Today in 90s NBA (07/06/1995)


The blog’s time machine, which can travel only in the past and the 90s decade in particular, goes back 20 years (my God how the years gone by…), to the 7th of June, 1995 and the Orlando Arena, where the Orlando Magic hosted the Houston Rockets for the first game of the 1995 NBA Finals. 1995 was a crazy season for the young Orlando team that had never been to the Finals before; the team had entered the league in 1989, but with excellent draft choices Shaquille O’Neal (1992) and Anfernee Hardaway (1993) it turned into a contender by winning 57 games (1st in the East) that year. The most amazing thing that Orlando team was able to pull off, was to eliminate MJ45’s (the mortal one) Chicago Bulls in the ECSF. However, they needed 7 games to beat the very good Indiana Pacers in the ECF.

Houston on the other hand was the defending champion (it had defeated the Knicks 4-3 in 1994 NBA Finals) and it was coming to the 1995 after an even crazier season: a) traded 2/5 of last year’s starting five to acquire Olajuwon’s Phi-Slamma-Jamma brother Clyde Drexler form Portland, b) finished 6th in the West with 47-35 record, c) beating everybody in the West without a home-court advantage (2-3 against Utah – 60-22 record; 3-4 against Phoenix – they were down 3-1; and 2-4 against the MVP’s, David Robinson, Spurs), to reach the NBA Finals. On the 7th of June 1995, then, the Rockets were going to begin another series without home-court advantage against the enthusiastic and extremely talented, but inexperienced Magic team.

There was great anticipation for the game, as Olajuwon was going to face O’Neal, who was the last of the great centers of the 90s that he hadn’t played against, to that point; he had defeated Ewing’s Knicks last year in the Finals and Robinson’s Spurs just a few days ago in the WCF. It was only, the young O’Neal that was standing in his way to the ultimate recognition of his superiority among ‘the beasts’ of the 90s; Charles Barkley and Karl Malone had been taken care off as well – Sir Charles in probably the worst way (Barkley’s Suns were up 2-0 in 1994 after winning the first two games in Houston, to finally lose 4-3; while they were up 3-1 in 1995, to end up losing 4-3 again). There was also the Anfernee Hardaway-Clyde Drexler battle that was attracting a lot of interest as well; two tall 6’7 all-around guards going against each other.

The young and athletic Orlando started the game strong and at the end of the 1st quarter Magic were up 30-19. Orlando’s GM at that time, Pat Williams (the man that basically created that team by picking Shaq and Penny) said recently that: ‘I remember vividly standing in my little corner and we were taking it to Houston and it felt like we were picking up where we had left off in Game 7 against Indiana.’ ‘I remember sitting there thinking, “Oh boy, (then-NBA Commissioner) David Stern is not going to be happy if this series turns into a rout. He won’t be happy and it won’t be good for the league,”’ Williams added. But he didn’t know what was coming to his young Orlando.

Houston started picking up and at the end of the third quarter was up by 7 points; 87-80. In the fourth quarter Orlando reacted and regained the lead, but then the unthinkable happened; Nick Anderson (Magic’s first ever draft that had 22p. 11r. and 5a. in that game) went to the line and missed four consecutive free throws, to give the opportunity to the Rockets’ starting point-guard and current NBA TV’s commentator Kenny Smith to score one of his seven made three-pointers that night, to tie the game 110-110 with 1.6 seconds remaining. The game went to overtime were Hakeem ‘The Dream’ (31p. 6r. 7a. 4b.)gave Orlando a nightmare for many years to come, as he won the game with a tip-in, 0.3 seconds before the end of the overtime; final score 120-118 for the Rockets.

Even now Orlando fans find it difficult to ‘digest’ the closing sequence of Gm1. ‘For years I had nightmares, honestly, about Game 1,’ Nick Anderson told recently Fox Sports Florida. `I’ve had other coaches and people around the league tell me that if we had won that first game that they think we would have won the series,’ Brian Hill said, Orlando’s head coach at the time. `I still believe that to this minute. If we had won Game 1 our team would have had a whole different mindset. It seems like Game 1 took so much out of our guys. Losing that game because we were playing so well for such a long period of time, and then it was so hard to get them back after that,’ he added.

The box score for that game can be found here:

While if you want to watch the whole game, it is available on YouTube (thanks to the user Alex GrOZ):

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Today in 90s NBA (03/06/1990)

Isaih 03061990

This is the first post of a new category that starts today. I will dub this category ‘today in 90s NBA’ and as it becomes apparent from its name it will consist of posts about things that happened at the same day in one of the 1990s NBA seasons. Today is the 3rd of June 2015 and I will be looking 25 years back at what happened in the NBA in 03/06/1990. I am sure that anybody that loves the NBA at 90s knows and remembers that the Bulls, in order to become the Bulls of the 90s, had to overcome the obstacle of the Detroit Pistons. In the same sense, the Pistons in order to get to the NBA Finals had to defeat the Bulls and this is how one of the great rivalries of the NBA was born.

