open/close all foldersThe 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; before the 2015–16 season, the three division winners received automatic berths. Starting with the 2015–16 season, seeding in the playoffs is based purely on record, with no automatic berths for division winners at all. So a division winner could be as low as an 8th seed... or even miss the playoffs entirely. This makes the NBA the first major US professional league to eliminate automatic playoff berths for division winners. All playoff games are best-of-seven series. The primary route from which new players enter the league is the NBA Draft, held each June. Players come mostly from college basketball, though increasingly overseas players are also chosen. The draft consists of 2 rounds, the shortest (by far) of any of the major sports.note Teams that miss the playoffs are entered into a weighted draft lottery, which determines the first 3 picks, meaning the team with the worst record is most likely, but not guaranteed to get the first pick. Subsequently, players scouted to go as early draft picks are said to be "lottery picks" (a good thing), while teams likely to miss the playoffs are said to be "lottery bound" (a bad thing, except that they're likely to get better players in the draft). The remaining first round picks are awarded in inverse order of record, so the reigning NBA champs get the 30th and last pick in the first round. The second round is purely inverse record. The other major route for players to get to the NBA is through the league-run NBA Development League, known as the D-League for short. It has 22 teams in the current 2016–17 season, with more on the way. Players are usually undrafted free agents or players previously cut from NBA teams. Such players are usually role players or backups. The D-League fills the same role that the now-defunct Continental Basketball Association filled, and the rules for signing players from the D-League to 10-day contracts (as fill-ins; they can be renewed once, after which the NBA team must either sign the player for the rest of the season or release them) are near-identical. The big difference is the D-League is owned by the NBA, and teams can actually assign up players with less than three years experience to their affiliated D-League team outright. Starting in 2017–18, NBA teams will be allowed to sign two players to so-called "two-way contracts", allowing them to move the players freely between the NBA and D-League without risk of losing rights to them. (Under current rules, which will not change for the bulk of D-League players, any NBA team can call up any D-League player, regardless of affiliation.) Players under two-way contracts do not count against the NBA team's roster limit, and will also receive a higher salary while in the D-League than other players.
- The Atlanta Hawks have been around for as long as the NBA has. Founded in 1946 as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks note , the franchise was moved to Milwaukee in 1951, and to St. Louis in 1955, before landing in Atlanta in 1968. Historically, the franchise has not had a successful track record, having won only one championship, won in 1958 back in St. Louis. In more modern terms, the Hawks can be recognized from their teams from the '80s, led by Slam Dunk Contest champions Spud Webb and Dominique Wilkins. Nowadays, the Hawks have emerged from mediocrity to become one of the more solid teams in the Eastern Conference. From 2004 through 2015, also noted for a circus of discord among its ownership group, featuring numerous lawsuits (with some owners even suing each other), that finally ended with the team's sale.
- The Boston Celtics are one of the oldest and most storied teams in the history of the league. Founded in 1946, the Celtics have won 17 championships note behind legends such as Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havilcek, Kevin McHale, and Larry Bird. 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 Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Success eluded the Celtics for many years after Bird retired, but behind a revived "Big Three" of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, the Celtics won their 17th championship in 2008. More recently, the Celtics have turned over their roster to a younger set of players, led by young college coaching superstar Brad Stevens as head coach.
- The Brooklyn Nets were formerly known as the New Jersey Nets note . They were one of four teams to merge into the NBA in the 70s from the merger with the rival ABA. In the Nets' ABA days, they were led by Dr J. himself, Julius Erving, and won two ABA Titles. Their years in the NBA, however, have not been as fruitful as the Nets have been mired in mediocrity throughout much of their history, with the only notable exception coming in the form of back to back trips to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003 note . In 2012, the Nets moved to Brooklyn to give the borough its first team since the Dodgers left for California in the 50s.note After three good seasons in Brooklyn, the aging\expensive roster combined with a lack of draft picks saw them bottom out in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
- The Charlotte Hornets have an... interesting history. The original Charlotte Hornets were founded in 1988 and were one of the most exciting and popular teams of the 90s. However, falling attendance, uninspired play and a souring relationship between the fans and the owner prompted the Hornets to move to New Orleans. In the aftermath of the Hornets move, the NBA awarded Charlotte an expansion team for the 2004-05 season, giving the league an even 30 teams. So the Charlotte Bobcats were born. In their 10 seasons as the Bobcats, they only made the playoffs twice and became known for some really bad basketballnote . In 2013, the New Orleans Hornets renamed themselves the Pelicans, thus opening the door for the Bobcats to "return" the Hornets back to Charlotte. In addition, by agreement with the NBA and the Pelicans, the team also regained the rights to the history and records of the original Charlotte Hornets. Oh yeah. The team is owned by Michael Jordan. Speaking of which...
- The Chicago Bulls are the team of the 90s, and remain one of the NBA's most popular teams. Led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the Bulls won six championships playing some of the greatest basketball the NBA has ever seen note . Interestingly, the Bulls date back to 1966 and had seen barely any success outside of the Jordan years. More recently, the Bulls have struggled to rise back to the top of the Eastern Conference and have flirted in and out being a top contender, but the Bulls have not returned to the NBA Finals since the end of the Jordan era.
- The Cleveland Cavaliers are the current (and original) team of LeBron James. Founded in 1970, the Cavs have been borderline mediocre throughout much of their history, having never made it to the NBA Finals until 2007; they've reached them twice more since then, in 2015 and 2016, and all three appearances have been with LeBron. In 2003, they drafted LeBron first overall and became of the best teams in the East for the next few seasons. After several seasons of playoff disappointments, LeBron left the Cavs and signed with Miami in 2010, putting Cleveland 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; the Cavs are now back near the top of the league, and finally won a championship in 2016 (Cleveland's first in any major league sport since 1964).note
- The Detroit Pistons are remembered for the infamous "Bad Boy" teams of the late 80s and early 90s. Led by Isiah Thomas, and with players such as Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman and Rick Mahorn, the "Bad Boy" Pistons used brutal defense to win two straight championships in 1989 and 1990 note The Pistons actually predate the NBA itself by five years, having been founded in 1941 in Fort Wayne, Indiana note . In their almost 70 years, the Pistons have won the NBA championship three times, the two back-to-back "Bad Boy" titles, and the 2004 championship, led by the core of Chauncey Billups, Richard "Rip" Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshawn Prince, and Ben Wallace who dominated the Eastern Conference for most of the 2000s.
- The Indiana Pacers are one of the four teams that joined the NBA from the ABA merger in 1976. While the Pacers won three championships in the ABA, they lost their only trip to the NBA Finals in 2000. The Pacers are best known for their 90s teams led by Reggie Miller, who had an outstanding rivalry with the New York Knicks throughout the decade. In recent years, the Pacers are led by Paul George and are one of the most competitive teams in the Eastern Conference.
- The Miami Heat are one of more decorated and successful teams in the league, garnering 11 division titles, 18 appearances in the playoffs, seven Conference Finals appearances, five Conference Finals titles, and three NBA championships (including four straight Finals appearances in the early 2010s). They were one of the most competitive teams in the 90s when they were led by Alonzo Mourning, then they broke through for their first title in 2006 thanks to Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal. From 2010 through 2014, LeBron James and Chris Bosh formed a Power Trio with Wade, turning the Heat into the go-to Love It or Hate It team in all of basketball. After the 2013-14 season, LeBron left to go back to Cleveland. Since then, the Heat have been trying to rebuild a team to go back to the Finals.
- The Milwaukee Bucks are the former team of Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson, who won a championship in 1971, their third season of existence. The team has been mediocre since then, with some good teams in the mid-80s and a deep run in 2001. The Bucks also play in one of the league's oldest arenasnote , but will move to a new arena in 2018. The current version of the Milwaukee Bucks are coached by Jason Kidd and are led by Greek swingman Giannis Antetokounmpo.
- The New York Knicks are one of the NBA's most valuable franchise in terms of net worthnote . A charter member of the NBA note . The Knicks won two titles in 1970 and 1973 led by Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, and Willis Reed. In the 90s, the Knicks were led by Patrick Ewing and went to two Finals in 1994 and 1999. More recently, the Knicks have been the victim of several seasons of mismanagement and horrible front office moves which rendered the Knicks into Butt Monkey status. They are trying to shed this image in more recent seasons with Carmelo Anthony and Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis on the court, and Phil Jackson in the front office.
- The Orlando Magic have only been around since 1989, yet they have competed at or near the the top of the East for a good part of their history, with players like Shaquille O'Neal, Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard leading the Magic to five division titles and two trips to the NBA finals in 1994 and 2009. Unfortunately, Orlando has been closer to the bottom of the league since Dwight Howard left in 2012, and are currently in the midst of a rebuilding process.
- The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the more historic teams in the NBA. Dating back to 1946 as the Syracuse Nationals, the Sixers have called Philadelphia home since 1963. The franchise won three titles in their historynote and have logged nine total trips to the NBA Finals. They have also had some of the greatest players in NBA history play for them, including Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson. They are also currently going through perhaps the most extreme rebuilding process the NBA has ever seen in hopes of building a more sustained winning franchise like the Spurs or the Mavericks, with three seasons featuring extended losing streaks and fewer than 20 victories, while also sending away most competitive players in exchange for draft picks.
