60 For 60 Seconds.
Gone in 60 Seconds, 6 seconds, 0.6. It only takes a minute, a second or even a tenth of one to make a difference in this game. So think for one and tell me, what makes a player hot? Is it the statistics? The sneakers? The status? The All-Stars? Or is it just in any given moment when the games on the line those players who can be charged to come in and step it up to light the scoreboard up? You see for every LeBron and Kobe there’s a guy on the bench whose name you don’t know, but will do when his streaking surge of plays clutch on to the highlight reel of every household. The type of plays that spark-plug lulls in dull quarters and pay off by illuminating the final buzzer beating box score with a win. The type of individuals that show this game isn’t just about the superstars, its all about the team. The good guy of the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons Vinnie Johnson was that type of player. A guy who could come in cold off the bench in pressure cooker situations and get hot quick. So much they nicknamed him ‘The Microwave’. It’s about to get real radioactive because it only takes a minute or less to be done in this game. So shut the door and push the button because here’s 60 seconds of the 60 greatest “microwave” players of all-time to rotate with. Is Vinnie the truest to his name or does someone else rule these moments in the game? Seconds out…
60. Nick Young-It really is frustrating out there in La, La Laker land, when the point production of a team lacking an injured Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and on and off Pau Gasol relies on the streaking (at times super and others slumping) of a guy who calls himself Swaggy P. Still, there’s more to Nick Young than big hair and bright sneakers. A ‘Sixth Man Of The Year’ award this year may show that but more likely the maturing of Young over the seasons will. Despite those off target shots and those ones that rattle all around world of the rim before going in when Nick’s on time it looks like he could hit anything fading as far as his back’fro. Besides Kobe shot air balls in his first year.
59. Troy Hudson-In the dominant decade of the wild west in the new millennium it was all about which King or Trail Blazer could keep up with the Spurs or Lakers until Kevin Garnett overcame all that playoff, Tracy McGrady like heartbreak and got the team he deserved before bolting for Boston. Before Pierce and Ray Allen, one of the best big threes of the ‘Big Ticket’, Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell was seemingly all Minnesota needed to almost best the Lakers and them all. Still, it was a great bench featuring the underrated spark-plug Hudson and the new Steve Kerr Fred Hoidberg (who deserves an honourable mention) that kept them going. On stormy waters Hudson played like a God send and that’s what made Troy such a blessing.
58. Chris Anderson-Sometimes being a microwave spark-plug bench player isn’t always about cooking up some offence, even though this guy can dunk to the bird call. This same vertical makes this leaper one of the best blockers in the game. Chris Anderson’s swats into the stands are as bold and colourful as his tattoos and as big and crazy as the parrot hair gelled on his head and the big beard hair on his chinny, chin, chin. His huffing and puffing celebrations come with him blowing his opponents house down as his house and its crowd roars.
57. Kerry Kittles-This guy could pop points like Skittles. His offensive range was just that sweet and colourful. Taste the rainbow of the arc of his shot at your underrating peril as the kid Kerry showed his almost champion New Jersey Net team where more than Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd and his twin alley catches of Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin’s dominating dunks (let’s give an honourable facetime mention to the phantom scoring of Lucious Harris in that face-mask) . With high socks and even higher hops he may have been skinny but he ran the break off the bench like a gazelle.
56. Byron Russell-Byron Russell isn’t just the guy that Michael Jordan hit his “last” shot over, he was also a key contributor to the Karl Malone pick and John Stockton roll of a Utah Jazz team that at least deserved a championship. A much greater defender then that shot proved, Byron played out his career behind Jordan in Washington and with Kobe as a Laker but the swingman still proved he could come off the bench and play with the best, somewhat like them.
55. Jeremy Lin-Okay so the worldwide Linsanity of his 15 minutes and four quarters of fame may be over and all those tourist stores in New York may have sold off all that merchandise in a clear out way before he left the Knicks but that’s not it. Now in Houston he brings more to the rising history of the Rockets than the Asian market exposure that the Yao Ming dynasty did. The ‘Sixth Man Of The Year’ potential frontrunner brings dominant scoring off the bench when the beard of Harden or the smile of Howard can’t get it done.
54. Tyreke Evans-Who knows if the first guy to be dubbed the next LeBron in this, the era of the king will live up to his ‘Rookie Of The Year’ hype as a King in Sacramento. If not the injury-riddled talent who now gives the spotlight to DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay will still make it as one of the best Sixth Men this game has today. Expect more awards with his name on to come.
53. Dana Barros-Meeting Dana Barros at a recent pregame autograph signing in Boston was something else. The former Celtic and Boston born, college raised Sonic draftee was honestly humble but also couldn’t help flash his gold bling ring. Who could blame him though? He earned it! There was just something about the way he played. Savvy yet slick, skillful and sick, you had to love it! Detroit and Philly also used the services of both a ‘Most Improved Player’ and All-Star, but his two stints in his native Boston defined him. Still his 50 point career high and 89 consecutive game record made threes (broken only recently by Kyle Korver) showed he could have been more of a full cooked player than a quick microwave meal ticket.
