“There’s no I in the team” – a statement that implies that it should never be about the individual while playing a team sport. Well sometimes, it just has to be. Here’s the list of players who have done it all for their teams, leading them in all five statistical categories.
4. Dave Cowens
The first player ever to lead his team in all five major statistical categories was Dave Cowens. He was the one who put the Celtics back on the map after they hit rock bottom in the wake of Russell’s retirement. Cowens led them to two NBA championships in the 70s and was the centerpiece in continuing the strings of titles, being the perfect overture for their future championships led by Larry Bird.
His historic achievement came in 1977-78 during the Celtics’ transition years. Following their second title in 1976, the roster of John Havlicek, Charlie Scott, and Jo Jo White was trying to get back to their winning ways. Their efforts were enough for 30 wins that season, but what Cowens did went down in history.
He finished the season averaging 18.6 PPG, 14 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, and 0.9 BPG, becoming the first player in league’s history to top team’s stat sheets in all five categories. His efforts contributed to the team’s leading 10.8 wins, but it wasn’t enough to sneak them into playoffs.
3. Scottie Pippen
During the 1994-95 NBA season, Scottie Pippen followed Cowens’s footprints. Following Jordan’s first retirement, it was Scottie’s time to shine and prove he was capable of putting a team on his back. What Pippen did during the regular-season showed he was a worthy number-one option in MJ’s absence and stepped out of his shadow at least for a brief period.
Pippen led the Bulls to a 47-35 record and fifth seed in the East. Something that seemed out of reach after The Black Cat called it quits, became possible through Pippen’s heroic efforts. He put up great all-around numbers, with the league-leading 2.9 SPG. He rounded it up with 21.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 5.2 APG, and 1.1 BPG, finishing one of his best all-around regular-season in his career.
Jordan made a comeback, playing in the last 17 regular-season games. However, the Bulls fell to the Shaq’s and Penny’s Orlando Magic in the second round of the playoffs, having their season end prematurely.
2. Kevin Garnett
It’s easiest to describe Kevin Garnett’s 12 years in Minnesota as a solo act. He was never given the top-tier talent to do any significant damage in the post-season. KG eventually got traded to the Boston Celtics, where he finally got to play with star-level players, capping it off with a championship in 2008.
His years in Minneapolis will be remembered by his fantastic individual regular-season performances, one of them which got him on this list. Back in 2003, The Big Ticket led his team to 51 wins and the fourth seed in the West with his second-best player being Wally Szczerbiak. Garnett had already made his case for the MVP-award, stuffing the stat sheet like we haven’t seen for a long time.
Garnett was doing it all on both ends of the floor. He was the team’s first scoring option as he finished 26.4% of team’s plays, scoring an efficient 23 PPG. He also dominated the glass with 13 RPG and dished out a career-high 6 APG. Garnett also orchestrated Timberwolves’ defense, collecting 1.4 SPG and 1.6 BPG, but lacked a real second option do follow it up with the team’s success.
The Timberwolves were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Kobe’s and Shaq’s Lakers, making Garnett’s efforts go down the drain. KG followed it up with an MVP award the next season but never got to see NBA’s most prominent stage until putting a Celtics’ jersey on.
1. Giannis Antetkounmpo
After a failed experiment of Giannis Antetkounmpo as a point guard, Jason Kidd started using him in a more traditional forward role. Giannis responded with excellent individual performance, the one that announced him as the next big thing in the NBA.
It was the first season when Giannis broke the 20 PPG barrier, as he was leading the Bucks’ offense with 22.9 PPG. Kidd’s mentorship plus playing the point guard position helped Giannis develop his playmaking ability, as he was dishing 5.4 APG, which was a career-high for him at the time.
Antetokounmpo collected 8.8 RPG and was dominating the defensive end of the floor. He finished sixth in the league in BPG with 1.9 while being 11th in SPG with 1.6, developing into a defensive force he is today. What’s even more impressive is that back in 2016-17, Giannis became the first player in NBA history to finish in top 20 in total points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.
2016-17 season was a massive step for The Greek Freak in becoming a player he is today. With his improved all-around ability and his freakish athleticism, he may become the first player in NBA history to make this list twice. He sure is good enough to do it.
P.S. While researching the topic, LeBron’s 08-09 season gets brought up in the context of players who have led their teams in all five major statistical categories. A lot of credible sources put him on the list, with one of them being NBA.com. However, according to basketball-reference (https://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/CLE/2009.html), the year LeBron’s name was allegedly on top of the team’s stat sheets was also the year Zydrunas Ilgauskas led the Cavaliers in blocks with 1.3 to LeBron’s 1.1. This automatically makes LeBron the interloper on the list, although fitting the parameters for the other four categories and having an incredible regular season