The NBA has had its fair share of superstar players over the years, but only a select few can be defined as real gamechangers.
These players have not only dominated in terms of points scored and Championships won, but their influence has also stretched off court as they have helped redefine a sport that remains one of the most watched and played in the United States to this day.
Wilt Chamberlain was one of the first superstars of the NBA, winning two Championships and four MVP awards during his 15 years in the league, during which time he represented teams such as the San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers.
He remains seventh on the list of all-time leading points scorers, while he is one of only two players in the league’s history to average over 30 points per game.
Playing basketball was so effortless for the 7ft1 superstar, that the league even had to alter some of the rules to curb his scoring ability, such as making over the backboard inbounding no longer possible, while also introducing the idea of the free-throw lane.
The only other player to average over 30 points per game during his NBA career was Michael Jordan, who also won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls during the 1990s, being named Finals MVP on each occasion.
Jordan was one of the first NBA stars to take his brand off court, most notably when starring in the 1996 comedy film Space Jam, a box office hit that took the now 59-year-old’s stardom to new levels.
He has also enjoyed success in business and is the current owner of NBA franchise, the Charlotte Hornets, while his ability to thrive both on and off the court has opened new doors for players to embrace their celebrity culture.
Prior to Germany-born Dirk Nowitzki’s success in the NBA, there was a stereotype that all big players were ungraceful and enjoyed success based primarily on their height rather than their technical ability.
Standing at 7ft tall, Nowitzki certainly fits into the tall category even by basketball standards, but his shooting ability and overall finesse with the ball in hand led to him changing stereotypes that meant players could no longer rely on their height alone.
Nowitzki spent his entire NBA career with the Dallas Mavericks, landing his only NBA Championship in 2011, while he now works for the franchise as a special advisor.
Steph Curry has spent his entire career to date with the Golden State Warriors, winning three NBA Championships and two MVPs since being drafted in 2009.
The 34-year-old is certainly one of the most talented players of his era, but what makes him stand out as a game-changer is simple maths, in the sense three is better than two.
Curry is the leading three-point scorer in NBA history, throwing over 3,000 in his career to date (the only player to do so). Such is his record beyond the arc he now prioritises three-pointers over any other shot, changing the way people perceive the risk and reward approach.
By the time LeBron James calls time on his NBA career it would be no surprise if he is the leading points scorer in the league’s history, as he is currently third on the list, less than 2,000 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record total.
James has won NBA Championships with all three franchises he has represented, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers, while he has also made 18 consecutive All-Star appearances between 2005-2022.
Like Jordan, James has taken his brand beyond the basketball court, even following in his predecessor’s footsteps by starring in last year’s Space Jam sequel – the world certainly appears to be at King James’ feet.