52. Rafer Alston-One of the best playground players of all time and a Basketball legend in modern times may not have been that big in the NBA (maybe the referees didn’t like all those playground game antics) but between contracts, free agency ‘and 1’ he still survived and thrived as a revived veteran. Now that change up of the game shows there was more skill to this guys set then through the legs and behind the back. He had more tricks coming off the bench too. In the NBA his next basket won.
51. Leandro Barbosa-In his prime there wasn’t many guys out there as quick as Leandro. Rising the Suns out of the burnt ashes of a Steve Nash injury like a true Phoenix. When it was Barbosas ship this guy looked like a John Wall cheetah out there. With Brazilian soccer skill fans are just glad he plays with the palm of his hands and not the soles of his feet.
50. Aaron McKie-The almost champion 2001 Philadelphia 76ers was more than just Allen Iverson or the offensive answer of Dikeme Mutombo. Off the bench ‘Sixth Man’ of that year Aaron Mckie did more than let it rain. He let it snow like his teammate Eric. A points machine he may have lost to the Lakers and eventually retire with them while barely logging a quarter worth of minutes, but when it came to each period of the game and his career not even the best could keep up with his point production.
49. Nate Robinson-‘Dyno-Nate’, Mr. Robinson started his career with many years in New York as a Knick, but over the last half decade has become a journeyman who recently joked (we think) that he’d like to play for all 30 teams. A fair few to go, but for the record if he leaves Denver anyone who gets him will receive anything but ‘Kryptonate’. A great locker room presence and Mark Madsen/Rony Turaif like bench celebratory passion is even more loud off the pine. The consecutive record breaking dunk champ can leap and block like the son of Spud Webb (he can jump over him…and Superman Dwight too), don’t forget about those shots too that streak and heat on any given moment.
48. Earl Boykins-Like small starting Point Guard’s Muggsy Bouges and Spudd Webb before him, Boykins played so much higher than his 5 feet and spare change. Most P.G’s look like kids when playing alongside the Shaq’s and Ming’s of the league, but this tiny Archibald like skillful point made it all child’s play. Never to be underestimated he could bench press with the Ben Wallace’s of them and in this league they thought size did matter.
47. J.R. Smith-Despite the troubles last years ‘Sixth Man Of The Year’ can heat up his unlucky Knicks team and hard-pressed New York City crowd like a legend of the Rucker. More than his no contest dunks like his Josh second namesake, the new Stephen Jackson shows more passion behind those problems. A part of the Knicks tape with a “whoo” like sound and following, D.J’s and coaches alike want to spin him again.
46. B.J. Armstrong-Not to be confused with Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, it was a great day when this B.J. was the small, dynamic Point Guard off the bench hitting threes for Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls dynasty before the great Steve Kerr. Backing up John Paxson in Jordan’s early days, his strong arm from way downtown made Benjamin Joe a first three-peat champ and an All-Star, as well as part of Golden State, Charlotte and Orlando before closing out his career with Chicago again before becoming a G.M, only to be subbed in and replaced by…John Paxson.
45. Tracy Murray-How this guy wasn’t an All-Star is crazy, because in the golden era of the league he was one of the best scorers, especially when he came off the bench and into his own. The underestimated usually become the underrated and that was something Murray could use to his offensive advantage for the journey worth of teams this man hit the road with. Up North in Toronto Tracy even hit career highs, leading the team like McGrady never got to. Those who freeze this Canadian side out are just cold to the game and how hot this guy was not only off the bench but as a star in his own right and record.
44. Mike Miller-Former ‘Rookie Of The Year’ and ‘Sixth Man Of The Year’, the kid with the buck-teeth may look different these days with all that hair and tattoos but behind the headband is a reputation inked over the years for coming in and being automatic from three. Like a Swiss watch always on Reggie Miller like time this guy has been clutch from Orlando to Miami, even when Kings taking the crown weren’t.
43. Ben Gordon-Now he’s been a starter people are more used to just what he could do, but remember that clutch baby-hook in the mecca of Madison Square Garden before he was a Knick? He was guarding the post-Jordan baby Bulls before the blooming of Derrick Rose and in the clutch this playground concrete player never cracked.
42. Rodney Rodgers-Before tragedy struck Rodney Rogers so cruelly this star NBA player worked hard for his community despite his millions. Millions he earned beforehand in the Association of National Basketball by playing so brilliantly for the NBA teams he came in for and heated up the points part of the box score for. Before the big three Pierce, Garnett and Allen years as a Celtic behind the duo of the truth and Antoine Walker he shimmied alongside other hot bench players like Walt McCarty to shoot down an upset Allen Iverson Philadelphia 76ers team in the new Boston Garden. Just one game on a national spotlight blowout that showed just what he did every night in his hard-working career. Now paralysed from the neck down, this warrior Rodney not only deserved more from the league, he deserves more from life.
41. Danny Manning-Manning the role of the first Clippers all-star, the other side of L.A. owes a lot to this man. It may be all good and even better in Lakertown for the Clippers now but through all those bad luck and joked about years there was old Danny boy. Watching Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan dunk the lob city passes off Chris Paul is the man who did it all by himself back in the bad ole days.
