This year’s NBA season is going to be an all-out slugfest. Kevin Durant has a target on his chest bigger than the Bay Area. The question everybody has running through their mind…what will Lebron lose first?…..His hair or his Crown?
Sadly, 3 of the greatest icons of our generation decided to throw in the towel before the opening round. They will it up no longer be gracing the court with their presence. I have an enormous amount of respect for Timmy and KG…but Kobe is my childhood. I remember being outside shooting around in my driveway shouting “Kobe!”, Even to this day, I say it in my head every time I take a shot. It’s been 20 years since Kobe Bryant was drafted into the league, his draft had many talented peers, but he stood tall amongst them all. Here are the top ten players from this great draft.
1. Kobe Bryant
Draft #: 13th (Charlotte Hornets)
Career Averages: 25.0 PPG 4.7 APG 5.2 RPG 1.4 SPG
Accolades: 5x NBA Champion,2x Finals MVP, 2008 MVP, 18x All-Star, 4x All-Star MVP, 15x All-NBA, 12x All-Defense, 2x Scoring Champ, 1997 Slam Dunk Champ, LA Lakers All-Time scorer.
There are not enough superlatives to describe the career that Kobe Bryant had, despite all the off-court issues, the man did one thing; WIN. The man dropped 81 points in a game (Sorry Raptors!), outscored the Dallas Mavericks in three-quarters, the man has memorable moment after memorable moment. Despite being known mostly as a scorer “The Black Mamba” was a stellar on-ball defender and underrated playmaker. It will be a long time before Kobe is forgotten and deservedly so.
2. Allen Iverson
Draft #: 1st (Philadelphia 76ers)
Career Averages: 26.7 PPG 6.2 APG 3.7 RPG 2.2 SPG
Accolades: 2001 MVP, 11x All-Star, 2x All-Star MVP, 7x All-NBA, 1997 ROY, 4x Scoring Champ, 3x Steals Champ, 2016 HOF inductee
“The Answer” delivered, hate it or love it. Kobe and AI are both in my top 5 favourite players of all time, so the fact that they are from the same draft is fitting. They were the premier guards in their respective conferences for an extended stay. Sadly AI is ringless but not for lack of trying. The man put in work! The man used his will to impact the game in a way that you can’t teach. Watching him play was infectious, I don’t think there will ever be anybody who loves basketball more than Allen Iverson. I just wish the Melo AI experiment ended better.
3. Ray Allen
Draft #: 5th (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Career Averages: 18.9 PPG, 3.4 APG, 4.1 RPG, 1.1 SPG
Accolades: 2x NBA Champion, 10x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, NBA All-time 3-Point leader
Ray Allen was a consummate professional; he did whatever the coach needed him to do. Very few players are capable of being a star, role player, 6th man and 3rd option like Ray. He was supremely clutch, hitting arguably the greatest shot in NBA history versus the Spurs in the 2013 Finals. Great man, Great Career.
4. Steve Nash
Draft #: 15th (Phoenix Suns)
Career Averages: 14.3 PPG, 8.5 APG, 3.0 RPG, 0.5 SPG
Accolades: 2x MVP, 8x All-Star, 7x All-NBA, 5x Assist Champ, 4x 50-40-90 Club
“Captain Canada” held it down for us. One of the greatest point guards of all time was an absolute maestro with the basketball. He led a couple of great teams to deep playoff runs but was unable to make it over the hump. Despite his lack of height and size, he was able to score at will and punished the defence on the regular by hitting the open man. He’ll go down as arguably the greatest sun of all time.
5. Ben Wallace
Draft #: Undrafted
Career Averages: 5.7 PPG, 1.3 APG, 9.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG
Accolades: 2004 NBA Champion, 4x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, 4x DPOY, 6x All-Defense, 2002 Blocks Leader, 2x Rebounding Champ, Detroit Pistons all-time leader in blocks
An absolute terror in the paint “Big Ben” definitely lived up to his name. When I think of the Detroit Pistons organisation, I think of hard workers, unity and self-sacrifice. Ben Wallace exemplifies those words in spades. He was the anchor of a team that made six straight trips to the final four. At 6’9 he averaged a career-best 15.4 RPG in 2003. You don’t grab that many rebounds a night unless you work hard for it. His impact on the game can never be understated, while most players just care about the flash and thrills, Big Ben did all the little things, and it led to consistent W’s.
