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Defining An NBA Superstar

There are a lot of NBA superstars these days, but for which players is it a misnomer? There are obvious superstars and less obvious superstars, but what, exactly, is an NBA superstar? Let’s define it, then sort who fits into — what should be — the narrowest of designations.

The term “superstar” is one of the most misused words in the NBA. Too many players are pegged as superstars. In reality, only the elite should be called as such. Why is this? When did players like Blake Griffin and Paul George have this term attributed to them? The more players given the title, the less meaningful it becomes. Unless you’re the 2004 Detroit Pistons, it’s extremely hard to win a championship without a superstar. In fact, there are only seven superstars in league right now. But before I can get to who they are, I have to establish what makes a player a superstar.

A superstar is someone who can have a team built around him. He should be able to take them deep into the playoffs and be that guy you can depend on in the closing minutes. In order to attain superstar status, a player should be judged for his play on the court and not his life off of it. A GM would literally break is arm before trading a superstar. And if he was traded, the other team would have to give up everything — including the kitchen sink — to acquire him. Superstars are the face of the franchise, and you would be lucky if your team had more than one in a decade (unless you’re the Lakers…they always seem to have one). If a player is truly deemed a superstar, then he should keep this status for more than a couple of years, barring injury. This means they have sustained streak of greatness over more than just a couple of years.

Now that we know what a superstar is, there should be some players mentioned that weren’t quite fortunate to make the list.

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The Injury List
These are the players that have either once graced the short list of superstars or will soon, but have been derailed due to injury: Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade , Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love.

The Potential List
The players on this list are people that can become superstars in the next couple of seasons: James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry.

Honorable Mentions

Tim Duncan
Let’s face it, Duncan is at the very end of his career. Gregg Popovich limited his minutes a lot last season and even kept him out of the final seconds of regulation during game 6 of the Finals. But this doesn’t take away from what he has accomplished. A 14-time All-Star who is wearing four rings, three in which he brought home the Finals MVP. And if that isn’t enough, he has two regular-season MVP trophies and many deem him the best power forward of all-time. He was the centerpiece for the Spurs dynasty. The only reason he is left off the list is because his time is almost finished, and he can’t produce at high level every night like he used to (Ed. note: thogh he did make the All-NBA First Team last season)

Dirk Nowitzki
This man was definitely the star of the 2011 NBA playoffs. Everyone feared him. The Thunder looked like they were afraid of him and the Heat’s newly formed Big 3, couldn’t stop him. Two NBA Finals appearances and one championship, with a Finals MVP proved that Dirk was the greatest foreign player ever. He is an 11-time All-Star with four All-NBA First Team selections. The reason he’s off the list is due to injuries and diminished play over the last couple seasons. Unfortunately for Dirk at the age of 35, he probably won’t be back on the list again.

No more waiting. Here are the superstars of the NBA, who of no coincidence are the seven best players in the league. (Order of the list is arbitrary).

Click page 2 to find out…

The NBA Superstar

LeBron James
No surprise here. As the best player in the NBA, LeBron has been a superstar for many years. Four-time regular season MVP, 2-time Finals MVP, 9-time All-Star and he’s only been in the league for 10 years, so I’m sure all of those numbers will grow every year. LeBron’s career has been nothing short of spectacular, despite all the criticism he’s received for jumping ship to the Heat in 2010. But even before winning a championship in 2012, he has had plenty of superstar moments in the playoffs, ncluding finally overthrowing the Celtics.

Averaging 27.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists for his career puts him among the greatest to ever play the game. He brought a below-average Cavs team to the NBA Finals and two years later carried them to the best record in the league. Elite on both ends of the ball, ‘Bron overpowers players offensively and defensively. He plays like a point guard but is physically superior to anyone who has ever performed at that position.The word superstar was created for players like LeBron, but with the way he’s been playing lately maybe there needs to be a different tier for the best player in the game today.

Kevin Durant
Another no-brainer, Durant quickly made the Portland Trail Blazers feel silly for passing on him in the draft. At 6-9, he shoots the ball like a guard and troubles opposing offensive players with his lanky arms. Although he has yet to win a title, he still is arguably the second best player in the league. He’s only 235 lbs., but he can go head-to-head with anyone. He’s turned around the Thunder (formerly the Supersonics) and made them into serious title contenders, including a NBA Finals appearance in 2012. He’s only been in the league for six seasons and when LeBron’s career starts to dip, Durant will reign as the best player in the Association.

He’s one of the most unguardable players in the world. He can choose to shoot over the defender or decide to drive if he’s overplayed. Durant has won the scoring title three times in his short career, averaging over 25 PPG in all but one season. He’s finished second in the MVP race three times, and the only reason he hasn’t won the award yet is because LeBron keeps hogging them all. But you better believe his time is coming soon. No one would argue that Durant’s a superstar, but the scariest part of all this: he’s only 25 and just beginning his ascent into the history books.

Kobe Bryant
The Black Mamba is still the most feared player in the league. He is not the most talented anymore, nor the most athletic, but what keeps him at superstar status is his attitude. After 17 seasons in the NBA he is still the face of the Los Angeles Lakers. He has a killer instinct that hasn’t been seen since the days of Michael Jordan. Since he joined the league in 96′ the Lakers have only finished under .500 once. His tenure in the NBA has brought him five championships, two Finals MVPs, and a regular season MVP. He is both one of the greatest offensive players and defensive players ever. Bryant has been selected to the All-NBA Defensive First Team NINE times!

