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Who Are The Best Players On Teams That Won And Contended For Titles? (Section B)

(CLICK HERE if you missed Section A.)

Section B: Who are the Best Players on Championship and Contending Teams?

The first section established a list of the 117 best players in the NBA since 1955-56. This was done based upon regular season performances. Now we want to make a list of the very best players on the 58 NBA champions since 1955-56. To fill out the analysis and to see what patterns emerge we will also determine the best players on the teams that lost in the Finals and the best player on each of the two teams that lost in the conference finals every year. (In other words, the best players on each of the NBA’s “final four” teams every season.)

Finally, we will also determine the 2nd best player on the championship team every year, and the 2nd best player on the team that lost in the finals every year, to see what patterns emerge. So altogether, I am making six selections for every season since 1955-56.

I use the MVP vote standings and All-NBA team status, rather than my own opinion, to pick a winner in every case where possible. In most cases it was a no-brainer without even relying upon the MVP or All-NBA data. A few times data was not helpful and I had to use my own judgment, using team statistics for the season. There was one truly difficult decision: who was the best player on the 1990 Pistons? Isiah Thomas or Joe Dumars? In every respect they were almost identical. After consulting a few Pistons aficionados, I went with Isiah, but it was basically a coin toss. It has no bearing on the overall findings.

  Best 2nd Best 2nd Best RUp ECF &
Year Player  Best          Runner-up (if superstar) WCF best
13--- James Wade Duncan Parker George & M. Gasol
12--- James Wade Durant Westbrook Rondo & Parker
11---  Nowitzki Chandler James Wade Rose & Durant
10--- Bryant Gasol Rondo Garnett Howard & Nash
           
09--- Bryant Gasol Howard   James & Billups
08-- Garnett Pierce  Bryant   Billups & Duncan
07--- Duncan Ginobili James   Billups & Boozer
06---    Wade  S. O’Neal     Nowitzki   Billups & Nash 
05---    Duncan Parker B. Wallace Billups S. O’Neal & Nash 
04---    B. Wallace Billups S. O’Neal Bryant J. O’Neal & Garnett
03---    Duncan Robinson Kidd   B. Wallace & Nowitzki 
02---    S. O’Neal Bryant Kidd   Pierce & Webber 
01---    S. O’Neal Bryant Iverson   R. Allen & Duncan
00---    S. O’Neal Bryant Rose   Houston & R. Wallace
           
99---    Duncan Robinson Ewing   R. Miller &  R. Wallace
98---    Jordan Pippen K. Malone Stockton R. Miller & S. O’Neal
97---    Jordan Pippen K. Malone Stockton Hardaway & Olajuwon
96---    Jordan Pippen Payton Kemp S. O’Neal & K. Malone
95---    Olajuwon Drexler S. O’Neal Hardaway R. Miller & Robinson
94---    Olajuwon O. Thorpe Ewing   R. Miller & K. Malone
93---    Jordan Pippen Barkley K. Johnson Ewing & Kemp
92---    Jordan Pippen Drexler   Price & K. Malone
91---    Jordan Pippen Magic   Dumars & Drexler
90---    Thomas Dumars Drexler   Jordan & Chambers
           
89---    Thomas Dumars Magic   Jordan & K. Johnson
88---    Magic Scott Thomas Dumars Bird & Aguirre
87---    Magic Abdul-Jabbar Bird McHale Thomas & D. Ellis
86---    Bird McHale Olajuwon Sampson Moncrief & Magic
85---    Magic Abdul-Jabbar Bird McHale M. Malone & English
84---    Bird Parish Magic A-Jabbar Moncrief & W. Davis
83---    M. Malone  Erving Magic A-Jabbar Moncrief & Gervin
82---    Magic Abdul-Jabbar Erving B. Jones Bird & Gervin
81---    Bird Parish M. Malone   Erving & Birdsong
80---    Abdul-Jabbar Magic Erving B. Jones Bird & G. Williams
           
79---    D. Johnson G. Williams Hayes   Gervin & Westphal
78---    Hayes Unseld G. Williams D. Johnson Erving & Thompson
77---    Walton M. Lucas Erving McGinniss Malone & Abdul-Jabbar
76---   Cowens   Havlicek Westphal   Chones & Barry   
75---   Barry Wilkes Hayes Unseld  Cowens & Van Lier
74---    Cowens Havlicek Abdul-Jabbar Robertson Frazier & B. Love
73---    Frazier DeBusschere West Wilt C. Cowens & Barry
72---    West Chamberlain Frazier Lucas Havlicek & A-Jabbar
71---    Abdul-Jabbar Robertson Monroe Unseld Reed & West
70---    Reed Frazier West Wilt C. A-Jabbar & Hudson
           
