Speedburner’s Countdown of the Top 150 Players in NBA History (#130 – #126) – BasketballMonday, September 26, 2011 21:38
Posted in category NBA
#130 – #126 of Speedburner’s countdown of the Top 150 players in NBA History.
#130 – #126
- 130) Calvin Murphy – 5′ 9″ PG/SG from 1970 – 1983…The lifetime MVP of the imaginary NBA 5′ 9″ & Under League – Muggsy Bogues and Spud Webb are on the all-time team, along with Earl Boykins – a very underrated smurf, absurdly quick in his prime playing for the Clippers and Nuggets. Anyway, this is where the list hits home – Speedburner size…though technically I’d be ineligible since I’m actually 5′ 9 & 3/8″. Murphy was a dominating player in college at Niagra. As a freshman, when he could only play other school’s frosh, he averaged 48.9 points a game! He didn’t drop much when he joined the big boys, as he averaged just over 33 points a game for his career – 4th all-time in NCAA – making All-America all 3 yrs (2nd team soph year). Not only was he lightning quick, but also had supreme hand-eye coordination as he was an expert baton twirler before playing basketball, winning a national championship in 8th grade, and kept it up to win the 1977 State Championships in Texas, during the prime of his career. But back to hoops, the San Diego Rockets made him the 18th overall pick of the 1970 draft, going behind future greats Bob Lanier, Pete Maravich, Dave Cowens, and even Rudy Tomjanovich, and just one pick ahead of Tiny Archibald. Upset and insulted at being picked so low after his stellar collegiate career, Calvin spent the next 10 years showing the league his greatness. He had a wonderful stop-n-pop jump shot where he usually released the ball while still on his way up, with lots of touch. He had a great mid-range game, and was a such a great scorer he actually played shooting guard at times during his career. Of course, he went to the hole plenty of times utilizing his quickness, and if he ever got fouled – forget about it. A career 89.2% free throw shooter (7th all-time), he still holds the record for FT% in a season at 95.8 in 1981, and once made a record 78 in a row that stood for 10 years. For his career, he averaged over 20 pts/gm 5 times, peaking in 1978 at 25.6 while shooting 49.1%. He also averaged over 7 asst/gm twice, and during a seven year prime from 1973-74 through the ’79-’80 season, averaged 20.5 pts, 5.2 assists, 1.7 steals, and shot 49.5%. He was the 3rd best player behind Moses Malone and Robert Reid on the Rocket team that upset the Lakers in the 1981 playoffs and eventually lost in the finals to Boston, averaging 18.1 pts those playoffs while shooting 49.8% from the floor and an absurd 96.7% from the line (58 of 60). And for a little guy, he was tough and durable, playing all 82 games five times while missing just 16 total games during his first 9 years in the league. Regarding his stature, he once famously said “The average height for the American male is 5′ 9″. I’m the only normal-sized person in the NBA.” He was voted into the Hall of Fame back in 1993.
