Pro Hoops History HOF: Grant Hill

Grant Hill
Grant Hill

What Grant Hill’s career could have been is something of joyful imagination mixed with sorrowful reality. The prodigious talent was mixed with demoralizing foot injuries, the endless rehabs, the near-fatal staph infection he suffered… it’s all enough to dash the fantastic dreams we had of Grant Hill leading the Detroit Pistons or the Orlando Magic to potential title glory.

It surely was enough to dash what should have been the middle portion of Hill’s career.

From the 2000-01 season to the 2005-06 season, Hill played in just 135 of 492 potential games. And half of those 135 came in the 2004-05 season. He also missed all of the 2003-04 season. His sojourn in Orlando was just rife with pain. But taking a step back from the sorrow, we do realize that Hill’s career was its own brand of magnificent.

He was co-Rookie of the Year in 1995 for the Detroit Pistons. In just his second season, he was approaching triple-double territory with regularity averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. He kept up a similar pace through the 2000 season. This era was undoubtedly the apex of Grant Hill. Amongst all NBA players of this era, Hill ranked 9th in PPG, 15th in APG, and 24th in RPG fully displaying his versatility.

But his final games for Detroit were played on an injured ankle that should have been rested. Hill’s impending free agency, however, cast an unfair pall. If Hill wisely sat out the playoffs to heal his ankle, accusations would have arisen claiming he was unfairly putting himself above his team. Yet another selfish millionaire athlete. If he played, he’d be a “team player”, but he’d put his health in jeopardy. Which is exactly what happened. To keep alive the season for a middling Pistons squad, Hill practically sacrificed five years of his career.

After finally emerging fully healthy in 2006, Hill enjoyed a surprising rejuvenation. Over the next five years – one with Orlando, the rest with Phoenix – Hill would average a respectable 13 points and 5 rebounds. Clearly, not what he once was, but after what he had experienced, these twilight years were glorious for Hill.

Only three other players (Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and Larry Bird) had replicated Hill’s 1996 season of 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists. But his season at age 38 in 2011 was nearly as remarkable. His 13 PPG that season was the 11th highest ever for a player that age or older. And he did it shooting nearly 40% from three-point range, quite the change from his early days. Nearly 20 years before, Hill happened to have the world’s best spin-cycle on his drives going to the hoop… but he couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn from downtown.

Nonetheless, he did what he had to do as time went on to remain an effective basketball player. Truthfully, he did what he had to do just to simply remain any kind of basketball player. He easily could have given up at any number of points without any complaints. But his perseverance is astounding.

Don’t sleep on Grant Hill’s actual talents, though. Few small forwards ever handled the ball like Hill. Few have ever passed like Hill. Few have ever encapsulated so many grand qualities with such grace like Hill. He’s a Hall of Famer and an astounding one at that.

Years Played: 1994 – 2013

Accolades

NBA -
Rookie of the Year (1995)
All-NBA 1st Team (1997)
4x All-NBA 2nd Team (1996, 1998-2000)
7x All-Star (1995-’98, 2000-’01, 2005)

Statistics

NBA - 1026 Games
16.7 PPG,6.0 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 48.3% FG, 76.9% FT

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1994-95 through 2012-13 season)
20th Points, 16th FTs Made
22nd FGs Made, 32nd FG%
20th Assists, 29th APG
18th Steals, 32nd SPG
36th Rebounds
22nd Games Played, 20th Minutes Played

ProHoopsHistory HOF: Walter Davis

Walter Davis

Rarely do you find guards like Walter Davis. He was sleek, his game was glossy, his style was gossamer and well-groomed. It’s little wonder Davis earned the nickname “Greyhound”. And at 6’6″ tall and just 195 lbs, Davis looked evermore the part of a greyhound as he bounded and sped up and down the court.

Davis also had an absolutely smooth, silky jumper. It was the definition of soft. It was the pinnacle of delicacy. The effortless stroke on his jumper begat another nickname, “The Man With the Velvet Touch.”

