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slower
02-21-2012, 08:15 AM
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.

David Bunkley
02-21-2012, 09:21 AM
Reggie Lewis seemed destined for greatness. Not to mention that his death seemed to set the Celtics back at least a decade.

superdave
02-21-2012, 12:05 PM
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.

MulletMan
02-21-2012, 12:36 PM
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.)

Cameron
02-21-2012, 01:02 PM
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.”

Starter
02-21-2012, 01:08 PM
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?

Dr. Rosenrosen
02-21-2012, 01:10 PM
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.

mrscarlett
02-21-2012, 01:22 PM
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.

Dukehky
02-21-2012, 01:36 PM
"The Glove" is gary payton

camion
02-21-2012, 01:41 PM
I know he's had a good NBA career, but what if Grant Hill...

Starter
02-21-2012, 02:10 PM
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 (http://dimemag.com/2011/10/whos-better-pre-injuries-grant-hill-penny-hardaway-or-tracy-mcgrady/2/) about what could have been, and also did an interview (http://dimemag.com/2012/01/dime-qa-penny-hardaway-tells-all/) with Penny.

Olympic Fan
02-21-2012, 02:12 PM
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.

CrazyNotCrazie
02-21-2012, 02:13 PM
If Eric Meek hadn't had that accident before his freshman year...

DevilBen02
02-21-2012, 02:18 PM
Arvydas Sabonis.

He's not my 'vydas... he's not your 'vydas... he's Arvydas.

Dr. Rosenrosen
02-21-2012, 02:24 PM
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!

Cameron
02-21-2012, 02:35 PM
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.

superdave
02-21-2012, 02:36 PM
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 (http://dimemag.com/2011/10/whos-better-pre-injuries-grant-hill-penny-hardaway-or-tracy-mcgrady/2/) about what could have been, and also did an interview (http://dimemag.com/2012/01/dime-qa-penny-hardaway-tells-all/) 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...

Cameron
02-21-2012, 02:41 PM
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.

Lennies
02-21-2012, 03:06 PM
How about Ralph Sampson? He was an all-star his first 4 seasons, and then his knees (and back) went.

Cameron
02-21-2012, 03:25 PM
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 (http://dimemag.com/2011/10/whos-better-pre-injuries-grant-hill-penny-hardaway-or-tracy-mcgrady/2/) about what could have been, and also did an interview (http://dimemag.com/2012/01/dime-qa-penny-hardaway-tells-all/) 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).

weezie
02-21-2012, 03:37 PM
Can we include Mike Jordan as in 'what if he had actually been a competent GM?' :D:D:D

DUKIE V(A)
02-21-2012, 03:42 PM
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.”

Lived on a military base in Spain and got to see a young Sabonis play against Real Madrid in person. Real Madrid won the game but Sabonis put on a show. Amazing talent. I am surprised he only averaged 2 assists a game in the NBA...He was a brilliant passer.

luvdahops
02-21-2012, 04:21 PM
Reggie Lewis seemed destined for greatness. Not to mention that his death seemed to set the Celtics back at least a decade.

Depends on how you define greatness, I guess. Lewis had already been in the league 6 years when he passed away, with one All-Star appearance and two seasons as the Celtics main option as Bird, McHale and Parish faded late in their careers. Averaged around 20ppg, 5rpg and 3apg in his best seasons, and always seemed to need a lot of shots to get his points. While those stats are nothing to sneeze at, I am not sure they equate to greatness at the NBA level, and they certainly don't suggest someone who was truly going to take over for Bird as the face of the franchise with minimal dropoff.

Starter
02-21-2012, 04:28 PM
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...

Definitely. Very, very difficult to call. Grant was totally awesome, basically a point guard from the 3. (Detroit didn't even actually play a point guard with him -- no need.) You could look at Grant's 25.8 ppg season one of two ways -- it was an outlier, since all of his other years in Detroit he was right around 21. Or it was a sign of the player he was becoming, since it was basically the final season he played mostly on a good ankle. I'd probably assume it was the latter. The sad part with Grant is that one of his best attributes, his desire, led to his downfall in certain ways since he gutted it out on a terrible ankle and was never even close to the same. At the very least, he still plays, not to mention at a relatively high level of contribution.

With Penny, I sort of felt like he had only begun to scratch the surface of what he was capable of. You had a sense of where Grant's limits might have been, but we didn't yet know that about Penny. He was an amazing defender and a superb rebounder for a point guard, used his athleticism so well. One of my great regrets as a fan is that I never got to see what he would have done without Shaquille, how he would have put his stamp on that team and made it his own, and who they would have put around him. Again though, Penny left a great legacy and is still surprisingly relevant today. Nothing to be ashamed of.

Anyway, not sure who I'd pick. They were both incredible. But just like with Pippen, who had no other option but to be underrated based on playing with Jordan, Penny had Shaquille to steal the spotlight. Grant was a one-man band.

hq2
02-21-2012, 04:33 PM
In terms of unrealized (injury related) talent, I think he's up there with Sam Bowie (the man known most famously as the player taken
ahead of Michael Jordan). Oden's not even 25, and he looks washed up. One wonders what would have happened in Boston had they
gotten the number one pick in '07 and taken him. No 17th banner, nothing. A total loss.