40. Anthony Mason-Mase was as New York as they came and this B.I.G. big man did more than just provide the muscle that could throw people out of LL Cool J’s parties. Mama said change the game and ‘Tone knocked them out by revolutionising the point forward position. A guy that could muscle up with Charles Oakley in practice and still flow down the floor like Starks. Only in the Mecca could someone show the blacktop grit and grind and playground flair and finesse of N.Y.C. all at the same time. Fresh, but able to fight you to the rotten core all at the same time. That’s what the Big Apple is like when it takes a bite out of you.
39. Cliff Robinson-Even though he looked like an ageing big-man substitute this Power Forward moved like a young guard all the way to the three point line and all the way to the end of his career. His jersey may not be in the rafters but his name is in the Sixth Man history books and those who know this game, know he revolutionised big men extending their range beyond the paint before everyone thought it came from Europe and belonged to guys with names like Dirk and Pau.
38. Dell Curry-Currently in the Curry house Dell couldn’t be prouder of his sons. There’s Seth Curry who this year inked his first year contract in the NBA and then there’s this big brother called Stephen whose apparently got a pretty good shot on him?! It must be the genes not the shoes however as Dell was so hot from the three-point line all the teams he played for could guarantee pure point production off the bench. Sure the son will best the father here, but its clear Dell paved the way for this kid of the iPad generation in more ways than one.
37. Chuck Person-Back in the later days of his career Chuck was signed by the Lakers as an extra person on their roster, but he never made it to training camp. Now he works for the Lake Show as a coach and who else but to teach the likes of this great three point shooting team exactly how to do it? In his prime during prime time only his brother Wesley (honourable mention maybe the siblings should share this spot) was more accurate from around the arc. When it came to threes there was no need for good luck with this Chuck.
36. Darrell Armstrong-The skinny on this lithe player was more than just spark-plug shots for an Orlando Magic team that seriously needed to lick their wounds of an injured Grant Hill and his potentially game changing duo with Tracy McGrady. The guy was barely six foot but could touch the rim way into his later playing years, which meant he could catch the odd dunk but more than his fair share of his opponents. He was a blocking machine. A microwave for his team that could burn his opponents overcooked food.
35. Jimmy Jackson-Jimmy Jackson could score with the best of them and like a Jalen Rose, Chris Webber and Juwan Howard ‘Fab Five’ out of Michigan he formed the three J’s with Jamal Mashburn and Jason Kidd who he could share the ball, but not Toni Braxton with. If more didn’t happen more could have happened there and the somewhat outside star faded to the bench in his later career where he became a different type of Kendall Gill like contributor who could score.
34. Cedric Ceballos-In one Slam Dunk Contest Ced Ceballos sensationally strapped a blindfold over his eyes and dunked his way to victory. In games the Phoenix/Lakers star could see his fair share of dunks and plenty of points too. Like ‘NBA Live’ he was the perfect video game player who could light the scoreboard up like the best of them in the golden era. He was also part of that ’96 Vlade Divac, Eddie Jones, Elden Campbell and Nick Van Exel forum of Lakers players who were about to meet one big guy and some high school kid.
33. Corliss Williamson-Corliss was another big guy who could run and score anybody out of the gym. Sure he couldn’t really guard guys like Shaq…but who could? Williamson could fill the lane a different way and his Detroit Pistons beat Shaq’s Lakers in the NBA Finals anyway.
32. Walter McCarty-Now a coach of the same Boston Celtics he changed games and plays for this R&B singer took the town up the charts when he hit the high notes in this jazz like game. Utah, the team in New Orleans, or anyone could hear the cheers when he let his big game James/big shot Horry like plays sink through the nets and the hearts of those who underestimated him.
31. Antawn Jamison-The current Clipper may have not had as great a time on the other side of L.A. as he did when he was leading the Cleveland Cavalier, but the current reserve has tweened between being a franchise player and a point producer off the bench. Either way the ever underrated one of the greats has been a star and a scorer no matter the time or shine.
30. Jamal Crawford-To begin is career Jamal Crawford was given the ball to lead. Now he follows off the bench to be an even better player than he ever was. A veteran in his prime he becomes a whole new other weapon off the bench these days. A guy who could and should start but elects not to so he can be the closer. Like Robert Horry and others once said (and I’m paraphrasing somewhat but it all means the same) “its not who starts games, but who finishes them”.
29. Lamar Odom-It may be hard for fans to keep up with the Kardashian tabloid drama of Lamar these days but the Los Angeles son who has been cursed as a Clipper gifted the Lakers with their most productive player in their most recent championship years…a team led by a certain guy called Kobe..
28. Glen Rice-Forget what they said about his wife or Sarah Pailin, the father of one of the latest crop of Rookies past something down a generation to Glen Rice Jr, like Tim Hardaway has to his junior namesake. From Miami to New York he was hot from downtown like South Beach still past ten or Manhattan in the A.M. in July but the purity became more potent under the sun of a solo stint in Los Angeles. As a third option off the bench between the Shaq and Kobe Laker duo he hit the big threes before Horry’s closers on the way to the first chip of the champions three-peat.
