Useful Notes: National Basketball Association
The National Basketball Association is the highest professional league of Basketball
in the United States and Canada. They've been around in some fashion since 1946. Seasons are usually 82 games in length, with some rare exceptions note
The NBA has 30 teams split into two conferences (Eastern and Western). Each 15-team conference has three five-team divisions. Each conference sends 8 teams to the playoffs, with the three division winners getting something among the top 4 seeds with another team getting the possibility of going as high as a 2 seed (confused yet?
). All playoff games are best-of-seven series.
To simplify the explanation of the playoff system: in each conference, the three division winners take three of the top four seeds. The other top-4 seed is given to the team with the best record to not win the division. The top-4 seeds are ordered by record (securing a division winner as the top seed.) The remaining four seeds are similar to wild-cards in other sports, seeded by record and given to the teams with the best remaining record. With only five teams per division, it's guaranteed that the next-best second place finisher is in the playoffs. (There are only 5 teams, (including the division winner) in each division, meaning that there are five teams who aren't division winners..)
Unlike in the NFL, homecourt advantage is not by seeding, but by regular season record. (of course, guaranteeing homecourt in the first round to the top two seeds). For instance, if a 5 seed has a better record than the 4 seed, the 5 seed has homecourt advantage. It's even possible for the 6th seed to have homecourt against the 3rd (and it has happened once: in 2005-06 with #6 Clippers vs. #3 Denver.) The winners of the 1-8 matchup plays the winner of the 4-5 matchup. The 2-7 matchup winner plays the winner of the 3-6 bracket. The 8th seed winning the first round showcases the inherent flaws of this bracket style.
As to how it's possible for the 6 seed to have a better record than the 3 seed: let's say #1, #2, #5, and #6 are all from the same division. This means that #3 and #4 are the other two division winners. #3 and #4 could have worse records, (which is possible). It's however more likely for #5 to have a better record than #4. As for why #7 can't have homecourt advantage against the two seed, #7 would have to be in a different division from #3 and #4, placing it in the same division as #6, and then by extension #2.
Virtually, the only way to improve this current system is to guarantee the division winner a playoff spot only , not a top-4 seed, and to have the team with the best regular-season record remaining play the team with the worst regular-season record remaining., (like in the NFL)
- The Atlanta Hawks have bounced around the NBL/NBA from Buffalo (as the Bisons for only 13 games) to the then-Tri-Cities of Moline, Illinois; Rock Island, Illinois; and Davenport, Iowa (as the Blackhawks; Bettendorf, Iowa eventually joined in to make it the Quad Cities) to Milwaukee to St. Louis, but they landed in Atlanta in 1968 and have stayed there for a while - they really haven't done much of note, though they've been a playoff contender lately and they have won a championship back in St. Louisnote . But in the '80s they were at least fun to watch, with two Slam Dunk Contest champions in Spud Webb and Dominique Wilkins. Owned by Ted Turner for many years, they had their games often on TBS, though they hardly attained the status that baseball's Braves did.
- The Boston Celtics are one of the most storied teams in the history of the league; this was the team that ended up winning 17 championships, with eight straight in The Fifties and The Sixties behind superstar Bill Russell (contrary to belief, John Havlicek was around for only 6 of the championships won in The Sixties, but won two more in the The Seventies). In the Eastern Conference, they're known as the love-em-or-hate-em team in the East (or at least, they were until the Miami Trio came). They're easily the go-to Arch-Enemy for the Lakers, due to classic matchups in the '60s and '80s, as well as the rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Also only one of two franchises to start in the NBA in its beginnings back in the 1946-47 season and stay in their home city (the other team being the New York Knicks). For what it's worth, the team's name is pronounced "Seltics" rather than "Keltics". From the late '90s to the mid-'00s, the team declined heavily due to some mismanagement, though they did draft Paul Pierce in 1998, though it took quite a while before the Celtics returned to form. Which they did in the summer of 2007; general manager Danny Ainge (and former player himself) acquired Ray Allen from Seattle, Kevin Garnett from Minnesota and Rajon Rondo from Phoenix, subsequently steamrolling through the league and winning the 2008 NBA Finals. Since then, they've faced a lot of bad luck via unfortunately timed injuries (Garnett missing the playoffs in 2009; Perkins losing his ankle in the 2010 Finals against the Lakers; Rondo getting his arm broken in 2011; Chris Wilcox, Jeff Green and Avery Bradley in 2012, Rondo again in 2013 with a torn ACL). They've now blown up their roster, traded their coach to the LA Clippers, and hired young college coaching superstar Brad Stevens.
- The Brooklyn Nets were formerly known as the New Jersey Americans, the New York Nets, and the New Jersey Nets. They were the league's running joke until the Jason Kidd era of the 2000s, when they reached the finals (and lost) two years in a row. In the 2009-10 season, they narrowly avoided becoming the worst team of all time. In the second-biggest trade of the 2010-11 season, they gained superstar point guard Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz, which helps their hopes for a future comeback. Unfortunately more in the spotlight lately for utility player Kris Humphries being married for 72 days to reality star Kim Kardashian. Back when they were the New York Nets, they were one of four ABA teams (the others being the Indiana Pacers, the Denver Nuggets, and the San Antonio Spurs) to move to the NBA, and were also the team of Dr. J before the merger. Famous rapper Jay-Z was also a partial owner of the team before selling his (very small) stake so he could represent NBA players as an agent. Recently they were bought by an eccentric Russian billionaire, Mikhail Prokhorov, who finally moved the team to Brooklyn. This undoubtedly put an end to the question, "If the Nets (somehow) won a championship, where would they hold the parade?" (The Nets' New Jersey home was located in the middle of a mess of suburbs and decayed cities that lacks a natural center, although Newark—where the Nets played for the last two years of their existence—and Jersey City—which is nicer than Newark, especially the bit that's basically a chunk of Manhattan that broke off—come close.) They also traded some of their junk to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Joe Johnson, who currently holds the largest contract in the NBA, leading to a competitive team with a nice rivalry with cross-river team Knicks. In the 2013 offseason, they took advantage of the Celtics' fire sale to pick up Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, and also signed Andrei Kirilenko as a free agent. They're now in salary cap and luxury tax hell—their payroll for the 2013–14 season will be just north of $100 million, with a luxury tax of $85 million on top of that. Then again, when your owner is a Russian oligarch worth about $15 billion, that's pocket change. Unfortunately, they began the season riddled with injuries and were one of the worst teams in the league in the first few months of the year; they improved in January as they got healthier, and made the playoffs, losing in the conference semifinals to the Heat. In any event, they have few draft picks to salvage their future with until 2019.
- The Charlotte Hornets are the league's newest team (by terms of founding - Oklahoma City is newer, but they moved from Seattle). Or, at least they were until the NBA created a Continuity Snarl in 2014. Officially, the team now began its life in 1988 under its current name. The first Hornets (named after the city's nickname "Hornet's Nest") were an Ensemble Darkhorse of the league before moving to New Orleans after the 2001–02 season, keeping the "Hornets" name until becoming the "Pelicans" in 2013. The NBA returned to Charlotte in 2004 in the form of the Charlotte Bobcats, named for initial owner Bob Johnson, who was the founder of BET (as well as a lynx variant), with the other finalists being "Dragons" and "Flight"note . The team is currently owned by Michael Jordan. The team didn't do too much in the Bobcats era except set a record in 2011-12 (a season shortened to 66 games from the normal 82 by a labor dispute) for the worst winning percentage of all time with 7-59 (.106; the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers lost more games in a regular-length season)! After the New Orleans Hornets renamed themselves as the Pelicans (as seen below), the Bobcats announced that starting in the 2014, they would take the Hornets name back to North Carolina. By agreement with the NBA and the Pelicans, the team also regained exclusive rights to the history and records of the original Charlotte Hornets.
- The Chicago Bulls are the former team of Michael Jordan, who led the team to six championships in the 90s. During that time, they enjoyed a surge of popularity, largely due to Jordan's on-court heroics. Many of their games nationally televised on the Chicago "superstation", WGN (it's down to Saturday-only games now in the US, with a quirk where Canada gets the regular Chicago signal with more games). Began the trend of using the instrumental track "Sirius" (by The Alan Parsons Project) for pregame introductions. Before the days of MJ, however, they didn't really have that much notability, and that does include their involvement from preventing a fifth ABA team from entering the NBA (they had the rights to eventual Hall of Fame player Artis Gilmore, who was on the Kentucky Colonels and they objected the opportunity for Artis still playing there), and they started sucking after MJ's second retirement. Their current superstar is point guard Derrick Rose, who helped revive the franchise from mediocrity - albeit since 2012 Rose's knees have sidelined him for most games, and center Joakim Noah helps to keep the team among the league's best - along with coach Tom Thibodeau, who took the Bulls to the best record in the East for two straight years, along with the conference finals against Miami in 2011 (the following a year, an injury pile-up lead to a first round defeat by Philadelphia). In the summer blockbuster of 2010, they acquired Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson, John Lucas III, Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer to go along with Taj Gibson; their famed "Bench Mob" - though in 2012, all but Boozer left to keep the team under the cap.
- The Cleveland Cavaliers are the current (!!!) team of LeBron James, who gave them consecutive 60-win seasons and brought them to the Finals, though they never won a championship. He left for a bit, putting them in a weird place between Butt Monkey and Woobie status, as they went roughly nowhere without their best player. But then after four years in Miami, he decided to come home to much rejoicing. In the 90's, coach Mike Fratello instituted an absolutely glacial slowdown offense which resulted in unusually low scores; while it worked for the team, he's largely blamed for the dropoff in scoring and more "boring" style of play league-wide that took hold later in the decade and the early 2000s. Currently best known for feeling betrayed by LeBron James on national and international TV, as he announced his free-agency decision with an ESPN special appropriately named "The Decision". They also had an abysmal season, having just set the record for the longest losing streak in the league (26 games long - which tied the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (and later on, the 2014 Philadelphia 76ers) for the longest losing streak in the Big Four sports). After that season was over, luck smiled on them as they ended up having both picks #1 (Duke PG Kyrie Irving) and #4 (Texas PF Tristan Thompson) in the 2011 Draft, as well as the #1 pick for both 2013 (UNLV PF Anthony Bennett), 2014 (Kansas SG Andrew Wiggins), and Lebron returning to Cleveland!
- The late '80s-early '90s Cavs were known for being a good-but-not great team with stars like Larry Nance, Brad Daugherty (yes, NASCAR fans, that Brad Daugherty), Mark Price, and Craig Ehlo. But their most defining moment came in a heartbreaking loss (as most Cleveland sports inevitably do) in the 1989 playoffs against the Chicago Bulls, with Michael Jordan making what became known as "The Shot".
- The Detroit Pistons are the former team of Isiah Thomas, who brought them to the Finals three consecutive years, and won back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990, with help from Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman and Rick Mahorn. Infamous for their brutal defense, the Pistons were often called the "Bad Boy" Pistons. In those days, they defeated Michael Jordan himself three years in a row; their defeat in 1991 kick-started his rise to super-stardom. They were originally known as the Fort Wayne (Zollnernote ) Pistons, they moved to Detroit early in their history when it became clear that they would need money to survive.note The Nineties saw a massive Dork Age, officially branded the "New Breed" era, but commonly referred to as the "teal era" (after the color of the jerseys and logos), in which despite the presence of Grant Hill, the Pistons could never seem to get anywhere. Traditionally, they are known for strong, gritty defense note and good-enough offense. Also, they are the second-oldest NBA franchise around, with their roots going back to the 1941-42 season in the NBL, which was quite literally organized in team founder Fred Zollner's Fort Wayne kitchen. Amazing with how teams way back in the day formed, huh?
- After Jordan swept the Pistons, Detroit went into a period of mediocrity, until Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince came to town. With that core, Detroit made it to the Eastern Conference Finals six times in a row (2003 - 2008), even winning it all in 2004. They made it back to the Finals the following year, but lost in a seven game series to the San Antonio Spurs. Following that, including three straight losses in the Conference Finals, as well as some questionable management decisionsnote , the team has shown continuing decline, ending seasons towards the middle of the conference. They're hoping to find success with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight... and brought back Billups to be a veteran locker-room leader.
- The Indiana Pacers are the former team of Reggie Miller, who joined them in 1987 and played with them for 18 years. Made it to the Finals in 2000, but weren't able to beat the Lakers to win it all. Most of their players (apart from Miller) were either traded or retired soon afterward. Briefly re-surged when Ron Artest (now known as "Metta World Peace") arrived, making the Pacers one of the league's elite teams for about a year or two before the infamous Pacers-Pistons-fans brawl that alarmed even people that don't care about basketball and forever changed environment and atmosphere at American professional sports. Reggie retired after the Pacers were eliminated from the playoffs, the fans turned on the team, forcing the Pacers to trade/release pretty much EVERYONE involved in the brawl, and the team has never been the same. Also one of four ABA teams (the others being the Brooklyn Nets, the Denver Nuggets, and the San Antonio Spurs) to move to the NBA, although they weren't the original team planned to move to the NBA (the original was former ABA rival Kentucky Colonels). Used to be very regular playoff contenders who could never seal the deal, but spent most of the late 00s mired in mediocrity.
- They've rebounded since then, acquiring Lance Stephenson, David West, Roy Hibbert, George Hill and Paul George as their primary force. They are known for their Brutal Honesty, trash-talking swagger, and a huge amount of confidence (some would say cockiness); they will let you know exactly how they feel and they will not let you forget it. Coached by Frank Vogel, these Pacers are known for their gritty defense, physical play, and bipolar offense, thereby serving as a Foil to the "flashier" Miami Heat; whom they have now developed a rivalry. In 2011, with former star Danny Granger as their leader, they returned to the playoffs and challenged the #1-seeded Bulls with a few surprisingly competitive games, before losing in five. Going into 2012, they capitalized on the fact that Miami lost Chris Bosh to injury and took a 2-1 lead over the Miami Heat, before losing the final three games on an incredible tag-team between Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. In 2013, they took out their old rivals in the New York Knicks in six games before advancing to the Conference Finals against the league-best Miami Heat. Indiana eventually bowed out after pushing it to the seventh and final game, which they lost at Miami. Believing that they would have won had Game 7 been at Indiana, they spent the entirety of the 2014 season waging a crusade to garner home court advantage. They did, but a collapse lead the Pacers into struggles in both the last stretch of the regular season and the playoffs, leading the Heroic Rematch with the Heat to again finish in a loss.
- The Miami Heat is the go-to Love It or Hate It team in all of basketball, even more so than the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. An expansion team formed in 1988, they were a fairly lackluster team, only making the playoffs twice in their first eight years and losing both times. However, they took a significant turn for the better in 1995, when they shockingly acquired Pat Riley from New York as their team president and head coach (with longtime assistant Randy Pfund as general manager). With the goal of turning Miami into a championship contender, Riley hired Alonzo Mourning from Charlotte and Tim Hardaway from Golden State to serve as the centerpiece for the team. By 1997, the Heat transformed into a ferocious, heavily physical, defensive-oriented juggernaut, subsequently making the playoffs as the 2nd, 3rd, even 1ST seed for five straight years; they even made it to the '97 Conference Finals. However, despite their success in the late nineties (four straight division titles, winning records on the road, and several individual player awards), they were often bounced out of the playoffs by their most hated rivals in the New York Knicks; consequently entering a brief period of decline from 2001 through 2003. The Heat made a resurgence after drafting Dwyane Wade, acquiring Shaquille O'Neal from Los Angeles, and re-signing Alonzo Mourning. Miami returned as the 1st seed to the Conference Finals in 2005, developed a brief rivalry with the Detroit Pistons, and subsequently won their first NBA championship the following year against the Dallas Mavericks, becoming the second team in league history to sweep all three games at home, after the 2004 Pistons. During their rivalries with the Knicks and Bulls, some of their most memorable moments came when Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy latched onto Mourning's leg during an altercation; when Knicks player Charlie Ward collided with P.J. Brown, who flipped Ward over his head and body-slammed him; when Pat Riley leaned against the wall in defeat after Mourning was ejected; when the ball bounced on the rim before going through the basket (that was a Miami loss); when Alonzo guaranteed a game 4 victory (which he delivered on) after falling behind 3-0 to Chicago; and when Miami defeated the 72-10 Bulls 113-104.
