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NBA AM: Most Decorated Players

Joel Brigham looks at each of the NBA’s most prestigious awards and the players who have the most trophies.

Joel Brigham

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Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford made waves this week by becoming the first player in NBA history to win the Sixth Man of the Year award three separate times. That put him in the conversation as one of the most effective bench players of all-time, and even if there are those who disagree, there’s no contesting the fact that there is no more decorated bench player in the history of the game.

All of the major NBA awards feature their own titans, those men who owned certain awards the way Crawford has owned Sixth Man of the Year. Here’s a look at the most decorated players in each of the NBA’s most prestigious honors:

Most MVP trophies – 6, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers

All of the greatest NBA players dominate at least a handful of statistical categories, but Abdul-Jabbar’s list is an especially impressive one. He’s the all-time leader in career wins, a 10-time All-NBA First Team selection, five-time All-Defensive Team selection, two-time scoring champ and a former Rookie of the Year. He also holds the record for most MVP trophies. In 1971-72, just one of his six MVP seasons, Abdul-Jabbar averaged 34.8 PPG and 16.6 RPG, which is by any measure one of the most impressive statistical seasons of all-time. Michael Jordan won five MVP trophies, by comparison, and topping that guy in anything is worth noting.

Most championship rings – 11, Bill Russell, Boston Celtics

There was an eight-year stretch in which Bill Russell never lost an NBA championship, and that run between the years of 1959 and 1966 still holds up as the most dominant stretch in the history of American team sports. Russell actually only played 13 seasons in the NBA, meaning there were only two times in his career that he didn’t win a ring. If Wilt Chamberlain hadn’t ever existed, Russell and the Celtics may have run off 13 in a row. Think about that for a moment.

Most Finals appearances – 12, Bill Russell, Boston Celtics

Obviously. But right behind him is Jerry West, who played in nine NBA Finals during the same era as Russell, meaning that despite playing in 55 NBA Finals games, he only came out of it with a single championship ring for his troubles.

Most Finals MVP trophies – 6, Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls

Only Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal have ever been named the NBA Finals MVP three times in a row, and His Airness did it twice. Jordan played in exactly six Finals, and he won the Finals MVP each and every time he showed up to the dance. Only a handful of other players can say the same, but even then it’s only because they played in significantly fewer Finals than MJ. His final shot over Byron Russell, his shrug-worthy six three-pointers in a ’92 Finals game against Portland, or “The Move” against the Lakers in 1991 all played at least minor roles in his stacking up all those awards. He may be the most clutch NBA Finals legend in history.

Most scoring titles – 10, Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls

Of those 10 scoring titles, eight of them came with over 30 points per game for the season, including a seven-year stretch where he failed to fall below that mark. His first scoring title came in his third season in the league, where he scored a career-high 37.1 PPG. In today’s NBA, it’s a big DraftKings night when a player drops that many points, but in 1986-87, that was just another day at the office for Jordan.

Most All-NBA First Team honors – 11, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers; Karl Malone, Utah Jazz

One of the things that Kobe Bryant walks away with in terms of his legacy is the fact that he is tied for the lead for most All-NBA First Team honors (11) and most total All-NBA team selections (15). The former he shares with Karl Malone, while the latter he shares with Abdul-Jabbar and Tim Duncan. Both marks are impressive, though they may not stand for long, as LeBron James already has nine First-Team selections and 11 overall.

Most All-Star appearances – 19, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers

Only a handful of players in the history of basketball have played more seasons in the NBA than Abdul-Jabbar, but his string of 19 All-Star appearances in 20 seasons is something that will probably never happen again. Consider that Kevin Garnett (21 NBA seasons) and Tim Duncan (19 NBA seasons) both “only” have appeared in 15 All-Star games, and you start to get a picture of how incredible this particular record really is. It’s hard to stay that good and that healthy for that long.