Starter
02-21-2012, 04:39 PM
Depends on how you define greatness, I guess. Lewis had already been in the league 6 years when he passed away, with one All-Star appearance and two seasons as the Celtics main option as Bird, McHale and Parish faded late in their careers. Averaged around 20ppg, 5rpg and 3apg in his best seasons, and always seemed to need a lot of shots to get his points. While those stats are nothing to sneeze at, I am not sure they equate to greatness at the NBA level, and they certainly don't suggest someone who was truly going to take over for Bird as the face of the franchise with minimal dropoff.

With all due respect, you're not doing Reggie justice. He was a fantastic defender who made Jordan work, played at Northeastern and was a team captain for the Celtics (and that honor wasn't lightly bestowed). He also shot 48% for his career, so it wasn't like he was a gunner. At 27, he was just entering his prime. Comparing him to Bird isn't fair, but it's not like Reggie didn't carve out his own lane during the short time he was there.

Devil in the Blue Dress
02-21-2012, 04:46 PM
Has anyone mentioned Jason Williams and the great potential he had before the motorcycle accident? He's adapted, but what a career he might have had had he stayed off that motorcycle........

Cameron
02-21-2012, 05:21 PM
Lived on a military base in Spain and got to see a young Sabonis play against Real Madrid in person. Real Madrid won the game but Sabonis put on a show. Amazing talent. I am surprised he only averaged 2 assists a game in the NBA...He was a brilliant passer.

I sure wish I would have had the opportunity do that. It would have been a privilege.

Had Sabonis not been riddled by injury, it's safe to say that his minutes per game would have increased substantially (he played an average of 24 minutes per over seven years, only twice surpassing more than 25 minutes a night) and, consequently, so would have his assist totals. He was a magician, and could make a ball disappear -- behind his back or through an opponent's legs -- as effortlessly as Bob Cousy or Harry Houdini. I was too young to have seen him play during his prime -- much of my memory of Sabonis comes only through highlights and the recollections of others -- but I watched the Blazers religiously when Arvydas still towered above the City of Roses. My favorite Sabonis passes were often the ones that resulted in a turnover, those out-of-nowhere rockets of genius that spiraled past defenders like a pinball and hit intended teammates directly in the head. What I wouldn't give to listen to the great announcer Bill Walton describe just one more Sabonis miracle through traffic.

I miss the NBA of yesteryear.

mgtr
02-21-2012, 05:42 PM
Oden's not even 25, and he looks washed up. One wonders what would have happened in Boston had they
gotten the number one pick in '07 and taken him. No 17th banner, nothing. A total loss.

Is it clear that Boston would have taken Oden with the number 1 pick? I know that Portland did, but the number two pick was also pretty good that year. Boston might well have taken Durant instead of Oden. Who knows, hard to play the what if game. They might have even traded the pick for a couple decent players.

throatybeard
02-21-2012, 06:36 PM
I think L'il Penny needs to be on this team.

Not basketball, but there was a great 30 for 30 on ESPN covering Marcus Dupree (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Dupree) at Oklahoma. Given my exact age, I had never heard of this dude until I moved to Mississippi. He has got to be one of the most befuddling "what the heck happened there" cases of unfulfilled potential in American sport. I can tell ya where his house is in Neshoba, but I don't know what he's doing.

Olympic Fan
02-21-2012, 06:48 PM
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.

I think you are on the right track, but you may have the wrong playground legend. There was a guy named Earl “The Goat” Manigault. He was born in Charleston, S.C., but grew up in Harlem, where a promising prep basketball career was derailed by academic and behavioral problems. He briefly attended Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina and enrolled at Johnson C. Smith in Charlotte, but he had a dispute with his coach and left school without playing a game.
Manigault went home and became the king of the New York playgrounds. In the late 1960s and throughout most of the 1970s, “The Goat” was whispered about in basketball circles – a legendary leaper with a deadly long-range shot. His signature move was the double-dunk – he could slam the basketball through with his right hand, catch it and dunk it again with his left … all on the same leap. He held his own or outplayed such NBA stars such as Earl The Pearl Monroe and Connie Hawkins on even terms. When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retired in Los Angeles, he was asked the greatest player he ever saw. He picked “The Goat” Manigault.
Manigault never had the discpline to get off drugs long enough play pro basketball.

And similar to Mitchell was Ben Wilson, a 6-8 star at a Chicago's Simeon High School. He was rated the No. 1 prospect in his class -- ahead of Danny Manning and Chris Washburn. On Nov. 24, 1984 -- just days before the start of his senior season at Simeon, he got into an argument with three guys outside a convience store and was shot in the throat. He died the next morning.

Cameron
02-21-2012, 07:20 PM
I think you are on the right track, but you may have the wrong playground legend. There was a guy named Earl “The Goat” Manigault. He was born in Charleston, S.C., but grew up in Harlem, where a promising prep basketball career was derailed by academic and behavioral problems. He briefly attended Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina and enrolled at Johnson C. Smith in Charlotte, but he had a dispute with his coach and left school without playing a game.
Manigault went home and became the king of the New York playgrounds. In the late 1960s and throughout most of the 1970s, “The Goat” was whispered about in basketball circles – a legendary leaper with a deadly long-range shot. His signature move was the double-dunk – he could slam the basketball through with his right hand, catch it and dunk it again with his left … all on the same leap. He held his own or outplayed such NBA stars such as Earl The Pearl Monroe and Connie Hawkins on even terms. When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retired in Los Angeles, he was asked the greatest player he ever saw. He picked “The Goat” Manigault.
Manigault never had the discpline to get off drugs long enough play pro basketball.

