Ranking NBA Stars Based Solely on Their Street Cred

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 14, 2012

Ranking NBA Stars Based Solely on Their Street Cred

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    Not every NBA star has street cred, no matter how hard he may try to achieve such a distinction.

    I'm not talking about true street cred, which enables someone to get by in the metropolis by standing out amongst peers and strangers, but rather a different, basketball-related version. 

    This type of street cred is impossible to truly define and instead serves as a sort of "it" factor: You either have "it," or you don't.

    That's NBA street cred. 

    There are different branches as well. Some guys earn their spots in the rankings through loyalty, others through the fear they inspire around the league and others through the respect they command in The Association. 

    Regardless of the method in which they earned it, each of these 10 NBA stars is in full possession of some serious street cred. 

10. Chris Paul

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    Chris Paul is one of only two players in these rankings that has put on multiple jerseys over the course of his NBA career, but his play on the court warrants his inclusion. 

    Despite the lack of time he's spent with the Los Angeles Clippers, CP3 undoubtedly earns his street cred on the hardwood. 

    If you think that you've seen Paul play at less than maximum effort, you probably got him confused with another player. This point guard simply doesn't operate at less than full speed.

    He might wait until the fourth quarter to take over games with his scoring, but he still affects the proceedings in a number of other ways with his constant effort. 

    Although his play sometimes borders on dirty and his flopping has gotten annoying in the past, Paul is respected around the league for his desire and willingness to leave it all on the court. 

9. Steve Nash

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    It doesn't take long to get to the second of two players who have spent time playing home games for multiple organizations. 

    A move from the Phoenix Suns to the hated Los Angeles Lakers would normally be a shift in locale that knocks a player entirely from these rankings, but Steve Nash has built up enough of a reputation that his street cred can withstand that type of hit. Instead of falling off entirely, he just drops a number of spots to No. 9. 

    Nash has never been anything but true to himself. Whether he's making ridiculous YouTube videos and showing off his acting chops or absorbing blows during an NBA game, Nash wears his emotions on his sleeve. 

    He commanded the loyalty of the Phoenix faithful with his hard work and impact on the community to the point that they didn't fault him for leaving the desert for greener pastures and a shot at a championship ring. 

    In a career filled with great accomplishments, that has to be one of the most impressive achievements. 

8. Stephen Curry

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    Stephen Curry is one of the most quality characters you can possibly come across in the NBA.

    The young guard for the Golden State Warriors is a true class act, even when that pesky injury imp is toying about with his ankles. 

    As much as he's been knocked out of the lineup with injuries, Stephen has always managed to fight his way past those setbacks and work himself back into the starting five for the Dubs. 

    But his resilience isn't the primary reason for his street cred. That would simply be his character and perception throughout the league. 

    In a league filled with cutthroat competitors who are willing to get ahead at any cost, it's a breath of fresh air to be exposed to an equally ruthless competitor who still handles himself with constant professionalism and, dare I say it, seems like a thoroughly nice person.

    That's not to say that most NBA players aren't nice guys—I'm sure I'd enjoy hanging out with quite a few of them—just that Curry's character is readily apparent.   

7. Paul Pierce

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    One of the most telling signs that a player has earned some serious street cred is the impossibility of imagining them in a different jersey.

    Seriously, take a look at this picture and try telling me that it doesn't look weird. You can't do it.

    And if you can, you're lying. 

    Paul Pierce has spent so much time and given so much to the Boston Celtics that picturing him in any sort of clothing that doesn't prominently display Celtic green is just strange.

    He's earned the loyalty of the C's fans through quite a bit of sweat equity. 

    Although he doesn't come across as particularly cool and will join fellow Celtic Larry Bird in the history books as one of the most nonathletic-looking athletic standouts of all time, Pierce's contributions to the same organization and willingness to sacrifice his body time and time again have earned him a spot here. 

6. Dwyane Wade

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    Everything that was just said about Paul Pierce can also be written about Dwyane Wade

    Until LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the allures of South Beach and the chance to play with some of his best friends in the basketball community, Wade was the Miami Heat. 

    Sure, he was on the Heat, but Wade was so much more than just another player. He was the unquestioned face of the franchise, the centerpiece of the lone championship-winning team in the organization's history and the most popular player to ever throw on a Miami jersey. 