- After a four-year, post-title drout, the Miami Heat caused a major power shift in the 2010 summer blockbuster, signing free agent LeBron James and Chris Bosh; effectively codifying the idea of stacking your team with "mercenary" star power (which they took from the 2008 Boston Celtics). During a welcome party for the Big 3, LeBron boldly predicted that the Heat would win multiple championships... and proceeded to count down to eight to punctuate his point... which he did without even playing a single game yet. This one moment caused many to view the Heat as bonafide Smug Snakes. Road games sold out their crowds purely because people wanted to beat the Heat, who themselves embraced their "villain" perception wholeheartedly in order to prove their doubters wrong. For all the scrutiny and criticism, however, it brought Miami to the Finals, defeating Boston and Chicago 4-1 to get there... only for Miami to lose on their home court to the Dallas Mavericks after holding a a 2-1 series lead. Note that Dallas was the same team Wade defeated on their home court five years earlier, and the Finals MVP was Dirk Nowitzki, who himself craved his first championship. The loss prompted hundreds of internet memes making fun of LeBron in particular choking under pressure from the Mavericks' defense. It ultimately proved to be a blessing in disguise, as the Heat made it to the Finals again the following year, despite falling behind 2-1 to Indiana and 3-2 to Boston due to Wade nursing an injury and Bosh being sidelined because of injury. In the Indiana series, Wade and James averaged a combined 70 points the final three games in order to seal the deal. Against Boston, LeBron forced a seventh game (to the tune of 45 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists), which was ultimately won by James, Wade and a returning Bosh. Facing the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 1-0 deficit, they won the next four games (including all three at home - again), and became the first team ever to win the Finals after trailing in three different series. After holding off the Indiana Pacers in the 2013 Conference Finals, the Heat faced the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals. Miami went behind 0-1, 1-2, and 2-3, and were quite literally 28 seconds away from losing on their home court (the NBA officials even brought out the championship yellow tape for the Spurs).... before they tied the game on the most epic three-point shot ever made by Ray Allen. They would go on to beat the Spurs in Game 7, becoming the first team ever to win a game while trailing in the final 28 seconds, and the first ever franchise to have defeated the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals. LeBron James became the third player in NBA history to win the Regular Season MVP and the Finals MVP twice in back-to-back championship runs, tying Bill Russell and Michael Jordan. The Big 3 Era came to an end in 2013-14 season when The Heat made it back to the Finals in 2014, only to get pasted 4–1 by the Spurs. A month following the defeat, Lebron would announce his return to the Cavaliers.
- The Milwaukee Bucks are the former team of Lew Alcindor (or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson, who won a championship in 1971, their third season of existence. Soon after, Alcindor/Abdul-Jabbar left because he considered Milwaukee culturally backwards. The team's been mediocre since then, with some good teams in the mid-80s and a deep run in 2001. Two notes: they were originally a part of the Eastern Division for two years before moving to the Western Conference until 1980, where they permanently became an Eastern Conference team, and when they drafted Glenn Robinson in the 90s, his contract was so ludicrous that the league instigated a salary cap for rookies the very next year. After an Epic Fail season in 2013-14 (where they managed to finish below a Sixers team that lost 26 games in a row), US Senator and retail magnate Herb Kohl sold the team, leading fans to hope for a team that can do anything of note.
- Since his retirement, Abdul-Jabbar has more or less admitted that much of what he said about Milwaukee had less to do with his actual feelings and more to do with his desire to play in Los Angeles or New York and putting pressure on the team management to trade him to one of those cities. He now speaks well of Milwaukee and its fans, which is probably helped by Milwaukee being much different now than it was in his day. Although it still hasn't saved the city from being a Butt Monkey to many current NBA players.
- The New York Knicks are the former team of Patrick Ewing, who brought them to the Finals twice (1994 and 1999); and Willis Reed, who gave them two titles in three years (along with Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe and Phil Jackson). Ever since Ewing's retirement, the Knickerbockers have been in a serious state of mediocrity and relative infamy, mainly involving cable magnate/part-time blues rocker James Dolan's bumbling ownership and former Piston Isiah Thomas' awful run as a coach and GM. Both managed to field squads which would lose horribly to a team from a Rucker Park pick-up game, and both had players that were ridiculously overpaid (such as Stephon Marbury). On another note, this is the preferred team of famed director Spike Lee, who wears the jersey of the current fan-favorite player of the team - right now, it's unknown considering Landry Fields left for Toronto, but John Starks' 3 was the most famous. The shame of an otherwise proud sports city. Also, on one last note, they're one of only two franchises to start in the NBA in its beginnings back in the 1946-47 season and stay in their home city and were one of two teams to play the first ever NBA game (the other team was the Toronto Huskies, who lasted only that one season — the Knicks won the November 1st, 1946 game 68-66 at the Maple Leaf Gardens and anyone who was taller than 6'8" C George Nostrand (the tallest NBA player at the time) would enter for free note ).
- After struggling for the better part of a decade, the Knicks took a dramatic change of tone; team president/head coach Isiah Thomas was fired and replaced by Donnie Walsh, who hired Mike D'Antoni as the head coach, traded their more troublesome players (i.e. Marbury) away, and acquired Amar'e Stoudemire, who revived the Knicks from mediocrity. The following year, they took in Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, though they had to deal away most of their younger pieces to get those two, essentially blowing up the roster that complimented Stoudemire best. Consequently, the lack of chemistry really harmed the Knicks in the 2011-2012 season, going 8-15 for the first stretch of the season; it took injuries to Carmelo and Amar'e before they found themselves unexpectedly galvanized by the previously unknown Jeremy Lin, who was inserted into the lineup out of desperation by D'Antoni. Unfortunately, after winning seven in a row, they lost the next six games, forcing D'Antoni to resign, though they got a new head coach in Mike Woodson, made the playoffs as the 7th seed and managed to avoid getting swept by the Heat in the first round. Then in 2012-2013 season, they made the 2nd Seed to the playoffs and took out the Celtics 4-2 before losing to the Pacers in Game 6. And in 2014 regressed miserably, only recovering in the later half but still finishing ninth.
- The Orlando Magic have consistenly been one of the better teams on the league, with names like Shaquille O'Neal, Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard. With Stan Van Gundy as their coach and Dwight Howard as their star player, the Magic quickly proved to be a playoff-level team that gave trouble to their divisional rival in the Miami Heat; they even defeated the Boston Celtics in 2009, and became the first ever team to defeat the Celtics in a 7-game series after Boston led for a while. They came within a few games of winning the 2009 Finals, but they lost to the Lakers. They were Shaquille O'Neal's original team, and it was with the Magic that Shaq became known for destroying some backboards. Infamously known for bad blood between Dwight Howard and coach Stan Van Gundy. It got bad enough that Van Gundy and Otis Smith (the general manager) were fired, and Howard was traded to the Lakers. Things may change, but as it stands, it appears that the Magic is dead in the water as far as championship or even playoff aspirations go. Known for having quite possibly the dumbest front office in professional sports, until Rob Hennigan and Jacque Vaughn became the general manager and head coach, respectively. They're holding the fort down in Orlando, mitigating the damage from the Dwightmare saga rather respectfully.
- The Philadelphia 76ers are the former team of famous power-duo Julius Erving and Moses Malone, who took the team to a 12-1 run in the playoffs, swept the Lakers in the Finals and won their second overall championship in 1983. Wilt Chamberlain (before he went to LA) won their first title in 1967. Charles Barkley (who left for Phoenix) and Allen Iverson were also on their roster, but only Iverson brought them to the Finals, and neither won a ring. They're honestly the oldest team to be made in the NBA, having independent years going back as far as 1939 with the Nationals (or "Nats") having a nickname as the "Reds", before being in the NBL in 1946 and merging with the NBA in 1949.note In the 1972-73 season, they had a 9-win season. Yes, 9 wins out of 82. In the 2013-14 season, widely considered "built to tank" and propel a faster rebuild, the Sixers begun with a shocking 3-0, including an upseat of the Heat, but then the team's low quality started to show, culminating with 26 straight losses to tie the LBJ-less Cavs.
- The Toronto Raptors are the former team of Chris Bosh. Started playing in 1995. They haven't made it past the conference championship yet, but they have won their division a few times. Market their status as the only Canadian team heavily (they started along with the Vancouver Grizzlies, which has since moved to Memphis), including changing their primary color from purple to red. Their choice of team name (announced when Jurassic Park was popular) caused a bit of consternation because their original NBA team that was around for only one season was the Toronto Huskies. In 2012–13, it was the only roster with five different countries represented (U.S.A., Spain, Italy, France, and Lithuania)—but that mark was obliterated the following season by the Spurs.
- Being based in Canada, former players have been known to lodge fairly strange complaints about the team, from Othella Harrington complaining that the cream in Oreos' isn't as tasty (no, really) to Antonio Davis complaining about his kids learning the metric system. Most recent addition to this list is Chris Bosh, who complained that he couldn't get "the good cable", or NBA League Pass, though apparently he could.
- The Washington Wizards were formerly known by many names like the Chicago Packers, the Chicago Zephyrs, the Baltimore Bullets (who should not be confused with the Baltimore Bullets team who won the BAA/NBA Finals Championship in the 1947-48 season), the Capital Bullets (who actually played in the small D.C. suburb of Landover, Maryland for one year), and the Washington Bullets. Their name was changed from "Bullets" to "Wizards" because of the Unfortunate Implications of glorifying bullets in a city with an astronomical crime rate (although their name and white uniform added Unfortunate Implications all their own). Formerly the team of Gilbert "Agent Zero" Arenas, who decided which team to sign with by flipping a coin, sponsors professional video game teams, and is constantly in trouble with the league administration. However, Arenas' move to Orlando has paved the way for 2011 rookie John Wall to take the leadership role instead, which took long to work out (the team only returned to the playoffs in 2014). Also, Michael Jordan played for them very briefly while trying to groom #1 draft pick (and eventual bust) Kwame Brown.
- The Dallas Mavericks started playing in 1980, and were so named because Maverick star James Garner was a part of the founding ownership. Throughout most of the '80s, the Mavs were generally pretty good - though they entered a bit of a Dork Age in the 1990s. Early in their history they were about to unseat the then-mighty Lakers in the playoffs until their point guard lost track of the score in a critical game. However, when dot-com bubble billionaire Mark Cuban bought the team, and brought in Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash got into the area during the late 90's and early 2000's, they started getting good again - good enough to make the playoffs every year until 2013 (when Nowitzki missed most of the season injured), even making it all the way to the Finals in 2006, and winning the championship in 2011.
- The Denver Nuggets are the former team of Carmelo Anthony, largely seen as The Rival to LeBron James. Even after trading Carmelo (something he wanted for years), they're still one of the better teams playing today, with a talented core of young, unselfish players who run a fast-paced offense, led by point guard Ty Lawson. However, they're yet another team with that "always a contender, never a winner" vibe about them. Also, like the Indiana Pacers, the Brooklyn Nets, and the San Antonio Spurs, they're one of the four surviving ABA teams (with the original name for this team being the Denver Larksnote , changed to the Rockets before the team's first season, and only becoming the Nuggets in 1974). Their name's basically a homage/an artifact of the original Denver Nuggets team that was in the NBL/NBA for only two seasons and for good reason. During The Eighties, they were a famously high-scoring team whose coach, Doug Moe, literally did not believe in defense, once pulling the team to the sidelines late in the game while the other team scored at will as a protest. That style of play ended up getting the highest-scoring game in NBA history with the Pistons winning over the Nuggets 186-184.
- The Golden State Warriors were the original team of Wilt Chamberlain, but they're a team with its best days far behind it; located in Oakland with a name designed to not peeve either San Francisco, Oakland or the Bay Area in general. Some past notices include being the first team to ever win the NBA Finals; the most recent they've done so is 1975. Apart from some minor success during the "Run TMC" years of the late 80s, the only thing they've done lately of note was stun the then-top-seeded Mavericks in the 2007 Playoffs, and in 2010 they brought back the classic uniforms featuring an image of one of the famous bridges of the area (formerly the Golden Gate, now the Oakland-San Francisco). Despite the long lack of success, the team has a rabid fanbase in the Bay Area and routinely sell out regardless of how good/bad they are. Were originally from Philadelphia and, later on, San Francisconote . Currently their most famous player is Stephen Curry, who in 2012-13 broke the NBA record for most three-pointers in a single season. Combine him with fellow guard Klay Thompson, the two become known as the "Splash Brothers."
- The Houston Rockets are the former team of Hakeem Olajuwon, who won two championships in the '90s. note . Since his retirement, they've been largely in the same boat as teams like Memphis and Denver - always a contender, never a winner. On the other hand, they drafted Yao Ming a few years back, which started a trend of Chinese players entering the league. Unfortunately, Yao Ming ended up retiring after a few years of having bad injuries destroying his career, so for a while they were sort of left without a center. On the plus side, before the 2012–13 season they did "re-gainnote " surprise star Jeremy Lin and literally days before the start of the season, they acquired Oklahoma City Thunder star James Harden via trade. They were originally from San Diego for four years before moving to Houston, and their first arena has been converted to the most mega of any mega-church, Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church.
- The Los Angeles Clippers are ridiculed as being the worst franchise in all American major sportsnote . Born as the Buffalo Braves and later on, the San Diego Clippers, they're historically known as one of the league's joke teams. After 33 years of existence, however, things are finally looking up for the Clippers as they won their first Division Championship in 2013. Once lacking in decent players, they also now boast a respectable squad spearheaded by phenom Blake Griffin, who in just three months during his rookie season became a superstar and a fan-favoritenote , and All-Star point guard Chris Paul. Unfortunately, they have yet to win a conference or a league title to this day. Moreover, during their tenure in LA they had the most reviled team owner in sports, Donald Sterling, a local slumlord widely known as a vicious racist. He also heckled his own players and his Executive Meddling was a big factor in the Clippers' perennial mediocrity. Only in 2014, when an audio leaked of Sterling complaining to his girlfriend about taking a picture of her with Magic Johnson and asking her "not to bring black people to my games" the NBA decided they had enough of his bigotry and banned him from the NBA for life, taking the team from him in the process. For a few days, it appeared that things would settle down, as Sterling's estranged wife had a deal with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to buy the team for $2 billion. However, Sterling backed out of the deal and decided to sue the league for $1 billion. In short: stay tuned. Nevertheless, they currently have something of a big-name fan in Bill Simmons, who adopted the Clippers after his move to L.A. and mentions them frequently. Lamar Odom, a.k.a. Kim Kardashian's brother-in-law, now plays here (againnote ) due to a trade fiasco involving Dallas, and can be seen on the Kardashian family picture. While the worst seems to be finally behind them, the Clippers still hold the unfortunate distinction of sharing a city and an arena with...
- The Los Angeles Lakers are easily the Arch-Enemy of the Boston Celtics and the West's designated love-or-hate team. They've got 16 championships to their name, just one away from tying it with the Celtics, and they're the first team to win 3,000 regular-season games. Their historical rosters read like a Criterion Collection of NBA history - George Mikan (the first ever basketball superstar), Elgin Baylor (the forerunner of all jump shots, reverse layups, spinning and dribbling moves you see today), Jerry West (the NBA logo and the first Finals MVP), Wilt Chamberlain (the only man to score 100 points and grab 50 rebounds in a single game), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (all-time scoring leader), Magic Johnson (the greatest point guard in NBA history), Shaquille O'Neal (won three consecutive Finals MVP awards), and Kobe Bryant (the heir to Michael Jordan) have all at some point called this place home - all six have between them 12 MVP awards (Chamberlain alone has four!). They almost gained former Hornets player Chris Paul as well, but the NBA actually interfered with their trade due to "basketball reasons". Currently the only team to achieve a three-peat after the Jordan years, they're led by Kobe Bryant, who won a repeat with help from Phil Jackson (retired), Pau Gasol (left for the Bulls after the 2013–14 season), Andrew Bynum (traded away), Derek Fisher (traded away), Metta World Peace (The Artist Formerly Known as Ron Artest; released) and Lamar Odom (traded away). With Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, they were hoping to get at least one more championship before Kobe retires... but Howard left as a free agent after the 2012–13 season and signed with the Rockets.
- Here's two fun facts for you: they were originally called the Detroit Gems for one season and the Lakers are the only team to win a championship from the NBL, the BAA, and the NBA. The name is an artifact from their early days in Minneapolis. Minnesota has ten thousand lakes; Los Angeles has five. This began the tradition of NBA teams keeping their name on changing cities, no matter how incongruous. Speaking of which...
- The Memphis Grizzlies are the former team of Pau Gasol (who left for Los Angeles in a very one-sided trade). Originally from Vancouver, they started playing in 1995. While they were far from contenders, even with Gasol, they've shown improvement in recent years, but remain far from contenders. Their single greatest accomplishment was by becoming the second 8-seeded team in the NBA playoffs to defeat a 1-seed in a 7-game series (and the fourth to do so overall); they defeated the San Antonio Spurs in the 2011 playoffs and took the Thunder to 7 games in the next round. In 2013, they also managed to reach the Western finals with their gritty game overcoming the flashier Clippers and Thunder, but were then swept by the Spurs. They're currently led by head coach Dave Joerger, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol (younger brother of Pau).
- The Minnesota Timberwolves are the former team of Kevin Garnett, who was a badass, but often went out in the first round, though they did win a division title and made it to the Conference Finals in 2007. They're now the team of surprise star player Kevin Love and Spanish superstar Ricky Rubio. Fun fact: they got their name as a result of a "name that team" contest, after a wolf that has its biggest population in Minnesota.
- The New Orleans Pelicans were formerly the Charlotte Hornetsnote and New Orleans Hornets. They've been fairly consistent in their 20 years - occasionally very bad, occasionally very good, but mostly in the middle of the pack. Point Guard Chris Paul led the team to their first divisional title in 2008, but they've slipped back into mediocrity since then, and they'll be stuck there due to them trading Chris Paul. However, they did gain a new owner and drafted Anthony Davis into their team. They recently changed their team name from the Hornets to the Pelicans, in honor of their state's official bird, effective as of the 2013-14 season. Due to Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans in 2005, the Hornets played home games in Oklahoma City for two years, where they became the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. The Seattle (Super)Sonics' owner took note of the team's strong reception there, leading us to...
