As sports fans, we tend to take the games very seriously, investing a great deal of emotional in the wins and losses of our favorite players and teams. Occasionally, it’s nice to step away from the action and look at how silly these games really are. For decades, comedians have used athletic competition as fodder for their stand-up acts. Here’s my list of the Ten Funniest Sports Comedy Routines.
10) “Sports” – George Carlin
9) “The Silver Medal” – Jerry Seinfeld
8) “The Chair Umpire” – Joe Matarese
7) “Boxing” – Richard Pryor
6) “Golf Courses” – George Carlin
5) “Slavery and Sports” – Chris Rock
4) “Football” – Bob Nelson
3) “The Invention of Golf” – Robin Williams
2) “Baseball and Football” – George Carlin
1) “Who’s on First” – Abbott and Costello
“Golfers” – Lewis Black
“Sports” – Cedric the Entertainer
The Peyton Manning saga has finally come to an end (at least until it’s time to see whether he can actually still throw the ball) and the Colts legend will conclude his career as a Denver Bronco. If you find it difficult to picture Manning in a Broncos jersey, you’re not alone. Manning’s the latest in a long line of superstars who became so identified with the team and city they played for, only to conclude their careers in a foreign jersey.
This is a list of the 15 ballplayers who looked most out of place in new uniforms at the end of their careers.
Top 15 Strangest Looking Uniforms
15. Karl Malone – Los Angeles Lakers
The rest of the country was barely aware that there was a professional basketball team in Utah until Karl Malone and John Stockton arrived in the mid ‘80s. Malone scored more points than any player other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, while building the Jazz into a perennial playoff contender. However, in ‘03, he signed with the Lakers in hopes of winning the championship that had eluded him throughout his career. Unfortunaetly, he fell just short once again as the Lakers lost to the Pistons in the NBA Finals.
14. Duke Snider – New York Mets and San Francisco Giants
The Duke was a mainstay in centerfield for the Dodgers for 16 seasons, powering the team to two championships (One in Brooklyn and one in L.A.) During the 1962 season, the Dodgers sold him to the Mets, where he was instantly a crowd favorite from his days in Brooklyn. After one season in New York, though, he asked to be traded to a contender and was sold to the Giants. Years earlier, his teammate Jackie Robinson retired rather than play for the Dodgers’ arch rival, but Snider accepted the move and concluded his career with one unproductive season in San Francisco.
13. Franco Harris – Seattle Seahawks
Harris was an important component of all four of the Steelers’ championship teams in the 1970s, and in ‘72 he won a playoff game in stunning fashion with his “Immaculate Recpetion.” The Steelers cut the popular veteran before the ‘84 season after he threatened to hold out for more money. He signed with the Seahawks and ran for a few hundred yards in his lone season with the team.
12. Hank Aaron – Milwaukee Brewers
“Hammerin Hank” smacked home runs for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves organization for 20 years. In 1974, just months after he broke Babe Ruth’s record, the team traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers so he could prolong his career in the American League as a designated hitter. His numbers significantly declined over his two seasons with the Brewers, though he was selected to his 21st All-Star Game in 1975.
11. Emmitt Smith – Arizona Cardinals
Smith ran for more yards than any running back in NFL history during his 12 years with America’s team and was arguably the Most Valuable Player on their Super Bowl teams of the mid ‘90s. After his record-breaking 2002 season, the Cowboys hired Bill Parcells to rejuvenate the floundering franchise and he promptly cut Smith, who then signed with the Cardinals where he languished behind a weak offensive line for two seasons.
10. Patrick Ewing – Seattle Supersonics and Orlando Magic
Ewing was the centerpiece of the New York Knicks franchise from the moment they selected him with the first pick in the 1985 draft. He led them to two NBA Finals, but by 2000 the Knicks had transitioned into an up-tempo team, ill-suited for his aging knees. Unwilling to meet his demands for a contract extension, the Knicks traded Ewing to the Seattle Supersonics where he played for one season before riding the bench for the Orlando Magic the following year.
9. Ray Bourque – Colorado Avalanche
The all-time leading scorer for NHL defensemen suited up for the Boston Bruins for 21 seasons. In 2000, the team was in rebuilding mode and Bourque asked to be traded to a contender. Management honored their captain’s request and shipped him to Colorado, where he capped off his career by winning the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in his final season. He brought the cup to Boston to celebrate at a rally with Bruin fans.
8. Joe Montana – Kansas City Chiefs
“Joe Cool” quarterbacked the 49ers to four Super Bowl victories while earning a reputation as one of the greatest clutch performer in football history. After he missing the entire ‘91 season and most of ‘92 with an elbow injury, the team decided to go with the younger Steve Young at quarterback and traded Montana to Kansas City. At 37 years of age, he still had something left in the tank and he led the Chiefs to the AFC championship game in January 1994.
7. Bobby Orr – Chicago Blackhawks
During his 10 years with the Boston Bruins, Orr won three MVP awards and scored the winning goal in the Stanley Cup Finals in ‘70 and ‘72. Then, in ‘76, he turned down a lucrative offer from the team, which included part ownership, to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks. Crippled by knee injuries, he played in only 26 games in three seasons with the Blackhawks and famously never cashed a check from the team, because he felt he hadn’t performed up to expectations.
6. Willie Mays – New York Mets
The “Say Hey Kid” roamed centerfield for the New York/San Francisco Giants from 1951-72. Widely considered the best all-around player in the game, he led the team to victory in the 1954 World Series. At 41 years of age, Mays was washed up when the Giants sold him to the Mets in 1972. The hearts of baseball fans sank to the floor when he misplayed two fly balls in the World Series during his final season in 1973.