The Phoenix Suns certainly got themselves a gem of a player with the 5th pick in the 1977 draft. Davis wound up averaging 24 points as a rookie and was voted the Rookie of the Year for the 1977-78 season. From that season through 1981, Davis would average 22 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.5 steals, 55% FG, and 83% FT. The sensational shooting guard was placed on the All-NBA 2nd Team twice during this span, and also was named an all-star every one of those seasons.

However, the 1981-82 season revealed the true scourge of Walter’s career: cocaine.

Limited to just 55 games, and starting only 12 of them, Davis averaged a paltry (for him) 14 points and 3 assists per game. Mind you, he did those averages in just 21.5 minutes a night. In fact, that’s another important theme of Davis’s career: his ability to rack up lots of points barely any time.

During his 15-year career, Davis averaged over 30 minutes per game seven times. His career-high in minutes per game was 33.5 in the 1986-87 season. Despite this, Davis averaged 18.9 points per game for his career. If he had played “regular” starters minutes he’d easily have been in the 23 to 25 point range for his career.

Davis Suns

But that scourge of cocaine plagued Walter’s career.

He bounced back in 1983 and 1984 averaging 20 points and 5 assists per game those two season. Then in the 1984-85 campaign, he relapsed and tested positive for drugs. He appeared in just 23 games that season. Davis, acting as some basketball phoenix, rose yet again. He would average 22 points and 23.5 points over the next two years after cleaning up. In 1987 he was named an all-star for the sixth and final time.

But that year, a huge cocaine scandal broke in the Arizona desert. Several current and former Suns players were charged with drug trafficking. Davis was not one of those indicted, but nonetheless admitted to still doing cocaine. Another stint in rehab followed for Walter. Now at age 33 and with a troublesome back, a third comeback for Davis didn’t seem likely.

But he did it anyways.

Over the final five seasons of his career, Davis got clean. In his mid-and-late-30s, the Greyhound maintained his velvet touch and scored 15 points a game in just 23 minutes a night. Finally in 1992, Davis retired from the NBA.

A great player that played mostly with the Phoenix Suns, Davis can’t be said to have had a great career. Actually, it was a great career, just one that didn’t run smoothly. The herky jerky nature of his career and the sensational nature of cocaine can lead one to falsely conclude Davis didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t leave a mark.

As the Suns’ all-time leading scorer, as a man with a perfect jumper, as a man who resiliently (if excruciatingly) rejected personal demons, Davis did truly leave a mark for those who bother to look.

Years Played: 1977 – 1992

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns

Accolades

NBA – 
Rookie of the Year (1978)
2x All-NBA 2nd Team (1978-’79)
6x All-Star (1978-’81, 1984, 1987)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1978)

Statistics

NBA – 1033 Games
18.9 PPG, 3.8 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 51.1% FG, 85.1% FT

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1977-78 through 1991-92 season)
8th Points, 31st PPG
6th FGs Made, 37th FG%
31st FTs Made, 8th FT%
21st Assists, 33rd APG
15th Steals, 38th SPG
6th Games Played, 18th Minutes Played

Pro Hoops History HOF: Paul Westphal

(thedissnba)
(thedissnba)

Paul Westphal could have been the next Sam Jones or John Havlicek. Jones and Hondo began their careers as backups and bench players, but worked their way into star status with the Boston Celtics. Westphal began along the same track of patiently waiting on the bench for a time to shine in Beantown.

From 1972 to 1975, Westphal sat in the wings and backed up Don Chaney and Jo Jo White. Team success for Boston stunted Westphal’s cravings for a starter’s gig. The Celtics lost in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1973 and 1975, and won the title in 1974. Still, Westphal knew he was too good to languish in the shadows for much longer. After Boston’s loss to the Washington Bullets in 1975, Westphal was traded to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for guard Charlie Scott.

