Few sports leagues in the world garner as much interest as the National Basketball League (NBA). The fast pace of the game, the high-scoring nature of basketball, and the energy in the arenas are second to none when it comes to US sports. However, part of what makes basketball so fun is the personalities that have made the game so special. Who, though, are among the NBA's most important all-time players?
Erving was famed for his incredible dunking ability, and his ability to score incredible numbers in both the NBA and its one-time rival league the ABA. He was someone who helped to turn basketball into a more athletic and dunk-friendly sport – before Erving, basketball was played much more below the rim. He added the verticality that was missing from the sport and helped to transform basketball into the game that it is now today.
Seen by many as the face that changed the league in the twilight years of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, MJ took the NBA globally. In the 1990s as TV and international TV rights blew up, it was the dominant Jordan and his Chicago Bulls that took center stage. Despite doing nothing before and after Jordan, the Bulls have become an iconic basketball club based on the six titles they won with Jordan just as the sport was exploding.
The creator of the “Dream Shake” and an all-timer with the Houston Rockets, Hakeem Olajuwon is an NBA legend. The Nigerian-American changed the game and opened the eyes of many to the potential that exists within African basketball. He was a post-up mastermind and his work within the post was a key reason why Houston won a pair of championships in the 1990s. A legend not only to the city of Houston but to African basketball fans worldwide.
An interesting name such as Petrovic might be the least impactful on the NBA. Before his untimely death in his late 20s in a car accident, Petrovic had made a name for himself with the New Jersey Nets and was seen as among the best shooters in the league. His real legacy, though, is the fact that Petrovic opened the doors to so many European players entering the league. Today, the likes of Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic dominate the court every night – without Petrovic, though, we might never have seen these players brought into the league, or given the same prominence as they do today.