Top 10 Greatest Single-Franchise NBA Players

Tags: #LarryBird ,   #DavidRobinson ,   #MagicJohnson ,   #NBA ,   #KobeBryant

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2021-03-11 15:36:22

Loyalty is a rare quality in professional sports, and that includes the NBA. Some of the most iconic stars like Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, or Karl Malone spent their final seasons in different uniforms than those that made them famous. However, we still have more than enough legends from all NBA eras that stuck to their teams! So, let's see who earned his place in our Top 10 Single-Franchise NBA Players list.

10. Reggie Miller

Look at the best moments from Reggie Miller's career

Reggie Miller was picked by the Indiana Pacers in 1987 and spent 18 years playing for the team. Still, he had a rough start, as fans were upset that he was chosen instead of local hero Steve Alford. It took Reggie five years to become the franchise player and turn Indiana into one of the league's best teams during the nineties. 

In 2000, Miller played his only NBA Finals, as the Pacers lost to Lakers 4-2. However, many will better remember the seven-game epic with Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals in 1998. No other team took the Bulls to a decider during their dynasty run! Miller was not only a colossal scorer but also one of the best three-point shooters in NBA history, as well as a terrific clutch performer!

9. John Stockton

John Stockton was the king of assists

If you didn't know anything about him, could you ever guess that John Stockton was a basketball player? Stockton played in the league for 19 years (1984-2003), and his Utah Jazz made the playoffs every time! Best known as a fantastic passer, Stockton was also a tremendous defender. Together with Karl Malone, he created one of the best tandems in NBA history, with their pick and roll play proved unstoppable.

Even at his career's twilight, Stockton stayed critical to his team's success and was a starter at 41. Unfortunately, he never won an NBA ring, like many other legends who were victims of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Still, they were the only team to challenge them twice for the title. 

8. David Robinson

Prime David Robinson was a dominant force

David Robinson was the first pick on the draft in 1987, so he looked like an obvious choice for the San Antonio Spurs. However, they had to be patient, as The Admiral joined them only two years later, after completing his military service. This meant that he entered the league at 24, coming to the team with the worst record in its history.

However, in his rookie season, Spurs won 35 games more and were close to advancing to the Western Conference finals! Still, Robinson made his first NBA Playoffs final only in 1999, where coupled with young Tim Duncan, he finally won the title. Aged 37, he finished his last NBA season with another triumph in 2003. Robinson was a terrific scorer, rebounder, and blocker, making him a constant threat.

7. John Havlicek

John Havlicek accepted any role in the Boston Celtics

It's really to argue against the man who played eight NBA finals and won them all! While Havlicek was lucky to spend his career in the mighty Boston Celtics, he was also an important puzzle piece. Many don't know that Havlicek was a multi-sport athlete as he was an excellent wide receiver and was even drafted by the Cleveland Browns. However, he made the right choice.

Nicknamed Hondo, he was a dream of every coach and was often the best sixth man in the league. He was also one of the best all-arounders, with excellent shooting, assisting, stealing, and rebounding abilities. Moreover, he had incredible stamina, so even in his final years, he spent more than 35 minutes on the court on average! In the 1970s, that was a miracle!

6. Julius Erving

Julius Erving revolutionized dunking

Unlike other players on the list, Dr. J did play for other teams, including the New York Nets (now Brooklyn Nets). However, the Philadelphia 76ers is his only NBA team. Even though he came to the league at 26, Erving played eleven seasons and won the NBA championship in 1983. Plus, he was an NBA All-Star each year!

While many remember him for his spectacular dunks that no one could match at the time, Erving was also a prolific scorer and often underrated defender. The best proof of his athletic abilities is that he averaged 32 minutes per game even in his last season! 

5. Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan is the best player The Spurs ever had

Tim Duncan was such a quiet man, with a facial expression indicating that he is either confused or scared all the time. However, on the court, he was unstoppable from day one. The San Antonio Spurs were lucky to win the lottery and choose Duncan as the number one pick, as they did with David Robinson a decade prior. 

Even though a lot of pressure was on his shoulders, Duncan quickly established himself as one of the best power forwards and centers. His performances led the Spurs to five titles in his almost two-decade-long career! Unlike many other NBA stars, Duncan was a team player who never chased numbers. His most important quality was consistency, which made him average a career double-double in points and rebounds. Tim Duncan might be the best power forward in history and is by far the most modest one.

4. Bill Russell

Bill Russell was a fantastic athlete

Bill Russell won an incredible 11 NBA championships even though he played only 13 seasons! Despite being MVP five times and having 12 NBA All-Star appearances, he is still underrated. While it's true that the league wasn't at the highest level in the fifties, Russell raised the bar with his out of this world performances.

Rebounding was his specialty, as his career average is above 20! Still, he was never a guy to put himself in front of the team and would often let someone else shoot. Russell was a defensive force and the only man who could stand toe-to-toe against Wilt Chamberlain, allowing him a single title.

3. Larry Bird

How can anyone this slow be so good?

When Bill Russel retired, many assumed that the Celtics wouldn't ever have a better player. Still, less than a decade later, he appeared!! Bird was a fantastic shooter from all positions, and even his free throw percentage is among the best in history. Simultaneously, he was a great rebounder, securing a double-double career average. 

Bird was by far the slowest of all the players on our list, but that didn't stop him from being a terrific defender who averaged close to two steals per game. Like every great player, he sustained a high level of play even in his last season when he was a force with almost double-double average. Oh, did we forgot to mention three NBA titles and as many MVP awards?

2. Kobe Bryant

Kobe carried Lakers on his shoulders for most of his career

Unlike all other guys on the list, Kobe Bryant wasn't selected by the team where he would stay for his whole career. Still, the Charlotte Hornets never wanted him anyway, so even before the 1996 draft, they decided to trade him to the Lakers. As he was still a teenager, Bryant wasn't a starter in his first two seasons but was patient while frequently showing his potential. In tandem with rule-changer Shaquille O'Neal, he made the Lakers one of the most dominant teams in history, winning three championships in a row.

But even without Shaq, Kobe stayed. Even when they hit rock bottom, he never asked to be traded. He didn't even reach the playoffs in his last four seasons but was still there, scoring at will, including 60 points in his final NBA game. Like his idol, the dominant Michael Jordan, Kobe was a great leader and a terrific clutch shooter, never afraid to take responsibility. Nonetheless, he could turn around games with his defense and was selected nine times in the NBA All-Defensive first team.  It's so unfortunate he left us so young.

1. Magic Johnson

Magic was the universal player that could fit in any team!

Many people don't know that Magic Johnson earned his nickname when he was only a 15-year-old. That would be massive pressure for someone so young, but Magic was different. Never was a man before that could successfully play at any position and adjust his play style to what was needed. While he's the best passer in league history, Magic was also excellent at scoring and making steals while being a decent rebounder.

With his incredible vision and basketball IQ, Johnson often confused his opponents with no-look passes and was a clear winner in his rivalry with Larry Bird. Plus, his loyalty was unquestioned, as the only team he ever coached were Los Angeles Lakers!

Every player on our list deserves respect, as they've shown loyalty even if that cost them money and the opportunity to win more titles. Still, this is what made them even more respectable.

Is Magic also your number one? What are some of your favorite single-franchise players? 

Photo: Unsplash


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