The 2019 NBA Finals
are drawing ever closer. This year the extended showpiece will be without two of the star teams; the LA Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers. Spectators will have to do without the likes of LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love and Cedi Osman weaving their magic.
Despite all this, the NBA is certain of one thing - the spotlight will be firmly trained on the basketball courts when the action gets underway on May 30th
. The Finals are one of the epic sporting events of the year. More than 17 million viewers in the USA tuned in last year. That’s a mere drop in the ocean when you consider that basketball is the number one sport in dozens of countries across the world, from Kenya and the Philippines to Canada and Australia!
Now that the excitement is mounting, it seems an appropriate time to remember three of the greatest NBA players of all time - men who transformed basketball into a creative art form.
Larry Bird will go down in history as one of the greatest shooters of all time. Along with his extraordinary on-court skills, immense self-belief and work ethic ‘The Hick from French Lick’ was an inspiration to the rest of the Boston Celtics squad.
Bird was renowned for delivering excellence every time he hit the courts. He was classy, consistent and revelled in the pressure moments, often scoring in the last seconds of a game. The small forward for Celtics was also a brilliant defender, rebounder and passer who could read play like a book.
The lanky player from Indiana had a dazzling 13-year career. He was a 12-time NBA All-Star, bagged three NBA Championships and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) over three consecutive years. He was also part of the legendary USA ‘Dream Team’ that won gold at the Barcelona Olympics.
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Bird was duly inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998, a fitting tribute to a man who captured the imagination of millions of basketball fans worldwide.
The point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers had magic in his name and magic in his game. He was the kind of player who could confound his opponents with his foxy cross-court passes, towering dunks and agile manoeuvres.
With hindsight, it was probably his fire, passion and ability to convert the sport into ‘wow’ entertainment that won the lofty hooper his legions of fans.
Johnson was an instinct player who could dance around the court and pull of blind, through the legs passes that always hit their mark. He was a basketball wizard who obviously adored the game.
Along with five NBA Championships, three Finals MVP awards and 12 All Star Game selections, the man with magic on tap is the unassailable NBA leader of average assist per game. He was also an integral member of the ‘Dream Team’ that topped the Olympic podium in 1992.
Shaquille O’Neal was an explosive centre who played for six teams over a career that spanned nearly 20 years. Despite his towering height of 2.16 metres, Shaq was quick, powerful and deadly on court. He was an impact player who used a combination of size and athletic ability to intimidate and overpower opponents.
The basketball Hall of Famer
is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time and his long list of honours attests to that. He won Olympic Gold at Atlanta and the FIBA World Cup, was a 15-time NBA All-Star and racked up four NBA Championships.
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