Category Archives: Top players of the 90s

4. Mitch Richmond

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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

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/r/richmmi01.html

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Filed under Top 10 Shooting Guards, Top players of the 90s

David Robinson (pre-NBA)

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

5. Joe Dumars

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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

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/d/dumarjo01.html

Joe Dumars

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6. Latrell Sprewell

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Latrell Fontaine Sprewell (born September 8, 1970, at Milwaukee, Wisconsin).

Latrell Sprewell was selected at number 24 overall, in the 1992 NBA Draft, by the Golden State Warriors. He played for almost six consecutive seasons for the Warriors and I say ‘almost’ because he was fined by the NBA during the 1997-98 season – his last as a warrior – after an incident with his coach P.J. Carlesimo at one of the team’s training sessions. The incident stigmatized Sprewell’s career and followed him everywhere. He was able, however, to remain a top player in his new home at New York where he played for the last season of the 90s. He played at New York until 2003 and then finished his career playing two seasons as a member of the best Minnesota Timberwolves team I have ever seen, alongside Kevin Garnett and Sam Cassell.

‘Spree’ made his presence felt from his first season, in which he averaged 15.4ppg. in a talented Warriors team, with Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway in its roster, that did not make to the play-offs. In the 1993-94 season, Hardaway’s injury, made the Warriors Sprewell’s team. He averaged more than 20 points for the first time in his career during the 1993-94 season (21ppg, 4.9rpg, 4.7apg.). He was named all-star for the Western Conference, a member of the all-NBA second defensive team, and a member of the the all-NBA first team. That was his best year as a Warrior, in which he played alongside the rookie Chris Webber and led the team to a 50-32 regular-season record and a first-round elimination, 3-0, in the play-offs against the Phoenix Suns, after a short but heated series of great basketball.

Sprewell’s rivalry with Hardaway resulted in Hardaway being transferred to Miami in the middle of the 1995-96 season. Warriors continued playing as a mediocre team and could not reach the play-offs neither in 1996 nor in 1997, which was Sprewell’s more fruitful year (24.2ppg, 4.6rpg.,6.3apg.). The next season (1997-98) was meant to be his worse. He tried to choke his coach and was banned by the NBA. He played only 14 games that season averaging 21.4ppg. At that time, as a fan of Sprewell’s game, explosive and impressive, I thought that the NBA was very harsh and I thought it was Carlesimo’s fault that I was not going to be able to watch one the most spectacular players. Of course Sprewell’s behaviour was unacceptable and especially for the conservative NBA environment of the 90s.

But, the result of the whole incident turned out to be a pleasant surprise, as Sprewell got transferred to a Knicks team that was moving from the Ewing-era with a team filled with talent (Allan Houston, Larry Johnson, Marcus Camby). This is where ‘Spree’ had his chance to advance into the play-offs, coming mostly from the bench in the short 50-games regular season. He averaged 16.4ppg. during the regular season but he exploded to 20.4ppg. during the play-offs and led the eight-seeded Knicks to the NBA Finals. I believed, back then, that the Knicks could be the first eight seed that could make it to the NBA Finals and they did.

In 1998-99 the Knicks upset a great Miami team 3-2 in one of the ‘ugliest’ series ever, they destroyed, 4-0, a good Atlanta Hawks team that once more was not equipped for the next step, and surprised, 4-2, their 90s rivals, Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Patrick Ewing was injured in game-2 of the Conference Finals and the Knicks went to play against the team with the best frontline of the 90s, the San Antonio Spurs of David Robinson and Tim Duncan, without their best big man. They lost 4-1 to the Spurs but Sprewell was their best player in that series, scoring 26 points per game and he came one shot short of winning the last game of the series by himself, while scoring 35 points.

Sprewell played in three all-star games during the 90s and in four throughout his career. He was one of my favourite players and because of his spectacular game I had initially ranked him higher, in number 5. A comment from a fan of the blog made me realize that I was indeed overestimating him and was letting my personal preferences stand in the way of objective judgement. I believe he deserves to be the 6th best shooting that played during the 90s and I think if he had a more disciplined approach to the game he could have been an even better team-player. But then again if he was more disciplined he would not have been the player that we loved. I wish that we will have the chance see more players like Sprewell in the future.

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Career 18.3 4.1 4.0 1.4 0.4
1996-97 24.2 4.6 6.3 1.7 0.6
1992-1999 19.8 4.3 4.5 1.7 0.6

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/s/sprewla01.html

Latrell Sprewell

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7. Steve Smith

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Steven Delano Smith (born March 31, 1969, in Highland Park, Michigan).

