John Stockton, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley are three names that anyone with sports knowledge would know. Die-hard basketball fans would also recall they've all made their way into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
Despite their achievements, these three have something in common that is hard for them to constantly remember.
They don't have an NBA championship ring.
Because of this, their legacies may be seen as tainted by basketball experts and spectators alike. Even though there is no denying that they were amongst the elite players of all time, the lack of a championship ring haunts them.
For some active players, the pressure to win an NBA championship ring is on. A few players do not have a lot of time left.
Future Hall-of-Fame NBA stars like Grant Hill, Steve Nash and Vince Carter are yet add a Finals victory to their illustrious career accomplishments. A few of these dwindling players are yet to even have a direct shot at the NBA championship.
Because of this, their legacies may become "tainted." Fans believe that without an NBA championship, the legacies of these players will never live up to those of champions like Michael Jordan, Bill Russell or Magic Johnson.
The belief is a misconception.
I've become vexed by the idea that a championship defines the greatness of an athlete. Although the championship is the ultimate goal for a majority, if not all, of NBA players, it will not measure the greatness they possess.
When one takes a look at the names that are listed at the beginning of the article, do they see failure? I'd be surprised if they did.
Karl Malone was the cornerstone of the Utah Jazz franchise along with his teammate John Stockton. He led the Jazz to consecutive NBA Finals appearances and was a two-time league MVP.
The accomplishments don't stop there. In his near two decade tenure in the league, he managed to become the second-highest scoring player of all time in the NBA.
Is Karl Malone a failure because never won an NBA championship? Will history erase his achievements and overlook this Hall of Fame player simply because he failed to win an NBA title?
I hope not; the lack of a championship should not cause others to deny his greatness.
John Stockton wasn't just the best passer in Jazz history and perfect complimentary player to Malone; he's arguably the best passer period. With the all-time assists mark attached to his name, few would dispute his excellence as a perennial point guard.
Should he be denied a great legacy just because he has one less ring than say, Jason Kidd? Even though both men could be toe-to-toe, I'd still call John Stockton one of the best point guards of all-time.
Jason Kidd is the type of player who followed the footsteps of Stockton. If I recall correctly, Stockton was adding to his all-time assists record during Kidd's first year in the NBA.
There wasn't a ring, but there was a mark of greatness in the making.
It is by preference that the only point guard in my opinion to best Stockton is Magic Johnson. While his five championships can add to the conversation, I also put into account the overall impact he had on the league as opposed to Stockton. On top of that, Johnson was a better all-around player.
If Magic Johnson had a career similar to that of say, Derek Fisher, things would be different. No amount of rings won by Fisher could surpass the skills that Stockton had over him.
Championships aren't necessary in a debate about which player is better for me; I think of the individual before I count the jewelry on their fingers.
When the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship this past Sunday, I didn't think of LeBron James as a bad player or a player with a tainted legacy. As a matter of fact, his career makes me want to see him win an NBA championship that much more.
I remember reading a quote from Charles Barkley when I was a child out of the "Ultimate Encyclopedia of Basketball."
He said that he would "win an NBA championship or die trying." It was saddening to see this quote because I read in 2001, years after injuries caught up with the former Suns star. Barkley didn't win that elusive ring and it did upset me.
His legacy was great to the point where a championship was well-deserved. Even though he never truly earned the NBA title, he still did enough to become one of the greatest. I wish he was given a championship ring for being a great player.
The same goes for all the other NBA stars who failed to win the NBA title during their playing years. I hope that Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Vince Carter and other such players become NBA champions because they did so much in their careers and made a positive impact for the league.
It would be saddening not to great players win championships because it does leave a hole in their careers.
No one should deny them greatness because they failed to win a ring. Fans should pray that the great players go on to get the championship which would complete them.
The theory that I want to convey is one of fulfillment; every player who has become a future hall-of-famer deserves a ring.
This is a theory that should be used for every Pete Maravich, Adrian Dantley, Karl Malone, John Stockton and Charles Barkley who did so much in their careers, only to miss out on winning the ultimate prize.
A great player will still be a great player. You cannot deny statistics, All-Star and All-NBA selections, MVP awards or Hall of Fame elections.
I know it would be a shame to see LeBron James without a championship, no matter how much one may dislike him.
The same goes for every Nash, Hill, Iverson and others who still are looking for their title.
It's already too late for the Malones, Barkleys and Stocktons of the NBA. And it's a shame that these greats never had their titles.
In the end, the legacy will always be there. Let's hope that for those who have a chance, a ring will accompany their Hall of Fame resumes.