27. Ron Harper-Those who never saw this guy before he blew out his knee wouldn’t believe he was a former Slam Dunk champ and next Jordan like player leading the orange of Cleveland decades before they saw wine and gold again with the 23 of LeBron James. Still Phil Jackson knew what he was dealing with when coaching the guy who successfully changed and revolutionised his own game post-injury before Grant Hill to the more defensive dominant side. Still able to rack up a three and even the odd dunk alongside all those rings he backed up Michael Jordan and was credited at mentoring Kobe Bryant by the air apparent himself. Bridging the gap there’s the connection that needs no more introduction or conviction.
26. Jason Terry-Kenny Smith may have been the original ‘Jet’, but even the postgame retired broadcasters know J.T continues this flightplan for every team that’s cleared him for take-off off the pine to the hardwood.
25. Norm Nixon-When Magic Johnson joined the Lakers it practically ended the show for their one-time leading point Norm Nixon in a Nikon like camera flash. I guess that’s just the norm when it comes to the greatest playmaker of all time. Still this all lead to N.N. being a brilliant back-up for some time. The great player however deserved more from NBA Point Guard legend and Lakers lore, but sometimes people are just blinded by Magic.
24. Sam Cassell-“And y’all scared I can tell and I’ma get bucks like Milwaukee/’Cause like Sam I can sell”. Some cruelly said he looked like an alien, but he was cool enough for a Jadakiss lyric so ‘F that’, ‘Put Your Hands Up’! He came in off the bench for Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith and clutched rings with Robert Horry off the bench in Houston. He then formed a big three in Milwaukee with Glen Robinson and Ray Allen, before teaming up for another one with Allen’s big three partner Kevin Garnett in Minnesota. Then in his twilight years he reunited with both of them in Boston for some off the bench championship pedigree. Now ‘Kiss The Game Goodbye’.
23. Cazzie Russell-You know this guys good when Pulitzer Prize winning legendary Times columnist and word of L.A. to Chick Hearn’s voice, Jim Murray wrote about him. ‘Mr. Two-Two-Two Points’ as Murray dubbed was gold off the bench like the M.J. necklace he wore around his neck. When it came down to the clutch throat of games Cazzie would never choke. Russell collected up points like Celtic rival Bill did rings. I hope that does the late writer and his muse justice.
22. Byron Scott-Magic Johnson threw the no look passes and Byron Scott finished them when everyone in Hollywood was watching him sub in and finish the Showtime break like James Worthy and A.C. Green. Like those two maybe he would have been a bigger star if not surrounded by names like Earvin and Lew Alcindor who became Magic and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I’m sure the Shannon Brown type Laker player who was dunking when that kid was in diapers is settled with all those championship rings though.
21. Steve Kerr-This TNT broadcaster looks like hasn’t aged a day since his Chicago Bulls days, even if he did look like someone’s dad. No joke here however as Steve Kerr wasn’t picking up his kids from elementary but instead taking everyone to school with his behind the arc class. The type of pure shots that made him stand out even playing alongside the greatest and the rest of the Rodman like stars in Chicago. Put it this way in the 90’s you could get his number 25 Bulls jersey in England, a country who then didn’t care enough to televise NBA games in its golden era. Even pushing 40, he was still fresh from the microwave for three for a champion San Antonio known for their veteran presence. The best photobomber right now (look it up) used to drop dome shot bombs back when the cameras where actually on him…when he bombed the odd one from Mike that is.
20. John Starks-Unfairly Starks is known for choking in the playoffs, but did you see that dunk over Michael Jordan, defensive stopper Horace Grant and the rest of the Chicago Bulls. Starks was still one of N.Y.’S finest from the three and to the rim he could rack up the points. He lost to Chicago and ended up playing for them and Utah to close his career, but like the Jazz cafe he’s New York through and through. Not only did he watch the game from the sidelines with the celebrities, he became a star in their eyes when he came off it to come into play.
19. James Harden-He may be a rising Rocket star now but before the beard grew and the Oklahoma Thunder stupidly let him go he was a ‘Sixth Man Of The Year’ who would score at his coaches will. At least Houston don’t have a problem.
18. Bobby Jackson-He was the ‘Sixth Man Of The Year’ when being the first man off the bench was the new, cool thing. A Sacramento King who could take the throne by royal appointment, this game of thrones was a new battle with a guy who could take off his enemies heads with just one shot.
17. Eddie Johnson-Which Eddie Johnson of NBA history you say like some Jason Williams confusion! Well both Eddie’s where some of the best players this league has ever seen but we’re not talking about the ‘Fast’ Eddie of the Atlanta team of Hawks not falcons but the one born into a great career just four years later. Off the bench he took the Kings from Kansas City to Sacramento and promise and prosperity. He may not have been drafted as high as his 3rd pick namesake, but the NBA awarded this sharpshooting Johnson the ‘Sixth Man Of The Year’ and kicked the drug abusing other Eddie out the association…fast.
16. Fred (Downtown) Brown-With an Andre 3000 ‘Semi-Pro’ ABA name like ‘Downtown’ Brown what do you think Fred was able to do when he came in off the bench? In those classic Seattle Sonic jerseys with those short shorts and big afro he couldn’t look more like an ABA player if he tried, but still in the NBA he was such a great long range shooter when you gave him the ball it may as well have been blue, red and white.
