Every sport has their superstars. Baseball has Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols. Football has Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers. Hockey has Sidney Crosby.
When you think of the NBA and it’s superstar’s first two names that instantly pop up in everybody’s heads are Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
I define a superstar as a franchise player that you wouldn’t trade for anyone else besides one of the top tier superstars in the league. An NBA superstar throughout the years has had reoccurring traits. These traits include: league leading stats, marketability, leadership, and most of all – winning.
A superstar is the guy you build your whole franchise around for the next 10 years. The guy who is taking the last shot. The player who makes everyone around him better. They are the Michale Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson of today.
Superstars are not just the best players at their position. Andrew Bynum started for the West this year in the All Star game; he’s not even close to been called a superstar. One of my rules is my mother has to know who you are. My mom knows Kobe, LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and obviously Carmelo Anthony because of the Knicks. Superstars sell jerseys and put fans in the seats both home and away.
Do you think if Bynum were on the Houston Rockets they would sell out a Nets game?
The NBA is different from every sport in one way, their faces are always seen. There’s no helmet or cap hiding their face. I think marketability is key in superstardom. Just look at Jordan. The guy has his own clothing company.
The Jordan brand and sneakers has been synonymous with MJ for decades now but it would have never happened if he never won. He had the stats, the looks, the highlight reel plays and dunks, the swag and the likeability.
But it all means nothing if you do not win.
The NBA has several franchise players, but not many superstars. Kevin Love is obviously the Twolve’s franchise player, but he is not a superstar. Here is my ranking in top 10 superstars:
1. Kobe Bryant – For a player who some say he is past his prime, he was second in the league in scoring by .07. He has the 5 rings, the endorsements, and is the king of Los Angeles. Everyone in the world knows his name and who he is. At the end of the day I think he is No. 2 behind Jordan. That number 2 spot will be forever up for debate.
2. LeBron James – Three MVP awards in four years, and is coming off his best statistical year of his career. He is tearing up the league and is just entering his prime. We all know how “The Decision,” went down and how he embraced the villain role, but that shouldn’t take away from the guy’s game. He hasn’t won but he has lead his team to two Finals appearances, on the verge of his third. LeBron and Kobe are the top tier of superstars in today’s NBA.
3. Kevin Durant – This spot is up for grabs by a lot of players, but it has to go to KD here. I don’t think everyone realizes how great he truly is. This is only his fourth year in the league and he has already won three scoring titles, made three All-Star games, won an All-Star MVP, Rookie of the Year, and has been selected to three All-NBA First teams. Did I mention he’s only 23? Durant has a personality that no one can hate, just hard working and keeps to himself. You will never hear bad press about him, never in every headline like LeBron, the guy just balls. The Finals appearances will come very shortly.
4. Dwyane Wade – Before LeBron and Chris Bosh came to Miami, South Beach was all Wade’s. He won a 2006 title by coming back and beating the Dallas Mavericks. He gives it his all every game, and got James and Bosh to come to HIS team. They could have gone other places together but he was the bigger man and sacrificed. Wade is the second best shooting guard in the league, and you can make a case for taking him over Kobe right now.
5. Dwight Howard – The best big man in the league without question I rank as my No. 5. I know he has maturity issues the past year, but I think once he gets out of Orlando and lands in a place like Brooklyn with a top five point guard in Deron Williams, he will flourish. He has made a name for himself and led his team to the Finals with Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu as his second and third best players. He is extremely marketable and a physical monster. You want to build your franchise with a big man? He’s the way to go.
6. Chris Paul – With the best point guard in the league debate as hot as ever, Chris Paul has been constantly the best or near the best for years now. The guy does everything you need, plays with heart, a media’s dream, and a leader. I believe it is a lot harder for a pass first point guard to single handing lead a team to a championship. You look at the past decade’s champions and the point guard’s are never the best player on the team. With a little more help in L.A CP3 has a good chance of leading the Clippers in deep playoff runs for the next several years.
With the list half way done, think to yourself, would you be mad if the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony for anyone of these top 6? The only one I can see if Dwight Howard because of the Knicks already crowded frontcourt, but if they didn’t, Melo – Dwight swap wouldn’t upset many. On to the bottom 4:
7. Derrick Rose – Last year’s MVP is turning into the best scoring point guard in the league. When healthy his quickness and speed make it hard for anyone to defend. With his monster deals with both the Bulls and Addidas, D-Rose will be a household name in a few years right up there with LeBron and Kobe. If the Bulls see Finals in the next two years and he beats the Heat, he will sky rocket up this list.
8. Carmelo Anthony – And here we go. I am going to tell it how it is with Carmelo coming from a die-hard Knick fan. Melo has been a superstar ever since he came into the league. I think this partly has to do with him winning in college and the draft class he was in. If he were a third pick in any other draft I don’t think he would have gotten that much buzz. When you get drafted with LeBron, Wade, and Bosh along with coming off winning a college championship as a freshman, stardom will come to you no matter what. He has the numbers and all-star games already, now he has to win plain and simple. He is the man on his team and has the coach he wanted. He’s in the city he chose and has proved he is clutch. He now has to advance the Knicks deep into the playoffs, if he does this he will easily be top five.
9. Tony Parker – The best point guard still playing the playoffs this year is Parker. He just beat Chris Paul’s Clippers and chances are he will beat Russell Westbrook and Durant on the way to his fourth championship. I think he is one of the most underrated and disrespected players in the league. Does anyone remember two years ago when there was a rumor he was going to the Knicks or another team via sign and trade? None of these players on his list will ever be openly traded for any reason other than request. Parker is known internationally and is also a household name for marrying Eva Longoria. He is running the Spurs like a well-oiled machine.
10. Dirk Nowitzki – A year removed from his championship, Dirk has become a household name. With most of the country rooting for him vs. the hated Heat last year, Dirk became a hero. He has been an all-star and a solid player for years, but winning a championship and last year’s magnified stage propelled Dirk into superstardom. Without last year, he is not on this list.
Honorable Mentions – Tim Duncan, Blake Griffin, Paul Pierce, Deron Williams
On the cusp – Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook,
Superstars don’t have to be the best talented players playing right now. No question LeBron is the best talent in the world, but Kobe is the bigger superstar. Kevin Love puts up better numbers than Dirk, but clearly Dirk is the bigger star. Superstars win games, sell jerseys, sell out arenas, the public knows them, and are leaders.