I suppose that the rivalry between the two franchises originates in the fact that they are both located in Midwestern US and thus there is a geographical rivalry among them. However, the rivalry between these two teams in particular, the late 80s-early 90s Pistons and Bulls, began in 1988; when they first played each other at the ECSF. In 1988, Pistons were too much for the Bulls and beat them in 5 games (4-1), to finally lose to the Lakers in the NBA Finals . Next season, the Pistons did it again; this time though was a bit harder as the Bulls were able to win two – in fact the Bulls were up 2-1 after three games in the series.

In 1990, the Bulls looked stronger and they entered the play-offs as the 3rd seed in the East with only 4 wins less than their rivals Pistons that finished first with 59 wins. So, both teams, after defeating easily their opponents in the first and second round of the play-offs, were able to reach the ECF, as it was expected and anticipated by every NBA fan around the world. Following a series of six very physical games, both teams defended their home courts successfully and the series was tied at 3-3 with the seventh and final game scheduled for the 3rd of June, 1990. The question was whether the Bulls were ready to make the break or the Pistons would be able to defend their home court one more time to win the series.

The answer came from the Pistons and it came in an emphatic way with a big win against their rivals at the Palace of Auburn Hills in front of almost 22.000 of their fans; 93-74 was the final score and the Pistons were once again the champions of the Eastern Conference. As Sam Smith wrote the next day in the Chicago Tribune: ‘the Pistons, it turned out, let the Bulls only close enough to dream.’ Isiah Thomas, the leader of the ‘Bad Boys’ that had a great game with 21p., 11a., 8r and 2s., said that it was just another play-off game, to irritate the Bulls’ fans even more. Meanwhile, Chuck Daly, the coach of the Pistons, emphasized on the inexperience of the Bulls and Thomas’ great performance.

Michael Jordan, on the other hand, devastated by another play-off elimination and a super effort against the ‘Jordan Rules’ defence employed by the Pistons admitted that Detroit was a better team on paper as well as on the court. MJ had a near triple-double performance with 31p., 9a., and 8r., but did not get any help from his teammates, especially on offence. The key, however, to Pistons decisive victory over the Bulls was Scottie Pippen’s performance, who had migraine issues and scored 2p. hitting only  1 out of 10 from the field. Pippen, who according to the Bulls physician John Hefferon had suffered from migraines earlier in the season due to adrenaline surge, said that he was feeling well at that morning but the migraines came back during the warm up.

The box score for that game can be found here:

While if you want to watch the whole game, it is available on YouTube (thanks to the user Alex GrOZ):

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4. Mitch Richmond


Mitchell James Richmond (born June 30, 1965 at Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

Mitch Richmond was drafted by the Golden State Warriors at number 5 overall in 1988 NBA Draft. His first season (1988-89) as an NBA player Richmond averaged 22ppg., 5.9rpg., 4.2apg. and was selected as the NBA’s Rookie of the Year. His special scoring ability alongside Chris Mullin’s (26.5ppg. in 1988-89) made the Warriors a play-offs team immediately. He was a perfect fit for Don Nelson’s offense that involved a lot of fast breaks and quick shooting. That year, the last season of the 80s, Warriors made it to the Western Conference Semi-finals, where they lost 4-1 to the Phoenix Suns.

Unfortunately, Western Conference Semi-finals would be the furthest Richmond would reach into the play-offs throughout the 90s (Warrios 90-91)and this is something that definitely hurt him personally as well as his reputation. I believe that even in the ranking of this blog he would have been higher if he had achieved more things on a team-level. However, individually Richmond was definitely one of the finest stars the 90s had to offer and probably one of the most underrated players ever. Personally, I have underestimated him as a player, when he was active, and only felt his presence when he won the MVP award at the 1995 All-Star Game.

Richmond will always be remembered as a member of the trio of the run n’ gun offense Don Nelson employed at the Warriors’ team during 1990-1991, aka Run TMC. The trio was composed of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin and made to the Western Conference Semi-finals in 1991. All three members of the Run TMC averaged over 20 points per game in 1990-91; Tim 22.9, Mitch 23.9 and Chris 25.7. This team despite the fact that it didn’t accomplish anything big, will always be remembered by those witnessed it as it played an up-tempo, high scoring and spectacular game.