- The Oklahoma City Thunder were formerly known as the Seattle (Super)Sonics; the team was relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008. As of 2012, the Thunder have existed for only four seasons, but they've already made it to the NBA Finals, and chances are that they'll get a championship very soon. One particularly notable trait of theirs is how young they are; Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka were all aged 22 or 23 when they appeared in the 2012 NBA Finals. Furthermore, in the playoffs of that same year, they defeated the same western teams that took 10 of the last 13 championships since 2012 - the Dallas Mavericks (2011), the Los Angeles Lakers (2000 - 2002, 2009 - 2010) and the San Antonio Spurs (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007), in that order. Appearing in the playoffs in three consecutive years, they went from a first round 8th seed exit in 2010, to a runner-up in the 2011 Western Conference Finals and the 2012 NBA Finals. While their potential was noticeable from their first season, it's only been since 2011 that people have started considering them a legit candidate for winning a championship, but they've made a habit out of losing to the eventual champions of that year (Lakers in 2010, Mavericks in 2011, Heat in 2012, and Spurs in 2014).
- Oklahoma City fans are widely praised for their adoration and dedication to their new team: when a game begins, the fans wouldn't sit down until the Thunder scored their first basket. During the playoffs, they would divide themselves into squares of fans wearing white shirts, and right next to that, another square of fans wearing blue shirts. They have a college-like feel to their arena, and their cheering can be outright deafening. It's a small market area, but one where even the Thunder players themselves reportedly enjoy. In addition, the relocation from Seattle to Oklahoma City was a move that did not sit still with Sonics fans, but they tend to reserve their vitriol to Clay Bennett and Howard Schultz, the owners who decided to relocate the team, after promising that they wouldn't, and not toward the city itself.
- Another addition to the above was that the Thunder Fans have shown their true colors after their loss in the 2013 playoffs to the Grizzlies. Normally, when a team is doing this good, you can expect more than a few bandwagon fans to jump on board, and then abandon ship the moment they lose. The story is a little more than a simple loss of a playoff series, however. The series before, Russell Westbrook's meniscus was torn after a dive for the ball by Patrick Beverly of the Rockets collided with his knee. The Thunder went on to win the series with the Rockets, but struggled heavily without him, and ended up losing to the Grizzlies in five games. Rather than be disappointed in their team or be down about the loss, the Thunder fans gave their team a standing ovation as they walked off the court, accompanied with their trademark "OKC!" chant.
- The Phoenix Suns are the former team of Steve Nash (and ex-76er Charles Barkley), and they're one of many teams without a championship. Historically, they are one of the better franchises in the NBA, although they haven't greeted the 2010 decade with much success recently. Ex-Suns coach Mike D'Antoni instituted a system that's successful called "Seven Seconds Or Less". That style of play was not only fun, but other teams started to copy that system during the late 2000s (such as the Golden State Warriors). A former well-known Suns player is now the mayor of a city of one of their Pacific Division rivals. They're also noted for "The Shot Heard Around the World" made by Garfield Heard back in the 1976 NBA Finals. Another notice recently is being the team with the best, if not one of the best medical staffs around due to helping players like Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Michael Redd, Jermaine O'Neal, and even Shaquille O'Neal extending their careers longer than what should've been expected.
- The Portland Trail Blazers are the former team of Clyde Drexler (made the Finals in 1992) and Bill Walton (who won their only championship in 1977). Another team whose best years are behind them. In the early to mid-'00s, they were known as the Jail Blazers for the number of players in trouble with the law. Now known as the black cats of the league, because their players seem to always be injured. Also (in)famous for their horrid luck when it comes to drafting players. Their first notice of bad luck came in 1972 when they decided to draft a guy named LaRue Martin over Hall of Fame players like Julius Erving and Bob McAdoo. LaRue would only play about 4 seasons with 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game before retiring, which places him as one of the biggest busts of all time. Their more (in)famous notice, however, comes from Sam Bowie, who was one slot ahead of Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft. Bowie, who had missed two college seasons at Kentucky due to stress fractures in his legs, had more of the same in the NBA, and Jordan went on to be one of the most successful athletes in American history. Lightning struck again when they drafted Greg Oden, whose knees gave out immediately, one slot before Kevin Durant, one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA. It got worse as their best player, Brandon Roy, was suffering from an incurable knee disease that forced him into a really early retirement (and his attempt to return with the T-Wolves didn't work either). This has resulted in Portland basically blowing up their current roster for some pretty mediocre players outside star LaMarcus Aldridge, as well as waiving Greg Oden too. Portland's definitely hoping that lightning doesn't strike yet again with bad luck in Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard. In a promising development, Lillard was the league's Rookie of the Year for 2013, and the next year he and Aldridge got the team back to the playoffs.
- The Sacramento Kings last won a championship in 1951. Bounced around from the NBL to the NBA from Rochester (as the Royals) to Cincinnati (also as the Royals) to Kansas City-Omaha to just Kansas City before settling in Sacramento in 1985. Sacramento's only major league sports team, their fanbase has been among the strongest in the league even during the franchise's lean years. This franchise is the third-oldest professional franchise in the NBA, behind only the Detroit Pistons and the Philadelphia 76ers, respectively, though their roots go even further back to the semi-pro Royals from the 1920s into World War II. Their professional roots began in the 1945-46 season — one year before the BAA/NBA began. During the early 2000s, the team was a perennial contender thanks to a strong starting five of Vlade Divac, Chris Webber, Doug Christie, Peja Stojakovic, and Jason Williams, with energetic bench-player Bobby Jackson and the home-court advantage of its raucous crowd being just as vital. The team lost a heartbreaking seven-game Western Conference Finals to the Lakers in 2002, a series that was revealed to be corrupted by referee Tim Donaghy for gambling purposes, who swung the pivotal Game 6 in favor of Los Angeles via phantom foul calls that allowed the Lakers to win with a Miracle Rally and eventually win the series. After the core of that team ended, the team has fallen into the bottom tier of the league. After many relocation rumors (helped by owners Maloof brothers being ditzes and their arena becoming worse with each year), going as far as a deal to move the team to Seattle, a local entrepreneur bought the Kings, and mayor Kevin Johnson's deal for a new arena went through.
- The San Antonio Spurs are the former team of George Gervin and David Robinson. They're one of the more dominant teams of the 2000s; they've won 18 division titles, they've always made the playoffs since drafting Tim Duncan, and they've won five championships, including three in six years and the most recent, the 2013/14 title. Perpetually low-key, but exceptionally well-managed, the Spurs are one of the most stable teams in the league; they're perennial favorites each year, even though they tend to run under the radar compared to the flashier teams. You can thank Tim Duncan for that, by the way, who was their first draft pick in 1997. Like the Indiana Pacers, the Brooklyn Nets, and the Denver Nuggets, they're one of four ABA teams to move to the NBA. Started out in the ABA as the Dallas Chaparrals and in one season, the Texas Chaparrals. The George Gervin and David Robinson eras were both sans-championship, until Duncan and Robinson were paired together as the "Twin Towers". Known for their numerous "steals" note during the annual drafts: George Gervin at 40th pick, Tony Parker at 28th, and even Manu Ginóbili at 57th(!!). Notably, EIGHT (out of 29) other coaches in the 2012–13 season (Utah's Corbin, Brooklyn's Johnson, Clippers' Del Negro, Lakers' Brown, Orlando's Vaughn, New Orleans' Williams, Phoenix's Gentry, and Boston's Rivers) all either played for or became an assistant coach for the Spurs. Also notable is that the 2013–14 Spurs had seven' different nationalities on their roster.note Under Coach Gregg Popovich, they became famous for their style of play mostly based on teamwork : if you enjoy powerful dunks, one-on-ones or alley-oops, the Spurs are very Boring, but Practical; but if you favor passes and movements, then they are closer to Difficult but Awesome.
- After getting riddled with injuries and having the Grizzlies knock them out of the 2011 playoffs in the first round, the Spurs came back with a vengeance through the 2012 season, finding their way into a 20-game winning streak (their last loss was at home against LA in April 11) that headed into the playoffs. The younger guns were shaping up to be fine players, Popovich deservedly won the Coach of the Year award, Ginobili came back from an injury, Duncan improved his play after losing weight, and Parker was establishing himself as a premier point guard. As the playoffs started, the Spurs swept their first two opponents, the Jazz and the Clippers, and took the first two games at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder. With their old school, meticulously-executed fundamental basketball and excellent sharpshooting, the Spurs were the clear favorites to come out of the Western Conference... before losing the next four games, three on the road and one at home, to the Thunder, who switched from their isolation-style playing into a more team-oriented offense/defense. The Spurs would bounce back with a vengeance in the 2012-13 season, where despite finishing second in the West to the Thunder, they would go on to sweep the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers, defeat the Warriors in six gamesnote , and most of all, avenge their first round exit by sweeping the Grizzlies in the Western Conference Finals, bringing them to their fifth Finals; which they unfortunately lost in Game 7 to the Miami Heat after coming very close to winning the championship in Game 6.
- This Game 6 loss to the Heat proved to be a blessing in disguise, as they stormed back next season to gain homecourt advantage through the playoffs, overcoming a determined Mavericks squad in 7 games, the youthful Blazers in 5, and the Thunder in 6 to schedule a rematch with the Miami Heat... and they exorcised last year's Game 6 meltdown by taking 5 games to dismantle the Miami Heat in convincing and record-setting fashion, in the process posting the highest margin of victory in NBA Finals history.
- The Utah Jazz are the former team of John Stockton and "The Mailman" Karl Malone. In the more distant past, "Pistol" Pete Maravich (Disney made a movie about his childhood hoop exploits) played for them. However, despite their dominance, they have no championships to show for it. Recent shock has been gained by them when Jerry Sloan (the head coach of the Utah Jazz for 23 years) decided to resign from coaching after signing another one-year contract during the 2010-11 season, as well the Jazz trading away their superstar point guard Deron Williams to the Nets almost one week later. If you're wondering what Mormon Utah has to do with jazz, this is yet another team with an Artifact Title. The franchise was originally from New Orleans and moved to Salt Lake City in 1979. The team's then-owner didn't change the name because he thought the move would be temporary. As you've guessed, it wasn't. But after all these years, nobody even questions it anymore, and it's become something of a quirky Utah tradition to append one or two Z's to the end of a professional team name or have a Z somewhere (the WNBA and women's soccer's "Starzz", the minor league "Orem Owlz", the "Blitzz" of a long forgotten soccer league, the minor league hockey Grizzlies, and the minor league baseball team of Major League: Back to the Minors, the "Buzz", since renamed the Stingers and then the Bees).
Additionally, there were 15 teams back in the 1940's and 1950's that no longer exist, even if some of their names ended up being revived altogether. Some teams' stories are more interesting than others, but they're all still dead. These are their stories.
- The Anderson Packers (sometimes known as the Anderson Duffy Packers or even the Chief Anderson Meat Packers; 1946-1951) were the last champion team for the NBL, which was a big chunk for the early NBA. In their one season with the NBA (1949-50), they ended up defeating their division rivals in the Tri-Cities Blackhawks and the Indianapolis Olympians before being bested by the eventual champion Minneapolis Lakers. After their failure in the NBA, they decided to move on to the failing NPBLnote before folding.
- The Baltimore Bullets (1944-1954) are currently the only dead NBA team to end up winning an NBA Finals championship. Baltimore began as an ABLnote team that once won a championship there against the Philadelphia Sphas (who are now known as the Washington Generals) before moving to the BAA in 1947-48, where they had their best success as a team. They are also the only ABL team to move to the NBA. Afterwards, the team had unfortunate luck, making it to the playoffs twice before folding after 14 gamesnote into the 1954-55 season. Also, they shouldn't be confused with the Baltimore Bullets team that are now the Washington Wizards.
- The Chicago Stags (1946-1950) was Chicago's first attempt at having an NBA team before they settled with the Chicago Bulls. The Stags had a good opportunity with being the first of two teams to enter the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, the success they had was short-lived, as while they did make it to the playoffs in all the other years, they just didn't have the luck, cash, or talent needed to help keep the team around, despite the aquisition rights to eventual Boston Celtic Bob Cousy and having a leading scorer in Max Zaslofsky. They do hold some remembrance, as the Stags' old jerseys were worn in a few NBA games back in the 2005-06 season. They are also one of the original 11 NBA teams in their first ever NBA season.
- The Cleveland Rebels (1946-47) was Cleveland's first attempt at an NBA team before getting the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were also an original 11 NBA team. In their one year with the BAA/NBA, they ended up grabbing an average record, and ended up losing to the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs. After that, they just went out of business.
- The Denver Nuggets (1948-1950) was Denver's first ever professional team. Unfortunately, they were probably the worst team they had. In their two years with the NBL/NBA, they ended up getting two losing records, the second of which being the worst. On the plus side, they were a great un-named Denver amateur team back in 1938-48, and they put the city on the map in terms of sports. Just like Baltimore, they shouldn't be confused with the current Denver NBA team of the same name, albeit that Denver Nuggets weren't originally named the Nuggets to begin with.
- The Detroit Falcons (1946-47) was Detroit's first NBA team before they acquired the Detroit Pistons, as well as an original 11 NBA team. Their team was a bad one, with their only star, Stan Miasak, making it on their first ever All-BAA/NBA First Team. Combine that with the Detroit of the past, and it's no wonder why they didn't work out.
- The Indianapolis Kautskys (1937-1949) was the first chance Indiana had for a professional basketball team. The Kautskys weren't really one of the best NBL teams around, even going around and temporarily suspending operations for the 1940-41 season and from 1942-45, which was most likely due to World War II happening. Along with the Lakers, the (Zollner) Pistons, and the Rochester Royals, the Kautskys ended up moving from the NBL to the BAA in their 1948-49 season, and rebranded themselves as the Indianapolis Jets. Unfortunately for them, they still ended up having a losing record, and they folded after one season with the NBA. However, not all hope would be lost for Indiana...
- Because they ended up gaining another NBA team! The Indianapolis Olympians (1949-1953) were Indiana's second chance for a professional basketball team after the failed Kautskys/Jets experiment. Unlike the first Indianapolis team, the Olympians were led by some players who were on the U.S. Olympic team in 1948. They even ended up gaining a winning record in their first year, and even ended up making it to the playoffs for every season they played. Unfortunately, when the NBA discovered that two key components admitted to point shaving during their college careers in Kentucky in 1951, they were banned from the NBA for life and the Olympians were never the same, despite having a winning record again after that year. When they had a horrid losing record that still made it to the playoffs and your first opponent would be the eventual champion Lakers, you might as well consider yourself dead afterwards. On a plus side, they were the winners of a six-overtime game against the Rochester Royals in 1951. Despite that long amount of time, the score on that game was rather small, since it ended with the score of 75-73! Eventually, Indiana finally found a NBA team to truly call their team... with a former ABA team entering the NBA.
- The Pittsburgh Ironmen (1946-47) was the NBA's only attempt to venture out to the land of Pittsburgh, but it wouldn't be the end of their ventures in Pennsylvania. They were also an original 11 NBA team. In their one year around, they were the worst team with a 15-45 record. On a trivia note, the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers were temporarily renamed the Pittsburgh Iron Men back in 1941.
- The Providence Steamrollers (1946-49) was the last professional team in general to ever play in the state of Rhode Island, as well as an original 11 NBA team. The Steamrollers were simply put, a horrible team, with one season giving them only 6 wins! (They still aren't the worst team, percentage-wise. That dubious "honor" now goes to the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats.) They also played the oldest NBA player ever in a guy named "Nat Hickey", who decided to play while still being a head coach for the team as an early birthday gift. He only scored two points via free throws, thus making him the oldest NBA player ever at 45 years, 363 days old!
- The Sheboygan Red Skins (1938-1952) from the Wisconsin lakeshore city are a team with a somewhat tragic end. They began as a few successful small teams like the Ballhorns, the Art Imig's, and the Enzo Jels (all local businesses which still exist today) before being renamed as the Sheboygan Red Skins in the NBL, which they admitted in due to their performance against Hall of Fame teams in the New York Renaissance and even the Harlem Globetrotters! After a bad first NBL season, they revamped themselves with a new coach, and later a new arena to help them not only enter the finals, but even win a championship in 1943. After that, they ended up entering a finals a few more times and even joined the playoffs for a few more years afterwards, but they never could replicate the success found in that year. They were the second-longest team to ever play in the NBL and the team with the second-most NBL championship appearances, being only behind the Oshkosh All-Stars in each experiment. Unfortunately, they didn't fare so well despite starting out so well in the 1949-1950 NBA season. With the Red Skins playing in the smallest market and arena in professional basketball history (a 3,500 all-bleacher seat building meant more as an armory), it wouldn't really help Sheboygan's cause. After giving the Olympians a scare in the playoffs despite having a losing record, they withdrew to the aforementioned NPBL, where they posted the best NPBL record there (29-16). After that experiment, the Red Skins had one last chance in saving them, and two other former NBA teams by creating a new ten-team leaguenote , but they realized how big the NBA was, and they ended up being an independant team for one year before folding altogether due to sparse crowds and the team losing to College All-Stars.
