US Sports Veteran
If we went back a few years there would be a lot more names on this list, but quite a few legends have retired over the past few years. Even though the list has been shaved down a little there are still plenty of active players who are Hall of Fame locks.
I decided how to define a “lock” based on my own outlook on players’ careers but there is a good benchmark everyone can use: If a player retired today is he a Hall of Famer? If the answer is yes then he’s definitely a lock.
Right now he’s the only active player who can even be considered in the same realm as Michael Jordan. That says just as much as all of his records, stats, rings, and accolades, but I’ll go through them anyways. James is a four time MVP and three time NBA champion. He’s gone to the last eight NBA Finals, which is just a ridiculous streak in the modern era.
Winning back to back championships and getting both Finals MVP awards rounds out Durant’s résumé. He’s arguably in the same class of player as LeBron James right now, and if it weren’t for The King he’d be considered the best player in the world. Durant is still only entering his age 30 season, but he’s already a top twenty player of all time. Before his career ends he could easily climb into the top ten and even challenge LeBron and MJ.
He has revolutionized the way the game is played with his jaw dropping three point shooting. It is almost a guarantee he’ll own all of the three point career records by the time he decides to retire. Curry is a three time NBA Champion and has also won two league MVP awards (one of them unanimously). While he isn’t a great defender, he’s still led the league in steals twice. Curry’s career stats will never compare to those of Durant or LeBron, but he’ll always be remembered as the player that ignited the Golden State Warrior’s dynasty and will easily finish inside the top 20 players of all time.
Nowitzki is a top twenty player of all time. Winning the NBA Championship in the 2010-11 season and the finals MVP might have been the high point of his career, but he’s continued to play well even into old age. Nowitzki is the highest scoring foreign born player in NBA history and is sixth all time in scoring amongst all players. People often forget about him, and maybe that’s because he plays for the Dallas Mavericks and has for his entire 20-year career. He’s won an MVP, been to 13 All-Star games, and is still putting up 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game despite being 40 years old.
D-Wade has lost some steps over the past few seasons, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a three time NBA Champion and was a clutch player when he was younger. He was the face of the Miami Heat for 13 seasons and is again since his return. Wade has accumulated a scoring title, a finals MVP, All-NBA defensive and normal All-NBA selections, and is a 12 time All-Star. He has always been the picture of class in the NBA and will go down as one of the greatest guards in history.
Paul’s been knocked for his inability to win in the playoffs and at times his leadership skills, but that doesn’t overrule his accomplishments and skills. Paul is a point guard wizard who was, and maybe still is, the best at that position for most of his time in the NBA. He’s led the league in assists three times and steals five times and no one will argue that his dribbling skills are incredible. You don’t find many players with high tier scoring, passing, and defensive skills. Currently he’s 9th all time in assists and 12th in steals.
Postseason glory still eludes Westbrook, but he’s been an All-Star seven times, won two scoring titles, and was the 2016 regular season MVP. He won that award by being just the second player in NBA history to average a triple double over a full season, and then he came out and repeated the feat this past season. Westbrook is an athletic freak who can dunk better than some big men. His ferocity near the rim and playing style will keep him rising in the all-time ranks.
Harden came off of the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder for the first three years of his career, during the last of which he won the Sixth Man of the Year Award. Then he left and became the face of the franchise for the Houston Rockets. He’s been an All-Star each year since joining the franchise, has led the league in scoring twice, and came in second in the MVP voting two seasons ago behind his former teammate Westbrook. With the addition of Chris Paul this year the Rockets challenged the Warriors for the Western Conference, but Harden failed to show up in the playoffs for the second straight season. He did however win the MVP, making up for his second place.
There are a lot of potential knocks about Anthony. People will point to his lack of postseason success or isolation playing style, but that doesn’t outmatch his over 25,000 career points or ten All-Star appearances. It is even possible that Anthony could climb into the top ten in all-time scoring before his career ends. He’d have more All-NBA selections if he didn’t have to compete with James, Durant, and Paul Pierce during his career. Like Westbrook he’s still seeking an NBA championship and will have a chance to chase it with Harden and Paul in Houston.
Howard is another guy people love to knock for various reasons, but Superman’s legacy is set in stone. Howard has eight All-Star appearances, is a four time 1st Team All-Defensive player and a five time 1st Team All-NBA player. He’s also the only player to win the Defensive Player of the Year award three times in a row. People forget just how dominant Howard was, opponents couldn’t score inside on him, and they had almost no chance at getting a rebound either. Howard was so tall, broad, and strong that no one could best him inside. He led the league in rebounds six times and blocks twice before his long history of injuries caught up to him and brought him down a notch. But even now he still hasn’t had a season where he hasn’t averaged a double-double.
Gasol will benefit from his time spent with the Spanish international team during the past three Olympics as well as his contributions in the NBA. He isn’t as flashy as most of the other players on this list, but he has still been great during his time in the NBA. He took home Rookie of the Year in 2001-02 and joined the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2007-08 season. He and Kobe Bryant won two NBA Championships together before Gasol signed with the Chicago Bulls and made his final two All-Star appearances. Gasol is one of 44 NBA players to score over 20,000 points in their careers. Out of those 44, only two of the retired players are not and will not be in the Hall of Fame.
He has over 18,900 career points, 6,800 assists, and 3,300 rebounds. Those numbers alone might get you into the Hall of Fame but add in six All-Star appearances and four NBA Championships and suddenly you have a player who looks like a lock for the hall. Parker was a member of the San Antonio Spurs big three that won four titles for the organization. He, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili were the cornerstones of the team. It would be hard to imagine any of them not getting in.
Vinsanity took on a life of its’ own when Carter was flying around doing wild dunks on opponents left and right. Carter made the last of his eight consecutive All-Star appearances back in the 2006-07 season when he was 30 years old. Last season he turned 41. It’s hard to believe anyone could play basketball this long, but Carter has found a way, and he even manages to still throw down a dunk or two. Carter’s twenty-year career has allowed him to rack up over 24,800 points, good enough for 22nd all time.
There are plenty of other players who I believe will become Hall of Famers but for now these are the only players who could retire today and still claim their spots among the all time legends. I’m looking forward to seeing how these players continue to advance their careers this season.
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