Most All-Star MVP trophies – 4, Bob Pettit, St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks; Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

Before Russell Westbrook did it this past year, Pettit had been the only player to earn the All-Star MVP award in two consecutive years, and three of those came in an impressive four-year span for the Hall of Famer. He scored 20 points and hauled in 24 rebounds for his first MVP, and his other games were similarly impressive. Bryant, meanwhile, is fresher in our minds, but he’s an All-Star legend too. As the all-time leader in All-Star starts (15), steals (38), shots made (119) and among the top two in points (280), games (15), threes (22) and minutes (414), it was inevitable that he’d win an MVP trophy or four as well. Interestingly, both Pettit and Bryant were named co-MVPs at one point, not that that has anything to do with how much they deserved their myriad awards.

Most Defensive Player of the Year trophies – 4, Dikembe Mutombo, Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers; Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons

Easily the most dominant defensive presences of their respective eras, Mutombo and Wallace more than earned their record four Defensive Player of the Year awards, though they earned them in rather different ways. All four of Wallace’s came as a member of the Detroit Pistons, and they were awarded in a rather unbelievable five-year span for The Fro. Mutombo, meanwhile, won his for three different teams over the span of seven seasons, not that one road to immortality was any more or less effective than another.

Most All-Defensive Team honors – 15, Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

Despite the fact that he’s never actually won Defensive Player of the Year, Duncan has proven himself one of the best defenders of all-time thanks to his record 15 All-Defensive team selections – eight of which were All-Defensive First Team honors. That second number puts him in a tie for second place, by the way, behind Bryant, Garnett, Jordan and Gary Payton, and he still could add more numbers to that total. To give a sense of how commanding that lead is, nobody has been named to 14 or even 13 All-Defensive teams. Duncan stands comfortably alone on this one.

Only a couple of these records are anywhere close to being contested by current NBA players, but to join the ranks of the most decorated players in NBA history is something that takes a full career of prolonged dominance, which as we’ve all seen time and again is far from easy. That just puts into perspective how special Crawford’s third Sixth Man of the Year award really is.

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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NBA PM: Patrick Beverley Set the Tone for Clippers in Season Opener

Patrick Beverley set the tone for the L.A. Clippers with his aggressive defense in their season opener.

Jesse Blancarte

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“The LA Clippers are going to the Western Conference Finals. Guaranteed.”

That bold statement was made by Charles Barkley during TNT’s coverage of last night’s matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.

While Barkley may have had his hot take canon primed and in mid-season form, that should not overshadow the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers put together a strong showing in their first regular season game since the departure of Chris Paul.

Blake Griffin logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and knocked down three of his six three-point attempts. Griffin was aggressive and showed no hesitation on his jumper, which seemed to open up lanes for him to drive to the basket (where he is most effective). DeAndre Jordan was fantastic as well, contributing 14 points, 24 rebounds, one assist and one steal.

While the Clippers lost some significant contributors from last season, including J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford, the team had some returning and new players show that they are capable of filling the void.

Milos Teodosic was just 2-9 from the field, but knocked down two three-pointers and looked comfortable and effective running the team’s offense. Danilo Gallinarni shot just 3-13 from the field but looked healthy and spry, displaying the kind of mobility that is necessary to play the small forward position. His ability to act as a secondary playmaker wasn’t on full display, but there were moments where it was apparent that he could be a big help in generating open looks for his teammates. Lou Williams also looked good in his Clippers debut, scoring in a variety of ways off the bench and contributing six assists as well. Wesley Johnson continues to look confident and aggressive, a continuation from his preseason performances, and is starting to knock down the open shots his teammates are creating for him (which has been a problem for him in the past).

While the Clippers looked solid in their opening act without Paul, it should be noted that the Lakers are a young team overall and their defense has been a major problem for the last few seasons. While the Lakers have added some promising young talent over the offseason, like most young teams, they are going to struggle to slow down veteran teams with potent offenses. It would be a mistake to think the Clippers can replicate this sort of offensive performance every night, especially against the better defensive teams in the league. However, perhaps the most promising part of the Clippers’ season debut was the fact that they seemed to feed off of and embrace the gritty demeanor and style of play that Patrick Beverley brings to the court each and every night.

Last night’s game was the NBA debut for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who many predict will develop into a star player. Unfortunately for Ball, his opening night matchup came against Beverley, who earned a spot on the 2017 All-Defensive First Team. Beverley repeatedly guarded Ball past half court, pushed him around and did everything he could to throw him off of his game. He held Ball to three points, nine rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.