And similar to Mitchell was Ben Wilson, a 6-8 star at a Chicago's Simeon High School. He was rated the No. 1 prospect in his class -- ahead of Danny Manning and Chris Washburn. On Nov. 24, 1984 -- just days before the start of his senior season at Simeon, he got into an argument with three guys outside a convience store and was shot in the throat. He died the next morning.

Great stuff, Olympic. I'm an avid reader of SLAM Magazine and have always been fascinated by the playground game. The "GOAT" would have been an amazing talent to witness. As would have another fabled New Yorker named Joe "The Destroyer" Hammond.

Hammond, another prolific talent that suffered the same fate as so many other products of the ghetto who ended up swallowed by the harsh realities of the street, was once labeled in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/1990/11/11/sports/basketball-legend-of-the-playground.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm) as the greatest player to ever come out of Harlem, including the great Earl Manigualt. In just a single half of basketball while guarded by the Doctor himself, Julius Erving, Hammond dropped 50 points in a 1970s playground game that he didn't show for until the intermission, having been out too late the night before high and partying. Or so the story goes. He was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA hardship draft of 1971 but, due to already making more money than he knew what to do with on the streets hustling and selling narcotics, Hammond politely declined and so the legend, or tragedy depending upon your view, was born.

Really interesting stuff. The game of basketball is full of wonder.

hq2
02-21-2012, 08:25 PM
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.”

Sabonis in his prime was indeed an incredible player. We saw him very little, but when we did see him, judging from the way he beat America in the '88 Olympics
(was David Robinson on the U.S. team? I think he was), he was pretty amazing. I recall one replay from a game in '87 where he did a one-handed
rebound slam from somewhere in the lane that had to be seen to be believed. By the time he came over in '95, his knees were gone and he could barely jump or run. He was only a shell of what he had been, but at that, he was still better than most.

luvdahops
02-22-2012, 09:54 AM
With all due respect, you're not doing Reggie justice. He was a fantastic defender who made Jordan work, played at Northeastern and was a team captain for the Celtics (and that honor wasn't lightly bestowed). He also shot 48% for his career, so it wasn't like he was a gunner. At 27, he was just entering his prime. Comparing him to Bird isn't fair, but it's not like Reggie didn't carve out his own lane during the short time he was there.

Well, with all due respect, you are a perfect example of the tendency for Celtics fans to exaggerate and romanticize Reggie. I fully appreciate the great narrative - local kid who worked his butt off and was a terrific team player and leader. But he was not, as many Celtic fans seemed to the think at the time and since, the sort of transcendent talent who could have been the centerpiece of a perennial contender (Len Bias was, but not Reggie). FWIW, I have lived in Chicago most of my adult life, and followed the Bulls - and the NBA in general - very closely in the 80s and 90s. I do not remember Lewis giving Jordan any particular trouble or ever getting any serious NBA All-Defense consideration. He was indeed a very good shooter. But when I say he needed a lot of shots to get his points, it is a reflection of the fact that he didn't get to the line very often (less than 20% of his career points came on free throws) or shoot the 3 very well. To put it another way, in modern (i.e. KenPom or Hollinger) terms, he was not a very "efficient" scorer.

Starter
02-22-2012, 11:15 AM
Well, with all due respect, you are a perfect example of the tendency for Celtics fans to exaggerate and romanticize Reggie. I fully appreciate the great narrative - local kid who worked his butt off and was a terrific team player and leader. But he was not, as many Celtic fans seemed to the think at the time and since, the sort of transcendent talent who could have been the centerpiece of a perennial contender (Len Bias was, but not Reggie). FWIW, I have lived in Chicago most of my adult life, and followed the Bulls - and the NBA in general - very closely in the 80s and 90s. I do not remember Lewis giving Jordan any particular trouble or ever getting any serious NBA All-Defense consideration. He was indeed a very good shooter. But when I say he needed a lot of shots to get his points, it is a reflection of the fact that he didn't get to the line very often (less than 20% of his career points came on free throws) or shoot the 3 very well. To put it another way, in modern (i.e. KenPom or Hollinger) terms, he was not a very "efficient" scorer.

I'm not a Celtics fan.

luvdahops
02-22-2012, 11:27 AM
I'm not a Celtics fan.

Then I stand corrected on that assumption. But I also stand by the points I made in my post.

77devil
02-22-2012, 11:29 AM
I'll throw in Sam Bowie, infamously selected ahead of MJ in the 1984 draft. While he lasted ten years in the NBA, I believe he spent much more than half of it injured. He played only 60+ games in four seasons after his rookie year. The hand writing was on the wall as Bowie missed two seasons at Kentucky due to injuries but he was the 2nd selection by Portland none the less. Quick, can anyone name the first without looking it up? His name resonates with me because I saw him play against Duke and the G-Man in Kentucky's first and last game of the 1979-80 season.

Starter
02-22-2012, 11:36 AM
Then I stand corrected on that assumption. But I also stand by the points I made in my post.

