100 Best Careers in the NBA (4 of 5)


Nearing the end of the countdown, here is the second to the last batch of the 5-part series.

I won’t say much but the entries in the list is always arguable. A couple of rankings back, Shawn Marion was part of the list ahead of many other players but a caliber like Reggie Miller or a Chris Mullin were snubbed. Here I factored the fact that Marion was a better all-around player. Sure Miller and Mullin are shooters, but their stats are too low. Pistol Pete Maravich, George Gervin, Ray Allen, and Sam Jones are players of the same gameplay (the scoring SG/SF) but because they had other intangibles, their legacies were padded better. From the earlier entries, you’ll spot that the players entered were specialty players. These are the guys that did well on offense, defense, rebounding, passing… but somewhere down the line, these guys are barely all-around players.

Some of the players you’ll see in this installment are complementary players that could fare well if they were to lead a team.

The previous installment? Click here!

http://sydrified.blogspot.com/2009/09/100-best-careers-in-nba-part-3-of-5.html

Game starts now!



40 GEORGE GERVIN (San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls)

STATS: 791g – 26.2ppg, 4.6rpg, 2.8apg, 1.2spg, 0.8bpg

ACHIEVEMENTS: All-NBA Team (7), NBA All-Star (9), All-Star MVP (1), Hall of Famer

HITS: Called “The Iceman” for his cool demeanor on the court, his shooting is basically his specialty of the house. He is a four-time NBA scoring champion and he was the master of the “finger roll”. He started his career playing for the Virginia Squires in the ABA. He once played with Julius Erving in that squad to create a powerful scoring combo (he closed his career playing with Michael Jordan in Chicago). He moved to the then-ABA San Antonio Spurs where he was absorbed by the team when it jumped to the other side of the fence. He had a Mark McGuire/ Sammy Sosa moment in 1978. David Thompson and Gervin were battling for the scoring crown that Gervin leads 27.22 to 27.15. In Thompson’s last game, he scored 73 points which was enough to grab the scoring title… had not Gervin scored 63. This 63-point explosion was scored in just 36 minutes (Gervin did not play in the fourth quarter that game) and 33 of which were scored in one quarter (this record has since been tied by Carmelo Anthony).

MISSES: Gervin knows that his main job was to score. And most of the time his onslaughts would translate into wins. But title-hunting Spurs of now were not like the Gervin-led Spurs of yesterday. This team barely fights for a division title. In his 13 pro years, Gervin never reached a championship series. This is one of the Iceman’s low points. The other one? It seems that Gervin is the guy that usually stands in the outside just waiting for the ball to reach his hands so he can create scoring opportunities. Despite the fact that Gervin is second all-time in blocks made by any guard, the Iceman is not known for his defense.


39 GARY PAYTON (Seattle Supersonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat)

STATS: 1335g – 16.3ppg, 3.9rpg, 6.7apg, 1.8spg

ACHIEVEMENTS: All-NBA Team (9), NBA All-Star (9), Defensive Player of the Year (1), NBA Champion (1)

HITS: This two-time Olympic gold medal winner was once dubbed by Gail Goodrich as “probably as complete a guard as there ever was”. Dubbed “The Glove” for his ability to shut out an opposing player, he limited Michael Jordan to 27.3ppg which is the lowest Finals average His Airness has ever had. Aside from being the only point guard to Defensive Player of the Year honors, he is great scorer. Actually he is one of the best offense-defense combos to man that spot. He was part of the “Sonic Boom” combo where he tagged with Shawn Kemp. He has an outstanding ability to dish out the assists and people needs to check him when he plays defense. But perhaps the most distinguishing feature of his career is that he is one of the best trash-talkers of all time! His trademark open-mouth, head-bobbing style is one of the most irritating things you can see if Payton is in your face. Jason Kidd admits that Payton is his mentor growing up but Payton doesn’t give a shit and still gets a dose of his wicked mind games.

MISSES: Throughout his career, Payton has been in search to find a city that would give him a ring. He spent his greatest years in Seattle but after the trade of Shawn Kemp, the city has no chance of winning a plum. He had a chance with the Lakers, but the four egos failed to score a ring. In Miami, he had a crack at the championship and while he finally scored that ring, he was playing behind Jason Williams. In the end of his career, his scoring was nonexistent and while his defense was still there, the Glove was never the same again.


