Top 5: Favorite Jordan-era NBA guards

Mitch Richmond

It’s important to distinguish, these are my favorite players – clearly, subjective. A host of past players resonate with me for many reasons; a select moment in time, a well-played, yet under-appreciated career, or merely happenstance.

In no particular order, here are my favorite guards of the Jordan-era [obviously MJ-excluded; must have played at least 4 seasons against MJ’s Bulls]:

Lafayette Lever (1983-1994) | Player profile

Notable: 2-time All-Star (1988, 1990) | 6th all-time, steals per game

Opinion: criminally underrated player, deserving of much higher recognition. He had a stunning six season span (1985-1990) averaging 17.0 pts, 7.6 rbs, 7.5 ast and 2.5 stl per game. Oh, and he’s only 6’3″.

Kevin Johnson (1988-2000) | Player profile

Notable: 3-time All-Star (1990-1991, 1994) | 6th all-time, assists per game

Opinion: an outstanding player, mere percentage points from averaging 20 pts / 10 ast for nine consecutive seasons (1989-1997). I loved his exuberant celebrations on court, plus his fearless penetration in the lane. This resulted in assists to open team mates, or an attack on the rim.

Here, KJ gives The Dream, his own night-Mayor (see what I did there?):

Rex Chapman (1989-2000) | Player profile

Notable: UK (Wildcats) standout, turned pro as a sophomore | Flair for the dramatic

Opinion: an acrobatic and entertaining player, confident in his ability. He has career averages of almost 15 pts / 3 rbs / 3 ast / 1 stl, in under 30 minutes per game. Rex could light up a scoreboard, had a sweet shooting stroke and was a maestro of dunk. I even had his photo on my high school diary (too much information?)

John Starks (1989-2002) | Player profile

Notable: All-Defensive (2nd) Team (1993) | All-Star (1994) | Sixth Man of the Year (1997)

Opinion: whilst never beating Jordan in the Playoffs, Starks is a first-ballot nominee, for the role of MJ’s nemesis. I admired his tenacity, in-your-face style of play and all out hustle. Plus, John’s road to the NBA is a fascinating tale in itself.

Mitch Richmond (1989-2002) | Player profile

Notable: Rookie of the Year (1989) | 6-time All-Star (1993-1998) | NBA Champion (2002)

Opinion: part of the famed ‘Run TMC’ [part 1 / part 2] at Golden State. He was All-Star MVP in 1995 and Sacramento’s franchise player for seven seasons (1992-1998), averaging 23.3 pts, 3.7 rbs, 4.1 ast and 1.3 stl per game. A consummate professional, lauded as MJ’s toughest defender, by none other than Jordan himself.

Honorable mentions:

Daron Blaylock (Hawks), Kevin Gamble (Celtics) Tyrone Bogues (Hornets), B.J. Armstrong (Bulls), Craig Ehlo | Mark Price (Cavaliers), Jay Humphries | Ricky PierceAlvin Robertson (Bucks), Mark Jackson | Trent Tucker (Knicks), Anfernee Hardaway (Magic), Hersey Hawkins (76ers), Rod Strickland (Bullets).

Tim Hardaway (Warriors), Vernon Maxwell (Rockets), Ron Harper (Clippers) Sedale Threatt | Nick Van Exel (Lakers), Jerome Richardson | Tony Campbell (Timberwolves), Terry Porter (Trail Blazers), Gary Payton (SuperSonics).

Obvious omissions: clearly, the following players are all-time greats at their position. They didn’t make the cut as they’re not my favorites of the era – due to team/s played for or rivalries against MJ’s Bulls – imagined or otherwise…

Isiah Thomas (Pistons), Reggie Miller (Pacers).

Earvin Johnson (Lakers), Jason Kidd (Suns), Clyde Drexler (Trail Blazers), John Stockton (Jazz).

Did I miss anyone? Comments welcome. Who are your favorite Jordan-era guards?


Top 5: Basketball movies that never were

After researching the history of basketball movies that never received a green-light for distribution, I was amazed to discover the following working titles that somehow missed the cut. Here they are, in reverse order:

5. Curious Georgetown (1981) John Thompson stars as The Man in the Yellow Hat, who hires an inquisitive monkey to officially scout players for his basketball program.

4. Alien (1995) A crew of scientists investigate a series of alleged alien sightings in the state of Texas, only to discover it was in fact Houston Rockets guard Sam Cassell. The role of Sam Cassell is played by Ronald ‘Popeye’ Jones. [Apologies to Sam and Popeye – I’m no oil painting myself!]

3. To Mock a Larrybird (1992) Set in French Lick, Indiana, this coming-of-age tale revolves around a severe case of Tall Poppy Syndrome. Larry Bird (played by Mackenzie Crook; The Office, UK) defies the odds and label of ‘hick’ to leave his small town and make it as a superstar in the NBA.

2. Diff’rent Strokes, The Movie (1993) Derrick Coleman stars as a petulant franchise player on the NBA’s New Jersey Nets. Trouble abounds when the team’s General Manager tries to convince him to alter his shooting style, leading to Derrick’s scene-stealing quote – “What you talking about Willis Reed?”

1. The King’s Speech (2010) LeBron James, suffering from a debilitating clutchness impediment, is suddenly front and centre on national TV, an event arranged by his handlers. King James decrees he is leaving Cleveland, taking his talents to South Beach (Miami). After an awkward beginning, he develops a seemingly unbreakable bond with his new teammates [the ‘decision’ to cease production of this movie paved the way for another movie, starring Colin Firth, to use this same title].

Are you aware of other such movies that are not on this list? If so, add them below in the comments section.