Nine Guys We Wish Were Still Playing in the NBA

rik smits

As the 2010-11 NBA season kicks off, we can all look forward to the annual mid-winter snooze fest that is the league’s comically long 82-game schedule. To make matters worse, barring the occasional dunk or crowd diving incident, most games don’t even get sort of interesting until the fourth quarter. That’s a lot of pointless action to expect fans to sit through.

Not even King James taking his talents to South Beach or another unfortunate Greg Oden cock shot is enough to grab our attention until at least the conference finals.

But it wasn’t always that way. There was a time when the NBA was jam packed with personalities big enough to make even the most lifeless of games worth tuning into. Here are nine guys who we wish were still around to make the NBA regular season interesting.

Anthony Mason

Anthony Mason

What position did this guy even play? Did it matter? If we were writing the Knicks game program back in the day, we would have listed him as the starting badass. He was considered small for his position, which is remarkable considering he was 6 feet 7 inches tall. But what he lacked in size, he made up for in (as awesomely stated on his Wikipedia page) musculature. We’re talking about a guy who got into a fight with Charles Oakley once and lived to see another day. Have you fucking seen Charles Oakley?

Charles Oakley

He will end you.
There were stretches of Mason’s career when he was a brute force inside. There were also games when he couldn’t do anything right. But the serious point to be made here is that he always looked insane. And his hair had indecipherable words shaved into it. Extra style points abound there.

Dennis Rodman

dennis rodman

Dennis Rodman was always a touchy subject for basketball purists. On the one hand, his on court antics bordered on distracting even when he wasn’t rocking graffiti in his bleach blond hair. Remember when he kicked that camera man in the nuts? Yeah, we do too. And it was freaking awesome, except for the camera man, obviously. Off the court, he was (and still is) a total basket case.

But damn if he wasn’t the greatest rebounder the game has ever seen. Sure, he averaged about three points per game and celebrated like goddamn Martin Gramatica every time he made a simple layup. But the Bulls couldn’t have won all of those titles without him.

Also, Rodman played briefly in San Antonio, where he managed to develop a feud with David Robinson, one of the all-time nice guys in professional sports. Team chemistry is seriously overrated.

John Starks

john starks

With the emotional capacity of a 3-year-old and an inconsistent outside jumper, Starks brought the fireworks every night. If you lived in New York you loved him and if you lived anywhere else you wanted your team’s best player to trip his ass every time down the court. Oh, did we mention he was bagging groceries before getting a shot in the league?

Plus, it was ridiculously easy to get in the guy’s head. Starks even head butted Reggie Miller in the playoffs back in the ‘90s. We need more of this. Good thing the NBA has cracked down on technical fouls.

Kevin Willis

kevin willis

He played for an ungodly amount of years–21 to be exact. And that’s exactly 21 more years than we could have consistently looked mean and grabbed a ridiculous amount of offensive rebounds.

Willis was 44-years-old when he retired. 44! We’d be happy to still be able to take shits at that age. But he’s not on this list for longevity. We liked his style of play during the glory years, and the NBA needs more enforcers in the paint who don’t take crap from anyone.

Chris Mullin

chris mullin

The ultimate throwback with the sweet lefty jump shot. Plus, he’s unquestionably the best player to ever appear on the Chris Rock Show:

There’s no reasonable explanation for why Mullin was great, but he was somehow able to overcome whiteness, no foot speed and a terrible vertical leap to average 25 points a game.

Who needs perimeter defense anyway? That’s what Starks is here for.

Rik Smits

rik smits

The long-time Pacers center was really oafish yet surprisingly effective on the interior. And with a nickname like “The Flying Dutchman,” how could you not be entertained as he skied above the rim for a patented one-handed jam? Clear the airways for Rik!

There’s also never been a man who appeared to be in as much pain while playing basketball. Every time Smits drove to the hoop and got fouled it looked like he was on the verge of crying and/or having a complete mental breakdown.

Mark Price

mark price

He never missed an open shot, wore really short shorts and was the heart and soul of Cleveland before LeBron showed up years later. He also sported a little boy’s haircut with a ridiculous side part and was one of the most fundamentally sound players in the game.

Price was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and though we’ve never had the pleasure of visiting, he just looks like somebody you’d expect to grow up in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Of course, we say that with the utmost respect for all of our loyal TSJ readers in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. You guys are the best, seriously.

Clyde Drexler

clyde drexler

What few people realize about The Glide’s career is that he couldn’t dribble or shoot, and managed to become a Hall of Famer simply by jumping over people. How many times did Drexler almost lose the ball and then suddenly jump up and dunk from the free-throw line?

He sported a sweet stache back in his heyday and once challenged MJ in the Finals. That worked out pretty well. What’s that you say? Clyde won a title with the Rockets? Yeah, but Mr. Jordan still owned him.

Craig Ehlo

craig ehlo

You may be asking yourself how Mr. Ehlo could make anything more entertaining, aside from traveling back in time and actually being kicked in the head by Jordan during “The Shot”, of course.

Here’s the answer: the guy’s defense was so bad that it made anything possible. Even bench players owned this guy. Rarely has ineptitude ever been so entertaining.