- 129b) Rudy Tomjanovich – 6′ 8″ SF/PF from 1970 – 1981…Rudy T…The Punch…’Never Underestimate the Heart of a Champion’…these are things that come to mind when one thinks of Tomjanovich, as well as a disastrous stint as Laker coach post-Phil and post-Shaq, but Rudy T was actually an excellent ballplayer in the 70′s. He put up monster numbers at Michigan (career 25.1 & 14.4 rebs, including 30.1 & 15.7 his senior year), before becoming the second player selected in the 1970 draft, behind only Bob Lanier and just ahead of Pete Maravich. He was a backup his rookie year, but started alongside Elvin Hayes in the Rocket frontcourt his 2nd year and responded with 15 pts & 11.8 rebs a game. The next year Hayes left for the Baltimore Bullets, and Rudy became the best player on the squad, responding with a solid 19.3 & 11.6 in 81 games. These two seasons ended up as his only with double digit rebounds, but he remained the Rockets best player for two more seasons, averaging over 20 pts on better than 52% shooting both years. Overall, before The Punch, Rudy T averaged 20 pts, 9.3 rebs, and shot 51% from his second season through that game against the Lakers on December 9th, 1977. He also made 4 All-Star teams during that period. Here is a link to a video that gives a detailed account of game events that led to The Punch, as well as a great shot of the Kermit Washington right cross. Rudy T suffered fractures of his face and skull, a broken nose and jaw, and a concussion, as well as spinal fluid leaking into his brain cavity. His face was unrecognizable for many weeks afterward. Nonetheless, he suited up for opening night the next season, played 74 games, and averaged 19.0 pts and 7.7 rebs while shooting 51.7% from the floor – quite a studly performance all things considered. Overall, he was one of the best shooting forwards during the 1970′s, averaging at least 20 pts four times (24.5 career best in ’74), and sinking over 51% of his shots five times while making 5 All-Star teams. His best Rocket team was the 1976-77 squad that featured Moses Malone’s first year in the league (13.5 pts, 13.4 rebs, 2.3 blks) but they were unable to overcome the 76ers in the Eastern Conference finals, losing 4 games to 2. Rudy T averaged 20.3 pts and shot 50.5% in those playoffs…his rebounding slipped to 5.4, as Moses swallowed up 16.9 rebs/gm that postseason.
- 129a) Sam Cassell – 6′ 3″ PG from 1993 – 2008…Cassell starred at Florida St. alongside Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward and one of the ‘blackest’ white guys to ever play in the NBA, Bobby Sura (loved his game). Sporting a guard heavy lineup with these three future 1st round draft picks (Sura the highest at 17th in 1995, Ward 26th in ’94, Cassell 24th in ’93), this trio of guards led the Seminoles to the Elite Eight during the NCAA Tourney in 1993. After Cassell left for the NBA, FSU only made the tourney once (1998) over the next 15 years. Cassell’s winning qualities continued to shine when he arrived in the league. He played about 22 minutes a game during the ’94 and ’95 playoffs on the Hakeem championship Rocket teams, contributing roughly 10 pts, 4 dimes, and a steal a night in those limited minutes – Kenny Smith manned the point when Cassell was on the bench. The Rockets traded Cassell and Robert Horry after the 1996 season to the Suns for Charles Barkley…then the Suns traded him and Michael Finley mid-season to the Mavericks for Jason Kidd – so Cassell was traded twice for future Hall-of-Famers in less than 5 months (and he wasn’t done moving yet, as the Mavs traded him 2 months later to N.J. – this time, no Hall-of-Famers involved). The next year Cassell showed these teams what they were missing, as he averaged 19.6 pts, 8 assists, 1.6 steals, and 5.8 free throws a game at an 86% clip – 6th in the league in free throws made that year – quite impressive for an average sized, non-explosive guy. Cassell would go on to record 6 seasons of at least 18 pts/gm (career high 19.8 in ’04), 5 seasons of at least 6.7 assists (9.0 career best in ’00), and twice average over 4 rebounds a game. His career averages ended up at 15.2 pts, 6.0 asst (#57 all-time), 3.2 rebs, and 1.1 stls while shooting 45.4% from the floor and 86.1% from the line. But it was his ability to lead and produce victories when it counted most that got Cassell to this spot on the list. In 2001, playing alongside Ray Allen and Glenn ‘Big Dog’ Robinson, he led the Milwaukee Bucks to within one game of the NBA Finals, falling 4-3 to the 76ers. At Minnesota in 2004, this time with Kevin Garnett and Latrell Sprewell, he again lost in the conference finals – 4-2 to the Lakers and Shaq, Kobe, Malone, and Payton. Finally, with the Clippers in 2006, he and Elton Brand led the Clips to their only playoff series win in their entire L.A. history, and almost won a hard fought 2nd round series vs. the Suns, losing in 7 games. His overall averages in these 3 playoffs: 17.3 pts, 5.7 asst, and 3.7 rebs…and he was 31, 34, and 36 years old during these playoffs! Interestingly, none of these franchises has experienced near the success that they enjoyed in ’01, ’04, and ’06 respectively. Cassell retired after the 2008 season 30th on the all-time assist list (5,939) and 28th on the all-time FT% list.