The Run-TMC era lasted only two years as the 1991-92 season found Mitch Richmond in Sacramento; traded for Billy Owens. This was something like the beginning of a nightmare for him. This is how he described his years at Sacramento:

“I was trying to get out of there every year—I tell you the truth. I tried to play a mental game with myself. Don’t even look at the score. Try to go out every night and just play hard and don’t worry about the score. Just get the respect of your peers.” (SLAM)

I remember watching him striving every year, to achieve team goals all by himself. I always thought that David Robinson did not have the necessary help to win a championship but looking back now, I think Richmond was in the worst position comparing with the other superstars of the 90s. I wish the Spurs had traded for him and paired him with Robinson…imagine that. I think a Richmond-Robinson duo probably in 1994 would have changed the NBA-history of the 90s. Unfortunately this is something I can only dream of.

The more I think about it the more I am convinced that the best characterization for Richmond is that of a superstar an unlucky superstar; if MJ identifies you as the toughest opponent he had faced then I think you must be at the superstar level. Their duels were a special treatment for us NBA fans of the 90s (whenever they were televised and broadcasted in Greece…) What made Richmond so special is that he had very few weaknesses in his game, he was a great shooter and he was really strong and competent in both ends of the floor.

He only made it once to the play-offs, with the Kings, in 1996 as the 8th team of the West and played against the powerful Seattle Supersonics that defeated them 3-1 and advanced all the way to the NBA Finals to lose 4-2 to the Chicago Bulls. Statistically his best season was the one that followed; in 1996-97 he averaged a career high 25.9ppg. (5th overall). During the summer of 1996 he was also selected as a member of what it was known as Dream Team III and won the Gold Medal at Atlanta’s Olympic Games. Even in this case there were many that thought of him as an unexpected selection – just for the record, I did not belong to that group of people.

Richmond, or ‘the Rock’, as his nickname was, participated in 6 consecutive all-star games during the 90s (from 1993 to 1998), but he was a starter only in 1994. He was also selected three times in the all-NBA second team (1994,1995,1997) and two times in the all-NBA third team (1996, 1998). He finally left Sacramento at the end of 1997-98 season as he got traded to Washington for Chris Webber. His fate, however, unlike that of the Kings, did not change after the trade. During the last season of the 90s he averaged below 20ppg. (19.7) for the first time in his NBA career. Richmond was basically at the end of his career when he got traded to the Wizards and he was lucky enough to win a championship in his last year as a member of the Lakers (2001-02), even though not in the fashion he would wanted it to be (he was a bench warmer in that Lakers team).

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Career 21.0 3.9 3.5 1.2 0.3
1996-97 25.9 3.9 4.2 1.5 0.3
1990-1999 23.0 4.0 3.8 1.3 0.3

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New Jersey Nets 1992-93


Record 43-39, 3rd in Atlantic Division, 6th in Eastern Conference.

Lost 3-2, to Cleveland Cavaliers in Eastern Conference’s First Round.

1992-93 NBA season is my favourite even though my Spurs got eliminated in the second-round of the Western Conference Play-offs by the greatest Phoenix Suns I have ever seen. In 1992-93 the New Jersey Nets, a team that was considered, and was, one of the weakest teams of the league, had finally gathered the right pieces and was in a position to compete with the best of them. The whole process of creating a play-offs team started two seasons ago (1990-91). New Jersey had the worst record in 1989-90 (17-65) and was lucky to have the first overall draft pick in 1990 NBA Draft. Derrick Coleman was the player the Nets chose at number 1; a power forward from Syracuse whose game was compared to that of the best power forwards in the NBA.

It was that season (1990-91) and in particular on 23 January 1991 that the Nets took part in a three-team trade deal (Nets, Nuggets, Blazers) and acquired one of the best, if not the best, European players ever from the Portland Trail Blazers; the Croatian shooting guard Drazen Petrovic. ‘Petro’ had not made a great start in his NBA career at Portland, where he didn’t have much playing time and he had a limited role behind the great Blazers backcourt, comprised of Terry Porter and Clyde Drexler. Petrovic came from the bench in 1990-91 for the Nets, but he had an immediate impact with 12.6ppg. In 1991-92 he started all 82 regular-season games, averaging 20.6ppg., 3.1rpg., and 3.1apg.

In 1991-92 Nets made two more decisive moves; drafted point guard Kenny Anderson at no.2 overall in 1991 NBA Draft and signed the former Piston’s and Dream Team’s coach Chuck Daly at the end of the season. In 1991-92 the Nets did well and made their first play-offs appearance since 1986, to lose to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round 3-1. The last move that changed the team’s destiny was the trade of Mookie Blaylock, the team’s starting point guard, to Atlanta on 3 November 1992 that gave the opportunity to the team’s uprising star, Anderson, to start. So, at the beginning of 1992-93 season the Nets’ starting line-up looked pretty solid: PG. Kenny Anderson, SG. Drazen Petrovic, SF. Chris Morris, PF. Derrick Coleman, C. Sam Bowie. The squad also had great veterans such as the 80s superstar Bernard King, the starting PG of the 1983 76ers championship team Maurice Cheeks and the 1989 NBA champion with the Pistons Rick Mahorn. But most of all, the team had in Chuck Daly one of the best coaches in NBA history.