    Then he was willing to sacrifice all of that for a shot at another ring. Deep down, Wade had to understand that luring King James to his city would result in the new face eventually supplanting the old one. 

    That didn't stop him at all, which is a subtle testament to his street cred in the basketball world. 

5. Dirk Nowitzki

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    I'm convinced that the Dallas Mavericks were fan favorites during the 2011 NBA Finals both because of the overwhelming hatred at the time for LeBron James and the Miami Heat, but also out of pure respect for what Dirk Nowitzki had accomplished. 

    After years of playing to the best of his abilities, Dirk finally had a shot at redemption after Dwyane Wade stole away the 2006 championship with his unbelievable knack for drawing fouls in the closing minutes of games.

    Almost everyone either wanted the Mavs to win the title or Dirk to at least play well in a losing effort. 

    The German seven-footer has never shown anything but respect for the game of basketball and its history. He might get fired up in the moment, but he rarely manages to upset other players in the league long-term. 

    At one point during his career, his game was perceived as soft, leading him to earn the dreaded "overrated" tag.

    With a championship on his resume, that's no longer the case. 

4. Kevin Durant

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    Kevin Durant might be quiet and reserved for the most part, but he's still respected throughout the NBA as a terrific competitor.

    Humble as he may be, he's still a bona fide star in this league and will remain the league's No. 2 player in the 2012-13 season. 

    This 24-year-old just does everything right. He's not one to get caught up in the glamor associated with professional basketball, but instead chooses to conceal his tattoos under his jersey and tweet that he's signed a contract extension rather than hold a press conference. 

    He lays it all on the line when playing, but isn't afraid to let the tears flow after an excruciating loss. 

    It takes a lot of street cred to maintain your reputation after making a movie like "Thunderstruck."

    And that's exactly what Durant has done. 

3. Derrick Rose

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    To realize just how much street cred Derrick Rose has, you need look no further than how he's been treated as he attempts to recover from his torn ACL. 

    His hometown fans in Chicago have displayed nothing but admiration for the former MVP as he rehabs, waiting patiently for his return while closely following every move he makes. 

    And the feeling is not one-sided. Rose cares for the fans just as much as they care for him. 

    When you can break down and cry in front of a national audience because you can't hold back how much passion you have for the game, that's when you know you're doing things right. 

    A lot of times, YouTube comment sections show what's wrong with our society, but the top comments on the video I just linked to show exactly what's good about Rose:

    "Derrick Rose. is one of the most passionate players i have ever seen in my life, he loves the city of chicago, and chicago loves him. he's the youngest MVP in NBA History for a reason. he takes every single possession with heart. he gave 100% every night. Derrick Rose is a f****** beast." -Maher Basharahil


    "God bless him! If young men can make it out of the streets and past hard times, Chicago breeds greatness! Rose is living proof. Stay humble! Chicago loves you!" -Michele Borchow

    Enough said.

2. Tim Duncan

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    Tim Duncan is the NBA's best example of a consummate professional.

    There isn't a chance, no matter how small, that you could possibly accuse The Big Fundamental of not taking his job seriously. 

    Plus, with the exception of laughing a bit too much at Joey Crawford, Duncan has always done everything correctly. He's a model citizen, a model teammate and a model basketball player. 

    Although his personality is sometimes almost invisible, the San Antonio Spurs big man is the perfect example of a player who doesn't need to be outspoken to have street cred.

    His actions command the respect of the rest of the league. 

1. Kobe Bryant

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    In terms of pure swagger on the basketball court, it's hard to touch The Black Mamba.

    Kobe Bryant has made his living off of terrifying opposing players and then taking their lunch money. 

    After spending his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe has officially earned a spot in the pantheon of legends to wear purple and gold, and that's no easy feat.

    He's won an MVP award, earned five championship rings and put together all sorts of legendary moments, all of which came in the same jersey. 

    Well, the number on the jersey changed, but you get my point. 

    Part of street cred is earning the respect of other players around the league. Bryant is universally feared in The Association, but he also commands the respect of each and every player due to his legendary status and continuing greatness. 

    Plus, you automatically win street-cred competitions when you do this (language warning applies for the video, so now is when you should hit "mute" on your computer if you feel the need to).