Steve Smith was drafted, in number 5 overall, by the Miami Heat in 1991 NBA Draft. He played for the Heat for three years and made an immediate impact as he helped the franchise reach the 1992 NBA play-0ffs for the first time in its short history (founded in 1989). Although he had an impact in the league and was considered a young star with a lot of potential, he was not that advertised. That is why I was really surprised when I saw his name included in Dream Team’s (version 2) roster. In fact I believe that he was at least one level below the rest of the players on that roster, at that time, that is why his selection was surprising.

This was the moment that most of us, that lived outside the US, learned Steve Smith, even though his playing time was limited with Dream Team II he was introduced to the world and from the next season we were all expecting to see how the, until recently, unknown Dream Teamer performs in the NBA. The truth is that we have just seen him playing against the Bulls in 92 play-offs where from a point and on MJ had fun with him (as with the rest of the Heat defence).

Smith finished his Heat career at the beginning of the 1994-95 season averaging 15.2 points, 3.9 redounds and 5.0 assists per game. Because of his style of play and his height (6’8) was considered by many as something like the Magic Johnson of the poor. ‘Smitty’ would prove, in the following seasons, that he had his own playing style and that was a star with a deadly perimeter shoot in his arsenal that every team would like to have in her roster. Smith played two games for the Heat at the beginning of 1994-95 season and then was traded to the Atlanta Hawks (with Grant Long for Kevin Willis and a 1996 1st round Draft pick).

In Atlanta Smith played the best basketball of his career. He stayed there till the end of the 90s and then he was traded to Portland. Smith was the star alongside Dikembe Mutombo of a really good Hawks’ team that missed just a piece or the factor that transforms good teams to championship teams. In fact the closest they got to a championship was the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in three cases: in 1996 the lost to the Magic 4-1, in 1997 they lost to the Bulls 4-1 and in 1999 they lost to the Knicks 4-0.

Smith’s best season was 1997-98 where he was averaging 20.1 ppg., 4.2 rpg. and 4.0 apg. in the regular season and 24.8 ppg., 2.8 rpg. and 2.3 apg. during the first round playoffs loss to Hornets (3-1). At that season he has been selected to participate as a sub, for the East squad, in the only all-star appearance of his career. In the previous season ( 14 March 1997) Smith made nine three-pointers (including 7 in a quarter) on his way to a 36 point performance against Seattle.

I really liked the attitude of Steve Smith on the court and towards the game. I liked the fact that except from his talent he knew the game, he possessed the fundamentals so good that could make a difference in the game by just being in the right place the right moment. He did not have to do anything fancy he could get everybody excited by making a simple but brilliant pass or a footwork that seamed so simple but made his shoot impossible to defend. He was one of the players that I enjoyed watching play and I was really happy for him when he played for the Spurs and finally won an NBA title (2003).

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Career 14.3 3.2 3.1 0.8 0.3
1997-98 20.1 4.2 4.0 1.0 0.4
1991-1999 17.4 3.9 4.1 0.9 0.3

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/s/smithst01.html

Steve Smith

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8. John Starks

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John Levell Starks (born August 10, 1963 in Tulsa, Oklahoma).

John Starks’ story is really interesting. He was not the typical NBA star. John Starks has not been drafted by any team as none of them thought that he was good enough to play in the NBA. He finally signed with the Warriors, as a free agent, in 1988 but got cut a year later. He then played in the CBA and tried again to play in the NBA with the Knicks in 1990. This time he did it but with some help from his, latter, good friend; Patrick Ewing. The legend has it, that during a practice Starks tried to dunk on Ewing but the huge Jamaican threw him on the floor. Starks got injured and the Knicks could not get rid of him and this is how they got “stuck” with him, which was something that finally worked out in the benefit of both sides.

John Starks was not the super talented all-star shooting guard. But he became an all-star because he was determined, hard worker and competitive in nature. Although he was not an original New Yorker he had all the characteristics of the tough straight outta Harlem guy (at least the way documentaries or stories about Harlem describe them as I have never been to Harlem!!!) that made him really popular amongst the Knicks’ fans. Of course the main reason that Starks became so popular in New York was his attitude and the way he approached the game that fitted perfectly the style of play the Pat Riley wanted for his Knicks during the 90s. Another thing was his role in New York’s rivalry with two of the most hatred figures in Madison Square Garden; Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller.

The rivalry between the Bulls and the Knicks was the greatest of the 90s and John Starks had been considered, falsely, as the solution to the MJ problem. All I have to say is that I enjoyed their duels and although MJ was the clear winner, John Starks stood tall and had his moments. I will never forget “the dunk” in 1993 play-offs nor the “360 degree lay-up” in 1996 play-offs. But during the 90s the Knicks was a team that simply created rivalries everywhere (Bulls, Pacers and Heat) and John Starks had to face another great competitor; Reggie Miller. This was a more balanced battle but I could say that Miller made some emphatic statements on whether he was better or not during the 1994 and 1995 play-offs where he literally abused the whole Knicks defence and left John Starks wondering!!!

