So where’s Jordan? Not so fast! We had our staff writers talk about players they believe got snubbed on the Top 25 list (someone even thought we should change our No. 1 overall), and have composed them here in our “Honorable Mentions.” This is the silly result of people caring a little too much about players who did just a little too little.
By Haruka Senju
In a league where Russell Westbrook shows up to conference finals wearing a torn up bed sheet as a shirt, where Dwyane Wade shows up to playoff games wearing owl glasses, it’s important to remember who made this all possible. Who is responsible for not just opening the Pandora’s box of NBA fashion, but completely ripping it apart with such swagger and disrespect?
The Answer, of course, is Allen Iverson. The 6-foot shooting guard from Georgetown, drafted first overall in a monster draft class featuring Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. The 17-year-old kid who served four months of a 15-year prison sentence after being falsely convicted for a gang fight. That kid.
At the end of the day, when a player hangs up his jersey for the final time, the only thing that remains is the memories. I dare you to name any player who has more memorable moments than AI — that dunk on Marcus Camby, that step over Ty Lue and that infamous rant about practice.
Allen Iverson was never the villain of the NBA like Kobe or Jordan because he never posed a serious championship threat. He was the anti-hero — the great player trapped in a horrible situation with no way out. The Walter White. The Tony Soprano. The Omar Little. The man who you just can’t seem to hate no matter what.
This small, cornrowed, flashy guard in ill-fitting garb was the lone blemish to a perfect 2001 Lakers postseason featuring two of the greatest villains of all time. And even when his team ended up losing 4-1, he still emerged a winner — that’s the AI way.
And AI had the awards to back it up. Four-time scoring champ. Three-time steals leader. League MVP. He’s second only to Kevin Garnett for most total minutes from 1996 to 2009. The list goes on. Seriously, how is this man not on the Top 25? Even Charles Barkley picked AI first in an all-time fantasy draft, given, it was through a gross misunderstanding. But perhaps most importantly of all, may we not forget — Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan. And we still question who the GOAT really is.
By Vikram Muller
Tracy McGrady once scored 13 points in 33 seconds. Thirty-three seconds. It’s a video clip so short that the NBA and Turner Sports don’t care to remove Youtube videos of it for copyright infringement — they even have their own featured video of the legendary moment. It’s reminiscent of Reggie Miller’s eight points in nine seconds against the Knicks in the 1995 Eastern Semifinals. In the game’s context, it’s a little less significant but far more impressive numerically.
I remember watching that Rockets-Spurs with my parents on a cold December night at home, and we had ordered take-out food. Usually my eyes remain glued to the screen during sports games, but with just under three minutes remaining and San Antonio taking a 73-62 lead, I offered to go with my dad to pick up dinner — I left the game just as so many in the Houston crowd did that night. Upon returning home, my mom told us about the most incredible comeback she had ever witnessed. I could hardly believe that the Rockets had come back from an 11-point deficit, let alone entirely by the work of one man.
But sure enough, upon watching the highlights, I was awestruck. Bang, a quick jumper over Malik Rose at the top of the key. Next possession, a high screen by Yao Ming gets T-Mac around Bruce Bowen — arguably the league’s best perimeter defender at the time — and McGrady drills a four-point play, absorbing contact from Tim Duncan. Next, McGrady runs to get the ball from a difficult inbounds play and bangs one in over brilliant defense by Bowen. And finally, T-Mac finished the game with a steal and a transition pull-up from deep. Amazement on my 8-year-old face.
In 2013, Kobe Bryant named Tracy McGrady as the toughest opponent he had ever faced. By no means does this even consider T-Mac for the Top 25 all-time, but he certainly deserves a nod for the Top 25 with respect to talent. Sadly for McGrady, his amazing talent was never enough to take him to great heights.
His career is shrouded in “what-ifs.” What if he had a decent supporting cast in Orlando and Grant Hill wasn’t injured? What if he had stayed with Vince Carter in Toronto and they had both hit their primes simultaneously? What if Yao Ming didn’t suffer from so many injuries? His legacy will focus on the fact that he is probably the best player to never make it out of the first round of the playoffs as a starter.
As a basketball fan, however, I remain thankful for some great scoring performances by T-Mac and for the memory of the greatest single-handed comeback I’ve ever seen.
By Andrew Wild
When I saw Walt Frazier wasn’t on this list, I was furious. The man led New York to its only two championships in incredible style, spearheading one of the most fundamentally sound and memorable offenses in NBA history. Then I checked my list and realized I forgot to rank him.
It’s an understandable mistake, if tragically unfair. “Clyde”, as he’s referred to, although still around as a beloved Knicks broadcaster, seems to be a man forgotten by history. His Wikipedia page only has three paragraphs on his career in New York. Carmelo Anthony has 20 about his Knicks career, and he’s accomplished, generously, zero percent of what Clyde did.