Beverley, like every NBA player, has heard the hype and noise surrounding Ball and his future in the league (most of it from his outspoken father, LaVar).

“I just had to set the tone,” Beverley said. “I told him after the game that due to all the riffraff his dad brings, that he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. I let him know that after the game. What a better way to start than spending 94 feet guarding him tonight — welcome the young guy to the NBA.”

Beverley is one of the more aggressive defenders in the NBA and is known for trying to get under the skin of his opponents, so Lonzo may not face this level of intensity in every game. But based on Beverley’s comments, it’s clear that he expects other players around the league to defend Lonzo aggressively as well.

Snoop Dogg, the rapper and passionate Lakers fan, summed up the issue for Ball arguably better than anyone else has so far.

“His father put him in the lion’s den with pork chop drawers on,” said Snoop.

For his part, Lonzo complimented Beverley on his aggressive defense.

“[Beverley] plays hard. He knows his job. He does it very well,” said Ball. “He gets under people’s skin and plays defense and does what he can to help his team win.”

Beverley set the tone for the Clippers, who looked crisp and confident throughout the game. Griffin’s three-point shot looks like it could finally be a reliable part of his offensive arsenal. Jordan was very active on the glass, pulling down 24 rebounds (possibly inspired in part by his commitment to donate $100 per rebound this season to help the effort to rebuild his hometown of Houston after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey). The rest of the supporting cast played with the sort of cohesion and confidence that takes at least a few weeks into the season to develop. Again, the Clippers’ performance could have stemmed primarily from the Lakers’ shaky defense, but it was encouraging to see the team play with such force and confidence in the absence of Paul.

The Western Conference is extremely talented and deep, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers will make it to the Western Conference Finals as Barkley predicted. However, challenging for a spot in the playoffs and perhaps even doing some damage once there seems to be in the realm of possibility. This is especially the case considering how much of an impact Beverley had Thursday night, both defensively and in setting the tone for the rest of his new teammates.

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Morris Bringing Leadership To Celtics

Marcus Morris chats with Basketball Insiders for a one-on-one exclusive.

Spencer Davies

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Returning just one starter from last year’s top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics underwent wholesale changes this past offseason.

Gordon Hayward signed a super max contract. Danny Ainge pried Kyrie Irving away from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster deal. Jayson Tatum was selected with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft.

In early July, though, there was an under-the-radar trade executed that hasn’t been mentioned much. Surprisingly, Celtics guard Avery Bradley was sent to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Marcus Morris, a heady wing with size and versatility to add to a revamped core of players.

Bradley was a mainstay with the franchise for seven years and played a vital role as a part of Brad Stevens’ system, but Boston decided to move in a different direction. As for the man they got in return, he’s thrilled to be there.

“It makes me feel good,” Morris told Basketball Insiders of Ainge dealing one of his best former players for him. “It makes you feel wanted.

“This is my first time since I’ve been in the NBA I’ve been on a team with a bunch of guys that [are] All-Stars. With the maturity of the team being this high and having them high expectations on us, I’m excited to get the season going and see how far we can take this.”

The Detroit Pistons likely wanted to keep him, but the organization clearly felt Bradley’s skill set was too good to pass up. For Morris, he insisted there was no indication that his old team would send him away, but he hasn’t been bashful about talking up his new home.

“Had no idea that I was gonna be a Boston Celtic, but I’m ready for the challenge, you know?” Morris said. “I’m excited. Boston, being a Celtic—it’s something that growing up you don’t really see happening, but when it happens it’s an amazing thing.

“It’s like playing for the Patriots, you know what I mean? One of the most heralded teams and most heralded franchises, and Boston is one of those.”

Entering the seventh season of his career, Morris has remained a steady part of the league. During his time in Detroit, he started nearly every game for the Pistons and found a comfort zone that he believes will carry over in Boston.

“Just continue to be consistent, continue to build on my last past couple of years,” Morris said of his personal goals. “I really felt like I carved my spot in the NBA the last two years—averaging 14 a year and helping my team get to the playoffs one of those years, so I really think I’ve carved a niche in this league.”

