History has given us many great basketball players, but fewer that have left an indelible mark on basketball history. To enter the basketball hall of fame, candidates need to have been fantastic players throughout their careers and have the stats, awards, and accolades to prove it.
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Tim Duncan is a consistent player who played in the NBA in college, and a 19-year career was one of the greatest power forwards ever. He was selected to 15 All-NBA teams and has been an NBA All-Star 15 times. He had an average point score of 19.0, with 10.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists. Duncan was a three-time MVP award winner.
Not known for his athletic abilities, Larry Bird was still able to dominate the court. Bird’s career with the Boston Celtics lasted from 1979 to 1992, during which time he received the MVP Award for three consecutive years. He was a 12-time All-Star and was selected to 10 All-NBA teams. He had an average point score of 24.3 and achieved an impressive 59 triple-doubles.
One of the greatest defenders that basketball has ever seen, Hakeem Olajuwon, can destroy leading centers like David Robinson or Shaquille O’Neal. He only won two championships, but his wide-ranging moves and graceful play earned him the nickname ‘The Dream.’ He also won two MVP Awards and 12 selections to the NBA All-Star. Olajuwon’s career average was 21.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists.
In Wilt Chamberlain’s career from 1958 to 1972, he averaged an incredible 30.1 points, 22.9 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. In one season, he even scored an average of 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds. He was also tireless, and in one season, played an average of 48.5 minutes a game. Chamberlain was four times an MVP and an NBA All-Star 13 times.
In 2016, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was named the second-best player in NBA history by ESPN, and when he retired in 1989, he left a record that has been difficult to match. This includes winning six championships and scoring a total of 38,837 points. He won six MVP awards and was an NBA All-Star 19 times. Abdul-Jabbar is especially remembered for his signature move, the Skyhook.
A great talent for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson helped the team win the NBA championship five times. He won three MVP awards and was an NBA All-Star 12 times. Johnson won an Olympic gold medal with the US ‘Dream Team’, and formed an exhibition team, the Magic Johnson All-Stars after he retired from the NBA in 1991.
At 7’1”, Shaquille O’Neal dominated with strength, speed, and skill. O’Neal helped the growth of Orlando Magic and took them to the NBA finals in 1995. He later won the NBA Championships three times with the Los Angeles Lakers and once for the Miami Heat. He is one of only three players to win the MVP, All-Star game MVP and Finals MVP in the same year. He also has the third-best field goal percentage in basketball history.
Kobe Bryant played with the Los Angeles Lakers for his entire 20-year career from 1996 to 2016. During this time, he won the NBA championships five times with an average point score of 25, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. He has achieved a total of 25 50-point games, which ranks him third of all time. With 33,636 points scored in his career, he also ranks third, and the highest scorer for the Lakers.
A power forward for Los Angeles Lakers since 2018, LeBron James also played for Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat. He has won the NBA championships three times, four MVP awards, three NBA Finals MVP Awards, and two Olympic gold medals. He is the first player to reach 30,000 points, 8,000 rebounds, and 8,000 assists and is still on course to take this further.
Widely considered to be the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan played 15 seasons in the NBA and won six championships. He won the MVP Awards five times, was selected for the NBA All-Stars 14 times, the All-NBA team ten times, and won two Olympic gold medals. Jordan had an average score of 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. Jordan was an amazing scorer, but also an excellent defender and passer.
To date, these are the top players that have really made a difference to the game and delivered for their teams. But new talent is coming forth every year, so we are all waiting for the next player who will redefine basketball.