Many of the NBA’s greatest players have truly been on top of the world. Or in some instances been chilling with rival dictators. There’s a lot to be said for someone who can be lowered six-feet deep and can have honestly said they did it right. Quite a bit to that- sure, enjoying luxuries is a plus. While partying is a great aspect of life, others have evolved their existence into much more than champagne showers. Some have used their NBA status as platforms for philanthropic endeavors. Others have made their name a worldwide brand.
On this list, there are a number of players both present, and a few old-timers, that have had incredible lives and stories that have made them legends in their own regard. Some of these gentlemen will be appropriately honored for their contribution to the league, their organizations, and their namesake. Meanwhile, other jackasses demonstrate how fun it is to be playing a kids game and making stupid money. The partiers aren’t to be hated on, because they’re fulfilling their dreams of ballin’ in every capacity, while you just gotta keep an eye on your girl. Some of the anecdotes will allow you to admire some of the obstacles some of these great athletes have overcome, how hard they’ve worked, and how true they are to the NBA’s slogan, “NBA Cares.” The girls, the money, the championships, the awards, the houses…Man, it’s cool to be an NBA player, and these fellas can share what it’s like to be the big man in town, while living the slogan so many college chicks have embroidered somewhere in their dorm room, “Live Life to the Fullest.”
20 J.R. Smith
Check Earl "J.R." Smith’s Yearbook quote, “Get chicks or die tryin." The man has his priorities in order! He was documented as being hung-over at a Knicks playoff game a few years back and Rihanna put him on blast for his foolishness. And us native New Yorkers wonder why we sucked during this chucker’s tenure. Now, riding LeBron’s coattails, maybe J.R. can celebrate a championship and it’s certain he’d paint the city red.
19 Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah was born in New York City, the offspring of a professional tennis player and a supermodel. The doofy-smiled center took his silver spoon to Florida and went on to win back-to-back championships under head coach Billy Donavan. He’s won Defensive Player of the Year and has appeared on All-Star teams, while he's also famous for bashing the unexciting Midwest town that is Cleveland. Clearly a fun-loving dude, he’s a spirited competitor and a team player. With a messed up shoulder, his best basketball has since passed, but the man brings a lively energy wherever he is.
18 Steve Kerr
This lucky dog was Michael Jordan's teammate two decades ago when the Chicago Bulls won 72 regular season games. Nowadays, Steve Kerr is coaching the Golden State Warriors who might be even better. Kerr is a savvy fellow and certainly a contributor to the successes, but he's well aware of how fortunate it is to be accompanied by the associations most transcendent players.
17 DeShawn Stevenson
Coming up on five years ago, Deshawn Stephenson was arrested for winning a championship with the Dalllas Mavericks and celebrating too hard. Rumors have even been spread saying he was still wearing his championship jersey while on his bender! Whether that is true or not is less important than the idea of one of the most comically legendary arrest in recent history. And yeah, that Abraham Lincoln tattoo centered on his neck is an honest ode to the savior of the Union.
16 Walt Frazier
His lame slant rhymes and corny jokes synonymous with garbage basketball have been his gig of late. His calls on the MSG Network do not encapsulate how cool this cat is. He was the best player on the Knicks Championship teams and was a gregarious fellow with a cool sophistication. His lamb chops are unrivaled, his fashion is admired, and his extensive vocabulary is impressive. NYC is dubbed the “mecca of basketball.” His legacy made that fact during the seventies. His name is Walt Frazier.
15 15. Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley is awesome! His unapologetic wisdom has landed him a well-deserved Emmy Award. Often times on the Thursday night halftime reports on TNT, he and his crew make the program better than games. Although he has said some ridiculously ludicrous statements, he generally has an oddly respectable justification. Back during the Dream Team’s run in ’92, he was hanging in the streets of Barcelona, bringing a unique flare to the Olympics. Sir Charles continues to bring that humor while always keeping it real.
14 LeBron James
The most polarizing figure in the NBA had a humble upbringing. It was clear at a very young age that he was going to be the best and he has lived up to the outstanding hype. Following his first championship, he bought eight bottles of champagne priced at 75 thousand a piece during a celebration in a Miami nightclub. While most of us humps like to bag on LeBron James, he has done some remarkable things. The common man will endlessly debate his spot on the all time list, while James continues to build his on court legacy with super-human athleticism. “The King” has guap, married his high school sweetheart, and fathered two future professional athletes (Ya heard it here first).
13 Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki is the best European born basketball player ever. His down to earth persona makes him a likable guy and definitely an athlete that would be good company to knock a few back with. Furthermore, the smooth seven-footer could have a spot with the Krauts in Beerfest, just check his championship celebration photos. Yeah, so the internet has captured him enjoying a pint, but who’s to blame the MVP of both the regular season and Finals. He’s soon to be in the Basketball Hall of Fame and is beloved by all that can appreciate an athlete a step slower than the rest.
12 Dikembe Mutombo
Dikembe Mutombo had a very successful career playing center during the prime of the five-spot. Admiration is deserved for both his lengthy tenure, in addition to his ability to bring his basketball success to more important platforms. He has poured money into his native Africa, and has built hospitals for those less fortunate. Improving the quality of life of others is extremely honorable and this level of philanthropy is deserving of being acknowledged.