Anyhow, John Starks was never a superstar but he knew how to handle his superstar opponents; by trying to even the difference in talent with a lot of attitude and some times pure inspiration. Starks had his best season in 1993-94 when he participated in the only all-star game of his career, as a sub for the Eastern Conference, and had also his best numbers in ppg. with 19.0, apg. with  5.9 and spg. with 1.6. 1993-94 was also the season that himself and the Knicks came close to win the NBA title as they lost 4-3 to the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals. In the previous season 1992-93 he had been selected for the 2nd all-defensive team, in 1994-95 he led the NBA in 3pt field goals made and attempted and finally in 1996-97 he was coming from the bench but was named Sixth Man of the Year. In January 1999 he was traded to Warriors (with Terry Cummings and Chris Mills for Latrell Sprewell) and missed New York’s second unsuccessful trip to the NBA Finals (lost 4-1 to the Spurs).

I could write more and more things about Stark’s career as there were many more interesting moments and performances but this is not the point of this post. I will always remember John Starks not as a rival of MJ or Reggie “Killer” but as John Starks; an all-star player that combined hard work, attitude and imagination.

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Career 12.2 2.5 3.6 1.1 0.1
1993-94 19.0 3.1 5.9 1.6 0.1
1990-1999 14.1 2.7 4.0 1.2 0.1

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/s/starkjo01.html

John Starks

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9. Jeff Hornacek

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Jeffrey John Hornacek (born May 3, 1963 in Elmhurst, Illinois).

I was thinking of ranking Isaiah Rider as number 9 and I have to say that I changed my mind many times. Finally, I decided that Hornacek’s presence throughout the 90s was stable in a pretty high level and he was always reliable and one of the best players in each of the teams that he played. OK, I agree that Rider was definitely more talented than Hornacek and Majerle, but he never played up to his level, he was always in another dimension and although I really liked his game I have to say that the consistency of Majerle and Hornacek and their work ethic were more important than Rider’s talents, in the long-run.

Hornacek had the looks of the ‘guy next door’. If you didn’t know him there was not a chance that you thought of him as an NBA player. He said it better that I could ever say it: “I wasn’t the fastest guy, I wasn’t the strongest guy, but my father was a coach, and I knew just about everything about basketball. That’s what got me through”. That is exactly the summary of Jeff Hornacek’s ability, he had a great knowledge of the fundamentals plus he was a smart guy and was able to turn around the situations when he was finding himself in a disadvantaged position. This was happening almost every night as he said: “I always had to figure out how to take advantage of what’s going on. The guy guarding me was 2-3 inches taller, and 15-20 lbs heavier, and bigger, stronger, and faster, I knew I had to do something different to offset that. So one thing I always did was try to outsmart them and be one step ahead of those guys”.

He was a great shooter and a very good scorer. He led the Suns in scoring in 1991-92 season with 20.1 per game and was selected as an all-star, for the West, in the same season. He played for the Suns six consecutive seasons since he was drafted by them at 1986 as number 46 overall (no.22 in the 2nd round). He played the best basketball of his career during the 1991-92 season, he was named player of the month during December 1991, but Phoenix was eliminated in the 2nd round of the western conference play-offs by the Portland Trail Blazers in 5 games (4-1). This led the Suns management to make a very important move and send Jeff Hornacek to Philadelphia, as a part of the transfer, for Charles Barkley.

Jeff played in a high level and averaged 19.1ppg. in his first season with a really bad team in Philadelphia. His second season was not bad either but he was finally traded to Utah in the 24th of February 1994 for Jeff Malone. In Utah Hornacek had the opportunity to play alongside two of the greatest players ever (John Stockton and Karl Malone). Hornacek had an immediate impact in Utah as he proved to be a perfect fit to Jerry Sloan’s system.

Jeff Hornacek helped Utah to reach the NBA Finals two times in a row, during the 90s. He was a very important piece in Utah’s puzzle but he was unlucky enough to guard Michael Jordan in 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals (alongside with his teammate Bryon Russell). I remember an incident that was really funny (for us), that took place during the 1997 NBA Finals where Hornacek’s kids were at the arena in Utah wearing Michael Jordan’s jerseys (I have to say that I remember a sport caster describing it I have not seen it with my own eyes) .

He was really underrated, I underrated him as well and I was considering to leave him outside of this countdown, for  lesser players because of their talent and fancy moves. Hornacek deserves to be considered as one of the top-ten shooting guards of the 90s as he really earned it with his consistency, hard work and smartness.

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Career 14.5 3.4 4.9 1.4 0.2
1991-92 20.1 5.0 5.1 2.0 0.4
1989-1999 16.4 3.6 4.9 1.5 0.2

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/h/hornaje01.html

Jeff Hornacek

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