Last week I spent time discussing if either Michael Jordan or LeBron James were the G.O.A.T in the NBA. Personally, I leaned toward Jordan though I had James possibly taking over if he wins another title or two while continuing to improve on his stats.
Here is another reason I am with Jordan. Yes, he has six NBA titles. Six championship rings that played a huge part in other superstars during the era not winning a single ring. Several stars from the first two Dream Teams do not have championships, and their legacies might have been different with that ring.
I can come up with five Hall of Famers, all members on Dream Team I or II, that did not capture a single NBA title primarily because of Jordan.
Let me start with John Stockton of the Utah Jazz. The NBA’s all-time assist leader also ranks in the top 50 all time in scoring. Stockton gets lost, in part, because Utah couldn’t get past the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals. Stockton’s reputation as a tough and scrappy player is still with him today, but he would be more appreciated in those point-guard conversations with a championship ring.
Another who would have improved his legacy even more if he had won a title is Reggie Miller. The former Pacer ranks second all-time in three-pointers made and is one of the greatest shooters of all time. Miller is also known for getting into a fight with Jordan in 1993. The Pacers took the Bulls to seven games in 1997-98 before falling. Miller and Indy reached the NBA Finals two years later before losing to the Lakers, another team coached by Phil Jackson. Miller spent his entire 18-year career with the Pacers, but he never got a ring.
Let me go back to the Utah Jazz. I still find it hard to believe that Karl Malone never won a championship. “The Mailman” was a two-time MVP and ranks second in NBA history in points scored. He was a dominant power forward for the Jazz for well over a decade. Utah lost in the Western Conference finals in 1992, 1994 and 1996, and it wasn’t until 1997 that Malone broke through and reached the NBA Finals. Utah lost the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998.
This list had to include Charles Barkley. Sir Charles was a 11-time All-Star who came to Philadelphia after their 1983 NBA Finals championship. The 76ers reached the Eastern Conference Finals once in eight seasons there. Barkley went to Phoenix, won the NBA MVP award in 1993 and carried the Suns to the NBA Finals. Barkley played well, but the Bulls were too much and took the series in six games. Barkley spent four years in Phoenix and four more in Houston but was never able to get the championship ring.
Number one on my list is Patrick Ewing. The Jordan/Ewing rivalry began in college. Jordan tormented Ewing dating back to the college days at North Carolina and Georgetown. After being a No. 1 pick, the 11-time All-Star and one of the most-skilled centers to ever play the game Ewing won a college national championship (after Jordan left school for the NBA) and two gold medals with Team USA basketball. But Jordan kept Ewing from getting that NBA ring.
The Bulls eliminated the Knicks from the NBA playoffs five times from 1988-96, including the Eastern Conference finals in 1993. New York had a 2-0 lead in that series. When Jordan retired in 1993-94, the Knicks finally beat the Bulls but lost to the Rockets in seven games in the NBA Finals. Ewing never got that close to a championship again.