10 NBA Stars Who Have Changed the Way the Game Is Watched
All NBA stars entertain us when we sit in the stands or on our comfy couches, but only a select few are able to actually change the way we view the game of basketball.
These 10 players have had both monumental on-court impacts and significant off-course impacts on the NBA.
They've forced us to watch different aspects of the game, challenge the norms and set new standards. Tim Duncan has legitimatized the beauty of fundamentals while Kobe Bryant has re-branded the league.
They aren't the first players to have major impacts, and they certainly won't be the last ones to do so, but they've all changed how we view basketball.
It's a rare player who can make basketball fans appreciate the beauty of moving without the ball, but Ray Allen is anything but normal. After all, he's used his off-ball prowess and shooting ability to become the NBA's all-time leader in three-pointers made.
Assuming your favorite team isn't the Boston Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics (too soon, I know) or Milwaukee Bucks, I'm betting that Allen has terrified you at least a couple of times. He was one of those players you had to keep your eyes on, especially when the ball wasn't in his hands.
If Allen was curling around screens and leaving a trail of defenders well behind him, you knew you were about to be down three more points.
Kobe Bryant has become more than just a basketball player. Over the course of his storied career, The Black Mamba has developed from a precocious teenager who didn't want to play in Charlotte into a global brand.
It's impossible to break down the way that Kobe has changed how basketball is watched because his impact on the game has been so monumental. In terms of viewership, Kobe has drastically increased the size of the fanbase.
I don't have any specific numbers, but I bet that if you ran a random survey of basketball fans, quite a few of them would tell you that they become avid supporters of The Association because of a man named Kobe Bryant.
He's just a superstar and always will be.
There will always be that select group of fans who think of Tim Duncan as nothing more than boring. Even though subjective opinions can't technically be wrong, that's about as close to incorrect as one can get.
Duncan does play a boring brand of basketball. There's no denying that. However, he's so much more than a player you can fall asleep watching.
Throughout his illustrious career, Duncan has employed nearly perfect basketball technique. From his devastating bank-shot to his ability to tip blocked shots directly to his teammates, the greatest power forward of all time has truly embodied his nickname: "The Big Fundamental."
Each and every time Duncan has helped the San Antonio Spurs win games, he's also helped us to appreciate the important fundamentals that often go overlooked.
Now that Kevin Durant is an experienced NBA player, it's no longer enough to be a good scorer. To get respect as an offensive powerhouse, you must be able to put the ball into the basket in any way imaginable.
Durant can do just that. You would be able to as well if you were simply born to score buckets.
Whether he's hitting three-pointers over the top of defenders' outstretched arms or using his own spidery limbs to dunk on everyone in transition, Durant is proving year after year that his scoring titles aren't flukes.
He's become the measuring stick against which we compare scorers. The scary part is that the measuring stick is still growing longer every year.
Blake Griffin is truly ushering in the YouTube/social media era of the NBA. Now, whenever anything happens on the basketball court, you can see a video of it and hear a billion people's thoughts just minutes after the actual occurrence.
How is he doing so?
Now we don't watch just to see who is going to win the game. More than ever, we watch to see the highlights happen live.
As reported by the Associated Press, Charles Barkley has a pretty lofty opinion of the league's reigning MVP. Barkley said:
I do think he can be better than Michael. I thought I would never compare somebody to Michael Jordan. But this guy, LeBron James, he does everything well. Michael did everything well. LeBron James is just bigger, stronger, faster. That's the only difference.
LeBron has changed the game of basketball by becoming the most dominant physical specimen to ever play the game. He's lacked the long-term mental game possessed by Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, among others, but he is the greatest physical prototype to ever lace up his sneakers on the basketball court.
Just as Kevin Durant has become the standard for scorers, LeBron is now the gold standard for basketball players in general.
He doesn't just dominate one facet of the game. He's an elite scorer, an elite defender, an elite distributor, an elite rebounder and an elite teammate.
Think about the pickup basketball games you've played at local gyms and playgrounds. No one usually wants to be the guy who passes the ball around and never shoots. Scoring has always been fun and will always be the element of the game that everybody tries to master.
Because of that, it's almost nonsensical that a guy averaging 14.5 points per game for his career, especially one who doesn't even play defense, would be held in such reverential status.
Steve Nash has done the impossible. Throughout his career, he's made passing into something that borders on glamorous. His court vision is universally respected, and nearly everyone considers him an all-time great.
Even John Stockton wasn't viewed in the same light that Nash currently is.
Seven-footers aren't supposed to be able to score as effectively from the perimeter as Dirk Nowitzki does.
With his patented one-legged fadeaway, the German big man has become one of the NBA's premier scorers and most prominent superstars, all without dominating the interior of the defense.
He's helped open up the game for international players, while forcing the notion that big men can shoot jumpers down the throat of the average NBA fan.
Dirk may have spent his entire career with the Dallas Mavericks, but he's been a trailblazer for both seven-footers and international players.
Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook
The last two players—Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook—have had such similar impacts that I had no choice but to group them together into a single slide.
Both Rose and Westbrook have helped re-define the point-guard position. Traditionally, the floor general is supposed to have a pass-first mentality, assisting his teammates long before he looks to score for himself.
Neither the Chicago Bulls point guard nor the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard has been held to that sort of functional fixedness. They've created offense by putting the ball into the basket.
Essentially, the attention paid to them by defenses has a similar impact as the passing of more traditional guards.
Some people are still completely adverse to the idea of a score-first point guard, but the idea is growing on fans for good reason.
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