*a 5 minute read*
*Two writers collaborated on this piece, @kdaw31 & @michaeloka*
As we have had time to reminisce and wonder what life would be like without the NBA, we decided to dedicate this article to the streets. And no, we will not be discussing the game NBA Street (although it was amazing to play on PS2). This article will be focused on showing some love and paying homage to a few NBA players that deserve to be recognized for their contributions to the game. These names may be familiar to you and cause an “Oh yeah that guy!” moment or be a surprise feature. Nevertheless, we have chosen three players who have affected the game, in more ways than one. Here we go.
Enter David Lee. A name that should be familiar to some NBA fans but might be one you just can’t remember. Let’s refresh your memory.
Drafted in 2005 by the New York Knicks (apologies for that David), Lee grew into a valuable player to have on any NBA roster, during his 12 year run in the NBA. Playing at the power forward position, David Lee was in the pool of players changing the traditional ways of big men. Stepping away from the basket to shoot jumpers, and being required to do more offensively is just some of the few things we were seeing from the new era of “bigs” in the league. Lee, regardless of the team he was on, proved to be a dependable member across his playing career.
A certified double-double machine, Lee earned his respect across the NBA and was part of the Golden State Warriors team that won the championship in 2015. Trusted to bring the ball up the court and make plays from the post, David was an effective role player for this championship team. You need rebounds? He’s there. You want an efficient point production right beside it? David Lee fits the criteria. Watch him torch the Miami Heat in 2014 with 32 points and 14 rebounds in this clip below.
You see that? The appropriate word you can describe for David Lee is “savy”. His impact on the game was effective but he did it ever so gracefully. Lee didn’t need to dunk on your favorite center or yell at an official to get his game going (yes, we are looking at you, Draymond Green). Lee was more of a silent warrior, he did his damage quietly and almost unseen but after the game, you felt what he did to your team. These type of players who fly under the radar are always a problem for other teams. Take the 2012-13 season for example, where David averaged 18.5 points per game and 11.2 rebounds per game and led the league in double-doubles with 56. Talk about Mr. Reliable. Did you know Lee was this good? Why wasn’t he noticed more?
A two-time all-star, Lee’s name just isn’t mentioned enough when talking about the Golden State Warriors. Unfortunately, injuries held him down for the majority of his career. When he was healthy, he was an immediate threat but as he grew older, the injuries stopped any sort of positive production from him. He retired in 2017 after bouncing around the league and never regaining his glory days of the league. But it has to be said that David Lee will be remembered for what he offered to the game. Well, at least to some of us. We move.
A special talent that was never truly installed into a winning situation, Deron Williams is a lost name when discussions of the top tier point guards are mentioned. Nevertheless, Deron during his playing years was a beast on the court who gave opposing point guards headaches when guarding him.
Williams was drafted 3rd overall by the Utah Jazz in the 2005 NBA draft. He played in Utah for 5 and a half seasons and averaged a total of 17.2 points, 9.2 asissts and 3.2 rebounds across that span. Williams, who was a combo guard, was best known for his killer crossover. At Utah, he was a phenomenal player being a key contributor in their playoff runs.
Since drafting Williams in 2005, Utah had improved its record each season under the leadership of Williams. In a tough western conference, he led Utah to the playoffs for three straight years. During their playoff runs, Utah unfortunately never made it past the conference semifinals which resulted in Williams being traded to the New Jersey Nets during the 2010-11 NBA season.
In his early days, Williams was often compared to Chris Paul (shows you how good he really was) and people would often have discussions about who the better point guard was. Statistic wise, Chris Paul had the upper hand but Williams would prove to be better each time that they matched up. Watch him light up the Bobcats for 57 points in this clip below.
You could tell the Nets needed every single one of Deron’s 57 points in that game. But you can see his talent on full display and how exciting he was to watch.
