Speedburner’s Countdown of the Top 150 Players in NBA History (#135 – #131) – BasketballSunday, September 4, 2011 9:37
Posted in category NBA
#135 – #131 of Speedburner’s countdown of the Top 150 players in NBA History.
#135 – #131
- 135) Terry Cummings – 6′ 9″ PF from 1982 – 2000…Cummings came from DePaul, coached by the legendary Ray Meyer (remember how non-legendary his son Joey was?), the 2nd pick of a famous 1-2-3 1982 NBA Draft (Worthy, Cummings, Dominique). Worthy ended up as possibly the best ever 3rd guy on a team (by 1986, 2nd guy), while Wilkins ended up as a legendary scorer, dunker, and high-flier…but it was Cummings who won Rookie of the Year (23.7 pts, 10.6 rebs). Cummings proceeded to average 22.2 pts, 8.7 rebs, and 1.4 stls while shooting 49% from the field his first 8 years in the league. Twice an all-star and twice all-NBA (2nd team in ’85, 3rd team in ’89), he was a reliable rock at the PF position until a summertime pickup game injury in 1992 completely ended his impact days. He slipped into a reliable reserve role after that 1991-92 season (17 pts, 9 rebs, 48.8% shooting), but never averaged more than 9.1 pts or 5.5 rebs from then on. Playing for the Clippers, Bucks, and Spurs in his prime and wearing the legendary #34 (Akeem & Barkley’s number, not to mention Walter Payton, Earl Campbell, Bo Jackson, Nolan Ryan – w/ Mets, Astros, and Rangers, not Angels), Cummings scored in a variety of ways – turnaround bank shots, jumpers, power layups, put-backs & dunks…he wasn’t overly athletic but was Mr. Steady and Reliable until the injury radically curtailed his production and effectiveness. He was also rock steady in the playoffs, averaging 22.4 pts, 8.9 rebs, and shooting 51.4% from the field in 61 playoff games before his Summer ’92 injury. Post injury, he was still able to give 18 minutes/night for another 6 years before finally calling it quits at age 38. His toughness, skill, and durability allowed him to reach #46 on the all-time scoring list (19,460), #58 in rebs (8,630), and #22 on offensive boards with 3,183. He wasn’t a supernova, but instead a rock solid, no nonsense, no controversy contributor for 18 years in the league. He is currently a minister and musician, while also following his son TJ’s basketball progress in the NBDL.
- 134) Neil Johnston – 6′ 8″ C from 1951 – 1959…Johnston was the league’s dominant center in the mid-50′s, bridging George Mikan and Bill Russell. But while going from Mikan to Johnston was like going from Atari 2600 to Mattel Intellivision, Johnston to Russell was like then leapfrogging to Microsoft X-Box. Johnston starred at both hoops and baseball at Ohio St., and initially tried his hand at pitching in the minor leagues. After little success, he migrated back to the hardcourt in 1951, scoring a modest 6 pts/gm in 15 minutes a night playing for the Philadelphia Warriors, the only team he ever played for in his 8 year career. The next year started his domination, as he led the league in scoring (22.3), FG% at 45.2 (yes, barely clearing 45% really did lead the league), and minutes (45.2) while finishing in 2nd in rebs with 13.9/gm. For four more years he continued posting similar stats, gathering two more scoring titles, two more FG% titles, a rebounding title (15.1/gm in ’54-’55), a league championship in 1956, and finishing in the top 6 in scoring and rebounding the other years. His hook shot was accurate and unstoppable, unless your name was Bill Russell. Russell played Johnston his 2nd game in the league as a rookie in 1956 (still Johnston’s prime), and held him scoreless for the first 42 minutes of the game. He was blocking his shots, stealing the ball from him, forcing awkward attempts, but always under control and never sending him to the line. That was the X-Box going against Mattel’s Intellivision – no contest – hardware and software far too advanced for the older model. At 6’8″ 210, Johnston was the size of today’s small forwards, only far less athletic and playing center. Nonetheless, he had that dominant 5 year stretch, making 1st team all-NBA 4 times and 2nd team once, and was a very good overall shooter, draining 76.8% of his free throws in his career – three times better than 80% – while leading the league in attempts and makes 3 straight years from 1952-55. He also finished with very solid career rebounding (11.3, #24 all-time) and scoring (19.4, #67 all-time) averages. Would he be on this list if he had entered the NBA in 1984? Definitely not, but you can’t ignore a Hall of Famer who was the elite big man of his day, even if it was a completely different era. He died rather young, at the age of 49 in 1978, 12 years before being voted into the Hall.
