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No sport has been more celebrated in the black community more than the game of basketball. From the gifted athletes, to the way the players transcended their sport and became celebrities for their athletic talents, basketball, if not America’s game, is black America’s game. Here are nine basketball players who made it so.

MICHAEL JORDAN
The greatest basketball player of all time, no matter what criteria you want to use to define it.

KOBE BRYANT
The greatest basketball player playing right now, no matter what criteria you want to use to define it. We may never see another Michael Jordan but when it’s all said and done, we will probably never see another Kobe Bryant either.

LEBRON JAMES
And tomorrow? LeBron James will probably the greatest basketball playing. His size, strength, and ability make him the most exciting player to watch in the NBA with no signs of slowing up anytime soon.

SHAQUILLE O’NEAL
Shaq has arguably been the greatest big man of his generation, revolutionizing the center position with his quick feet and aggressive play under the boards. Since he’s come into the league, Shaq has proven to be as big as the hype surrounding him.

SCOTTIE PIPPEN
Even without Jordan, Pippen was one of the NBA’s greatest players. Nothing flashy, just sound fundamentals, and when his career as a scorer was fading, he remade himself into a defensive specialist, using those long arms of his to steal balls and block shots with the best of them.

OSCAR ROBERTSON
The only player to average a triple-double in one season, a record many think will never be broken.

CHARLES BARKLEY
Now the funniest and most watchable NBA analyst on television, Barkley was an undersized big man who played like he was the biggest man on the court. Those who watch him today calling games on TNT may forget how Barkely got in his chair in the first place, by being one of the three greatest players on the court anytime he played.

EARVIN “MAGIC” JOHNSON
Along with Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics, Magic Johnson helped save the NBA from going down a path similar to the NHL back in the 1980’s. Johnson could play all five positions, but when he was best was at the guard position, bring the ball up court, acting as the conductor to the Lakers unstoppable Showtime offense.

KARL MALONE
The Mailman, alongside his partner in crime John Stockton, made the Utah Jazz a powerhouse back in the 90’s. With the second most points scored in NBA history (Kareem Abdul-Jabar is the first), Malone showed how the Power Forward was more than just a boards, and clog-the-lane position. He proved they can also be scoring machines.

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