Archive for August, 2014

The 1996 NBA draft was for lack of a better word, LOADED.

The 1996 NBA draft was for lack of a better word, LOADED.

Yes, I said it. The 1996 NBA Draft produced the best overall draft class ever. When you look at the overall impact that many of the draftees of ’96 made on the League, then surely you’ll agree with my statement.

To my fellow NBA historians, it probably comes off as seeming almost blasphemous that I’d make the statement that ’96 was the greatest draft class ever,  considering that it’s more p.c. to give supreme reverence to the draft classes of 1984 and 2003 respectively. When the discussion of the best NBA draft classes come up, ’84 and ’03 are almost exclusively mentioned. I feel that the ’84 draft gets the nod as the best draft class because of the #3 pick that year (If you don’t know who was picked 3rd in the ’84 Draft, then look it up). No disrespect to anyone who was drafted on those years, but the ’96 draft class was a cut above the rest.

Think about it for a second. This draft class was LOADED. Some of the names who were products of this draft were guys like Iverson, Kobe, Ray Allen, and Steve Nash…and those were just the household names. Let’s not forget that the ’96 NBA Draft also saw the likes of Antoine Walker, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Marcus Camby, and Stephon Marbury enter the league as well. Rounding out the list were soon-to-be NBA veterans such as Derek Fisher, Peja Stojakovic, Erick Dampier, and Jerome “Junkyard Dog” Williams. I don’t think it hurts that the 1996 NBA Draft occurred on the same year as the League’s 50th anniversary, for all of my extra sentimental folks out there.

From here on out, when you visit your local barbershop, and some of the fellas want to engage in heated debates about whose NBA Draft class was the deepest, hit them with a curveball, and throw the class of ’96 into the mix. You’ll rest your case.

Mitch Richmond is one of the greatest shooting guards--and overall scorers--who ever graced the hardwood.

Mitch Richmond is one of the greatest shooting guards–and overall scorers–who ever graced the hardwood.

One of my first memories of Mitch Richmond was during my middle school years. Like many young American teenagers, I was a video game fanatic who also happened to fall in love with the game of basketball in 1995 as a 12-year-old. Fast forward a year later, and “NBA Live ’97” was released on all of those classic 16-bit gaming consoles that many of us grew to love back in the ’90s. At the time, I was very aware of the Shaqs, Jordans, and Barkleys of the basketball world, but I had no clue who this guy wearing the number 2 with a Sacramento Kings jersey on the cover of “Live ’97” was. To be totally honest, as a young kid growing up in Georgia, I didn’t even know who the Sacramento Kings were, for that matter. To make things even worse for Mr. Richmond’s case, his Kings teams of the 90s weren’t exactly making weekly appearances on NBC to bask in the warmth of the national television spotlight either.

Despite everything that you’ve just read, there’s glory to Mitch Richmond’s story. Drafted 5th overall in the 1988 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors, he was nicknamed “The Rock” because of his overwhelming strength as a guard. He also represented one-third of the Warriors’ famed trio nicknamed “Run-TMC”, which comprised of Tim Hardaway (father of the Knicks’ Tim Hardaway Jr., for all of you youngsters), Mitch, and Chris Mullin. Although he could resort to a more physically aggressive style of play, he would cement his legacy as a player with his deadly accuracy from the perimeter, shooting nearly 40% from beyond the 3-point arc.

To me, Mitch Richmond was one of the greatest shooting guards in the 90’s not named Jordan. Since we’re going to take it there, most people are quick to reference Reggie Miller, Clyde Drexler, or Joe Dumars as the premier two-guards during that era, and they’d have a very legitimate argument, mostly because of their respective teams’ success….but Richmond gave the same output that his NBA contemporaries would, but received far less accolades, perhaps due to his time in Sacramento. One of my favorite Mitch Richmond moments would have to be him winning his first and only NBA championship in 2002 as a Laker, which was in my eyes, the crowning achievement to a brilliant career for him.

Fast forward to August 2014, and Richmond gets inducted into the Basketball Hall 0f Fame. After years of flying under the radar despite his basketball brilliance, his induction gives his career the validation that was needed to secure his place in the company of basketball greats.

 

Dunking is arguably one of the biggest--and entertaining--ways to send a message to an opposing player.

Dunking is arguably one of the biggest–and entertaining–ways to send a message to an opposing player.

Anyone remember playing NBA Jam back in the early 90’s? If you do, then you’ll remember the players flying through the air to attempt one of their humanly impossible, yet entertaining monster dunks. The video game’s announcer would punctuate the players’ dunks by yelling that one catch phrase that seemed to be an oft-used in pop culture jargon during that time period:

“BOOMSHAKALAKA!!”

When you heard that catch phrase, then you knew that you had pulled off one of the highlights of the game, if not the highlight of the game. It was almost as if the announcer had to verbalize the non-verbal statement that the players in the game made after their superhuman dunks that could only be done in a virtual world. To no one’s surprise, however, those non-verbal b-ball statements are made in the world of flesh, blood, leather, and rubber as well as the pixelated world of those classic 16-Bit video games. By now, everyone’s quite sure of the basketball statements that I’m referring to, and there are a few, in my humble opinion.

1. The Dunk

Perhaps the most beloved–and the most feared method–to make a statement on the basketball court, this high wire act ALWAYS brings the fans to their feet immediately. Dunks have been known to not only humiliate the poor defender on the receiving end of a demoralizing crushing dunk, but it has also been known to change the momentum of ball games. When it comes to dunks, think about Vince Carter’s video game-like dunk over Team France’s Frederic Weis. Take that, basketball purists!

2. The Crossover Dribble/Shake & Bake

Another way to make a basketball-related statement during a game would be to leave your defender dancing and looking like their auditioning for the sequel of Roll Bounce on a greasy floor…that’s right, make ’em look THAT silly. While Tim Hardaway was the Godfather of the wicked Crossover Dribble, Allen Iverson took it to an entirely different level in terms of how destructive the Crossover Dribble could be to defenders if the right person does it.

3. The Blocked Shot

I’m fully aware that defense is the name of the game, but it’s a shame that it’s not too fan-friendly for the most part when it comes to selling out areas and gyms. There is hope. Spice up your team’s defense-first philosophy by knocking the opposing player’s shot (Just try not to pick up a foul in the process of doing so) into the 10th row! Basketball purists cringe at the thought of a defender swatting a player’s shot out of bounds, because it automatically gives the other team possession of the ball, but sometimes you gotta strike the fear of God into the other team by doing this. Outside of Bill Russell’s heyday as an elite shot blocker, Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace were two of the most beloved shot blockers of the past two decades.

I had to write this post in response to a question that came to my mind this weekend. The question was, “Outside of the obvious politically correct answer(s) of ‘Win the game’ and ‘Play defense’, what are some of the most effective ways to make a statement in a basketball game as a player? If you have other opinions on how to make a statement in a game, please feel free to answer in the poll below.