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  1. #1

    Greg Oden and The All-Time "What If?" Team

    Oden is out, again, for the season, after yet another microfracture surgery. Considering that Oden was regarded as possibly the next Bill Russell coming out of college, it made me think about others whose careers were cut short before they ever really got going.

    Here's an off-the-top-of-my-head all-time "What If?" team: Oden, Len Bias, Maurice Stokes, Jason Williams, Hank Gathers

    I'm not talking about guys like Bill Walton, who had injury-plagued careers that lasted for years (although Walton certainly would have had an even more glorious career had he been injury-free).

    And I know many of you will add Hurley to the list, although I don't know that he would have ever reached the level of accomplishment of my "first five". Gathers, maybe, is a question mark.

    Bias, of course, is and always will be at the top of the list. The Oden that we saw at OSU might have been dominant defensively. So far, he has played 82 career games. In Stokes' 3-year career, he was Rookie of The Year and a 3-time all-star. Jason seemed destined for stardom. Gathers famously led the nation in scoring and rebounding in college.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Atlanta, GA

    Don't forget about...

    Reggie Lewis seemed destined for greatness. Not to mention that his death seemed to set the Celtics back at least a decade.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Washington DC
    I don't know my NBA history as well as others, but there have been a lot of guys who made the league but ultimately did not last because of drugs. Roy Tarpley, Richard Dumas, Michael Ray Richardson are a few. Chris Washburn is another.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Durham at heart
    I think that you would have to put Drazen Petrovic on this list. I realize that a lot of the posters on the board are too young to remember him (wow... did I just write that?) but that guy was un-be-leivable! (Once he got away from Portland and got PT in Jersey.)
    WWJDD?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Toledo

    The Legend of Lithuania

    No, not Marty. Arvydas Sabonis. The greatest center to ever play in Europe, and by some estimations the most versatile big man to ever play the game of basketball period, Sabonis never recorded a single minute of action in the NBA during his prime. Beleaguered by physical deterioration and his home country's refusal to allow him to leave the U.S.S.R during the height of his playing career, the 7-foot-3 Lithuanian giant was merely a fossil of his former self by the time his game finally reached stateside in 1995. At the time of his first NBA game with the Portland Trail Blazers, he was already 31 years old. Compare that to Shaquille O'Neal, who debuted with the Orlando Magic at a still vibrant and youthful 21. In the demanding and often abbreviated life of an NBA center, Sabonis already had one pivot inside of his career grave before ever even beginning his rookie season.

    Despite these limitations, Sabonis still managed career averages of 12 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists per game in seven NBA seasons, including scoring 23 a game during the 1996 playoffs. As impressive a scorer from underneath the basket as he was from beyond the arc, Sabonis was an even more brilliant passer, possessing a feel for the game that was highly unusual for a man of his size. A graceful giant. While still playing in Europe, before becoming the weary and rundown Hack-a-Shaq we saw in the 2000 NBA Playoffs, he was Larry Bird playing in Shaq’s body. And the most talented center the planet has never truly known.

    Maybe only the words of an NBA legend could fully do justice the awesome nature of Sabonis’ game and offer an educated perspective into what might have been.

    Once said Clyde Drexler, “Had Arvydas spent his entire prime in Portland, we would have had four, five or six titles. Guaranteed. He was that good. He could pass, shoot three-pointers, had a great post game, and dominated the paint.”
    Last edited by Cameron; 02-21-2012 at 02:08 PM.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by MulletMan View Post
    I think that you would have to put Drazen Petrovic on this list. I realize that a lot of the posters on the board are too young to remember him (wow... did I just write that?) but that guy was un-be-leivable! (Once he got away from Portland and got PT in Jersey.)
    Cosign. Man, was Petrovic good.

