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 articles covered the Fifth Team, Sixth Team, Seventh Team, Eighth Team, Ninth Team, Tenth Team, and 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 fourth-best possible starting lineup in basketball history. The next three 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 Fourth Team (be sure to comment with whom you think we missed):
John Stockton, PG
207.7 WS, 106.5 VORP, 21.8 PER, 13.1 PPG, 10.5 APG, 2.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG
One of the first skills taught to kids as they learn the game is passing. Those played in school or recreational leagues likely remember hours of chest and bounce pass drills. Successful movement of the ball increases the likelihood of scoring. As the designated playmakers, point guards adept at this skill maximize their team’s chances of winning. John Stockton, with a career-leading 15,806 assists, made those successful passes literally more than any other player in professional history. For the 19-year period of his career with the Utah Jazz, Stockton’s handiwork accounted for more than half of all points scored by the team.
Basketball IQ certainly does not always correlate with life intelligence, but the Washingtonian sure could pass.
Allen Iverson, SG
99.0 WS, 49.6 VORP, 20.9 PER, 26.7 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG
The Answer brought a swagger to the NBA and was unapologetic about his culture. He backed up this change to the depiction of the game with superb play on both ends of the court. Regularly putting all on the line and leading or near the top of the minutes leaderboard, Iverson led the league in points per game four times and steals thrice. He brought an even higher display of his skills to the playoffs, putting up 29.7 points per game and a 21.2 player efficiency rating in eight trips.
Despite frequent criticism from mainstream culture, the Virginian won an MVP Award (vote shares in seven other seasons), Rookie of the Year, and three NBA First Team awards. He ranks seventh in career points per game, fifteenth in free throws, and fourth in usage percentage.
Elgin Baylor, SF
104.2 WS, 22.7 PER, 27.4 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 4.3 APG
The Los Angeles Lakers’ difficulty with the Boston Celtics began early. The first Finals encounter of these coastal clubs occurred in 1962, with Boston besting Los Angeles in seven games. The teams met five more times during Elgin Baylor’s prolific career, all resulting in Boston victories and Los Angeles defeats. It would take until 1985 for the Lakers to claim a Finals victory over the Celtics.
In those close-but-no-cigar Sixties, the Lakers were not short of talent. Among the notables was Elgin Baylor. The Washingtonian received Most Valuable Player Award votes in nine campaigns, All-NBA First Team honors in ten of his 14 seasons, and ranks among the best in key statistical categories. Baylor is third all-time in points per game, tenth in rebounds per game, and fifth in minutes per game.
Kevin Garnett, PF
191.4 WS, 96.9 VORP, 22.7 PER, 17.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.3 SPG
Anything is possible!
This moment of ecstasy as the power forward celebrated Boston’s Finals victory over Los Angeles forever etched the South Carolinian into Celtics lore. His exclamation reflects Garnett’s entire career, from skipping college to go professional and subsequently dominating the NBA playing primarily for Minnesota and Boston.
Garnett led the league in PER, VORP, and win shares twice. He finished first in rebounds four years in a row and thrice led the postseason in boards. Garnett comes in at tenth all-time in rebounds, second in defensive rebounds, 19th in steals, fifth in minutes played, and fifth in value over replacement player. He was named to four All-NBA First Teams and received Most Valuable Player votes in ten different seasons.
162.8 WS, 74.2 VORP, 23.6 PER, 21.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 3.1 BPG, 2.5 APG, 1.7 SPG
How can any fan not adore Hakeem the Dream? The tall man filled in the 1990s gaps left by Michael Jordan, propelling his Houston Rockets to repeat titles and demonstrating why Houston valued him so highly so as to select him with the first overall pick (ahead of Jordan) in the 1984 draft.
The Nigerian’s quickness and intelligence led to success on both ends of the court. He thrice led the NBA postseason in points and blocks and twice in rebounds. In four consecutive campaigns, Olajuwon led in defensive win shares. He ranks tenth in career offensive rebounds and ninth in defensive. Perhaps shockingly for a center, Olajuwon is tenth all-time in steals. Less shockingly but equally impressive, he is first in career blocks and third in blocks per game. Contemporaries knew they were watching someone special and awarded him the 1994 MVP, votes in 12 other seasons, and six All-NBA First Teams.
In addition to his NBA success, Olajuwon continued a long tradition of West African Muslim success in the United States. The first to arrive were brought in bondage and subjected to the horrific conditions of slavery. Some, like Bilali Mohammad, managed to preserve some of his culture and religion. Most, of course, were forcibly converted to Christianity. Fortunately, Olajuwon was able to follow more in the tradition of Mohammad, and he maintained his Islamic faith throughout his playing days. Moreover, after becoming an American citizen, he represented the United States on the international stage at the 1996 Olympics, winning gold.
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