Legendary Olympians featured on NBA's 75th Anniversary Team

Gold medallists Michael Jordan and LeBron James are among the stars named to the team as the NBA celebrates its 75th season.

By William Imbo
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

The 75th anniversary season of the National Basketball Association tipped off last week, and to commemorate the occasion, the league announced its 75th Anniversary Team, comprised of legendary players who have changed the game of basketball.

The team, which was revealed 25 years after the NBA announced the 50 greatest players in league history, was selected by a blue-ribbon panel of ex-players, executives, coaches and media. Included in the 76-strong roster (due to a tie in the voting) are a combined 158 NBA championships, 730 NBA All-Star selections, 110 Most Valuable Player Awards and a host of Olympic medals.

All 50 members of the NBA 50th Anniversary Team were selected to the 75th Anniversary Team, which includes legends Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, George Mikan and Bob Pettit; all four men are the only players who have been named to all four NBA Anniversary Teams: the 25th Anniversary Team (10 players named), 35th Anniversary Team (11 players named), 50th Anniversary Team and 75th Anniversary Team.

Six international players from six countries and territories - Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Tim Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands), Patrick Ewing (Jamaica), Steve Nash (Canada), Dirk Nowitzki (Germany) and Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria) - were also chosen for the prestigious team.

There is no shortage of Olympians (and Olympic medallists) among the 75th Anniversary Team, who can count appearances at the Games from as far back as 1956, when Russell and the USA won gold in Melbourne. Notable Olympians on the team include:

Magic Johnson

Earvin "Magic" Johnson, often regarded as the best point guard in history, is one of basketball's great icons. Johnson, who played 13 seasons in the NBA (all for the Los Angeles Lakers), was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996, and deservedly makes the 75th anniversary team as well.

The five-time NBA champion and three-time league MVP was a member of the legendary 'Dream Team' that stormed to the gold medal at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games.

Kobe Bryant

The late, great Kobe Bryant was an obvious selection for the team. Over the course of his 20-year career in the NBA, the Lakers legend won five championships; was selected to 18 All-Star teams, 11 All-NBA First Teams and nine All-Defensive First Teams; won two Finals MVP awards and two scoring titles; was the 2008 league MVP; and is a two-time Olympic gold medallist.

Renowned for his ability to produce in the most high-pressure situations, Bryant single-handedly took control of the gold medal game between the USA and Spain at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. With the USA clinging to the most fragile of leads (91-89) with eight minutes left, the "Black Mamba" proceed to score 13 points, add three dishes and two blocks to help secure a 118-107 win.

Bryant would return to the Olympic Stage at London 2012, winning his second gold medal.

Bryant died tragically in a helicopter crash, at the age of 41, on 26 January 2020.

LeBron James

'King James' has been one of, if not the most dominant force in the NBA for the past decade. At 36, the fact that James is still in the MVP discussion every season is a testament to his longetivty and his otherworldy talents.

James, who holds the record for all-time playoffs points (and currently sits third in all-time points), has accrued four NBA championships, four NBA MVP awards, four NBA Finals MVP awards, and two Olympic gold medals during his 18-year career.

Kevin Durant

'KD', at 33, is in the prime of his career right now; so much so that he is often touted as the best player in basketball.

In addition to the numerous awards and championships he has earned in the NBA (two titles, two Finals MVP awards and a league MVP award), Durant has had an equally glittering international career with Team USA; Durant has won three Olympic gold medals, one World Cup, and at Tokyo 2020 became the all-time top scorer in the history of the USA men's team.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan's biography on the official NBA website could tell you everything you need to know about the hoops legend:

"By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time."

But if you still needed some convincing that "His Airness" is worthy of such reverence, consider the (brief) list of his top accomplishments:

Rookie of the Year; Five-time NBA MVP; Six-time NBA champion; Six-time NBA Finals MVP; Ten-time All-NBA First Team; Two-time Olympic gold medallist; Nine time NBA All-Defensive First Team; Defensive Player of the Year; 14-time NBA All-Star; Three-time NBA All-Star MVP; 50th Anniversary All-Time Team; Ten scoring titles — an NBA record and seven consecutive matching Wilt Chamberlain; Retired with the NBA’s highest scoring average of 30.1ppg; Hall of Fame inductee.

MJ was integral in helping to popularize the NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s, and was the star of the iconic Dream Team at the Barcelona Olympics.


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