The Larry O’Brien trophy is the sole thing player’s aim to hold their entire playing career no matter how many they have already held it. Some are fortunate to get repeated chances to capture their titles, and then there are others who have never been fortunate enough despite their talent and skill to hold the trophy.
The players included would be of an era, I as NBA fan, have heard off and seen (there’s one exception).
On what basis you ask?
Career stats and achievements!
Patrick Ewing:- A 11-time all-star Ewing was drafted by the New York Knicks as the first overall pick in the 1985 NBA Draft. He led the Knicks to numerous runs at the Finals in the 90’s but we all knew who ruled the NBA during the 90’s. He finally made it to the 1999 NBA finals only to swept by the San Antonio Spurs.
A member of the 1992 Dream team and Rookie of the Year in 1986 Ewing’s achievements and feats are overshadowed by the fact that he could never mange to win a ring.
Let’s start with the 5 now:-
5. Reggie Miller (Indiana Pacers):-
A 5 time All-Star, Reggie Miller was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in the 1987 NBA Draft as the 11th pick in the first round ahead of more popular pick of Indiana native Steve Alford.
Miller established himself as Pacers primary offensive threat in 1992 when Chuck Person was traded. He became a household name in the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Knicks, credit to a phenomenal performance in Game 5 where he scored 39 to lead the Pacers to victory at the Garden.
The following year he gave the world the honor of witnessing another spectacle. He scored 8 points in 8.9 seconds in game 1 of the semifinals series with the Knicks. Pacers would eventually lose to the Orlando Magic in the Conference finals after beating the Knicks in 7 games.
After missing the Playoffs in 1997, the Pacers returned to the Conference Finals only to meet the Reigning double world champions The Chicago Bulls. They took the series to seven games and led in the final minutes of the fourth quarter but faded only to lose once again in the Conference Finals.
In the post season of 1999-2000 the Pacers made the Conference Finals for the fifth time in seven years where they finally beat the Knicks in 6 games to reach their first NBA finals.
Averaging 24.3 points for the Finals series Reggie Miller saw his dream to lift the trophy being shattered by the Shaquille O’Neal and Los Angeles Lakers.
Known for his Clutch performances and Reggie Miller lead the league in all time three point field goals made and is one of among 6 players ever to be part of the 50-40-90 group.
4. John Stockton (Utah Jazz):-
He played for the Jazz his whole career lasting 21 years from 1984 to 2003. He averages a career double double with 13.1 points and 10.5 assists per game. He leads the NBA in most career assists by a difference of 3000 and most career steals with 3,265 of them. He has missed only 22 games all his career of which 18 was in one season.
One of his career highlights was scoring the last 9 points in the Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns IN 1997 including a buzzer beating 3 over Charles Barkley. This took the Jazz to consecutive Finals appearances where they lost to the Chicago Bulls either of the times.
The 10-time All-Star and member of the 1992 Dream Team has his #12 Jersey retired by the Utah Jazz.
3. Charles Barkley (Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, and Houston Rockets):-
Drafted by the 76ers as 5th overall in the 1984 draft pick, “Chuck” as one of his nicknames stands was named the league’s MVP in 1993 and is a 11 time All-Star.
He took the Phoenix Suns to the NBA finals in his first season, after he was traded in 1993, with the franchise and averaged a double double for the season. Despite Barkley’s comments about it being the Suns’ destiny to win the title, they were defeated by the Bulls in 6 games. In game 4 Barkley recorded a triple double with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
On 4 years with the Suns, he was traded to the Houston Rockets. This was his last chance at a title shot. In his first year with the Rockets he primarily focused on rebounding averaging 13.5, second best in his career. Barkley averaged 17.9 points and 12.0 rebounds per game in the Conference Finals the Rockets played against the Jazz.
However his years with the Rockets were injury plagued and did not reap the results he had hoped for.
2. Karl Malone (Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers):-
This 6’9 forward joined Stockton at Utah Jazz when they drafted him 13th overall pick for the 1985 NBA Draft.
From 1988-1995 Malone consistently came big for the Jazz by averaging a double double for 9 seasons consecutively. Much to disappointment of the fans the Jazz never made it to Conference Finals till 1997. They always lost in the first or the second round of the post season.
The three years 1997-1999 were definitely Malone’s best. He won two league MVP awards in that time and made it to consecutive Finals appearances, losing both times to Michael Jordan lead Chicago Bulls.
He stayed with the Jazz through till 2003 despite them failing to be regular title contenders again after 1998. Once Stockton announced his retirement, Malone being a free agent joined the Los Angeles Lakers in a bid for his first championship.
Lakers did make it to the Playoffs despite Malone missing 39 games of the season. They beat the Rockets, Spurs and Timberwolves to face the Detroit Pistons in the Finals. As it turns out Malone would not be victorious here either as the Lakers lost in games.
1. Elgin Baylor (Los Angeles Lakers):-
He’s the only exception when it comes being in the list as he was not in an era I really talked about. Having said that he ranks at No.1 due to how tragic the denial to the title has been.
Baylor played 13 seasons for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers from 1958-1971. He was named a 11-time All-Star and made it to 10 All NBA teams. He averaged 34.8, 38 and 34 in consecutive seasons from 1960-1963.
His dominant play along with Jerry West’s contribution led the Lakers to 8 NBA finals appearances in the 60’s only to return empty handed each time after being beaten by the Bill Russell led dominant Celtics.
Going into the first few games of a new decade, he retired only to watch his team eventually grab the title. Though it was Jerry West’s sole title, Baylor would always consider him unfortunate.