- The St. Louis Bombers (1946-1950) were the NBA's first attempt at having a team in St. Louis, as well as an original 11 NBA team. When the NBA was the BAA, they did pretty good, with the team always entering the playoffs, but losing in either the quarterfinals or the semifinals. When the BAA changed into the NBA, however, they never were the same, as the Bombers suffered a losing record that resulted in the team folding afterwards, despite them having star guys in Grady Lewis and Ed Macauley. They also sort of hold an Unfortunate Implications team name.
- The Toronto Huskies (1946-47) were the NBA's first attempt at bringing in a Canadian basketball team, as well as being an original 11 NBA team. They were the losing team of the first ever NBA game, they played at the Maple Leaf Gardens, and they ended up holding four different coaches in their only season, one of which didn't win a game at all. They also had a famous promotion gimmick in the first game ever played by giving anyone who was taller than the Huskies' tallest player (6' 8" C George Nostrand) free admission. With a lack of organization, a lack of talented players, and odd promotions found (i.e., free stockings for all women in attendance), the franchise ended up folding after their only season. Despite the flaws, they're still remembered just like the Chicago Stags by having the Toronto Raptors wear the Huskies' old jerseys for 6 games in the 2009-2010 season. However, unlike the Stags, the Huskies have a movement where loyal Huskies fans want to see the Raptors abolished and replaced with the old Huskies name, and they apparently made a bit of a mark with the Raptors keeping the retro jerseys beyond that season, the Raptors' official website holding a Toronto Huskies banner, and one game even had the team referred to as the Huskies instead of the Raptors.
- The Washington Capitols (1946-1951) were the NBA's first attempt at having a team in the U.S.A.'s capital. They're also not only an original 11 NBA team, but they also were the former head coaching team of famous head coach Red Auerbachnote , and it does show since they were one of two former NBA teams to lose in the NBA Finals. After the Capitols lost Red as their head coach, they never were the same, as they kept losing and losing until the Capitols ended up folding with a record of 10-25. Also, they shouldn't be confused with the current NHL team that spells their name as "Capitals", nor should they be confused with the ABA team that abbreviated their name as "Caps".
- The Waterloo Hawks (1948-1951) were the only sports franchise to ever hold a permanent home somewhere in Iowanote . The original Hawks team started out as a more-or-less average team when they were in the NBL. When they transfered to the NBA, however, they did a horrible job there. When the Hawks finally made it to the NPBL, they actually were a good team, setting out a 32-24 record. Unfortunately for the Hawks (as well as the Packers and the Red Skins), the NPBL failed without a champion truly being awarded, and the Hawks soon folded afterwards.
Additionally, the BAA had planned on creating some new Buffalo and Indianapolis teams for the BAA only
. However, due to the NBL-BAA merger, those plans were permanently scrapped.note
NBA Finals champions by year
In the NBA, there have been many different champions and there have been many different rules in the NBA over the years. However, over half of the championships were won by either the Boston Celtics or the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers. Furthermore, of the last 30+ seasons, only nine teams have won championships, as compared to 16 and 17 in the NFL and MLB, denoting greater trends in dominance in this league.
While the NBA doesn't consider the championships that were won in the NBL or the ABA as "real" championships, we do. Here's what had happened over the years in the NBA.
The NBL & BAA Years
years represent the NBL; italic
years represent the BAA.)
After the BAA-NBL Merger: Minneapolis Domination
- 1937-38: Akron Goodyear Wingfoots won over the Oshkosh All-Stars 2-1.
- 1938-39: Akron Firestone Non-Skids won over the Oshkosh All-Stars 3-2.
- 1939-1940: Akron Firestone Non-Skids won over the Oshkosh All-Stars 3-2.
- 1940-41: The Oshkosh All-Stars swept the Sheboygan Red Skins 3-0.
- 1941-42: The Oshkosh All-Stars won over the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons 2-1.
- 1942-43: Sheboygan Red Skins won over the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons 2-1.
- 1943-44: Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons swept the Sheboygan Red Skins 3-0.
- 1944-45: Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons won over the Sheboygan Red Skins 3-2.
- 1945-46: Rochester Royals swept the Sheboygan Red Skins 3-0.
- 1946-47: Chicago American Gears won over the Rochester Royals 3-2.
- 1946-47: Philadelphia Warriors won over the Chicago Stags 4-1.
- 1947-48: Minneapolis Lakers won over the Rochester Royals 3-1.
- 1947-48: Baltimore Bullets won over the Philadelphia Warriors 4-2.
- 1948-49: Anderson Packers swept the Oshkosh All-Stars 3-0.
- 1948-49: Minneapolis Lakers won over the Washington Capitols 4-2.
The Shot-Clock Years: Boston Domination
- 1949-1950: Minneapolis Lakers won over the Syracuse Nationals 4-2.
- 1950-51: Rochester Royals won over the New York Knicks 4-3.
- 1951-52: Minneapolis Lakers won over the New York Knicks 4-3.
- 1952-53: Minneapolis Lakers won over the New York Knicks 4-1.
- 1953-54: Minneapolis Lakers won over the Syracuse Nationals 4-3.
- 1954-55: Syracuse Nationals won over the Fort Wayne Pistons 4-3.
- 1955-56: Philadelphia Warriors won over the Fort Wayne Pistons 4-1.
- 1956-57: Boston Celtics won over the St. Louis Hawks 4-3.
- 1957-58: St. Louis Hawks won over the Boston Celtics 4-2.
- 1958-59: Boston Celtics swept the Minneapolis Lakers 4-0.
- 1959-1960: Boston Celtics won over the St. Louis Hawks 4-3.
- 1960-61: Boston Celtics won over the St. Louis Hawks 4-1.
- 1961-62: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3.
- 1962-63: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2.
- 1963-64: Boston Celtics won over the San Francisco Warriors 4-1
- 1964-65: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1.
- 1965-66: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3.
- 1966-67: Philadelphia 76ers won over the San Francisco Warriors 4-2.
(ABA years are bolded
, ABA teams that joined the NBA are italicized
Larry Bird Vs. Magic Johnson
- 1967-68: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2.
- 1967-68: Pittsburgh Pipers won over the New Orleans Buccaneers 4-3.
- 1968-69: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3.
- 1968-69: Oakland Oaks won over the Indiana Pacers 4-1.
- 1969-1970: New York Knicks won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3.
- 1969-1970: Indiana Pacers won over the Los Angeles Stars 4-2.
- 1970-71: Milwaukee Bucks swept the Baltimore Bullets 4-0.
- 1970-71: Utah Stars won over the Kentucky Colonels 4-3.
- 1971-72: Los Angeles Lakers won over the New York Knicks 4-1.
- 1971-72: Indiana Pacers won over the New York Nets 4-2.
- 1972-73: New York Knicks won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1.
- 1972-73: Indiana Pacers won over the Kentucky Colonels 4-3.
- 1973-74: Boston Celtics won over the Milwaukee Bucks 4-3.
- 1973-74: New York Nets won over the Utah Stars 4-1.
- 1974-75: Golden State Warriors swept the Washington Bullets 4-0
- 1974-75: Kentucky Colonels won over the Indiana Pacers 4-1.
- 1975-76: Boston Celtics won over the Phoenix Suns 4-2.
- 1975-76: New York Nets won over the Denver Nuggets 4-2.
- 1976-77: Portland Trail Blazers won over the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2. (The year of the NBA-ABA merger)
- 1977-78: Washington Bullets won over the Seattle SuperSonics 4-3.
- 1978-79: Seattle SuperSonics won over the Washington Bullets 4-1.
The Reign of Michael Jordan
- 1979-1980: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2.
- 1980-81: Boston Celtics won over the Houston Rockets 4-2.
- 1981-82: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2.
- 1982-83: Philadelphia 76ers swept the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0.
- 1983-84: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3.
- 1984-85: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Boston Celtics 4-2.
- 1985-86: Boston Celtics won over the Houston Rockets 4-2.
- 1986-87: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Boston Celtics 4-2.
- 1987-88: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Detroit Pistons 4-3.
- 1988-89: Detroit Pistons swept the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0.
- 1989-1990: Detroit Pistons won over the Portland Trail Blazers 4-1.
Post Jordan: Western Dominance
- 1990-91: Chicago Bulls won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1.
- 1991-92: Chicago Bulls won over the Portland Trail Blazers 4-2.
- 1992-93: Chicago Bulls won over the Phoenix Suns 4-2.
- 1993-94: Houston Rockets won over the New York Knicks 4-3.
- 1994-95: Houston Rockets swept the Orlando Magic 4-0.
- 1995-96: Chicago Bulls won over the Seattle SuperSonics 4-2.
- 1996-97: Chicago Bulls won over the Utah Jazz 4-2.
- 1997-98: Chicago Bulls won over the Utah Jazz 4-2.
- (1998-)99: San Antonio Spurs won over the New York Knicks 4-1. (This was the lockout season during/after which many things changed.)
- 1999-2000: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Indiana Pacers 4-2.
- 2000-01: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Philadelphia 76ers 4-1.
- 2001-02: Los Angeles Lakers swept the New Jersey Nets 4-0.
- 2002-03: San Antonio Spurs won over the New Jersey Nets 4-2.
- 2003-04: Detroit Pistons won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1.
- 2004-05: San Antonio Spurs won over the Detroit Pistons 4-3.
- 2005-06: Miami Heat won over the Dallas Mavericks 4-2.
- 2006-07: San Antonio Spurs swept the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0.
- 2007-08: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2.
- 2008-09: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Orlando Magic 4-1.
- 2009-10: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Boston Celtics 4-3.
- 2010-11: Dallas Mavericks won over the Miami Heat 4-2. (2010 was a blockbuster free agency period, which formed the backbone of many teams you see competing today.)
- 2011-12: Miami Heat won over the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1. (Another lockout, but it didn't take the former year away for the season. Also, this season started the "new" shot clock that starts counting down the milliseconds of the clock once there's 5 seconds left.)
- 2012-13: Miami Heat won over the San Antonio Spurs 4-3.
- 2013-14: San Antonio Spurs won over the Miami Heat 4-1.
Like some other leagues, there have been a number of famous players to put on basketball jerseys throughout the years. They are cataloged by their teams.
- Bob Pettit
- Dominique Wilkins
- Spud Webb
- Josh Smith is a power forward known for being a great all-around player, currently on his way to becoming just the 24th player to amass 10000 points, 5000 rebounds, 2000 assists and 1000 blocks. Somewhat notorious for his sour relationship with former Hawks coach Mike Woodson as well as his tendency to make jump shots and three-pointers that he rarely makes. He has shown much more consistent play starting with the 2011-12 season, and remarkably, in the 12-13 season he is looking to reach a career high in three-point field goal percentage. Smith would sign a 4 year, 56 million dollar contract with the Detroit Pistons in the summer of 2013.
- Al Horford is a power forward/center who was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to Michigan in his early teens. The son of former NBA player Tito Horford, Al was drafted 3rd in the 2007 NBA Draft right after Kevin Durant. Compared to the all-around yet mercurial Smith, his game relies more on finesse moves. Is also known for being married to 2003 Miss Universe Amelia Vega.
- Bill Russell is perhaps the greatest defensive player ever and another major contender in the "best ever" debates. He led the Boston Celtics to eleven world champions and his on-court wars with Wilt Chamberlain were legendary. He also became the first black coach in NBA history, succeeding Red Auerbach after Auerbach retired from active coaching and moved up to the Celtics front office.
- Sam Jones was a shooting guard who won 10 championships with the Celtics, just one shy of Bill Russell. He was known for his quickness and game-winning shots. Jones’ perfect form when shooting a jump shot, along with his great clutch shooting in general, led opponents to nickname him "The Shooter". He was particularly adept shooting the bank shot, where the shooter bounces the ball off the backboard en route to the basket. At 6-foot-4, Jones was the prototype of the tall guard who could run the floor, bang the boards and had a rangy offensive game that gave opponents fits. Led the league in scoring for three seasons, even repeating in 1964-65 and 1965-66 seasons. A Hall of Famer, his #24 jersey was retired by the Celtics.
- Bob Cousy was a point guard for Russell's Celtics. Six-time champion, 13-time All-Star and 1957 MVP. Led the league in assists for eight straight seasons. His ball-handling and dribbling skills earned him the nicknames "Cooz", "The Houdini of the Hardwood" and "Mr. Basketball". If you want to get technical, Cousy introduced an array of ambidextrous, behind-the-back dribbling and "no-look passes, behind-the-back feeds or half-court fastbreak launches". In fact, many consider him to be the forerunner for all point guards; Magic Johnson and Pete Maravich modeled their styles after him. Was elected into the Hall of Fame and had his #14 jersey retired by the Celtics.
- John Havlicek competed for 16 seasons with the Boston Celtics, winning eight NBA titles, half of them coming in his first four seasons. Only Russell and Sam Jones won more than him, and he's easily one of the best defensive players in NBA history. Mostly overlooked as a college player, he revolutionized the "sixth man" role, and has been immortalized for his clutch steal in the closing seconds of the 1965 Eastern Conference championship. His jersey number, 17, was immediately retired at the Boston Garden after he left the game.
- Jim Loscutoff was power forward for Russell's Celtics. A defensive specialist, Loscutoff was once described as a hatchet-man, due to his strength and durability. Was Bob Cousy's unofficial bodyguard, often retaliating against opposing players who would try to hurt him. His #18 jersey would've been retired by the Celtics, but Loscutoff wanted others to wear it instead, so they retired his nickname "Loscy" instead.
- Don Nelson
- Tom Heinsohn
- Dave Cowens was a center (often called undersized for a center), drafted 4th overall by the Celtics at the behest of Bill Russell. Although largely overlooked because of who's listed below him, Cowens was the 1971 Rookie of the Year, the 1973 regular season MVP, a seven-time All-Star and a two-time champion (1974, 1976). His #18 jersey (sound familiar?) was retired by the Celtics. Cowens' playing credo was all-out intensity at both ends of the court, a style that never wavered during his 11-year NBA career. As a testament to his all-around ability, Cowens is one of only four players to lead his team in all five major statistical categories for a season: points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals (during the 1977-78 season). The other three are Scottie Pippen, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James. Also was a bit of a Bunny-Ears Lawyer - Cowens took a leave of absence from the Celtics and worked as a cab driver for one night. He explained that he just needed "to clear his head" and that he was "suffering from burnout."
- Larry Bird was a forward that played with the Celtics in the 80s. Led a "Big Three" with Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. One of the most popular figures in Boston sports history, Bird is a three-time NBA champion, a three-time MVP and a two-time Finals MVP. Generally considered one of the game's great shooters, maybe the greatest, but also played very unselfishly and averaged better than six assists a game for his career (though he did get sixty points in one game). In another game he was a single steal away from a quadruple-double, but sat out the entire fourth quarter because he just didn't care. He was The Rival to Magic Johnson; their three Finals matchups were some of the most watched ever at the time. Played with the Dream Team, but retired shortly thereafter due to lingering back injuries. Also a current owner of the Indiana Pacers. And a master of I Shall Taunt You.
- Kevin McHale was a backup forward behind Bird and Maxwell. A three-time champion, a 7-time All-Star, 2-time Sixth Man of the Year and six-time Defensive Team member. He was particularly frustrating to play against, who was out-leaping, out-spinning and out-maneuvering defender after defender throughout his career - which he called the "torture chamber". During the 1981 playoff series versus the Sixers, McHale helped save the Celtics' series-clinching Game 6 win by blocking Andrew Toney's shot and corralling the rebound with 16 seconds left to protect the Celtics' one-point lead. In the Finals of the same year, the Celtics would later defeated the Houston Rockets in six games, taking their fourteenth championship in history, and the first for Bird's Celtics. In the 1984 Finals versus Los Angeles, McHale is famous for violently flinging Kurt Rambis down by his throat, as the Lakers' forward raced to the basket. The physical play touched off a bench-clearing scuffle; Boston would later win the series in six. McHale's known for setting Boston's greatest record of scoring 56 versus Detroit and 42 versus New York; the consecutive 98 points has never been broken in the Celtics' record. Bird is the only Celtics to have ever scored more than McHale in a single game - 60 points versus the Atlanta Hawks.
- Robert Parish was a center for Larry Bird's Celtics. Drafted by the Golden State Warriors, but quickly traded to the Celtics, which he stayed from 1980 to 1994. While with Boston, Parish helped to win three NBA titles (1981, 1984 and 1986). He was known as a versatile center, using his 7' size and speed to contain opposing players, launch precise shots from outside the paint, and finish fast breaks - the latter uncanny for a man of his stature. Parish was unusual for his surprisingly high field goal and free throw shooting ability, an unusual talent among most centers. His trademark was his high release jump shot, which traversed a very high arc before falling.
- Dennis Johnson was a point guard for Larry Bird's Celtics, though he started his career as a slam-dunking shooting guard for Seattle (who drafted him) and a high-octane sharpshooter for Phoenix. Lauded for his versatility, "DJ" was a defensive stopper (he was half the reason Magic lost the '84 Finals), an accomplished sharpshooter (scoring 32 points during the 1979 NBA Finals), and all-around clutch performer (converted a last-second layup in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals after a Bird steal). Known for his "rocket launcher legs", which enabled him to jump high to grab rebounds against taller opponents. He won a championship with the Sonics in 1979, even earning the Finals MVP. He followed that up with two more titles with the Celtics in 1984 and 1986. DJ was voted into five All-Star Teams, nine consecutive All-Defensive First and Second Teams, and the Hall of Fame itself. His #3 jersey was retired by the Celtics.