His chance for success arrived and Red Auerbach knew he had traded away a gem:

“… this is a fine opportunity for Westphal. He’s played in the shadow of (Jo Jo) White and (Don) Chaney for three years and now he’ll get his opportunity to shine.”

Westphal got the opportunity and ran with it for the next five stunning seasons.

While with the Celtics Westy had averaged 7.3 PPG, 2.1 APG, 1.7 RPG, and 0.7 SPG. Over the next five years with the Suns, Westphal delivered 22.5 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2.4 RPG, and 1.8 SPG. He was an All-Star selection every year and three times was named a member of the All-NBA 1st Team.

The man was an athletic freak and an exemplar of what you wish all shooting guards could be. He was a hustling, determined defender who went the extra mile to snag a steal or recover for a block. His jump shot was pure as the driven snow. He nailed his free throws (82% career shooter). He was a fantastic driver who could make it to the rim for limber layups. And on the break he was good for gliding slams.

And in a quirky twist of fate, he led his new club against his old one in the 1976 NBA Finals. In a hard-fought six game series, the Celtics prevailed, but Westphal’s Suns continued to be a perennial contender while the aging Celtics quickly faded thereafter. The Suns won 49, 50, and 55 games in 1978, 1979, and 1980, respectively. They appeared in the 1979 Western Conference Finals and were defeated by the eventual champion Sonics in 7 games, losing the last two games by just 5 combined points.

Westphal SI

In June of 1980, Westphal was again traded. After negotiations for a contract extension failed, the Suns dealt him to the Sonics for Dennis Johnson. Westphal, who’d grown unhappy under Phoenix’s “stale” offense, welcomed the trade. However, his time in Seattle was extremely brief.

A stress fracture in his right foot that initially was said to sideline him for approximately two weeks, ultimately limited him to 36 games with the Sonics that season and hobbled his effectiveness for the rest of his career. Playing two seasons with the Knicks and one final year with Phoenix before retiring in 1984, the post-injury Westphal was certainly no slouch but was not be feared as he once was. He averaged just 10.5 points and 4.3 assists after the fracture.

Westphal’s absolute peak was a five-year window of brlliance in which he was most likely the best two-guard in the NBA. Before the peak, he was one of the NBA’s best role players on a title contender and winner. On top of that his style of play was joyous to watch and enjoy. These are the things that make Westphal an all-time great, even if his own brilliant time was brief.

For a greater look at how impactful Westphal could be, check out his demolition derby at the 1977 All-Star Game.

Years Played: 1972 – 1984

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns

 

Accolades

NBA -
Champion (1974)
3x All-NBA 1st Team (1977, 1979-’80)
All-NBA 2nd Team (1978)
5x All-Star (1977-’81)

Statistics

NBA Career (1972-73 through 1983-84)
Peak Career Production
(1975-76 through 1979-80)

Average and Advanced Stats

Stat Career Playoff Peak Peak Rank
Games 823 107 406 6th
PPG 15.6 12.5 22.5 9th
RPG 1.9 1.4 2.4 218th
APG 4.4 3.3 5.6 13th
SPG 1.34 0.93 1.75 19th
BPG 0.34 0.24 0.37 94th
TS% 0.558 0.525 0.572 17th
2PT% 0.508 0.488 0.521 25th
3PT% 0.275 0.207 0.280 13th
FT% 0.82 0.789 0.833 28th
PER 19.4 16.4 21.7 11th
WS/48 0.155 0.106 0.180 10th
Ortg 109 105 112
Drtg 101 104 101

Aggregate Stats

Stat Career Playoff Peak Peak Rank
Games 823 107 406 6th
Minutes 20947 2449 13347 12th
Points 12809 1337 9152 2nd
Rebounds 1580 153 959 148th
Assists 3591 353 2281 3rd
Steals 1022 89 712 6th
Blocks 262 23 151 83rd
2PTs 5024 547 3615 2nd
3PTs 55 6 26 15th
FTs 2596 225 1844 6th
WS 67.7 49.9 2nd

