NBA fans love to debate. One could argue NBA fans enjoy arguing about who is the greatest player more than they enjoy watching a game. Whether or not that is true, debates centered around the question of who is better than who, dominate NBA conversations. Everyone compares players by different metrics but one seems to dominate more than others, rings. Championships can shift legacy, alter memory, and change history like nothing else in sports can. Surely this year’s NBA championship will help construct some impressive legacies. This poses the question of, who would benefit the most from winning a championship? With that in mind, let’s take a look at what three players would gain the most from a championship this season.
3.) Nikola Jokić
The past two years have been great for Jokić. He helped the Nuggets reach the Western Conference Finals in 2020 and was named M.V.P. in 2021. For most players, that level of success would bring all sorts of attention. However, Jokić has not received the praise and glamour that normally comes with being the reigning M.V.P. Whether it’s his style, personality or where he plays, his name seems to be forgotten when talking about the league’s best players. After all, it is still a debate whether or not he is the best center in the NBA. The only thing that may change this narrative around the Joker is a championship. Similar to what bringing a championship to Milwaukee did for Giannis Antetokounmpo, bringing a title to Denver would be huge for Jokić’s legacy. The Nuggets haven’t been to an NBA finals since 1976, and consequently, fans in the mile high city are starving for a championship. Jokić’s game isn’t flashy like other stars in the NBA, but if he wins a ring this season, his resume will be as flashy as any big man in the game. With a ring, Jokić would be crowned a top five player and best center in the game. Scoring 27 points at Phoenix on opening night is a great start for what could be a legacy-altering season for the Joker.
2.) Donovan Mitchell
When Utah drafted Donovan Mitchell, the franchise was flummoxed due to the departure of Gordon Hayward. It looked like the Jazz would not be in playoff contention anytime soon, but Mitchell changed all of that. After leading the Jazz to the playoffs multiple times, he helped the Jazz earn the number one overall seed last season as the Jazz finished with the best record in the NBA. However, few saw the Jazz as a legitimate finals contender and in the end they were proven right with the Jazz falling in the second round. Despite the underperforming playoff run from the Jazz, Mitchell was impressive, averaging 32.3 points on practically one ankle. In 2020, we saw a healthy Mitchell score 50+ points in a game multiple times in Utah’s first round series against the Nuggets. If Mitchell stays on his current arc of improvement and can stay healthy this season, the Jazz will be in contention for their first finals appearance since 1998. Mitchell, who is currently not regarded by most as a top 10 player, would sky-rocket up those lists with a finals victory. Other teams that have a legitimate shot to win the finals are led by players already considered all-time talents, however the Jazz don’t have that. There’s only so much a perennial superstar can gain from a championship, whereas Mitchell would immediately insert his name in that conversation if he brings a finals to Salt Lake City. When discussing who has the most to gain, it’s hard to keep Mitchell away from the top of the list with so much potential yet to be reached.
1.) Luka Dončić
At 22-years-old, Luka Dončič is off to one of the greatest starts to an NBA career ever. The former third overall pick has already become the fastest Maverick to reach 5,000 points and has averaged 32.8 points in 11 career playoff games. Luka has quickly become the face of the franchise but with a championship, he could become the face of the league. Similar to Magic Johnson, Luka seems to have a flare to his game that is extremely vibrant and marketable. From a business perspective, success for Luka would be fantastic for the NBA. If Luka found a way to bring the Mavericks a championship in 2021, it would arguably be the worst overall roster to reach the finals since LeBron James’ Cavaliers in 2007. Speaking of LeBron James, Dončič’s career has been similar to the start of James’ career thus far, leading an underperforming roster to the playoffs multiple times. James would eventually have to leave Cleveland to achieve his championship aspirations, it will be interesting to see if Dončič will have to do the same. If Dončič can find a way to win a ring with Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis as his co-stars, it would be the cherry on top to the greatest start to an NBA career ever. He would immediately be in consideration for the best player in the game at the youthful age of 22 with decades left to build his legacy. A ring this early in Luka Dončič’s career could be what he needs to separate from other NBA greats.