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.
Robert Horry’s name is being bandied about for Springfield. So, what are some of the names that make your Role Player Hall of Fame?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Downtown Freddie Brown. And here’s why: Most specialty players earn their keep as starters, their egos sufficiently stroked. But a great sixth man is best left as a substitute forever. So guys like J.R. Smith and Monta Ellis (he’d be terrific in the role but refuses to consider it) need to see it honored, even revered. Yes, the Celtics built a tradition of great sixth men but it took Brown and the Seattle SuperSonics to update the role in the late 1970s and early ’80s. They went to two straight Finals and won in ’79 with Brown in reserve of Gus Williams and Dennis Johnson. Then over his five final seasons, from age 31 to 35, the laconic gunslinger averaged just 20.5 minutes but scored at a 36-minute pace of 20.2 ppg. Brown lived up to his nickname, leading the league in 3-point percentage the first year the shot was instituted. And he spawned not only the instant-offense future of Vinnie Johnson, a young Sonics teammate, but the Sixth Man Award idea itself.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Maurice Lucas. The 1976-77 Trail Blazers were a championship puzzle where all of the different pieces fit together perfectly — Bill Walton, Johnny Davis, Bob Gross, Lionel Hollins, Dave Twardzik, Larry Steele, Herm Gilliam, Lloyd Neal, Robin Jones, Wally Walker, Corky Calhoun. But in addition to being their leading scorer, Lucas was the Enforcer, who gave the Blazers their sneer, swagger and hard-edged toughness and carried that role on through his entire career.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: To narrow the field, I’ll stick with players I grew up watching to the present: On my big-shot, big-game performer list is Steve Kerr, Michael Cooper, Cedric Maxwell, Vinnie Johnson, Ray Allen, Jason Terry and Robert Horry. Kurt Rambis, A.C. Green, Charles Oakley and Joakim Noah are on the all-blue-collar team. Bruce Bowen and Bill Laimbeer (he’s not in the Hall of Fame, so he qualifies here, right?) co-captain the all-agitator team, and Rick Mahorn and Maurice Lucas lead the all-enforcer squad with Ben Wallace taking the lead as an all-time intimidator.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I have to start with Robert Horry for big-shot specialist. Too many fans in opposing cities are nodding their head in agreement right now to have to ask why Horry is the ultimate role player at making shots. Mark Eaton is the shot blocker. What a difference-maker for someone who was considered a complementary player. Enforcer? Larry Smith. “Mr. Mean” was a description of Smith on the court, not just a nickname. Kenneth Faried is the hustle guy. His second and third efforts make a difference on both ends of the court -– offensive rebounds, screens -– and his first effort isn’t so bad either.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I’ll give one retired player and one current player. Retired: Bruce Bowen, who basically created the “3 and D” role as the defensive stopper and corner 3-point shooter for a perennial contender. Current: Shane Battier, for basically taking that role to another level with several different playoff teams. Neither guy would have been as good without their star teammates, but nobody played their roles better. And those roles were critical parts of five championships.
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA.com Greece: An easy one. Robert Horry! One of the greatest clutch players of all time and one of the few that needs two hands to wear his championship rings. It is no coincidence that he had played in championship-caliber teams in all of his career in Houston, Los Angeles and San Antonio. A great player, an even better teammate and a notorious winner. Is If you could pick five players to finish a Game 7, would you dare not have Horry on the floor?
Adriano Albuquerque, NBA.com Brasil: If there was such a Hall of Fame, there would be plenty of inductees: Vinnie Johnson, Bobby Jackson, Manu Ginóbili, Bill Laimbeer, Dan Majerle, Dikembe Mutombo — heck, even Brian Scalabrine! If I had to nominate a current player, out of all the possible answers, I’d go with Manu Ginóbili, because he transcends the sixth man role and is also a hustle guy. Maybe he shouldn’t qualify because he’s a star and his sixth man status is merely a decoy. If not, I’d go with Ben Wallace, who was a leader via shot-blocking, hustling and defense, but wasn’t a true star, even though his appearance was imposing and unique and made him famous.