A player really establishes himself as an all-timer when he is competing for a championship and the public recognizes him as someone who belongs there.
As sports are dominated by a handful of teams, the players associated with those teams begin to ascend the rankings among their peers and standout in the sports world.
There are a limited amount of superstar athletes (aka-future Hall Of Famers) currently playing in each of our most popular pro sports. This list looks at the great ones and their records in championship finals. The following players listed have more than one championship appearance.
In honor of Kobe Bryant's return to the NBA regular season after rehab from a torn achilles, he gets to start the list. He is tied with Derek Jeter for most appearaces in championship finals by a current player.
From the NBA, these are the outstanding ones:
Kobe Bryant 5-2 (beat Indiana, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Boston, Olando-lost to Boston, Detroit)
Pau Gasol 2-1 (beat Boston, Orlando-lost to Boston)
LeBron James 2-2 (with Cleveland-lost to San Antonio/with Miami-beat OKC, SA-lost to Dallas)
Dwyane Wade 3-1 (beat Dallas with Shaq, beat OKC and SA with LeBron, lost to Dallas)
Tim Duncan 4-1 (beat New York, New Jersey, Detroit, Cleveland-lost to Miami)
Tony Parker 3-1 (beat New Jersey, Detroit, Cleveland-lost to Miami)
Manu Ginobili 3-1 (beat New Jersey, Detroit, Cleveland-lost to Miami)
Dirk Nowitzki 1-1 (beat Miami, lost to Miami)
Ray Allen 2-1 (with Boston, beat LA Lakers, lost to LA Lakers/with Miami-beat San Antonio)
Paul Pierce 1-1 (with Boston, beat LA Lakers, lost to LA Lakers)
Kevin Garnett 1-1 (with Boston, beat LA Lakers, lost to LA Lakers)
The NFL list is shorter, but also etched in awesomeness:
Tom Brady 3-2 (beat St. Louis, Carolina, Philadelphia-lost twice to New York Giants)
Eli Manning 2-0 (beat New England twice)
Peyton Manning 1-1 (with Indianapolis-beat Chicago, lost to New Orleans)
Reggie Wayne 1-1 (beat Chicago, lost to New Orleans)
Dwight Freeney 1-1 (with Indianapolis-beat Chicago, lost to New Orleans)
Ben Roethlisberger 2-1 (beat Seattle, Arizona-lost to Green Bay)
Troy Polamalu 2-1 (beat Seattle, Arizona-lost to Green Bay)
Charles Woodson 1-1 (with Oakland-lost to Tampa Bay, with Green Bay-beat Pittsburgh)
London Fletcher 1-1 (with St. Louis-beat Tennessee, lost to New England)
The MLB list has its own brand of all-stars:
Derek Jeter 5-2 (beat Atlanta twice, San Diego, Mets, Phil.-lost to Florida, Arizona)
David Ortiz 3-0 (beat St. Louis twice and Colorado)
Jimmy Rollins 1-1 (beat Tampa, lost to NY Yankees)
Miguel Cabrera 1-1 (with Florida-beat NY Yankees, with Detroit-lost to San Francisco)
Albert Pujols 2-1 (with St. Louis-beat Detroit, Texas and lost to Boston)
MLS has the one bigtime superstar:
Landon Donovan 5-1 (went 2-0 with San Jose Earthquakes, is 3-1 with LA Galaxy)
Between Justin Tuck (2-0), Robert Mathis (1-1), James Harrison (2-1) and Dwight Freeney (1-1), I chose Freeney because he has the most sacks and starts among them.
No Derek Fisher (5-2) because he is mostly considered a role player. He has half as many points as Ray Allen in the same amount of seasons.
Anquan Boldin (1-1) and Wes Welker (0-2) of the NFL, Chris Bosh (2-1) and Rajon Rondo (1-1) of the NBA and Michael Young (0-2), Yadier Molina (2-2)) and Ryan Howard (1-1) of MLB were left off because it is not determined whether their levels of play will be maintained long enough to make the Hall Of Fame.
Interestingly, no NFL running backs and no MLB pitchers made the list (I had Justin Verlander (0-2) on and then took him off-not enough seasons to be sure of his route to the Hall).
I kept Reggie Wayne on because he is due to come back to the NFL after rehabbing his injury (so, technically he is a current player).