At least you're consistent. You're still way off base, though. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like you're just perusing someone's stats and making judgments based on that instead of remembering the kind of player and leader he was. Lewis ranked 32nd in free throw attempts in 1992-93, if that matters; it's not like he never went to the line. And with three-pointers, Dwyane Wade has one this year; wouldn't you take him on your team?

And seriously, you don't remember Lewis hassling Jordan with his length and quickness, at least relative to what others could do? He blocked him four times (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ni7t4swtdYw) in a game. Find another guy who's done that, I won't hold my breath. Hardware or not, everyone who actually watched him knew how good Lewis was.

luvdahops
02-22-2012, 11:54 AM
At least you're consistent. You're still way off base, though. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like you're just perusing someone's stats and making judgments based on that instead of remembering the kind of player and leader he was. Lewis ranked 32nd in free throw attempts in 1992-93, if that matters; it's not like he never went to the line. And with three-pointers, Dwyane Wade has one this year; wouldn't you take him on your team?

And seriously, you don't remember Lewis hassling Jordan with his length and quickness, at least relative to what others could do? He blocked him four times (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ni7t4swtdYw) in a game. Find another guy who's done that, I won't hold my breath. Hardware or not, everyone who actually watched him knew how good Lewis was.

I saw both Jordan and Lewis play a lot. One great, memorable defensive game does not make someone an elite defender. Lots of guys got up for playing MJ, and had career games against him here and there. Do you seriously believe that Lewis was an elite defender? If so, is it based on something more than a four block game against Jordan?

Interesting that you bring up Wade. He is a completely different sort of player; while he doesn't shoot 3s well either, D-Wade has always attacked the basket relentlessly, averaging 9.0 FTAs per game for his career with 28% of his TP from the line. His FTAs per game have come down a bit with LeBron at his side, but even this year, with that factor along with injuries and reduced minutes, he is getting to the line 6.7x per game, with 24% of points on FTs. Lewis's career highs were 4.7 FTAs per game and 20% of points from FTs.

I don't base my arguments on stats - I use stats to back up what I see with my eyes. You might want to try it sometime.

sagegrouse
02-22-2012, 11:58 AM
I'll throw in Sam Bowie, infamously selected ahead of MJ in the 1984 draft. While he lasted ten years in the NBA, I believe he spent much more than half of it injured. He played only 60+ games in four seasons after his rookie year. The hand writing was on the wall as Bowie missed two seasons at Kentucky due to injuries but he was the 2nd selection by Portland none the less. Quick, can anyone name the first without looking it up? His name resonates with me because I saw him play against Duke and the G-Man in Kentucky's first and last game of the 1979-80 season.

Hakeem Ulajuwan. Hardly anyone criticizes Houston for picking him first over MJ. After all, he got two titles and is in the HOF. --sage

jimsumner
02-22-2012, 12:15 PM
Can I nominate the 1986 NBA draft first round?

That class had so many cautionary tales it's unbelievable. Len Bias, Chris Washburn, William Bedford, Roy Tarpley, Dwayne "Pearl" Washington, Walter Berry, John Williams (food can be an addiction). Drugs, alcohol, attitude issues.

Sabonis was in that class to, so he leads the injury category. Of course, he was already damaged goods by then. Our own Johnny Dawkins was starting to play at an all-star level in 1990 when he blew out a knee. Came back but never got it all back. A knee injury ended Mark Alarie's career prematurely. Same with Kenny Walker.

Brad Daugherty, the first pick of the draft, was an all-star but back problems ended his career early.

Others, like Brad Sellers and Maurice Martin just weren't that good.

Not all flops, of course. Chuck Person, Dell Curry, Ron Sellers, Scott Skiles.

Ironically, the second round turned out quite well. Mark Price, Dennis Rodman, Jeff Hornacek, Nate McMillan, Kevin Duckworth and Johnny Newman all leveraged second-round status into really good pro careers.

Starter
02-22-2012, 12:18 PM
I saw both Jordan and Lewis play a lot. One great, memorable defensive game does not make someone an elite defender. Lots of guys got up for playing MJ, and had career games against him here and there. Do you seriously believe that Lewis was an elite defender? If so, is it based on something more than a four block game against Jordan?

Interesting that you bring up Wade. He is a completely different sort of player; while he doesn't shoot 3s well either, D-Wade has always attacked the basket relentlessly, averaging 9.0 FTAs per game for his career with 28% of his TP from the line. His FTAs per game have come down a bit with LeBron at his side, but even this year, with that factor along with injuries and reduced minutes, he is getting to the line 6.7x per game, with 24% of points on FTs. Lewis's career highs were 4.7 FTAs per game and 20% of points from FTs.

I don't base my arguments on stats - I use stats to back up what I see with my eyes. You might want to try it sometime.


In terms of your last line, it's a decent zinger. I mean, based on your arguments, I had been unsure you ever actually watched Lewis play. But you claim you have, and you know what? I'll take your word on it.

I wasn't trying to say Lewis was the same sort of player as Wade, right? I was just saying, you can't pick out the things a guy doesn't necessarily do to completely tear him down. Lewis was an All-Star player just entering his prime with the obvious potential to become elite, he was leading his team to the playoffs, and he'd just been named captain of a storied franchise. He even tripled his three-pointers during his final year, albeit only to 14, but it leads me to believe there was perhaps room to grow there. If you compare him or anyone else to Bird, they're going to come up short. He wasn't like on the level of a Big O or Jerry West, a guy like that, but he seems like a player who was on the verge of becoming a perennial All-Star. As such, I still feel you're selling him short just for the heck of it. But I've enjoyed a spirited debate regardless.

