BLING Stats: Analyzing the 5 Most Decorated NBA Seasons Ever
Great artists of their craft are remembered by their masterpiece works. Michaelangelo has his “Statue of David”. Marlon Brando has iconic role in the “The Godfather” as Don Corleone. Drake has “Hotline Bling.”
In the same vein, legendary NBA players are best remembered by their masterpieces. Wilt Chamberlain stands alone as the only player to score 100 points in a single game. LeBron James took down the 73-win Warriors and brought Cleveland its’ first NBA championship. Oscar Robertson was the only player to average a triple double throughout an entire regular season… until Russell Westbrook turned into Russell GOATbrook and matched his feat.
Each of these players’ legacies will be headlined by their most incredible feats. While updating my BLING player rankings to 75 historic players (more on that to come soon), I did so by calculating BLING per season and adding them up for their career total. In other words, each season a player earned a number of accolades: All-NBA selections, an All-Star game appearance, a championship or a season award.
I had stumbled into a neat BLING finding – I could see each player’s highest BLING season! In their career, which season(s) were their most accomplished? In addition, when compared to their historic peers, which players had the most decorated individual seasons in NBA history?
“HiBLING Season”: A Brief Explanation
Before presenting the results, I want to briefly explain the statistic in question. I call it HiBLING Season. This identifies the highest amount of BLING (a.k.a. accolades) that a player earned in a given season. I have explained BLING in prior articles, as seen below:
Essentially, there are four categories of accolades that a player can earn each season:
- The NBA Championship
- Season Awards (MVP, Finals MVP, DPOY, ROTY, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man)
- All-League selection (All-NBA, All-Defense and/or All-Rookie)
- All-Star Game appearance
For each accolade earned, BLING awards 1 point. So if you win the NBA title, you earn 1 point. If you make the All-Star Game, that’s 1 more point. So on and so forth.
So a player had an “elite” season if their HiBLING Season total is 3 or greater. Likely, the player made the All-Star Game, was nominated as an All-League selection and either won an award or a championship.
Fun fact: the highest HiBLING Season total ever recorded was 7. That total goes far beyond an “elite” season. Rather, it stands out as an all-time historic season that likely defines that player’s legacy.
Four players in NBA history have posted seasons of 7 BLING. Let’s find out who those players are and dissect their incredible feats.
HiBLING Season Leader: 1993-94 Hakeem Olajuwon
There are 4 players in NBA history who hauled in 7 BLING accolades in one season. Of them all, I believe that Hakeem Olajuwon’s 1993-94 season is the most impressive.
Regular Season: This was the first year following Michael Jordan’s three-peat and retirement. The door was left wide open for other great superstars to take over and win rings of their own. Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Karl Malone and others were ready to stake their claim as the league’s best player.
Unfortunately for them, none seized the opportunity quite like Hakeem did. Having just finished 2nd in MVP voting the year before, “The Dream” tore through the league. He averaged 27.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 3.7 blocks AND 1.6 steals per game!
Playoffs & Finals: Hakeem took his level of play to new heights in the postseason. He led all players in scoring by averaging 28.9 points per game and posted a 27.7 PER. In the Finals, Hakeem was the leading scorer in all seven games played as he propelled the Rockets to the NBA Championship. “The Dream” also held peak-Patrick Ewing to 36.8% FG shooting.
For his efforts, the Rockets center was awarded with the following 7 BLING accolades:
- 1993-94 NBA Championship (+1 BLING)
- 1993-94 Most Valuable Player (+1)
- 1993-94 All-NBA 1st Team (+1)
- 1993-94 All-Defensive 1st Team (+1)
- 1994 Finals Most Valuable Player (+1)
- 1994 Defensive Player of the Year (+1)
- 1994 All-Star Game (+1)
An All-Star? A top 5 defender? The best defender?? A top 5 regular season player?? The league’s most valuable player?! A freakin’ champion?!?! Heck, even the best player in the championship series?!?!?! ALL IN ONE SEASON (JAW HITS FLOOR)?!?!?!?!?!
Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. 7 BLING earned, just like that.
For context, Pacers legend Reggie Miller had a stellar NBA career and was one of the best player of the 1990’s. His career BLING total was… 8. Hakeem Olajuwon nearly matched that in just his 1993-94 campaign!