38 CHRIS WEBBER (Golden State Warriors, Washington Wizards, Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers)

STATS: 831g – 20.7ppg, 9.8rpg, 4.2apg, 1.4spg, 1.4bpg

ACHIEVEMENTS: All-NBA Team (5), NBA All-Star (5), Rookie of the Year (1994)

HITS: Before switching teams with Mitch Richmond in 1998, this former All-American was a great player playing for a poor squad. Webber is a post player in a wingman’s body, as he is equipped with an awesome array of ball handling and passing skills. Webber did not like Sacramento because of its longstanding crappy record. However he was just a part of its rebuilding process that also featured free agents Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic and drafted the energetic Jason Williams. All of a sudden, this cellar-dwelling team became a playoff contender. Webber was the anchor of the Sac-Town “Serbs” and this ignited a couple of years of excitement at the Arco Arena. Webber’s soft hands and natural court sense, plus his outstanding numbers are reasons for him to get a push at a Hall of Fame induction. He also dated Tyra Banks for three years which means yeah… she got “Webbered”.

MISSES: Webber could have been a NBA champ had not for their arch-rivals, the Lakers. He also had health issues in the course of his career. But one thing that somewhat destroyed his career’s sheen was his legal trouble. He had numerous counts of Marijuana possession and resisting arrest. But the biggest damper in his legacy is the forfeiture of anything Webber as far as the University of Michigan is concerned. NCAA also took back his All-American status and all of their accomplishments were taken down from the Michigan rafters. Webber was said to be taking money from an agent which was wrong since amateur players need not have agents.

EXTRA POINTS: Webber was picked first in the 1993 NBA Draft by Orlando. He was traded to the Warriors for Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway who was the third pick in that draft. Issues surrounding him and coach Don Nelson (Nelson wanted C-Webb to be a permanent post up player which means he cannot do outside shots) sent him to Washington for Tom Gugliotta.


37 JERRY LUCAS (Cincinnati Royals, San Francisco Warriors, New York Knicks)

STATS: 829g – 17.0ppg, 15.6rpg, 3.3apg

ACHIEVEMENTS: All-NBA Team (5), NBA All-Star (7), All-Star MVP (1), Rookie of the Year (1964), NBA Champion (1), Hall of Famer

HITS: Have you seen David Copperfield play ball? Lucas is said to be a very intelligent man that does mind and card tricks when he just wants to chill. He has great leaping ability and could calculate shooting and rebounding accuracy. One of the most decorated college players of his team (leading Ohio State 78-6 in three seasons) and in the NCAA (he is the only player to score 30 points and 30 rebounds in a game). At New York, he played backup for Willis Reed but he was instrumental in their title runs. He became the first NBA player to win high school, college, NBA, and Olympic championships. He also retired fourth all-time in rebounds per game.

MISSES: On court he was hot, but he was more interested in the off-court lifestyle. It seems that he never wanted to play pro ball. He chose to play for the ABL’s Cleveland Pipers in 1962 because it had fewer games and it gave him a chance to have team stocks and a chance to complete his doctorate in Business Marketing. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Royals and was pissed at his actions. When the Pipers bankrupted, he moved to the Royals where he also became part-owner. With his array of wheeling and dealing he became one of just three millionaire players in the NBA. Off court he was getting money but the Royals are struggling. New coach Bob Cousy traded Lucas to San Francisco for two reserves because he is often distracted and doesn’t hustle enough. SF was a nightmare for “Luke” as most of his businesses lined up for bankruptcy. Luckily New York saved him.


36 CLYDE DREXLER (Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets)

STATS: 1086g – 20.4ppg, 6.1rpg, 5.6apg, 2.0spg

ACHIEVEMENTS: All-NBA Team (5), NBA All-Star (10), NBA Champion (1), Hall of Famer

HITS: Phi Slama Jama boasts Houston Cougars standouts known for their explosive and fast-breaking style. This college featured Hakeem Olajuwon, former PBA import Michael Young, and this guy, otherwise known to many as “The Glide”. In the NBA, he led a menacing force bent to take out “Showtime” in the Western Finals. Wearing the intimidating black, white, and red Blazer colors, Portland fought with the Lakers in terms of Western supremacy, with Portland getting two trips in the finals. He has posted at least 20,000 points, 6,000 rebounds, and 6,000 assists (only Oscar Robertson and John Havlicek have equaled it). Until now, the above the rim playing Drexler leads all guards with his career average of 2.4 offensive rebounds per game. He wore number 10 in Barcelona where the Original Dream Team claimed gold in the 1992 Olympics.