5. Brett Favre – New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings
Favre wasn’t just Mr. Green Bay, he was the face of the league during his tenure with the Packers. The Mississippi gunslinger created countless indelible images in that green #4 jersey and though he began his career with the Falcons, after 16 seasons with Green Bay it seemed inconceivable that he could ever play for another team. But as Favre contemplated retirement in 2008, the Packers committed to Aaron Rodgers and shipped Favre to the Jets. He suited up for New York for one season before closing out his Hall of Fame career with the Packer’s rival Minnesota Vikings.
4. Johnny Unitas – San Diego Chargers
Unitas was the field general of the great Baltimore Colts teams of the late 1950s and one of the individuals responsible for the surge in popularity experienced by professional football in the United States. From 1956-72, he led the team to two championships and won three MVP awards. By 1973, his body had broken down and the Colts traded him to the San Diego, where he played five games for the Chargers before retiring after the ‘73 season.
4. Joe Namath – Los Angeles Rams
No athlete was more associated with the spotlight of New York than “Broadway” Joe. He was the Jets’ quarterback from 1965-76 and led the team to a legendary upset over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. By the mid ‘70s, knee and hamstring injuries had sapped him of his mobility, and in May ’76, the Jets waived him so he could sign with the Los Angeles Rams. Broadway Joe just didn’t look right in a blue and yellow jersey, playing in only three games for the Rams before calling it a career.
3. Babe Ruth – Boston Braves
Though he began his career in Boston, the Babe was so synonymous with Yankee baseball that Yankee Stadium became known as “The House That Ruth Built.” In the twilight of his career he desired that he wanted to manage, but the Yankees had no intentions of replacing skipper Joe McCarthy, so they sold Ruth to the Boston Braves in 1935. Overweight and broken down, the Great Bambino played less than two months for the Braves before walking away from the game.
1. Michael Jordan – Washington Wizards
When we envision M.J. soaring through the air with his tongue wagging or knocking down a game-winning shot, he’s wearing a red Chicago Bulls jersey. However, three years after retiring from the Bulls, discontent as co-owner of the Wizards, Jordan came out of retirement at the age of 38 to play for his new team. Though he still performed at an All-Star level, the air was out of his game, and the Wizards failed to make the playoffs both seasons he took the floor.
by Paul Knepper
Suspend reality with me for a moment and imagine that you are the owner of a new NFL franchise. You can pick any quarterback to head your team. Who would you choose?
Naturally, your first thought is Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but this isn’t a one year deal. You’re building a team and must consider both the short and long term interests of your franchise. Age and durability are important factors. You may also want to consider off-the-field issues for the face of your franchise.
Here’s my list of the top 20 quarterbacks to start a team with.
20) Kevin Kolb
Kolb has finally landed a starting gig in his fifth year in the league. During limited playing time with the Eagles he showed signs of greatness and at other times appeared lost. The Cardinals obviously think he’s the answer to their quarterback problem, trading Dominique Rodgers-Cromarte and a second round pick for him, then signing him to a five-year $63 million contract.
19) Matt Schaub
Michael Vick’s one-time backup in Atlanta has found a home in Texas, where he’s led one of the most productive offenses in the league the past few years. Of course, throwing to Andre Johnson always helps. Schaub’s not a franchise quarterback, but he’s probably in the top ten to fifteen QBs in the league and should remain so for the next five years.
18) Andrew Luck
The “suck for Luck” sweepstakes are in full swing and the Seahawks are the early favorite. He’s the consensus number one pick in the 2012 draft and the most highly touted pro quarterback prospect in years. His experience in a pro-style offense at Stanford should help him hit the ground running in the NFL.
17) Jay Cutler
For years we waited for this gunslinger to take his game to the next level. It’s not happening. At 28, in his sixth season in the league, the Bears know what they have in Jay Cutler, a good quarterback, with a great arm who still makes poor decisions and demonstrates questionable leadership ability. I’m not sure if I want to rest my Super Bowl hopes on that right arm.
16) Mark Sanchez
The verdict is still out on the Jets third-year signal caller. His completion percentage is cause for concern and he needs to continue to cut down on his mistakes over the middle. Still just 24, there’s room for improvement and it’s noteworthy that he’s played his best football in pressure-packed games, leading the Jets to the AFC Championship in consecutive seasons.
15) Tony Romo
Quarterback of “America’s team” is the most scrutinized position in sports and Romo’s schizophrenic play hasn’t helped matters. Take week one against the Jets for example. He was great for three quarters, then handed the Jets the game with two inexplicable turnovers. The most significant statistic attached to Romo is that the Cowboys have only won one playoff game during his tenure.
14) Eli Manning
Once you get past all the hype that comes with his last name, playing QB in the New York market and his recent statements, Eli is simply a good quarterback, nothing more. He’s in his prime right now and still led the league in interceptions last year. I can hear Giants fans screaming, “But he won a Super Bowl!” Yes, and so did Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson; their busts aren’t lining the walls of Canton any time soon.
13) Joe Flacco
The Ravens signal caller continues to improve in this his fourth season and the team has rewarded him with greater responsibility and a more dynamic group of receivers. He hasn’t missed a game in his career and should continue to be a dependable, if not spectacular player for the next eight to ten years.
12) Cam Newton
It’s way to early to jump to any grand conclusions, but 854 yards passing in his first two games, one of which was against the defending champion Packers, is unbelievable. Last year’s Heisman winner is also capable of rushing for 100 yards on any given Sunday. I’ll take his upside over more established QBs like Eli Manning and Cutler.
