After capturing that elusive title in June, LeBron James joined an elite fraternity of players to have won both an NBA championship and an Olympic gold medal. But no matter how many more titles James racks up, he won't ever reach a certain Mount Rushmore of basketball achievement: Winning championships in the NCAA, NBA and Olympics.
Without an NCAA title, neither LeBron nor Kobe Bryant will crack this list of seven. Even with a gold in London, no one on the U.S. team will be able to complete the trifecta this summer.
Basketball's Exclusive Triple Crown Club
You could say 1952 was a good year for Clyde Lovellette. He led his Kansas Jayhawks to the NCAA championship and grabbed the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player Award by scoring a record 141 points in the tournament. That summer, Lovellette was the leading scorer for the U.S. Olympic team that won gold by defeating the Soviet Union 36-25 in the finals.
Two years later, Lovellette averaged 8.2 points and 5.8 rebounds for George Mikan's Minneapolis Lakers that defeated the Syracuse Nationals in the 1954 NBA Finals.
Russell dominated college basketball with his ferocious defense and rebounding ability, averaging 20.7 points and 20.3 rebounds during his career at San Francisco. Alongside teammate K.C. Jones and coach Phil Woolpert, Russell won NCAA titles in 1955 and 1956. In the summer of 1956, Russell was captain of the U.S. Olympic team in Australia that decimated its opponents by an average of 53.5 points per game.
The Celtics took Russell in the 1956 NBA Draft, and Russell averaged 14.7 points and a league high 19.6 rebounds per game as a rookie, leading a Celtics team featuring future Hall of Famers Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, and Bill Sharman to the 1957 NBA title.
Jones followed the same path as Russell as they were teammates at USF, at the Olympics and with the Celtics.
Bonus fact: Clyde Lovellette (the first player on this Mount Rushmore of basketball) played alongside fellow fraternity brothers Russell and Jones on the Celtics from 1962-1964 and won two championships with Boston.
Lucas endured a particularly painful pledging process before ultimately being accepted as the fourth member of this fraternity. In 1960 Lucas led Ohio State to the NCAA title and led the U.S. Olympic team that won gold in Rome with a scoring average of 16.8 points.
But an NBA championship was a bit more elusive for Lucas. After spending six seasons playing for the Cincinnati Royals and two seasons for the San Francisco Warriors, Lucas, although statistically successful, remained ringless. It wasn't until his ninth season in the league, playing for the New York Knicks in 1973, did Lucas win an NBA title.
Buckner is the feel-good addition to this group. He may not have had the pure talent of the other players on the list, but he was a solid defender and a tremendous leader. Buckner was a four-year starter and a three-year captain on Bob Knight's legendary Indiana teams that went undefeated during the 1974-75 and 1975-76 regular seasons and won the NCAA title in 1976.
That summer, Buckner averaged a 7-3-3 for the U.S. team that beat Yugoslavia in the finals to win the gold medal. The Milwaukee Bucks drafted Buckner in the first round in 1976, but it wasn't until Buckner was traded to the Celtics that he was able to win an NBA title as part of Larry Bird's 1984 championship team.
Jordan is the only member of this group to win multiple Olympic gold medals. Jordan won his first gold as a college player in 1984 in Los Angeles and was the U.S.'s leading scorer. Jordan won his second gold as a member of the 1992 Dream Team.
As a freshman at North Carolina, Jordan made the game-winning shot in the 1982 NCAA title against a Georgetown team that starred rival Patrick Ewing. The Bulls drafted Jordan in 1984 with the third overall pick, but it took Jordan seven seasons before he was able to capture his first NBA title.
Johnson won his first and only NCAA title in 1979 as Michigan State beat Larry Bird and Indiana State in the highest rated college basketball game ever. Johnson was drafted No. 1 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers that year, and alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he helped the Lakers achieve a 60-22 record and an NBA Finals victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Johnson won Finals MVP and remains the only rookie ever to win the award. Johnson won four more NBA championships before abruptly retiring in 1991 after discovering that he was HIV-positive. But Johnson returned to be captain of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team that won the gold medal in Spain.