But how did this happen? Clyde dazzled with his passing style on the court and his fashion sense off. He’s the only man to have delivered the media center of the world to the promised land. He falls short of only Magic Johnson in terms of having an amazing nickname that supplants your real name.
Clyde only spent 10 years in New York and followed that up with a Montana-to-the-Chiefs-esque stint with the Cavaliers that didn’t help his legacy. Like Isiah Thomas, Clyde’s career and prime weren’t all that long lasting, and his unselfish play means his career averages weren’t huge. But make no mistake, he was the most important player on one of the most important teams in NBA history and, like Isaiah, he could fill the stat sheet when he felt he needed to. To borrow from Clyde’s announcer handbook, just because we were bumbling and stumbling when we put this list together, forgetting all the bouncing and astounding Frazier did would be a real crime.
By Ritchie Lee
It’s not even close. It’s the Mississippi Bullet, aka Monta Ellis. Everybody else looks like they’re in slow motion when the ball is in his hands. One blink and all of a sudden, he’d have 40. It’s basically an automatic score if he’s running down the court in transition. And he did it all in AND1s.
Ellis may not have been the smartest, most reliable, most talented or most efficient player in the game, but he was always the most fun. It wasn’t that long ago when the Warriors were one of the worst teams in the league, underperforming every year. The Warriors post-Baron Davis and pre-Steve Kerr saw a lot more lows than highs. But Monta Ellis was one of the rare highs for the team between 2008 and 2012.
Golden State lost a lot of games. As soon as Baron Davis signed with the Clippers, the Warriors went 114-328 over the next four seasons, for a winning percentage of 34.8. There wasn’t much to talk about for Warriors fans. Losing is never fun — but at least there was Montazing.
Even though half the team was injured and nobody besides Andris Biedrins was playing defense, the Warriors could still depend on Monta Ellis to provide fans with a couple highlights before they got blown out.
Golden State was a laughingstock, but people had to acknowledge Monta Ellis as an underrated and flashy player. He may never have been an All-Star, but people forget he averaged 25.5 points, five assists, four rebounds and more than two steals in 2009 to 2010.
The Warriors didn’t have LeBron James or a Kobe Bryant or any sort of franchise superstar. They had a 40th overall draft pick who shot too much, didn’t play defense and injured himself on a moped right after signing a new deal.
But, he was the Warriors’ ace. And even though there might be more outspoken and productive star players, they didn’t play for the Warriors. Monta was all the Dubs had. He was the team’s inefficient hero. His play on the court was electrifying. But what makes Monta Ellis the GOAT is he gave a terrible team a reason to be cocky.
“We have Monta Ellis. Do you? That’s what I thought.”
Parents might not like it. But he was the guy that kids in the Bay looked up to and wanted to be like. He may not be the greatest in most people’s eyes, but Monta Ellis represents everything about a local underdog. It’s like Ash’s Pikachu.
Pikachu may not have the best record, even after all those episodes of training, but he’s always going to be Ash’s ace. They’ve just been through so much together. So there’s no way Ash is going to turn his back on Pikachu. Monta Ellis is the same. He may not be a legendary Pokemon or whatever. But he’s the one that was there when times were tough.
When it comes to the best player in history, you can debate who should be No. 2. It could be Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, etc. But there’s no debate about who’s No. 1. It’s Montazing.
Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith
By Haruka Senju
How is it possible that a man who never made a single All-Star game or one All-NBA team is now one of the most nameable players from his generation?
If you just watched “Inside the NBA,” you’d think Kenny “The Jet” Smith was a Hall of Famer, sitting as equals with Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley. Shaq. Chuck. Kenny “The Jet” Smith. That, at least, is the mindset of the self acclaimed “Jet.”
Bring up championships and Kenny “The Jet” Smith will be quick to tell you about the two rings he won with Hakeem Olajuwon. Kenny and Hakeem. Hakeem and Kenny. The greatest big man-little man combo. He’d make no mention of Clyde Drexler, Robert Horry or even Mario Elie and the bunch of players who had better seasons than Kenny “The Jet” Smith, whose stats during those two championship years were pretty comparable to Jose Calderon’s this past season.
This is a man who, when he was 49, invited a 36-year-old Jason Terry to the “Inside the NBA” studio for a three-point shooting contest and, somehow, they both lost.
This is a man who, when picking players for his fantasy All-Star draft, picked himself to play alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Jerry West, to which the Chuckster responded per usual with a sharp, “You want to justify your bad selection?”
That confidence alone is what deserves Kenny “The Jet” Smith a spot on this list. Because Kenny “The Jet” Smith would put himself on this list, probably second, after only Hakeem.
To have a nickname synonymous with your name, you must be a truly great player. Hakeem “The Dream,” “Magic” Johnson. “Air” Jordan. “Big Game” James Worthy. Kenny “The Jet” Smith.
Kenny “The Jet” Smith has made a name for himself, far exceeding any celebrity he may have enjoyed when he was actually a player. Time is the only true testament of a player’s prowess, and it has treated Kenny “The Jet” Smith very well.
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