15. Ricky Pierce-From Seattle to Milwaukee this Sonic Buck kepy every team he played for in greener pastures with his piercing plays. San Diego, Detroit, Indiana, Charlotte, Denver, Golden State all these teams where better off…when Ricky was playing for them of course.
14. Roy Tarpley-A true Maverick of Dallas, who spark-plugged the hole in the middle of the lane when both the Mavs power forwards and centres took a break from the four and five. He spent the majority of the end of his career between the USBL and the past prime NBA player wasteland of Greece. It was drug and alcohol abuse that gave him a one way ticket there and then the actual great talent level of Europe that was sobering for both him and the National Basketball Association.
13. Detlef Schrempf-When everyone was talking about the Windy Cities Toni Kukoc in the 90’s foreign imported NBA there was one guy letting it rain in a city known for that type of weather. When Seattle where talking about Basketball they may have been shouting about the alley oops of the glove and the reignman but it wasn’t just about Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. In Frasier Crane’s town people where still listening to the one who kind of appeared like the younger brother. Besides dig deep enough and you can find footage of Niles Crane in a Sonics jersey draining a shot from halfcourt.
12. Toni Kukoč-The 90’s may have been about M.J., the king of pop or the king of hoops. Still Chicago basketball was more than just the greatest player to ever play the game in Michael Jordan. Or the sidekick that was Scottie Pippern or the sideshow that was the dyed hair and tattooed antics of Dennis Rodman. In this Bull ring there was more than just the Zen Master Phil Jackson, the threes of Steve Kerr and that guy in the middle Luc Longley too. Toni Kukoc could flat out play and score like a star too and the worldwide evolution of the game still mourning the loss of Drazen Petrovic the closest to Michael had a new hero who was literally even closer to him.
11. Billy Cunningham-‘The Kangaroo Kid’ came in off the bench in leaps and bounds for the Sixers before Sixth Man award was even invented and taken by a fellow Sixer great in the eighties. In fact as head coach of the Sixers in the 70’s he brought that very player and the likes of Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Maurice Cheeks to the first dynasty in Philly since the one where he was able to jump high enough to snare some rebounds from his stilt of a teammate Wilt Chamberlain.
10. Frank Ramsey-Decades before the Sixth Man award was created in the eighties, the ultimate X and O’s guy Red Auerbach birthed the idea with his utilisation of star player Frank Ramsey. You can begin to light the cigar on that one.
9. Bobby Jones-‘Sports Illustrated’ magazine said it best the first guy to win ‘Sixth Man Of The Year’ was a Sixer. You can’t illustrate it better than that. When more was at stake in Philly when the good Doctor, Moses or the mound was in need of another name to back up their jerseys.
8. Bill Walton-The same father of Luke Walton you see and hear broadcasting was something else in his playing days. He looked like punk rocker with a hippy bandanna in his hair but was a million miles from Woodstock when he was on the court. He was a true Trailblazer in this league until injury cut down the Portland hipster. The blue jeans and checked shirt Springsteen American dream of this kid born in the U.S.A. was rebirthed in the eighties under Red Auerbach’s legendary Celtics where Bill proved his Boston Irish roots laid further than his ginger locks. Off the bench he helped take his career and the Celtics to places they both thought where just about beyond them.
7. Kevin McHale-Even though Sam Malone wouldn’t go in for him, raise a glass in ‘Cheers’ to the one guy who would go in for every Celtic in Boston’s storied 80’s times. It was just the norm. In the league of NBA is where everybody knows his name.
6. John Havlicek-“Who caught it”? Need we say anymore?
5. Michael Cooper-Behind every scene of Showtime was the show-stopper who did the best boy dirty work. A key grip on the Lakers D who could even stop Larry’s legend. Now that’s true magic in the Johnson/Bird era. Oh and he could dunk too…matter of fact, at almost 60 he still can.
4. Manu Ginobili-He may be getting as old as the bald patch on his head but the game still feels spring-loaded young, especially moved to the bench where he can still make the biggest plays on the biggest stage. Charles Barkley will still be screaming “GINOBILIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII” for years to come.
3. Derek Fisher-Who is the one Laker in history who could clutch on to almost more game winning shots then Big Shot Bob? Kobe? Jerry West? A running Magic hook? Nope but the Fish that saved L.A. in less than 0.4 seconds. From the head-band years to silencing a Philadelphia crowd with one finger this guy did more than sweat the small hustle play stuff. Through all his heroic shots though none was greater than returning from his daughters hospital bedside to lifting the Jazz to the same heavens he pointed to after checking into the second half.
2. Vinnie Johnson-Number 15 and Detroit’s number 6 should really be number one. The man who personified the “microwave” name…literally birthing this trend heated up when the bruised ‘Bad Boys’ put him in off the shelf of the bench. A true piston to Detroit’s Motown motoring.
1. Robert Horry-Just read the license plate of his car. Who else but the ultimate last second, clutch game-winner not named Jordan, or ring bearer not called Russell? Even if he didn’t show up in the first or third, every Vlade Divac critic should read a paper or something. Even Kobe and Phil Jackson knows no one can’t touch big shot Bob in the clutch of championships. The quick draw Texas champion from Houston to San An, by way of L.A. leaving everyone of his opponents in the rear-view…’7RINGS’!