- The Toronto Raptors are one of the youngest franchises in the NBA, and are the only team based in Canada - by the late 2000s they started to focus on that aspect, trading their primary color from purple to red, and coining the slogan "We the North". Started playing in 1995, the Raptors are best known for the teams that featured Vince Carter and Chris Bosh. After many stretches as The Chew Toy, only in 2016, led by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors had a major winning breakthrough in the playoffs, going all the way to the Conference Finals. Jurassic Park not only inspired the team name, but became the nickname of Maple Leaf Square during public viewings of the team's games.
- The Washington Wizards date back to 1961 and have seen plenty of moves and name changes in their historynote . As the Bullets, they had a dominant run in the 1970s, led by Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes, that saw them make four trips to the Finals, winning the title in 1978. Sadly, the Bullets/Wizards have never advanced past the second round of the playoffs since their 78 championship. The current Wizards are led by John Wall and Bradley Beal and are trying to establish themselves as a legit contender in the East.
- The Dallas Mavericks were founded in 1980, and was home to some OK basketball in the 80s, and some truly awful basketball in the 90s. That was until dot-com bubble billionaire Mark Cuban bought the team in 2000. Since then, the Mavs have consistently been one of the best teams in the NBA led by players like Steve Nash, Michael Finley, Jason Terry, and Dirk Nowitzki. Despite being one of the toughest teams to play in the 21st Century, the Mavs could never seem to win it all until 2011, when they upset LeBron and the Miami Heat to give the franchise its first NBA championship. Interestingly, the Mavericks got their name because Maverick star James Garner was a part of the founding ownership.
- The Denver Nuggets are one of the four ABA teams that merged into the NBA 1976. Throughout the 80s, the Nuggets were recognized for their high scoring offense, led by Alex English and Kiki Vandeweghe, and their so-so defense note . They were anchored defensively by Dikembe Mutombo in the 90s and notched the very first 8-seeded upset in the first round of the 1994 playoffs over Seattle. The Nuggets were led by Carmelo Anthony from 2003 to 2011 and advanced as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2009. The Nuggets are the only former ABA team who has yet to make an appearance in the NBA Finals.
- The Golden State Warriors are the Bay Area's team and have one of the deepest histories in the league. Originally the Philadelphia Warriors, the franchise won four championships in their historynote The Warriors are notable for being the first team for Wilt Chamberlain before he joined the Philadelphia 76ers. Rick Barry led the Warriors to the title in 1975, which marked the beginning of a long dark period of mediocre basketball.note Things changed dramatically for the Warriors when they drafted "Splash Brothers" Stephen Curry (2009) and Klay Thompson (2011). With the additions of power forward Draymond Green in 2012 and head coach Steve Kerr in 2014, the Warriors established themselves as arguably the greatest shooting team in NBA history, winning the title in 2015, and followed that up by going 73–9 in the 2015–16 regular season, surpassing the 1995–96 Bulls for the best regular-season record in league history (though unlike the Bulls, they were defeated in the finals, despite at one point having a 3-1 series advantage over the Cavaliers). At this moment, the "Dubs"note are one of the greatest teams the league has ever seen, and thanks to their core's relative youth, a title threat for years to come. And that was before they added Kevin Durant in the 2016 offseason...
- The Houston Rockets date back to 1967 note and are the former team of Hakeem Olajuwon, who won two championships in the '90s. The Rockets made an international splash in 2002 when they won the right to draft Chinese superstar Yao Ming. Sadly, injuries shortened not only Yao's career, but also that of fellow superstar Tracy McGrady, which also affected the Rockets' chances of competing against Kobe's Lakers, Dirk's Mavs, and Duncan's Spurs. After Yao retired in 2011, the Rockets were left in mediocrity limbo until a fortunate trade landed James Harden in Houston in 2012. Since then, the Rockets have established themselves as a true contender in the West, advancing to the Western Conference Finals in 2015.
- The Los Angeles Clippers have been ridiculed as being the worst franchise in all American major sports. Born as the Buffalo Braves and later on, the San Diego Clippers, they're historically known as one of the league's joke teams, with arguably one of the worst owners in professional sports in Donald Sterling. 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. Moreover, when audio of racist comments made by Sterling became public, the NBA forced a $2 billion sale of the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Despite this huge reversal of fortune, the Clippers have yet to win a conference or a league title to this day, and have gained a reputation for choking in the playoffs. They are also the only team who shares their NBA home with another team, which makes matters worse since, even if the Clippers are the more dominant team of the two in the current era, the city of Los Angeles and the Staples Center will almost always be known for being home to...
- The Los Angeles Lakers are arguably the NBA's most popular team. They are one of the most accomplished franchises in sports, winning 16 championships and a record 31 appearances in the NBA Finals. The Lakers have been home to some of the greatest teams and greatest players the NBA has even seen, such as Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant. Many fans will remember the Lakers from the "Showtime" era of Magic and Kareem in the 80s that saw the Lakers win five championships and engage in an epic rivalry with Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics. Younger fans will most likely remember the Kobe Bryant years, with either the Shaq three-peat from 2000 to 2002, or the back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. Either way, the Lakers have produced some of the most dominant eras in the NBA, which made them as big as a love-em-or-hate-em team as you'll ever come across. The Artifact Title name comes from their original city, Minneapolis, located in the "Land of a Thousand Lakes". Speaking of names which didn't fit a move...
- The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the youngest teams in the league and actually began life in Vancouver. After six seasons of some REALLY bad basketball in Canada note , the Grizzlies moved to Memphis in 2001. They've shown improvement in their time in Memphis, but have never experienced big time success in the playoffs, only logging one trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2013. The Grizzlies were led by Pau Gasol in the mid 2000s before he was traded to the Lakers in a deal that saw Memphis acquire Pau's kid brother, Marc Gasol, who has emerged as one of the best big men in the NBA today. Currently known for their defensive style of play, and for giving the most expensive NBA contract...to Michael Conley.
- The Minnesota Timberwolves are Kevin Garnett's team. Founded in 1989, the T-Wolves successes are tied with the prime years of Garnett, which culminated in 2004 with an MVP award and the team's only division title and only trip to the Western Conference Finals. Ever since then, the T-Wolves have finished at or near the bottom of a hyper-competitive Western Conference. Even though Kevin Garnett left Minnesota for Boston in 2007 note , an older Garnett returned to the T-Wolves in 2015 for one final season as a mentor to the current young roster, which is now anchored by Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
- The New Orleans Pelicans, formerly the New Orleans Hornets, were the de facto original incarnation of the Charlotte Hornets who moved to New Orleans in 2002 note . They've been fairly consistent in their history - 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. Through 2012 and 2013, the team gained a new owner, a new name and drafted Anthony Davis into their team, making the Pelicans one of the more exciting young teams in the league. Interestingly, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the Hornets played home games in Oklahoma City for two years, making them the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets for two seasons. The Seattle SuperSonics' owner took note of the team's strong reception there, leading us to...
- The Oklahoma City Thunder were formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics. Founded in 1967, the Sonics had a history of moderate successes in the Northwest, winning the NBA title in 1979 and reaching the Finals on two other occasions. Unfortunately, the lack of a new arena deal in Seattle, coupled with the owners' ties to Oklahoma and the feverish support OKC gave the Hornets in their part-time home, prompted the move of the Sonics to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder in 2008 (this is still a sore point in Seattle, particularly as the league is still unclear regarding giving the city another franchise whether by relocation or expansion). In Oklahoma City, the franchise grew into one of the league's top franchises, led by superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The young core of talent led the Thunder to the NBA Finals in 2012. The Thunder were still one of the elite teams in the NBA, and a perennial championship contender (yet also a perennial playoff choker) when Durant and Westbrook were healthy... until Durant left for the Warriors as a free agent after the 2015–16 season, leaving the Thunder with a very uncertain future as a contender. Also of note with the Thunder are their loyal and passionate fans, who give the Thunder one of the toughest home court advantages for visiting teams.
- The Phoenix Suns date back to 1968, and are the former team of Charles Barkley in the early 90s, and Steve Nash for much of the 2000s. They have been involved in many benchmark moments in NBA history, including what many consider the greatest NBA game ever played, Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals where the Suns lost to Boston 128-126 in triple overtime.The 2000s saw the Suns led by Steve Nash who powered the Suns to the top of the standings with a high octane offense. Despite everything, the Suns successes have almost always flamed out in some fashion or another and the franchise have never won a championship.
- The Portland Trail Blazers date back to 1970 and are the former team of Clyde Drexler (who led Portland to the Finals in 1990 and '92) and Bill Walton (who won their only championship in 1977). The Blazers are also unfortunately associated with not one but TWO drafts which they passed up picking a superstar in favor of a player whose career got cut short due to injuries, Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan in 1984, and Greg Oden over Kevin Durant in 2007. note In recent years, the Blazers have overcome setbacks after setbacks to try to stay competitive in the Western Conference, thanks in large part to the exploits of Damian Lillard.
