The NBA isn’t just a basketball league, it is a constellation of stars. We have seen countless great cagers come and go over the years but there have been only a handful who have forever imprinted their careers along with the league’s rich past and tradition. Here are seven NBA stars that made their mark in history:

Yao Ming

Yao Ming

At 7-6, Yao Ming was truly China’s Great Wall in the West. Drafted as the number one overall pick in the 2002, Yao was then seen as the future of the NBA. But he became more than that. As the first player from Asia to play and star in the NBA, Yao bridged the distance between America and Asia. He was the player who truly made the NBA global and became one of the greatest international Ambassador of the sport. Although he didn’t win an NBA title, Yao Ming made 8 NBA All-Star teams, 2 All-NBA 2nd Team and 3 All-NBA 3rd team selections in a career cut short by injury. He could have been greater on the court without his injuries, but he definitely left his mark on the league by becoming the biggest international star the NBA has ever seen.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

Love him or hate him, Kobe Bryant is one of the players who will forever be remembered. The 13th pick in the 1996 NBA draft is the most successful player to come straight from high school to the NBA. The owner of five NBA title rings, Bryant is known as one of the greatest individual scorers in the game. The Black Mamba tallied 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, which is the second highest total in history. Bryant recently surpassed Michael Jordan as the third leading scorer in NBA history. He is a trailblazer in the NBA because before him, there were only four kids who made the leap from high school to the NBA. After Kobe paved the way, 34 high school stars made the successful jump.

Magic vs Bird

Magic Johnson Larry Bird

Magic and Bird were two words that summed up the 1980’s NBA National Basketball Association. The rivalry between Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird defined a decade and became the greatest rivalry the sport of basketball has ever seen. Magic played for the Los Angeles Lakers while Larry Bird starred for the Boston Celtics. Together they combined for eight of the ten championships from 1980-1989. They also won three MVP’s each and a total of 7 NBA Finals MVP during their dominant decade. While both men’s careers were cut short-Magic due to HIV and Bird because of back problems, the Magic versus Bird rivalry ushered the beginning of the NBA’s rise as a billion dollar business. This is a list of players, but no one can mention one’s name without the other.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Kareem Abdul Jabbar is the NBA’s All-time scoring leader with 38,387 points after playing 20 remarkable seasons in the NBA. Jabbar revolutionized basketball by inventing the game’s “unblockable” shot- the skyhook.  Kareem, known as Lew Alcindor before turning to Islam, started his career with the Milwaukee Bucks and led the team to its only title in 1971. Captain Skyhook would later be traded to the Lakers where he was part of the Showtime team which won 5 NBA titles in the 80’s. Aside from being a six time NBA champion, Jabbar was a 6-time NBA MVP and 2-time Finals MVP. When you talk about longevity and greatness in the NBA, it should start with Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

Jerry West

Jerry West

It’s sometimes odd to think that the man the called Mr. Clutch for making countless big baskets in his career won only one NBA title and one Finals MVP during his storied career. But take note that he didn’t win both awards in the same year. West is the only player in NBA history to win the Finals MVP while playing for the losing team. Aside from being the player known for having ice water running through his veins, West is also known as the “Logo” because the NBA logo is taken from a silhouette of his image dribbling the basketball. West would later become GM of the Lakers and is credited for drafting Kobe and bringing Shaq to Tinseltown. With these unique achievements, West deserves a spot in our list.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

What NBA list would be complete without Michael Jordan? Widely regarded as the G.O.A.T or the greatest player of All-time, Michael Jordan transcended the sport of basketball and became the biggest star the sport has ever known. From the high-flying and slam-dunking Air Jordan, he would transform into a legend in the hardcourt by winning six NBA titles via two three peats during the 1990’s. Jordan is the game’s most lethal scorer, an unstoppable force who had the knack of hitting buzzer beaters and the most important shots. His fame was unsurpassed that Nike created a separate shoe line called Jordan. The reason why the NBA is the multi-billion business that is right now is M.J., the most transcendent player of this era.

Bill Russell

Bill Russell

Do the math: eleven NBA title rings and only ten fingers. Those include an unmatched eight straight NBA titles during the 60’s and two while being a playing coach. Russell once said that there is no greater statistic in basketball than a win. He took that by heart and there is no other description of Bill Russell other than he is a winner. Russell came to the league at a time when the African-American people weren’t expected to dominate the game and became the first African-American player to reach superstar status. He also became the first African-American coach in the NBA and the first to win an NBA title. Considered as the pillar of NBA basketball, Bill Russell made the biggest mark in NBA history.