- 133) Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway – 6′ 7″ PG/SG from 1993 – 2005…Technically, he played during the ’05-’06 and ’07-’08 seasons, but the numbers are so small and pathetic, his career essentially ended with the close of the 2004-05 season. The numbers we’d like to forget in those last two years: 20 total games, 20 min/gm, 3.5 pts while shooting 35.1%. This of course, was not at all the Penny who was a dominant all-around player at every level of the game – Senior year High School: 36.6, 10.1 rebs, 6.2 asst, 3.9 stls, 2.8 blks…final year at Memphis: 22.8, 8.5 reb, 6.4 asst, 2.4 stl, 1.2 blk…First 7 years in the league: 18.7, 4.9 rebs, 6.2 asst, 1.9 stl, .5 blk, and shot 47.3%. Penny was famously traded for Chris Webber on draft day in 1993, landing with the Magic and teaming with Shaq, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott and company. Here was a 6’7″, very quick, explosive athlete who could handle & pass like a point guard, shoot and score like an off guard, and was tall enough to defend small forwards – a dream Swiss Army knife for any coach or team. Alas, Penny was like a fine Italian sports car that worked great the first three years, but then kept going back to the shop. Those first three years – 5 total missed games. The next 5 years? Missed 23 games, 63 games, 0 games (strike shortened 1998-99 season), 22 games, and then 78 games in ’00-’01. He was 1st team all-NBA in 1995 and ’96, averaging at least 20 pts, 4 boards, 7 dimes and 1.7 steals each season while also hitting on better than 51% of his shots both years. He and Shaq led the Magic to the NBA Finals in ’95, only to be swept by Akeem and the Rockets, but Penny was strong with 24.5, 4.8 rebs, 8 asst, and over 50% from the field in the series. In his playoff prime (54 games through the 2000 playoffs), Hardaway averaged 21.5, 4.6 rebs, 6.4 asst, 1.85 stls, and .78 blks per game. He had a legendary set of back-to-back performances in the first round round of the 1997 Playoffs, going off for 42 in game 3 and 41 in game 4 against the Heat to force a game 5 in round 1, though they eventually lost the series. He’s the only player in NBA history to record consecutive 40+ games in the playoffs while his team failed to score 100 in either game. Besides giving us tremendous hoops highlights and production in his prime, Penny, through Nike, also gave us the legendary Lil Penny, his mini-me puppet friend, and a series of pretty funny commercials, including this one that includes the great line, “Hey Tyra [Banks, famous supermodel], you left your toothbrush at my place”. Now 40, Penny was just honored this month at his alma mater, as Memphis just opened the Penny Hardaway/University of Memphis Hall of Fame. It’s one thing to be inducted into your school’s Hall of Fame, quite another to have the Hall of Fame named after you – that’s how good Hardaway was.
- 132) Chet Walker – 6′ 6″ SG/SF from 1962 – 1975…Chet ‘The Jet’ was a very underrated, explosive wing player who went to the rack with the best of them during the 60s and early 70s. He left Bradley University in 1962 as a two-time 1st team All-American, averaging 24.4 pts/gm and 12.8 rebs while shooting over 55% during his 3 year career there. He was the 12th pick of the ’62 Draft, which included future Hall-of-Famers Dave DeBusschere, Jerry Lucas, and John Havlicek – surprisingly…and wrongly…Chet has yet to be voted in. Walker joined forces in Philadelphia with Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, and a young Billy Cunningham on one of the NBA’s greatest teams ever (68-13 record) to end the Celtics eight year run as NBA Champs in 1967. Playing alongside these three future Hall-of-Famers on the 76ers, Walker averaged 19.3 pts and 8.1 rebs a game while shooting 48.8% from the floor. In the playoffs, where they went 11-4 (beat Celtics 4-1), Chet boosted his scoring to 21.7 while still grabbing 7.6 boards. Whether or not this was the greatest team ever is debatable, but they are most probably the greatest rebounding team ever as Wilt was at 24.2 for the season, Luke Jackson 8.9, and Cunningham 7.3, to go with Chet’s 8.1. Walker was an exceptional rebounder his entire career, averaging over 10 once (1964), over 8 two other times, and then over 7 four more times. Cool and confident with the ball in his hands, he was extremely adept at juking his guy and driving to the hoop. This of course earned him many trips to the line, and he took full advantage, radically improving his FT% from 72.9% his first 6 years in the league to 84.7% his last 7 years (79.6% career). And by the time he was done, he ended up with 5,079 FTM in his career, good for 32nd on the all-time combined NBA/ABA list (8th when he retired!). Additionally, Walker aged like a fine wine, unlike some of the other players we’ve looked at (Strickland and Penny spring to mind), as his final year in the league he averaged 19.2 pts, 5.7 rebs, and shot 48.7%. Always a winner, Walker never missed the playoffs in his 13 year career – and the year before he joined the Bulls in 1969, they were 33-49, a non-playoff team. After he left in 1975, they went 24-58, very much a non-playoff team. A 7-time all-star and 3-time 21+ pts/gm scorer (his 1st three yrs w/ the Bulls), Walker moved out West to produce TV movies after basketball and still lives in the LA area today.
