By Ryan Hicks, Ryan Flannery, Samuel Findlay & Ray De Souza,
The Basket Counts collaborates with In Jeans and Joggers (www.injeansandjoggers.com) for a three part column on basketball’s Mount Rushmore for the ‘90s, ‘00s and current decade.
LeBron James, arguably the best basketball player on the planet right now, recently mentioned the 4 players he believed would go on his ‘Mount Rushmore’ of the NBA, sparking intense debate among NBA writers and enthusiasts. Who would go on their Mount Rushmore? With all the great players in the history of the game, this proved to be a tough and largely unfair task to select just 4 players.
Instead of doing an all-inclusive ‘Mount Rushmore’ style top 4, we decided to partner with our good friends Samuel Findlay and Ray De Souza over at In Jeans and Joggers and do a 3-part feature on our top 4 players from the 90’s, 00’s and a prediction of who will be the top 4 players from this current decade when it’s all said and done.
Here’s Part One (The 1990’s), stay tuned for Part Two and Three out tomorrow and the next day & in the meantime head over to http://www.injeansandjoggers.com to check out some of the great work they’re doing.
MJ should be in everyone’s all-time basketball Mount Rushmore – let alone the 90’s Mount Rushmore. I, like many others, would say Michael Jordan is the best ever when it comes to the great game of basketball. So be it, his head should without a doubt be carved into the cliff face of basketball’s Mount Rushmore, with the most care taken detailing his facial features, and hey, why not give him some feet and the bottom of the cliff face to show off his sneakers – let’s go with “Concord” XIs.
I don’t feel the need to go over his accomplishments or stats because I’m sure everyone else is going to include MJ and someone is bound to inform you. So for now, let’s just keep it simple: MJ is the best EVER, who won and accomplished just about everything he could.
Hakeem ‘The Dream’ was just that: a dream on the hardwood, with career averages of 21.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. Not only did Hakeem dominate the ‘90s, but the ‘80s as well, and would probably be included in that Mount Rushmore if we had included it.
Arguably the best five man of all-time, Hakeem was consistent throughout his entire career. I should also mention he put up 33 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in the 1995 playoffs while playing in 22 games and leading his Houston Rockets to the a championship. So, there’s that, too.
When it comes to great guards, John Stockton is certainly in the mix for greatest PG of all-time along with the likes of Magic Johnson, Isaiah Thomas, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West – Jason Kidd and Steve Nash might very well be in that mix also (maybe even Chris Paul one day).
Stockton, however, was the definition of what a point guard is. He was the floor general for the Utah Jazz and put up impressive career stats of 13.1 points, 10.5 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 2.2 steals. He never won a championship, but sure did achieve a great deal, including 10 All-Star appearances, many All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team selections and is the all-time assists and steals leader.
Michael Jordan was the best there ever was and probably ever will be. But much of his success has a bit to do with his teammate and fellow NBA champion, All-Star and Olympic gold medallist, Scottie Pippen. If we compare him to that of today’s game, Pippen was somewhat like LeBron James’ Dwyane Wade. Pippen wasn’t only an effective scorer (he left that to MJ for the most part), but was a great defender and one of the ‘90s best – eight All-Defensive First Team and two All-Defensive Second Team awards prove just that.
Ray De Souza:
The first member of my 90s Mount Rushmore is one that everyone could have guessed. The unquestionable greatest player of all-time, standing six foot six from North Carolina, his ‘Royal Airness’ Michael Jordan. In eight seasons during the ‘90s, Michael dominated in an era that could be argued to be one of the toughest in the history of the game. In a league littered with stars, Jordan beat them all, and never lost a final series that he competed in. Six rings from six finals appearances is only one reason to why Michael Jordan would be the first head carved into the ‘90s Mount Rushmore.
Born in Nigeria, Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Olajuwon was to put it simply, a beast. A supremely gifted and talented centre, Hakeem redefined the centre position, with the perfect combination of power and finesse. A walking double double, he averaged 21.9 points and 11.1 rebounds a game, and is the all-time career leader in blocks. Throughout the ‘90s he battled with some of the greatest centres this game has seen and he managed to get the better of them, on his way to leading his Houston Rockets to two NBA championships. Equipped with his patented ‘Dream Shake’ and two championship rings to boot, it’s easy to see why ‘The Dream’ should be rightfully forever enshrined in a ‘90s Mount Rushmore (if it existed).
In the ‘90s there were two players that you could count on to come through in the clutch. One was Michael Jordan, the other, Reggie Miller. Never afraid of the spotlight, Reggie is renowned as one of the greatest clutch players of all-time. If you need any convincing, take nine seconds of your time to look at the eight points he puts on Knicks in game one of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. A deadeye three point shooter, Reggie Miller was the ultimate competitor, renowned for his ability to get into other players heads, even Michael’s.
Year after year, Miller would lead the Indiana Pacers into the playoffs and perform some of the greatest performances the NBA hardwood has ever seen. His face, and even his ears would fit right in alongside Hakeem’s and Michael’s in a ‘90s Mount Rushmore.
Possibly the 1990′s greatest pure rebounder, and at the same time the NBA’s most controversial figure, Dennis Rodman, also known as “The Worm” was an enigma.