69---    Russell Havlicek Baylor Wilt C. Reed & Beatty
68---    Russell Havlicek Baylor West Wilt C. & Thurmond
67---    Chamberlain Greer Barry Thurmond Russell & Bridges
66---    Russell S. Jones West Baylor Chamberlain & Beatty
65---    Russell S. Jones West Baylor Greer & Bellamy
64---    Russell S. Jones Chamberlain   Robertson & Pettit
63---    Russell Cousy Baylor West Robertson & Pettit
62---    Russell Cousy West Baylor Wilt C. & B. Howell
61---    Russell Heinsohn Pettit Hagan Schayes & Baylor
60---    Russell Cousy Pettit Hagan Chamberlain & Baylor
           
59---    Russell Cousy Baylor   Schayes & Pettit
58---    Pettit Hagan Russell Cousy Arizin & Yardley
57---    Cousy Russell Pettit   Schayes & Lovellette
56--- Arizin Johnston Yardley   Schayes & Pettit

 

Now that we have determined who the best players have been on the NBA’s “final four” teams for the past 52 years we get to the fun part: seeing how many of these players rank on the super-elite list of superstars complied in part one. I hope you are sitting down.

Platinum Medal Superstars

  Best  2nd  Best 2nd Best ECF &
  Player Best Runner-Up Runner-Up WCF Best
1. Michael Jordan 6       2
2. Bill Russell 10 1 1   1
3. K. Abdul-Jabbar 2 3 1 2 3
4. Larry Bird 3   2   3
5. LeBron James 2   2   1
6. Magic Johnson 4 1 4   1
6. Bob Pettit 1   3   4
8. David Robinson   2     1
9. Kobe Bryant 2 3 1 1  
9. Tim Duncan 4   1   2
11. Jerry West 1   5 2 1
12. Wilt Chamberlain 1 1 1 3 4
13. Bob Cousy 1 4   1  
13a. Bill Walton 1         
           
           
Platinum Medal           
Superstar totals: 38 15 21 9 23
Total Seasons 58 58 58 58 116

Gold Medal Superstars

  Best  2nd  Best 2nd Best ECF &
  Player Best Runner-Up Runner-Up WCF Best
13. Karl Malone     2   3
14. Kevin Durant     1   1
15. Elgin Baylor     4 3 2
17. Oscar Robertson   1   1 2
18. Shaquille O’Neal 3 1 2   3
19. Dwight Howard     1   1
20Hakeem Olajuwon 2   1   1
21. Julius Erving   1 3   2
22. Chris Paul             
23. Bill Sharman*          
24. Kevin Garnett 1     1 1
25. Moses Malone 1   1   2
26. Dolph Schayes*           4
27. George Gervin          3
28. Dirk Nowitzki 1   1   1
29. John Havlicek   4     1
29. Charles Barkley     1    2
31. Walt Frazier 1 1 1   1
31a. Sidney Moncrief         3
31b. Maurice Stokes          
           
Gold Medal           
Superstar totals: 9 8 18 5 33
Total Seasons 58 58 58 58 116

Silver Medal Superstars

  Best  2nd  Best 2nd Best ECF &
  Player Best Runner-Up Runner-Up WCF Best
32. John Stockton       2  
33. Gary Payton     1    
34. Dwyane Wade  1 2   1  
35. Tracy McGrady          
36. Steve Nash         3
36. Patrick Ewing     2   1
38. Scottie Pippen   6      
39. Rick Barry 1   1   2
40. Paul Arizin* 1       1
40. Derrick Rose         1
42. Jason Kidd     2    
43. Nate Archibald          
44. Dave Cowens 2       2
45. Bob McAdoo          
46. Elvin Hayes 1   2    
47. Grant Hill          
48. Allen Iverson     1    
49. Isiah Thomas 2   1   1
50. Ben Wallace 1   1   1
51. Alonzo Mourning                       
62. Sam Jones   3      
53. Dominique Wilkins          
54. Dennis Rodman          
55. Spencer Haywood*          
56. Amare Stoudemire          
57. Billy Cunningham          
58. Blake Griffin            
58a. Willis Reed 1       2
58b. George Yardley     1   1
58c. David Thompson         1
58d. Gus Johnson          
58e. Neil Johnston   1         
58g. Paul Westphal     1   1
58f. Mark Price         1
           
