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A Gathering of Greats: Basketball

Abdul-Jabbar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
He won three NCAA titles, six NBA championships and six league MVP awards and holds career NBA records for minutes, points and field goals made and attempted.

"He has stood at the center of his own remarkable universe, unwavering in his consistency. The only time Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has ever succumbed to change was when he got better."
—Bruce Newman, SI, May 5, 1980

Bird Larry Bird
He won three NBA titles, three consecutive league MVP awards (1984-86) -- and the unanimous respect of his peers.

"There has never been a basketball player quite like the Celtics' Larry Joe Bird, in whom talent and tenacity rage a daily wire-to-wire battle for supremacy."
—Jack McCallum, SI, March 3, 1986

Chamberlain Wilt Chamberlain
The only man to score 100 points in an NBA game (March 2, 1962) and the league's alltime rebounding leader; he won two NBA championships and four MVP awards and holds career records for 50-plus-point games (118) and single-season scoring average (50.4 in '61-62).

"Chamberlain is no Fancy Dan, though it appears he could be if he chose because he has speed, grace and spring in abundance. He simply takes the ball in the pivot, jumps and turns, stretches out an elastic frame and unbelievably long arms in midair and dunks it."
—Jeremiah Tax, SI, Dec. 17, 1956

Johnson Magic Johnson
He won five championships and three league MVP awards from 1980 to '90, and in every year he played, he had the league's most valuable personality.

"In person, Magic may have a YMCA shot, herky-jerky and one-handed, but it still has gone in 53% of the time in his career. He has always taken those mincing steps, as though his legs were not quite hinged in the middle, yet he can outjuke a wolf to a sirloin. He seems to dribble with the flat of his hand, as though holding a two-by-four, but if you had to cross a minefield behind a dribbling NBA player, whom else would you choose?"
—Rick Reilly, SI, Dec. 18, 1989

Jordan Michael Jordan
Besides his six NBA championships and five MVP awards, MJ holds records for career scoring average (33.4) and most seasons leading the league in scoring (10).

"He is a miracle worker, a man who performs feats so dramatic, they seem too good to be true. If Michael Jordan were a fictional character, if his career were the product of some writer's imagination, he would be dismissed as too wonderful to believe. But he is the real thing."
—Phil Taylor, SI, June 17, 1998

Robertson Oscar Robertson
The Big O, the only player in NBA history to average a triple double for a full season (1961-62), ranks among the top five in career points, assists and free throws made.

"The story of Robertson's true excellence lies in the statistics. Even his most practiced observers are constantly amazed when his point total, assists and rebounds are tabulated after a game.... He has been almost eerily consistent ... like a .333 hitter who arrived at that figure by going 1 for 3 with one walk in every game of the season."
—Frank Deford, SI, Dec. 9, 1968

Photographs by (from top) Larry Rivers(Artwork), Jerry Wachter, Walter Iooss Jr., Peter Read Miller, Manny Millan, Heinz Kluetmeier

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