For God Shammgod’s sake, let that picture wash over you!
Larry Nance was a ferocious, dynamic, and unstoppable finisher at the rim. You’d have to be brave, insane, or both, to try and stop his forays to the basket. On the fast break he’d catch Mark Price’s lobs or dimes and finish them off right with swooping one-handed sledgehammers and two-handed pile drivers. It’s as if a whirlwind of fury was released on the hardwood of the NBA.
And that fury applied on the defensive end as well. In fact, maybe even more so. Nance prided himself on brazenly protecting the rim. He allowed few shots to go up undetected and undisturbed. He toiled on the Phoenix Suns for most of the 1980s, which likely prejudiced voters against him, so Nance made only three All-Defensive teams. All of those selections came after he joined a winning ball club in Cleveland. His defense there was just as nasty as it was in the Arizona desert, though.
To emphasis the point on Nance’s remarkable durability and consistency, here are the numbers in his first year as a starter (1983 with Phoenix) and his last year as a starter (1993 with Cleveland):
First Year as Starter: 35.5 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 55% FG, 67% FT
Last Year as Starter: 35.8 MPG, 16.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 0.7 SPG, 55% FG, 82% FT
In between Nance certainly had some higher averages than these, but not by much. The big difference, though, is that Nance over the years improved his shot. He developed a dependable jumper and his free throw shooting went from liability to tremendous asset.
And he developed into one of the best floor leaders in the NBA. His years in Phoenix ultimately proved disappointing, but they gave the experience, wherewithal, and veteran command to lift the Cavaliers when he joined their squad in 1988. His mid-season acquisition sparked a mediocre Cavs team to a 12-4 finish and a playoff berth. Through 1993, the Cavaliers twice finished with a 57-25 record and another season of 54 wins. Unfortunately, they fell victim to a) the Chicago Bulls, b) an awful trade for Danny Ferry, and c) injuries to Mark Price and Brad Daugherty.
Still, those Cavalier teams were wonders to behold, and it was the High Ayatollah of Slamola that kick-started this period of magnificent Cavaliers basketball.
Seasons Played: 1982 – 1994
All-Defensive 1st Team (1989)
2x All-Defensive 2nd Team (1992-’93)
3x All-Star (1985, 1989, 1993)
NBA - 950 Games
17.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.6 APG, 2.2 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 54.6% FG, 75.5% FT
17th All-Time Blocks, 16th All-Time FG%
17th All-Time BPG