You do bring up a good point. Is Lewis romanticized in Boston? He absolutely is, and understandably so. But so is Len Bias, who you're convinced would have been elite. Listen, I agree, I've always thought Bias would have been great in the NBA like he was in college. But he played zero professional games, so we'll just never know. That 30 for 30 on Bias was so well done, and so sad.

And hey, I do have to admire anyone's determination who was shown visual evidence Lewis had defensive chops and still stuck to the same obsolete talking point. You got chutzpah, my dude! It's all good in the hood as far as I'm concerned.

Cameron
02-22-2012, 02:32 PM
Not all flops, of course. Chuck Person, Dell Curry, Ron Sellers, Scott Skiles.

Ah, The Rifleman. Person was an outstanding shooter when enjoying "one of those nights." As a fervent Indiana Pacers fan growing up, the almost 40 points Person dropped on Larry Bird and Boston for a Pacer win in the Garden in the 1991 Playoffs is a very fond memory. Of course, that was also the year Bird courageously battled a back injury that had left him immobile in the first half in Game 5 to score 32 and send The Rifleman back to his corps.

And I think that Dell guy knew a thing or two about shooting.

Cameron
02-22-2012, 02:45 PM
*For what it's worth, I just checked the box score for the decisive Game 5 between Boston and Indiana during the 1991 First Round and Reggie Lewis supplemented Larry Legend's gutsy 32 with 22 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 1 block. Not bad for a Game 5 in the Garden.

HaveFunExpectToWin
02-22-2012, 03:19 PM
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.

Let's also not forget that his team beat down that Western University team with Shaq, Penny, AND Matt Nover.

I still have my Hurley - King's jersey. Might have to break that one out for the VaTech game.

luvdahops
02-22-2012, 04:45 PM
In terms of your last line, it's a decent zinger. I mean, based on your arguments, I had been unsure you ever actually watched Lewis play. But you claim you have, and you know what? I'll take your word on it.

I wasn't trying to say Lewis was the same sort of player as Wade, right? I was just saying, you can't pick out the things a guy doesn't necessarily do to completely tear him down. Lewis was an All-Star player just entering his prime with the obvious potential to become elite, he was leading his team to the playoffs, and he'd just been named captain of a storied franchise. He even tripled his three-pointers during his final year, albeit only to 14, but it leads me to believe there was perhaps room to grow there. If you compare him or anyone else to Bird, they're going to come up short. He wasn't like on the level of a Big O or Jerry West, a guy like that, but he seems like a player who was on the verge of becoming a perennial All-Star. As such, I still feel you're selling him short just for the heck of it. But I've enjoyed a spirited debate regardless.

You do bring up a good point. Is Lewis romanticized in Boston? He absolutely is, and understandably so. But so is Len Bias, who you're convinced would have been elite. Listen, I agree, I've always thought Bias would have been great in the NBA like he was in college. But he played zero professional games, so we'll just never know. That 30 for 30 on Bias was so well done, and so sad.

And hey, I do have to admire anyone's determination who was shown visual evidence Lewis had defensive chops and still stuck to the same obsolete talking point. You got chutzpah, my dude! It's all good in the hood as far as I'm concerned.

I'm not selling Lewis short just for the heck of it. I was trying to make a fairly subtle argument that, as fine a player as he was, I don't think he was headed for superstar/perennial All-Star/genuine franchise cornerstone status. Instead, I think he was pretty close to having hit his ceiling and/or maxed out his potential. Again, I think the numbers support this point of view:

90-91: Celtics go 56-26, are eliminated by Pistons in 2nd Round; Bird plays 60 games, McHale 68; Lewis averages 18.7ppg, 5.2rpg and 2.5apg
91-92: Celtics go 51-31, are eliminated by Pacers in 2nd Round; Bird plays 45 games, McHale 56; Lewis averages 20.8ppg, 4.8rpg and 2.3apg
92-93: Celtics go 48-34, are eliminated by Hornets in 1st Round; Bird retired, McHale just 35 games; Lewis averages 20.8ppg, 4.3rpg and 3.7apg

As for Lewis vs Bias, I had the good fortune to see the latter (and Jordan) play live as an undergrad in Cameron. Bias was an absolute athletic freak, probably more explosive than Jordan and with the same competitive ferocity. His baselined turnaround J was simply unstoppable (I doubt Manute Bol could have blocked it with a running start). Of course we'll never know for sure, but it is easy to envision Bias refining his game alongside Bird and Co and then gradually taking the mantle from them to keep the Celtics at an elite level through the 90s. Lewis was just not in the same league athletically or from a raw talent standpoint - not even close, really.