MISSES: The Glide reunited with collegiate buddy Olajuwon where he clinched his first NBA crown. He played a second star role when he was reaching this feat. The Blazers had two chances to win gold but Detroit and Chicago shut these chances. Also, Drexler had a dismal rookie season where he only normed eight points that year.

EXTRA POINTS: He had two chances to gain a rare quadruple-double. On January 10, 1986 he scored 26 points, 9 rebounds, 11 assists, and 10 steals in Milwaukee as a Blazer. On November 1, 1996 he racked 25 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists and 10 steals against Sacramento as a Rocket.


35 JASON KIDD (Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, New Jersey Nets)

STATS: 1107g – 13.8ppg, 6.7rpg, 9.2apg, 2.0spg

ACHIEVEMENTS: All-NBA Team (6), NBA All-Star (9), Rookie of the Year (1995)

HITS: Kidd is the first player to make people realize that you don’t need to score just to become explosive. Whenever he gets the ball, you HAVE to expect some random player zooming to the basket for a fiery finish. He has passed Magic Johnson at number three in the all-time assists list and is the only player in history to score 15,000 points, 10,000 assists and 7,000 rebounds. Kidd is also number three in the all-time triple-double leader list. He ranks second in career playoff triple-doubles and he has started all 115 of his playoff games. He has an awesome career. Now wonder he always blow kisses in the air when at the free throw line!

MISSES: Kidd’s career is somewhat the same with Oscar Robertson. Both are great passers as well as excellent rebounding guards. What Kidd lacks though is a steady offensive game. Also he had two trips to the NBA Finals but blew both because his teammates have become too dependent on him that once the Spurs and the Lakers neutralized Kidd, then the rest of the Nets are easy pickings. He was also in marital squabbles. It was reported that he was cruelly abused by his wife, which prompted Kidd’s wife to counterattack.

EXTRA POINTS: In his professional career, he has never lost an international game. He is 56-0 all-time with gold medals from the 2000 Sydney and 2008 Beijing Olympics, and from the 1999, 2003 and 2007 FIBA Americas Championship.


34 SCOTTIE PIPPEN (Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers)

STATS: 1178g – 16.1ppg, 6.4rpg, 5.2apg, 2.0spg, 0.8bpg

ACHIEVEMENTS: All-NBA Team (7), NBA All-Star (7), All-Star MVP (1), NBA Champion (6)

HITS: Nobody knows playing behind a legend like Pips. He is perhaps the best sidekick in NBA History. During Michael Jordan’s Washington return, he tried out Rip Hamilton and Jerry Stackhouse to be his “partner” but no one has the playmaking skills and the smarts that Pippen possesses. This makes it hard not to write a Jordan memoir that is poised to delete Pippen’s (and Phil Jackson’s) contributions. He is a playmaker, a defensive specialist (owning a lot of defensive first team honors during his tenure with eight), a scorer, a rebounder, a low post threat, and more! He is one of four players to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks in one season which as it stands, only four players has done so and this doesn’t involve Jordan. Despite the accolades, Pips knows his role as MJ’s chief backup. He could have wanted the spotlight but he played his best to become the best sidekick in history. In this fashion led to his owning of six rings. He is one of the creators of that point-forward spot and he holds career assists and steals made by a forward in history. He was also part of the 1992 and 1996 Gold Medal Olympic squads.

MISSES: He started his rookie campaign playing backup for Brad Sellers. Who is Brad Sellers? He was the starting forward for the then-hapless Bulls. Anyway, while he is a great complement for His Airness, it seems like he made it a career to make other players look good… even if they weren’t like that. While I understand that he has to play that role when he played alongside Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley in Houston (where he and Sir Charles clashed) for one season, he could have asked to be traded when the powerhouse Portland experiment failed to trounce the Lakers (and the Kings for that matter also). His career began to stagnate as for four season with the Blazers his scoring average never got higher than 12.5. This was the same fate also suffered by Damon Stoudamire, Detlef Schrempf, Jermaine O’Neal among others to Rasheed Wallace, Bonzi Wells and Steve Smith. As backup to Jordan, the lowest he scored was 14.4 (he scored 7.9ppg in his rookie year). And it is not like he can’t lead a team. He led the Bulls in major departments and into twin Eastern semis appearances during Jordan’s hiatus from the game. Another problem with Pips is his temper. He once sat out in crunch time, not wanting to return when Phil Jackson designed a play that made Pips inbounds the ball to a potential Toni Kukoc game winner. This was for the eastern finals seat and the Bulls eventually lost the game and the series to the Knicks (this was the first year of Jordan’s baseball career). This was one of the few low points of Pips’ career.