- Cedric Maxwell was a small forward with Larry Bird's Celtics. He was named MVP of the 1981 NBA Finals. Best known for his moves near or beneath the basket. He was very effective in the low post, faking defenders into the air, drawing contact, then making high percentage shots (and sometimes drawing a foul) using either his jump-hook close to the basket or going up against the glass. Maxwell was knwon for being a colorful trash-talker, mocking Lakers' forward James Worthy's inability to make free throws during overtime of game 4 by walking across the lane between free throws with his hands around his own neck.
- Paul Pierce was the captain of the Boston Celtics until he and Kevin Garnett (below) were traded to the Brooklyn Nets after the 2012–13 season when the Celtics decided they couldn't win a title and blew up their roster. Noted for his late-game heroics and versatile Lightning Bruiser credentials. He took the Celtics to a championship against Kobe's Lakers in 2008; a rematch was made in 2010, where Kobe won instead. He won the 2008 Finals MVP, he's The Rival to LeBron James and he's the second-leading scorer in Celtics history, right behind Havlicek. Not even Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy or Kevin McHale can lay claim to that feat. He's also rather cocky - after winning in a 2012 playoff game against the Hawks, Pierce briefly celebrated by Tebowing on the court. Moreover, he once said "I'm the best player. There's a line that separates having confidence and being conceited. I don't cross that line, but I have a lot of confidence in myself". At a late night dance club in Boston's theatre district, Pierce was stabbed 11 times in the face, neck and back, and had a bottle smashed over his head; eyewitnesses claim that he was attempting to separate the fighters when he was stabbed. Tony Battie, Pierce's teammate at the time, along with Battie’s brother, saved him by rushing him to a nearby hospital after the near-fatal stabbing. He had to undergo lung surgery to repair the damage. Nevertheless, Pierce was the only Celtic to start all 82 games in the 2000–01 season. One particular Crowning Moment of Funny involves a teammate trying to hug him as he runs along the court like a fairy.
- Incidentally, Pierce is the closest thing to an actual rival for LeBron James. This dated all the way back to their first meeting in the Eastern Semifinals - it was a seven game series, the last of which had James scoring 45 to Pierce's 41. Pierce went on to defeat James' Cavaliers and won his first ring. Failing to defeat Pierce was part of what ultimately prompted James to leave Cleveland as a free agent and join the Miami Heat (partly due to Wade convincing him to do so). It was bad enough that James almost exclusively referred to the Celtics as "that team". Pierce and James went against one another in the 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals, where the Heat defeat the Celtics in five games (you can see James triumphantly head-banging at the end).
- Rajon Rondo is a point guard for the Celtics, seen as one of the best of this generation. While Pierce, Allen and Garnett were touted as Boston's Big 3, it was Rondo that regularly coordinated their plays during games. This was made especially evident during 2010, when the Celtics defied expectations and met the Lakers in the Finals instead of the 1st seed, Cleveland. His first major drive into stardom, media coverage and fan recognition was when he kept playing Game 3 against the Heat in 2011 (which was ultimately won by the Celtics), even when his arm was dislocated. As Pierce, Allen and Garnett reach their twilight years as NBA players, Rondo's quickly become their trump card and the face of their future, along with defensive specialist Avery Bradley. On a more personal note, Rondo is noted for his weird on-court antics, off-court quirkiness (arriving to Chicago in the 2009 playoffs in a Red Bull racing car) and his relative Hair-Trigger Temper.
- Kevin Garnett is a famous trash-talker and a versatile power forward who played ten years for the Minnesota Timberwolves, with almost always a defeat in the first round of the playoffs. When younger, he was famous for his huge contract which forbade his General Manager to pay other good players. A 14-time All-Star and one-time Defensive Player of the Year, he was once the 2004 regular season MVP, but he lacked a ring until he went to Boston. Considered The Heart for the Celtics until being traded to the Nets as part of the Celtics' 2013 fire sale, his emotional leadership and contagious energy has left a very lasting impact on the Celtics and their fans. He was also the one who helped pave the way for talented high school basketball players to enter the NBA draft without going to college (with stars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James following in his footsteps.)note
- Ray Allen is a shooting guard that formed the third part of the 2008 "Big 3" Boston Celtics, along with Pierce and Garnett. A Military Brat, Allen is the all time NBA leader in three-point and free throw shooting, surpassing the great Reggie Miller. Allen once played for the Timberwolves and the SuperSonics before going to Boston. He is also remembered for an impressive performance (for an athlete) as lead character Jesus Shuttlesworth in the Spike Lee movie He Got Game. Starting in July 2012, Allen will now join the Miami Heat for a two-year, six million deal. Despite being hot and cold during the 2012/2013 season, the trade to Miami Heat would pay off during the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. With seconds left in Game 6 and the Spurs looking like they would pick up their fifth championship trophy, Ray Allen hit a big three point shot to tie the game. The game went into overtime and the Heat won it to force a Game 7; a game which the Heat won and Ray Allen picked up another championship ring.
- Deron Williams is a point guard, originally drafted 3rd overall by the Utah Jazz. Although flourishing under Jerry Sloan's pick-and-roll system, the two would come to have disagreements, which led Sloan to resign and Williams to be traded to the Nets.
- Jason Kidd is a veteran point guard who played for four different teams throughout his career. Drafted by the Dallas Mavericks on 1994, he was given Rookie of the Year honors along with then-Detroit Piston Grant Hill and played there for three seasons until he was traded to the Phoenix Suns, where his point guard skills was widely acknowledged (with Steve Nash, another brilliant point guard, as his backup). But it was with the New Jersey Nets where Kidd established himself as a future NBA legend, turning the once woeful Nets to playoff contenders every season, even reaching the Finals twice in a row, only to lose to the Lakers and Spurs respectively. He returned to the Mavs in 2008 and won his first ring with them in 2011 after 17 years of trying. In the summer of 2012, Kidd signed on with the Knicks, but would retire at the end of the 2012–13 season. In the summer of 2013, he was named the new head coach of the Nets.
- Muggsy Bogues is the shortest player ever in the NBA - and in his rookie year in Washington, played along with the tallest ever, Manute Bol.◊ After the Hornets brought him in the Expansion Draft, he became one of the faces of the popularizing team, along with Alonzo Mourning and...
- Larry Johnson, the first pick on the 1991 Draft. Also known as "Grandmama" for dressing as his grandma in a commercial. In 1996 was traded to the Knicks, where he played the 1999 Finals.
- Emeka Okafor was the Bobcats' first draft pick, won Rookie of the Year, and played well while being considered reliable-if-not-outstanding. Was eventually traded to the Hornets for Tyson Chandler, leading both Okafor and the Bobcats to reach their first playoffs separatedly. He's currently in the rebuilding Suns, which may lead Okafor to his second playoff series.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was the Bobcats' top pick in the 2012 draft, following an NCAA title. Currently the player with most expectations in the roster.
- Al Jefferson begun his career in the Celtics, before being sent to the Timberwolves in the Kevin Garnett trade. He only begun to get some respect after joining the Jazz, and once signed by the Bobcats in 2013 lead them to their second ever playoff appearance.
- Michael Jordan is probably the most recent player to have a legitimate claim to the title of "best ever," and arguably the best athlete in American Sports, period. He played in the '80s and '90s for the Chicago Bulls, and was largely known for being unstoppable - so much so that other teams would often just let him do his thing and just try to stop the other four guys. He was one of the most heavily marketed and merchandised athletes in any sport ever. He retired at the height of his career to attempt a career in baseball - rumors abound as to why this happened. He returned a couple of years later with his skills no less diminished. He then retired again. Some people may try to tell you that he came out of retirement a second time to play for the Wizards, but they're clearly confused. He's currently president of the Charlotte Hornets.
- He's so famous that at one point, he was the only NBA player to have a TV Tropes article on him! He's now no longer alone, as Wilt Chamberlain recently joined him.
- Scottie Pippen was The Lancer to Michael Jordan during his golden years, their second-leading scorer and led the team through the two seasons of Jordan's first retirement. He appeared in the postseason in 16 of his 17 years in the league. In one infamous incident during the Jordanless years, he refused to come off the bench and play when Phil Jackson (then coach of the Bulls) was running the offense through Toni Kukoc near the end of a playoff game.
- Dennis Rodman was a small forward famous for his daily hair color changes, non-conformist persona and controversial off-the-court antics. Despite his antics, he is among the greatest defensive players in league history and constantly led the league in rebounding. He's most famous for helping to win three championships with the Bulls, although he started off as a member of the "Bad Boy" Pistons. Won two rings with Detroit before bouncing around the league and ultimately joining Chicago.
- Derrick Rose - Point guard for the Chicago Bulls, Rose was picked first overall in the 2008 draft and is widely touted to be the next great point after Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. Like LeBron, Rose is also a hometown hero; born, grew up, and played in Chicago on his high school days, although he played for Memphis in college. He didn't disappoint - he became Rookie of the Year in 2008, became the first rookie to win the All-Star Skills Challenge, and the youngest player and one of the only two Chicago Bulls to win the Season MVP Award, the other being Michael Jordan himself. Throughout the 2012 regular season, Rose was plagued with various inuries on his turf toe, his back, his groin, his foot and his ankle. Nevertheless, Rose managed to play a few games while recovering, but he was notably rustier, and he missed the most games from his groin injury. Furthermore, his team managed to play well without him throughout the regular season, but when the playoffs started, Rose suffered a torn ACL in his knee during Game 1 against the 76ers; he missed the rest of the playoffs, and the Bulls weren't able to last long without him. Rose skipped out the 2012-13 season, and his return the following season only lasted 10 games before his other knee gave in and forced Rose out again.
- A fun fact to note: Michael Jordan was his childhood hero. In honor of Jordan, Rose (like LeBron) wore the number 23 through his high school and college career, until he was drafted by the Bulls. Because he cannot wear 23 again (It's retired for Jordan), Rose chose number 1 as his jersey number, which he shares with the team's mascot Benny the Bull. Oh, and for those interested, Rose is close to a Real Life example of a Bishōnen - like so.
- Joakim Noah — Their current center, despite many injuries has been improving every season, even becoming the seventh player to achieve a triple-double of 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 blocks. Even without Rose and Deng kept on carrying the Bulls in both 2012-13 and 2013-14 (winning Defensive Player of the Year in the latter). Plays internationally for France, as his father is from there.
- Luol Deng — A 6'7" small forward from what's now South Sudan by way of Egypt, London and Duke, occupied much the same role as Scottie Pippen (only starter playing with 4 bench players). Much like Pippen (the only player constant throughout Phil Jackson's coaching tenure), Deng was on the roster for every playoff run post-MJ (though missed out on the 2004 and 2009 series due to late season-ending injuries) until being traded to the Cavaliers during the 2013–14 season. Made his first All-Star Appearance back in 2012. Has been praised for his defense on LeBron James. Was the first Bull since Michael Jordan (who also did twice in consecutive seasons) to lead the league in minutes per game, despite not being in the top ten of total minutes in either of the past two seasons.
- LeBron James is a forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers. In many ways, his life reads like that of a Real Life Byronic Hero (we are not kidding). He first received tons of media attention for his prowess as a basketball player, even though he was still in high school. He had appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and had a pending shoe deal, again, while still in high school. Embraced by Cleveland as "King James," he was drafted 1st overall by the Cavaliers during the 2003 NBA Draft, almost immediately transforming them into a serious contender. During his stint as a Cavalier, Cleveland garnered two 50-win season, two 60-win seasons, one conference title (2007), two division titles ('09 and 2010) and a trip to the 2007 NBA Finals (though they were swept), almost entirely because of LeBron. During his time as a Cavalier, he was the Rookie of the Year, the leading scorer for 2008, a two-time MVP and a 6-time All-Star, achieving a combined 28 triple-doubles as a Cavalier and reaching many "Youngest-to-ever" records. However, his frequent postseason defeats, most notably by the Boston Celtics, prompted LeBron to leave the Cavaliers, where he announced his decision to join the Miami Heat via a live television special. It was not received well by fans and the media, leading many to openly, heavily criticize, even actively root against LeBron for his supposed Face-Heel Turn. In all fairness, LeBron embraced the role of a villain for the 2011 season, and he was noticeably cockier during his first year with Miami. He even admits that he was playing out of hatred, trying to prove everyone wrong. He ran roughshod with Wade and Bosh through the 2011 Playoffs, including closing out Chicago and finally defeating Boston, before meeting Dirk Nowitzki's Dallas Mavericks in the Finals. His lackluster performance against the Mavericks, due to their defense taking him out of his comfort zone, quickly etched his image as a choker in the minds of NBA viewers; internet memes were made to emphasize how he's an individual example of Every Year They Fizzle Out. As a result of losing in the 2011 Finals, James went through a state of depression. Once he got over it, he underwent a rather convincing case of Character Development. It paid off - he finally achieved his first championship in June 21, 2012, earning the Finals MVP on top of that. In his own words, "It's about damn time." And then as icing on the cake: won an Olympic gold medal: the first player to win a championship, the Finals MVP, and Olympic gold in one year since Michael Jordan. In 2013, he recently made history again as the only player in NBA history to win 6 straight games with over 30 points, and a field goal percentage over 60 percent. In 2013, he won another championship, season MVP and finals MVP. After the 2013-14 season, James announced that he would return to his hometown team, leading to much rejoicing in Northeast Ohio.
- His incredible versatility leads to many comparing LeBron to many Hall of Famers, from Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan to Karl Malone and Oscar Robertson. Due to his athletic ability, he is one of the best slashers and finishers in basketball, having led the league in completed traditional three point plays during various points in his career. His size also allows him to rebound the ball effectively, and he regularly ranks among the league leaders in rebounds for his position. Furthermore, he is an unusually gifted passer for his position, averaging 8.6 assists per game during the 2009–10 campaign and finishing the year ranked sixth overall in that category. So yeah, when we say that he's versatile, we mean it. Among his many great games include: dropping 48 points (inluding the last 30 for Cleveland and the game-winning layup) against the Pistons on a double-overtime Game 5 win (2007); 45 points against the Celtics in Game 7 (2008, a loss); 49 points against the Orlando Magic in Game 1 (2009, a loss); a game-winner against the Magic in the same playoffs (2009, Game 2); 43 points, 13 rebounds, 15 assists, two steals, and four blocks against the Denver Nuggets (2010, regular season loss); 40 points versus the Indiana Pacers (2012); and 45 points against the Celtics (2012).
- Kyrie Irving, a point guard out of Duke, was the first overall draft pick in 2011, and won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012. When he plays isolation (one-on-one plays), he's more effective, but he's one of the worst one-on-one defenders at his position.
Golden State Warriors
- Isiah Thomas, the leader of the Detroit "Bad Boy" Pistons, was a very controversial figure, infamous for his Hair-Trigger Temper, his rambunctious competitiveness, his trash-talking swagger and his dirty plays. He would often overreact to calls that went against him, commit hard-to-flagrant fouls on others and leave the court without shaking his opponents' hands; he was snubbed from the Dream Team due to his unpleasant on-court demeanor. Nevertheless, Isiah was the man that kept Michael Jordan from winning a championship three years in a row, from 1989 through 1990, twice in the conference finals. Isiah took his Bad Boys to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances, winning two consecutive titles in 1989-1990 against Clyde Drexler and the Lakers (though they were without Magic Johnson), the latter of whom defeated the Pistons in 1988. However, they were eventually eclipsed by Jordan's Bulls in 1991 through 1993; Isiah himself retired soon after tearing his Achilles' tendon in 1994. After retiring, earned an infamous reputation as a bad coach, and even worse executive with plenty of boneheaded decisions.
- Joe Dumars was a combo guard, able to play at the point and run as a shooter. A tenacious defender who can average 23 points per game, Dumars and Thomas formed one of the deadliest backcourt duos at the time. Even Michael Jordan said that Dumars was the best defender that he's ever played against. A Hall of Famer, a six-time All-Star, a two-time champion and the 1989 Finals MVP, Dumars finished his Detroit career with 16,401 points, 4,612 assists, 2,203 rebounds and 902 steals. Despite being one of the Bad Boy Pistons, Dumars became personally known for his quiet and upstanding behavior. The trophy given to the winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award is named for him.
- Bill Laimbeer was a center, and in many ways, the face of the "Bad Boys" era. The most disliked player for his time. While highly popular among Piston fans, Laimbeer was despised by opposing players and fans for committing hard fouls himself, while seeming to bait officials into calling fouls on opponents by flopping to the ground after slight contact. A four-time All-Star and a two-time champion, Laimbeer finished among the league leaders in rebounding and free throw percentage several times, winning the rebound title in the 1985-86 season. His #40 jersey was retired by the Pistons. He's since gone on to a successful coaching career with the WNBA, coaching the Detroit Shock to three championships.