11) Michael Vick
It took many seasons, a stint in the big house and some tutoring from Andy Reid and Marty Mornhenwig for Vick to become the quarterback the Falcons envisioned when they selected him with the first pick in the 2001 draft. The Eagles QB played MVP-caliber football during the first half of the season last year, though he’s had trouble staying healthy and his legs will be less of a weapon as he ages.
10) Peyton Manning
A mysterious neck injury may sideline the Colts franchise player for the entire season, meaning he may be 36-years-old the next time he lines up behind center. It’s fair to wonder if he’ll be able to compete at the same level and if so, for how long. Given his condition, I’d take 10-12 years of some of the young guns over two or three possibly diminished years from Peyton.
9) Matthew Stafford
Stafford can really sling it. The third-year quarterback tossed seven touchdowns in the Lions first two games this season. The only question about this former Georgia Bulldog is his durability. His first two seasons in the league were cut short by injuries, including one to his throwing shoulder last year.
8) Josh Freeman
He doesn’t receive a great deal of press playing in Tampa, though to this point he’s been the most impressive quarterback from the 2009 draft, which included Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez. Freeman took great strides last year, playing with the savvy of a seasoned veteran on a much-improved Bucs team.
7) Phillip Rivers
The Chargers brought back memories of the “Air Coryell” days last season, with Rivers throwing for a league-high 4,710 yards. And that was without the services of stud wide receiver Vincent Jackson for most of the season. Rivers and the Chargers lack of success in the playoffs prevent him from being ranked higher on this list.
6) Sam Bradford
This Heisman trophy winner and first pick in the 2010 draft has lived up to his billing so far, passing for over 3,ooo yards in his rookie season without the benefit of a number one receiver. He’s fully recovered from the shoulder injury that ended his junior year at Oklahoma and at the age of 23 has plenty of room for growth.
5) Matt Ryan
“Matty Ice” made Falcons fans forget about Michael Vick pretty quickly. The fourth year signal caller really came into his own last season, significantly improving his touchdown to interception ratio (28/9), while leading the Falcons to the number one seed in the NFC.
4) Drew Brees
The Siants QB had an off-year last season and still led the league in completion percentage. He has a Super Bowl MVP on his resume and is rightfully mentioned among the best quaretbacks in the game. At 32, he should have a few elite years left, but you may want to consider a younger option like one of the Matts (Ryan or Stafford).
3) Ben Roethlisberger
His off the field issues are well documented and there have been rumblings that he’snot the best teammate, but Big Ben has led the Steelers to three Super Bowls, winning two of them. He doesn’t have the accuracy of Manning or Brady, but he has a knack for making plays when his team needs them most. At 29 years of age, he should have several more top notch seasons in him.
2) Tom Brady
Brady brings a championship pedigree and had perhaps his finest season last year, throwing 36 touchdowns, compared to just 4 interceptions. If you were choosing a QB for one season this former Michigan Wolverine would be your guy, but at age 34 he realistically only has two to three elite seasons left. Still, I like my chances of winning a Super Bowl in that short time period.
1) Aaron Rodgers
With his MVP performance in Super Bowl XLV Rodgers secured his place among the elite quarterbacks in the league and at just 27, he’s the youngest of the bunch. He’s the complete package on and off the field. If you were starting a franchise he’d be the number one pick.
Colt McCoy, Christian Ponder, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker
by Paul Knepper
Whether it’s having a catch in the backyard or watching a football game together, fathers and sons have bonded over sports for generations. Many professional athletes still call their fathers after a big game and look to them for guidance and approval. Those athletes pass on the love of sports to their own sons. Occasionally, a ballplayer is fortunate enough to have his father or son present or even involved with the greatest moments of his career and those occasions often make for some of the most touching and memorable moments in sports.
These are the ten most memorable father-son moments in sports.
10) Robinson Cano’s father pitching to him at the Home Run Derby
The Yankees second baseman flew his father Jose in from the Dominican Republic to pitch to him in the Home Run Derby last month. Jose, who pitched six games for the Astros in 1989, clearly knew his son’s sweet spot. Robinson jacked 12 bombs in the final round, a derby record, to beat Red Sox first baseman Adrain Gonzalez and win the competition. The younger Cano was beaming as he and his father shared a victory embrace.
9) William Ligue Jr. and his son attacking Tom Gamboa
Not all memorable father-son moments are uplifting. In September 2002, William Ligue Jr. and his teenage son ran onto the field at Chicago’s Comiskey Park and attacked Kansas City Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa for no apparent reason. Fortunately, Gamboa didn’t receive any major injuries.
8) Mark McGwire lifting his son after breaking the home run record
Ten-year old Mark McGwire was a part-time bat boy for the St. Louis Cardinals in the summer of 1998 when his father Mark was chasing Roger Maris’ home run record. When Big Mac hit number 62 off of Steve Traschel of the Cubs on September 8th at the old Busch Stadium, Matt was the first person to greet him at home plate. Mark hoisted his jubilant son over his head like a baby.
7) Dusty Baker watching his son almost get run over at home
Giants Manager Dusty Baker made his 3 1/2 year old son Darren a bat boy for the 2002 World Series. When Kenny Lofton tripled in the gap in the seventh inning of Game 5 with two men on, Darren went to retrieve the bat and almost got run over at the plate by J.T. Snow, who was scoring from second. Snow grabbed Darren by his jacket and carried him to safety as an embarrassed Dusty shook his lowered head in the dugout.