ProHoopsHistory HOF: Connie Hawkins

Connie Hawkins

Connie Hawkins endured one of the greatest wrongs ever set upon a basketball player. The NCAA, NBA, and New York City’s justice system ran Hawkins through the mud, sullied his reputation, and did their damnedest to ruin his basketball career in the early 1960s. It was all a part of a sanctimonious effort to purge Jack Molinas, fixed games, and gambling from basketball, but Hawkins was merely an innocent fish caught up in the drag net.

This fish was saved by Pittsburgh, though.

In 1961, Harlem Globetrotters owner Abe Sapperstein created the American Basketball League (ABL), and thus the Pittsburgh Rens were formed as a member of the new circuit. Hawkins would clearly be the dominant player in the ABL. In the 1961-62 season, Hawkins led the ABL in scoring with 27 points a game and was named MVP. The league, never on sound financial footing, folded midway through the 1962-63 campaign. Sapperstein, however, snagged Hawkins from the wreckage and signed him to a deal with the Globetrotters.

From 1963 to 1967, Hawkins toured the world with the Globetrotters displaying his legendary athleticism. However, the ‘Trotters were no longer a serious outfit. Hawkins plotted his re-entrance to the world of competitive basketball. Suing the NBA for $6 million and reinstatement, Connie would eventually settle the case in 1969 and became an NBA All-Star four times before retiring in 1976.

Fittingly, Hawkins played for the Phoenix Suns, but the Hawk’s true rise from the ashes occurred in the ABA.

Awaiting the results of his lawsuit, Hawkins left the Globetrotters in 1967 and became a member of the newly-formed ABA’s Pittsburgh Pipers. Just like his stint with ABL’s Pittsburgh squad, Hawkins was named league MVP and won the scoring title. This time however, he took his ball club all the way to the Finals and defeated the New Orleans Buccaneers in a thrilling 7-game series in which all games were decided by less than 9 points.

The next season (1968-69), the Pipers moved to Minnesota, but Hawkins’ knees began to show signs of strain that would ultimately undermine his career. Playing in only 47 games due to surgery, Hawkins’ Pipers backed into the playoffs but put forth a strong effort. The Miami Floridians, in the semi-finals, finally dispatched the Pipers in a high-scoring seventh game that ended 137 to 128.

The Hawk

Hawkins’ ABA days were over and he jumped ship to the NBA. Finally, after nearly a decade, the mainstream of basketball witnessed what had been unfairly denied. The Hawk razed the NBA with his swooping dunks, elongated turnaround jumpers, soaring rebounds, pin-point drop-off passes to cutters, and acrobatic layups. He ball-faked opponents by swinging the ball around like a grapefruit in his hands. Indeed, his massive hands were likely the most impressive thing about Hawkins. He could manipulate the ball however he pleased with his talon-like grip.

But this was an old bird in flight. Hawkins was already 27 when he joined the NBA and after years of playground ball on bad courts, doing Globetrotter stunts, and just the natural wear-and-tear that comes with age, the man was eroding. He truly enjoyed only three great NBA seasons before tailing off.

If this were solely an NBA Hall of Fame, Hawkins would struggle to make the cut. But the National Basketball Association did nearly all it could to deprive Hawkins, fans, and themselves of the talents Hawkins possessed. Fortunately, Connie was an undeniable man and found every which way he could to right wrongs.

And since this is not an NBA but a Professional Hoops Hall of Fame, the Hawks flies in easily all day, every day just like he did for the ABL, the Globetrotters, the ABA, and finally, the NBA.