- Ben Wallace was an undersized centernote who went undrafted in 1996, but made the roster of the then-Washington Bullets. After three seasons in Washington, the Wizards traded him to the Magic, and Wallace arrived in in Detroit a year later as part of a trade that sent Grant Hill to Orlando. In Detroit, Wallace emerged as one of the league's most prolific rebounders and biggest defensive stars, leading the league in rebounding twice and blocks once and also being named the league's Defensive Player of the Year four timesnote . Later had stints with the Bulls and Cavs before returning to Detroit to finish his career, retiring in 2012. Has played more games than any other undrafted player in NBA history.
- Chauncey Billups bounced around the league before joining the Pistons in 2002. There he became a respected player, that lead the Pistons to the 2004 title as Finals MVP, as well as six straight conference finals. After being traded to his hometown Nuggets and reaching yet another Conference Final (Billups is the only non-Celtics or Lakers player to get there seven years in a row), begun to get frequent injuries during the 2011 season in the Knicks, and helped the Clippers emergence before returning to the Pistons in 2013.
- Andre Drummond is a rookie center, picked 9th overall during the 2012 Draft.
- Stephen Curry (pronounced "STEF-un") is a guard, son of former NBA guard and Sixth Man of the Year Dell Curry. Drafted 7th overall in the 2009 Draft from Davidson College, he became famous for breaking Ray Allen's record of most threes made in a season in the 2012-13 season. His season, filled with highlights including a 54 point performance in Madison Square Garden, concluded with a run in the playoffs, peaking in a 44 point, 11 assist performance in a loss against the Spurs.
- Hakeem Olajuwon, a legendarily Bad Ass center, was drafted first overall by the Houston Rockets in 1984, the same draft that included Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and John Stockton. He used to be a soccer player before getting into basketball. He won the 1994 and 1995 finals against Ewing's Knicks and Shaq's Magic, sweeping the latter and taking the former to seven games; he won the Finals MVP both times. Nicknamed "The Dream" for his grace on and off the court, Olajuwon formed the first pair of Twin Towers with the 7'4" (2.24 m) Ralph Sampson, leading the Rockets to the 1986 Finals, losing in six games to Larry Bird's Celtics. After Sampson was traded to the Warriors in 1988, Olajuwon became the Rockets' undisputed leader. He led the league in rebounding twice (1989, 1990) and blocks three times (1990, 1991, 1993). Raised as a Muslim, he changed his name from Akeem and Hakeem, though he was very nearly traded away during a contract dispute. In the 1993–94 season, he became the only player in NBA history to win the NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP awards in the same season. To stay true to his Islamic faith, Olajuwon fasted during daylight hours for one month during Ramadan, which in certain years coincided with the NBA season. During one of the Ramadan months, February of 1995, he won NBA player of the month.
- Yao Ming was drafted first in the 2002 Draft due to his championship winning performance with the CBA's Shanghai Sharks, and he played rather well for a few years until various leg injuries sidelined him for the second half of his career, ultimately causing his retirement in 2011 due to a game-breaking, career-ending foot injury. However, his mere presence in the NBA dramatically increased basketball's popularity in his native China (with many Chinese people being fans of the Houston Rockets for obvious reasons), and has done massive amounts of charity work after major Chinese disasters. Most star centers in the league have been 6'9" to 7'1" - the 7'6" (2.29 m) Yao might have actually been too tall to be truly great at basketball, as despite being much more mobile and less awkward than any previous players in his height range, his feet and leg joints just didn't seem to be able to take all the stress resulting from his size. These physical problems have been used to criticizes China's sport-academy system (for more, see below). Yao retired in 2011; because of his extensive humanitarian work and his major role in the growth of the game in China, he has been touted as a potential entrant into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor, before he becomes eligible for induction as a player 5 years after retirement.
- Jeremy Lin is a point guard famous for taking the national stage at New York. The first Harvard graduate to play in the NBA in 60 years, Lin was cut from two NBA teams (one of which he didn't even play for during the regular season) and eventually landed with New York. Once injuries to Carmelo and Amar'e allowed him to play, Lin unexpectedly dominated on offense, scoring a combined 136 points in his first five career starts, the most by any player since the NBA-ABA merger. Led the Knicks to a seven game winning streak, sparking a huge cultural phenomenon known as "Linsanity", when he became the focus of the American sports media. Famous for scoring the game-winner against the Toronto Raptors. before the Miami Heat held him down to eight points and eight turnovers. Just prior to the playoffs, Lin suffered a small meniscus tear in his left knee, and the resulting surgery forced him to miss out on the postseason. As a restricted free agent, Lin signed an offer sheet from the Houston Rockets (the same team that cut him before he landed on New York). It's a three-year, 25 million dollar deal, which the Knicks chose not to match. Most likely, they did it because they didn't want to risk paying $15,000,000 for him in his final year... which would have cost them more than $25 million on top of that due to new salary cap/luxury tax rules that took effect in 2013–14.
- James Harden, a shooting guard, was the third wheel of the OKC Big 3 (next to Durant and Westbrook), generally coming off the bench to reinforce his teammates; he later earned the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2012. As the first player ever drafted by the Thunder (Seattle got Durant, Ibaka and Westbrook first), Harden quickly improved his play, scoring an average of 16.8 (compared to 9.9 in his first and 12.2 in his second) during his third season, despite only starting in two games. His most famous play was when he scored a game-winning three-pointer in the finals seconds of Game 5 versus San Antonio in the 2012 Western Conference Finals. Famous for his Badass Beard, which he grew 'cause he was too lazy to shave. Despite his offensive prowess, there was a lot of talk that Harden might leave the Thunder after the 2013 season, due to both himself and Ibaka having large contracts that could put the Thunder in a bad economic spot. In fact, Harden was traded to the Rockets before the start of the 2012-13 season so he could get a max contract and start there, while the Thunder reinforced their bench. Harden's style of play reflects the increasingly analytic nature of the league, as he primarily takes shots from beyond the arc, in the lane, and draws many free throw attempts (a stat in which he was second to former teammate Durant in the 2012-13 season).
- Dwight Howard is a 6'11" (2.11 m) center, reputed as the best in the business. Drafted 1st overall by the Orlando Magic in 2004; he played with them for eight seasons, before being traded to the Lakers. Heir apparent to Shaquille O'Neal (other than Blake Griffin; they are both tall, prominent centers who dominates the paint at will, started their careers with the Orlando Magic and continued onward with the L.A. Lakers, are large goofballs off the court, and had this peculiar knack of bricking free throws). The most profound common characteristic between the two is their association with the moniker of being the NBA's Man of Steel. Howard capitalized on the association during the 2008 and 2009 All-Star slam dunk contest when he donned a Superman costume, but Shaq did not take it too lightly, accusing Howard of "stealing" his nickname and identity. Although there were arguments whether the league has enough room for two Supermen, it isn't much of an issue anymore nowadays, as Shaq is already retired. Was the talk of many possible trades for the 2011-12 NBA season, but he decided to stay in Orlando for at least one more season... which was dubbed the "Dwightmare", as Howard sustaining an injury that needed back surgery (e.g. he missed out on the playoffs), and became a Prima Donna who acted unsportsmanlike (sitting out on a huddle during a game despite being the captain) and had a feud with coach Stan Van Gund as he again felt like he should leave. Even after Van Gundy and the GM were fired, Howard still wanted out, so they dealt him to the Lakers after months of trade rumors. The underwhelming season - his recovery from back surgery plus an injured shoulder hindered his game, and most Lakers got injured to make the team even more underperforming - lead Howard to play shop again in 2013. He eventually signed with the Rockets on a 4-year, $88 million deal, becoming the first star player to leave the Lakers in his prime through free agency.
Los Angeles Clippers
- Reggie Miller was the face of the Indiana Pacers during the nineties, one of the greatest three-point scorers in the history of the league. Famous for his perimeter sharpshooting; he even earned the nickname "Knick Killer" for his classic game-winners against New York. Hell, he even posted game-winners over Michael Jordan, took the Bulls to the full seven games, appeared in six Conference Finals and made it to the 2000 Finals, but Reggie's Pacers never won a championship. Noted for his frequent taunting of film director Spike Lee, a Knick fan and owner, most notably by flashing him the choke sign. A five-time All-Star, the former league leader in three-pointers, and a Hall of Famer, he spent his entire 18-year career with the Pacers; his #31 jersey was retired by the Pacers. Also notable for being right in the middle of the Basketbrawl between the Pacers and the Pistons; he was suspended for one game. With major suspensions to Jermaine O'Neal, Stephen Jackson and Ron Artest, Miller averaged nearly 20 points per game for stretches of the season, including 39 points at the age of 39 against the Lakers. His final game ever was at Indiana, where he scored 27 points, making 11 out of 16 field goals including four of eight three-pointers. When he was taken out with 15.7 seconds to play, Reggie was given a standing ovation, even by the referees, and more poignantly, the opposing players (namely, the Pistons - yeah, the same "Basketbrawl" team earlier that year).
- His accomplishments are particularly noteworthy. There was the time he scored 57 points against the Charlotte Hornets in a 134–122 win. During the 1994 playoffs, he scored 39 points (25 in the fourth quarter alone) in a Game 5 win against the Knicks, at Madison Square Garden. During Game 1 of the 1995 playoffs, with 18.7 seconds remaining and the Pacers trailing 105–96, he scored a three-pointer, stole the inbounds pass, ran back to the three-point line and hit another three to tie the game. After John Starks was fouled in the ensuing possession, Starks uncharacteristically missed both free throws; Ewing grabbed the ball for a shot, but it hit the back rim, leading to Reggie grabbing the rebound, getting fouled and making his free throws in a shocking upset victory. During the 1998 Conference Finals, Reggie scored two game-winners over Michael Jordan, once in Game 3 and another in Game 4, again by stealing the inbounds pass and scoring the game-winning three pointer. He extended it to a seventh game before bowing out in the final two minutes. During the 2000 Conference Finals, Reggie scored 34 points, with 17 in the fourth quarter, to defeat the Knicks one final time before reaching the Finals, where he defeated the Lakers by 33 points in Game 5.
- He and his older sister Cheryl are the only sibling pair inducted as players into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. (The other sibling pair in the Hall, Dick and Al McGuire, were inducted respectively as a player and a coach.)
- Paul George was the tenth pick of the 2010 Draft. Although he had two solid seasons in his first two years, he would break out in his third season following an injury to Danny Granger. He made the All-Star game, the All-NBA team, and broke Reggie Miller's franchise record for most three-pointers made in a game on his way to win the 2013 Most Improved Player award.
Los Angeles Lakers
- Blake Griffin was the first pick of the 2009 draft, but a knee injury kept him out of the ground for a whole season. But then came his first game. And his first dunk. And many other after that, which singlehandedly turned his Los Angeles Clippers from the league's Butt Monkey into a team that actually fills the arena every game. By far the most spectacular player of the NBA, he was an All-Star for his first season in the league — even LeBron wasn't one for his rookie season. In his second and third years, he ended up being a starter along with another Clippers teammate, which certainly shows how far he's already come for this team. Oh, and his dunks have a tendency to show up on SportsCenter every night the Clippers play. If Durant could be considered Kobe's heir, Griffin is believed by some to be Shaq's. It helps that he now has a reliable point guard in...
- Chris Paul - Originally playing for the New Orleans Hornets (although he began with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets due to the unfortunate event of Hurricane Katrina), he been known to become a player of Jason Kidd/Steve Nash caliber. He's been known at times to carry his team to victory all by himself at times. He was also known to have originally supposed to have been traded for the L.A. Lakers, but due to "basketball reasons", he was sent to Blake Griffin's L.A. Clippers. His arrival has not only created a sensation known as "Lob City", but he also helped improved the Clippers from mediocrity to actually getting into the second round of the playoffs again! Although a widely-wooed free agent in the summer of 2013, Paul re-signed with the Clippers to a maximum 5 year, 107 million dollar contract, hoping to lead the team to a title.
- George Mikan was the man responsible for making basketball a sport for big men, due to his rebounding, shot blocking, and creating the "Mikan Drill" which is still used by many high school & college teams today. This ended up resulting in some new rules that are still around to this day (i.e., the shot clock). He was considered the original "best ever" and a founding father for the sport, even earning the nickname "Mr. Basketball". In his entire career, he won two championships with the NBL (one of which was from his original team the Chicago American Gears, a team who would've been forgotten in the halls of time otherwise), one for the BAA, and four with the NBA, an All-Star MVP, three scoring titles, and was a part of the first four NBA All-Star games and the last All-BAA and first five All-NBA Teams. After his days of playing were over, he ended up coaching the Minneapolis Lakers, creating the ABA, a league that gave the NBA a scare for their money; and was vital for creating the Minnesota Timberwolves, which is especially notable since a statue of him is found near their home arena.note
- Jerry West was one of the superstars of his time, often combining for 70 points a game with fellow Laker Elgin Baylor. A ten-time All-Star, one-time scoring leader, five-time All-NBA Defensive Team member and a one-time NBA Champion, West led the Lakers to nine NBA Finals appearances in the 1960s and 1970s. Known as "Mr. Clutch" for his ability to score buzzer-beating game-winners, his silhouette is featured on the NBA's official logo. He's the only athlete to have ever been awarded the Finals MVP award despite losing in the NBA Finals (against the Celtics). As general manager of the Lakers, he was the one that brought Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal together, leading to a three-peat not seen since Michael Jordan in the 90s. Among his accolades was an all-time scoring total of 25,192 points, 6,238 assists and 5,366 rebounds in 932 games, translating to an average of 27.0 points, 6.7 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game. Among retired players, only Michael Jordan, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain surpass his 27.0 points per game average. He led the Lakers in scoring in seven seasons, and was universally seen as one of the greatest clutch players in NBA history; only Jordan had a higher career scoring average in the playoffs (33.5 versus 29.1).
- Elgin Baylor was the first draft pick of the Minneapolis Lakers in 1958, partnered with Jerry West. The forerunner of all the reverse layups, hesitation moves, jump shots and spinning moves you see regularly in any given NBA game, Baylor was a gifted shooter, strong rebounder, and an accomplished passer. Renowned for his acrobatic maneuvers on the court, Baylor regularly dazzled Lakers fans with his trademark hanging jump shots. The NBA Rookie of the Year in 1959, and an 11-time NBA All-Star, he is regarded as one of the game's all-time greatest players. He finished his playing days with 23,149 points, 3,650 assists and 11,463 rebounds over 846 games. His signature running bank shot, which he was able to release quickly and effectively over taller players, led him to numerous NBA scoring records, several of which still stand. The 61 points he scored in game 5 of the NBA Finals in 1962 is still an NBA Finals record. Unfortunately, he retired from basketball just before West won his only championship; Baylor remains one of those ring-less greats.
- Wilt Chamberlain was nicknamed "The Stilt", which he thought sounded lame, and "The Big Dipper", which he liked. He's a serious entrant into the "best ever" debate, being an offensive juggernaut that took entire teams to contain him. Among his accolades: the only player to average more than 40 or 50 points a game in a season, and he has the only 100-point NBA game to his credit. Cut each of those numbers roughly in half and you'll get some of his similarly-unparalleled rebound records, and he even led the league in assists one year. He has four MVP trophies and two rings to his name. He's also infamous for the claim that he slept with over 20,000 women; people close to him note that this is only probably an exaggeration.
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is another one of the players in serious contention for "best ever". He has six MVP awards, six championships, and is currently the league's all-time leading scorer. He was born Lew Alcindor, but changed his name when he converted to Islam after his second season in the league with the Milwaukee Bucks. In 1975, he was traded to the L.A. Lakers, and played there for the remaining 13 years of his career. Best known for the "sky hook" shot and being nigh-unto-unstoppable.
- Magic Johnson was The Rival and a Friendly Enemy to Larry Bird. Played for the Lakers - it's largely his rivalry with Bird that caused them to be notched as rivals with the Celtics. He has 3 MVP awards and 5 championships. He's also the only person to win the Rookie of the Year award and the NBA Finals MVP in the same year! He retired in the early '90s when he revealed he was HIV positive at a time when many thought such a diagnosis was a death sentence. After his retirement, he played on the 1992 All Star Game and the famed Dream Team, as well as coach for the Lakers for a few games back in 1994 and play one more year for the Lakers in 1996 before officially calling it quits.
- Magic is, incidentally, the reason that Michigan State University—his alma mater—is very much a basketball school: before him, it was a typical Midwestern farmboy-football institution, but after him, basketball commands a more fanatical and widespread fandom. He still shows up at important MSU games, which is considered by Spartans to be something of a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming—not just in the fact that he remembers them, but that he's still alive to remember them. Also, his rivalry with Bird dates from his time at MSU, back when Bird was at Indiana State (the two teams played for the national title in 1979, with Michigan State winning in the last college game for both players).
- James Worthy was a small forward, drafted 1st overall by the Lakers; Los Angeles got him from a coin toss. Thriving in the Magic-led fast-break offense, Worthy immediately made an impact as a rookie, averaging 13.4 points per game and shooting a Laker rookie record .579 field goal percentage. Beyond just finishing a fastbreak with his trademark Statue of Liberty dunks or swooping finger rolls, Worthy was also one of the best baseline post players at the small forward position, with a quick spin move and a deadly turnaround jump shot. His nickname was "Big Game James", he continued to average over 20 points per game, even achieving triple double effort of 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 7, earning the Finals MVP as a result. A three-time champion and seven-time All-Star, Worthy's #42 was retired by Los Angeles, and he was elected into the Hall of Fame.