Also on his resume is the second most points scored in a game in NBA history, dropping 81 on the Raptors in 2006. Winning the scoring title twice and averaging over 25 points for 17 years proves that Kobe is unstoppable. At 35 years though, Kobe’s age may have caught up to him. Playing over 38 minutes a game last season, Kobe went down with an injury that ended his 2012-2013 season. But with Kobe’s uncanny ability to overcome injuries and vicious attitude there aren’t many doubting that he will be able to play at his superstar level when he returns next season. Just a few years ago he did this:

So, I think he’ll be fine.

See who else is a superstar…

Chris Paul
CP3 is balling at a level that hasn’t been matched by any point guard since Jason Kidd in his prime. As the consensus best point guard in the NBA, it is easy to put Chris Paul on the list of superstars. He is able to control a team better than anyone today. Paul gets his teammates great looks throughout the game and if it’s close at the end he will go into another gear and completely take over. He has such good control over his body that defenders struggle to anticipate his moves. Just ask Kidd, he’s been burned by CP3 a time or two. Paul even yelled, “He can’t guard me,” during a 2008 game after icing Kidd on a few plays, letting the world know he had arrived as the top point guard in the league.

Paul isn’t physically superior to anyone at his position, which makes his play that much more intriguing. At 6-0 and 175 lbs., he is able to drive in the lane and score at the rim or put the defender on skates at the top of the key. He hasn’t won a championship or even made it to the conference finals, but he is still universally accepted as a superstar. Any GM would jump at the chance to acquire a player like Chris Paul. He takes care of the ball and can guard any point guard out there. His playoff play has probably been the most outstanding thing on his resume. He is averaging 20.9 points, 9.5 assists and 2.2 steals a contest. Check the video below and watch his nasty NBA playoff debut.

He’s been selected to three All-NBA First Team squads and three All-Defensive First Team squads. Look for him to take the new-look Clippers deeper into the playoffs than years past. Building a team around Paul is an easy choice.

Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard may be one of the most loathed players in the NBA today. Too bad for the haters, because Dwight is primed to have another superstar caliber season again this year. Howard averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game last year, and many have called that a down year. He was battling injuries last season and still turned out terrific numbers. Incredible. Physically, no one in the league can match him. He’s 6-11 and has the athleticism of a small forward. He brought an average Magic team to the NBA Finals in 2009. They lost the Finals but it was much closer than usually indicated after losing to Kobe’s Lakers in five games.

Howard is a 7-time All-Star and 3-time Defensive Player of the Year. The least amount of rebounds he’s averaged in a season was 10, during his rookie year. As a defensive player, there is no one who can touch him at the center position. The main complaints with Dwight are that he shoots poorly from the charity stripe, and his post moves are limited. But leading the league in blocks twice, rebounds five times, and being the all-time scorer for the Orlando Magic quickly silences those negatives. The sharpshooters down in Houston will open up the paint for Dwight this year, and he will prove once again why he is a superstar.

Click page 4 to find out who else makes the list as an NBA superstar…

Tony Parker
The weakest of the superstars, Tony Parker has had more success than most on this list. He’s a 3-time NBA champion, winning the Finals MVP in 2007 against LeBron James. But Tony Parker stepped up his game last season more than he ever has. With Tim Duncan playing limited minutes and Manu Ginobili having his worst season yet, Parker kicked it into another gear, carrying the team into the finals. He almost brought the Spurs to their fifth championship since 1999, but Heat were able to sneak past them in the final two games.

Parker was controlling the tempo of the game better than most. He made many opposing defenders look silly as he was getting his 6-2 body to the cup at will. He set up excellent plays for his teammates to excel, and was the clear cut best player on the Spurs. He boasted a 23.1 PER last season and was in talks for a potential MVP win, but was derailed because of an injury. Parker went from being shopped around by the Spurs to becoming the new leader of San Antonio. This superstar will not be underrated this year as he still holds the title for second best
point guard in the NBA.

Carmelo Anthony
The last of the superstars is Carmelo Anthony. This 6-8 and 235 lb. forward is what Charles Barkley calls the best scorer in the NBA. He is powerful and has such a graceful shot that he leaves defenders confused on how to even attempt to defend him. He also snatched up the first scoring title of his career last season. He is often ridiculed for his defensive play; although, it has improved since coming to the Knicks and working with coach Mike Woodson. ‘Melo has never won a championship, nor has he ever stepped foot on the court during the NBA Finals. In fact, during his 10-year career, he has only brought his team out of the first round twice. But Carmelo is a lethal offensive player. He is possibly the most clutch player in the NBA as well. At the end of 2011-2012 season, ‘Melo lit up so many defenses, including a jaw-dropping comeback against the Bulls on Easter.

Carmelo put a New York Knick team on his back and made them relevant again. They finished second in the Eastern Conference standings last year, and no one could deny that the Knicks arrived. They were bounced out of the playoffs in the second round, but that wasn’t on Anthony. The team struggled to provide any offensive help. Another postseason people tend to forget where ‘Melo is concerned, is the 2009 Western Conference Finals when the Nuggets were two games away from making it to the Finals. A few bad turnovers and the Lakers proved victorious. Anthony has been a very reliable player; he just needs the right pieces around him to excel on the highest stage. This 6-time All-Star can definitely bring a championship to a team as their best player, which is why he is one of the few superstars in the league.

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