6) Pat Cash climbing into the stands after winning Wimbledon
In what has since become a tradition at the All England Club, Australian Pat Cash was so elated after knocking off Ivan Lendl in the 1987 Wimbledon final that he felt compelled to climb into the crowd to get to his family. By the time he reached his family’s box the entire crowd was caught up in his exuberance. Cash’s proud father was the first to greet him and gave his son a big hug.
5) The Griffeys hitting back-to-back home runs
When Ken Griffey Jr. broke into the big leagues with the Mariners in 1989, he and his father Ken Sr. became the first father-son combo to play in the Major Leagues at the same time. The two became teammates when the Mariners signed Senior in August 1990, and the highlight of the their tenure together came on September 14th when the duo became the first and only father-son combo to hit back-to-back home runs.
4) Drew Brees holding his son after winning the Super Bowl
Drew Brees capped off an M.V.P. season with a Super Bowl M.V.P. when his Saints beat the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. During the post-game festivities Brees’ wife handed the QB his one year-old son Baylen, who looked adorable in his super-sized headphones. Cameras caught the wonderful scene of Brees holding his son as he soaked up the moment.
3) Favre’s fantastic performance the day after his father died
Brett Favre was heart broken when his father Irv died suddenly of a heart attack in December 2003, but #4 still suited up for the Packers Monday night matchup with the Raiders the following night. He said his father would have wanted him to play. Favre channeled his emotion into one of the most spectacular performances of his career throwing for 311 yards and four touchdowns in the first half in a Packers 41-7 romp.
2) Jim Craig looking for his father after winning gold
When the U.S. Olympic hockey team finished off their miraculous run at the 1980 games by defeating Finland for the Gold medal, the players jumped over the bench and embraced on the ice. Goalie Jim Craig stood alone looking off into the distance with an American flag draped around him. It’s become the enduring image from the most celebrated victory in American sports history. Nobody knew at the time that Craig was scanning the crowd for his father.
1) Derek Redmond finishing the race with his father’s help
When British sprinter Derek Redmond’s hamstring snapped with about 250 meters to go is 400 meter race at the 1992 Olympics in Bareclona, he refused to be carried off on a stretcher. Redmond continued the race, hopping on one leg, with a look of sheer agony on his face. His father Jim barged through security and ran onto the track to assist his son. Derek crossed the finish line with his arm around his father’s shoulders.
Manny Ramirez calling his dad with the Red Sox leading during Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS (which the Red Sox went on to lose) to talk about going to World Series.
Antonio Cromartie trying to name all of his kids on HBO’s Hard Knocks.
Michael Jordan telling his children “I wouldn’t want to be you if I had to” during his Hall of Fame induction speech.
by Paul Knepper
At the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony on August 6th, inductee Deion Sanders concluded his speech by placing his signature bandana on his Hall of Fame bust. Throughout Prime Time’s career the all pro defensive back wore a bandana under his helmet during games and often kept it on for the post-game interviews.
Over the years, many other athletes have been known for their use of a specific accessory, something above and beyond the normal uniform, which they regularly wore either during competition or on the sidelines.
These are the top ten trademark accessories in sports.
10) Patrick Ewing’s wrist bands
Ewing took the phrase “breaking a sweat” to a whole new level. Minutes after tipoff, the Knicks center would be as drenched as Ted Striker trying to touch down on the runway in the movie Airplane! Some players use a headband to stem the flow of sweat, but Patrick opted for enormous wrist bands. One of the most enduring images of Ewing’s career is him standing on the foul line, dabbing his forehead with those gigantic bands, while the sweat continued to drip from his chin.
9) Pete Maravich’s socks
The Pistol was known for his flashy passing, infinite shooting range and dazzling ball-handling, though no description of the basketball prodigy would be complete without a reference to his floppy hair and scraggly socks. For a period during his time with the Utah Jazz Maravich wore high socks with green, yellow and purple bands, though for most of his career he weaved his magic in raggedy loose socks that looked like they came off the feet of Woody Harrelson’s character Billy Hoyle in White Men Can’t Jump.
8) Deion Sanders’ bandana
It wasn’t clear if Prime Time’s bandana served a purpose during the game, such as keeping the sweat out of his eyes, or was merely a fashion statement. Occasionally, Deion would change it up and arrive for an interview with a do-rag on or go Tupac style, with the backwards bandana, but he always returned to his signature look. The Hall of Fame should have left the bandana on Deion’s bust, which looks nothing like him and instead bears a strange resemblance to a mix between Vince Lombardi and Troy Aikman.
7) Jim McMahon’s shades
The colorful quarterback of the ’85 Bears developed an extreme sensitivity to light in his right eye after damaging his retina in a childhood accident. He became one of the first football players to wear a tinted visor on his face mask and often wore sunglasses on the sideline, which developed into a signature look for the rebellious signal caller. McMahon even sported his famous shades in the Bears epic Super Bowl Shuffle video (link below).
6) Bjorn Borg’s headband
Borg is probably one of the five greatest tennis players of all-time, though his personality on the court was as bland as rice cakes, especially when compared to his rambunctious rivals John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. What sports fans remember most about the talented Swede is the striped headband he wore just above his eyes to keep his long blond hair in place. The image has been imitated by everyone from Luke Wilson’s character in The Royal Tannenbaums to my lovely goddaughter Janie Paisner.
5) John Olerud’s helmet
Olerud suffered a brain hemorrhage and aneurism in 1989 while a student at Washington State University. Doctors advised the first baseman to wear a helmet in the field for protective purposes and he continued to do so for superstitious reasons long after he needed to. Over his 17 seasons in the Major Leagues, he was the only non-catcher to wear a helmet in the field.
