The NBA playoffs start in a few days and every team will be battling for the chance to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Each team has come this far and fought through adversity all season long and now the real fun begins. While every player has the ultimate goal of winning the NBA title, it would mean more to certain players. Especially in a league that puts titles into every discussion of legacy, it becomes that much more important. Here are five players in the playoffs this season whose legacy would take a massive jump if they were to win their first NBA title or drop if they fell short.
5. Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets
The two-time MVP lands on this list because it’s put up or shut up time for him and Nuggets. They are the number one seed in the wide open Western Conference. If he could get a title on his resume, it could mean a lot for his status among the all-time greats down the line. Jokić is a complete offensive player who does have the multiple MVPs but he has never reached the NBA Finals in his career yet. He has his supporting cast healthy this playoff run so the pressure is on him and the Nuggets.
4. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
I know that Tatum is the youngest player on this list but unlike the other players here, he plays for an organization that demands excellence due to their history. He and the Celtics lost in the NBA Finals last season and now are looking to get back. If Tatum could bring Boston a title this season, it would massively boost his legacy among the greats in Bean Town and would give the Celtics the most titles of all-time as well. Additionally, we don’t know what the future holds for this core of Celtics so it’s now or maybe never for them.
3. James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers
Harden has been one of the best guards in the NBA over the last 10 years but has no rings to show for his success. He did reach the NBA Finals once time back in 2012 but since then, he has only made a few conference finals. His play in the playoffs has been heavily criticized in the past, fair or unfair, so a title would instantly boost his legacy among the elite guards in history. He has the stats to back up his case but getting a championship would go a long way.
2. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns
Paul finally reached the NBA Finals with the Suns in 2021 but fell short in six games. He then said he was “addicted to winning” and now has another strong chance of going for a title. If he could add a title to his resume, that would boost his legacy like crazy. He is one of the better point guards of all-time but is just missing that last piece of the puzzle. Maybe this is the year for him with Kevin Durant helping out his case.
1. Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Clippers
Westbrook tops this list because he has been such a polarizing players over the course of his career. A former league MVP, Westbrook has been bounced around the last few seasons. He had a very tough time over the last year and a half before joining the Los Angeles Clippers. If he could add a title to his legendary resume, he would be seen as one of the best of all-time at the position. He already should be seen that way but without the title, many will reject that notion. Additionally, he if were to help bring the Clippers their first ever title, it would be stuff of storybooks for him.