EXTRA POINTS: Jerry Krause never liked Pippen’s antics (although the rest of the Bulls hated Krause as much) and offered Seattle to acquire him for Shawn Kemp. Seattle was the team that drafted Pippen but they traded him to Chicago for the rights of journeyman Olden Polynice. This trade bogged down when Jordan returned from his baseball odyssey.


33 DIRK NOWITZKI (Dallas Mavericks)

STATS: 1107g – 22.7ppg, 8.6rpg, 2.7apg, 0.9spg, 1.0bpg

ACHIEVEMENTS: NBA MVP (1), All-NBA Team (9), NBA All-Star (8)

HITS: If Larry Bird went to Europe and part of his genes was stolen from him, then Larry Legend should sue this Dunking German! It’s like Dirk is Larry’s heir apparent which was erroneously seen when Keith Van Horn debuted. He plays like a shooting guard in a center’s body. He can dunk and at the same time, he can score from long distances. He could hustle, he can play with mismatches with regards to what position he would play and he is versatile. He is also the first European to win the MVP plum.

MISSES: One thing that separates Bird from Dirk is that Bird is consummate defender. Bird could also read moves and attack them with such while Dirk has some kinks. For one, Dirk will eat a low-post defender that would block his shot but wilts to pressure if that player uses his speed rather than power. Dirk has learned to defend better but he’ll rather waste his energy to score. He was a key figure in the infamous four straight losses that made the Miami Heat NBA Champions.

EXTRA POINTS: During the 1998 Draft, then Boston Coach Rick Pitino wanted Dirk to play for Boston. Unfortunately then-Dallas coach Don Nelson was also interested in the German. Boston owns the tenth pick while the Mavs own the sixth. Dallas was also interested in Phoenix’ reserve point Steve Nash. Phoenix wanted Pat Garrity but they have no first round picks. The Bucks had two picks but all they wanted was to acquire top prospect Robert “Tractor” Traylor. So during draft day, Dallas hatched a plan. Milwaukee would use its eighth and nineteenth picks for Nowitzki and Garrity. The Bucks will trade these picks for Traylor. The Mavs would then deal Garrity to Phoenix for Nash. The often overweight Traylor and Garrity were pretty much role players (Traylor is now in Turkey while Garrity retired in Orlando). And if you ask what Boston got as their tenth pick? Don’t worry about them. They got Paul Pierce.


32 DOLPH SCHAYES (Syracuse Nationals, Philadelphia 76ers)

STATS: 996g – 18.5ppg, 11.3rpg, 3.1apg

ACHIEVEMENTS: All-NBA Team (12), NBA All-Star (12), NBA Champion (1), Hall of Famer

HITS: Considered a big player then, Dolph Schayes was one of the most important ballers in the 50’s. While he manned the inside, he is a great set shooter, which was one of the norms then. Before shooting required jumping, his deadly high-arcing set shots wow crowds. It was said that during his early career, Schayes broke his right arm and played the season with a cast. This made him learn to shoot with his left, making an unstoppable set shot. He was the last great superstar to shoot baskets with his feet planted on the floor. He was also the first player to achieve 30,000 PRA’s (points, rebounds, and assists). He played from 1948 to 1964.

MISSES: No question, he is a legend. The only problem in his 16-year career was he didn’t get a lot of championships. The George Mikan-led Minneapolis Lakers owned the early 50’s and it was Bill Russell’s Boston that eliminated all chances for Schayes to acquire a ring when he was nearing retirement. He was the first of many NBA legends to produce subpar spawns. His son Danny was more of a backup center more than anything.