That brings me to the funny story about Olerud and the notoriously absented-minded Rickey Henderson. Supposedly, when Henderson and Olerud were teammates with the Mariners, Rickey asked Olerud why he wore a helmet, then told him that he had a teammate the season before who also wore a helmet in the field. Olerud responded, “That was me.” Sadly, sources have confirmed that the exchange never happened, but it’s still a great story.
4) Richard “Rip” Hamilton’s mask
Hamilton broke his nose in 2002, then twice more during the 2003-2004 season, so a doctor recommended that he wear a customized plastic mask over his face to prevent it from happening again. The mask was certainly good luck, as Rip led the Pistons in scoring during the playoffs that season on their way to an NBA title. He’s worn it ever since. I always thought Jason’s mask from Friday the 13th would have been a lot more intimidating.
3) Andre Agassi’s hair piece
What makes this accessory so remarkable is that we had no idea it was an accessory at the time. Agassi’s long blond hair and his colorful clothes were the centerpieces of his rebel persona and “Image is everything” Cannon campaign. It wasn’t until the former tennis star’s autobiography Open was published in 2009 that we learned he was wearing a hair piece all along. We were duped!
2) Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ black gloves
Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos won the gold and bronze medals respectively in the 200-meter dash at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, though it was their courageous black power salute on the medal stand which lives on in the American consciousness. The black glove on their hands remains one of the enduring symbols of the African-American civil rights movement and their defiant salute was recently immortalized in the form of a statue on San Jose State’s campus.
1) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s goggles
Plenty of basketball players have competed in sports goggles, though none embraced the look or became identified with them quite like Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He began wearing his specs while attending UCLA – when he was still known as Lew Alcindor – after scratching his cornea in a game against the University of Houston.
Abdul-Jabbar and his goggles reached a wider audience through his classic role as co-pilot Roger Murdock in Airplane! (Yes, that’s two Airplane! references in one article. I don’t care if I’m dating myself, it’s arguably the funniest movie ever made.)
The NBA has locked out its players and it may be a long time before we see NBA basketball again. In order to maintain my sanity, I’m trying to remain optimistic and focusing on what will happen once play resumes, so I came up with a list of the top 20 free agents available once the lockout ends. This free agent class lacks the star power of the summer of LeBron and a 2012 class that will likely include Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, though it has several solid contributors who can help put a good team over the top.
The list includes both restricted and unrestricted free agents, assuming there are still restricted free agents under the new collective bargaining agreement. Unrestricted free agents may sign with any team they choose. Teams retain the right to keep their restricted free agents by matching any offer made by another team. I’ve indicated (UR) for unrestricted or (R) for restricted next to the players’ names.
These are the top 20 NBA free agents of 2011.
20) Yao Ming (UR)
Yao’s career may be over, though there have been big men who have contemplated retirement after multiple lower leg injuries only to return for a few very good seasons, Bill Walton and Zydrunas Ilgauskas being two of them. Yao has made it clear that he only wants to play for the Rockets. It will be interesting to see how much money Houston is willing to gamble on his fragile legs.
19) Rodney Stuckey (R)
Pistons’ President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars viewed Stuckey as the point guard of the future when he traded Chauncey Billups to Denver a few years ago, but now it seems that the organization believes he’s more of a hybrid than a point guard. The team’s selection of Brandon Knight in the first round may be an indication that Stuckey’s run in Detroit has come to an end.
18) Carl Landry (UR)
Landry is one of the more underrated players in the NBA. He’s a solid low post scorer and hard nosed defender who’s probably best suited to come off the bench, but can step into the starting lineup if necessary. The power forward should see a significant bump in his salary from last season of $3 million.
17) Tayshaun Prince (UR)
The glory days of the Pistons seem like a l0ng time ago. Prince has been forgotten amid the chaos within the franchise, but his productivity has remained steady. He’s a very good defender who can stretch a defense and will bring a championship pedigree with him wherever he ends up.
16) Caron Butler (R)
Butler is highly respect among his peers as an intense competitor, though he’s 31-years-old and coming off of knee surgery. The Mavs would like to retain him, but Tyson Chandler is their number one priority and it’s doubtful that they’ll have the money to sign both.
15) Wilson Chandler (R)
Chandler was one of the key components of the Carmelo Anthony trade and was the odd man out on a deep Nuggets team come playoff time. His greatest asset is his ability to defend multiple positions. He’s expressed an interest in returning to the Knicks and they’d love to have him, but it’s unlikely they’ll be able to make the money work.
14) Aaron Brooks (R)
Brooks’ last two seasons have been a bit perplexing. In ’09-’10 he averaged 19.6 points per game and was voted the league’s most improved player. This past season his shooting was atrocious and his attitude questionable, so the Rockets shipped him to Phoenix. He’s a shoot-first point guard with an inconsistent shot, though his quickness provides a nice change of pace off the bench.
13) Jason Richardson (UR)
J-Rich has lost a step since his early days in Golden State and his failure to help the Magic advance past the first round of the playoffs doesn’t help his cause. He’s not going to make any where the $14.4 million he received last season, though he can still be a complimentary shooter on a playoff team.
12) Thaddeus Young (R)
Young is a remarkable athlete who thrives in a fast-paced offense, but right now he’s no more than a high energy player off the bench. Still, he’s only 23 and has time to develop into a more reliable shooter if he’s willing to reconstruct the awkward release on his shot.