- 131) Reggie Miller – 6′ 7″ SG/SF from 1987 – 2005…A brash, confident, mouthy sharpshooter out of UCLA, Miller spent his entire career in Indiana, craving the big moments when he could drain a three late in the game and seal yet another Pacer victory. The 11th pick of the 1987 Draft, the genius Indy fans complained that local hero Steve Alford wasn’t the Pacers’ selection (Alford’s career stats, taken 26th overall by Dallas: 4.4 pts, 0.9 rebs, and 1 asst in just under 10 minutes a game playing only 4 seasons…Indy got it right). He came a long way from the guy everyone said wasn’t even as good as his big sister (Cheryl Miller – if there’s a chick list for the top 100, she’s top 5 for sure). Miller was a fine player with a fine resume – the infamous 8 points in 9 seconds vs. the Knicks in the 1995 playoffs to steal a Game 1; six times averaging 20+ pts (career best 24.6 his 3rd season); #14 on the all-time points list with over 25,000; #2 on the all-time threes list with 2,560; five times leading the league in free throw percentage (career 88.8%, #9 all-time; 6,237 FTM, #14 all-time); and made 5 all-star teams and 3 all-NBA 3rd teams. He also had tremendous longevity and durability – 12 times he played at least 80 games (I’m including the ’99 season when he played all 50), and as late as his 15th year in the league, at 36 yrs old, he averaged 16.5 pts/gm while shooting over 45% from the field and over 40% from distance. But there are also many warts with Reggie. He was TREMENDOUSLY one-dimensional, at 6’7″ never averaging 4 rebs/gm in his career and only once averaging 4 assists (4.0 in 1991). His defense was adequate, nothing special. His Pacers made the NBA Finals once, losing to the Lakers 4-2 in 2000 (24 pts, 2.4 rebs, 2.7 asst those playoffs), as well as 4 other conference finals in his prime, three times losing in game 7′s: 1994 to the Knicks (Reggie was 7-17, 25 pts, 2 rebs, 0 asst); 1995 to Orlando (5-13, 12 pts, 4 rebs, 0 asst); and 1998 to Chicago (7-13, 22 pts, 0 rebs, 4 asst). Jeez, that is some ugly one-dimensional crap there. Basically 20 pts, 2 rebs, 1.3 asst, and 44% shooting…awful numbers with a trip to the Finals on the line. And yet, despite this, he is by far the most overrated guy I’ve come across in my research for this list. I consulted many other lists initially, and the two I respect the most, Bill Simmons’ and Slam Magazine’s, had him 63rd and 54th respectively. On other lists I saw, he was 50th, 64th, 78th, and then #26 for guards only (there are well over 40 guards ahead of him on my list). If Reggie wasn’t hitting his shots, he really wasn’t doing much for his team. He is getting a lot of credit for longevity and some clutch moments outside of those awful Game 7s just to be this high. Certainly guys like Fat Lever, Latrell, Chet Walker, John Drew, and Penny were way better all-around players. I’m not sure he’ll even remain this high when the book is finally published. I will admit one more amazing thing about him though – did he ever age during his career? He looked the same at 38 as he did at 23. He even looks about the same now calling games now for TNT. Reggie Miller – a colorful long-bomber who played a long time, but not close to a Top 100 player all-time.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.