31 PATRICK EWING (New York Knicks, Seattle Supersonics, Orlando Magic)

STATS: 1183g – 21.0ppg, 9.8rpg, 1.9apg, 1.0spg, 2.4bpg

ACHIEVEMENTS: All-NBA Team (7), NBA All-Star (11), Rookie of the Year (1986), Hall of Famer

HITS: The NBA was forced to institute the draft lottery to discourage teams from losing their matches. Controversy struck when the NBA office granted New York the top choice. All these problems because the most sought college athlete has just declared his eligibility. Once he entered he transformed New York from a struggling franchise to a playoff contender. He became a leader and became the owner of several Knick records. He was part of the crew that powered New York to many playoff appearances… where each of their chances was thwarted by Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia or Boston. Nonetheless, he is a great scorer, awesome defender, and one of the cornerstones of the league in the 80’s and late 90’s.

MISSES: No, I won’t even say his reading problem. Nearing the end of his career, two trading paths tarnished his career of dominance. It all started with the trading of his two most equipped allies in Charles Oakley and John Starks. This started New York current roster of ragtag all-stars that can’t play well together. Then an injury which made him miss the Finals against the Spurs gave the Knicks the reason to hunt for younger blood. He was sent to Seattle where his role deteriorated. He was then traded to the Orlando Magic where he was supposed to play the center role to complement Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady but at this point, old age sunk. The highest point of his NBA career was when Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon battled in the NBA Finals. Ewing defeated Olajuwon in the NCAA (Georgetown versus Univ. of Houston) while Olajuwon one-upped Ewing in the pros.


30 JOHN STOCKTON (Utah Jazz)

STATS: 1504g – 13.1ppg, 2.7rpg, 10.5apg, 2.2spg

ACHIEVEMENTS: All-NBA Team (11), NBA All-Star (10), All-Star MVP (1), Hall of Famer

HITS: The guy looks like a kid. In Filipino terms he looks like a “salingkit” whenever he steps on the hardcourt. But beware of this guy. As far as basketball insiders are concerned, Stockton ranks as one of the best point guards in NBA history. First of all, he tops all all-time assists and steals categories. And for a guy that looks so scrawny, he only missed 22 games in his ENTIRE CAREER! His ability to read his opponents makes him a dangerous foe. And while he is no high-flyer, he knows how to use his skills to make his game productive. He also made a couple of guys known as Jerry Sloan and Karl Malone extremely happy. Stockton was Sloan’s extension in the court and Malone was pretty much the receiver of most of Stockton’s passes. Did I mention that he played for two gold-winning teams in the Olympics? Because of his talent despite limited abilities, he could likely be the Ric Flair of basketball. Actually, if you look at it, Stockton is seen as one of the “Dirtiest Players of the Game”. This is not bad by all means because basketball is a physical game. However, coming from a guy that is 6’1 and 170lbs? That’s kind of… annoying.

MISSES: The Stockton to Malone pick and roll combo is one of the most popular tag team moves in the game. However, this brings up the fact that there could be no Stockton had not for Malone. Certainly with Malone’s caliber, any player could get an assist by merely giving him the ball. Perhaps, had these two not met, their accomplishments in the league wouldn’t be this high. Also, Stockton started his career as a second string player with limited minutes. He is also the type of player that would pass than score although, Stockton had an underrated outside game.


29 DAVE COWENS (Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks)

STATS: 766g – 17.6ppg, 13.6rpg, 3.8apg, 0.8spg

ACHIEVEMENTS: NBA MVP (1), All-NBA Team (3), NBA All-Star (7), All-Star MVP (1), Rookie of the Year (1971), NBA Champion (2), Hall of Famer

HITS: Cowens had the hard task of becoming the team’s “Next Bill Russell”. Unlike in the 50’s and the 60’s, 6’9 players will have a hard time manning the center post. However he did and he did it with gusto. Celtic faithful lauded the fact that they could still win the crown without Russ and Company. In fact his intensity on both sides makes him a vital cog in their two championships. Cowens is the first of only four players to lead his team in the five main stats categories for a season (points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks). Only Scottie Pippen, Kevin Garnett, and LeBron James have duplicated this feat.

MISSES: While Cowens was a mere tool to complement John Havlicek, who was Boston’s heart and soul of the 70’s and the only remaining link from the 60’s, Cowens was a super special player for Boston. Problem is… his actions are often uncharacteristic for a NBA player. While he slept at a park bench when Boston celebrated their championship in 1974, he wasted the first part of the 1977 NBA season as a cab driver to “cure his burnout issues”. That was kind of… freaky… even if the 1970’s paraded the hippest of hippies. While you might think these actions shouldn’t be problems on-court… it actually was back then.