The success has come thanks to his versatility and the NBA’s current direction pointing towards that type of game. All of a sudden, not having a defined position makes a player more valuable, something Morris is thankful for as he continues to bring a little bit of everything to the table.

“For guys like me, it’s great,” Morris said. “Coming into the league, I had this ‘tweener’ thing on my back and now it’s like [freaking] great to be a ‘tweener’ at this time. I’m actually happy that it’s switching to my position and guys that can do multiple things are being utilized more in this league.”

Putting the ball in the basket has come fairly easy for Morris, who averaged 14.1 points per game on 42.6 percent from the field over 159 games with Detroit. He’s able to stretch the floor and provide solid spacing offensively, and he envisions doing more than that for this Celtics group.

“And leadership,” Morris said. “I’m not too much of a vocal guy, but I’m a passionate guy on the court. I think that’ll rub off on guys. I love scoring. I love shooting the ball. But that’s not the only thing I do.

“I’ve been a tough defender around this league for the last past years and I’m really looking forward to hanging my hat on that again and just doing whatever it takes for my team to get to that next level.”

Stevens is aware of the impact Morris can bring in the locker room and on the floor. When he returns from a sore knee to make his debut for Boston, that’ll show through his play.

“He’s a guy that can stretch the floor at the four,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that can guard two through four. He’s tough. He’s smart. He works the right way. We’ll be better with Marcus Morris for sure. The versatility is a very important part of what we want to be.

“Whether he is starting in a couple of weeks or whether he’s coming off the bench, at the end of the day he’s gonna be a critical, critical part of our team.”

While he’s waited to come back, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have stepped up in his absence. With Hayward likely sidelined for the rest of the season, that success will have to be sustained. Morris is a big believer in this promising duo and sees how grounded they are to make that happen.

“They’re mature guys for their age,” Morris said. “Jaylen, I think he’s 20. He’s definitely a lot more mature than I thought. Jayson, too. He’s way more mature than your average 19-year-old.

“At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. I think those guys, they’re ready for the challenge. They love the game. They always in the gym, so I think it’ll be easy for ‘em.”

Part of Morris’ role is guiding those two and the other younger pieces that Boston has as they try and establish themselves as professionals. He’s kind of a coach per se, which is somewhat fitting considering what he did this summer.

Most basketball fans are aware of “The Basketball Tournament” that takes nationwide. For those that aren’t, it’s a single-elimination competition between 64 teams in which the champion receives a $2 million prize. Morris was the head coach of Team FOE—standing for Family Over Everything.

Along with his fellow Kansas alums, including his brother Markieff and Thomas Robinson, Morris coached his team to the final game. Team FOE was in front most of the game but ultimately fell to Boeheim’s Army, a squad filled with former Syracuse Orangemen.

“I was on my way man,” Morris said of coming close. “I actually liked it. I’m a smart guy. Me and basketball stuff, I can put it together real well. I was kinda upset we lost in the fashion that we lost, but we’ll be back next year.

“I’m a smart player,” he said regarding a potential future on the sidelines. “I know the game really well. Coaching comes easy for some guys and I’m just one of those guys.”

You could hear “Coach Morris” down the line, but for now and for years to come, Marcus is focused on his first year with Boston. It’s a team that surely has the talent to be the top team in the East it’s pegged to be. Stevens is a basketball savant with great leadership.

Even without an All-Star like Hayward and a 0-2 start, the Celtics should still be a force to be reckoned with. There’s an even greater demand for them to achieve their potential, especially knowing eyes will be on them, but Morris welcomes the challenge.

“Man, it’s pressure on every team,” Morris said. “It ain’t like it’s just all on the Boston Celtics. It’s pressure on every team. What’s a game without pressure anyway?

“Pressure makes it the best thing. That’s what we need to do anyway. I enjoy the pressure. Me personally.”

Shouldering the load won’t be easy, but if it comes down to it, Morris will be swimming instead of sinking. When all is said and done, he shares the same aspirations as most players do—raising the Larry O’Brien trophy in the summer.

“I want to the win the championship,” Morris said. “You put this type of team together to get to those positions. I’m looking to be playing in June and trying to get to a championship.”

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