See below for Olajuwon’s BLING output by season, which charts his career high’s and low’s:
As incredible as this season was, it is only tied for the highest “HiBLING Season” total. There are 3 additional players who accomplished this feat. I will continue profiling their Herculean feats below, starting with “His Airness”.
HiBLING Season Leader: 1995-96 & 1997-98 Michael Jordan
To no surprise, Michael Jordan was one of the players leading the way in HiBLING Season. In typical Jordan fashion, he accomplished this amazing feat not once, but TWICE. Arguably his most decorated season came in 1995-96, when “His Airness” earned the following 7 BLING:
- 1995-96 NBA Championship (+1 BLING)
- 1995-96 Most Valuable Player (+1)
- 1995-96 All-NBA 1st Team (+1)
- 1995-96 All-Defensive 1st Team (+1)
- 1996 Finals Most Valuable Player (+1)
- 1996 All-Star Game (+1)
- 1996 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (+1)
This output only differs by Hakeem’s by the following: Olajuwon won the “Defensive Player of the Year” award, while MJ took home the “All-Star Game MVP” trophy. Either way, that’s 7 BLING earned for each player.
Regular Season: Jordan’s Bulls set the league on fire in his return from retirement. They won a then-NBA record 72 regular season games and tore through the postseason. Their leader was Michael, who won the scoring title and posted an impressive per game line of 30.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.2 steals on 49.5% FG shooting and 42.7% 3P shooting.
Playoffs & Finals: Jordan led the postseason in scoring at 30.7 points per contest. Chicago scorched teams and posted a 123 ORting/101 DRtg split. By defeating the Seattle Supersonics in six games, Jordan won his fourth NBA title and kicked off the first of what would become another three-peat. His Game 6 performance was poor from a shooting performance, but admirable in its’ all-around effect. MJ only shot 5-for-19 from the field, but he also tallied 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals in the win.
“The GOAT” followed up this season by repeating as NBA champion. Then, Michael repeated his fabled 1995-96 award output by doing something no other NBA player has: earn 7 BLING accolades again!! See below for his 1997-98 haul:
- 1997-98 NBA Championship (+1 BLING)
- 1997-98 Most Valuable Player (+1)
- 1997-98 All-NBA 1st Team (+1)
- 1997-98 All-Defensive 1st Team (+1)
- 1998 Finals Most Valuable Player (+1)
- 1998 All-Star Game (+1)
- 1998 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (+1)
We all remember how his 1998 campaign ended. Jordan validated his historic season by draining his most iconic shot, in a career full of them. Poor Bryon Russell never had a chance:
Michael won these 7 accolades in 1996 and 1998, but these were not high peaks amongst a pedestrian career. Rather, he won more awards and honors than any player in league history. Check out Jordan’s BLING breakdown by season below. His consistency of winning and individual success is mostly unparalleled:
It’s no wonder that Michael Jordan is often referred to as the “GOAT” – the Greatest of All Time. However, he cannot claim the “7 BLING” title along with Hakeem. There are two other players who accomplished this feat. Next up on the list: Shaq.
HiBLING Season Leader: 1999-00 Shaquille O’Neal
“The Big Aristotle” tried to extend his public persona by starring in “Kazaam”, but that isn’t likely to be his defining legacy moment. Yeah, not by a long shot.
Rather, O’Neal is likely to be best remembered by his dominating peak play from 2000-2002. During that span, Shaq was the best player on the three-peat champion Los Angeles Lakers. He won many awards during that time, but only earned 7 BLING accolades once. It occurred during his historic 1999-2000 campaign, the first season of Shaq’s eventual three-peat. While on his way to winning his first NBA title, O’Neal collected the following honors:
- 1999-00 NBA Championship (+1 BLING)
- 1999-00 Most Valuable Player (+1)
- 1999-00 All-NBA 1st Team (+1)
- 1999-00 All-Defensive 2nd Team (+1)
- 2000 Finals Most Valuable Player (+1)
- 2000 All-Star Game (+1)
- 2000 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (+1)
Regular Season: Shaq was DOMINANT with a capital “D” during this stretch. He bullied all opponents and bruised his way into basketball lore by racking up a season on par with the best to ever play. O’Neal won the scoring title and averaged an absurd stat line of 29.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.0 blocks per game. While putting up those ridiculous point totals, he efficiently led the league in field goal percentage by draining 57.4% of his shots. “Shaqfu” also led the NBA in PER, Win Shares and Box/Plus Minus.