28 ELVIN HAYES (San Diego/Houston Rockets, Baltimore/Capital/Washington Bullets)

STATS: 1303g – 21.0ppg, 12.5rpg, 1.8apg, 1.4bpg

ACHIEVEMENTS: All-NBA Team (6), NBA All-Star (12), NBA Champion (1)

HITS: “Big E” was the top pick in the 1968 Draft. In his rookie year, he scored 28.4ppg making him the last rookie to lead the league in scoring. However, he lost the top rookie plum to Wes Unseld, who became the last player to win Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in one season. A couple of years later, he will join Unseld in Washington where they made the squad a perennial contender. Hayes is a dominating scorer with Unseld concentrating more on grabbing the rebounds. Although, this doesn’t mean that Hayes is not a ferocious rebounder. In his second season, he led the league in rebounds which is the first time since 1957 a player led in rebounds that is not named Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain. Hayes played in 12 straight All-Star games from 1969 to 1980.

MISSES: It is hard to say awful things about Big E since in the course of his career, he was nothing but solid. However, when he returned to Houston (where he also played college ball), his career numbers were rapidly decreasing. Injuries also kicked in and by the time he was in Houston, Ralph Sampson and Moses Malone were manning the frontline. He retired in 1984 before Hakeem Olajuwon could ever test his first NBA uniform.


27 WILLIS REED (New York Knicks)

STATS: 650g – 18.7ppg, 12.9rpg, 1.8apg

ACHIEVEMENTS: NBA MVP (1), Finals MVP (2), All-NBA Team (5), NBA All-Star (7), All-Star MVP (1), Rookie of the Year (1965), NBA Champion (2), Hall of Famer

HITS: The guy is a leader and a winner. During his tenure as a Knick, New York had their taste of championships. Who could forget Game 7 of the 1970 Finals where the injured captain started the game against the Wilt-led Lakers and despite limping and bandaged up, gave the team a huge shot in the arm to win the crown? He shot a mere two attempts (both connected), but that is enough to revitalize Frazier, Earl Monroe, DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, Dick Barnett, Jerry Lucas, and the rest of the New York Knicks! Compared to Kareem and Wilt, Reed was puny at 6’10. However what he lacked in size, he doubled in muscle. He relishes the pivot part of the offense and this is where he works his wondrous ways. He is also an adequate defender as if blocks were part of the statistical categories then; he’ll be amassing a superb collection of it.

MISSES: While inspirational, the victory he got from the 1970 Finals would mark the downfall of his career. After that he had a couple of injuries that forced him out of action for months. This could probably be due to the wear and tear he suffered as a banger and a bruiser. When he retired, the Knicks were dismantled. His career and the Knicks organization could have been better if he didn’t end his tenure after ten short seasons.


26 RICK BARRY (San Francisco/Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets)

STATS: 794g – 23.2ppg, 6.5rpg, 5.1apg, 1.4spg

ACHIEVEMENTS: Finals MVP (1), All-NBA Team (6), NBA All-Star (8), All-Star MVP (1), Rookie of the Year (1966), NBA Champion (1), Hall of Famer

HITS: What is the “granny shot”? For younger generations, this is how Slam Dunk’s Hanamichi Sakuragi shoots the free throw. The softball pitch best describes his style which is leaps and bounds less pretty than the more popular baseball throw. While it looks odd, it is freaking devastatingly accurate! In fact, he ranks amongst the best all-time! He is arguably the best pure small forward in the history of the league due to his tenaciousness, uncanny court vision, defense, demanding will to win, and superb outside scoring! He is also one of those players that can successfully alter their game styles to fit the needs of his team. He’ll do the things asked to get a win, even if he is paired with low-quality and problematic teammates.

MISSES: His talents could do so much. Most of his years, he was Mister-Do-It-All because seasons of lackluster rosters are destroying his Hall of Fame reputation. This is also the reason why he left the San Francisco Warriors for the ABA where he played for three fruitful seasons that earned him two finals appearances and a championship crown. His exodus to the ABA made people think that he left the league because of higher financial gain. The Warriors made the fans believe that he was only after the money. When the judicial court ruled that he needs to honor the Warriors contract, he returned to the NBA. It also didn’t help that he had a reputation of talking without thinking which made him an unlikable person.

EXTRA POINTS: From his “Barry” spawned former NBA players like Jon, Brent, and Drew. Coincidentally Rick and Brent became the second father and son combo to have NBA rings. Rick in 1975 with the Golden State Warriors and Brent with the 2005 and 2007 San Antonio Spurs.