Years Played: 1962 – 1976

Accolades

ABL -
MVP (1962)
All-ABL 1st Team (1962)
ABA -
Champion (1968)
MVP (1968)
Playoff MVP (1968)
2x All-ABA 1st Team (1968-’69)
All-Star (1968)
NBA -
All-NBA 1st Team (1970)
4x All-Star (1970-’73)

Statistics

ABL - 94 Games
27.2 PPG, 13.2 RPG
PPG Leader (1962)
ABA - 117 Games
23.7 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 3.6 APG, 51.5% FG, 76.5% FT
PPG Leader (1968)
NBA - 499 Games
17.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 46.7% FG, 78.5% FT

Contemporary ABA/NBA Ranks (1968 – 1976)
25th Points
10th FTs Made, 33rd FGs Made
23rd Rebounds, 35th RPG
22nd Assists, 29th APG
20th Blocks, 15th BPG
38th Games Played, 21st Minutes Played

ProHoopsHistory HOF: Jeff Hornacek

Jeff Hornacek

Jeff Hornacek stood 6’3″ tall, never weighed more than 200 pounds, and certainly didn’t dunk the ball much, if at all in his NBA career. Still, the man possessed athleticism you rarely find in the NBA, or any place.

Hornacek had an innate ability to release practically any conceivable shot from any given angle or spot. Of course, he’d also make a ridiculous amount of these shots. If caught 30-feet from the hoop with two defenders on his tail with just a second left, Hornacek seemed to have the opposition right where he wanted them. A shot would be flung up on the run, off the wrong leg, with two hands, and the sucker would go in… off glass for extra absurdity.

A fantastic dribbler, Hornacek would more often dispense this kind of trickeration in the lane. Few players have utilized double-pumping hesitation better than Jeff while attempting shots. Or he’d just leave you off-balance and then toss a wrap-around no-look pass to a trailing or cutting teammate. There’s a reason why as a shooting guard he averaged five assists per game over his career. In fact, it’s better to just think of him as guard. Whether he should shoot or pass would be dictated by the circumstances.

The assist tally becomes even more noteworthy, though, when you consider he played the vast majority of his career beside Kevin Johnson (in Phoenix) and John Stockton (in Utah). Both of those point guards routinely shattered the 10-assist per game barrier, but Hornacek still carved out a sizable chunk of play-making duties.

But back to the man’s shooting…

For his career, Hornacek averaged 49/40/87 from the field, three-point line, and free throw line. Starry eyes appear whenever someone approaches those numbers for a season. Only Steve Nash has replicated that kind of shooting for a career.

His shooting, his athleticism, his passing, (and also his quick hands that liked to nab steals), helped make his clubs perennial playoff teams and regular title contenders. With the Suns he wound up in two Western Conference Finals. With the Jazz, Hornacek played in four Western Conference Finals and twice advanced from that lofty position to the NBA Finals.

Although winning an NBA championship ultimately eluded Hornacek, does he really need a title when he clearly had such a great career? And, besides, NBA-champion Dickey Simpkins can’t  glowingly look back at a bevvy of brassy, ballsy shots that somehow went in like Hornacek can.

Seasons Played: 1987 – 2000

Accolades

NBA -
All-Star (1992)

Statistics

NBA - 1077 Games
14.5 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 49.6% FG, 40.3% 3PT, 87.7% FT
FT% Leader (2000)

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1987 – 2000)
17th Points
16th FGs Made, 32nd FG%
19th 3PTs Made, 5th 3PT%
25th FTs Made, 6th FT%
11th Assists, 26th APG
13th Steals, 31st SPG
4th Games Played, 9th Minutes Played

Pro Hoops History HOF: Tom Chambers

Tom Chambers

From the perspective of the Clippers’ franchise, Tom Chambers is The One that got away… well, he would be if there weren’t so many subsequent The Ones they let get away. But Chambers was the first and his own subsequent success would sting the California franchise… well if only they cared enough to feel the sting.

Anyways, Chambers was something special when he debuted with San Diego Clippers in 1981. He was eight overall pick in the previous draft and averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds his rookie season to more than justify the selection. His second pro season was nearly a mirror image, but the Clippers sent Tom off to Seattle after the year concluded in exchange for James Donaldson (who lasted one year with the Clips) and a bevvy of picks.