They say that to be truly great you need to be a little crazy, and Rodman definitely fit that bill. Be it his hairsytles, past-times, relationships or on the court offences, Rodman definitely enjoyed the extreme. However, one other thing he enjoyed was winning. A five-time NBA champion and two-time defensive player of the year, Rodman was one of the most feared defensive players of all time. He found most of his success when he was with the Pistons and of course the Bulls, where he was a beast on the boards and led league several times in rebounding.
On statistics alone “The Worm” is an easy selection for the 1990s Mount Rushmore, the only thing not easy is what hairstyle of his to choose.
8x All-Star, 9x All-NBA, 7x NBA Assists Leader, 4x NBA All-Defense during the decade. Stockton ran the pick and roll as well as anyone has, and became the perfect piece in Jerry Sloan’s offense alongside (an omission on my list) Karl Malone. Stockton is the all-time assist and steals leader, and one of the all-time greats to never win a championship. During an era of dominant, athletic big men, Stockton became one of the most dominant players of the decade through tenacious play on both ends of the floor, unrivalled basketball IQ and a willingness to make those around him better.
How can the second best player on his team be in the top 4 players of the decade? That team was one of the best of all time, and he played with the best player of all time. Pippen was the perfect complement to MJ – his game, his persona and his attitude. In the year that Jordan didn’t play, Pippen led the rag-tag Bulls to a seven game defeat in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against a powerhouse Knicks team, showing the world that he was legitimately one of the greats in his own right. He was one of the most versatile two-way players of all-time who was lucky enough to have Jordan on his team, but unlucky enough to be constantly overshadowed by him. Without Scottie, who knows how this decade would have played out, and how different our perception of Jordan would be.
Rodman was part of two Pistons Championship teams and three Bulls championship teams in the ‘90s. He was the hardest worker on the defensive end for all of those teams, and attacked the glass better than anybody has. His career rebounding percentage is the best of all-time (by a mile) at 23.44 percent, which includes his late years of relative ineffectiveness. During the ‘90s he had seven out of eight of the best rebounding years ever, the peak being in 1994-95 when he grabbed an astronomical 29.73 percent of all available rebounds (37.8 percent on defence and 20.8 percent on offense – both all-time records). His dominance in rebounding has never been matched in another statistical category. On his way to two Defensive Player of the Year awards, Dennis was willing to do all the dirty work for his teams, hustle for boards, antagonise and guard the opposing teams best player every night, and not get rewarded on offense with lots of shots. For his Bulls squads, he was often the player initiating the offense and getting “hockey assists,” or fighting to give his team extra possessions through O-boards and doing the things that don’t show up in the stat sheet. That sounds like a player who would enjoy flying “under the radar,” ironically a phrase that Dennis Rodman is unaware of. Rodman spent the decade of the ‘90s being an integral part of several championship squads, and his contribution is often overlooked.
His Airness during the decade: 6x NBA Champion, 6x Finals MVP, 4x MVP, 7x All-Star, 7x All-NBA First Team, 7x All NBA Defensive First Team, 7x Scoring Champion. In a decade where he only played seven and a quarter seasons! There is no leaving Jordan off this list… Next!
The ‘90s will forever be known as the decade that Michael Jordan became arguably the most recognisable face on the planet, and as such any Mount Rushmore of basketball deserves to be built around that legendary bald head. His skills were so transcendent that teams with the worst attendance in the league would always sell out when the Bulls came to town, such was the rock star level his fame had reached. Coming into the league in 1984 as an undeniably explosive athlete with a suspect long-range jumpshot, Jordan used his seemingly endless competitive drive to hone his skills and develop a fantastic three-ball (I can feel the Portland fans’ tears as I write this). Michael Jordan wasn’t just an NBA player in the ‘90s, he WAS the NBA in the ‘90s.
Another product of the now-legendary 1984 NBA draft, Olajuwon and his Houston Rockets were the lucky team that were able to cash in on Michael Jordan’s ill-fated baseball switch as they won both championships in the years when Jordan didn’t play full seasons. A seven foot center with a massive wingspan, his size alone made him an imposing force. But couple this with his athleticism, passing ability, shot-blocking instincts, and arguably the greatest footwork the NBA has ever seen, then you have an idea of why “The Dream” was truly a once in a generation player. Just ask David Robinson…
Arguably the greatest NBA player never to win a championship, “The Mailman” must wake up in cold sweats at night wondering what would have happened if Michael Jordan stayed in Minor League Baseball. In two consecutive seasons, he and John Stockton led the Utah Jazz to the NBA Finals only to be thwarted by the brilliance of Jordan and the Bulls’ juggernaut. At six foot nine, 260lbs, Malone was built like a tank but also ran the floor as well as any power forward in the era. He also possessed an almost unguardable turnaround jumpshot, and his work on the pick and roll with Stockton is legendary among basketball purists.
Listed at six foot five, but many of his peers will argue that he was even shorter than that. With his limitations in stature, the fact that Barkley averaged over 10 rebounds per game every season except his rookie year is remarkable. With a rebounding tenacity and nose for the ball that rivaled Dennis Rodman, Barkley also possessed and uncanny ability to put the ball in the hole, as he scored in excess of 20 points per game for 11 straight seasons. During the ‘90s, Barkley also became known for his outspoken nature, as he was never afraid to give his thoughts on any topic, no matter how controversial. This has allowed him to become an immensely successful personality in the basketball media. Just don’t ask him to be a role model.
Check back tomorrow for Part Two!