11) Greg Oden (R)
Oden is the wild card in this free agent class. His injury history is well documented and it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to remain healthy, though he was the number one pick in the draft just four years ago. The Blazers demonstrated that they still have some faith in him when they extended him a qualifying offer of $8.8 million.
10) Jeff Green (R)
Green’s stock has plummeted over the past few years. Once viewed as a potential wing man for Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, he played sparingly this past post-season after being traded to the Celtics. He can still score from the perimeter and in the post against smaller forwards and defends well on the perimeter.
9) Jamal Crawford (UR)
Crawford will be in high demand this off-season, even though his scoring average dropped from 18.0 to 14.2 this past season. The ideal sixth man can fill it up in a hurry and has proven that he can be a number one option at times on a very good team.
8) J.R. Smith (UR)
Crawford is more consistent than Smith, but J.R. is six years younger and has many productive years ahead of him, assuming he keeps his head on straight. The Nuggets guard provided George Karl with punch off the bench with his infinite range and tremendous athleticism.
7) Kris Humphries (UR)
Call it the Kardashian effect. After bouncing around the league during his first six seasons, Humphries found his niche in New Jersey last season, averaging 10.4 rebounds per game. He’s a solid rotation player on a playoff team, possibly even a starter at the power forward position.
6) Aaron Affalo (R)
Afflalo has improved significantly in each of his four seasons in the league and has become an efficient shooter and excellent defender. He’ll never be a star, but he’s a solid role player who would make a nice addition to a team like the Bulls that is seeking a shooting guard.
5) DeAndre Jordan (R)
Blake Griffin isn’t the only talented young big man on the Clippers. Jordan was moved into the starting lineup when Chris Kaman was injured and made the most of the opportunity, averaging 7.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. It’s highly unlikely that L.A. will allow this budding big man to get away.
4) David West (UR)
West is the best player available through free agency, a versatile scorer who grabs eight boards a game, but he turns 31 this summer and is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. There are reports that the Nets are interested, though West has expressed his desire to return to the Hornets.
3) Nene (UR)
Legitimate centers are difficult to find and Nene is one of the best in the league, in the prime of his career. His numbers aren’t staggering, at 14 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, but he can score in the post and bang with any big man in the league.
2) Marc Gasol (R)
The Grizzlies and their fans are revved up after a deep playoff run this past year without one of their best players, Rudy Gay. Management wants to keep the core of the team intact and is almost certain to match any offer for Pau’s younger, assuming they’re able to remain under the new salary cap.
1) Tyson Chandler (UR)
NBA general managers saw how Chandler transformed the Mavs into a tougher, better defensive team this season. He’s been in the league for ten years, but is still just 28 years-old, and seems to be past the toe injury that hampered him earlier in his career. The Mavs have some difficult decisions to make this off-season, though keeping Chandler will be their top priority.
Other notable free agents: Glen “Big Baby” Davis (UR), Nick Young (R), Andre Kirilenko (UR), Reggie Evans (UR), J.J. Barea (UR), Michael Redd (UR), Grant Hill (UR), Shane Battier (UR), Kenyon Martin (UR), Tracy McGrady (UR), Mario Chalmers (R), DeShawn Stevenson (UR), Samuel Dalembert (UR), Nenad Krstic (UR), Brian Cardinal (UR, Chuck Hayes (UR), Marcus Thornton (R), Daequan Cook (R)
by Paul Knepper
Nicknames have long played a prominent role in sports. They personalize the athletes for the fans, build camaraderie among teammates, add a humorous element to the competition and are essential to the myth-building of sports legends.
There are many factors to consider when determining what makes a great nickname. Is it apropos? Does it stand the test of time? What’s the source and reason for the nickname? Is it alliterative? Is there a comical component to it? Is it widely known and used?
The list below is inevitably somewhat biased towards athletes from the past 30 years, though the greatest nicknames stand the test of time and many from the first half of the 20th century are recognized. There have been countless great nicknames for duos, trios and groups in sports, but I decided to restrict this list to individuals.
These are the 100 greatest sports nicknames of all-time.
The longtime Pacer was dead on from way behind the arc and equally as sharp with his tongue. Check out his classic ’80’s poster.
99) The Assassin – Jack Tatum
No elaboration necessary for this nasty former Raiders defensive back.
98) Donnie Baseball – Don Mattingly
Donnie remains a crowd favorite in the Bronx because of the way he approached the game. Bill James summed him up best: “100% ballplayer, zero percent bullshit.”
97) Pudge – Carlton Fisk and Ivan Rodriguez
Fisk’s nickname was due to his big frame and he wore it well, belting his way into the Hall of Fame. Rodriguez will likely have a spot waiting for him in Cooperstown as well.
96) Chi Chi – Juan Rodriguez
Chi Chi’s jovial personality and signature “toreador dance” brought some much needed panache to the PGA Tour.
95) Pops – Willie Stargell
The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates’ theme song was Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” and Stargell was the head of that family. Pops won World Series with the Pirates in ’71 and ’79.
94) Nails – Lenny Dykstra
“Nails” was befitting of the gritty, gutsy center fielder for the championship 1986 Mets.
93) Dizzy Dean – Jay Dean
Dizzy won the 1934 N.L. MVP Award as he and brother Paul “Daffy” Dean led the famed St. Louis Cardinals “Gas House Gang” to world series glory.
92) The Flying Tomato – Shaun White
This red head Californian has taken competitive snowboarding to a new level with his death defying Double McTwist 1260.
91) The Croatian Sensation – Toni Kukoc
Kukoc was billed as the greatest European basketball player when he joined the Bulls prior to the ’93-’94 season and was a valuable sixth man on three championship teams.
