Hey Lebron, Get Off My Lawn!

Since the end of the NBA finals the refrain has been heard, “it is a travesty that NBA players are building super teams.” Several All-Time Greats will certainly come out and say they never would have left their team to join up with others to win championships.

This is a garbage argument.

Jordan, Russell, Wilt, Kareem, Bird, Kobe, Duncan, Magic, Jerry West and Lebron are the Top 10 Players of All Time according to Bill Simmons with a bit of editorializing from me to move Lebron into the group. These all time greats did not have to build super teams the way Lebron has because they were made for them. Together they have won 46 rings (including 5 that Kareem and Magic won together) representing 70% of modern NBA Championships.

I will gladly accept that a transcendent NBA player makes others on his team better. He can take a nice starter and make him an All-Star. But any player that ends up in Springfield was going to be an impact player regardless of who his teammates were. So to prove this point I’m going to use a higher bar.

So, how many of these rugged individualists bravely won multiple NBA Championships as the lone super star that carried their team. Umm, that would be zero.

That’s right, none (0, Zilch, Nada) of them have been won without at least one other Hall of Fame player on the roster. To find an NBA HOF’er who won multiple NBA Championships as the only HOF player on the team, you have to look to Isiah Thomas and the Bad Boy Pistons. I’ve had to make some assumptions on who will be elected to the Hall among active players but these are generally not close calls (Pao Gasol, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker).

Here is the breakdown of the NBA’s Top 10 with the number of championships and the number of other Hall of Fame players on each championship team.

Player Rings 0 1 2 3 4
Jordan1 6 0 ‘91, ‘92, ‘93, ‘96, ‘97, ‘98 0 0 0
Russell2 11 0 0 ‘66, ‘68, ‘69 ‘62, ‘64, ‘65 ‘57, ‘59, ‘60, ‘61, ‘63
Kareem 6 0 ‘71, ‘80 ‘82, ‘87, ‘88 ‘85 0
Bird 3 0 0 ‘81 ‘84 ‘86
Kobe3 5 0 ‘00, ‘01, ‘02,  ‘08, ‘09 0 0 0
Duncan4 5 0 ‘99 ‘05 ,‘07, ‘14 ‘03, 0
Magic 5 0 ‘80 ‘82, ‘87, ‘88 ‘85 0
Lebron5 2 0 0 ‘12,’13 0 0
Wilt 2 0 ‘67 ‘72
Jerry West 1 0 ‘72

Given these numbers, any team’s chance of being truly dominant and creating a dynasty is clearly dependent on having multiple Hall of Fame players.The complexities of the salary cap are one driving force. The other is that the league has gone from 8 teams in 1957 (Bill Russell’s rookie year) to 22 in 1980 (Bird/ Magic) to 23 in ’84 (Jordan) and now 30.

Players, pundits, analysts and fans who claim this is not how it should be done are simply old cranks who don’t like that Lebron, Carmelo and others are intelligently adapting to an NBA with an ever increasing number of teams. It is now a league in which you cannot build a team with 4 or 5 Hall of Fame players through the draft, free agency and trades unless the players acquiesce to it.

Winners find a way to win, I agree. But why doesn’t this way count?


1) ‘96-’98 teams also included Dennis Rodman who was no slouch

2) Assumes KC Jones elected as a coach. These numbers increase if we assume as a player.

3) Assumes Pao Gasol is a HOF’er

4) Assumes Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli are HOF’ers. ‘99 Championship team also included Sean Elliot pre-Injury

5) Assumes Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen are HOF’ers