A player really establishes himself as an all-time great when he is competing for championships.
As sports are dominated by a handful of teams, the players associated with those teams begin to ascend the rankings among their peers and stand out in the sports world.
There are a limited amount of superstar athletes (aka future Hall of Famers) currently playing in each of our most popular pro sports. This list looks at the great ones and their records in championship finals. The following players listed each have more than one championship appearance.
In honor of Kobe Bryant’s return to the NBA from a torn Achilles tendon, he gets to start the list. He is tied with Derek Jeter for the most appearances in championship finals by a current player.
From the NBA:
Kobe Bryant: 5-2 (beat Indiana, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Boston, Orlando, lost to Boston, Detroit)
Pau Gasol: 2-1 (beat Boston and Orlando, lost to Boston)
LeBron James: 2-2 (with Cleveland: lost to San Antonio, with Miami: beat Oklahoma City, San Antonio, lost to Dallas)
Dwyane Wade: 3-1 (beat Dallas with Shaquille O’Neal, beat Oklahoma City and San Antonio with LeBron James, lost to Dallas)
Tim Duncan: 4-1 (beat New York, New Jersey, Detroit, Cleveland, lost to Miami)
Tony Parker: 3-1 (beat New Jersey, Detroit, Cleveland, lost to Miami)
Manu Ginobili: 3-1 (beat New Jersey, Detroit, Cleveland, lost to Miami)
Dirk Nowitzki: 1-1 (beat Miami, lost to Miami)
Ray Allen: 2-1 (with Boston: beat Los Angeles Lakers, lost to Los Angeles Lakers, with Miami: beat San Antonio)
Paul Pierce: 1-1 (beat Los Angeles Lakers, lost to Los Angeles Lakers)
Kevin Garnett: 1-1 (beat Los Angeles Lakers, lost to Los Angeles Lakers)
The NFL list is shorter, but also etched in awesomeness:
Tom Brady: 3-2 (beat St. Louis, Carolina, Philadelphia, lost twice to New York Giants)
Eli Manning: 2-0 (beat New England twice)
Peyton Manning: 1-1 (beat Chicago, lost to New Orleans)
Reggie Wayne: 1-1 (beat Chicago, lost to New Orleans)
Dwight Freeney: 1-1 (beat Chicago, lost to New Orleans)
Ben Roethlisberger: 2-1 (beat Seattle, Arizona, lost to Green Bay)
Troy Polamalu: 2-1 (beat Seattle, Arizona, lost to Green Bay)
Charles Woodson: 1-1 (with Oakland: lost to Tampa Bay, with Green Bay: beat Pittsburgh)
The MLB list has its own list of All-Stars with championship track records:
Derek Jeter: 5-2 (beat Atlanta twice, San Diego, New York Mets, Philadelphia, lost to Florida, Arizona)
David Ortiz: 3-0 (beat St. Louis twice and Colorado)
Jimmy Rollins: 1-1 (beat Tampa, lost to New York Yankees)
Miguel Cabrera: 1-1 (with Florida: beat New York Yankees, with Detroit: lost to San Francisco)
Albert Pujols: 2-1 (beat Detroit, Texas and lost to Boston)
MLS has the one big-time superstar:
Landon Donovan 5-1 (went 2-0 with San Jose Earthquakes, is 3-1 with the LA Galaxy)
Between Justin Tuck, Robert Mathis, James Harrison and Dwight Freeney, I chose Freeney because he has the most sacks and starts among that group.
I left Derek Fisher off this list because he is mostly considered a role player. He has half as many points as Ray Allen in the same amount of seasons.
Wes Welker of the NFL, Chris Bosh and Rajon Rondo of the NBA, Sidney Crosby of the NHL and Michael Young, Yadier Molina and Ryan Howard of MLB were left off because it is not determined whether their levels of play will be maintained long enough to make the Hall of Fame.
Interestingly, no NFL running backs and no MLB pitchers made the list (I had Justin Verlander on and then took him off because he hasn’t played enough seasons to be sure of his route to the Hall).
I kept Reggie Wayne on because he is due to come back to the NFL after rehabbing his injury (so, technically he is a current player).
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com