What separates the great from the legend? Why is it that certain players seem to rise not only to the occasion, but rip your heart out at the same time? One answer: killer instinct.
Michael Jordan is arguably regarded as the greatest basketball player of all-time. I’m not here to debate if he is or isn’t. But one trait is undeniable: Michael’s killer instinct.
MJ would not only beat you but he would slash your throat in the process. He took competitiveness to an entirely new level. He refused to lose.
Magic Johnson appeared to be all smiles, running and gunning, dishing and faking. But down deep, Magic was just as ruthless as MJ. The Magic man wouldn’t want to lose at anything. He’s notoriously known for wanting to win at cards on the team plane as much as during Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Larry Bird was brutal. He’d do anything to win. And, he’d look you in the eye and tell you that you were going to lose and how. The legend goes that he walked into the locker room at an NBA All-Star game before the three-point contest and barked these famous words: “You’re all playing for second.” Bird then went out onto the court, kept his warm-ups on and calmly won the contest.
Cold blooded: That’s the trait. Competitiveness at everything: That’s the characteristic. Not just willing to take the game winner but demanding it. Pushing teammates aside and telling them to get out of the way.
Playing each game, each minute, like it’s your last. That’s part of it. You get the drift.
On both ends of the court, whether a preseason scrimmage, a dog day of February game or the NBA Finals, the players with killer instinct rise up and rip your heart out.
So, who today has these same traits as legends of the past?
Here’s a ranking of the top 10 players in today’s NBA who have real killer instinct?