New Jersey and Drazen Petrovic started the season strong; they finished December with a 16-12 record and he was NBA’s player of the week for the first-week of December averaging 27.7ppg., 4.0rpg., and 2.7apg. I remember that I didn’t like Petrovic because I thought of him as an arrogant person and I could not forget the way he played, and celebrated, in Yugoslavia’s victory over my country (Greece) in the 1989 Eurobasket’s Final in Zagreb. I, now,consider myself lucky to have seen that great player and that game live even though Yugoslavia destroyed Greece at that game and took revenge, as we had beaten them in 1987 Eurobasket’s semi-final in Athens, when Greece won the gold. I will also never forget watching two of the best European players going at each other; Greece’s Nikos Galis and Yugoslavia’s Drazen Petrovic.  These two would have been great playing in the same team and this was the plan of Panathinaikos’ president in 1993, before Drazen’s death. Petrovic had said about that possibility before his death:

“I’d love to play with Galis in the same team”. “I would assist him the ball and he would put it in the basket.”

United Yugoslavia was an unbelievable team and I will never stop fantasising about a game of Dream Team against Yugoslavia; if Croatia was able to provide some resistance what a united Yugoslavian team  would have done? Petrovic’s performance against MJ and the Dream Team in the Olympics was also a joy to watch. In fact there was a great rivalry between these two, one that was being enjoyed by both, and the Bulls-Nets games had become a battle of these two great players representing two different basketball worlds.

Michael Jordan said about ‘Petro’ after receiving the ‘Drazen Petrovic Trophy’ in Paris’ McDonalds tournament:

“It was a thrill to play against Drazen. Every time we competed, he competed with an aggressive attitude. He wasn’t nervous. He came at me as hard as I came at him. So, we’ve had some great battles in the past and unfortunately, they were short battles. It’s a great pleasure to receive an award in his honour. For the short time he played professional basketball in the US, he was one of the pioneers of European players coming over and being successful in the States. Other players have tried to follow his leadership. We have a guy on our team who worshipped Drazen and that’s Boris Gorenc. It’s a great honour to win the trophy.”

Drazen finished 12th in NBA in scoring per game in 1992-93, with 22.3. He scored 44 points, his personal best in his NBA career, in a game against the Rockets in 24 January 1993.  After taking the opportunity to talk a little bit about Drazen as I could not include him in my top-ten lists (he played only 4 seasons during the 90s), let’s get back now to 1992-93 New Jersey Nets. Their record before the all-star game was 30-21 and they seemed as a team that would definitely be in the play-offs; in fact they were trying for home-court advantage in the first-round. But on 28 February 1993 in a game against the rivals Knicks, where the Nets won by 26 points, John Starks injured Kenny Anderson with a flagrant foul, which caused him to miss the rest of the season. Anderson had started all of the team’s 55 games by that point and was averaging 16.9ppg., 8.2apg. (9th in the league), and 4.1rpg.

Anderson’s absence was devastating for the Nets and after a month (March) were they coped well, 10-5 record, they had a very bad month in April with a 2-10 record, to finish sixth in the Eastern Conference with 43-39. Derrick Coleman had a great season as well for the Nets, with 20.7ppg. and 11.2rpg (11th in the league). Sam Bowie, the former Kentucky star that was selected in no.2 overall by Portland, above Michael Jordan, in 1984 NBA Draft, had another healthy and decent season for the Nets, while Chris Morris emerged in the small forward position as Bernard King most of the time injured and was playing his last NBA season.

In 1993 Nets were making their second consecutive play-offs appearance and they were going to face the team that eliminated them last year (3-1) in the first round; the sixth seeded Cleveland Cavaliers of the all-stars Brad Daugherty, Mark Price and Larry Nance. The series was more competitive than one would have thought. The Nets played without their starting point guard Anderson, however they were able to force a game 5 after tying the series in a big win, 96-79, in New Jersey in game 4. The most competitive game was game 2 of the series, in Cleveland, when New Jersey behind 27 points and 14 rebounds by Coleman as well as 21 points by Petrovic, won 101-99 and tie the series 1-1.