Great British Basketball Legend Luol Deng Retires Full Circle With Chicago
10 years ago this writer holding a microphone as nervous as if he was about to get his Bill Murray on in ‘Lost In Translation’ and perform karaoke for the first time in Tokyo, but with no Scarlett Johansson, palm sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy…moms spaghetti (and on the surface he does NOT look calm and ready) is taking part in his first press conference…let alone his first NBA one. All for a major magazine for his first writing job, just a mere month after he wrote his first ever article for what we the British call, “a laugh”. No Buzz, no blog. And who was my first question too?
No other but the commissioner…Mr. David Stern.
But as Stern as you could call him, the pre-Silver commish was the most warm and gregarious you could imagine. That’s when I got a little wind under my wings like I was wearing Air Jordan’s for this NBA London postgame Chicago Bulls vs Utah Jazz presser. I had a few questions for then Chi-town coach Vinny Del Negro. I don’t think I had the balls to ask Coach Sloan anything. But apparently I had enough confidence to tell the then Jazz leader Deron Williams that his team could test my Lakers…he didn’t agree (there’s the spirit D-Will). And then in walked the man of the hour. The whole reason this game was here and at the very least taking off on these shores. Sudan born but British raised Luol Deng. He too was kind enough to give me a quote worthy answer to my question. Then as he left past the cameras and tape recorders I reached out my hand and he shook it back.
Thank you for that Luol, and for everything you’ve done for British basketball…and also for being part of my beloved purple and gold Lakers for a season or two (or more as fate would have it). Although most fans who can’t look past that massive contract fail to see that the most underrated superstar of this era was worth every penny when healthy…no Lake Show aficionado talks smack about the Steve Nash cash.
Now as this writer a decade later pens this in a Japanese residence aiming to have his own contract to remain here throughout the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, a week after taking in the cities NBA Japan Games featuring the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors, I look back to that Chicago Bulls London game of 2009 and the 2012 Olympics that came in London a few years later and everything you’ve done for the sport in my homeland and host nation. Knowing that from Brixton to Sudan you truly are a global ambassador like Dikembe Mutombo and like that mountain of a man will be at many a London exhibition for the National Basketball Association post career, no finger wag. No one-apart from former Orlando Magic big John Amaechi who truly changed the game from an equality perspective in the locker room-has done more for this game in the British Isles.
But this article isn’t about the U.K. Or even NBA Africa. Although that, just like your incredible and inspired charity work is worthy of its own book…let alone article. This is about the untouchable city of Chicago, from De Niro to Capone. The Windy City and the changing season you brought in with a gust and the Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson team of the new millennium and hope…that in the legendary United Centre seems as lost as the elevated train town that surrounds it, albeit still so classic. As American as apple pie…or Michael Jordan.
As you walk past his Statue of Liberty to this city iconic statue outside in the unmistakable windy granite look of this area, cemented in the nostalgia of the golden era 90’s like a Pippen bronze bust once you and your pulled tight coat get inside out the cold, you know what it’s about. Post Jordan and Baby Bulls era you were the team to compete, bring it all back. And although Rose was the next 23 in line star to grow from concrete you were the dependable all-star from the start and a ten years of your own. You’ll go down as one of the best Bulls ever. Like the 1 and only Rose, your number nine will be shot up there in the rafters with all the twenty and thirty-three’s and all the banners bar injuries you could have put up there.
Two All-Star selections an All Defensive Second Team selection and the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for starters that’s why. But the Duke grad who also logged some time with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat (after Pat Riley called him one of the most important acquisitions after he came in for the post King era in South Beach) was much more than a number, even if his will end up with the air up there when it is all said and done…which it is. Because after playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves last year after his Hollywood divorce, Deng is calling it a career. But he isn’t retiring Minny with the Wolves oh no. And there won’t be one last dance of a season sadly for those practicing their steps.
But still he is galloping out this association as a Bull. After signing a one-day contract with the team he entered the league with as an all rookie, seventh draft pick, Luol will retire and leave the league with the same team. It’s a grand gesture and nice move from the Bulls (even though it leaves talented player Perrion Callandret cut (bring him back)), as Deng’s 15 year career-with the lion share being with these cubs-comes full circle in Chicago like this town’s Loop subway system.
As Chicago as Common, Deng is back where he belongs if only for a night as the seasons of change and cities weather brings him back to where it all began for a fitting end blowing in the wind.
Lakers Licking Warriors All Preseason
Number 23, James jerseys being burnt in fiery flames of anger and anguish. Just like a Cavalier when he left the land for a new flame with the South Beach talents of the Miami Heat.
Political commentators almost telling him to “shut up and dribble” like they were Trump.
It’s been a rough week for LeBron James.
But it has been an even rougher year for the people of Hong Kong…and that’s the point LeBron.
For all the controversy in China-from billboards coming down like it was a decade ago. To think before you tweet, hypocritical tweets being sent like the Donald (you could have waited ‘Bron…period)-James had to rebound on his return to Hollywood after the reality of the last seven days. And boy did he like Barkley. Running a power move on them like Chuck. Just days after being made a Public Enemy for failing to fight the power for a nation of millions, refusing to be held back.