Also, FWIW, still not sure what that video proves beyond the fact that Lewis had a pretty remarkable defensive game that night. It hardly supports the notion that he was an elite defender night-in and night-out, or regularly gave Jordan a lot of trouble.

fgb
02-22-2012, 06:18 PM
larry johnson.

grandmama was a badass before he went down with a bad back.

hq2
02-22-2012, 09:29 PM
As for Lewis vs Bias, I had the good fortune to see the latter (and Jordan) play live as an undergrad in Cameron. Bias was an absolute athletic freak, probably more explosive than Jordan and with the same competitive ferocity. His baselined turnaround J was simply unstoppable (I doubt Manute Bol could have blocked it with a running start). Of course we'll never know for sure, but it is easy to envision Bias refining his game alongside Bird and Co and then gradually taking the mantle from them to keep the Celtics at an elite level through the 90s. Lewis was just not in the same league athletically or from a raw talent standpoint - not even close, really.


Bias would have been a great pro, no doubt about it. He was incredible leaper, and had an unblockable high arcing jumper which he could get off on anyone.
I specifically used to watch Maryland games to see him in '86; in a year with Johnny Dawkins, Chris Washburn, Brad Daugherty, Olden Polynice, Mark Price,
Tom Hammonds, John Salley, Mark Alarie, Danny Ferry, Kenny Smith, and Elden Campbell (I think, may have been later), he was head and shoulders (sorry Johnny D)
the best player in the ACC. I remember watching him drop 40 on Duke; he just jumped right over 'em like they weren't even there. I'd say the Celtics would
have gotten at least one ('87) and maybe two ('88) more titles if he had lived. Truly sad when he died.

Starter
02-22-2012, 10:09 PM
I'm not selling Lewis short just for the heck of it. I was trying to make a fairly subtle argument that, as fine a player as he was, I don't think he was headed for superstar/perennial All-Star/genuine franchise cornerstone status. Instead, I think he was pretty close to having hit his ceiling and/or maxed out his potential. Again, I think the numbers support this point of view:

90-91: Celtics go 56-26, are eliminated by Pistons in 2nd Round; Bird plays 60 games, McHale 68; Lewis averages 18.7ppg, 5.2rpg and 2.5apg
91-92: Celtics go 51-31, are eliminated by Pacers in 2nd Round; Bird plays 45 games, McHale 56; Lewis averages 20.8ppg, 4.8rpg and 2.3apg
92-93: Celtics go 48-34, are eliminated by Hornets in 1st Round; Bird retired, McHale just 35 games; Lewis averages 20.8ppg, 4.3rpg and 3.7apg

As for Lewis vs Bias, I had the good fortune to see the latter (and Jordan) play live as an undergrad in Cameron. Bias was an absolute athletic freak, probably more explosive than Jordan and with the same competitive ferocity. His baselined turnaround J was simply unstoppable (I doubt Manute Bol could have blocked it with a running start). Of course we'll never know for sure, but it is easy to envision Bias refining his game alongside Bird and Co and then gradually taking the mantle from them to keep the Celtics at an elite level through the 90s. Lewis was just not in the same league athletically or from a raw talent standpoint - not even close, really.

Also, FWIW, still not sure what that video proves beyond the fact that Lewis had a pretty remarkable defensive game that night. It hardly supports the notion that he was an elite defender night-in and night-out, or regularly gave Jordan a lot of trouble.

Now we're talking. I think you have a relatively well-reasoned argument, though I don't think the stat lines you put up there show a whole lot, to be honest. Lewis wasn't singlehandedly responsible for wins and losses, though he was coming into his own on playoff teams, and it's not like those numbers you posted were weak. Combine those with the fact that he was 27 and entering his athletic peak and... we're going in circles.

In terms of his defense, he had a strong reputation for being a very good defensive player (I'm not making that up), and his numbers hold up -- 1.4 steals and a block a game from a 2/3 is pretty strong. The game he blocked a prime Jordan four times -- which, in itself, is pretty amazing -- was obviously not the only good defensive game he had in his career. Though that clear ability and reputation to at least be able to hassle Jordan (really, all you can ask for) can't help but be indicative of what he was capable of. He was an above-average athlete with long arms, a great recipe.

If you look, Lewis' numbers compare pretty favorably to another Reggie through their age 22 season -- Reggie Miller. Miller hit threes, Lewis blocked shots, but other than that they were honestly very similar. Miller, obviously, wasn't a superstar on the level of Bird. But he was a very good, some might say great, player on winning teams. Given those 12 extra seasons, who's to say Lewis couldn't have done the same? That, we can actually probably agree on. And that level of play is nothing to sneeze at. I still think he had the tools to be great, you don't, and I would think it's ok we part there, regardless of what we each recall about his defense, the number of shots he needed, whatever. After all, was Reggie Miller great? Probably depends on who you ask. (As a Knicks fan, I'd begrudgingly say yes.)

That's awesome you got to see Bias in person. Such a shame what happened there. Imagine the course of NBA history had Bias made it to the league at anywhere near the level everyone believed he could have played at.

Starter
02-22-2012, 10:21 PM
larry johnson.

grandmama was a badass before he went down with a bad back.

Just to break up the great Reggie Lewis debate... :rolleyes:

What I loved about LJ was how he modified his game and assimilated himself as a much different but still effective player after his back injury relegated him below the rim. His outside shot became a weapon, he worked hard at his perimeter defense and Jeff Van Gundy cited him as one of his favorite players he's coached. High praise, considering the source. Hard to believe he was forced to retire at just 32.

nocilla
02-23-2012, 07:56 AM
Just to break up the great Reggie Lewis debate... :rolleyes:


I apologize in advance for going back to it, but I am curious in how you both would compare Reggie Lewis to Paul Pierce. Pierce was being discussed on the radio last week because he moved to 2nd all-time in scoring for the Boston franchise. He may actually be #1 by the time he retires. However, he wasn't even in the starting 5 for Boston greats according to the radio personalities. Without looking up the stats, it seemed like Reggie Lewis was a similar player in that they both scored a lot of points and did several other things well. What is the perception of how Lewis would have stacked up to Pierce had he played the same number of years?