90) Goose – Richard Gossage
You’d never know it from his nickname, but Gossage terrified opposing batters with a fastball that approached triple digits. Before the days of bullpen specialists, he regularly secured two and three inning saves.
89) The “Say Hey” Kid – Willie Mays
The name aptly reflected the New York Giant center fielder’s boyish exuberance for the game.
88) Lester the Molester – Lester Hayes
Not surprisingly, the Raiders’ defensive back wasn’t a big fan of this one. His other nickname was “The Judge” for meted out justice to wide receivers he faced.
87) The Hawk – Andre Dawson
The multi-talented right fielder finally received his due when writers voted him into the Baseball Hall of Fame last year.
86) Marvelous Marvin Hagler – Marvin Hagler
Hagler liked the sound of this so much that he legally changed his name to Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
85) The Minister of Defense – Reggie White
Fittingly, the pass rusher who put the fear of God into opposing quarterbacks every Sunday also led the post-game prayer sessions.
84) Tree – Wayne Rollins
During his playing days, the former Hawks’ center with the slim, yet wide seven foot one inch frame and long limbs was known simply as “Tree.”
83) Skip 2 my lou – Rafer Alston
Alston picked up this nickname as a playground legend on the streets of New York for the way he dribbled the ball and it stayed with him throughout his NBA career.
82) The Chairman of the Board – Edward “Whitey” Ford
Any time you share a nickname with Frank Sinatra you’ve got it going on. The pitcher with the greatest winning percentage in MLB history was known for his excessive partying and also answered to the name “Slick.”
81) Tractor Traylor – Robert Traylor
He was always listed at 290 pounds, but it’s safe to say the former University of Michigan star crossed the 300 mark in high school and never looked back.
Payton was the premiere on-the-ball defender in basketball during the late 1990’s and could trash talk with the best of them.
79) The Bus – Jerome Bettis
The NFL’s fifth all-time leading rusher was bigger than a linebacker and did some serious damage when he got his shoulders squared to the line of scrimmage.
78) Skywalker – David Thompson
Thompson is an integral member of the lineage of great basketball leapers, which includes Elgin Baylor, Dr. J, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Vince Carter and Blake Griffin.
77) The Big Aristotle – Shaquille O’Neal
If you go by overall collection of nicknames “The Diesel” is in the top five. “The Big Aristotle” has always been my favorite.
76) The Penguin – Ron Cey
Short legs forced the Cubs third baseman to waddle around the bases.
75) Pee Wee – Harold Reese
Much like his Dodgers teammate Duke Snider, few people ever knew this shortstop’s real name.
74) Sleepy – Eric Floyd
The eyes don’t lie. He and Tracy McGrady must be related.
73) El Duque – Orlando Hernandez
The Duke is a solid nickname. Add a little Spanish flavor and it becomes a classic. Hernandez was referred to exclusively as El Duque during his career in the states.
72) The Worm – Dennis Rodman
As Karl Malone or any of Rodman’s coaches can tell you, this worm got under your skin. His teammate John “Spider” Sally was considered for this list as well.
71) Juice – O.J. Simpson
It was simple and obvious, but it worked.
70) El Presidente – Dennis Martinez
Martinez pitched a perfect game in 1991 and with 245 wins is probably the most under appreciated pitcher of his era. As for the nickname, I have no idea where it came from, but it has a nice air of nobility to it.
69) Big Country – Bryant Reeves
I liked this one so much that in high school I started calling my best friend Big Country. Between Reeves’ size, flat top haircut and the dull expression on his long face, he looked the part.
68) The Count – John Montefusco
This is an obvious twist on Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. From Sesame Street to Dracula, everybody loves a count.
67) Satchel – Leroy Paige
There are varying stories as to how Paige picked up the name Satchel, but that’s the case with many of the details and fascinating tales from his life.
66) Clyde the Glide – Clyde Drexler
The nickname just rolls off your tongue, as smooth as his game.
65) Larry Legend – Larry Bird
Bird was fond of referring to himself as “The Hick from French Lick.”
64) Hammerin Hank – Henry Aaron
The Hammer was selected to 25 all-star games and is the rightful all-time home run king, yet he doesn’t receive the recognition of some of his contemporaries like Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.
63) Clyde – Walt Frazier
Frazier’s Knicks teammates began calling him Clyde because he wore a brimmed hat similar to the one Warren Beatty wore as Clyde Barrow in the movie Bonnie and Clyde. The name jibed with Frazier’s laid back persona.
62) Crime Dog – Fred McGriff
The name stems from the commercials featuring the animated crime dog McGruff, though McGriff will always be remembered for his role in another commercial, Tom Emanski’s Defensive Drills Video.
61) Louisiana Lightning – Ron Guidry
Also affectionately referred to as “The Gator” by fans and teammates, Guidry compiled a 25-3 record and 1.74 ERA in 1978.
60) The Golden Jet – Bobby Hull
“The Jet” was known for his blinding speed and rocket shot. He retired second in NHL history in goals scored and ninth in points.
A picture tells a thousand words about this former Red Sox reliever…
58) The Georgia Peach – Ty Cobb
The irony of this one is comical. Anything but a peach, Cobb was a renowned SOB.
57) Round Mound of Rebound – Charles Barkley
The problem with this classic nickname is that it didn’t stick after Charles slimmed down during his first few years in the league.
56) Tiger – Eldrick Woods
If your name is Eldrick you better have a good nickname. The name “Tiger” ranks so high because of its ubiquity within the game of golf.