- The Sacramento Kings are the journeyman franchise of the NBA. Dating back to Rochester in 1945, they became the Cincinnati Royals in 1957, the Kansas City(-Omaha) Kings in 1972, and finally the Sacramento Kings in 1985. Despite their history, the Kings only have one NBA title to its name, won in 1951. During the early 2000s, the team was a perennial contender thanks to a strong starting five of Vlade Divac, Chris Webber, Doug Christie, Peja Stojaković, Mike Bibby, and the home-court advantage of its raucous crowd. Unfortunately, that core of players could never defeat the Shaq and Kobe Lakers and were never able to reach the NBA Finals. Since then, the team has fallen into the bottom tier of the league. After many relocation rumors note , a local entrepreneur (and former minority owner of the Golden State Warriors) bought the Kings, and Sacramento was able to get a deal in place to build a new arena. Nowadays, the Kings are trying to build a playoff-contending team, but a series of poor ownership decisions, a carousel of lame-duck coaches, and boneheaded front office choices (drafting Thomas Robinson note and Jimmer Fredette note , AND trading away Demarcus Cousins for virtually nothing) have prevented the Kings from having sustained success in the NBA.
- The San Antonio Spurs are arguably the most consistent dominant team in NBA history. In the almost 40 years since entering the NBA from the ABA in 1976, they have won a total of 18 division titles and only missed the playoffs four times!!! While the Spurs saw moderate successes with George Gervin in the 80s and David Robinson in the 90s, it was the arrival of Tim Duncan in 1997, alongside the arrivals of Tony Parker in 2001 and Manu Ginóbili in 2002 and the coaching brilliance of Gregg Popovich, that propelled the Spurs into one of the most premier franchises in sports. The Spurs have won five championships, and have consistently won 50 games or more year in and year out. The Spurs have seen soaring victories note , and heart-wrenching losses note . Interestingly, they are NOT among the NBA's most popular teams, with their play frequently described as "Boring", and in recent years the team labeled as "Old" as well. No matter what, the Spurs just keep on winning. And with the acquisitions of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs are getting younger as well.
- The Utah Jazz are the former team of John Stockton, Karl "The Mailman" Malone, and longtime head coach Jerry Sloan. 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. 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. But after all these years, nobody even questions it anymore. note
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 (1946-1951) Sometimes known as the Anderson Duffey Packers or even the Chief Anderson Meat Packers, they 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 National Professional Basketball League before folding.
- The original Baltimore Bullets (1944-1954) are currently the only dead NBA team to end up winning an NBA Finals championship. Baltimore began as an ABLnote
- The Chicago Stags (1946-1950) are 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 acquisition 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) are 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 original Denver Nuggets (1948-1950) are 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) 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) are 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 in the form of...
- The Indianapolis Olympians (1949-1953) are 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) are 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 Pittsburgh Steelers were temporarily renamed the Pittsburgh Iron Men back in 1941.
- The Providence Steamrollers (1946-49) 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, the Red Skins 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 also defunct 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 league called the Western Basketball Association (WBA), but they realized how big the NBA was, and they ended up being an independent 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.
- 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 Auerbach (who went to an improving Tri-Cities Blackhawks team for a year before finally coaching the Boston Celtics) 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 hockey 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 Iowa. The original Hawks team started out as a more-or-less average team when they were in the NBL. When they moved 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.
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.note Here's what had happened over the years in the NBA. The NBL & BAA Years (Note: bolded years represent the NBL; italic years represent the BAA.)
- 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 Duffey Packers swept the Oshkosh All-Stars 3-0.
- 1948-49: Minneapolis Lakers won over the Washington Capitols 4-2.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 note
- 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.
- 2009-2010: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Boston Celtics 4-3.
- 2010-11: Dallas Mavericks won over the Miami Heat 4-2.
- 2011-12: Miami Heat won over the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1. note
- 2012-13: Miami Heat won over the San Antonio Spurs 4-3.
- 2013-14: San Antonio Spurs won over the Miami Heat 4-1.
- 2014-15: Golden State Warriors won over the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2.
- 2015-16: Cleveland Cavaliers won over the Golden State Warriors 4-3.
The NBA Development League, or NBA D-League (known as National Basketball Development League prior to 2005), is the NBA's official minor league basketball organization, founded in 2001. While at first it was common for the D-League teams to be affiliated with many franchises, all are now on a one-on-one basis, complete with the major leaguers owning most of the minors and at times employing the same franchise name. Starting in 2016, only 8 NBA teams will not have their own D-League affiliate. Beginning with the 2017–18 season, thanks to a sponsorship deal with PepsiCo and its Gatorade sports drink brand, the league will rename itself the NBA Gatorade League (or G-League).
Current teams (followed by affiliate)
- Austin Spurs (Spurs): Founded in 2001 as Columbus Riverdragons, moved to the Texas capital in 2005 to become the Austin Toros. Have always been affiliated with San Antonio, who purchased the team in 2007 and renamed them seven years later.
- Canton Charge (Cavaliers): Founded as the Huntsville Flight in 2001 and late renamed Albuquerque/New Mexico Thunderbirds, were purchased in 2011 by the Cavs, who moved them to Ohio and gave them a similar knight-based theme.
- Delaware 87ers (76ers): AKA "Sevens', name refers to the year Delaware ratified the constitution. Founded as Utah Flash in 2007.
- Erie BayHawks (Magic): Originally affiliated with the Cavs and Sixers, given this Pennsylvania city is between the two teams. Orlando has now bought the team and will move it to Lakeland, near the Tampa Bay Area, for the 2017–18 season.
- Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Pacers): The Punny Name refers to the guy who named the city, General "Mad" Anthony Wayne. Being located in an Indiana city, have always been affiliated with the Pacers, but only in 2015 became a solo connection.
- Greensboro Swarm (Hornets): Third team in North Carolina (following a defunct one in Fayetteville and a relocated one in Asheville).
- Grand Rapids Drive (Pistons): Founded in 2006 as Anaheim Arsenal and later known as Springfield Armor; moved to Michigan in 2014, and earned another car piece name.
- Iowa Energy (Grizzlies): Purchased by the Timberwolves in 2017.
- Long Island Nets (Nets): Will actually begin sharing Barclays Center with the parent team, before in 2017 moving to the currently renovating Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale (where the NHL's Islanders played).
- Los Angeles D-Fenders (Lakers): The first D-League team owned by a NBA franchise; plays in the Lakers' training facility in El Segundo.
- Maine Red Claws (Celtics)
- Northern Arizona Suns (Suns): Founded as the Bakersfield Jam in 2006, were purchased by Phoenix a decade later and relocated to Prescott Valley.
- Oklahoma City Blue (Thunder): Founded as the Asheville Altitude in 2001, relocated to Oklahoma in 2005 to become the Tulsa 66ers. As soon as the Thunder came to the state in 2008, the 66ers were purchased, and were eventually forced to move into a smaller OKC arena in 2014.
- Raptors 905 (Raptors): 905 is the main area code for the Greater Toronto Area outside of the city of Toronto propernote - the team plays in Mississauga, and like the parent company is the only team in Canada.
- Reno Bighorns (Kings)
- Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Rockets): Based in Hidalgo, became the sole affiliate of Houston two years in 2009, after two years of partnership.
- Salt Lake City Stars (Jazz): Originally the Idaho Stampede, who begun play in 1997 on the now defunct Continent Basketball Association, joined the D-League in 2006 and were one decade later purchased by Utah, who relocated them to a smaller building in the same city they play.
- Santa Cruz Warriors (Warriors): Originally Dakota Wizards, who begun in 1995 and were in both the CBA and the International Basketball Association before joining the D-League in 2006. Golden State purchased them in 2011, and one year later moved the team to California.
- Sioux Falls Skyforce (Heat): Actually dates back to 1989, having also played in the IBA and CBA.
- Texas Legends (Mavericks): Began as the Colorado 14ers in 2006, before the Mavs purchased them and relocated to the DFW city of Frisco in 2009.
- Westchester Knicks (Knicks): Plays just north of NYC, in White Plains, and uses the first "Father Knickerbocker" logo the Knicks dropped in 1964.
- Windy City Bulls (Bulls): Started play in 2016 in nearby Hoffman Estates.
- The Hawks, Grizzlies, and Bucks will own new G-League franchises for the 2017-18 season. The Hawks will temporarily place their team in Erie to replace the Magic-owned BayHawks while a permanent arena is constructed in the Atlanta suburb of College Park, Georgia. The Grizzles purchased an expansion team and will place them in Southaven, Mississippi after the Timberwolves purchased the Iowa Energy. The Bucks will place their team in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
- 2002: Greenville Groove (defunct team)
- 2003: Mobile Revelers (defunct team)
- 2004 and 2005: Asheville Altitude (current Oklahoma City Blue)
- 2006: Albuquerque Thunderbirds (current Canton Charge)
- 2007: Dakota Wizards (current Santa Cruz Warriors)
- 2008: Idaho Stampede (current Salt Lake City Stars)
- 2009: Colorado 14ers (current Texas Legends)
- 2010: Rio Grande Valley Vipers
- 2011: Iowa Energy
- 2012: Austin Toros (current Austin Spurs)
- 2013: Rio Grande Valley Vipers
- 2014: Fort Wayne Mad Ants
- 2015: Santa Cruz Warriors (same year Golden State won the major league)
- 2016: Sioux Falls Skyforce
AwardsAfter the regular season (but during the playoffs), a number of different awards are given out to those who excelled in some aspect of the game. Most of these awards are determined by voting by a panel of American and Canadian media members. Note that unlike MLB awards, most of which are voted on only by sportswriters, the voting panel for the NBA awards (except as noted) specifically includes broadcasters. In addition, there are two more awards—one involving the All-Star Game, and the other for the NBA Finals. The specific awards are as follows. The "most recent winners" are from the 2015–16 season, with team affiliations as of that season.