In Game 5 of the series Cleveland was able to win 99-89, behind a great performance by Daugherty (24p., 20r. and 8a.) that overshadowed Coleman’s big game (33p. and 16r.). This way Cleveland won the series 3-2 and qualified for the second round. At that point nobody knew that this was also going to be Drazen’s last game as in 7 June 1993 Petrovic died in a traffic accident in Germany. Petrovic was a unique talent that will never be forgotten, especially his great rivalries against the world’s best scorers; those that have watched Petrovic against the Brazilian super-scorer Oscar Schmidt in 1989’s European Cup-Winners Cup know exactly what I am talking about (Petrovic 62p. – Oscar 44p.).

I have the impression that if Kenny Anderson had remained healthy throughout the whole of 1992-93 season, the Nets would have finished with a much better record, probably top-4 in the East, and would have had better chances of proceeding to the second round. In addition, Drazen’s death left them with a huge gap in their starting line-up, one that couldn’t be covered. However, New Jersey was able to finish with an improved record 45-37 in 1993-94 season, behind the all-star performances of Kenny Anderson (18.8ppg., 9.6apg. and 1.9spg.) and Derrick Coleman (20.2ppg., 11.3rpg. and 1.8bpg.), to lose 3-1 in the hands of the rival New York in the first round of 1994 play-offs. We can only imagine what this team would have been able to do if Drazen had not died in the summer of 1993.

New Jersey Nets 1992-93

pos. Name ppg. rpg. apg. spg. bpg.
p.g. Kenny Anderson 16.9 4.1 8.2 1.7 0.2
s.g. Drazen Petrovic 22.3 2.7 3.5 1.3 0.2
s.f. Chris Morris 14.1 5.9 1.4 1.9 0.7
p.f. Derrick Coleman 20.7 11.2 3.6 1.2 1.7
c. Sam Bowie 9.1 7.0 1.6 0.4 1.6
p.g. Rumeal Robinson 8.4 2.0 4.0 1.2 0.2
s.g. Maurice Cheeks 3.6 1.2 3.1 0.9 0.1
s.f. Rafael Addison 6.3 1.9 0.8 0.3 0.2
p.f. Chucky Brown 5.1 3.0 0.7 0.3 0.3
c. Chris Dudley 3.5 7.2 0.2 0.2 1.5
s.f. Bernard King 7.0 2.4 0.6 0.3 0.1
p.f. Rick Mahorn 3.9 3.8 0.4 0.3 0.4

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David Robinson (pre-NBA)


David Maurice Robinson was born on the 6th of August 1965, in Key West, Florida. David Robinson was the second child of Ambrose and Freda Robinson. His father was a sonar technician at the U.S. Navy and this played a big part in his decision to join the Naval Academy later in his life. Robinson was one bright kid, he was really strong in mathematics and learned to play piano by ear. Robinson was an excellent student and a great athlete during his high school years, but the first time that he actually played competitive basketball was during his senior year at Osbourn Park High School, Virginia, were his family had relocated after his father’s retirement.

David Robinson was 5’9 inches tall as a junior at high school and 6’7 as a senior, when the basketball coach at his school noticed him and included him to the team without testing him. Robinson’s performances on the basketball court earned him all-area and all-district honours, but he was not able to earn the attention of college basketball coaches. Young David didn’t  seem to care that much about a basketball career back then. He scored 1320 on his SATs and decided to follow his father’s example and join the US Naval Academy.


In his first year at the Naval Academy David was 6’8 inches tall, this put him two inches above Navy’s height limit, but the Superintendent of the Academy made an exception for him. However, his height continued to be a problem and put his Navy career in jeopardy, until Secretary of the Navy John Lehman placed Robinson in a program for training civil engineers for the Naval Reserves, reducing his active-duty obligation from five to two years.

Robinson excelled, again, as a student, especially in maths and he was also known for his athleticism and his ability to play chess. His college basketball career started slowly; he averaged 7.6ppg., 4.0rpg. and 1.3bpg in his junior year at college. Before his sophomore year, David Robinson grew to 7’1 inches tall and his basketball stats exploded to 23.6ppg., 11.6rpg. and 4.0bpg. This was the beginning of a special career in college basketball. Robinson averaged 22.7ppg., 13.0rpg., and 5.9bpg. during the next year (1986) and 28.2ppg., 11.8rpg. and 4.5bpg in his last year (1987) at college, when he was selected as the College Player of the Year.


Robinson has also received the All-America recognition in his final two seasons, as well as the Naismith and Wooden Awards, two of college basketball’s highest honours. In addition, in his final collegiate game, in an NCAA Tournament loss to Michigan, he scored 50 points, just like the number of his jersey, which he picked because of his favourite player Ralph Sampson. By the time David Robinson left the Naval Academy he was considered as the best basketball player in the academy’s history. He also holds the record of most blocks in a single season in college basketball with 207. The legend has it that David Robinson was in Washington DC having breakfast with the US Vice President in the day the 1987 NBA Draft took place.

