Out of Bounds: 2009 NBA Hall of Fame class demonstrates basketball's best

The NBA Hall of Fame class of 2009 features some of the greatest basketball players of all time - the most prestigious among these, the indomitable Michael Jordan.

Quite possibly the greatest player to ever enter the sport, Jordan came into the league as the third pick in 1984 draft out of North Carolina. Upon entering he immediately transformed the game, bringing a level of style and swagger that the league had never seen. Propelled not only by his immense talent but also by the highly visible Nike commercials, Jordan became a household name around the world.

Now, five years after his retirement and with talents such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James pushing the limits of the game, the question is: Will MJ always be remembered as the best ever?

The answer has to be a definite yes. Jordan entered the league after spending three years under the tutelage of Dean Smith at the University of North Carolina, in an era before players made the jump from high school straight to the pros. Despite spending those three years at UNC rather than in the NBA, Jordan retired twice and still won six NBA championships and his 32,292 points rank third all-time.

Famous for his offensive exploits and amazing leaping ability, Jordan was also a dedicated defensive player. He was the first player to ever win an MVP and Defensive Player of the Year award in the same season. He is second all-time in steals behind fellow Hall of Famer John Stockton.

Today's top two players, Bryant and James, are currently the biggest contenders of Jordan's stats and fame.

Bryant, known as a prolific scorer who shares Jordan's demand for the ball in clutch situations, has the strongest chance of success. He has either broken or shares many of the records Jordan set, including youngest player to score 20,000 points and consecutive games with 40 points or more.

Also, Bryant plays under the same coach Jordan did for the majority of his career with the Chicago Bulls: Phil Jackson. While Bryant doesn't have the same immense media campaign as Jordan did with the debut of the Air Jordan shoe line, he is still incredibly popular, especially overseas.

James, another incredible talent, will most likely go down in history as one of the top 10 players ever. He entered the league at the age of 18 and was already much more developed physically than either Jordan or Bryant was at that age. James is renowned for his incredible upper body strength, giving him the ability to make gravity defying shots while simultaneously absorbing contact.

Despite all of this, James has failed to win an NBA championship. While it is certainly a team effort that wins championships, a player like Jordan or Bryant has the ability to take over a game or even a series and will his team to victory.

Even if these two stars surpass Jordan's stats, MJ will remain the best in the minds of many, not because of his incredible career, but because of how he transformed the game.

There are several basketball stars today that hold the potential to be ranked among the top players ever; however, with his 2009 initiation into the Hall of Fame, Jordan will forever be recognized and appreciated as the greatest.