As the Clippers entered their state of “forever rebuilding”, Chambers became the first building block for the Sonics to earnestly reconstruct themselves.

Tom Chambers was clearly a great starting point. He could score the ball in a variety of flummoxing ways for opponents. Although 6’10”, he was never afraid to let loose with long range jumpers that sailed high into rainbow arcs and dropped softly into the net. By 1987, he’d push the range all the way out to the 3-point line and connected on 37% of those downtown shots. Just as annoying for opponents was Chambers’ ability to get to the basket.

In the halfcourt, Chambers had enough handles to work his way around larger opponents to strike at the basket from close range. On the break, he was a veritable freight train that loved to rise… and rise… and rise up for two-handed slams. On all of these drives, he had a penchant for leading with a highly raised right knee that’d create a buffer between himself and the defender. If you decided to  take a charge or block the shot, you’d pay the price.

After bottoming out in 1986 with 31 wins, the Sonics returned to the playoffs in 1987 behind Chambers, Dale Ellis, and Xavier McDaniel. Every member of the trio averaged over 20 points a game that season, and the next one. They blazed their way to the Western Conference Finals after upsetting Dallas and Houston. The Sonics, though, were a bit over their heads and the Los Angeles Lakers swept the upstart club in four games.

Earlier that 1987 season, Chambers achieved his lasting piece of immortality by winning the All-Star Game MVP in front of a home crowd in Seattle in what many consider the greatest All-Star Game ever played. The appearance wouldn’t Chambers’ last as an All-Star, but it’d be his only one as a Sonic. As a free agent following the 1987-88 season, Tom signed with the Phoenix Suns.

With high-octane offense concocted by Cotton Fitzsimmons, Chambers reached his apex as a player with 25.7 PPG in 1989 and 27.2 PPG in 1990. The Suns reached the Western Conference Finals twice behind the dynamic trio of Chambers, Kevin Johnson, and Jeff Hornacek. However, these two appearances resulted in defeat, and in the 1991 season the 31-year old Chambers began to show signs of wearing down.

Chambers’ average fell to 19.9 and then 16.3 PPG in 1991 and 1992, respectively. The Suns continued to have on-court success, but it was less pronounced. So, prior to the 1992-93 season, Charles Barkley was traded for. Sir Charles’ MVP season pushed Chambers to the bench. Chambers rode out that year and the next one, in Utah, as a sixth man and effectively left the NBA after the 1995 season.

The Los Angeles Clippers finished the 1994-95 season with a 17-65 record. Appropriate since that’s the exact same record the San Diego Clippers achieved way back in 1981-82 with Chambers as a rookie. The Clippers had continued their usual ways, but Chambers had risen to stardom, played in five conference finals, the NBA finals, and won an All-Star MVP.

I somehow imagine he has no regrets on the way his career went.

Years Played: 1982 – 1997

Accolades

NBA -
2x All-NBA 2nd Team (1989-’90)
4x All-Star (1987, 1989-’91)
All-Star Game MVP (1987)

Statistics

NBA - 1107 Games
18.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 46.8% FG, 80.7% FT

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1982 – 1995)
4th Points, 28th PPG
6th FTs Made, 6th FGs Made,
22nd Rebounds, 29th Blocks
3rd Games Played, 5th Minutes Played

Pro Hoops History HOF: Kevin Johnson

(NBA Images)
(NBA Images)

Playing for the Phoenix Suns, Kevin Johnson’s career was appropriately explosive, fiery, and combustible. Acquired by the Arizona club via a trade midway through the 1987-88 season for Larry Nance, Johnson reinvigorated the moribund Suns. They finished the 1988 season 28-54. The next season the Suns rose to 55 wins and advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals.