- The Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) is given to the player who is considered to have been the top performer of the regular season. There are no restrictions on who can be named MVP, but it almost always goes to a player from a team who made the playoffs; in fact, every winner since the 1982–83 season has played on a team that won at least 50 games. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the record for most MVP awards with six; Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have five each.
- Most Recent Winner: Stephen Curry, PG/SG, Warriors (the first-ever unanimous winner)
- The Rookie of the Year Award is given to the rookie who is considered to have had the best season. Though a rookie is generally defined as a first-year player, he doesn't necessarily have to be. As long as the player enters the current season without having played in the NBA, he is considered to be in his rookie season. Experience in leagues outside the NBA is not counted against a player; unlike baseball, which has experienced controversy due to Japanese-born players winning that sport's award despite having prior professional experience in Japanese baseball, there has been little if any controversy over eligibility of former foreign professionals. Then again, only one player with foreign pro experience has been named Rookie of the Year: Pau Gasol in 2002.
- Most Recent Winner: Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Timberwolves (the most recent unanimous winner)
- The Defensive Player of the Year Award is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Also does not consider playoff performance. Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace have the most awards, each with four.
- Most Recent Winner: Kawhi Leonard, SF, Spurs
- The Most Improved Player of the Year Award is also Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Also does not consider playoff performance.
- Most Recent Winner: C. J. McCollum, SG, Blazers
- The Sixth Man of the Year Award goes to the best bench player of the regular season. Players who started in more games than they played strictly as a substitute are ineligible. The current holder of this award, Jamal Crawford, has the most awards with three. Notably, Bill Walton is the only player to have both an MVP and a Sixth Man Award, winning the former in his prime and the latter in the twilight of his career.
- Most Recent Winner: Jamal Crawford, PG/SG, Clippers
- The Coach of the Year Award goes to the top head coach of the regular season. There are no specific guidelines for who can win, but the award typically goes to the manager of a team who achieved surprising success, usually a team that was expected to finish low in the standings but ended up competing for a title. The record for most wins is three, held by Don Nelson, Pat Riley, and Gregg Popovich.
- Most Recent Winner: Steve Kerr, Warriorsnote
- The Executive of the Year Award goes to the season's top general manager. Unlike the other season awards, media members play no role in the voting; the league's GMs vote instead. There are no specific guidelines for who can win, but the award typically goes to the GM of a contending team. Former Suns GM Jerry Colangelo has the most awards, with four.
- Most Recent Winner: R. C. Buford, Spurs
- The NBA Sportsmanship Award goes to the player viewed as the league's most sportsmanlike. Similar to the Lady Byng Award in the NHL, although unlike that award it does not demand excellence of play. Each NBA team nominates a player, with a screening committee selecting one finalist from each NBA division. The final voting body is the league's players. The winner receives the Joe Dumars Trophy, named for the award's first recipient. Grant Hill has the most awards, with three.
- Most Recent Winner: Mike Conley, PG, Grizzlies
- The J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, named after the league's second commissioner, is presented for outstanding community service. Unlike all other NBA awards, it is not restricted to players, coaches, or GMs—any employee of an NBA team is eligible for the award. However, it has only been awarded twice to non-players (once each to a coach and a trainer). Voted on exclusively by sportswriters. The only two-time winner is Mutombo.
- Most Recent Winner: Wayne Ellington, SG, Nets
- The Twyman–Stokes Teammate of the Year Award (see the Sacramento Kings folder below for an explanation of its namesakes) is presented to the player viewed as the league's "ideal teammate". A panel of NBA legends nominates six players from each conference, with the league's players then casting votes to determine the winner.
- Most Recent Winner: Vince Carter, SF, Grizzlies
- The All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award is another case of Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Like the seasonal playing awards, voted on by the media, in this case immediately after the game so that the trophy can be handed out in the postgame festivities. Bob Pettit and Kobe Bryant have the record for most awards, each with four.
- Most Recent Winner: Russell Westbrook, PG, Thunder
- The Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award is still another example of Exactly What It Says on the Tin, in this case honoring the best performer in the NBA Finals. Russell's name was added to the award in 2009, honoring his record 11 NBA titles as a player. Almost always goes to a player on the championship team—the only player on the losing team ever to win the award was the Lakers' Jerry West in 1969, the first time it was awarded. Michael Jordan has the most awards with five.
- Most Recent Winner: LeBron James, SF/PF, Cavaliers
Notable PlayersLike 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, "The Human Highlight Film," was a forward known for his thunderous dunks, usually on opposing players. Won the Slam Dunk contest twice; his notable Slam Dunk contest losses were to Spud Webb and to a tightly contested final against Michael Jordan.
- Spud Webb, who is noted for his height - 5 feet 7 inches. He is the shortest player ever to win - or enter - the Slam Dunk contest.
- Al Horford
- Jeff Teague
- 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 a 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 was a forward who arrived alongside Russell in 1956. Although somewhat overshadowed by Russell and several other teammates, he was named Rookie of the Year ahead of Russell, made six All-Star teams, and won eight titles with Russell and Jones (the only two players with more championship rings). During his playing career, Heinsohn also played a major role in the development of the NBA Players Association (union). After retiring as a player, he became the Celtics' TV play-by-play man until becoming head coach in 1969; in his nine seasons in that role, he was Coach of the Year once and led the Celtics to two titles. He then returned to Celtics TV in 1981, this time on color commentary; he has held that position since (although due to advanced age, he now works as a studio analyst when the Celtics are on the road). One of only four individuals to be a Hall of Famer as both a player and a coach.note
- 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." He was, for the 1978-79 season, the last player-coach in NBA history.
- Larry Bird was a forward who 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.
- Incidentally, he was considering leaving college after his junior year in 1978, but eventually decided against it, but the Celtics drafted him anyway. This prompted the league to enact the so-called "Larry Bird Rule" that said teams can't do that; they have to wait until a player officially declares himself eligible for the draft or completes his college eligibility, whichever comes first.
- 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, out-leaping, out-spinning and out-maneuvering defender after defender throughout his career - which he called the "torture chamber". (Charles Barkley would call him the toughest defender he ever played against.) 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 seven. 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 Celtic 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) and another to finish his career as a bench player for the Chicago Bulls in 1997. 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 known 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.
- Reggie Lewis was drafted in 1988 to eventually become Larry Bird's successor at small forward. He played sporadically in his first couple years, but eventually came into his own as a bench player. When Bird retired in 1992, Lewis was up to the challenge of replacing him, had a solid 1992-93 season and was selected for that year's All Star Game. Sadly, he died suddenly in June 1993 during an off-season practice from an undiagnosed heart defect.
- Lewis was drafted by the Celtics to replace another tragic figure in their history intended as Bird's heir. Len Bias was considered to be one of the most dynamic and exciting college basketball players of the mid-1980s, and the Celtics selected him with the 2nd pick of the 1986 draft. Two days after the draft, Bias died from a cocaine overdose; It was the first time he had ever touched the drug. The Celtics were demoralized by Bias' death. In particular, Bird was excited to have him on board and once claimed he would have retired in 1988 if Bias had lived. Bias is widely considered to be one of the greatest college players to have never played in the NBA.
- 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. Pierce spent one season in Brooklyn before moving on to the Washington Wizards, and then to the LA Clippers. 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. Pierce has now announced that the 2016–17 season will be his last, after which he plans to sign a ceremonial contract to retire as a Celtic.
- 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, until being dealt to the Mavericks during the 2014–15 season, was 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 NASCAR car) and his relative Hair-Trigger Temper.
- Kevin Garnett was 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, and later returning to Minnesota in a 2015 trade-deadline deal, his emotional leadership and contagious energy has left a very lasting impact on the Celtics and their fans. In fact, when Garnett returned to Boston with the T-Wolves in the 2015–16 season for what proved to be his last visit as a player, Celtics coach Brad Stevens called a timeout with less than a minute left to give Celtics fans a chance to honor him. A standing ovation followed. Garnett is also notable as 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 Garnett retired shortly before the start of the 2016–17 season.
- Ray Allen is a shooting guard who 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 Bucks 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 joined the Miami Heat on a two-year, $6 million deal. Despite being hot and cold during the 2012–13 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, 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 Allen picked up another championship ring. After the 2013–14 season, he became a free agent, but didn't catch on with any team and never played in the league again, although he didn't announce his retirement until November 2016.
- Dražen Petrović was a shooting guard from Croatia and a tragic example of What Could Have Been - a prolific scorer in Europe and in the NBA, his life and career were sadly cut short by a car accident in 1993. He is widely considered to be the most talented European player ever seen, being nicknamed Basketball's Mozart, and is undoubtedly one of the best sharpshooters who ever played in the NBA. Before playing in the NBA, he utterly dominated the European basketball scene, notably scoring 62 points in European Cup finals in 1989note . He once scored 112 pointsnote in a Yugoslavian League game when he was 20 years old.
