning of the resume.
5-times he was NBA MVP (1988,1991, 1992, 1996, 1998), 10-times he made first team All-NBA, 9-times he was selected All-NBA defensive 1st-team, and in 1988 he won the Defensive Player of the Year award. The 1985 Rookie of the year is a 10-time scoring champion, he’s the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, and when he retired in 2003, his 32,292 points was second all-time. His per game average of 30.1 is still first all-time. 3-times he led the league in steals (1988, 1990, 1993), and his 2,514 steals is third in League history. 14-times he was selected to the NBA All-Star team where he won the game’s MVP award 3-times, and twice won the slam dunk contest. He is a member of the NBA’s 50th anniversary team.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the most under-appreciated and overlooked great EVER! He can make a case that he’s the greatest player to play the game on every level.
“Cap” won 3 New York City Catholic high school championships at Power Memorial high while leading them to a 71 game winning streak, 3 NCAA titles at UCLA which included a record of 88-2, and 6 NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. In addition to his championship rings, he won NBA Finals MVP twice (1971, 1985). In his twenty seasons, Abdul-Jabbar won League MVP 6-times (1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1980), 10-times he was selected 1st-team All-NBA, 5-times selected 2nd-team All-NBA, 5-times All-Defensive 1st-team, 6-times All-Defensive 2nd-team and he led the NBA in block shots 4 seasons (1975, 1976, 1979, 1980). The NBA’s all-time leading scorer (38, 387) led the League in scoring twice and was a 19-time All-Star. He’s also the third leading rebounder in NBA history (17,440). In twenty seasons, his teams made the playoffs 18 times, got out the first round 14 times, and made the Finals 10 times. In 1997 he was selected to the NBA’s 50th anniversary team. This is just his NBA resume. His entire basketball career back to high school would be this entire post.
Magic Johnson along with Larry Bird are credited with saving the NBA from the doldrums of tape delay and decreasing popularity linked to ramped drug use among players and on court fighting.
Magic won 5 titles in 8 NBA finals appearances, including his rookie season in 1980, when he also won his first of 3 Finals MVP awards (1982, 1987). 3-times he won League MVP (1987, 1989, 1990), 9-times he was selected 1st-team All-NBA, once 2nd-team (1982). Four times he led the NBA in assists and is the NBA’s All-time playoff assists leader (2,346). When he retired the first time in 1991, he was the NBA’s all-time leading assists man, he’s now fifth (10,141). Twice he was the NBA’s steals leader (1981,1982) and is currently 20th all-time, but was in the top 5 when he retired. Johnson is a 12-time NBA All-Star and twice won the game’s MVP (1990, 1992). He is a member of the NBA’s 50th greatest players team.
Lastly, LeBron James. If I did this list two seasons ago when LBJ was still in South Beach, I would’ve had Larry Bird in this spot. But, James has solidified himself as the greatest small forward in history.
Since he’s still on the course, and the other guys on this list are in the clubhouse sipping on Arnold Palmers and smoking cigars, I won’t go through his entire resume like I did with the others. But, I must state just how impressive it is that James has led his teams to 6 consecutive NBA Finals appearances (Miami 4, Cleveland 2). And since everyone wants to compare 23’s, not even MJ did that! Even LBJ’s biggest haters can’t deny his overall impact. Both the Cavaliers and Heat missed the playoffs the season after he left via free agency, even though they boasted the same rosters minus him. His current career averages of 27.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.8 assist per game are only matched by the names of Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Jerry West and Larry Bird. Enough said, he’s one of the top four greats to ever play this game.
For those who will ask where is Boston Celtics great Bill Russell? My reply is “He’s my Halle Berry of the NBA.” What do I mean? When people ask me who are my top five celebrity crushes, I never say Halle Berry, because she has her own list. You want early 90’s Halle? You know from “Strictly Business”, “Boomerang” or “Flintstones”? How about “Swordfish”, “X-men” or “Die Another Day” Halle? Then there’s this 50-year old version that makes most 30-year old’s look like they’re aging in dog years. You get my point? That’s the way I feel about Mr. Russell. He has his own Mount Rushmore. You can have the rookie version that led the Celtics to a Championship in 1956-57 while averaging 14.7 ppg and 19.6 rpg, or the won that led them to 8 consecutive titles while winning 5 League MVP’s, or the won that led them to a title as player/coach in his final professional season. Take your pick. Hands down Mister Russell is the greatest winner in NBA history, so he gets his own mountain. Matter of fact, he should be the logo, he won more championships (11) than the current logo man Jerry West lost (8).
The following four men are on my honorable mentions: Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan