Fan votes have been collected and combined with those of Overtime Heroics writers to reveal the first edition of the Basketball Golden Hall. As previously covered, fans and writers will convene once a decade to take stock of the greatest athletes to have graced the court. We will reveal the First Edition in eleven parts followed by a wrap-up article.
The previous article covered the Golden Hall Bench, those 50 players regardless of position that were named to bring the total membership to 100.
This article reveals the five players who constitute the tenth-best possible starting lineup in basketball history. The next nine articles will feature the remaining top fives of all-time, with each team made up of a point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center.
Without further ado and in order of votes received, the Basketball Golden Hall Tenth Team (be sure to comment with whom you think we missed):
106.0 WS, 23.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 8.5 APG, 1.7 SPG
Only five times in the NBA’s 75-year history has a player averaged a triple-double for an entire season. Oscar Robertson achieved the feat once. The remaining four times were made by the hands of one player: Russell Westbrook.
What makes the feat remarkable is its dependence on a player displaying talent in multiple areas of the game. By its very definition, a triple-double denotes that its achiever totaled at least ten in three of five categories: points, assists, rebounds, blocks, or steals. The former two demonstrate offensive prowess and a willingness to share and not ball-hog. The latter two chronicle defensive skills, while the middle statistic captures an ability to keep the ball in the player’s team’s position.
By averaging a triple-double across four seasons, Westbrook demonstrated convincingly that he is a player whose talents transcend multiple dimensions of the game. As one of many rewards (including a Most Valuable Player award and votes for MVP in seven other seasons), the Californian has been named to the Golden Hall Tenth Team.
Tracy McGrady, SG
97.3 WS, 19.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.9 BPG
There is almost nothing more endearing to the American psyche than a comeback story. Every March, we root for Cinderella teams that usually lose to take March Madness. Almost every one of the most seen movies every year features a superhero falling and returning to achieve victory despite the odds. So it is fitting that the 2001 NBA Most Improved Player should continue his success after a rocky start and be honored as a Golden Haller.
Despite playing with his cousin and fellow Golden Haller Vince Carter in Toronto, McGrady never really took off. It was after signing with a team in native Florida that the guard began ascending. With the Orlando Magic, McGrady averaged 26.8 points per game in the 2001 regular season and a league-leading 33.8 in the playoffs. He repeated this first-place performance the following year with 30.8. The regular season became his playpen, leading in points per game in 2003 and 2004.
While never named Most Valuable Player, McGrady did earn votes in six seasons and was placed on the All-NBA team twice. His superstar status and prolific scoring land him easily on a Golden Hall starting squad.
Rick Barry, SF
128.9 WS, 24.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 4.9 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG
"If I wanted to go to Washington, I’d run for President."
This sentence sums up part of the player and person of Rick Barry. The forward was frequently in combative situations with owners, players, and fanbases. When his Oakland Oaks relocated to Washington, Barry was resistant but ultimately suited up. When the Caps moved again, this time to Virginia, the New Jerseyan was apoplectic. Declaring that he did not want his children growing up with Southern accents, Barry demanded and received a trade to the New York Nets.
Part of Barry’s dissatisfaction is easily understandable. In most professions, the employee has a choice of multiple similar jobs across the country. A lawyer, doctor, construction worker, or plumber can choose where to live and, by and large, find employment in that sector in her or his chosen location. Professional basketball is different. There is essentially only one (or two) choice, and in Barry’s era, the owners had grossly disproportionate control via the reserve clause. Without the American Basketball Association challenging the National Basketball Association’s monopoly, Barry would have been required to play in a location not of his choosing for a salary in which he had next-to-no say. The Oaks offered him a greater degree of freedom and compensation, and he took it. When the Oaks changed the nature of the deal by moving across the country, Barry was understandably upset.