To be sure KJ wasn’t the only reason for this remarkable turn around. Tom Chambers and Eddie Johnson provided veteran mettle while Dan Majerle, Armen Gilliam, and Jeff Hornacek gave stellar doses of talent and potential. KJ was the engine though of this powerful machine. That season he became just the fifth player to average over 20 points and 10 assists in the same season. It’s a plateau he’d stay above over the next two seasons and flirt with for the rest of his career. Indeed, from 1989 to 1997, Johnson averaged 19.8 PPG and 10.0 APG.

This duality of scoring and passing made Johnson beloved by his teammates, but a terror for defenders. His explosive first step would leave any hopeful defenseman in ruins. Actually, it could leave an entire defense in ruins by the time KJ was finished. The lightning step was but the beginning. He could let defenses off the hook with a pull-up jumper, but the worst terror awaited any center by the basket. Johnson was fearless and possessed extraodinary leaping ability. Combined with his speed this made a posterized fool out of many big men who did their duty to the protect rim.

The Johnson Suns were a perennial Western force. After the initial WCF run in 1989, they repeated the effort in 1990. A first round exit in 1991 to the 54-win Jazz followed and in 1992 the Suns bowed out in the semi-finals. Their win tallies for these seasons were 55, 54, 55, and 53.  These KJ-led Phoenix squads are largely forgotten because prior to the 1992-93 season Phoenix dealt for Charles Barkley. The 1993 squad made the finals and thus obscured the prior success of the late 80s and early 90s clubs without Barkley.

Further shadowing those moments was Kevin Johnson’s string of hobbling injuries. His hamstrings proved most troublesome but ankle and knee woes also cropped up. So, just as the Suns as a team were thir most successful, Johnson was beginning to lose his own personal effectiveness. Despite his growing troubles staying on the court, Johnson was still a force. In the 1994 playoffs he had back-to-back games of 38 points and 12 assists. In 1995 he uncorked a Herculean 46-point, 10-assist effort in a losing Game 7 to the Houston Rockets.

Those leg injuries took their toll, however, and Johnson ultimately retired after the 1998 season.

(KJ did play 15 games in the 1999-2000 season in a brief comeback, but let’s ignore that.)

Although his career didn’t last particularly long, Kevin Johnson was particularly amazing. His lightning fire attack produced four appearances on the All-NBA 2nd Team and left him 6th all-time in assists per game. Unfortunately, the second half of his career was marred by injuries, so there can be a bit of misapprehension concerning Johnson’s true greatness. Let thy mind go to ease, though. When KJ was healthy and on the court, he was a simply one of the best.

Years Played: 1988 – 1998

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns

Accolades

NBA -
4x All-NBA 2nd Team (1989-’91, 1994)
All-NBA 3rd Team (1992)
Most Improved Player (1989)
3x All-Star (1990-’91, 1994)

Statistics

NBA Career: 1987-88 through 1997-98
Peak Career Production:
1988-89 through 1996-97

Average and Advanced Stats

Stat Career Playoff Peak Peak Rank
Games 735 105 599
PPG 17.9 19.3 19.8
RPG 3.3 3.3 3.4
APG 9.1 8.9 10
SPG 1.47 1.26 1.59
BPG 0.24 0.29 0.24
TS% 0.585 0.557 0.59
2PT% 0.504 0.483 0.508
3PT% 0.305 0.244 0.317
FT% 0.841 0.833 0.839
PER 20.7 19.1 21.5
WS/48 0.178 0.117 0.187
Ortg 118 113 119
Drtg 109 113 109

Aggregate Stats

Stat Career Playoff Peak Peak Rank
Games 735 105 599
Minutes 25061 3879 21741
Points 13127 2026 11879
Rebounds 2404 349 2033
Assists 6711 935 6005
Steals 1082 132 950
Blocks 176 30 144
2PTs 4352 683 3916
3PTs 160 22 150
FTs 3943 594 3597
WS 92.8 9.4 84.8