- 128) Shawn Kemp – 6′ 10″ PF from 1989 – 2003…The Reign Man, or the nickname that I called him, Kemper Financial (it didn’t catch on, much like my nickname for Kendall Gill – Kendall Motor Oil – I liked 80′s products/commercials as nicknames). I distinctly remember the pre-draft hype and mystery surrounding Kemp, as he played no college ball at all (scandal at Kentucky forced him out, then transferred to a JC that he never played for either). He was the first player since Moses Malone to go straight from high school hoops to the pros, and after getting a taste of things in his first year (14 minutes a night, 6+ pts, 4+ rebs, about a block per), he was ready to play with the big boys, while announcing he was bigger, stronger, and definitely more explosive than most of them. Kemp averaged a solid 15 pts, 8.4 rebs, 1.5 blk while shooting over 50% his second season, and then embarked upon a 6 year spree where he averaged a double/double every season, finished top 10 in FG% three times, and led the league in vicious, authoritative, get-the-hell-out-of-the-way dunks. One of the best in-game dunking big men of all time, here are 10 of his best from that era – check the one where Chris Gatling gets posterized but still immediately gives Kemp a low five afterwards. Kemp ran the floor as well as Hakeem, had Hakeem’s amazingly coordinated spin move, and was every bit as explosive as The Dream was in his prime. In the 1996 Playoffs, he outplayed Hakeem (averaged 13.8 rebs/gm in a sweep of Houston), Karl Malone in the conference finals (last 3 games of the 7 game series – 25.3 pts, 13.7 rebs, and shot 27-41 from the floor, 65.8%), and then in the Finals averaged 23 & 10 with 2 blks while shooting 55% against Chicago in Seattle’s 4-2 series loss. But then in the summer of 1996, brilliant Seattle management signed Jim McIlvaine for $33m, paying him more than Kemp, while denying Kemp’s request for a raise and infuriating their prize big man. For those who might have forgotten, McIlvaine was a big white stiff who blocked shots and did little else. Angry with management, Kemp’s numbers declined from the prior season (19.6 to 18.7 pts, 11.4 to 10.0 rebs, 1.6 to 1.0 blks, and 56.1% to 51.0% shooting) and he was then traded to Cleveland. With the Cavs, Kemp’s weight went up while his FG% and explosiveness went way down. After shooting 52.9% from the floor during his Seattle days, Kemp proceeded to shoot 44.1% over the next 3 years in Cleveland before leaving and closing out his career with Portland and Orlando and shooting even worse for his last 3 years in the league (40.7, 43.0, 41.8). With a better head on his shoulders and attitude, Kemper Financial was certainly destined for Top 100 status. Meanwhile, maybe Junior can do him proud – Shawn Kemp Jr. will be playing for the Washington Huskies this year. A 6’10″ 265lb power forward, he seems to have fast forwarded to the weight gain part of his dad’s career.
