Hall Of Fame NBA Legacies On The Line In The Finals
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA Finals are underway, with the Los Angeles Lakers winning game one in dominant fashion. The Miami Heat, who skated through the Eastern Conference, appear to have their hands full with LeBron James, inarguably the greatest player of the modern generation, and one of the two best players of all time. Though James has cemented his legacy, how are other players’ legacies being altered by the NBA Finals?
Lakers NBA Finals Legacies
LeBron James: While James is universally viewed as the only true competitor, if not equal to Michael Jordan in the annals of basketball, he can still add to his NBA legacy. James can add a fourth NBA title, tying fellow 21st century great Shaquille O’Neale in total championships won.
The future Hall of Famers already tied fellow Laker great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the third most Finals appearances all-time with 10. Only Bill Russell (12) and Sam Jones (11) have more. It wouldn’t be stunning to see James tie or surpass Russell before his career his over.
James can become the first player in NBA history to win the Finals MVP trophy with three different teams. As it stands, James is already one of three players, (Abdul-Jabbar and Kawhi Leonard) to win Finals MVP trophies with two different franchises.
While there is little James can do to outright surpass Jordan as the greatest player in NBA history, he continues to cement his legacy as standing head and shoulders above his contemporaries.
Anthony Davis: Though it was only a formality at this point, Lakers’ big man Anthony Davis can lock in his Hall of Fame future with a championship victory. Davis already has a pedigree worthy of enshrinement (seven All-Star appearances, four All-NBA teams, four All-Defensive teams), but adding a Finals ring elevates him into the conversation of other all-timers.
Davis can join Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant as one-time championship winners, with a chance to pass them in future seasons as he continues to build on his legacy. Though he’s yet to earn a regular-season MVP award, Davis has also inserted his name into the conversation along with Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden as the best player in the third tier of modern stars behind James who stands alone in the top tier, and the likes of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Leonard in tier two.
Dwight Howard: Perhaps no player on the Lakers will be aided more by winning a championship than Dwight Howard. At one point one of the most dominant players in the league, Howard’s legacy was largely derailed by inconsistent effort, injuries, and having earned a reputation as a non-winner.
Howard’s resume is absolutely Hall of Fame worthy, but a championship would further serve to eliminate any argument. With eight All-Star appearances, eight All-NBA appearances, five All-Defensive team appearances, and three Defensive Player of the Year awards, the prep-to-pro star should already be a no debate Hall of Famer. If he can win a ring with the Lakers, he’ll rightfully earn his place as one of the best players in the NBA over the last two decades.
Rajon Rondo: In a league driven by statistical accomplishments, Rajon Rondo likely doesn’t have a prayer of making the basketball Hall of Fame. However, the do it all point guard is on the verge of winning a title with both the Boston Celtics and Lakers, the two greatest franchises in NBA history. While his role has diminished from his time in Boston, he’s proven to be a critical role player one again alongside James and Davis.
Rondo won’t be regarded as an All-Time great, but with four All-Star appearances, four All-Defensive team nods, one All-NBA appearance, and two potential championship rings, the former Kentucky guard can join the ranks of Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, and Chris Webber as the best modern players not to make the Hall of Fame.
Danny Green: Even less so than Rondo, Danny Green has zero chance of making the Hall 0f Fame. Heck, he hasn’t even made an All-Star team. However, if the Lakers go onto win the championship, Green will have earned his third ring on his third different team.
With one All-Defensive team appearance under his belt, and potentially three championships, Green belongs in the conversation as one of the best role players in recent memory, and a preeminent example of the modern 3-and-D wing.
Heat NBA Finals Legacies
While the Lakers look to be clear favorites to win the championship, especially with injuries to Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, the Heat have legacies on the line that will be impacted by their appearances in the Finals.
Jimmy Butler: If his career ended immediately following this postseason, he probably isn’t a Hall of Famer. But earning a trip to the finals as the best player on his team has already gone a long way to ensuring a future birth in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Butler’s five All-Star appearances, three All-NBA teams, and four All-Defensive team nods had him teetering on a Hall of Fame resume. Now, with a Finals appearance, he’s gotten even closer. If the Heat can pull off the comeback and win a ring, Butler becomes a no-doubt Hall of Famer upon his retirement. Just making the Finals gives him the nod over other former good-but-not-great stars like Joe Johnson.
Bam Adebayo: It’s far too early to discuss Bam Adebayo as a potential Hall of Famer. But with one All-Star appearance under his belt, as well as an All-Defensive team, and now helping lead the Heat to the Finals, Adebayo has more than cemented himself into the conversation with Nikola Jokic, Jason Tatum, and Donovan Mitchell as one of the brightest young stars in the game.
As of today, Adebayo can say he is the second-best player on a Finals team, no other current player who has been in the league three years or fewer can claim that.
Andre Iguodala: Perhaps no player in the NBA has a more debatable Hall of Fame resume than Andre Iguodala. Though he’s been relegated to spot duty for the Heat in this playoff run, Iguodala has now appeared in each of the last six Finals with either the Golden Warriors or the Heat.
Beyond simply sitting on the bench for a series of teams that made the Finals a la James Jones, Iggy has been enormously consequential for both Golden State and Miami. On top of clutch offensive and defensive plays in the biggest games, Iguodala won the Finals MVP award in 2015 over teammates Curry and Klay Thompson.
But despite his three championship rings with the Warriors, Iguodala has made only one All-Star game, two All-Defensive teams, and the All-Rookie team. He’s in the discussion for the greatest role player of all time, does that alone make Iguodala worthy of the Hall of Fame? An additional championship would go a long way.
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