It was that NBA draft in the spring of 1987 that David Robinson was selected as the number 1 pick by the San Antonio Spurs. However, Robinson had to serve his active-duty obligation to the US Navy for two years. So, after graduating from the Naval Academy, Robinson became a civil engineering officer at the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. Robinson’s obligations to the Navy were seen as a serious issue by many, but not by the Spurs officials who were prepared to wait, and they were right to do so, I would add. In May 17, 1987, after the Spurs won the NBA Draft Lottery, CBS’s sportscaster James Brown and Spurs’ GM Bob Bass, had the following dialogue:

– James Brown: Bob, congratulations 1st of all. Clearly, David Robinson is the top pick in the draft this year, but he comes with some complications, that two year military hitch. Will you still go after him?

– General Manager Bob Bass: We waited 14 years…what’s two more, you know? What’s two more?


However, Robinson’s situation was unique and there were speculations that if  the Spurs hadn’t offered enough money to sign Robinson before next year’s draft (1988), he would be eligible for next year’s draft. And if Robinson did not sign with the team that drafted him next year, he would become a free agent on the day of the 1989 draft. But, on the 6th of November 1987 David Robinson signed with the San Antonio Spurs a contract that was going to pay him as much as the average of the salaries of the two highest-paid players in the league each year. This way Robinson put an end to speculation and became one of the highest paid players in the NBA from his first season.

David Robinson has also played in two major international basketball tournaments as a member of the US national team before joining the Spurs in 1989-90 season. He played in 1986 World Basketball Championship, where he won the gold medal and was selected as a member of the all-tournament team.  He was also a key member of the 1988 US Olympic team, which won the bronze medal after losing to the USSR in the semi-finals. In addition, he was a member of the US national team that played in the pan-American games in 1987, at Indianapolis and won the silver medal after a surprising loss to Brazil in the final.

During the 1986 and 1988 Robinson’s international appearances, a rivalry was born between him and another great big-man of that era that was just unlucky and never reached the level he was meant to; the name of that big man was Arvydas Sabonis. The Lithuanian giant that played for USSR’s national team was considered a miracle of nature and there is, even now a mythology that he actually dominated David Robinson in their epic battles. However, a quick look at the stats of their two showdowns shows an entirely different story:

1986: Robinson 20p. 7r. 4b. – Sabonis 16p. 13r. 4b.

1988: Robinson 23p. 12r. 2b. – Sabonis 13p. 13r. 1.b

David Robinson had a great college basketball career and is considered as one of the best college basketball players ever. Among his achievements are a game of 14 blocks in January 1986, recording 2669 points and 1314 rebounds in total in 127 games as a college player for Navy, leading the NCAA in blocks per game two years in a row (1985-86, 1986-87) as well as lead the league in rebounds per game in 1985-86. Finally, I think by now it is obvious why his nickname is ‘the Admiral’, however, his real Navy rank upon fulfilling his service commitment was Lieutenant, Junior Grade.

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
College Career 21.0 10.3 0.7 1.2 4.1

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Filed under Top 10 Centers, Top players of the 90s

Washington Bullets 1996-97


Record 44-38, 4th in Atlantic Division, 8th in Eastern Conference.

Lost 3-0, to the Chicago Bulls in Eastern Conference’s First Play-offs Round.

The 1996-97 NBA season was the last for the Bullets; since 1997-98 Washington’s franchise name has changed to Wizards. Washington was one of the NBA’s worst franchises during the 90s and made it only once to the NBA play-offs, in 1997. Washington had a number of disappointing seasons in the early 90s with many injuries and line-ups that were lacking true stars; Bernard King was at the dusk of his career with many injuries, I cannot count Michael Adams as a star even though he played at the 1992 All-Star game and Tom Gugliotta became an all-star in Minnesota, however, he never reached the potential that NBA experts had seen in him and he never became the franchise-saviour the Bullets hoped for. But, Gugliotta became the centre-piece of a trade that helped Washington become a force to be reckoned in the East. He was traded alongside three future first-round draft picks to the Golden State Warriors for Chris Webber, in November 1994. Earlier in that year, Bullets had chosen Webber’s college teammate and member of Michigan’s Fab-Five, Juwan Howard and created a duo of forwards that could change their fate.

In the summer of 1996 Howard became a free agent and  after the end of a great season for him, averaging 22.1ppg and 8.1rpg. Miami Heat offered him a huge contract and that would have made him the first NBA player to sign a contract worth more than a $100 million; $105 million for seven years. However, the NBA disallowed Howard to move to Heat as it claimed that the Heat did not have enough room in the salary cap. The case went to courts but in the end the Heat withdrew and Howard re-signed with the Bullets. In that summer, Bullets also signed center Lorenzo Williams from Dallas Mavericks and small forward Tracy Murray from Toronto Raptors. In addition, they sent Rasheed Wallace along with Mitchell Butler to Portland for point guard Rod Strickland and power forward Harvey Grant; the twin brother of the three-time NBA Champion with the Chicago Bulls, Horace Grant, whom they had sent to Portland in 1993 for Kevin Duckworth.