           
Silver Medal           
Superstar totals: 10 12 13 1 18
Total Seasons 58 58 58 57 116

 

Bronze Medal Superstars

  Best  2nd  Best 2nd Best ECF &
  Player Best Runner-Up Runner-Up WCF Best
59. Dennis Johnson 1       1
60. Rajon Rondo     1   1
61. Pete Maravich          
62. Chris Webber         1
62. Clyde Drexler   1 2   1
64. Carmelo Anthony          
64. Jerry Lucas       1  
66. Russell Westbrook       1  
67. Kevin McHale   1   2  
68. Tim Hardaway         1
69. Dave Bing          
70. Alex English         1
70. Bernard King          
72. Norm Van Lier         1
72. Nate Thurmond         1
74. Tony Parker   1   1  
74. Anfernee Hardaway       1  
74. Tommy Heinsohn   1      
77. Marques Johnson          
78. Dikembe Mutombo          
79. Bobby Jones       2  
79. Robert Parish   2      
81. Hal Greer   1     1
81. Jack Twyman          
81. Richie Guerin          
84. Shawn Kemp       1 1
85. Kevin Love          
86. Chauncey Billups
  1                    1               4
86. Joe Dumars
  2   1 1
86. Wes Unseld   1   2
86. Dave DeBusschere   1   2  
86. Manu Ginobili   1      
92. Bob Lanier  
     
93. Paul Pierce                 1                   2
94. Chris Mullin
 
   
95. Gus Williams                 1                 1                  1
95. Paul George  

  1
95a. Kevin Johnson       1 1
95b. Cliff Hagan   1   2  
95c. George McGinnis       1  
95d. Yao Ming          
95e.  M.R. Richardson        
95f.  Gilbert Arenas             
95g. Gene Shue          
95h. Ralph Sampson       1  
95i.  Brandon Roy          
95j.  Jermaine O’Neal         1
95k. Bob Love         1
95l.  Artis Gilmore          
           
           
Bronze Medal           
Superstar totals: 1 17 4 20 21
Total Seasons 58 58 58 58 116

 

  Best  2nd  Best 2nd Best ECF &
  Player Best Runner-Up Runner-Up WCF Best
Platinum 38 15 21 9 23
Gold 9 8 18 5 33
Silver  10 12 13 1 18
Bronze 1 17 4 20 21
           
           
Combined          
Superstar           
Totals: 58 52 56 35 95
Total Seasons 58 58 58 58 116
           
All Other NBA           
Players           
Totals:  0 6 2 23 21
Total Seasons 58 58 58 58 116

Now ponder this above chart for a few moments. The implications are so striking, they approach being self-evident. Even if one quibbles with the precise accuracy of the superstar list I have complied, this is nowhere near the gray area; the results are striking, overwhelming, and undeniable. 

For starters: every single NBA champion has been led by a player on this list. So if your team does not have as its best player one of these guys, or someone likely to get on the list, your chances are virtually nil.

It gets worse, or better, depending if your team has one of these guys. It is not just about winning titles; it is about getting within sniffing distance of winning titles.  All but one of the losers in the NBA Finals since 1955-56 have featured one of these superstars. (The 1970 Bullets, who lost in the Finals, had superstar Wes Unseld as their 2nd best player, and non-superstar Earl Monroe as their best player.) The exception? The 2000 Pacers. So dig this: only one of the 116 teams that have played in the NBA Finals did not have a player from the superstar list in his functional prime. There is more: Eighty percent of the 116 teams that lost in the conference finals over the past 57 years – the first two losers in the NBA’s “final four” so to speak – were led by players from this list.

And that barely begins to capture was a gated community NBA championships live in. The closer to the top of the superstar 95 list, the more likely a player is to being the best player on a championship team. The closer to the bottom of this list of superstars, the more likely the player is on the outside looking in. Fully 107 of the 116 Finals teams had at least a qualifying silver medal superstar as their best player; i.e. basically an all-time top 60 player. And if a team does not have a player is his prime from this list, or soon to be on this list, they have but a slim chance to even make the conference finals, let alone dream about playing in the finals or winning a title.

It is a merciless system weighted toward the superstar.

CLICK HERE to read Section C.

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