And saying no more about the situation, whilst admitting wrong. Taking blame and hoping for an accepted apology, Business LeBron let his game do the talking.
And it SANG!
Answering back on the hardwood court at least…if not the one of public and social media trending opinion.
After failing to close out the China Games for the West and find the nets against Brooklyn in the Far East, James and his Laker gang returned to their regular preseason schedule for their California clash series with the former champion Golden State Warriors.
And right now it’s all Lakers like A.D., A.C., A.B., J-McGee, D-Howard, Danny Green, Quinn cookin’ against his old firm and K.C.P.
First the Lakers were too hot for the Warriors Chase Centre house warming in San Francisco. Then across the Golden Gate and state the Lake Show’s new young core manned up with the beard and the brow sitting. As rook Zach Norvell Jr. had 22 in his number 21 (hey Lakers maybe don’t trade this one), leading a youth in revolt featuring NBA family legacy members Kostas Antetokounmpo and David Stockton against the splash brotherhood and their newly adopted sibling, former Laker D’Angelo Russell, wetting everything on the Pacific Coast right now. Even Dwight Howard proved again against all the odds and odd looks just how big a back-up he’s going to be with 12 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals for the finest of lines.
And then there was the 126-93 candle blowing of last night for two teams who will meet tomorrow too. But right now with the Lakers licking the Warriors so much like a lizards tongue, Golden State are in the soft state of being the ice cream right now.
Let it melt!
But for all the cones like a kid holding two perhaps we’ve just SLAM cover jinked it all right now.
Still, tomorrow is another day.
As for yesterday all the Dubs troubles weren’t so far away as James’ La La Land company went full ‘Space Jam’ Monstar’s on the K.O’d champs. Playing some of the most beautiful basketball you’ll ever see…let alone in mere preseason play. Which rust dust off is taken so much more serious these days with the advent of social media allowing for instant replays in high-rises and hamlets across the world in the blink of a tweeting second. The drama is almost at a Shakespearian level…especially after last week. And to tweet or not to tweet (that is no longer the question) LeBron knows how to fine tune, orchestrate it all. Quarterback running it like the point position he was meant to take up like the number 6 and the chalk tossing headband days he’s strapping back on.
‘The Greatest Basketball Story Ever Told’ about the Milan miracle Hickory Hoosiers by Greg Guffey features many a classic line of inspired journalism. One being about how a big-man dunked the ball as gently as dropping an egg in a basket. This plagiarism aside perfectly describes one of McGee’s slam’s. But the rest he and the Ghidorah big-man three-headed monster put down was like the dunk contests they all used to partake. And this table of full courses was set perfectly by the King like a moat surrounding a castle, thanks to the arrow in the ground perfect picks hammered down and planted with the deepest roots by these seven feet high and rising pivots off the roll.
And that was when the King wasn’t American Football running his way through the paint to pastel his own touchdowns with easel ease. One touch pass from the palette to Dwight Howard had exquisite wrote all over it, alley to oop.
But that wasn’t even the best one.
That belonged to the contouring down court of LeBron’s falling out of bounds, M.J. against the Lakers switch hands pass to Danny Green, waiting at the corner shop to bag the three, paper or plastic and make the King look even better like the previous week didn’t even happen. After all the social media white noise to what was more a misjudgement and the mistake of a man that is still school opening and philanthropic more than an athlete, this master move, worthy of the greatest of all-time highlight package-let alone the regular season itself-inspired Instagram flame emojis from everyone from former meme teammate Lance Stephenson back in China to the merc with a mouth, Deadpool himself actor Ryan Reynolds here in Hollywood.
LeBron’s 18 to go along with four rebounds, 11 assists and one steal, next to Davis’ 8 points and assists, 10 rebounds, one steal and two blocks. Not to mention Cook’s broth of 16 points and 3 assists against his old Chef Curry boys, Howard’s end of 13 points and 7 rebounds, McGee’s 12, 6 rebounds, a steal and a block and Avery Bradley’s 18 was the most balanced of attacks and too much for friend to foe D’Angelo Russell’s Jordanesque 23, off some of the fresh pail of water purest buckets.
Sure this game the Warriors were without soldier Stephen Curry to match his soaked on the side-line Splash Brother and the departed Durant. But they still had Green on this day like the Lakers. And the purple and gold themselves are still without former Golden State big DeMarcus Cousins and the young Prince of the King’s men Kyle Kuzma whose just had the option on his contract exercised like ghosts.
Just wait until they get at least one of those guys back.
It’s going to be real scary in Hollywood this Halloween.
And we’re on the eve of seeing it all over again back across the Bay, to close it all out a week after this teams horror show.
Time to suit up in the league’s most famous costume.
Big Trouble For Lakers Against Nets In China
Making ’em move and shake like the guitar he strums, former Laker meme team reserve Lance Stephenson is making his name and game proud in China. Lifting trophies just weeks after taking off for the Far East. But as for his former team, they had nothing to dance about when they left China after their Shanghai/Shenzhen double-header with the Brooklyn Nets.
