The NBA season has changed significantly since its inception in 1964. Each decade has had its unique style of play that has dominated. Since the early days, the NBA has grown from men playing with a ball to one of the most watched sports in the world. It supports many brands, from online sports betting to shoes and clothes.
Kobe “The Black Mamba” Bryant was an all-time excellent scorer with an instinct that made his opponents fear him. He got his nickname from being as deadly as a poisonous black mamba on the ground. Bryant remains known as one of the coolest shooters of all time, having made 17 game-winning field goals in his career and seven more game-tying shots that resulted in OT triumphs.
Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon
Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon is widely regarded as one of the best defensive players in NBA history. He was a tremendous rebounder unrivaled in defense. Olajuwon led the league twice in rebounds and led the league three times in blocked shots. He still tops the NBA’s all-time rankings for shots blocked by over 500, with 3,830. As a result of this extraordinary performance, he was twice named Defensive Player of the Year.
Bill Russell now holds the record for most NBA titles with 11. He has only missed a title mark in two of his 13 NBA seasons. Russell has won at other levels, including the NCAA title. While the NBA didn’t start tracking blocks until the 1970s, Russell is considered by most to be one of the best shot blockers of all time. According to multiple news sources, Russell has blocked up to 17 shots in a single game, often recording triple-doubles in points, rebounds and blocks!
“The Big Fundamental”, Tim Duncan is the most dominant power forward in NBA history. The San Antonio Spurs drafted him in 1997 and he spent his entire 19-year career with the Spurs. Duncan was never a flashy player, but he was very effective on offense and defense. Duncan spearheaded a dynasty which lasted about two decades under coach Gregg Popovich. He beat outstanding players like LeBron James twice, Ben Wallace, Jason Kidd and others to win five championships.
Johnson, Earvin Jr.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. was a cornerstone of the NBA in the 1980s. The Los Angeles Lakers selected him in the 1979 draft. Magic was awarded Rookie of the Year as well as the NBA Championship the same year he was chosen. That year, he was also named Finals MVP. His duty as a point guard was to lead the attack, and he did that admirably, leading the league in assists four times during his career.
The Boston Celtics selected Bird in the 1978 NBA Draft. Throughout the Celtics’ 13-year career, he started out as a small forward and power forward. Bird was exceptional in all parts of the game, especially shooting the ball, but he was also good defensively and in his passing game. Bird was the first player in NBA history to score 50% on field goals, 40% on three-point attempts, and 90% on free throws in a single season. He did it twice during his career. He also won three consecutive three-point shooting competitions. He even practiced three-pointers with his eyes closed.
Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal is the most dominant NBA player in history. He was a center for the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. He was 7’1″ tall and weighed around 325 lbs. Despite his colossal stature and power, Shaq was more than an unstoppable force. He was a very athletic player who could find his way in and out of the lanes to score and collect rebounds. He memorably went one-on-one with Michael Jordan and crossed paths with him on the way to the hoop.
Since stepping onto a court for the first time, Kareem has been a dominant basketball player. Kareem won 71 consecutive games in high school. He won three consecutive NCAA titles after joining UCLA, receiving tournament MVP in all three years, a record that still stands today.
Michael Jordan at number two is sacrilege. His “Airness” resurrected basketball when his ratings were at rock bottom. He was promoted better than anyone, elevating the Jordan brand to new heights. Basketball is linked to Jordan. When most people think of sports, they think of Jordan.
Jordan was a divine offensive player who was also an excellent defender. Jordan was a defensive pick nine times and led the league in three interceptions! He also led the playoffs twice in steals and ten times in scoring. Jordan has been an unstoppable force in the league for most of his career, despite two retirements.
The greatest player of all time is LeBron James. He owns dominated the NBA since his debut at 18, fresh out of high school. When James first entered the NBA, he was considered the “chosen one,” who would succeed Jordan as the most outstanding player. LeBron has accomplished feats that no other player has accomplished before him. He took a decrepit Cleveland Cavaliers to the Finals in 2007. He won titles against not one but two of the league’s greatest dynasties, the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors. He also delivered a championship to Cleveland, which had been without one for 52 years.
The NBA Hall of Fame is dense with phenomenal players dating back to the game’s inception, but now is the time for a new generation to earn their place on this list. Will promising players like Evan Mobley and Josh Giddy have what it takes to sit at the big table?