- 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. After a playoff berth in his first season as a head coach, he left to become head coach for the Bucks, with the Nets getting two future second-round picks as compensation.
- Jeremy Lin is a point guard famous for taking the national stage for New York City's more established team, the Knicks. 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. After the 2013–14 season, the Rockets dealt him to the Lakers, which were interested mainly in his expiring contract (which "only" cost them about $8 million or so in cap space) and the 2015 first-round draft pick that came with the deal. His marketing potential among Asian fans, especially in China, didn't hurt either. He didn't break into the rotation in L.A., despite having become a good finisher at the rim, and went to Charlotte after the 2014–15 season, spending one season there before heading back to the city where he first achieved fame, though with the Nets instead of the Knicks.
- 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.◊ His short stature led him to become something of a secret weapon for the teams he played on, and he was often a league leader in both steals and assists. 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 separately.
- 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. One of the league's best wing defenders, with a steadily improving offensive game.
- Al Jefferson begun his career in the Celtics, before being sent to the Timberwolves in the Kevin Garnett trade. He only began to get some respect after joining the Jazz, and once signed by the Bobcats in 2013 led them to their second ever playoff appearance.
- Artis Gilmore was a center (seven-foot-two without Afro, seven-foot-six with) who won both Rookie of the Year and MVP for the Kentucky Colonels for the 1971-72 season, led the team to the ABA championship in 1975, led the league in total rebounds all five years he played, and holds the ABA record for blocked shots. He wasn't quite as dominating when he went to Chicago during the merger, but still put up some impressive numbers, including a preposterous 67% field-goal percentage one year. He's still the NBA's leader in career field goal percentage, and including NBA and ABA totals ranks first in defensive rebounds and fourth in blocks.
- 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. Jordan 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 (although his father's tragic murder that year certainly had something to do with it). He returned a couple of years later with his skills undiminished. And 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 owner of the Charlotte Hornets.
- 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. During the first of those the Bulls only won two fewer games than they had the year before (with Jordan), largely thanks to Pippen. 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 Kukoč 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 Bulls until being traded to the Knicks in the 2016 offseason, 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 Luol Deng (see Miami Heat for more on the latter), 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.
- Jimmy Butler – A 6'7" swingman (small forward/shooting guard) out of Marquette, Butler started out in 2011–12 as a bench player, being stuck behind Luol Deng in the rotation. An injury to Deng in the 2012–13 season gave Butler a chance to start, and he made the most of it, becoming a key rotation player even after Deng returned. Deng's departure for the Heat gave him the chance to start in 2014–15, and he ended up making his first All-Star appearance and winning the league's Most Improved Player award that season. Has an interesting backstory as well—his father abandoned the family when he was an infant, and his mother kicked him out of the house when he was 13; he was eventually taken in by the family of a fellow player at his high school.note
- 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 his hometown 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. Cleveland won the divison and the conference, making it LeBron's fifth straight year atop the East. The trip to the Finals came about even though the team was riddled with injuries—starting center Anderson Varejão (below) tore his Achilles in December, Kevin Love (also below) was lost during the playoffs with a separated shoulder, and Kyrie Irving (also below) was hampered by knee issues for parts of the season, finally breaking his kneecap in Game 1 of the Finals. And then the next season, with everyone healthy (though Varejão was gone by season's end), he led the Cavs to a rematch against the Dubs in the Finals, and brought them back from a 3–1 series deficit to give the city its first major sports title in over a half-century.
- 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 (including 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). And, to top it all off, he led both teams in the 2016 Finals in points, assists, rebounds, steals, and blocked shots—something that had never been done before in any playoff series.
- 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 about an average one-on-one defender (a major improvement from early in his career). Born in Australia, as his dad was playing in the country's pro basketball league at the time—but his parents returned stateside when he was two years old, and he's played for Team USA at both youth and senior level. Named MVP of the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
- Kevin Love is a power forward who became the final cog in Cleveland's new "Big Three" when he arrived from the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2014 offseason. Drafted by Minnesota, Love was a key example of the new generation of "Stretch 4" playersnote ; he gained big notice when he ended up getting 30 points and 30 rebounds in a single game, which hasn't occurred (in the NBA) since The '80s. Play like this, and his array of highlight full-court passes and impressive outside shooting, 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), he had continued to provide the team great numbers to help the Timberwolves out, but never made it to the playoffs with them in spite of his performances. With free agency approaching, the Wolves opted to trade him to Cleveland.
- Kevin is also notable as the son of former NBA player Stan Love... who in turn is the younger brother of Mike Love, founding member of The Beach Boys.
- Craig Ehlo was a decent player for the Cavaliers between '86 and '93 sporting '80s Hair. However, he is mostly remembered for being a Guard, and as such having defensive duties on opposing Guards, including the Bulls' one whose name you already know, and for regularly failing to stop him. Notably the guy that took The Shot in the face.
- Žydrūnas Ilgauskas, "The Big Z", is the Cavaliers leader in games played, rebounds, and blocks, playing from 1996 to 2010. After a career year in the season before LeBron's arrival, became one of his wingmen and got to the 2007 Finals, and even after deciding to retire in 2010 tried to get a title by following LBJ to the Heat (losing the 2011 Finals as well made Ilgauskas call it quits). His number 11 was retired, making him only the third European with his honor. One of the best Lithuanians who wasn't a fixture for the country's powerhouse national team (he only played in three international matches, all before he came to the NBA; the Cavs vetoed his participation in the 2008 Olympics).
- Anderson Varejão was an Ensemble Darkhorse in Cleveland from 2004 to 2016, earning the nickname "Wild Thing" because of his Wild Hair (that at times would be homaged by wig giveouts) and energetic and relentless style of play, that earned him an All-Defensive Second Team selection once. First Brazilian to play in the NBA Finals, when the Cavs lost in 2007 to the Spurs. With limited play and the Cavs needing cap space for new signings, was traded halfway through 2015-16, and eventually signed with the Warriors, which like the Cavs got all the way to the Finals, making Varejão the first guy who played for both finalists the same season. (Incidentally the cruel twist about it is that Varejão played for the also-rans in those 2015 & 2016 Finals.)
- Dirk Nowitzki is a German-born player who has spent his entire career with the Mavericks (unlike former teammate and best friend Steve Nash). His claim of fame in the NBA is his unorthodox style of playing (he is one of the few power forwards who scores better in the distance rather than by driving the paint) and his unblockable fadeaway jumpshot - with a height of 7 foot flat and a high jump of 13 inches with his right leg raised to create space (incidentally, the "wrong" leg for the right-handed Nowitzki) - anybody guarding Nowitzki can only pray that he misses the shot. His incredible career (multiple All-Star appearances, an MVP award, a Championship ring and so forth) spawned a great deal of interest in other European-born players.
- Dan Issel
- David Thompson is a Hall of Fame small forward and shooting guard that played most of his career the Denver Nuggets in both the ABA and NBA. Nicknamed "The Skywalker" because of his incredible vertical leap (he could jump high enough to touch the top of the backboard) which allowed him to throw down powerful dunks. Along with Julius Erving, he and his playstyle helped to popularize the "high-flying, above-the-rim" game that the league became known for. Despite the emphasis on his dunks, Thompson was also a great, efficient shooter: his career 50% field goal percentage rivaled that of George Gervin, whom he frequently competed for the NBA's scoring title. Their frequent scoring battles led to Thompson becoming one of five people to score more than 70 points in a game, which he did against the Detroit Pistons on the final game of the season in 1978. Amazingly he had the potential to be even greater, but persistent problems with substance abuse and a severe injury to his knee at a nightclub in New York put an end to that. Despite all of this, he's probably more known today for being the idol of Michael Jordan, who has said that he looked up to Thompson in the way that people look up to Jordan himself. This admiration led to Jordan choosing Thompson as the person to introduce him for his Basketball Hall of Fame induction in 2009.
- JaVale McGee is the NBA's version of a Butt Monkey. A member of the Washington Wizards traded to the Denver Nuggets, he's known for bone-headed plays like these.
- Kenneth Faried
- Bob Lanier was a Hall of Fame center who arrived from St. Bonaventure in 1970, becoming the face of the Pistons for the next decade. An eight-time All-Star, he averaged just over 20 points and 10 rebounds during his 14-year career. Was dealt to the Milwaukee Bucks during the 1979–80 season, and helped lead the Bucks to division titles in each season until retiring in 1984. Also notable for his gigantic feet—visitors to the Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts can compare their feet to Lanier's U.S. size 22s.note
- Isiah Thomas, the leader of the Detroit "Bad Boy" Pistons, was a very controversial figure. While initially lauded for his determination and playmaking, his popularity took a huge hit when he said that Larry Bird would be "just another guy" if he weren't white and refused to back down from his statements. He accepted his new villain role with open arms and became the general for the Bad Boys' aggressive style of play. He was 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 1988 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. He's also not to be mixed up with current Boston Celtics player Isaiah Thomas, who also gets booed by Knicks fans because his name reminds them of their awful past with him.
- 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 in 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 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 Cavaliers before returning to Detroitnote to finish his career, retiring in 2012. Has played more games than any other undrafted player in NBA history.