In New Jersey, where they would later become the Brooklyn Nets, Williams averaged 17.4 points, 7.9 assists and 3.3 rebounds during his time there. In his later years, Deron had improved tremendously as a player, but none of that success contributed to the playoffs. During his first couple of seasons in Brooklyn, they struggled heavily, failing to make the playoffs for two years in a row. It wasn’t until the 2012-13 season that the Nets finally made the playoffs (The name change helped them). Ultimately, this run would end rather quickly as they ended up losing to the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. Deron couldn’t catch a break and his performances started to decline through the years with injuries and constant roster changes.
Williams did not make the finals until his father time years, where he had a quick run-in with Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016-17 season. The Cavaliers played a much more skilled and talented Golden State Warriors team and ended up losing in the finals. That was Williams’s last chance to try a salvage a ring in his latter years in the league. Soon after, Williams dropped out of the league and ended up retiring after the 2016-17 season. Sadly, his career never amounted to greater heights and his talent was never utilized to its full potential. But Williams in his prime was a sight to see for the NBA, a player that deserved to be on a championship team and compete with the best of the best.
Roy Hibbert may be the saddest story on this list. He vanished from the league without a trace but once upon a time, he was a pretty productive big man in the NBA.
Hibbert, a center who is most memorable for his time on the Indiana Pacers, was an absolute beast on the defensive end. He was selected at number 17 in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors but was then traded to the Indiana Pacers. Standing at 7’2 and weighing 268 pounds, Hibbert was a very difficult player to score over in the paint.
Indiana at this time was already stacked with elite defensive players, such as Paul George and George Hill, but Hibbert was the defensive anchor that Indiana needed to dominate in the east. Hibbert would go on to average 10.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks during his first three seasons in Indiana. In the 2011-2012 season, he would increase his numbers averaging 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2 blocks a game. That season he’d finish 5th in blocks per game and 4th in total blocks. Talk about an impact player. The true definition of a defensive anchor.
During that season, Indiana was ranked the 9th best defensive team in the league, in large part due to Hibbert’s efforts on the defensive end. Hibbert was selected to his first all-star game in the 2011-12 season and helped Indiana secure the third seed in the east. In the playoffs of that season, Hibbert and the Pacers ended up losing to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
In the 2012-13 season, Indiana improved defensively and became the number one ranked defensive team in the east. During the 2012-13 season, the Indiana Pacers would advance farther in the playoffs and would make the Eastern Conference finals but would run into the big three of Miami once again where they would lose in game 7. Although the Pacers lost to Miami twice in playoffs in back to back years, they were the only team that had a chance to stop Miami from making the finals because of their defensive presence. Take a look at him working Miami in game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Semi Finals.
In the 2013-14 season, Hibbert would make his second all-star appearance but then failed to show up in the playoffs, scoring zero points and grabbing zero rebounds in game five of the first round in the NBA playoffs. 0 points and rebounds? From an all star center? Alarm bells should have gone off here. A bad game happens from time to time but 0 points is unacceptable from a star player. Especially in the playoffs. The Pacers would go on to lose to the Miami Heat again in the conference finals and this resulted in Hibbert being traded the next season to the Los Angeles Lakers.
With the talent the Pacers had, they could have won a championship. It was difficult with the big three in Miami dominating the conference, but the potential for Indiana was there. After failing to take down Miami in the conference finals, Hibbert’s career plummeted. Things went south rather quickly, as Hibbert was traded to the Lakers. At this time, the Lakers were declining and a couple years later, Hibbert was out of the NBA and never heard of again. Maybe the fastest decline from being an all-star to being out of the league. Hibbert’s game never adapted to the way the NBA was progressing with the modern day big man. A shame indeed, but this goes to show if you don’t work hard in the NBA, you will be left in the dust and easily forgotten.
Do You Remember?
The NBA game has had many rise and fall players throughout the years. With an abundant of players coming in and out of the league, it is easy to forget underground stars that once had an impact on the game. The three mentioned above all had their time to shine but some were more successful than others. Some even caused their own downfall (Hibbert, you could have done better). But the streets will always remember them for their contributions to the league. Thanks for reading, share with a NBA fan and answer the question below.