There was no Kevin Durant. In the end with a facial fracture no Kyrie Irving and no Anthony Davis for most of Game 2 with a sore thumb. It sucked. But there was almost no game for all the King’s men and the Brooklyn boys as China went dark on the NBA following the events of last week.
Billboards of LeBron and co came down like witnessing the first time he left Cleveland for the talents of South Beach following some comments from the Rockets G.M., James Harden and Russell Westbrook in support of the Hong Kong protesters. And they weren’t even in China. Playing big in Japan with the champion Toronto Raptors. Splitting their two game series in Tokyo a year before the 2020 Olympics, one game apiece. Commissioner Adam Silver back them up saying they, the protestors and everyone has a “right to free speech”…and then everything came down.
First China cut ties with the NBA like your exes friends on Facebook. Then all posters, media and the like were removed like any chance of these games being televised. It looked like they wouldn’t even tip off as the Lakers and Net teams were stuck in their hotel rooms wondering if they could even go outside to Instagram those iconic skyline sights. The Lakers-getting there first-didn’t even have WIFi to check what was going on or scroll through their Twitter timelines and take on the trolls. But in the end from Shanghai to Shenzhen there was LeBron bringing back the iconic chalk-toss pregame like he has the headband Heat days.
But if the King thought that was the end of his troubles in China then he was thumb sorely mistaken as the Nets bucketed the Lakers on the four frames of both trips. And if you want to talk about trolling Brooklyn also had the best bite back GIF reply to the Lakers “consider this a warning” tweet last week after beating the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco for their preseason opener.
Spencer Dinwiddie’s expression said it all.
Watch what you tweet.
Despite dropping two like Alka Seltzer tablets the Lake’s put on a show as ‘Bron bulldozed the lane like John Deere and the Ghidora three-headed big-man monster of the Lakers showed they could even take on Godzilla if they were ever to cross the continent to the city of Tokyo. A.D. again coming up big before injuries got in his way, even from downtown Shanghai on that night, showed how much he’s been working on his three-ball. But wolf McGee huffing, puffing and blowing the Nets painted post house down (before swatting the ball away from him like it was the hand of a significant other that had just pissed him off) and Howard finishing off alley-oops with that old Orlando magic (mosquito swatting all other shots. Looking more and more like a solid pick-up to round out the bolstered bench on his reunion redemption move as he blocks out any doubt) turned the lay-up line into a dunk contest. With both former participants liking it from their alternate takes on the bench and vice versa. Getting up and off it like it was their time to play.
McGee is one of this writers fan favourite Laker players…of any era. But if you bleed purple and gold you have to love the Bruce Bowen like Avery Bradley right now and all he’s doing for the team not only the defence end he dominates like the people’s court, but the shots he selects and creates for himself on the business end. From reigning champ Danny Green, to little Greek brother Kostas Antetokounmpo who also showed out (making it another NBA family affair for the Lakers after signing legendary Point Guard John Stockton’s son David from South Bay. A year after picking up Gary Payton II), A.B. in the offseason of A.D. may be one of LeBron’s Lakers best pick-ups. Especially in this pick-up game like preseason exhibition. Hopes for this purple season are higher than Meth and Red right now.
But in the end in China it was nothing but the Nets.
Spreading love the BKLYN way with some crazy, rich wins, the Nets tore down the Lakers 114-111 in Shanghai, thanks to a former Laker of all people. As former (former) D-League to big league sensation David Nwaba iced the game off the turnover with a huge, signature slam with 13.9 to go before KCP (he’s still here… that’s how abyss deep the Lakers are this year) couldn’t convert a clutch three. This after both Irving and Caris LaVert went down (the latter joining Kyrie’s facial fractures with being poked in the eye). Spencer ‘The GIF’ Dinwiddie with 20 et al picked up the slack however to show the Nets are just as deep. Especially upfront, even rivalling the Lakers big, big-three as Jarrett Allen and new free agent pick-up DeAndre Jordan combined for seven big blocks.
Not treading shallow water either the following game on the H.K. border of Shenzhen closed it all out for an eventful and stressful half week. With many fans wearing hearts on their jerseys and other on their sleeves as the former New Jersey Nets took on the former Minneapolis Lakers in the second Chinese city. LeVert returned and scored 22 in that many minutes of play to lead his team to a 3-zip postseason record ensuring the Lakers would get no sleep on their return flight ’till Los Angeles. And this was without Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. Even the locked down dreads of rookie Nicolas Claxton got in on the action with 8 points in nine minutes. If the Nets can beat the Lakers now just imagine what it will be like when their one, two punch hits. It looks like they have a dynamic duo to best not only ‘Bron and the ‘Brow, but the Shaq and Kobe greatest of all time too.
But if you thought that was how you send a message then just look at the Chinese fans who came to the game in their teams jerseys, but with a Chinese flag covering the Jerry West silhouette of the NBA logo.
Now that’s how you make a statement. Although let’s make one ourselves and continue to stand with the people of Hong Kong, but also look for peace and resolution in this critical time. Support the Lakers and Nets all you want but this was just a game…and a mere exhibition one at that. The support Hong Kong needs right now is so much more.
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