Starter
02-23-2012, 09:02 AM
I apologize in advance for going back to it, but I am curious in how you both would compare Reggie Lewis to Paul Pierce. Pierce was being discussed on the radio last week because he moved to 2nd all-time in scoring for the Boston franchise. He may actually be #1 by the time he retires. However, he wasn't even in the starting 5 for Boston greats according to the radio personalities. Without looking up the stats, it seemed like Reggie Lewis was a similar player in that they both scored a lot of points and did several other things well. What is the perception of how Lewis would have stacked up to Pierce had he played the same number of years?

I think Pierce probably would have ended up better regardless, but I have a high opinion of him. It's hard to say since we didn't get to see what Lewis would have become, or what teams they'd have put around him. Pierce had the benefit of playing on some championship-caliber Celtics teams, richly deserved after years of playing on squads even Pierce couldn't help. He scored 27 ppg in 2005-06 for a team that won 32 games, but the rest of that team was just brutal. Even the Antoine Walker years were relatively lean. I feel Lewis was a winner; the Celtics won almost 50 his last season with a typical starting lineup of Lewis, Alaa Abdelnaby, Sherman Douglas, Kevin Gamble and 39-year-old Robert Parish (who did still have something left). Not exactly Russell, Havlicek and Sam Jones. If one was to assume that was a baseline performance for both Lewis and the Celtics and they were able to successfully build around him, who knows?

But for Pierce, there's no shame in landing, say, sixth behind Bird, Russell, Havlicek, McHale and Cousy. They've just had so many great players over the years. And it shows, they've won the most titles of any NBA team.

DevilHorse
02-23-2012, 09:19 AM
I remember when the player touted as the top High School basketball player in the land was kill during his senior year. I don't think he was head and shoulders above the other players that included Danny Manning.

Larry
DevilHorse

Tjenkins
02-23-2012, 12:12 PM
I'll go with Bias. And that's partially because I was an impressionable age (14) when he died, and because I followed his short career more than any of the others mentioned here.

Bias was an amazing college player, one of the best I've ever seen. I was a diehard ACC fan in the 80s, loved watching him play. I remember thinking of how the Celtics would be nearly unbeatable with Bias teaming with Bird, Parrish and McHale. I try not to think about it because it's still depressing 25 years later. Better to think of that comeback win at the Dean Dome in '86, saving the Terps season, beating the Heels again in the ACC tournament.

I'll never forget coming home around lunchtime that Summer. I turned on CNN and heard about Bias. Shocking.

Petrovic would be #2 in my book. Easily the best European player up to that point.

UrinalCake
02-23-2012, 02:13 PM
I know we're talking about NBA players here but when I hear "What if?" my thoughts immediately turn to last year's season without Irving. So frustrating to enter that season with much anticipation, to get a glimpse of what he could do, to lose him, spend the whole season wondering if he would come back, then get him back just a little bit too late. I still think that if he had been able to return just a week earlier we would have won it all. That would have given him three games in the ACC tournament to work himself back into the team, rather than having to start the NCAA tournament cold.

At any rate, that's all in the past. He's a great kid and it's cool to see him doing well at the next level.

Cameron
02-23-2012, 02:38 PM
Those of you who mentioned Drazen Petrovic, how good do you think he could have been?

At the time of his death by automobile accident in 1993, Petrovic had just finished up an NBA season, only his fourth, in which he averaged 22 points and shot over 45% percent from three (he was Peja Stojakovic only with moves). In but two seasons with New Jersey, he had transformed a hapless loser into a challenging playoff adversary, one that fell just a game short of beating Mark Price, Brad Daugherty and Cleveland in the first round of the '93 postseason.

He was 28 when he died. Could he have had a career that surpassed, say, even the heights of Dirk Nowitzki? Dirk's been averaging 22 points per game over 12 seasons, and has led his teams in Dallas to 10-straight 50-win seasons and a world championship, so the bar is pretty high. What say you?

luvdahops
02-24-2012, 03:45 PM
Now we're talking. I think you have a relatively well-reasoned argument, though I don't think the stat lines you put up there show a whole lot, to be honest. Lewis wasn't singlehandedly responsible for wins and losses, though he was coming into his own on playoff teams, and it's not like those numbers you posted were weak. Combine those with the fact that he was 27 and entering his athletic peak and... we're going in circles.

In terms of his defense, he had a strong reputation for being a very good defensive player (I'm not making that up), and his numbers hold up -- 1.4 steals and a block a game from a 2/3 is pretty strong. The game he blocked a prime Jordan four times -- which, in itself, is pretty amazing -- was obviously not the only good defensive game he had in his career. Though that clear ability and reputation to at least be able to hassle Jordan (really, all you can ask for) can't help but be indicative of what he was capable of. He was an above-average athlete with long arms, a great recipe.