- 127) Bobby Jones – 6′ 9″ SF/PF from 1974 – 1986…A premier defender in the league for over 10 years, Bobby Jones was also a too-good-to-be-true ‘boy scout’ during the league’s wildest days, even playing in the ‘anything goes’ ABA his first two years in pro ball. He was a reluctant hoopster to begin with, only playing as a child because his big brother needed someone to play against. He grew tall though, and eventually became the Charlotte Player of the Year his junior year in high school, even though track & field was his first love (he won the state high jump his sophomore and senior years, 2nd place to Bob McAdoo his junior year). He earned a scholarship to North Carolina, where he put up solid numbers his junior (15 pts, 10.5 rebs, 65.6 FG%) and senior (16.1, 9.8, 61.7%) years after being a seldom used reserve on the legendary 1972 silver medal-winning Olympic team. In the ABA, he led the league in FG percentage both years, and is technically the all-time leader in FG% for that league (58.6%). He remained an extremely smart, efficient shooter throughout his NBA career, never shooting worse than 52.3% for a season and finishing 14th on the career FG% list at 55%. Dr. J once said he “runs like a deer and jumps like a gazelle”. This athleticism enabled him to be quite a solid rebounder (over 8/gm first 4 pro seasons) and shotblocker (4 times over 1.7/gm) in his early years. He’s one of 4 guys in NBA history to average 2 stls & 2 blks the same year, doing it twice, while in 9 of hist first 10 years he averaged at least one of each. He had smooth, easy, quick-release jump shot, and was fundamentally sound in all areas. His supreme defense, named 1st team All-NBA def 10 times, stemmed from intelligent play combined with tremendous effort and energy at that of the court. Jones’ defense combined with his underrated all-around game was recognized with five All-Star game appearances. In his prime (first 8 years), he averaged 14 pts, 7 rebs, 3 asst, 1.7 stls and 1.6 blks, and of course – won a ring, playing 27 minutes a night during the 76ers playoff title run in 1983. A simple and very religious man, he remains in Charlotte teaching basketball at a Christian middle school.
- 126) Alvin Robertson – 6′ 3″ PG/SG from 1984 – 1993, 1996…The ultimate thief in the history of the league, no one before or since has ever been as consistent or adept at stealing the ball. Robertson was a highly regarded NBA prospect at Arkansas, becoming the 7th overall pick in the legendary 1984 draft (MJ, Akeem, Barkley, Stockton), and then playing on the equally legendary 1984 Olympic team. He eased into his career with the Spurs, playing just 21 minutes a night as a rookie but still nabbed 1.6 stl/gm in that time, the only season of his career under 2 stls/gm. An explosive, very athletic player who could dish the alley-oop as well as convert it, he announced his arrival in a big way the very next season, as he became the only player in NBA history to record 300 steals in a single season, swiping 301 at a 3.7/gm clip, also an NBA record (Don Buse stole 346 in the last year of the ABA, then stole 281 the next season in the NBA, a record at the time and still #2 on the all-time list). Also in that 1986 season, Robertson won the NBA’s first Most Improved Award as he averaged 17.0 pts, 6.3 rebs, 5.5 asst, and shot 51.4% while playing in all 82 games. This was the first of 4 straight years averaging at least 17 pts, 5 rebs, 5 asst, and 3 stls, a period when he was the Spurs best player and a 3 time All-Star. That 1986 season was also the year he got his quadruple-double (20 pts, 11 rebs, 10 asst, 10 stl), one of four players in history to record such a fat, well-rounded box score, and the only guy to do it with steals, not blocks. All totaled, Robertson had five seasons of at least 3 stl/gm, and six seasons of at least 5 rebs/5 asst. He made four All-Star teams, 2 All-Defensive 1st teams and 4 All-Def 2nd team squads, and was the Defensive Player of the Year once, again in 1986. He also retired for two full seasons, only to come back with the expansion Toronto Raptors in 1996, scoring the team’s first ever points on a three-pointer while starting in the backcourt at SG alongside rookie PG Damon Stoudamire. Even at the age of 33 that year, his numbers were a respectable 9.2 pts, 4.4 rebs, 4.2 asst, and 2.2 stls/gm. He ended his career #1 on the all-time steals per game list averaging 2.7. He also once got into a nice little spat with Shaq – here’s the footage – note how he basically fights Laimbeer’s battle for him. Unfortunately, he’s turned out to be quite a bad apple off the court, being violent towards wives and girlfriends, and then getting arrested for his participation in an underage sex ring operation in early 2010. His son Tyrell Johnson, whose mom was an Arkansas track athlete, plays safety for the Vikings these days, wearing number 25…he starts.
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