NBA championships: Russell has 11, Kareem and Jordan both have six, Kobe has five. Barkley, Malone (Karl), Ewing? None. All of these players are (or in Kobe's case, will be) in the NBA's top 50 players of all time.
But if we were to shorten it to the top 10, would there be any ring-less players who could crack the list? The core of any argument against LeBron James when he's compared to Kobe or MJ, is that he has no NBA titles.
Robert Horry has seven. Steve Kerr has five. Elgin Baylor? John Stockton? Zero.
I'm not implying in any way that Horry or Kerr are better than Baylor and Stockton, but debates like this continue to rise again and again. It's all about the hardware. The players know that. The media and the fans know that.
I think it's unfortunate that championships are a right of passage into being truly recognized as one of the greats, but that's the way America is.
Success stories can only get you so far, so that's why I created a list of players – that range from good to first-ballot Hall-of-Famers – that deserve to be traded to a contender, so their legacy isn't tainted by a goose egg in the NBA championships column.
- Steve Nash: There's not one NBA fan that's not cheering for Steve Nash. Easily one of the greatest point guards of all-time, the 37 year old, two-time MVP is still playing at an All-Star level. He averaged nearly 15 points per game (just above his career average), and he dished out 11.4 dimes per game. He's a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, but he's certainly not getting to the Finals with the Phoenix Suns.
So where could the Suns trade him and still get some value in return? The Knicks may have the right players to make a big trade, and Nash would fit right in with D'Antoni's offense and Stoudemire. Another team that comes mind (my mind at least) are the Orlando Magic. If they want to keep Howard, adding Nash would certainly be a step in the right direction, and they can send back a package of Jameer Nelson with power forward (a position of need in Phoenix), Brandon Bass. Such a trade would not only turn the Magic into a top tier team, but it would undoubtedly shift the power from the Western Conference to the East for years to come.
Antawn Jamison: Will an NBA title propel Jamison into the Hall? Probably not. But he's been nothing but class since he came into the NBA in 1998. Not as consistent as he once was, he's still a viable scoring threat, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are in no position to contend for an NBA title any time soon.
At age 35, Jamison has one year left on a contract that many teams won't be eager to eat (he's due to make $13.3 million this year), so he could end up waiting until free agency to leave Cleveland. Teams like the Spurs, New Orleans (now that David West has said he will test the FA market), and (a dark horse contender) the Indiana Pacers all have trading assets and are in need of scoring, and on a team like the Pacers, Jamison could provide some much-needed leadership. And the Cavs can receive a package of young players in return.
- Monta Ellis: He's not a Hall-of-Famer. Yet. A top five scorer in the league, Ellis had an MVP-caliber year last season, but the Golden State Warriors were nothing more but an exciting offensive show. They could drop 120 on any opponent, but get 130 dropped on them the same night. Good thing for Monta it appears the Warriors are looking to trade him and hand the keys to the nightly three-point shoot-out to Steph Curry.
Mostly any team in the league would trip over themselves to have Monta Ellis. Can you imagine him playing with Blake Griffin? I think they would eclipse the Heat's team athleticism. What about alongside Derrick Rose (would there be a better backcourt in the NBA)? What about running the floor with Chris Paul? Dwight Howard and the Magic? There are any number of teams that are capable of trading for Ellis. Along with Nash, he's the only other player who can instantly turn a playoff team into a title contender. And imagine the exposure he'll receive from playing for a good team.
Vince Carter: Half Man, Half Amazing. Makes you feel a little nostalgic, doesn't it? We've all but forgotten about this once titan of the game, but he is a Hall-of-Fame caliber player. It's hard for me to put him in the same category as a Steve Nash because a) he can actually hurt a team's playoff chances rather than improve them, and b) he isn't what he used to be. That being said, if traded to the right team, Carter can provide streaky scoring in the starting line-up or off the bench, and he's still capable of providing exciting highlight reel type plays. Just not every game.It's hard to imagine that a contending team wants any part of Vince and his contract, but if I had to choose a couple that could use a second/third scoring option, or a threat coming off the bench, it would be the Thunder and the Celtics. They both have established leadership from coaches and players, so Carter wouldn't be the focus, and that might help him pick his spots better and contribute. If the Suns were to trade both Nash and Carter, it might be a package deal, which would benefit both players if they landed with a contender.
Allen Iverson: I can't believe I'm falling for this. He turned his back on the NBA and all that's left is the silhouette of a selfish player who refused to change. The one advantage AI has over other players on this list is that he doesn't need to be traded because he's coming in as a free agent. After his recent stint in Turkey, where he was plagued by injury, he's been quoted as saying he's ready to come back to the NBA in any role. Starter, sixth man, eighth man, whatever the team needs him to do. Can we trust that this is really the case? I want to believe that it is, so I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt.
But will other teams be as generous as I am? Is anyone desperate enough to give him another chance? I think there are enough teams that would be good fits, that Iverson has a chance to find a home back in the NBA. I'm sure the Lakers wouldn't mind Iverson coming off the bench over Steven Blake.
Regardless of where any of these players end up, or don't end up, in Iverson's case, they remain ring-less. And until they win one, their accomplishments won't merit the discussion or praise that they deserve.
I understand that I left a lot of deserving players off this list, so here are a few honorable mentions: Grant Hill, Baron Davis, Richard Jefferson (because he's already on a contender), Rashard Lewis, Michael Redd, Elton Brand (I guess the 76ers should count as a possible future contender), Tracy McGrady, and Kenyon Martin.