25 LEBRON JAMES (Cleveland Cavaliers)

STATS: 472g – 27.5ppg, 7.0rpg, 6.7apg, 1.8spg, 0.9bpg

ACHIEVEMENTS: NBA MVP (1), All-NBA Team (5), NBA All-Star (5), All-Star MVP (2), Rookie of the Year (2004)

HITS: He is the second coming of Magic Johnson in terms of pre-NBA attention. During his time high school games are getting nationwide attention (although they didn’t care about the games per se and were merely looking out for James). Picked first in the 2003 Draft, James found out that it was hard to survive the NBA… if he had weak-ass backup. Slowly, his team was formed to his liking and it was safe to say that LBJ has the goods to blaze the league. James combines power with quickness and athleticism. He has the power of Oscar Robertson with the scoring abilities of Julius Erving and the unselfishness of Grant Hill. He is a regular 25-5-5 player and he is ready to man clutch moments.

MISSES: There is a double-edged sword that surrounds a high-ranking placing in their early career and this is where Kobe could outshine LeBron in the years to come. First of all, Kobe’s seeding went up with his constant accolades such as individual honors and championships. While LBJ is young and dangerous, so was Ralph Sampson, Vin Baker, and Anfernee Hardaway in their early years before injuries took its toll (this is somewhat overacting because King James had done more than what these three had accomplished, respect-wise). James needs to stay away from danger as possible to further cement his self as the league’s future. He also needs to rise during clutch times. While he could perform well in dire situations… in the regular season, he needs to advance his crunch time antics to the playoffs. He is too unselfish at times that it hurts his team rather than helping it.


24 JULIUS ERVING (Philadelphia 76ers)

STATS: 836g – 22.0ppg, 6.7rpg, 3.9apg, 1.8spg, 1.5bpg

ACHIEVEMENTS: Finals MVP (1), All-NBA Team (7), NBA All-Star (11), All-Star MVP (2), NBA Champion (1)

HITS: The old school basketball game was flushed out with his entry. All of a sudden, basketball became exciting. When he entered the NBA in 1976, he was the most popular player of the ABA. He continued to be the game’s ambassador in the NBA and his style (alongside David Thompson) paved the way for Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and other NBA high-flyers. Remember that jaw-dropping behind-the-board reverse layup that’s virtually visible in every NBA history show? He can stay in the air for so long that he could drink coffee, read the paper, nail cut his toe nails, and scratch his ass before scoring a fadeaway shot! Because of his style of play “dunks”, “crossover dribbles”, and “no-look passes” were incorporated in the basketball vernacular! Erving introduced jumping off the foul line which has become a key trick for succeeding slam dunk events and regular season game bonuses. He became a multi-million endorser and he was so charismatic that everywhere he went, fans clamored for the “Doctor”. But Dr. J wasn’t just a showman; he also knows how to lead a team to victory.

MISSES: No question, he is a legendary fixture in the history of basketball. However, Erving’s best years were played outside Philadelphia. In the ABA, the lowest scoring average he had was 27.3, and this was in his rookie year (he averaged 31.9 in his second season). In the NBA, the highest scoring average he obtained is 26.9. He scored 23 points and up only four times. His five seasons in ABA summed up 28.7ppg, 12.1rpg, 4.8apg, 2.4spg, 2.0bpg, a 2-time ABA champion, a 2-time ABA Finals MVP, a 5-time All-ABA member, a 5-time ABA All-Star and a 3-time ABA MVP. You can see his NBA stats underneath his name.


23 ISIAH THOMAS (Detroit Pistons)

STATS: 979g – 19.2ppg, 3.6rpg, 9.3apg, 1.9spg

ACHIEVEMENTS: Finals MVP (1), All-NBA Team (5), NBA All-Star (12), All-Star MVP (2), NBA Champion (2)

HITS: When late Detroit mentor Chuck Daly asked Isiah to lead a group of bruisers with zero athleticism, he responded well. The Bad Boys of the 80’s were a ferocious bunch of “goons”. Thomas is the best person to lead these Pistons. His toughness and competitive fire are his strengths that made this team harbor a couple of rings at the expense of the Lakers and Blazers. He hates losing and will do everything to one-up his foe. He will drill a merciless tres or rattle the defense with a gutsy penetration. He can pack the points in batches (an example of which is scoring 16 points in 94 seconds in a playoff game) rendering the opponents helpless. His abilities give him acclaim as well as adversaries.

