When you poll your friends regarding “NBA Best Ever” player lists, there are only a few consensus players who are always mentioned in the top ten. Names like Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird typically come to mind.
The order where these players land is always subjective, but outside of just being flat out much better ballers than their peers, these players all have two main things in common: Championships and Hall of Fame membership.
Plain and simple, to be considered the best in your sport you must win championships. Typically, good players become great players once they win a title, and great players become legendary as they continue to pile up championship trophies. Gathering rings and other accolades along the way gain you automatic entry into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
For me, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever to play the game for a multitude of reasons—six NBA Finals MVP’s, five NBA MVP’s, all the scoring titles, the clutch shots, the NBA rings, the All-Defensive teams, etc.—but what I want to focus on here is the list of Hall of Fame players that never won a championship simply because #23 was in the league.
It is first important to note that Jordan was so dominating during his two runs with the Chicago Bulls, that most NBA fans recognize that the Houston Rockets' Hall of Fame duo of Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler would never have NBA rings if Jordan hadn't decided to see if he could hit a curveball.
Here is a short list of the other Hall of Fame greats who never had a chance to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy simply because Jordan wasn’t nice enough to share it with them:
HOF Players with no rings: Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton and Dominique Wilkins
HOF Nominees with no rings: Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson
These Hall of Fame players' talents and the imprints that they left on the game were so vivid that they gained entry into the coveted Hall without ever tasting championship sweetness. In just about any other era they would have certainly won a title, but they had the unfortunate situation of playing while Jordan was in his prime. Will this scenario ever play itself out again with a dominate player denying other future Hall of Fame players NBA rings? This brings me to the comparison between Dwyane Wade and Michael Jordan.
Now that Wade has surrounded himself with steady sidekicks LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the Heat era appears to be officially upon us. The confident trio has promised many titles, and I believe that they will not disappoint their fans. Along the way over the next six or seven years, Wade will deny other future Hall of Famers an NBA title just as Jordan did to the aforementioned ringless wonders.
As Wade getting his fingers measured becomes an annual ritual, he will close the door to championship glory for all of these other players. It’ll be a double whammy for Nowitzki this year as he already lost to Wade in the 2006 Finals.
Rose and the other Eastern Conference players better hope Wade gets a similar itch as Jordan did and opts to try his hand at baseball, or football, or some extreme sport or they will never even get to sniff the championship round like The Glide and The Dream did in the mid-90’s.
There will never be another Michael Jordan, but when Dirk, Derrick & Dwight are in their fifties and recount the great times that they had in their NBA years to family and friends, they will always stop short in disgust as they glance at their ringless hands and wished they didn't have to play the game during the Wade era.
6-12-11: Or Not. Heat blew it, Dirk played like a stud and deserved the ring. Kudos to the Mavs.