I remember reading the 1996-97 Bullets roster at the beginning of the season – in one of the American NBA season preview magazines ( I think it was Pro-Basketball Preview) that I used to find in Greece when I was lucky enough – and thinking that this was the first time I was excited for a Bullets team. I have been following the league as closely as possible, for someone that was living in Thessaloniki, Greece, since the 1990-01 season and Washington Bullets was one of the less attractive teams. It seemed that the 1996-97 season was going to be different and I wanted to follow that Bullets team more closely. I was a Webber fan and I thought that Howard was also a great player, the addition of Strickland and the development of the league’s tallest player, the Romanian giant Gheorghe Muresan of 7.7 feet, whom I knew and had watched play in-person, when he was a part of the the French Ortez team, created at least some expectations for the upcoming season.

In my eyes, back then, that team had everything a team needs to succeed; a really good, even though somehow unstable, point guard in Strickland, a great duo of forwards, even though neither of them was a small forward, a talented shooting guard with a lot of potential in Calbert Cheaney and a solid center. When I was younger, coaching, team-chemistry, bench-depth, timing and all of these details that actually make the difference and determine success were not important to me; I was judging a team merely by its stars and talent and the 1996-97 Washington Bullets were full of talent. However, with Jim Lynam as their head coach they made a usual, or a slightly better, Bullets’ beginning of the season. Eventually Lynam was sucked while the team had a record 22 wins to 24 losses.

Bullets brought one of their own, to replace Lynam. Bernie Bickerstaff, an assistant coach of the championship-winning Bullets team of 1978 took the responsibility to turn around a season that was looking already as a failure. With Bickerstaff at the helm Bullets played winning basketball and finished with an over-50% record (44-38), which was their first winning record in ten years (42-40 in 1986-87). But the icing on the cake of the best Bullets’ season in the 90s was the win in what seemed like the seventh game of an NBA Finals series, which in fact was the last game of the NBA’s regular season against the Cleveland Cavaliers; the winner was qualifying for the play-offs. Bullets prevailed finally after a dramatic game and defeated the Cavaliers 85-81, to take the 8th spot in the East that led to the NBA play-offs and was sending the Bullets to play against the NBA champions Chicago Bulls.

The first round of the play-offs was where the Bullets’ journey ended. They resisted as much they could against a great Bulls team that went all the way and won a back-to-back title. The best of five series lasted only three games, Bulls won 3-0, but their wins where not as easy as the outcome of the series may lead you to think. Except from the first game the other two were close games and especially the last one was decided at the last minute. Chris Webber was the best player of that team that had its own big-three in Strickland-Howard-Webber, but his productivity declined during the play-offs and did not help Bullets as much as they needed him to win their first play-off game during the 90s. Webber also represented the Bullets in that season’s all-star game, as a replacement for the injured Patrick Ewing.

This was the best team that the Washington franchise had in the 90s. A team that looked really promising, with lots of talent, a duo of young star-forwards, one of the most talented and unpredictable point guards the game has ever seen and the player with the league’s highest FG% in the 1996-97 season in Muresan. Unfortunately they were not good enough to match the Bulls. I suppose if they had a better record in the regular season, Orlando Magic got the 7th spot with a slightly better record (45-37), they could have played against Miami Heat and maybe recorded a win. I would not say that they could have beaten that Miami team but they could have had better chances to at least win a game. In 1997-98 they did not qualify for the play-offs and in 1998-99 Webber got traded to Sacramento for Mitch Richmond.

Washington Bullets 1996-97

pos. Name ppg. rpg. apg. spg. bpg.
p.g. Rod Strickland 17.2 4.1 8.9 1.7 0.2
s.g. Calbert Cheaney 10.6 3.4 1.4 1.0 0.2
s.f. Juwan Howard 19.1 8.0 3.8 1.1 0.3
p.f. Chris Webber 20.1 10.3 4.6 1.7 1.9
c. Gheorghe Muresan 10.6 6.6 0.4 0.6 1.3
p.g. Chris Whitney 5.2 1.3 2.2 0.6 0.0
s.g. Jaren Jackson 5.0 1.8 0.9 0.6 0.2
s.f. Tracy Murray 10.0 3.1 1.0 0.8 0.2
p.f. Harvey Grant 4.1 3.3 0.9 0.6 0.6
c. Lorenzo Williams 2.4 3.6 0.2 0.3 0.4
s.g. Tim Legler 2.9 1.4 1.4 0.2 0.3
c. Ben Wallace 1.1 1.7 0.1 0.2 0.3

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5. Joe Dumars


Joe Dumars III (born May 24, 1963, at Shreveport, Louisiana).