If you look, Lewis' numbers compare pretty favorably to another Reggie through their age 22 season -- Reggie Miller. Miller hit threes, Lewis blocked shots, but other than that they were honestly very similar. Miller, obviously, wasn't a superstar on the level of Bird. But he was a very good, some might say great, player on winning teams. Given those 12 extra seasons, who's to say Lewis couldn't have done the same? That, we can actually probably agree on. And that level of play is nothing to sneeze at. I still think he had the tools to be great, you don't, and I would think it's ok we part there, regardless of what we each recall about his defense, the number of shots he needed, whatever. After all, was Reggie Miller great? Probably depends on who you ask. (As a Knicks fan, I'd begrudgingly say yes.)

That's awesome you got to see Bias in person. Such a shame what happened there. Imagine the course of NBA history had Bias made it to the league at anywhere near the level everyone believed he could have played at.

Lots of fair points there. As for the stat lines, what I was trying to illustrate is that there wasn't much progression from 91, when the Celtics had pretty full years from Bird and McHale, to 93, when Bird had retired and McHale played less than half the season. And they won 8 fewer games and were bounced in the 1st round. What I infer from that is Lewis was nearing his ceiling. We will, foc ourse, never know for sure.

Reggie Miller seems like a pretty good comparison. His stats didn't really improve after age 27, but his teams got better and most of his All-Star (5x) and All-NBA recognition (3x on the 3rd team, never higher) came in his late 20s and 30s. Hard to say to whether the same would have been true for Lewis, but certainly the possibility was there.

Not to go all stat nerd on you (again), but posted below are the "Win Shares" for both from NBA Reference, which is their attempt to create a Bill James-like calc for individual player impact. It places Miller in somewhat better company overall than Lewis; also worth noting that Miller's WS was very consistent in the 11-12.5 range between ages 24 and 32 (from the site, not shown below), while Lewis's peaked at 9.1 in the 1992 season (age 26). Not suggesting that shows anything conclusively (and have no idea how good the Win Share calc is generally), but thought it was interesting.


Explanation ▪ Players with careers of similar quality and shape (thru 2010-11)
Thru 18 Years Win Shares (Best to Worst)
Player Sim 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Reggie Miller 12.5 12.3 12.1 12.0 11.7 11.4 11.3 11.0 10.3 10.3 10.1 9.5 8.9 7.4 6.6 6.5 6.4 4.2
Gary Payton 86.5 13.9 12.9 12.6 12.5 11.7 11.5 10.8 9.3 9.1 8.1 7.8 7.2 5.4 4.1 3.9 3.4 1.3
Kobe Bryant 84.1 15.3 14.9 13.8 13.0 12.7 12.7 11.3 10.7 10.6 10.3 9.4 8.1 6.3 5.2 1.8
John Stockton 83.9 15.6 14.4 14.1 14.0 13.9 13.6 13.4 13.2 13.0 11.2 10.8 10.7 10.6 8.0 6.7 6.4 5.9 3.1
Clyde Drexler 83.3 13.2 12.8 12.6 12.4 11.7 11.6 10.3 8.1 7.5 6.8 6.8 6.7 6.7 6.0 2.4
Ray Allen 79.3 13.7 11.1 10.7 10.1 10.0 9.7 9.5 9.1 8.9 7.9 7.0 6.9 6.3 5.2 4.9
Steve Nash 78.2 12.6 12.4 11.6 10.9 10.5 9.9 9.9 8.8 8.4 8.0 7.3 4.8 3.0 1.0 0.7
Jerry West 77.0 17.1 16.7 15.2 14.0 13.3 12.9 12.8 11.7 10.8 10.6 9.6 8.1 6.6 3.2
George Gervin 75.7 12.0 11.4 10.7 10.6 10.5 10.5 10.0 9.4 9.3 7.3 5.5 4.6 3.0 1.6
Jason Kidd 75.2 11.3 10.1 9.6 9.3 8.9 8.9 8.5 8.5 8.1 8.0 7.2 7.2 6.4 5.9 4.4 4.3 3.7
Magic Johnson 73.9 16.5 16.1 15.9 15.4 12.9 12.7 12.5 12.1 10.9 10.5 10.2 6.4 3.6

Explanation ▪ Players with careers of similar quality and shape (thru 2010-11)
Thru 6 Years Win Shares (Best to Worst)
Player Sim 1 2 3 4 5 6
Reggie Lewis 9.1 8.3 7.5 6.9 6.7 0.4
Jim Paxson 91.3 10.2 9.5 7.7 7.5 6.5 0.3
Jason Terry 90.0 8.6 8.5 7.4 6.5 5.1 1.9
Phil Chenier 90.0 8.8 8.8 7.4 5.8 5.5 1.4
Earl Monroe 89.3 9.3 8.8 8.3 7.8 7.1 2.5
Derek Harper 89.3 9.4 9.1 8.0 6.2 5.4 1.3
Freddie Lewis 88.1 7.6 7.5 7.2 6.2 6.0 0.0
Kerry Kittles 88.0 8.4 7.7 7.7 6.9 4.7 1.8
Bob Cousy 87.1 8.1 7.8 7.7 7.2 6.8 3.9
World B. Free 87.0 10.1 8.0 7.4 6.0 4.6 1.5
Rolando Blackman 86.9 9.8 8.0 7.3 7.0 5.7 4.1