Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
NBA.com is running a ‘Best Ever’ video series all this week. Give us one player that you never had a chance to see play but wish you had. Why?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Elgin Baylor. There was competition on my wish list, with Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, George Mikan — how plodding was he, really? — and Maurice Stokes close behind (as a kid, I saw Wilt in his final year). But Baylor took the NBA above the rim, blazing a trail that Julius Erving, Michael Jordan and so many others refined into a runway. Like a lot of guys whose careers began in the days of B&W newsreel vs. 1080p HDTV (and pre-ESPN), Baylor’s combination of finesse and power hasn’t been fully appreciated. To a lot of people, early NBA history fast-forwards something like: Mikan, Celtics, Celtics, Celtics, Willis Reed limps through a tunnel …
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Well, since I’m old enough to have seen Wilt, Russell, Oscar, Baylor and Cousy, I’ll have to dig way back into the Jurassic amber and say George Mikan. He was the NBA’s first superstar.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: ”Pistol Pete” Maravich. You don’t see basketball magicians everyday. He was the type of player that every time he stepped on the floor you never knew what you might see. I could have seen Maravich play in person during my early childhood in Los Angeles, but my dad was a huge Calvin Murphy fan and he typically took me to games when the Rockets were in town.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Elgin Baylor. The way people talk about Baylor as Dr. J before Dr. J, and knowing his incredible pride and determination, I know only being able to get as close as old clips is my loss. The Elgin before his knees abandoned him would have been a treat to see on a regular basis. Arvydas Sabonis is my asterisk mention. I saw him a lot when he played for the Trail Blazers, but didn’t really see him. No one who only knows the NBA Sabonis did. When Sabas was healthy and playing in Europe, he was a world-class talent. By the time he got to Portland, age and injuries had taken a toll.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Oscar Robertson. As the ultimate do-everything player, he was basically the original LeBron. The game was different (faster-paced, less defense) back then, but the guy averaged a triple-double (including more than 30 points) over his first five seasons in the league! Heck, forget about the points and rebounds, Robertson ranks fourth all-time in assists per game. And as a guy who loves great passers, I would love to see how he created shots for his teammates.
Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: I started following the NBA in the early 90s, so everything that happened before I had to watch on YouTube and elsewhere. I obviously would have liked to see Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain or Oscar Robertson, but the one guy I barely missed and feel the worst about is Bill Walton. His career was derailed by injury, but whenever he did play he contributed in ways that many guys don’t even understand today. He was the ultimate team player, he was unselfish and just knew how to play the game the right way. If, despite all the injuries, Larry Bird wants you on his team, you must be a special player.
Akshay Manwani, NBA India: The logo, Jerry West. He was as clutch as it gets and a terrific shooter. No less than a person named Michael Jordan said of West (in his book, For The Love Of The Game), “I would have liked to test myself against him at his best … He was a great scorer, but he also played good defense … Could I have stopped him? I don’t know. But it would have been a great matchup.” That testimonial by Jordan for West does it for me.