Dumars was drafted at number 18 of the 1985 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons, the team that he played for his whole NBA career. If I had to describe Dumars with one word, I would choose; tough. This is what Dumars was; a tough player, a player that was ready to do whatever it takes to get the job done in both ends of the floor, but what distinguished him from the rest of the tough guys of the NBA is that he was never considered as such. He was the gentle guy in a bad-boys team. He played tough within the limits of the game and that is why he was widely respected. He possessed a great knowledge of the game and he was able to turn his disadvantages into advantages. He helped the Pistons win two NBA titles in row, one of them in the 90s, while winning the NBA Finals MVP award in 1989. But, all of us that had the opportunity to watch him play will always remember the way he guarded MJ in the legendary Pistons-Bulls rivalry (1,2).

Dumars joined a mediocre Pistons’ team that under the guidance of Chuck Daily was collecting the right pieces to become a legendary NBA team. Dumars had a good, but not a special, year as a rookie and was selected in the all-rookie team of 1986. He increased his scoring averages in each of the following years in the 80s and alongside Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, Mark Aguire, Rick Mahorn, James Edwards, John Salley, and Vinnie Johnson formed Detroit’s Bad Boys that played in two NBA Finals (1988, 1989) during the 80s winning one of them (1989); 4-0 against the Los Angeles Lakers. In 1989 he was recognized as the MVP of the NBA Finals with 27.3ppg., 1.8rpg. and 6apg.

In the first year of the 90s Pistons were the favourites to win the title again and Dumars was already recognized and accepted as a centre piece of the team, even though Isiah Thomas was considered the superstar of the team. In the two previous seasons Pistons had eliminated in the play-offs the young and emerging central-division rivals Chicago Bulls. Their rivalry reached another level as the Bulls accused the Pistons of employing a defensive strategy that has been known as the “Jordan Rules” to defeat them. This higher level of rivalry made the 1989-90 season really interesting. Joe Dumars did his job as usual, scoring 17.8ppg. in the regular season, while making his first appearance in an all-star game, as a reserve for the Eastern Conference. He was also selected as a member of the NBA’s all-defensive team for the second consecutive time in his career.

During, the play-offs he played again according to his standards scoring 18.2ppg., while providing first-class defending for his team. The Pistons beat the Bulls again 4-3 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Dumars was the man that was guarding MJ and at the same time he was the first scorer of his team in the series with 20ppg. Pistons advanced to the NBA Finals and won their second consecutive title by defeating Portland Trail Blazers 4-1. Dumars guarded the arguably second-best shooting guard of the 90s, Clyde Drexler, and posted some great numbers in the offense as well with 20.6ppg. and 5.6apg.

Next year Dumars led the Pistons in scoring with 20.4ppg. in the regular season and in the play-offs with 20.6ppg. But this was the last time that Dumars was going to go so far in the play-offs. Pistons lost 4-0 to their rivals Bulls in Eastern Conference Finals and this was the beginning of the end for Detroit’s Bad Boys. Later, after the end of his career as a player, Dumars, as the president of basketball operations at the Pistons’ organization was able to create a second version of the Bad Boys that won an NBA title in 2004 and had several good years as a top team in the Eastern Conference.

Dumars led the Pistons in scoring in the next three years (1992, 1993, 1994), with 1993 being his best ever season in terms of point per game: 23.5ppg. He appeared in  6 all-star games for the Eastern Conference, 5 of them in a raw (1990-1995) and the other one in 1997. He was a starter only in 1991. He was a member of the NBA All-Defensive team 3 times (1990, 1992, 1993) and one time he was included in NBA’s second All-Defensive team (1991). He was a member of the NBA’s second All-NBA team in 1993 and was voted two times in NBA’s third All-NBA team (1990, 1991).

In the summer of 1994 he participated in the World Basketball Championship as a member of Dream Team II. Since, the arrival of Grant Hill at the 1994-95 season he took a second role in the team behind the young star. From 1996 until the end of his career at 1999  he also played some point guard in a Piston’s starting line-up that included Allan Houston or Jerry Stackhouse at the two-spot. Dumars will always be remembered as the best defender that MJ has ever faced, according to MJ’s words. But, he was far more than just a good defender, his career numbers show that he was a great offensive player as well as a great facilitator. Dumars was a real combo-guard that could play both guard positions efficiently.

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Career 16.1 2.2 4.5 0.9 0.1
1992-93 23.5 1.9 4.0 1.0 0.1
1990-1999 17.5 2.2 4.4 0.9 0.1

Joe Dumars

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