- Rasheed Wallace was a power forward/center first drafted by Washington before going to Portland, Atlanta, and Detroit before winning his first title in 2004. Known for his colorful personality, shooting range, post moves, and propensity for technical fouls (ironically, he was one of the players who tried to break up the infamous "malice at the Palace" brawl). The phrase "ball don't lie" (aka if a disputed foul call was made by the referees, the player will miss the free throws, because while the referees may lie, the ball doesn't) was made famous by him. Retired for a few years after a stint in Boston before finishing his playing career in New York, and was hired as an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons during the 2013-14 season.
- 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. He retired at the end of the 2013–14 season.
- Tayshaun Prince is a small forward drafted by Detroit in 2002, and a key part of the Pistons during their 2004 championship run. An all-around player, but best known for his defense, best illustrated with his chase-down block of Reggie Miller in the 2004 playoffs. Was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, then the Celtics, and back to Detroit until the end of the 2015 season, he signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2015 offseason.
- Andre Drummond is a center, picked 9th overall during the 2012 Draft.
Golden State Warriors
- Nate Thurmond was a Hall of Fame power forward/center for the Warriors in the 60s and 70s. "Nate the Great" was a dominant scorer and rebounder, and the first player to record a quadruple-double (adding 12 blocks to a standard triple-double line). A native of Akron, Ohio, he was traded to the Chicago Bulls (ironically, just before the Warriors' 1975 title run) and finished his career with his hometown Cavaliers. Despite that, he remains primarily identified with the Warriors, and continued to live in San Francisco until his death in July 2016.
- Rick Barry was a small forward who played for several teams in the 60s and 70s, but had his longest tenure and greatest success with Golden State. He was drafted by the then-San Francisco Warriors in 1965 and immediately impressed, but contract disputes led him to jump ship to the pre-merger ABA. He bounced around the league until a court injunction sent him back to the Warriors, where he settled in as the team's star and eventually led them to the 1975 NBA championship. Barry retired in 1980; despite his notoriously prickly personality and the occasional off-court controversy, he was a shoo-in Hall of Famer, one of the league's historically great scorers before the introduction of the 3-point line. Also famous for his unique free-throw style—he shot them granny-style (i.e, two-handed and underhand), which was popular in the early days of the game but had largely disappeared by his day. Since he was one of the league's best free-throw shootersnote , no one laughed for very long; to this day, his style is occasionally suggested as a way to help out notoriously poor free-throw shooters.
- Stephen Curry (pronounced "STEF-un") is the Warriors' point guard, son of former NBA guard and current Charlotte announcer Dell Curry. "Steph" first drew national attention in college, as a 3-point specialist leading small Davidson College to the NCAA Elite 8, and the Warriors drafted him 7th overall in 2009. Early-career ankle injuries led many to consider him another bust for the hapless Warriors, but starting in the 2012-13 season, Curry's career took off on an upward trajectory. Initially labelled an "undersized shooting guard," he established himself as an accurate and creative passer, talented ball-handler, and even a capable defender - but it was his shooting that drew accolades. He broke Ray Allen's single-season three-point shooting record in 2013, and has set a new one every year since, using a combination of quick release and improbable shooting range. In the 2014-15 season, he collected his first MVP award while leading the Warriors to their first championship in forty years, and then followed that up with one of the greatest offensive seasons in NBA history, becoming the first player ever to be unanimously voted as MVP. Currently in the prime of his career, Curry sits on a short list of contenders to the title of "best player in the league."
- Steph's unique combination of scoring volume and shooting efficiency is the stuff of which basketball analysts' fantasies are made; the simplest way to explain his domination of the 3-point line is a single number. Before Curry, the record for three-point makes in a single season was held by legendary shooter Ray Allen, who hit an incredible 269 shots from deep. As of the 2015-16 season, Curry's record is 402.
- Klay Thompson is a shooting guard, drafted 11th overall in 2011 out of Washington State University. Like his backcourt partner Curry, he's a second-generation NBA playernote best known for his 3-point shooting; together, they're referred to as the "Splash Brothers." Also like Curry, Thompson has steadily improved with every season, going from a catch-and-shoot 3-point bomber with no inside game to a lockdown defender and versatile scorer. Klay is generally seen as the Warriors' #2, and first achieved national prominence when the Warriors refused to trade him for then-Timberwolves star Kevin Love and offered him a contract extension instead. Klay rewarded the team's faith by putting up career-high numbers, making his first NBA All-Star team, and going supernova in Sacramento to set a new all-time single-quarter scoring record.
- Draymond Green is the Warriors' power forward. A Saginaw native and four-year college player at Michigan State University, Green was considered a classic "tweener," not quick or athletic enough to be a guard, not big or strong enough to be a forward. In the 2012 draft, the Warriors took a flier on him in the second round, where a useful bench player is generally considered a good draft result. Green's competitiveness and defensive smarts made him that useful bench player for Golden State, but when injury opened up the starting power forward position in the 2014-15 season, Green seized it with both hands and never looked back. He's since become arguably one of the league's best front-court players - a uniquely versatile defender who's been known to cover point guards and centers on the same play, and an unexpected offensive weapon for the Warriors, with a respectable jump shot and the ball-handling skills to serve as a release valve for Stephen Curry. But perhaps more than anything else, he's known as the Warriors' "heartbeat" - the team's vocal leader, competitive engine, and most brash, profane, and constant trash-talker.
- Kevin Durant is the heir apparent to Kobe and LeBron, a four-time leading scorer (three of them consecutively). Also the heir apparent to LeBron in another way, as we'll soon see. Playing with the Seattle SuperSonics for his first season, and then the following eight with the team after it became 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 was a major reason as to why the Thunder took a major leap forward in their development, along with his then-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; at the time, Steve Nash (since retired) and Dirk Nowitzki (still active) were members among active players. When he became a free agent at the end of the 2015–16 season, he took a page from LeBron's book, leaving his first NBA team for one of the league's strongest. Durant has now become the league's designated villain, much like LeBron during his time in Miami... especially to fans in OKC.
- Hakeem Olajuwon, a legendarily badass 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 7'2" - 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 was touted as a potential entrant into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor, before he became eligible for induction as a player 5 years after retirement. After a change in the Hall's induction rules to effectively trim a year off the induction process for all former players, making Yao eligible for the 2016 class instead of the 2017 class, he was elected to the Hall as a player that year.
- 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 nowadays, as Shaq retired in 2011. 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 Gundy 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 - led 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.
- Roger Brown was the original Indiana Pacer. Like Connie Hawkins (below), he was a New York high school star who was banned by the NBA for his association with notorious basketball fixer Jack Molinas (and as with Hawkins, there was never any real evidence of wrongdoing on Brown's part). When the ABA was formed in 1967, he was working in a GM plant, and was the first player the Pacers management sought out and signed. He won the playoff MVP award when the Pacers won their first championship in 1970, scoring 53, 39, and 45 points in the final three games against the L.A. Stars. When the team won their second championship in '72 against the New York Nets, he went head-to-head with Rick Barry and outscored him in the final game 32 to 23. The Pacers won another championship in 1973. The NBA lifted his ban, but he preferred to remain with the Pacers and retired in 1975. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2013.
- 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 the Pacers trailing 105–99 with 18.7 seconds left, he scored a three-pointer, stole the inbounds pass, ran back to the three-point line and hit another three to tie the game in all of 5.4 seconds. 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 to give the Pacers their final victory margin. 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. However, he suffered a gruesome broken leg while preparing for the 2014 Basketball World Cup, and didn't return until the last month of the 2014–15 regular season.
Los Angeles Clippers
- 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 others after that, which helped turn his Los Angeles Clippers from the league's Butt Monkey into a team that actually fills the arena every game. His spectacular dunks earned him an All-Star spot in his first season in the league — even LeBron wasn't one for his rookie season. Griffin has continued to make All-Star teams, regularly in the starting lineup, and become a more versatile player with a reliable jump shot. (But 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 drafted by the New Orleans Hornets (although he began with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets due to the unfortunate event of Hurricane Katrina). His passing, ball-handling, and court vision rank with all-time greats like Magic Johnson and Steve Nash, and he's generally agreed to be one of the best at the position, to the point of the nickname "Point God" catching on. Paul was at one point slated to be traded to the L.A. Lakers, but due to "basketball reasons"note , he was sent to the L.A. Clippers instead. His arrival, paired with rising star Blake Griffin, created the "Lob City" sensation and catapulted the Clippers from mediocrity to perennial contention. Paul has since signed an extension and settled in as the Clippers' leader for the long haul.
- Paul is also, incidentally, the current president of the NBA Players' Union.
- Austin Rivers is a point guard, son of former NBA player and current Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, drafted 10th by the then-Pelicans out of Duke in 2012. Mostly a bench player so far, but made a small piece of NBA history in the middle of the 2014–15 season, when he joined the Clips after a series of two trades within three days—making him the first player in league history to play for his father.
Los Angeles Lakers
- 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 player 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 who 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 holds the record for most consecutive triple-doubles (9) and has the only "double triple-double" (at least 20 in three statistical categories) in NBA history. 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, being nigh-unto-unstoppable, and playing co-pilot Roger Murdock in Airplane!.
- 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 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 fast break 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 somehow managed to only win one MVP award, despite coming in seventh in all-time MVP voting (everyone ahead of him on that list won the award at least three times). He's also done some acting and released a couple of rap albums (his debut album went platinum and spun off two Top 40 hits!). 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. Also elected to the Hall of Fame at his first chance in 2016.
