Welp, it seems like sports aren’t gonna happen this year after all. We really let this thing slip through our fingers didn’t we? Literally last week I was fantasizing about the NBA summer camp in Orlando and then BOOM – the highest amount of COVID cases the country’s seen this year. This shit feels like I avoided Tyson’s first hook only to get knocked back 15 feet by a massive uppercut. While it looks like the UFC isn’t going anywhere anytime soon (praise to the most high), I still desperately need other sports in my life. In their absence, my group chats have been bombarded with conversations about older players, and it really got me thinking about some NBA “legends” that played back when their play style wasn’t really fully appreciated. So, I’ve decided to compile a list of some of my favorite players who were trendsetters in the association, but were unfortunately born too soon.
Peja Stojakovic, 6’10” Small Forward
I most certainly have to start this off with one of my favorite players to ever touch a roundball. Back when I was living with my grandparents in the early 2000’s, my grandfather was lucky enough to have season tickets to the Sacramento Kings, so fortunately I got to see Peja and that silky smooth jumper play quite frequently. This remarkable sniper shot a career 40.3% from distance, on 5.5 ATTEMPTS PER GAME in his career. There’s no other way to put it – this man was fucking ROBBED. He never shot below 38% for a season, which is absolutely remarkable considering the league average nowadays is about 36.5% from 3 point land. If Peja played in today’s game where you don’t get put on the bench for missing a downtown attempt, I earnestly believe that he would be regarded as one of the best shooters of all time. For fuck’s sake, he was a member of the 2003-2004 All-NBA 2nd team, and could barely make it up and down the court, while being a matador on the defensive end. Peja would fit perfectly into almost any modern NBA scheme, as a 6’10” floor spacer with a jumper smoother than a Barney Stinson pick up line is an absolute must have in the jack-up-a-fuckton-of-3s era that we exist in currently.
Mehmet Okur, 7’0” Center
Okur was a fairly average player in his heyday, averaging around 13.5 points and 7 rebounds a game in his 10 year career for the Jazz, Pistons and Nets. However, much like Peja, what really set him apart from other big men was his touch beyond the arc. Okur shot 37.5% from downtown in his career – which is 3rd all time for centers, trailing only Matt Bonner (40%) and Channing Frye (38.7%). While he only took 2.5 a game during his time in the association, one can only assume that in today’s green light era he’d be heaving like a bulimic sorority girl after Thanksgiving dinner. His modern value comes into consideration when you find out that he never shot below 32% from deep for a season in his career, and only 4 centers in the league reached a clip higher than that this year – Karl Anthony-Towns (41.2%), Serge Ibaka (39.8%), Trey Lyles (38.7%) and Myles Turner (33.3%). Needless to say, Okur would consistently have a spot in almost any NBA rotation if he was born just 10 years later.
David Robinson, 7’1” Center
The Admiral was really something special. In his sophomore year at the Naval Academy, he only measured at 5 feet 8 inches tall, but grew to be 7’1” by his senior year. As the shortest man in my family at 6’0”, I’ve been praying for this kind of growth spurt since I stopped growing vertically at 15. Robinson averaged 21 points and 10.6 boards a game during his 13 year career, all while being an athletic freak who could go coast to coast on any given possession. In addition to his freaky athleticism, Robinson also had some pretty impressive handles, especially for a dude who stood over 7 feet tall. While he didn’t really take many 3 pointers in his career, he could certainly space the floor – never dipping below 36% efficiency from 16 feet to the 3 point line, and 70% from the charity stripe. One can only assume that if The Admiral played in the league today, he could easily take those couple steps back and start bringing less athletic centers to splashtown.
Daequan Cook, 6’5” Shooting Guard
Now hear me out here. Daequan Cook was a perennial bench player for the 8 seasons he played in the NBA, BUT he was an absolutely electric 9th man. He’s also one of those guys who never shot below a 35% clip from beyond the arc in his career, while averaging 3.8 attempts per game. Granted, he never averaged above 20 minutes played per game for a single season in his career, but if we look at the per 36, oooooooh buddy. Dude would have been launching around 8 3’s a game if he was just better at everything else and could stay on the basketball court. Cook retired in 2013, so he just missed the let’s-take-as-many-3’s-as-we-can-and-forget-what-actual-basketball-is era, but there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind he would be one of those players who went unnecessarily the fuck off in a big game if he was still around today.
Michael Redd, 6’6” Shooting Guard
Redd was one of the coldest dudes in the game back when he was in his prime. From 2003 to 2009, Redd Hot didn’t score less than 20 points a game and never shot less than 40(!!!)% from downtown. He retired with a career mark of 38% from distance, and attempted 4.4 a game over his 12 year stint. Redd is another one of those guys who I would probably sacrifice my first and second born children to see play today, cause he could drop bombs on your team that would rival any drone strike. This lefty sniper would just KILL opposing 2 guards with his ability to make any sort of jumper, from any sort of distance. It was kind of absurd and borderline inhuman. Much like Cook, Redd just missed the chuck-it-up era by a couple years, since he retired after the 2012 season, but real hoop fans don’t forget just how cold this man was with the roundball.
I probably left a bunch of players off this list, but frankly I’m running out of gas here. I’m not gonna put legends like Bird, Jordan or Kareem on this because that’s just flat out disrespectful to those guys. They were great in their own time, sure, but they all had major flaws that definitely would have been taken advantage of by the much better coaches and players that are around today. That’s not saying that the guys on this list were perfect, I just think their play styles would have meshed a lot better in today’s game than some of the legends. Hit me on twitter @yunasdro if you disagree, or have any players that I conveniently forgot to mention.