11 Stephen Curry
The year is 2016. Stephen Curry belongs on any list basketball related. He is kind, revolutionary, dominant, and has certainly surpassed his former underdog status to the identity he’s taken on now. The local watering hole is flooded with statements during G-State games that go something like, “Oh my…I can’t believe he hit that. Can’t believe he shot it. Dude that was crazy!” In addition to being a swag-champion with a dope celebratory shimmy, he is a family man that has NBA in his blood. Steph Curry is the coolest dude going in the NBA right now. Not to mention that Chef Curry is a scratch golfer.
10 Jimmy Butler
The kid from Texas has the best rags to riches story on this list. Jimmy Butler was kicked out of his house as a teenager, because his mother “didn’t like the way he looked.” He was not recruited heavily out of high school, went to junior college, and then finally became a stand out at Marquette. The unassuming Bulls star signed to a nearly 100 million dollar contract during the offseason. Not too shabby for a kid from the streets.
9 Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain dominated the game unlike any other player. Scoring 100 points in a single game is one of those iconic sports records in the books next to the likes of Cal Ripken's consecutive games record. However, Chamberlain has a far more outrageous record, a personal claim of having slept with 20,000 woman in his lifetime. His inflated numbers on the court are superseded by this outrageous rock star number.
8 Bill Russell
One of the greatest winners in sports history will have his name echoed throughout basketball eternity. The NBA Finals MVP trophy is named after Bill Russell and he is usually an attendee of today’s biggest games. In addition to his historic career, one that included being a player-coach, Bill Russell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role in the Civil Rights Movement. Bill Russell is an incredible man and a winner through and through.
7 Phil Jackson
The motto of any good Knicks fan is “in Phil we trust.” His resume; 11 rings as a coach, two three-peats with Michael Jordan and the Bulls, a three-peat with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, and then another back to backer with Kobe. In addition, he was an awesome role player on the New York championship teams. The Zen Master has lived a great basketball life and continues to make great moves as a Knicks executive.
6 Dennis Rodman
They say he used to be quiet and reserved, which is certainly hard to believe. Nowadays the former rebounding savant has befriended North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. His diplomacy is definitely stupid, but the fact that he has had an impact on international government affairs with a rival nation is pretty remarkable. The late Chuck Daly is no longer around to slap some sense into Dennis Rodman. His Charlie Sheen-like benders have been well documented leaving no wonder his marriage to Carmen Electra was so brief.
5 Allen Iverson
Vinny Chase doesn’t have anything on “The Answer.” Allen Iverson brought an extensive posse around that eventually bled him dry. Iverson, a tough guy labeled by many the “best pound-for-pound player” was adored by many for his relentless on-court heroics. Although his expensive taste and questionable antics have hindered Iverson’s legacy, its clear that he not only loved the game he played, but also loved the luxuries that came with it. No question there is more to life than “practice” for AI.
4 Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O'Neal was listed a few years back at 325 pounds, leaving his current weight up to the guesser’s imagination. That being said, he’s a big kid and has enjoyed success both on and off the court. Diesel is a beloved goofball. Aside from his lengthy list of basketball accomplishments, Shaq is a certified police officer, in addition to being an actor, rapper, and television personality. To quote the big fella, “Bar-B-Q Chicken!”
3 David Robinson
“The Admiral” is the greatest player from the United States Armed Forces. After graduating from Navy, David Robinson became one of the premier players in the NBA, and remained loyal to the San Antonio organization throughout his career. His legacy continues to expand while his son has become a solid wideout attending Notre Dame. A true gentleman that gives a good name to his country, Robinson's position on this list juxtaposed with some major imbeciles is well earned. Nowadays he is a well-documented philanthropist and businessman. The humble tower is honored here at the three spot and deservedly so.
2 Earvin "Magic" Johnson
Earvin Johnson was dubbed “Magic” before he even finished his prolific college career. As a Spartan at Michigan State he became a champion in an unforgettable college showdown against rival Larry Bird. Credited with bringing the sport to the next level (where Michael Jordan would later bring it to the stratosphere), Magic led the “Showtime Lakers” as the greatest point guard the game has ever known. It definitely stinks that he was diagnosed with HIV, but that just meant one thing: He was bound to bring his relentless determination in fighting such an awful disease. Johnson has contributed an enormous effort to the fight against HIV/AIDS and has brought his charm to the forefront after his playing career. In addition to his outstanding efforts in the medical field, he’s worth somewhere in the half a billion dollars range and is a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. A truly magical life by anyone’s scale.
1 Michael Jordan
At the risk of boring this audience with the most impressive collection of basketball accolades, Michael Jordan’s off the court accomplishments will be as follows. He revolutionized the footwear industry with a little boutique known as “Jordan.” He was a professional baseball player in addition to being a scratch golfer. Moreover, he’s still a better basketball player than all of the guys on his Charlotte Hornets team. When asked about his political affiliation, he declined to mention because “both parties wear sneakers.” Undoubtedly, MJ is in a league of his own when it comes to living life to the fullest. Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that he’s a big time gambler. But with that kind of dough...