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.
This article reveals the five players who constitute the ninth-best possible starting lineup in basketball history. The next eight 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 Ninth Team (be sure to comment with your ninth-best five):
Steve Nash, PG
129.7 WS, 14.3 PPG, 8.5 APG, 3.0 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG
If Giannis Antetokounmpo’s story illustrates the callousness with which many immigrants are treated, Steve Nash’s experience displays the ease with which citizens of certain nations can travel the world. Nash was born in South Africa to English and Welsh parents, both of whom held British citizenship. After moving the family to Canada while Nash was still an infant. He became a Canadian citizen, and both countries recognized him as one of their own. This status afforded Nash the legal ability to travel and play the game in different locales. Nash utilized this status to play collegiately in the United States.
Nash played well in the NCAA, and, after some initial hiccups, transitioned successfully into an NBA star. The British Columbian led his Phoenix Suns (as well as Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers) to multiple playoff appearances. He finished first in postseason assists four years in a row, and he carried the league in successful dishes in five regular seasons. Nash is one of only a handful of players ever to shoot 50 percent or greater from the field, 40 percent or better from behind the arc, and 90 percent or better at the line. He ranks fourth all-time in assists, second in free throw percentage, and 37th in the value over replacement player statistic. Nash was recognized by his contemporaries with two consecutive Most Valuable Player awards and votes in six other campaigns.
Reggie Miller, SG
174.4 WS, 18.2 PPG, 3.0 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Many families have produced multiple basketball stars, but only one can claim two Golden Hallers. The Siblings Miller, Cheryl and Reggie, both aspired to and achieved greatness on the hardwood. Despite arguments that Cheryl might have been the superior overall player, Reggie can claim a victory over his sister in this instance with his inclusion on the Ninth Team rather than the Bench.
Kawhi Leonard, SF
83.3 WS, 19.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG
As a Progressive Insurance commercial jokingly mocks, “defense wins championships.” This phrase, of course, is repeated often by fans of a certain generation and has become more cliche than altruism. That said, defense certainly helps, especially when coupled with a scoring threat. Kawhi Leonard is both in spades.
The two-time Defensive Player of the Year and three-time All-Defensive First Teamer has wrought havoc on opposing offenses. Leading the league in steals per game once, finishing in the top ten in six of his ten seasons, and ranking third among active players is no easy feat. Combine this with 19.2 points per game in the regular season and 21.2 in the playoffs, and it is no wonder the Californian ranks among the top 50 to ever lace up.
Elvin Hayes, PF
120.8 WS, 21.0 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 2.0 BPG, 1.0 SPG
Immediately dominant from his rookie campaign, Elvin Hayes led the NBA in points per game with the San Diego Rockets. He would remain impressive throughout his career, earning MVP votes in seven campaigns and a title with the Washington Bullets.
Controlling the board matters tremendously in basketball, and Hayes inherited the rebound mantle from Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. In just his second season, he led the league in rebounds per game. He would finish in the top ten in 11 different seasons and still ranks fourteenth overall.
George Mikan, C
108.7 WS, 22.6 PPG, 13.4 RPG, 2.8 APG
Some leagues become lost to fan memory. Most know of the American Basketball Association’s delightful, eccentric, and partially successful challenge to the National Basketball Association. But before the NBA, multiple professional leagues existed that rightfully deserve major league status. Among them was the National Basketball League, which merged with the Basketball Association of America to create the NBA.
The NBL existed from 1937 through 1949 as an independent entity. Five of its teams survive in the NBA to this day: the Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Sacramento Kings. The Denver Nuggets arguably are the rightful heirs to the NBL Nuggets, and the Akron Wingfoots continue to play ball in the National Alliance of Basketball Leagues.
It is in this major league that George Mikan got his start. With the Chicago American Gears and Minneapolis Lakers, the Illinoisan captured back-to-back NBL Finals titles. This rookie and sophomore season success continued in the BAA and newly-formed NBA. Establishing the first Lakers dynasty, Mikan collected another seven rings. His nine fall just one short of the coveted ring for each digit. Mikan established such a lasting legacy that he has appeared in each quarter-century All-NBA team, and now his visage graces the inaugural Golden Hall.
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