- Kobe Bryant is a very skilled guard who played his entire career for the Lakers. Heralded as the heir to Michael Jordan, Bryant won five championship rings. 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 became 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. His final season of 2015–16 marked his 20th with the Lakers, breaking the league record for longest single-team tenure previously held by John Stockton with the Jazz (see below). While the Lakers went through the franchise's worst season ever, Kobe continued to put on a show, going out in style with a 60-point performance in his final game.
- Ron Artest, who changed his name to Metta World Peace (and briefly changed it again to The Pandas Friend for the Chinese Basketball Association), 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 became an unapologetic loudmouth while out of action. He became a pariah in Detroit, and was traded to Sacremento shortly thereafter. He eventually got into anger management therapy, and it has largely helped mellow him out, but he still has his temper, leading to him elbowing James 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. Amnestied by the Lakers after the 2012–13 season to clear his salary from the books, and then signed by the Knicks. After one season there, he couldn't catch on with an NBA team and left for China; after the 2014–15 Chinese season ended in February, he then went to a short-term stint in Italy's Serie A (no, not ''that'' one). Returned to the Lakers in 2015 for bench depth and mentoring the team's young talent. The team was reportedly considering putting him on its coaching staff in 2016–17, but those plans were put on hold when he made the opening-day roster.
- Pau and Marc Gasol are Spanishnote brothers, both 7'1"/2.15 m Barcelona natives, who have become one of the best-known sibling pairs in NBA history.
- Pau, older by about 4 1/2 years, was developed in the youth system of FC Barcelona's basketball section.note He played with the Barça senior side for three seasons, leading them to the ACBnote and Spanish Cup titles in his final season there in 2000–01. Immediately after that season, he left for the NBA and the Grizzlies, winning Rookie of the Year honors. He went on to establish himself as an outrageously skilled player for his size, combining strong inside play, an even stronger midrange game, and very good interior defense. Moved to the Lakers after the 2007–08 season and had even greater success, with two championships. Declined somewhat due to age and the Lakers' collapse in the 2010s; moved to the Bulls after the 2013–14 season and had something of a resurrection there, earning his fifth All-Star and fourth All-NBA selections. Left Chicago for the Spurs after the 2015–16 season, where he's now trying to partially fill the shoes of the now-retired Tim Duncan. Also known as one of the more cultured players in the league—speaks five languages (two of which he taught himself), deeply enjoys classical music and opera, and in fact wanted to be a doctor, going so far as to start medical studies in Barcelona before basketball got in the way.
- Marc arrived in the US at the same time as Pau; his parents moved from Barcelona to Memphis, bringing Marc and their younger brothernote along. Marc graduated from high school in Memphis, after which he returned to Spain to play professionally, first at Barça and later at Girona. After being named ACB MVP in the 2007–08 season, he returned to Memphis at the same time Pau left for the Lakers. More of a pure inside player than Pau, Marc has since developed into one of the league's best big men, being named Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 (despite NOT being named to the All-Defensive first team) and first-team All-NBA in 2015.
- Dwyane Wade is a shooting guard who played his entire career with the Heat before joining the Bulls, his hometown team, in the 2016 offseason. 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 was easily considered the face of the Miami Heat (being its official captain certainly didn't hurt), despite publicly endorsing LeBron as the leader during the latter's four years in Miami. His tendency to receive injuries is a constant concern, however, and the looming threat of old age (he'll turn 35 during the current 2016–17 season) is creeping along his way, but he can still score in double-digits. He's also one of the few sports players who 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 medalist (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, with whom he finally won a championship. 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.
- Luol Deng — A 6'7" small forward from what's now South Sudan by way of Egypt, London and Duke, Deng signed with the Heat as a free agent in the 2014 offseason. He's best known for his time with the Chicago Bulls, where he 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 Bulls playoff run post-MJ (though missing out on the 2005 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.
- Also noted as being the unwitting trigger for the 2015 sale of the Atlanta Hawks.Explanation
- Alonzo Mourning was a center, and perhaps the only true center for the Heat. His #33 jersey has been retired by Miami, and he entered the Hall of Fame in 2014. 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 standoffish 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 Alonzo's leg. As for some clever trivia, he was drafted 2nd overall by the Charlotte Hornets, just after Shaquille 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 game-winner 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.
- Also went through a surprising amount of Character Development regarding his homophobia - he went from publicly saying that he hates gays, to admitting that he didn't know he actually hurt a lot of people with that statement. He's now working with The Trevor Project and The YES Institute, which he has done to educate himself on gay, lesbian and transgendered issues.
- 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 in Indianapolis and college at the University of Cincinnati, 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.
- Sidney Moncrief was a 6-4 guard out of Arkansas who played all but the last of his 11 NBA seasons with the Bucks (finishing in 1990 with the Hawks). Picked by the Bucks in the first round in 1979, he quickly established himself as a solid scorer and one of the league's best defenders, with none other than Michael Jordan saying, "He'll hound you everywhere you go, both ends of the court." Made five All-Star appearances and five All-NBA teamsnote , and won the first two Defensive Player of the Year awardsnote .
- Jabari Parker was the second overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, and the main catalyst of the Bucks resurgence in the following season. Sadly, he only played half a season before injuries sidelined him.
- Giannis Antetokounmponote , the "Greek Freak",note joined the Bucks in 2013, and with his flashy style soon became a fan favorite even if the team was losing a lot at the time. And even more once they started winning the following year! His game developed to the point that Bucks head coach Jason Kidd announced that Antetokounmpo would see time at point guard in 2016–17, and just before that season the Bucks signed him to a 4-year, $100 million extension. See this article from ESPN The Magazine for some astonishing physical facts. A teaser: His hands are even bigger than those of Kawhi Leonard (mentioned below), a player noted for his huge hands.
- Michael Carter-Williams begun on the Sixers, and despite the team being terrible excelled enough to be chosen as Rookie of the Year. The following year, to ensure Philly would get even more draft picks for the rebuild they sent him to the already jump-started Bucks.
- Ricky Rubio is the Spanish star point guard for the Timberwolves, who formed a power-duo with his captain, Kevin Love, before Love was traded to Cleveland. 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.
- Andrew Wiggins is a shooting guard from the Toronto area by way of U.S. (basketball) prep school and Kansas, drafted #1 by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, but was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves two months later alongside fellow Canadian #1 draft pick Anthony Bennett and Philadelphia 76ers power forward Thaddeous Young as a part of giving up Kevin Love. Wiggins was scouted as a player to have an athletic prowess similar to that of LeBron James himself. He comes from a strong athletic pedigree—his father is a former NBA player, and his mother a former Olympic medal-winning sprinter for Canada.
- Zach LaVine is a guard drafted #13 in 2014 by the Timberwolves. Played heavy minutes during his rookie season when Ricky Rubio was struggling with injuries and built up his confidence enough to win the 2015 Slam Dunk Contest, and won the Rising Stars MVP the next year, along with putting on a show for the ages in a Slam Dunk Contest duel with Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic reminiscent of Dominique Wilkins vs. Michael Jordan.
- Karl-Anthony Towns is a center drafted No. 1 overall in 2015 by the Timberwolves. After a prolific year at Kentucky, Towns was considered one of the best big man prospects in years, but not even the most optimistic fans would've predicted how dominant he would be right off the bat. Towns played every game in his rookie year, becoming a dominant two-way force in the paint and being just the fifth player to a unanimous vote for Rookie of the Year. Still just 20 years old after one NBA season, the sky is the limit for Towns. Though born and raised in New Jersey, he represents his mother's homeland of the Dominican Republic in international ball.
New Orleans Pelicans
- 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. Known for his lanky athletic prowess and his unibrow.
New York Knicks
- 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.
- John Starks went undrafted and started out at Golden State before being cut and making his way back to the NBA via the Continental Basketball Association, and spent the best years of his career as part of the 90's-era Knicks. A passionate - though at times hot-headed - competitor on offense and defense, he was the arch-nemesis of Reggie Miller during the Knicks vs. Pacers rivalry in the 90's.
- Anthony Mason was a point forward drafted by Portland in 1988, cut afterward, and ended up playing on various international teams and leagues until signing a deal with the Knicks in 1991. He quickly made himself known as a sixth man and later made the starting lineup of the Knicks due to his blue-collar play and ball handling. After being traded to Charlotte he ended up on several teams before finishing his career with Milwaukee, and unfortunately passed away in February 2015 due to congestive heart failure.
- Amar'e Stoudemire was until very recently one of the co-captains of 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. In February 2015, when the Knicks had the league's worst record, he asked for and got a buyout of his contract, hoping to catch on with a title contender; he wound up with the Mavericks. He then played the 2015–16 season with the Heat before signing a ceremonial contract to retire from the NBA as a Knick. Stoudemire, however, is continuing his playing career in Israel.
- 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 immediately became co-leader of the Knicks on his arrival, and after Stoudemire's departure from the team is now the undisputed leader.
- 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 call him a ball hog. 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.