    I'll throw in Shaun Livingston. He's still playing, but who knows what he could have been had his knees cooperated?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Correct side of the Durham/CH border
    Bobby Hurley - god I wanted to see him become an all star. I remember all the favorable comments he got from pros when he practiced/scrimmaged with I think the US national teams many, many moons ago. Some story I think about Hurley leading the B team to a win against the A team and then the guys sticking Jordan on Hurley to shut him down. Someone please correct me if I'm getting this all wrong. Really vague memories here.

  8. #8

    I remember the same thing...

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Rosenrosen View Post
    Bobby Hurley - god I wanted to see him become an all star. I remember all the favorable comments he got from pros when he practiced/scrimmaged with I think the US national teams many, many moons ago. Some story I think about Hurley leading the B team to a win against the A team and then the guys sticking Jordan on Hurley to shut him down. Someone please correct me if I'm getting this all wrong. Really vague memories here.
    That is about the same way I heard the story, Hurley kept torching everyone until they put "the glove" (MJ) on him.

  9. #9
    "The Glove" is gary payton

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Greenville, SC
    I know he's had a good NBA career, but what if Grant Hill...

  11. #11
    I'll throw in Penny Hardaway, the first jersey I ever owned. Many -- including his peers -- thought he was second-best behind Jordan in the Mid-90's before his knee gave out and he was never the same player. If anyone's interested, I wrote this about what could have been, and also did an interview with Penny.

  12. #12

    hurley

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Rosenrosen View Post
    Bobby Hurley - god I wanted to see him become an all star. I remember all the favorable comments he got from pros when he practiced/scrimmaged with I think the US national teams many, many moons ago. Some story I think about Hurley leading the B team to a win against the A team and then the guys sticking Jordan on Hurley to shut him down. Someone please correct me if I'm getting this all wrong. Really vague memories here.
    The story that Coach K told a couple of summers ago (remember, he was an assistant Olympic coach in 1992) was that Hurley was the point guard for the college all-star squad that assembled to scrimmage against the original Dream Team. The all-stars included Grant Hill, Chris Webber and Eric Montross. In the first scrimmage, Chuck Daley, the Dream Team coach, essentially let the pros coach themselves, while he had the college all-stars prepped and ready to go. They played a 20 minute scimmage that ended with the college stars beating the pros. Hurley played a big role in that.

    Coach K explained the Daley wanted to get his guys attention. He set it up for them to lose. When they returned the next day, he did put Jordan on Hurley, but it was more than that. All the stars were focused and embarrassed. They dominated the college kids in every scrimmage after that.

    But that first scrimmage was the only time the greatest collection of basketball talent ever assembled ever lost.

    I'm not as sure that Bobby Hurley wouldn't have been a star (how's that for a double negative). When the Kings looked at him before the draft, he was the fastest player with the basketball they had ever measured. He had just moved into the starting lineup a month into his NBA career when he was almost killed.

    I don't see why he couldn't have developed into the kind of player that john Stockton or Steve Nash has become. Not sure either had any significantly greater physical gifts and I won't concede that either had a better understanding of the game.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    North of Durham
    If Eric Meek hadn't had that accident before his freshman year...

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Durham, NC
    Quote Originally Posted by Cameron View Post
    Arvydas Sabonis.
    He's not my 'vydas... he's not your 'vydas... he's Arvydas.
    A nod's as good as a wink to a blind bat

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Correct side of the Durham/CH border
    Quote Originally Posted by Olympic Fan View Post
    The story that Coach K told a couple of summers ago (remember, he was an assistant Olympic coach in 1992) was that Hurley was the point guard for the college all-star squad that assembled to scrimmage against the original Dream Team. The all-stars included Grant Hill, Chris Webber and Eric Montross. In the first scrimmage, Chuck Daley, the Dream Team coach, essentially let the pros coach themselves, while he had the college all-stars prepped and ready to go. They played a 20 minute scimmage that ended with the college stars beating the pros. Hurley played a big role in that.

    Coach K explained the Daley wanted to get his guys attention. He set it up for them to lose. When they returned the next day, he did put Jordan on Hurley, but it was more than that. All the stars were focused and embarrassed. They dominated the college kids in every scrimmage after that.

