Throughout the long history of the game, there are only four players who have won at least four championships and four Most Valuable Players awards.
These four players are legendary in the basketball world and are widely regarded to be within the top ten, if not top five, amongst the historic greats. Let us recount their epic achievements and legendary excellence over their careers.
Bill Russell – 11 Championships, 5 MVP Awards
A respected figurehead in American sports history, Bill Russell was a man of many hats. He was an elite basketball professional, a coach, and a social activist during a time of racial oppression. He was also the core piece that helped the Boston Celtics establish their foothold as a top franchise in the league.
Born on 12 February 1934 in Monroe, Los Angeles, the towering Bill Russell was an epitome of a true defensive center. Drafted in round 1 of the 1956 NBA draft, he was selected second by Saint Louis Hawks, an old American team. The Boston Celtics legend, Bill Russell, played 13 seasons for the famous Beantown. He was an instant force in the NBA and Bill clocked career averages of 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists in 963 regular-season games.
He exhibited his consistency in excellence and won the 5 Most Valuable Player awards, was selected to play in 12 All-Star games, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975. Bill was a defensive juggernaut, often forming an invincible wall in the post area and tormenting opponents who attempted to score. His old-school, never surrenders, slug-it-out type of play makes him a respected figure among the greats. Bill holds the record in NBA history with the most Championships as a player and was considered to be the greatest of his era.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 6 Championships, 6 MVP Awards
A lanky, agile, and stoic gentleman, Kareem was the first superstar who made it fashionable and impressive to switch teams and yet maintain an elite level of performance.
Born on 16 April 1947 in New York, Kareem was the most unstoppable and dominant center during his era. Drafted at number one during the 1969 draft pick by the Milwaukee Bucks, Kareem was originally known as Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. His name change came after his conversion to the Islamic faith. He played his college career with the University College of Los Angeles (UCLA), where he had the most dominant NCAA basketball career of any known college player. In his legendary UCLA career, he went almost unbeaten in college, playing a pivotal role in creating the John Wooden dynasty at UCLA, winning three national championships in all three seasons.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played a combined 20 seasons for the Lakers and Bucks. His career averages were 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists in 1,560 regular-season games. Abdul-Jabbar won 6 Most Valuable Players awards, was selected to play in 19 All-Star games and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1995. His iconic and unguardable ‘Skyhook’ became a move that many tall players wanted to emulate, to not much success. Through his superb durability, winning intellect, and impressive skills, Kareem became an endearing figure in the rich Lakers’ history.
Michael Jordan – 6 Championships, 5 MVP Awards
The first modern representative figure for the globalization of the NBA, Michael Jordan, is credited for bringing the game of basketball to the globe. His jaw-dropping dunks, charismatic swagger, almost heroic clutch shots, feisty defensive stops, his off-court appeal, his marketability as a player gave him huge popularity among the masses. His overwhelming off-court popularity is buoyed by his on-court supremacy. His six championships as the top dog of the league, his countless accolades, his dual ability to dominate at the offensive, and defensive ends make him the greatest of his era and also the greatest of all times in many fans’ hearts.
Born on 17 February 1963 in Brooklyn, New York, Michael was the first basketball player who had a legitimately popular logo made of himself, namely the ‘Air Jordan Jumpman’. Drafted at number three in the 1984 draft pick by the Chicago Bulls, he lived up to the hype from the jump after a successful college basketball career at the University of North Carolina.
As a shooting guard, Michael Jordan played a combined 15 seasons for the Bulls and Wizards. Jordan managed to maintain career averages of 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists in 1,072 regular-season games. He won 5 Most Valuable Player awards. His performance earned him 14 All-Star game appearances, and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.
LeBron James – 4 Championships, 4 MVP Awards
Touted as the One who might threaten the pristine status of Michael Jordan as the Greatest of All Time, the unbelievable hype that LeBron had to endure from the media was never a stress factor for the broad-shouldered King.
LeBron James has played 17 combined seasons for 3 teams, namely the Cavaliers, the Heat, and the Lakers. His career averages are 27.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.4 assists in 1,265 regular-season games. James has won four Most Valuable Player awards and has been selected to play in 16 All-Star games. Born on 30 December 1984 in Akron, Ohio, he is the only player out of these four who was drafted directly from high school. The 2003 number one pick was drafted to the NBA by his hometown team, the Cavaliers.
LeBron began his rookie year as a small forward. Throughout his career, he has played all five positions at various stages. A highly versatile player, a cerebral playmaker, an infectious leader, and a physical freak, LeBron has evolved his game time and time again with the changing times. His discipline and commitment to his craft, including his 1.5 million expenditure on physical trainers, chefs, massage therapists, and treatments earned him unreal longevity and a seemingly eternal prime. The amazing thing is, LeBron’s chapter is still being written so his resume can only get longer and more incredible.
We are all fortunate to bear witness to LeBron James’ greatness. The game is also blessed to have graced the presence of Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Michael Jordan. With such incredible players like these four, the game will continue pushing the limits for basketball excellence, raise the bar for more superb performance and inspire even more great players to join the NBA in the future.