Playoffs & Finals: In the postseason, O’Neal raised his game by averaging a cool 30.7 points and 15.4 rebounds per game. He concluded the season by posting one of the most unbelievable NBA Finals performances of all-time. In dispatching the Indiana Pacers in six games, Shaq’s per game averages were 38.0 points, 16.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.7 blocks on 61.1% FG shooting. Now that’s how you earn a ring!
Diesel’s above honors match MJ’s almost exactly, with one exception: a 2nd-Team All-Defensive nod instead of Jordan’s 1st-Team. However, that does not diminish the all-around excellence of Shaq’s peak season.
Below is O’Neal’s BLING accolades earned by season:
O’Neal, Jordan and Olajuwon are all universally hailed as some of the best players to ever play basketball. Their highlighted seasons above stand out as some of the most celebrated in NBA history. However, none of them were the first player to achieve 7 BLING in one season. That honor is reserved for an underrated player hailing from New York City…
HiBLING Season Leader: 1969-70 WILLIS REED
The final player on this list was none other than Knicks’ legend Willis Reed. He kicked off his NBA career with a bang by winning Rookie of the Year. However, it took until 1969-70 for Willis to truly make his stamp on basketball lore. He and teammate Walt Frazier guided the Knicks to win the NBA championship that season. In addition, he was awarded with the following BLING haul:
- 1969-70 NBA Championship (+1 BLING)
- 1969-70 Most Valuable Player (+1)
- 1969-70 All-NBA 1st Team (+1)
- 1969-70 All-Defensive 1st Team (+1)
- 1970 Finals Most Valuable Player (+1)
- 1970 All-Star Game (+1)
- 1970 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (+1)
This mirrors the same output of Michael Jordan’s campaigns listed above.
Regular Season: During his MVP campaign, Willis averaged 21.7 points, 13.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists (no blocks or steals were recorded) on 50% shooting.
Playoffs & Finals: In the playoffs, Reed increased his scoring output to 23.7 points per game. Going toe-to-toe against Lakers’ superstar Wilt Chamberlain in the NBA Finals, Reed performed admirably in leading New York to a 7-game series win. He scored 37 and 38 points in Games 1 and 3 of the series, respectively. Chamberlain dominated statistically, but it Reed’ Knicks who came out on top and won the championship.
See below for Willis’ BLING output by season:
On a brief tangent: how great is that retro Willis Reed ruler?!
Just Missing the Cut: NBA Players with HiBLING of 6
The four players above can hold their head high, knowing that they lay claim to the most decorated individual seasons ever. However, there are many other players from history nipping at their heels. See below for the five players who own HiBLING Season marks of 6:
I am not going into further detail with the historic seasons mentioned above. For more information on them, click the following links: Moses Malone stats; Tim Duncan stats; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stats; Larry Bird stats; and LeBron James stats.
Conclusion: Rack Up That BLING!
I hope you enjoyed reading this article on the NBA’s most decorated historical seasons. HiBLING is a newly-coined term, but is relatively simple and accurate. In identifying the highest-recorded single-season BLING, the output is a list of nothing but NBA legends. Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon are among the 5-10 best players ever. Willis Reed’s season was long hailed as a statistical outlier until the 1990’s, when his output was matched by the players mentioned above. Notable absences such as Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain are due to having no Finals MVP or DPOY awards during their playing careers. Players who did not win multiple MVP’s or who did not consistently make both the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams do not rank as highly here.
For these reasons, I find HiBLING Season to have value. It pinpoints a player’s peak output, as evidenced by the accolades that were earned. Future articles will further elaborate on this point and present further statistical findings to continually identify the best seasons ever played. Until then, you can reach me on Twitter @PaulAblesCM to let me hear your opinions on this! Do you have questions about any missing players, or criteria used above? By all means, let me know!
Otherwise, thank you for reading this latest article in our “NBA BLING” series.