    But that first scrimmage was the only time the greatest collection of basketball talent ever assembled ever lost.

    I'm not as sure that Bobby Hurley wouldn't have been a star (how's that for a double negative). When the Kings looked at him before the draft, he was the fastest player with the basketball they had ever measured. He had just moved into the starting lineup a month into his NBA career when he was almost killed.

    I don't see why he couldn't have developed into the kind of player that john Stockton or Steve Nash has become. Not sure either had any significantly greater physical gifts and I won't concede that either had a better understanding of the game.
    Thanks for the detail. I was a freshman in 90-91. My first live and lasting image of Duke basketball was Bobby Hurley running out on the court for the Blue White scrimmage - me standing there thinking to myself, how lucky am I? It's so hard to pick but I would say Hurley is my favorite Devil of all time. I was heartbroken when the accident happened because I thought/hoped he would become a legendary NBA point guard. There may be guys as tough, but no one will ever be tougher, except maybe his dad!

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Toledo
    There are countless stories of playground legends who have slipped through the cracks of our nation's concrete canyons without ever getting the opportunity to showcase their abilities to the world, but Oakland product Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell is one that might just be worth noting. ESPN a few years back aired an emotionally-driven documentary on Hook's painful tale of god-given talent gone wasted and there were a lot of NBA stars that backed the story up. Oakland natives such as Hall-of-Famers Gary Payton and Jason Kidd as well as guys like Brian Shaw and Antonio Davis all agreed that, of all of the NBA players who came from The City during their era, Hook was the best of them all. Said Kidd during the doc, "Hook was better than me, better than Gary, better than Brian, better than everybody. People, they just don't even know."

    Mitchell played for two seasons at Contra Costa College in northern California and another year at Cal State before robbing a Blockbuster at gunpoint in the mid-90s and spending what might have been the prime of an NBA career behind bars. Released at the age of 32, Mitchell never got his chance to play in the League, becoming just another statistic of the streets and a broken childhood. Sad story.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Washington DC
    Quote Originally Posted by Starter View Post
    I'll throw in Penny Hardaway, the first jersey I ever owned. Many -- including his peers -- thought he was second-best behind Jordan in the Mid-90's before his knee gave out and he was never the same player. If anyone's interested, I wrote this about what could have been, and also did an interview with Penny.
    Would you put Penny over Grant Hill's possible career?

    Career highs for a season in some major categories -

    Penny - 21.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 7.2 assists, .513 FG%. All-NBA 1st team twice, 3rd team once.

    Grant - 25.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, .523 FG%. All-NBA 1st team once, 2nd team 4X.

    A pretty good argument...

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Toledo
    Quote Originally Posted by DevilBen02
    He's not my 'vydas... he's not your 'vydas... he's Arvydas.
    Ah, great memories. I certainly loved me some Sabonis. And add Vlade to that list. Two of my favorites, and absolute beautiful reflections of the European game.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Austin, TX
    How about Ralph Sampson? He was an all-star his first 4 seasons, and then his knees (and back) went.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Toledo
    Quote Originally Posted by Starter View Post
    I'll throw in Penny Hardaway, the first jersey I ever owned. Many -- including his peers -- thought he was second-best behind Jordan in the Mid-90's before his knee gave out and he was never the same player. If anyone's interested, I wrote this about what could have been, and also did an interview with Penny.
    That was a great piece, Starter. Very well done. Penny and Shaq still make up the most exciting NBA duo I've ever seen. Had they stayed together in Orlando through their primes and both had remained relatively healthy, I don't think it's too far fetched to believe that the Magic combo might have gone down the as greatest of all-time, surpassing even Michael and Scottie. As the unpredictable book of basketball history came to unfold, however, that distinction would still include O'Neal, but only a different sidekick in Kobe Bryant. Funny how things work, and truly amazing that Shaq was lucky enough to be part of so many dominant one-two tandems (Penny, Kobe and D.Wade).

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