It all began thirty years ago at the Slam Dunk Contest, which showcased two of the most exciting high-flyers the NBA had ever seen: Michael “Air” Jordan and Dominique Wilkins, “The Human Highlight Film”. Michael Jordan was just stepping into the NBA biggest stage, trying to promptly stamp his ethereal mark in the air. It was the first step paving the ground for his eternal legacy, cemented with mesmerizing dunks. Nevertheless the 1985 dunk contest didn´t go his way. As always, Jordan showed sportsmanship and fairplay for his opponent, but the Superstar #1 had been tagged in his mind.
Superstar #1 – Dominique Wilkins
In 1987, he came back seeking a payback. However, Dominique was injured, which made his dominance more obvious. It was on this iconic All-Star weekend that one of the most famous TV descriptions about sports was ever made – a moment of pure inspiration from the journalist covering the event. It became a quintessential Air Jordan description when we reminisce about his finest dunks: “Look at the air, look at the hangtime, look at the flying motion.. look at his head above the rim.” The last installment of this slam dunk duel took place at Chicago, where Jordan had the crowd cheering for him. This was seen as the definitive tie-breaker between these two remarkable athletes. It was time to execute the magistral kiss the rim dunk first and finishing it with a dunk flying from the foul line. Superstar #1 lost this high flying battle. Pure magic. Air Jordan taking flight. For the younger kids out there, check this video, in case you haven´t seen it yet: 1987 Michael Jordan – Slam Dunk Contest Highlights: https://youtu.be/1ixT-JAzbyQ Dominique Wilkins was unfortunate to share the stage with Michael Jordan, who allowed only a few words in the script he would write during his illustrious career. Even so, Dominique Wilkins was much more than a spectacular player. Here’s what Johny Osaki wrote about The Human Highlight Film:
The Legend had began and Jordan was only starting. Six more superstars were coming his way.
Superstar #2 – Pat Ewing
Pat Ewing was a monster in the paint. He didn´t made his presence felt: he tattoed his strength and intimidating defense on your skin. These were the days of hard fought games with a “different liberty” for hands, arms, elbows and knees. In fact, almost everyhing was tolerated on the nineties NBA games. This was the era dominated by the tough, gritty and sometimes mean teams, such as the Bad Boys Pistons. Here’s what Mark Vancil had to say about this Georgetown center:
The Knicks weren´t so extreme but they had several players capable to drain any player out of his comfort zone. The Knicks knew if they played their trademark hard defense and managed to stop Jordan – even for a little while – they could maybe advance in the Playoffs. Jordan, however, wouldn´t be denied. In one famous Knicks-Bulls playoff series, Jordan posterizes Ewing in a image that to this day is tagged and played back over and over again (just the other day the NBA Scholar saw it “flying” around in Twittersphere. Check it out here, if you wish to relive this iconic play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5btsDbkBonA Different players went to the Knicks trying to help Patrick Ewing but he could never surpass that gigantic obstacle called Michael Jordan. To the NBA Scholar, Pat Ewing being blamed by some Knicks fans for not delivering a title is just bad judgement. Please New York fans, “keep it real”: you might have a God on your side but if you are up against Zeus, what can you do? Ewing and the Knicks had no chance whatsoever. Like the other 5 victims, he was just playing at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Superstar #3 – Reggie Miller
Regarded by many as one of the best shooters to ever play the game, Reggie Miller drive and ambition was endless. He became one of the biggest competitors the game has ever seen. The same urgency and strong will to win shown by Isiah, Magic and Bird, to name a few. His legendary play will be repeated ad eternum when someone debates clutch plays and clutch players. We are talking, of course, about the incredible sequence of 8 points in 9 seconds. What more can you say? Maybe it is better to simply rejoice with Miller time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSWE_Wbu80o From his long list of accomplishments, many could be highlighted but the NBA Scholar – being a purist of the game – likes this one in particular: “Miller played more games with the same team than all but two players in NBA history, John Stockton and Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz. Only five other players have played in more total regular season NBA games than Miller.” – Wikipedia. Although no one doubted the ability of Reggie Miller to single-handedly solve difficult games and series, maybe his biggest regret resides on the fact he never had balanced teams with enough depth to defeat the Bulls stampede over the entire NBA. He was probably one of the fewest players from that era that could match Jordan’s intensity and decisiveness. Eventually he went into broadcasting, where he’s been doing a masterful job, with quick insights and secrets only a pro can elucidate to the viewers. Reggie Miller, alongside Sir Charles, Shaq and Kenny Smith are some of NBA Scholar’s favourites within the kingdom of Nba Tv broadcasting. Reggie Miller is never afraid to say what he thinks. Then again, what would you expect from a sharp shooter? Although he is very competitive, Reggie Miller remarks are always to the point, showing class and knowledge, hence getting the NBA Scholar respect. A class act all around, he even managed to say these words about the Greatest Of All Time, who deprived him (plus his other 6 “sinful” colleagues) from winning a title:
Superstar #4 – Tom Chambers
Tom Chambers was a cool and relaxed laid back player who looked similar to Bird in his game (although less talented, of course). All-Star MVP in front of his home crowd, in what is considered by most the best All-Star ever, due to its emotion and an amazing “painting” containing a myriad of Greats playing at the same time. Chambers was a very goog player and when he had Sir Charles aside him plus Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle, many thought the Bulls undefeated Finals was bound to fall. That was not the case. Jordan proved to be too much for those suns. In the end, he obliterated yet another great team with amazing talent. For many NBA erudites, the quintessential play from Chambers is that absurd dunk over Mark Jackson. Over is the appropriate term… check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7T_Wg5ilo8
Superstar #5 – John Stockton
Superstar #6 – Karl Malone
Probably the ones (maybe with Barkley as well ? ) who deserved it the most. John Stockton and Karl Malone were a joy to watch. John Stockton was one of the smartest and deadliest point guards to ever play. His average physical presence diverted the attention at first but soon the league understood they were in the presence of pure genius. Master of assists and a maestro who was always on top of the game’s tempo, he always found different “beats” to dismantle teams with other strategies (it’s all about that improv jazz!). His partnership with Karl Malone was one of the best ever, maybe only behind the Kobe-Shaq killer duo. Stockton and Malone played together with their eyes closed. Losing twice to the Bulls was as disheartening as it gets. That play Jordan stole the ball at the very end… and the rest was history. It could have been different. The moral of the story is that neither got to NBA’s Shangri-La. The golden trophy was so close… one of the great injustices of the history of the game. Stockton and Malone had it all. Karl Malone, aka “The Mailman”, still holds one of the best records in career points. His huge body built with the softer touch ever for a big man was noteworthy. One of a kind talent. A rare blend of raw strength and conditioning with the best fundamentals and sweetest of shooting touches for a big man. Looking back at his career alongside Stockton, you can’t help but feel sad about the fact Utah didn’t get at least one ring. That iconic image of Malone talking to the ball before the free thow will perdure forever. At the line, he always whispered to the ball: “come on baby, come on baby, get in there”. Check out the video and get educated on these NBA legends from the past, young NBA fans: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4t_5C5aAnk
Superstar #7 – Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley is one of those unique players that come once in a generation. His mix of strength, quickness, good shooting and very good passing for a big man made him one of the best players of NBA history. His uncanny ability to get rebounds (being smaller than most of the crowd “living in the paint”) was just mind-boggling, earning him the self-explanatory nickname “The Round Mound of Rebound”. Probably the best ever in that specific category, with Rodman, although Rodman had a practically inexistent offensive game. Barkley was an asset in many different areas of the game. He and Michael Jordan were very good friends but apparently that friendship has gone astray 🙁 We hope they forget about whatever happened, move on and get together playing golf again, making fun at each other and producing priceless soundbites. After his journey as one of the best “smaller” big men who ever played, owner of a vast array of skills from shooting 3’s to post up’s… wait a second… wasn’t because of Barkley that they changed the rule? Ah, yes, almost forgot… you know… when they have to change the rules because your game is just too good for ordinary people around you… THAT is Greatness.
A great character, funny and as direct as they come, Barkley took his talents to TV after retirement. The inside the nba show, with Kenny and Shaq, is an absolute must see TV show for a NBA fan. Not getting a ring doesn’t deflate his importance on the history of the game. Maybe he wasn’t as strong as Shaq, as he is always saying, but could O’Neal do what he’s done with his height and weight? That is the question, Big Aristotle.. Here’s Larry Bird opinion on “Sir Charles” taken from Mark Vancil’s “bible” 🙂 :
Great compliment from the one and only Larry Legend. Barkley deserved a title. He talks from the heart and that’s why people listen. His honest views regarding players, coaches, referees et al are much appreciated. You can’t beat honesty. You just can’t. Keep it going Sir Charles, the NBA Scholar (and probably a few millions around the world) hope you never change. It is just one of those things. NBA Gods and semi-gods in the nineties… all obliterated by a transcendent force. What can you say? At least you lost to the Greatest one that ever played.
P.S. NBA Scholar words are completely free from any kind of agenda. They intend to be as objective as possible although, as you know, 100% of objectivity is a fallacy (we all have our personal gods and superheroes 🙂 Like Reggie Miller’s sharp shooting and Barkley’s honesty, the Scholar is committed to keep it real, without any filters. Feel free to comment and share your opinions.