6. Jermaine O’Neal
Draft #: 17th (Portland Trailblazers)
Career Averages: 13.2 PPG, 1.4 APG, 7.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG
Accolades: 6x All-Star, 3x All-NBA, 2002 MIP
Jermaine had a slow start out of the gates unlike many of his peers from this draft. But once he got his chance he took advantage of it. As the young player on a veteran trailblazer squad competing for a championship, he learned the game from skilled bigs such as Rasheed Wallace and Arvydas Sabonis. His face up post game is elite, he made a living punishing the opposition with his array of scoring moves in the paint. He leads the Pacers to some deep playoff runs but unfortunately could not get over the hump. The “Malice in the Palace” did not help either. In his prime, he was a consistent 20-10 threat, and in his waning years, he was a solid veteran role-player. He does not have a ring, but he has pretty much everything else.
7. Marcus Camby
Draft #: 2nd (Toronto Raptors)
Career Averages: 9.5 PPG, 1.9 APG 9.8 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 2.4 BPG
Accolades: 2007 DPOY, 4x All-Defense, 4x Blocks leader,
A defensive ace and alley-oop connoisseur, Camby was a reliable and consistent big throughout his career. He always played within himself, knowing his limitations as a player and because of this, he was always effective in each of his NBA stops. He had 11 blocks in a game twice and helped lead the Knicks as the only 8th seed to make it to the NBA finals. He’s also 12th all-time in blocks and Charles Barkley once said it was ” A travesty” that despite leading the league in blocks three years in a row Marcus Camby never made an all-star team.
8. Peja Stojakovic
Draft #: 14th (Sacramento Kings)
Career Averages: 17.0 PPG 4.7 RPG 1.8 APG
Accolades: 2011 NBA Champ, 3x All-Star, 2004 All-NBA, 2x Shootout Champ
One of the first European swingmen to be a consistent overall perimeter threat. He and fellow peer Kobe Bryant had intense battles in the western conference playoffs for years. He and his fellow Kings from that era are famous players for their skill and exciting play. At 6’9 he was able to shoot the ball better than most people shorter than him. But he was also very skilled off the dribble as well. If it weren’t for Shaq and Kobe, the Kings would have probably won at least one title. He got his revenge on Kobe by beating the Lakers as a member of the Mavericks en route to winning his first and only title.
9. Stephon Marbury
Draft #: 4th(Milwaukee Bucks)
Career Averages: 19.3 PPG, 7.6 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG
Accolades: 2x All-Star, 2x All-NBA
The New York native was electrifying to watch, good or bad there was always a story with Stephon Marbury. His talent was never questioned, but his commitment to teamwork always was. He was dropping around 20 ppg for the majority of his career, but it did not translate to wins. He never made it out of the first round as the central piece. He played 14 playoff games as a role player in Boston during the 2009 season and was out of the league the following year. He left the NBA as 23rd in assists all-time.He has garnered much success in China (3x CBA Champion, 6x CBA All-Star, 1x CBA MVP). They even made a statue in his honour!
10. Antoine Walker
Draft #: 6th (Boston Celtics)
Career Averages: 17.5 PPG, 3.5 APG, 7.7 RPG, 1.2 SPG
Accolades: 2006 NBA Champ, 3x All-Star
He was the herald of the stretch big in the NBA. When he first came into the league, most players of size were not really perimeter oriented. He loved to shoot threes and was very useful as a go-to option on the Boston Celtics with Paul Pierce. They didn’t have enough firepower to compete with the elite teams in the East and never sealed the deal. Every stop he went to he was able to leave a positive impact on the floor. As the starting small forward he helped lead the Miami Heat to their first NBA championship, he hit big shots during that run and was an essential piece in spreading the floor out for Shaq and D-Wade to attack the paint. His career may not have ended the way he wanted it to, but it was still a great career nonetheless.
This draft was filled with quality; these are the four players I feel like deserve mention.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim (3rd Overall)
18.1 PPG 7.5 RPG 2.5 APG 1x All-Star
Zydrunas Ilgauskas (20th Overall)
13.0 PPG 7.3 RPG 1.6 BPG 2x All-Star
Kerry Kittles (8th Overall)
14.1 PPG 2.6 APG 1.6 SPG
Derek Fisher (24th Overall)
8.3 PPG 2.1 RPG 3.0 APG 5x Champion
20 years all of these men’s careers have been set in stone, while the 2016 draft brings a similar feeling in the air. The players from this year’s draft possess great potential and skill just like this one did. The draft is not an exact science, and nobody thought Kobe was going to be Kobe, well except for maybe Kobe. Maybe 20 years later we’ll be talking about these guys just like we speak of the greats of our past. Enjoy the season everyone!