Leading teams to sustained success is the most important attribute of franchise players. As a rookie during the 1958-59 season, Baylor led the Lakers, then still in Minneapolis, to the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics, and he helped them reach the championship series seven more times before retiring during 1971-72 season, primarily because of lingering knee problems, without a title (the Lakers won their first championship in Los Angeles that season).
The Lakers-Celtics rivalry was forged during those years, and Baylor’s Lakers always fell short against the Celtics, who were led by Hall of Famer Bill Russell — the greatest franchise player ever in any sport.
“I’m from the old school, so I don’t know how people would think today, but I would think if you want to pick one player to win, and to win championships, you would have to pick Bill Russell,” Baylor said. “I would say Jordan . . . Jordan has got to be in the equation. Michael . . . he was special.
“But Russell played 13 years . . . the guy won 11 championships. Now, he had a lot of great players around him. You’ve got to have other players around you. But somehow, Russell always won. And he had the leadership. Like I said, that’s what a lot of guys don’t have.”
Baylor’s failure to win a championship in no way diminishes his credentials as a leader. Just as Peyton Manning’s inability to win more than one Super Bowl title to this point could not erase all he has done for the Indianapolis Colts.
Sometimes, you just face someone better.
And it’s hard to put it all together, as evidenced by the Redskins’ long, ongoing search for a franchise quarterback, the Capitals’ recent moves to acquire veteran leaders despite having the game’s most physically gifted player in Alex Ovechkin and the Wizards’ decision to place much responsibility on rookie point guard John Wall.
In New York, Knicks fans have quickly grown frustrated with Anthony because he hasn’t been all they expected.
They wanted more than a prolific scorer. They wanted more than an all-star. They wanted more than what Anthony is and something most players never will be.