MISSES: Critics peg him as a gracious winner and a lousy loser. His eagerness to win is both his strength and weakness. Remember how he “froze” Michael Jordan because his hometown idolizing a newbie that was taken the spotlight out of the vets in the 1985 All-Star Game? What about his “feud” with Larry Bird? Professionally, injuries in the 90 are factors that led to his retirement. Looking back, his ego bolstered failed bids to further cement his legacy: 1) Many team owners blamed his mismanagement for the eventual downfall of the CBA (the NBDL came and destroyed the semi-pro league), 2) Coaching and management woes in Toronto, Indiana, and New York, and 3) A sexual harassment case that cost Madison Square Garden 11.6 US Dollars! This perhaps also led to the alleged drug overdose he had in mid-2008. Detroit was the only franchise that treated him graciously in his NBA career.

EXTRA POINTS: Thomas missed out three potential US Olympic gold medals. He was going to represent the US but US boycotts the 1980 Moscow Games. In 1992, he could have been part of the Dream Team had not for Michael Jordan’s ability to hate him. And when Dream Team 2 was about to don the US colors, he injured himself that promptly caused his retirement. He was replaced in the lineup by Kevin Johnson.


22 JOHN HAVLICEK (Boston Celtics)

STATS: 1270g – 20.8ppg, 6.3rpg, 4.8apg

ACHIEVEMENTS: Finals MVP (1), All-NBA Team (11), NBA All-Star (13), NBA Champion (8), Hall of Famer

HITS: Named from a John Wayne flick, Hondo is considered as one of the best players of the league. Currently it is him and not Russell, Bird, Cowens, and Pierce as the Celtics’ all-time leading scorer! While he was merely a backup for Jerry Lucas in his college years, Havlicek was a key contributor for Red Auerbach in the 60’s. He started as Boston’s sixth man but when most of the guys retired, he was placed in the starting lineup. He was pretty much the connection from the 60’s for the players of the 70’s. He could scorch his opponents with his jumpers and could perform well when the shots matter. He is also a tough customer in the defensive end as his famous steal that made legendary Boston broadcaster Johnny Most exclaim “Havlicek steals it! Havlicek stole the ball” is one of the most recognizable natsots of the league’s history.

MISSES: In his 16 year career, Havlicek never scored lower than 14.3 points (this was during his rookie year). There is hardly any downside in his career but if I would count on something, it could be the fact that people thought of him as a mere role player in his early career. Even when he was scoring in consistent double digits people try to factor in that had not for Russell and company, he’d be scoring less. Hell, even Bob Cousy thought of him as a mere defensive specialist when he first saw Hondo.


21 ALLEN IVERSON (Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Memphis Grizzlies)

STATS: 886g – 27.1ppg, 3.7rpg, 6.2apg, 2.2spg

ACHIEVEMENTS: NBA MVP (1), All-NBA Team (7), NBA All-Star (10), All-Star MVP (2), Rookie of the Year (1997)

HITS: When we say Georgetown, the people we know from that school usually stands above 6’9. Now Allen Iverson isn’t like Mutombo, Mourning, or Ewing, because he brings something new to the court. Standing barely six feet, the man dubbed as “The Answer”, is one of the league’s most popular players. He is flamboyant, he is skillful, he is controversial, and he is a media magnet! AI plays larger than his size. He is a four-time scoring champion and a three-time steals leader. He loves to get his hands on the ball during moments that matter, which is why he is one of the best clutch players in the league’s history.

MISSES: Larry Brown was the only coach that actually got Iverson’s respect… and yeah, that was rocky at best. Iverson is a coach’s nightmare. He is said to be a ball hog and this is one of the reasons why he can’t win a plum. He was sent away from Philly after Iverson’s over-outbursts. He was brought to Denver to second Carmelo Anthony but AI can’t take a step back for Melo. Worse, he was brought to Detroit to add star power but his stint gave the team an eighth seed in the East. And now… most teams won’t sign him because he’s a headcase and a lowly team like Memphis was the only team to take a chance on Iverson. His chances of winning a championship are slim.


The cream of the crop will take centerstage in the final installment!

Yes, Michael Jordan would be there! Yes Shaquille O’Neal would be there! Yes Kobe Bryant… ugh… well… he could be there!

Until the next installment…

GAME OVER!

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