- Shaquille O'Neal, drafted 1st overall in 1992, was center famed for his overwhelming dominance. Started off with the Orlando Magic to start his career, then signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in the late '90s, where he won 3 titles alongside Kobe Bryant. He bounced around from team to team after that, but aside from a fourth championship with the Miami Heat, a growing weight problem and the natural deterioration of players his size reduced his effectiveness. He played in 15 All-Star games, and was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996 (which some at the time felt was premature, though there's little doubt he's earned the title since). He's also done some acting and released a couple of rap albums (many of which actually went gold). He retired after the 2010-11 season, after playing a single injury-plagued season with the Boston Celtics. Currently, he's trying his hand out at being an announcer for the NBA On TNT (where he has developed a comical-to-other-people rivalry with Charles Barkley), as well as being a host for Cartoon Network's attempt at an award show for professional sports players. His number will now be retired by the L.A. Lakers.
- Kobe Bryant is a very skilled guard playing for the Lakers, heralded as the heir to Michael Jordan. He has five rings, all with the Lakers. When he was a rookie after being traded from the Charlotte Hornets, Kobe had a very strained relationship with Shaq, but they managed to achieve three consecutive championships, the first in modern years since Michael Jordan. During the short time where he had to lead the team on his own, he ended up scoring the second-largest amount of points for an NBA player with 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. Nicknamed the Black Mamba, Kobe's become the leader and the face of the Lakers, winning two more rings in 2009 and 2010 with Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest. Kobe owned a lot of the league's "youngest-to" records, until LeBron arrived in the league.
- Ron Artest, who changed his name to Metta World Peace, is a rather controversial character, infamous for his tendency toward violence, most especially in the infamous Malice in the Palace where as a member of the Pacers he jumped onto the stands and sucker-punched a Pistons fan, leading to a massive fight. In the aftermath, he was suspended for the whole season and was actually wondering if he had done anything wrong, whereas his teammates were worried that they might lose their jobs after that brawl. He later got into therapy, and it largely helped to mellow him out, but he still has his temper, leading to him elbowing Harden in the neck during a regular season game. A Cloud Cuckoolander to the max, he got his start with the Pacers, but went to the Lakers and got a ring with Kobe in 2010, shooting a game-winning three-pointer after Kobe passed him the ball. Released by the Lakers after the 2012–13 season to clear his salary from the books, and then signed by the Knicks.
- Dwyane Wade is a shooting guard, who's been playing his entire career thus far with the Heat. Selected fifth overall during the 2003 NBA draft, instantly propelling the Heat into the playoffs, but he was often overshadowed by Carmelo and LeBron. On the other hand, Wade was the first to deliver a championship to the team that drafted him (unless you count Darko Milicic, but he barely did anything). He was the 2006 Finals MVP for averaging 34 points in the final four games versus the Dallas Mavericks. Since then, he's been one of Miami's best players; in 2009, he led the league in scoring and even placed second in MVP voting, behind only to LeBron himself. Recognized as one of the premier veterans of the NBA, Wade is easily considered the face of the Miami Heat (being its official captain certainly doesn't hurt), despite publicly endorsing LeBron as the leader. His tendency to receive injuries is a constant concern, however, and the looming threat of old age (he's 32 right now) is creeping along his way, but he can still score in double-digits. He's also one of the few sports players that detailed his Dark and Troubled Past, and he admits that he pretty much went through hell during the 2012 playoffs (almost lost his kids, had his knee drained and so forth). He's lauded for his determination and heart as a player, even though it leads to him having a Hair-Trigger Temper on the court.
- Chris Bosh is a power forward and center for the Heat, famous for his resemblance to an ostrich or a Na'avi and his weird on-court antics. He was selected fourth overall by the Toronto Raptors during the 2003 draft, right behind LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, but before Dwyane Wade. Quickly emerging as one of the league's premier players, he emerged as the face and leader of the Raptors; he remains as Toronto's all-time leader in points, rebounds, blocks, double doubles, free throws and minutes. A seven-time NBA All-Star and an Olympic gold metalist (long with Wade and James), Bosh led the Raptors to their first division title during the 2007 season, but they never made it past the first round of the playoffs, even as they overhauled the roster, prompting Bosh to sign with the Heat, of whom he finally won a championship with. As a player, Bosh is particularly noted for his ability to drive to the basket and finish strong or get to the free throw line, but he's especially deadly with his trademark jump shot, thereby forcing opposing players to double-team (while with Toronto) or spread the floor (leaving Wade and James open) in response.
- During his early career with the Heat, Bosh was often viewed as little more than "That Third Guy" (the Big 2 and a half, it was once called), due to people considering him to be "soft". Even the media treated him that way. It took straining an abdominal during the 2012 playoffs versus Indiana that people finally started recognizing how important Bosh is to the Heat. He would later return for the final three games of the Eastern Conference Finals versus Boston and the NBA Finals with the Thunder.
- Alonzo Mourning was a center, and perhaps the only true center for the Heat. His #33 jersey has been retired by Miami. Paired with Tim Hardaway, his tenacity on defense twice earned him NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award twice, as well as 7 All-Star appearances. He was the centerpiece of the Pat Riley-coached Miami Heat, averaging close to 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, and dominating the paint with his intimidating shot-blocking. Known for his intensity and standoff-ish demeanor, Alonzo was disliked by many, and Hardaway kept trying to calm him down during some of his more explosive moments. Was The Rival to Larry Johnson, a member of the New York Knicks and a former teammate in Charlotte. Before the 2000-01 season, Mourning was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a rare kidney disease that leaked protein into the urine, and he had a kidney transplant in December 2003. Nevertheless, he still had his trademark tenacity and defensive prowess, even as he was reduced to a backup role. At the twilight of his career, he won his only ring with the Heat in 2006, and his #33 jersey was the first that the Heat chose to retire (his teammate below was the second).
- Here's some miscellaneous facts about 'Zo. When Miami faced a 0-3 series deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals, Alonzo guaranteed a Game 4 victory, which the Heat actually won, even though he ultimately lost the series. During the 1998 playoffs against the Knicks, Alonzo got into a "fight" with former Hornets teammate Larry Johnson, leading to a scuffle that resulted in Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy hanging onto Alozno's leg. As for some clever trivia, he was drafted 2nd overall by the Charlotte Hornets, just after Shaqulle O'Neal was picked first in that same draft. Finished second to Shaq for rookie of the year voting. Both would play together for the Heat during their 2006 championship season.
- Tim Hardaway was a point guard most famous for playing with the Miami Heat from 1996 to 2001; his #10 jersey has been retired, and it's now hanging on their arena. Originally a member of the Golden State Warriors, Hardaway was responsible for leading the fast break, displaying his excellent passing and one-on-one skills to complement Mitch Richmond's slashing and Chris Mullin's shooting. A five-time All-Star, Hardaway averaged 18 to 23 points and 8 to 10 assists per game; he reached 5,000 points and 2,500 assists faster than any player in NBA history, after Oscar Robertson. Joining Miami in 1996, Hardaway formed a power-duo with Alonzo Mourning, and in many ways, was the Stockton to Mourning's Karl Malone. Hardaway's gamewinner versus the Orlando Magic gave the Heat their first playoff series victory. He was the Miami Heat's all-time leader in assists, and together with Alonzo, led the Heat to some of the franchise's best seasons (before the 2003 Draft occurred). In the twilight of his career, he was traded to the Mavericks, then the Nuggets and the Pacers; he never won a ring. His son Tim Jr. was drafted by the Knicks in 2013.
- Oscar Robertson was a 6-foot-5, 220-pound guard, twelve-time All-Star, eleven-time member of the All-NBA Team, and one-time winner of the MVP award in fourteen professional seasons. He is the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for a season, subsequently bringing the Milwaukee Bucks their only NBA title in the 1970-71 NBA season (with help from Lew Alcindor, who you know better as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). However, his playing career, especially during high school and college, was plagued by racism. He was the lead plaintiff in a 1970 lawsuit that became known as the "Oscar Robertson suit", which led to an extensive reform of the league's strict free agency and draft rules and, subsequently, to higher salaries for all players. Robertson is recognized by the NBA as the first legitimate "big guard", paving the way for other over-sized backcourt players like Magic Johnson. Furthermore, he is also credited to have invented the head fake and the fadeaway jump shot, a shot which Michael Jordan later became famous for.
New Orleans Pelicans
- Kevin Love is a power forward from the Minnesota Timberwolves that gained big notice when he ended up getting 30 points and 30 rebounds in a single game, which hasn't occured (in the NBA) ever since The Eighties. This kind of play resulted in Love being the shining beacon of hope in an otherwise gloom and doom team. With Love riding off the momentum of the 2010-11 season (where he won the Most Improved Player award), it'll be hard to envision any negatives coming off on him in time.
- Ricky Rubio is the Spanish star point guard for the Timberwolves, who forms a power-duo with his captain, Kevin Love. Rubio first gained international fame in 2005, when his club put him on the main roster and played him in Spain's top pro league days before his 15th birthday. He would then gain more star power by playing in the Euroleague at 16, and then play for Spain's Olympic team at 17, where he would the respect of Dwyane Wade along the way. He was drafted by Minnesota in 2009, but he decided to wait a few years since he thought he could improve in Spain. In spite of returning in a lockout season, it appeared to have been a wise decision since he impressed the league with a style that's similar to that of Steve Nash or Jason Kidd.
New York Knicks
- Anthony Davis: Former Kentucky Wildcat who led his him team to a championship, but he's more noted to starting out as a 6'3" point guard at high school and ending up being a 6'10" power forward/center by his college days, as well as his versatility that garnered plenty of awards for him. He was the #1 draft pick in 2012 for the team then known as the New Orleans Hornets, but he did play for the U.S. Olympic team as his big beginning (even though he was initially cut in favor of Blake Griffin). Even though he won the gold for Team U.S.A., it's unknown what kind of career he'll make for himself along the way, but he may be destined to be a star player of the future for the Pelicans.
- Austin Rivers is a rookie point guard drafted 10th by New Orleans during the 2012 Draft. Son of Doc Rivers, who's now coach of the LA Clippers.
Oklahoma City Thunder
- Willis Reed, simply known as "Captain", was the leader of the Knicks that won two titles in 1970 and 1973. Although undersized for a center, Reed regularly battled Wilt Chamberlain and Lew Alcindor on a nightly basis. The shining moment of his career came in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. After sitting out Game 6 with a torn thigh muscle, Willis hobbled out on an injured leg onto the Madison Square Garden court to a standing ovation moments before Game 7. He scored two baskets - only four points, but with jump shots (meaning, he was willing to harm his leg even worse than it already had been just to continue playing). It inspired his team to win the game and the Championship against Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain.
- Patrick Ewing was the 1st pick in the 1985 draft, taken as the starting center by the New York Knicks. He was the first player ever to be chosen under the NBA draft lottery. An 11-time All-Star and a Rookie of the Year, Ewing led the Knicks through several vicious playoff series against Miami, Chicago and Indiana (many of those matchups went to the full seven game format), even taking the Knicks to the NBA Finals in 1994 against Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets (once again setting it to the full seven games). Hakeem outscored Ewing in every game of the series, while Ewing out-blocked and out-rebounded him. Despite his accolades, however, he remains one of those ring-less greats, in the same vein as Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley.
- Amar'e Stoudemire is one of the co-captains to the New York Knicks, along with Carmelo Anthony; many have cited chemistry issues between the two. Stoudemire started his career with the Phoenix Suns as a power duo with Steve Nash, though he made a very bad habit out of getting injured while playing, often leading to critical losses in the playoffs. Nevertheless, he won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award in 2003, made six appearances in the NBA All-Star Game, was a first-team All-NBA selection in 2007, and won a bronze medal with the United States men's national basketball team at the 2004 Olympic Games. He joined with the Knicks in 2010, bolstering them in such a way that people finally started talking about them as much as their rivals in the east. Now infamous for slicing his hand by slapping a fire extinguisher after falling behind 0-2 in the 2012 playoffs.
- Carmelo Anthony is a native New Yorker who plays at the small forward position. Largely seen as The Rival to LeBron James, and not just for their frequent, physical on-court duels during game. They parallel one another rather eerily - both were drafted (among the top three) in the same year; both were the go-to All-Star rookies of their time; both garnered controversy regarding trade deals; and both propelled their rookie-year mediocre teams into playoff contenders, short of actually winning championships. However, Melo's far from a carbon copy of LeBron - they differ in their style of play, the time of their inception to the NBA, the fallout of their trades (Denver just wanted him to make a decision already; LeBron was portrayed as the proponent of a Face-Heel Turn), and the overall perception of their characters by the NBA, with Melo as a ball-hog. He currently co-leads the New York Knicks with Amar'e Stoudemire, and made it out of the first round by eliminating the Celtics before losing to the Pacers in the Semifinals.
- Carmelo has been vastly bombarded for his relative one-dimensionality as a player; his reliance on sharpshooting led to his forgoing of nearly everything else (rebounding, defense, assists), often leading people to all him a ballhog. Since he's only been out of the first round once in his nine-year career, they probably have a point. Even after making it all the way to the '09 Conference Finals, Carmelo they was eliminated once again, on his birthday, no less. In 2013, he won the Scoring Title beating Kevin Durant.
- Kevin Durant is the heir apparent to Kobe and LeBron, currently reigning as the NBA's consecutive three-time leading scorer. Playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant is the youngest PPG leader in a season in the NBA's history, praised for his humble demeanor, his sharpshooting accuracy, his scoring efficiency and his public affection for his mother. As the franchise superstar in OKC, Durant's prowess is a major reason as to why the Thunder took a major leap forward in their development, along with his teammates in Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka. Ironically, prior to his inception into the NBA, Durant's lanky figure prompted many to view him as a draft bust, whereas the guy drafted before him, Greg Oden, was an athletic big man (a rarity in this day and age). Ultimately, Oden had a Game-Breaking Injury, and is now viewed as the bust instead. In his earlier years, Durant went through a Training from Hell so vicious that he actually considered quitting basketball twice; his trainer often put him in situations that didn't involve basketball, and for all that, he was repeatedly overlooked by scouts and recruiters, apparently due to his lanky figure. The only reason he even stayed was because his mother pushed him to stick with it, who taught him the work ethic he has now. He wears the "35" number on his jersey as a tribute to his AAUnote coach, who was murdered prior to seeing Durant drafted to the NBA. Throughout his time as a Thunder player, Durant and Westbrook are largely seen as a Red Oni, Blue Oni dynamic, with Durant as Blue and Westbrook as Red. Also a Friendly Enemy of LeBron James; the two trained in the offseason during the 2011 lockout, though Durant admits that he's uncomfortable playing with LeBron in the 2012 Olympics, since he's still reeling from his loss to the Heat in the 2012 Finals. In the 2012-13 season, Durant became the seventh player in NBA history to join the 50-40-90 club, of which Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki are members among active players.
- Russell Westbrook is The Lancer to Durant and the second wheel of the Thunder Big 3, playing at point guard. Since 2011, he's often the beacon of criticism due to his unconventional playing as a point guard. Namely, he focuses on a lot of jump-shots and he tends to dribble the ball to run down the clock, which often backfires if his shot misses. While Durant and Westbrook are very close friends, Westbrook was not happy considering himself as the second best in the Thunder, leading to Westbrook garnering the image of a ball-hog during the 2011 season. Surprisingly, Durant let him try to lead the scoring, but when it became clear that Westbrook streaky jump shots wasn't gonna cut it, they eventually got into a power struggle, and ended up losing to the Mavericks in the 2011 Western Conference Finals. However, he's started growing out of both traits by the time of the 2012 playoffs, dishing out a few more assists and driving the paint much more often. Although renowned for being exceptionally durable (he had not missed a game since high school), a freak injury in the playoffs against the Rockets left Westbrook sidelined with a torn meniscus, after which the Thunder sputtered their way to an early playoff exit.
- Serge Ibaka, arguably the fourth-wheel-turned-third for the Thunder, is a Congolese/Spanish power forward, famous for his frequent shot blocks (of which he's the all-time league leader). In the first round of the 2010 playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers, he became youngest player to have 7 blocks in playoff game. Ibaka is often used for his energy in the paint, whether on defense or rebounding. While his offense tends to be rather lackluster, he's shown that he can improve on that; he scored 14 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and snatched a career-high 11 blocks against the Denver Nuggets in February 2012, recording his first career triple-double. Furthermore, in the 2012 Western Conference Finals, Ibaka scored a perfect 11 for 11 shots against the San Antonio Spurs. With the great Hakeem Olajuwon taking interest in training him, Ibaka has the potential to become as well-rounded (offensively and defensively) as any other great power forward. They even signed him to a four-year, $48 million contract, to make sure that he develops further.
- Julius Erving, nicknamed Dr. J, was the dominant player in the ABA before the merger (giving the league much of its legitimacy; it's been suggested that getting him into the NBA was the primary reason for the merger) and went on to become one of the most dominant players in the NBA during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Erving averaged 24.2 points per game throughout his career, and had nine 40-point or better games. Famous for the 'Rock That Baby' dunk over the head of Laker Michael Cooper in 1983 (one of the greatest dunks of all time) and the Baseline Move, a behind-the-board reverse layup executed against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1980 NBA Finals. Remained active in basketball after retirement, joining the front office of the Orlando Magic in 1997. Notably, Erving (a longtime NASCAR fan) held an ownership stake in the first all-minority-owned NASCAR racing team.