Oklahoma City Thunder
- Russell Westbrook was The Lancer to Kevin Durant and the second wheel of the Thunder's former Big 3 (Durant, Westbrook, and Harden), playing at point guard, and is now the undisputed team leader after Durant left for Golden State. Since 2011, he's often been 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's streaky jump shots weren'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 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 before being traded to the Orlando Magic in the 2016 offseason, is a Congolese/Spanish power forward, famous for his frequent shot blocks (of which he's the all-time league leader on a per-minute basis). In the first round of the 2010 playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers, he became the 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. The Thunder even signed him to a four-year, $48 million contract, to make sure that he develops further. With Ibaka becoming a restricted free agent in 2016, and with the possibility of losing Durant (which in the end happened), the Thunder decided to trade him to the Magic to help restock their roster.
- 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 By the time he retired he was the last former-ABA player still active in the NBA.
- Allen Iverson was a shooting guard drafted first in the 1996 draft by the Sixers as the shortest first overall pick ever, and played with the Sixers for ten seasons before being traded to Denver on his eleventh. Despite his lack of height (he was listed as 6-foot-0), he was a tough and fearless scorer, winning the 2001 MVP and taking the Sixers to the NBA Finals against the Lakers where they lost in five games. He was also a very volatile personality off the court, but in a way became a trendsetter for the 2000's era via his no-nonsense attitude and fashion sense (corn rows, shooting sleeve, tattoos). Elected to the Hall of Fame alongside Shaq and Yao in 2016.
- Nerlens Noel was drafted in 2013, but started playing the next year as a result of a torn ACL in his rookie season. He became a standout player in a Sixers team built to be as bad as possible, and has helped aid in their rebuild. Hopes are enhanced for when he has better teammates!
- Joel Embiid was the Sixers doing again what happened with Noel: a player who did great in college but would sit out from his supposed debut year due to surgery (foot surgery in his case). The Cameroonian wound up missing a second year due to another surgery on the same foot, and didn't make his debut until the 2016–17 season.
- Connie Hawkins was a New York City high school star and playground legend playing on the University of Iowa's freshman teamnote when he became implicated in a point-shaving scandal. Despite no evidence being found against him, he was expelled from the school and banned from the NBA. He played for a year with the short-lived American Basketball League, winning the MVP award for that season. He then played with the Harlem Globetrotters for several years before joining the fledgling ABA with the Pittsburgh Pipers. He became the league's first MVP and playoff MVP when he led the team to the ABA championship in 1968. When the NBA lifted its ban on him in 1969, he joined the one-year-old Phoenix Suns at the age of 27; the team improved by 23 wins over the previous season and almost upset the Lakers (who had Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor) in the playoffs. He was the original "palm the ball" guy, even before Dr. J, able to move the ball anywhere he wanted one-handed and throw defenders off their game before passing, shooting, or driving to the hoop. He played with the Suns for four years, making the All-Star team each year, before being traded to the Lakers and playing a few more years there and with the Hawks. Despite losing what many felt could have been some of his best years to the ban, he made it to the Hall of Fame, and the Suns retired his number.
- "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 (and giving him a respectable 20 triple-doubles in regular-season play for his career). 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.
- Tom Chambers was an athletic white forward (no, not an oxymoron) who started off with the (then) San Diego Clippers and Seattle SuperSonics before joining the Phoenix Suns. A high flyer with a nice shooting touch, he is most known for his mullet and using Mark Jackson as a springboard for a near free-throw line two-handed dunk (this dunk is also a Game Breaker in Lakers vs. Celtics).
- Steve Nash was 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 the Suns, and having played the majority of his career there, it was at Dallas where his ball-handling skills were discovered — he was paired with Dirk Nowitzki in a Malone-Stockton fashion. Was sometimes criticized for a lack of talent on the defensive end of the floor, but 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). However, during his first season in L.A., he broke his leg in a freak collision with Portland's Damian Lillard (see below), which in turn aggravated long-standing back, nerve, and muscle issues. Nash only played a total of 65 games in his first two seasons with the Lakers, and was unable to play at all in 2014–15, officially retiring near the end of that season.
Portland Trail Blazers
- 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. Since 1990, he has been a color commentator for NBC and ESPN, and has gained the reputation of being a Cloudcuckoolander. Outside of basketball, Walton is well known for being a devoted fan of The Grateful Dead — He accompanied the band to Egypt for their famous 1978 concert at the Pyramids, attended hundreds of other shows, and often peppers his interviews and game commentary with references to their songs.
- His son Luke played 10 seasons in the league, mostly with the Lakers. He then went into coaching, landing with the Warriors as an assistant for their 2015 championship and record-setting 2016 team. He was named the Lakers' new head coach in the 2016 offseason.
- 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.
- He twice came within an inch of a quadruple-double, missing by a rebound in one game and an assist in the other. He got ten steals in each of those games.
- Arvydas Sabonis, a Lithuanian great who is also in the Hall of Fame, is another example of What Could Have Been (though infinitely less tragic than Dražen Petrović). 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. His son Domantas played two seasons of college basketball at Gonzaga before declaring for the 2016 NBA draft, and is now with the Thunder.
- 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 an early retirement, followed by a failed comeback attempt with 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, and helping the Blazers to the playoffs in his sophomore season.
- Jack Twyman & Maurice Stokes — Two Hall of Fame forwards, one black (Stokes) and one white (Twyman), 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; 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 (Twyman stayed around until 2012), but the fundraiser (which became a pro-am golf event after 1999) continued to benefit other needy ex-NBA players until the early 2000snote . Since 2013, the NBA has an end-of-season award for the league's "best teammate" that bears their names.
- 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. Also does a spot-on Avery Johnson impression.
- 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. Amusingly, a lot of footage has been taken of him returning to his flashy style of play during exhibition games and at the Orlando Pro-Am. Has a son named Jaxon who seems to have inherited his handles.
- 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.
San Antonio Spurs
- George Gervin was a shooting guard most known for his prolific scoring, trademark finger roll, and stoic demeanor (his nickname was "The Iceman"). Also known for his trademark poster, seated on a throne carved from ice. Coincidentally, he is also Gary Payton's childhood idol.
- 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. That two year gap meant he was still an "amateur" in 1988, allowing him to play for the bronze medal-winning Olympic team that year, which made his membership in the Dream Team in 1992 My Greatest Second Chance.
- Tim Duncan played for the San Antonio Spurs for 19 seasons: many-time All-Star, 10-time first-team All-NBA, eight-time Defensive Team member, two-time MVP, five-time champion and three-time Finals MVP. Duncan has been said by many to be the greatest power forward in NBA history and is a shoo-in for the 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. His retirement during the 2016 offseason matched his personality—no farewell tour, no hype, just a statement to the press.
- Tony Parker is now the sole captain of the San Antonio Spurs following Duncan's retirement. 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. One of the few players with a decidedly unique Signature Move, the pass between the legs of an opponent. 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 has become the newest 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 defense on LeBron in the 2014 Finals, in which he was named MVP. Since then, his offensive game has dramatically improved. Apart from his style of play (for which he gained back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards), he is known for his extremely quiet demeanor, his enormous hands (though not as big as those of the "Greek Freak"), his thriftiness (despite a big contract, he drives a nearly 20-year-old SUV and has an endorsement deal with a restaurant chain that gives him discount coupons), and his name, which has proven to be a magnet for puns and nicknames.
Seattle SuperSonics (1967-2008)
- Shawn Kemp was a power forward known for his athleticism and dunking ability; most notable was the infamous "Lister Blister", where he jumped on a defender and pointed to him after the dunk. Also had a potent mid-range jump shot to go with his dunks; was traded to Cleveland in the 1997 season and quickly faded away due to personal problems.
- Gary Payton was a point guard 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 (in Game 6 of the 1996 Finals, he held Michael Jordan to 22 points on 5 of 19 shooting, arguably Jordan's worst Finals game ever), 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.
- Vince Carter was a shooting guard / small forward drafted by the Raptors out of the University of North Carolina in 1998. He quickly made a name for himself due to his awe-inspiring and borderline superhuman dunks, gaining the nicknames "Vinsanity" and "Half-Man, Half Amazing". His athleticism took him to the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest where he wowed the crowd with a dazzling array of finishes, and even further into the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where he actually jumped over a seven-foot player in-game for a dunk. Was traded to the New Jersey Nets after a few years of inefficient play, then became a journeyman, currently playing for the Memphis Grizzlies.
- "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 before Kobe made it 20 in his final season. 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. Also associated with short shorts, which he continued to wear even as the whole league adopted baggier ones.
- 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.
- Andrei Kirilenko, one of the most versatile forwards of the early 21st century, arrived in the NBA from his homeland of Russia in 2001 and played 13 seasons in the league, the first 10 of them for the Jazz. Throughout his career, he was a threat on both offense and defense, and three times he even accomplished the rare feat of a "5x5"—at least five of all the major statistical categories of points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals in a game. During the lockout season of 2011–12, he returned to Russia to play for his former club of CSKA Moscow; he then came back with the Timberwolves and Nets. Then, during the 2014–15 season, he was traded to the Sixers, but refused to report for the blatantly tanking team; he was first suspended and then released. He played the last months of that season in Russia with CSKA before announcing his retirement. He's also known for his love of puns—throughout his pro career, he wore the number 47, inevitably leading to the nickname "AK-47".note Shortly after his retirement, he became head of the Russian Basketball Federation.
- 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.