Barry may have been punished or rewarded by the voters for his personality and contract stances, but his play certainly carried the day for most. Scoring points is the name of the game, and the small forward was prolific. He led his league’s playoffs in points per game in three consecutive seasons and in the regular season once. His (un)orthodox free throw shooting style (the granny shot) proved wholly successful. Barry led his league in free throw percentage seven times, set the ABA record for consecutive free throws made (23), and finished his career with a .893 free throw percentage.
79.4 WS, 21.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.3 BPG, 1.2 SPG
Humans have moved throughout our existence, from Africa to the other five inhabitable continents, within Africa, and across rivers, mountains, oceans, and invisible political borders. Throughout this Sapien timeline, there have been persons who found themselves living with a community without being fully adopted by that community. Prehistoric tribes sometimes tolerated the wandering nomad in their camps without absorbing him into their collective. Medieval peoples often routinely discriminated against religious minorities and denied them equal respect under the law and in lived practice. Statelessness is perhaps a modern manifestation of this phenomenon. Today, there are millions of people residing in nation-states without being recognized as citizens or even legal residents. This determination results in a perilous situation whereby some people cannot contact law enforcement in response to crimes for fear of being deported or imprisoned and cannot travel to see family and friends in times of joy or even need.
This is the world into which Giannis Antetokounmpo was born. Born in Athens, his parents were Nigerian nationals who moved to the ancient capital without legal papers. Greece does not automatically recognize persons born in its territory as Greek citizens; instead, only those born of Greek citizen parents can be full members of society. Nigeria likewise did not recognize Antetokounmpo as a citizen. As a result, the son of Lagosians and Athenian natives could not travel out of the country, could not vote, could not participate as a legal member of his community, and endured the inherent psychological harm of not being recognized as a full person by his native or ancestral kinsmen.
Fortunately for Antetokounmpo, through his innate talent and committed determination, he demanded recognition through his performance on the court. As a teenager, he played for the Zografou Philathletic Athletic Union. Despite its lower-tier league, Antetokounmpo was recognized as a rising star and named to the Greek League all-star game. NBA teams took notice, and a high-level draft pick was likely. It was then and only then that the Hellenic Republic deemed Antetokounmpo as worthy of legal recognition, conferring citizenship upon him. The Federal Republic of Nigeria followed suit two years later.
In his career with the Milwaukee Bucks, the forward has steadily improved year after year. Named to the NBA All-Second Team in 2017 and 2018, he graduated to All-First Team honors in 2019, 2020, and 2021. After finishing seventh and then sixth in voting, Antetokounmpo was recognized as the league’s Most Valuable Player in consecutive seasons. Following several respectable but shortcoming postseason campaigns, his Bucks sealed the deal with their first NBA Finals victory in 50 years in 2021.
Lisa Leslie, C
59.8 WS, 17.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, 2.3 BPG, 1.4 SPG
Playing an entire career with one team typically earns the respect of fans. The single-club tenure displays a certain level of commitment and fosters the perhaps delusional fan belief that players are competing for their city, channeling some deep-seated need for a group’s champion to defeat its rival. Couple this professional consistency along with a true national team career, and you get Lisa Leslie as the starting center on the Golden Hall Tenth Team.
After an almost unparalleled collegiate career with the Southern California Trojans, Leslie stayed in the region by joining the Los Angeles Sparks. Competing for the club in its first 12 seasons, the Californian posted impressive numbers in both the regular and postseasons. Her dominance has withstood the test of time, as Leslie still ranks second in all-time blocks, fifth in rebounds, ninth in points, and 16th in steals. With this performance, she led her Sparks to back-to-back titles.
Many stars spend just a cycle or two with the national squad. Not so for Lisa Leslie. She suited up for her country in seven top-level competitions, bringing home two World Cup golds, one World Cup bronze, and four Olympic golds. Across 24 Olympic games, Leslie averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.2 blocks, and 1.1 steals. Her career Olympic totals put her at second all-time in rebounds, second in blocks, third in points, eleventh in steals, and twenty-second in assists. The Golden Hall would have been incomplete without Lisa Leslie.
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