- Moses Malone, center-forward, was the first great "prep-to-pro" player, having been drafted out of Petersburg High by the ABA's Utah Stars in 1974 and going on to a 21-year pro career with more than 29000 points and 17000 rebounds. He bounced around a lot, winning the MVP award twice with the Houston Rockets and once more with the 76ers in 1983, when they won the championship. He still holds the records for offensive rebounds in both a single season (587) and career (7382 total, 6731 NBA).note
Portland Trail Blazers
- "Sir" Charles Barkley was a power forward noted for his Stout Strength. Nicknamed "The Round Mound of Rebound", Barkley was noticeably chubbier than most basketball players, but his strength and aggressiveness made him one of the NBA's most dominant rebounders (hence the nickname). A prolific scorer, Barkley had the ability to score from the perimeter and the post, using an array of spin moves and fadeaways, or finishing a fast break with a powerful dunk. A masterful rebounder, Barkley averaged 11 boards in the regular season and 12 boards for the playoffs, totaling 12,546 rebounds for his career and leading in offensive boards for three straight years. One of his Signature Moves was to grab a defensive rebound, dribble the length of the court and finish at the rim with a powerful dunk. His aggressive, fast-break defensive prowess led to Barkley finishing his career as one of the all-time leaders in blocks and steals. Furthermore, his surprisingly impressive court vision led to Barkley becoming a playmaker who could rack up several assists per night. An eleven-time All-Star, he started off with Philadelphia, but went to Phoenix, where he became the MVP in the same year that he faced Michael Jordan in the 1993 NBA Finals. He was often a beacon of controversy, from fights (on/off the court) to various statements and unintentionally abrasive behavior towards fans (e.g. spat on a young girl by mistake). Probably best known for a commercial that he made back when he was in Phoenix, in which he claimed he was not a role model. This created a ton of debate as to whether athletes should be considered role models. He now mostly does basketball analysis/commentary, generally NBA on TNT, in which he is very often the Butt Monkey; on that show, he also has something of a Sitcom Arch-Nemesis in another former Suns player, Shaquille O'Neal.
- Steve Nash is an extremely skilled veteran point guard out of Canada note best known for his astounding "no look" passes, his 50-40-90 status (has made 50% of his shooting, 40% from the three-point line, and 90% from the free throw line more times than Larry Bird, the former leader) and ability to carry the entirety of the Phoenix Suns through matches, as shown by his 2 MVP awards. Although drafted by and has played the majority of his career with the Suns, it was at Dallas where his ball handling skills were discovered - he was paired with Dirk Nowitzki in a Malone-Stockton fashion. Is sometimes criticized for a lack of talent on the defensive end of the floor, but has remained one half perhaps of the top scoring+passing duo threats in the league (with Nowitzki; with Amar'e Stoudemire and Shaq) even at the age when most players would be showing strong signs of decline, which places him as a legit comparison to John Stockton. Hell, he doesn't even need the other half to win an assist title! (Although the same probably can't be said for success in the playoffs...) As an unrestricted free agent, Nash decided to join forces with Kobe Bryant's Lakers in the summer of 2012 in exchange for 4 of the Lakers' picks (two in the first round for 2013 & 2015, two in the second round for 2013 & 2014).
- Bill Walton, a Hall of Fame center, arrived in Portland in 1974 as the top overall draft pick after a storied career at UCLA. His first two years were marked by injuries, but his third, in 1976–77, saw him lead the Blazers to their first (and so far only) NBA title, winning the Finals MVP award in the process. The following season, the Blazers were 50–10 when he broke his foot; he tried to come back for the playoffs, but got hurt again. He was still named the league MVP that season. Disgruntled with his treatment by the Blazers' front office, he sat out the 1978–79 season and signed with the Clippers, where he missed far more games to injury than he played. After one last healthy season as sixth man for the champion Celtics of 1986 (and being named Sixth Man of the Year), he got hurt again the next year and finally retired. Although he only played four seasons in Portland, the Blazers still retired his number.
- Clyde Drexler, a ten-time All-Star, a member of the Dream Team, a five-time All-NBA Team member, and a Hall of Famer, was the Trail Blazers' go-to superstar for the late 1980s and early 1990s, leading Portland to two NBA Finals, but losing both times against the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls; he averaged 24.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game versus Chicago. In 1992, Drexler finished second in MVP voting, which was won by Michael Jordan. Frustrated with all the times he came up short, including the time his team had the best record (which was 1991; they lost in the conference finals), Drexler was traded to the Houston Rockets, who he helped win their second consecutive championship in 1995. Playing alongside Hakeem Olajuwon, his college teammate at the University of Houston and friend, Drexler averaged 21.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game during the 1995 finals.
- Arvydas Sabonis, a Lithuanian great who is also in the Hall of Fame, is another example of What Could Have Been. During the last half of the 1980s, he was arguably the best center in the world, notably leading the Soviet national team to Olympic gold in 1988. However, he suffered numerous Achilles and knee injuries, and by the time he finally arrived in Portland in 1995, he had lost virtually all of his mobility.note Nonetheless, he remained an effective scorer, rebounder, and (for a big man) passer for seven seasons in Portland before he returned to Lithuania to finish his career.
- Brandon Roy was drafted by the Trail Blazers, who made history by coming off the bench (with an injury) to score 16 fourth quarter points in Game 4 versus the Mavericks in 2011, coming right back from a 23-point deficit. Though young, his injuries sidelined him throughout much of his career, prompting a brief retirement, before announcing that he would return to the NBA after successfully recovering. He's now playing with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
- Damian Lillard is a point guard, drafted 6th during the 2012 Draft and the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2013. During his first professional game with the NBA, Lillard scored 23 points and dished out 11 assists (becoming only the third player to record 20 or more points and 10 or more assists in his debut, after Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas), even though he had 7 turnovers, so they may have a point. At any rate, Portland is hoping against all hope that Lillard doesn't get injured like some of their other unfortunate players - so far, he's stayed healthy, playing all 82 games and leading the league in total minutes played in his rookie season.
San Antonio Spurs
- Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes — Two Hall of Fame forwards, both Pittsburgh natives who began their careers in 1955 when the team was known as the Rochester Royals and ended them as Cincinnati Royals. Stokes, an inside force and one of the league's top rebounders (and also a surprisingly good passer for his position), was an All-Star in each of his three NBA seasons. Twyman, a better scorer than Stokes, was an All-Star six times. In the last game of the 1957–58 regular season, Stokes suffered a serious head injury from a fall during a game; several days later, he suffered a seizure that left him permanently paralyzed. Twyman stepped in, becoming Stokes' legal guardian and raising funds for his care through an annual exhibition basketball game featuring NBA players. Stokes died in 1970, but the fundraiser continues, now as a pro-am golf event. The NBA's newest end-of-season award, which honors the league's "best teammate" and was introduced in 2013, is named for Twyman and Stokes.
- Chris Webber, a five-time All-Star power forward, was the face of the Kings for nearly a decade (1996–2005). Although he played for four other teams,note he had his best years in "Sacto". Also known as one of the University of Michigan's Fab Five of the early 90s, and also for being the central figure in a pay-for-play scandal at Michigan that led to the school wiping his accomplishments from their record books.
- Peja Stojaković, a three-time All-Star, arrived in Sacramento from Europe in 1998 and stayed there through 2006. An ethnic Serb born in what is now Croatia, he holds both Serbian and Greek citizenship; he played in both countries before coming to the NBA. The 6'10" (2.08 m) Stojaković was one of the league's deadliest three-point shooters throughout his career, and won the All-Star Weekend Three-Point Shootout twice. After leaving Sacto, he played with four other teams. Despite back problems that led him to retire a few months later, he signed with the Dallas Mavericks in January 2011, ending his career with a championship ring as one of Dirk Nowitzki's running mates.
- Jason Williams was a point guard drafted in 1998 by the Kings and quickly made his name known due to flashy but at times inefficient play. Was later traded to Memphis and matured under Coach Hubie Brown, and was part of the 2006 Miami Heat championship team. A reliable point guard later in his career, but was most known for his streetball style of play early in his career, most notably throwing a pass off his elbow in the 2000 Rookie Game.
- Thomas Robinson is a rookie power forward, drafted 5th overall during the 2012 Draft. Robinson would find himself traded to Houston at the 2013 trade deadline, then was sent to Portland to help the Rockets sign Dwight Howard.
- George Gervin
- David Robinson is widely regarded as one of the greatest centers in the league. He's a one-time MVP, 10-time All-Star, eight-time All-NBA player and eight-time Defensive Team member, as well as a Rookie of the Year and a two-time NBA champion with Tim Duncan; the pair was known as the "Twin Towers". He's also notable for having been drafted out of Annapolis and serving two years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy before beginning his basketball career.
- Tim Duncan is a veteran for the San Antonio Spurs: many-time All-Star, two-time MVP, five-time champion and three-time Finals MVP. Although perhaps now past his prime, Duncan has been said by many to be the greatest power forward in NBA history and is a shoo-in for the NBA Hall of Fame. He was drafted by the Spurs in 1997, a season in which Duncan not only won the Rookie of the Year award, but also teamed up with Hall-of-Famer David Robinson to create a legendary basketball duo - the so-called 'twin towers.' Duncan won his fifth ring in the 2014 NBA Finals, having claimed a championship in three different decades; he has carved his niche into NBA history by lifting his team into one of the Western elites. Because of his calm and unassuming style of basketball - even in his younger years when he was quicker and stronger than most other players, he was as likely to dominate with footwork and intelligence as with his natural talent and he rarely showboated or let his emotions show while playing - Shaquille O'Neal nicknamed Duncan "The Big Fundamental." Also because his personality off the court is also quiet and unassuming, he's a frequent target of The Onion. Wanted to be a pro swimmer as a child, but the hurricane Hugo destroyed the only Olympic-sized swimming pool of the Virgin Islands. He could have continued to swim in the sea, but was afraid of sharks. So he began playing basketball at age fourteen. One of Us at times, as he's a D&D fan.
- Tony Parker is one of the dual-captains of the San Antonio Spurs, alongside Tim Duncan. Originally more into soccer, Parker grew an interest in basketball after seeing Michael Jordan in action (sensing a pattern here). Moreover, Parker's two younger brothers, T.J. and Pierre, would go on to play basketball at college and professional levels. When he first joined the Spurs, he trained with ex-player Lance Blanks, but he was overwhelmed by Blanks' tough physical defense that coach Gregg Popovich almost gave up on him - the only thing that kept him from cutting him was by seeing a highlight reel of Parker's best plays. Deciding that Parker was worth the gamble, the Spurs drafted Parker as the 28th overall; his relative no-name kept him from being mentioned that much in pre-draft predictions, allowing the Spurs to take him under the radar. Since then, Parker's grown into one of the most skilled players currently in the league, slowly replacing Duncan as The Hero for the Spurs. He's also one of the few European NBA players - he was born in Belgium, but he was raised in France; his father was African-American, and his mother was a Dutch model.
- Manu Ginóbili is known as one of the greatest draft day steals in the history of the league, being picked 57th overall (which back then was second-to-last) in the 1999 draft. Breaking into the league in 2002, Ginóbili quickly earned a reputation of being one of the best sixth men in the league. He also has an accomplished international record, leading Argentina to victories over the USA's dream team in the FIBA championships in 2002, and again in the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 on the way to a gold medal. Also known negatively for his use of flopping in order to try to draw a foul.
- Fun fact: Manu is one of only two players to have won an NBA title, the Euroleaguenote and an Olympic gold medal in his career. The other is Hall of Famer Bill Bradley.
- Robert Horry was a solid but otherwise unremarkable player who is best known for having 7 championship rings - the only player not of the '60s Celtics to have that honor - and for playing in more playoff games than any other player. Was fairly athletic early in his career, but as he got older he became well-known for being invisible for most of a game and then hitting a big three-pointer in the final seconds to win the game or force overtime. For this he got the nickname Big Shot Bob.
- Kawhi Leonard note looks to be emerging as the next big Spurs star. A slashing small forward with a decent three-point stroke out of San Diego State, he started his NBA career in 2011–12 off the bench, and became a starter the next season. Also noted as a defensive stopper, hailed for his D on LeBron in the 2014 Finals, in which he was named MVP. Apart from his style of play, he is known for his extremely quiet demeanor, his enormous hands, and his name, which has proven to be a magnet for puns and nicknames.
- Shawn Kemp
- Gary Payton was with the Sonics, known for mocking his direct opponent (which he almost always beat). The 6’4” point guard averaged more than 20 points per game in seven different seasons with the Sonics, and he was always a reliable facilitator, having finished his career with a 6.7 assist-per-game average despite fading numbers in his final years. The defensive end is where Payton earned his nickname, “The Glove.” He was about as tenacious a defender as the league has ever seen, and his willingness to talk trash and get inside his opponent's head was unmatched. Oh, in addition, in 13 seasons, Payton missed a total of five regular season games. In the twilight of his career, he won his only ring with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in 2006.
- "Pistol" Pete Maravich played during the seventies, mostly for the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans/Utah Jazz. He still holds the record for college scoring (and will likely continue to, given that top players almost never stay in college for four years anymore) with 3,667 points. (And note that this does not include 741 points he scored as a junior-varsity freshman, and that there was no three-point-line at the time. Maravich was an exceptional outside shooter, and someone eventually calculated that, had there been a three-point line, his scoring average would have risen from 44 to 57 points a game.) Sadly, his other claim to fame was his early death from an undiagnosed heart condition at the age of 40. When the 50 greatest players were selected in 1996, he was the only one who was deceased, despite being born decades later than some of the others. His two sons attended the ceremony in his place.
- John Stockton was a point guard most famous for playing with his longtime partner, Karl Malone. Played for 19 seasons with the Jazz, the longest single-team tenure ever seen in the league. Short, but fast, Stockton was a playmaking genius (he leads the league in assists), who could switch to perimeter shooting (i.e. three pointers) while also staying tough (only missing 23 games in 19 seasons of play) defensively (he leads the league in steals). His #12 was retired by the Jazz.
- Karl Malone was a power forward most famous for playing with his longtime partner, John Stockton. A huge, but slow man, Malone is a two-time MVP, a 14-time All-Star and holds the second-highest record in points (36,928). Nicknamed "The Mailman" for his remarkable consistency. Having averaged 25 points and 10.1 rebounds in his 19 seasons, he virtually never had a down year. His #32 jersey was retired by the Jazz. The same year Stockton retired Malone went to the Lakers to try winning a title... only to lose in the finals to the Pistons.
- Wes Unseld, a Hall of Fame center who spent his entire NBA career with the Baltimore/Capital/Washington Bullets, arrived in the NBA in 1968 out of Louisville, and made an immediate impact. He helped bring the Bullets from last place to first in their division in his rookie season, and became only the second player (after Chamberlain) to be Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season. At 6'7", Unseld was short for his position even in his era, but made up for it with brute strength (his playing weight was 245 lb/111 kg) and determination. He was especially noted for his rebounding skills, outlet passes, and picks. Helped lead the Bullets to three NBA finals in the second half of the 70s, including a championship in 1978, alongside...
- Elvin Hayes, a Hall of Fame power forward who started his career at the same time as Unseld, but with the then-San Diego Rockets. In his rookie season, he led the NBA in scoring, and he's the last rookie to have done so. Stayed with the Rockets through their move to Houston (where he had played college ball) until being traded to the Bullets in 1972, where he and Unseld became one of the most feared frontcourt combos of their day. A better scorer than Unseld, especially famous for his turnaround jumper, and roughly equal to Unseld as a rebounder, he went on to make 12 All-Star teams, eight with the Bullets, before being traded back to the Rockets, where he finished his career.
- John Wall, selected first in the 2010 draft, is an excellent point guard for the Washington Wizards, gaining national recognition when he became the second rookie to record a triple-double with six steals in his first six games. The first? Magic Johnson. He was named 2011 Rookie Game MVP during the 2011 All-Star Weekend, as well as the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month, from January–April. Furthermore, he finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting behind unanimous selection Blake Griffin and he was named to the NBA All-Rookie 1st Team. Unfortunately, the Wizards finished near the bottom of the standings in Wall's first two years in the league; some fans were getting worried he may be getting ready to bolt to a winning franchise when he hits the free market agency in 2014. Those worries were eased when he signed a five-year "max" deal with the Wizards for a total of $80 million in the 2013 offseason.
- When he was with the Kentucky Wildcats, despite some controversy regarding his eligibility and recruitment, Wall made his college debut by hitting a game-winning jumper as time expired to take home his first victory. From then on, he would blossom into a college superstar, leading Kentucky to a 35-3 record and an SEC regular season and tournament championship. He was one of the nation's top point guards, averaging 6.5 dimes per contest, and he led the Wildcats to the NCAA Elite Eight. As a testament to his character, he admits that he's haunted about not winning a title at Kentucky ("I will think about it until I am off this earth"). Moreover, just before he joined the NBA, the future #1 overall pick in the NBA draft, the future millionaire, and the superstar of college basketball went to class and earned a 3.5 GPA in his final semester.