55) Catfish Hunter – James Hunter
Few people know that the Hall of Fame pitcher’s actual name is James. Bob Dylan was so fond of the pitcher and the name that he wrote a song called “Catfish.”
54) The Admiral – David Robinson
The 7’1 Robinson had to be the tallest man in the history of the U.S. Navy. Or any Navy for that matter.
53) The Mailman – Karl Malone
During Game 1 of the 1997 NBA Finals Malone was on the line about to attempt the winning free throws with the game tied and seconds remaining when Scottie Pippen whispered in his ear, “Just remember, the mailman doesn’t deliver on Sundays, Karl.” Malone missed both free throws and the Bulls won the game.
Lee was one of the true characters in baseball, a proud marijuana user known for publicly criticizing management and making controversial political statements.
51) The Barber – Sal Maglie
Maglie won 119 games over ten big league seasons and was given his nickname because he liked to give batters a close shave.
50) Bear Bryant – Paul Bryant
The renowned football coach won 6 championships at the University of Alabama and his star pupil, Joe Namath, still tears up when he talking about him.
49) Sugar Ray – Ray Robinson, born Walker Smith Jr. and Ray Leonard
Walker Smith wasn’t able to obtain an AAU boxing card because he was only 14, so he borrowed his friend Ray Robinson’s card and kept the name. Later in his career his manager told him he was “sweet as sugar.”
48) The Pearl – Earl Monroe
Earl the Pearl’s offensive repertoire was immortalized in Spike Lee’s He Got Game. They called him Jesus on the playgrounds of Philadelphia because he worked miracles on the court.
47) Too Tall Jones – Ed Jones
The 6’9 Jones was the most intimidating member of Dallas’s famed “Doomsday Defense.”
46) AK-47 – Andre Kirilenko
His initials are AK, 47 is his number and like the Kalashnikov he’s named after, he was made in Russia.
45) Oil Can – Dennis Boyd
Boyd supposedly picked up the nickname, which fit his oddball personality, during his beer drinking days in his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi.
44) Mr. Cub – Ernie Banks
Banks is the king of the lovable losers and is vastly underrated outside the city of Chicago.
43) The Microwave – Vinnie Johnson
Johnson used to heat up in a hurry when he came in off the bench for the “Bad Boys” Pistons teams that won back-to-back titles in ’89 and ’90.
42) Mr. Clutch – Jerry West
Not bad for a guy who lost in the NBA Finals eight times. He’s also called “The Logo” because his silhouette is used as the NBA logo.
41) Air Jordan – Michael Jordan
It’s simple, but classic and ties in well to Jordan’s jump man logo.
40) The Chief – Robert Parrish
Parrish was named “The Chief” after the Native American character Chief in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, who like Parrish was a quiet big man, with an unnatural running style.
Also check out the following classic scene at http://youtu.be/togQKkA_Zws
39) The Golden Bear – Jack Nicklaus
Remember when everybody was certain that Tiger would break Jack’s record of 18 career major championships?
38) Big Papi – David Ortiz
Everything about Papi is big: his size, his personality, his hugs and his swing.
37) The Rocket – Maurice Richard
Richard was the first of many athletes to be labeled “The Rocket,” including Raghib Ismail, Roger Clemens and the “Russian Rocket,” Pavel Bure.
36) Broadway Joe – Joe Namath
With the possible exception of Clyde Frazier, no athlete embodied the pulse and pizzazz of New York City like Joe Willie. He talked the talk and walked the walk.
35) Duke – Edwin Snider
Originally referred to as “The Duke of Flatbush,” it was shortened to just Duke. Snider hit more home runs than any other player in baseball during the 1950’s.
34) The Wizard of Westwood – John Wooden
Wooden set the standard as a teacher and basketball coach and his lessons on life will continue to serve as a guide for people of every profession.
33) Papa Bear – George Halas
Papa Bear did it all in the game of football. He was a player, coach, owner and pioneer over his 65 years in the game.
32) Bonecrusher – James Smith
How would you like to step in the ring with a guy named Bonecrusher?
This three-time pro bowl wide receiver was one of the first NFL players to do touchdown celebrations. He introduced the “Funky Chicken” during his rookie season with the Houston Oilers.
30) Pistol Pete – Pete Maravich
Aptly named for his brilliant ball-handling skills and shoot from the hip jump shot, Maravich was before his time.
29) The Human Eraser – Marvin Webster
Also known as “Marvin the Magnificent,” Webster averaged 1.4 blocks per game over his ten seasons in the ABA and NBA.
28) Three Finger – Mordecai Brown
Brown lost parts of two fingers on his right hand in a farming accident when he was kid. Despite only three full fingers on his pitching hand he went on to have a Hall of Fame career.
27) Big Game James – James Worthy
Stuck in the shadow of teammates Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, Worthy was often the difference in the finals for the Lakers. His nickname has been emulated, but never duplicated.
26) Yogi – Lawrence Berra
Yogi was the perfect name for this short, stubby American poet. He’s one of a select group of athletes recognized simply by a one word nickname.
25) The Brown Bomber – Joe Louis
Louis was the first African-American athlete celebrated by both black and white America when he knocked out Germany’s Max Schmeling.
24) Shoeless Joe – Joe Jackson
Supposedly, a writer penned the name “Shoeless Joe” when the White Sox center fielder didn’t wear shoes one game because of blisters on his feet.
23) Sweetness – Walter Payton
By all accounts, “Sweetness” applied to his character as much as his game. Number 34 is still the second all-time leading rusher in NFL history.
22) The Iceman – George Gervin
One thing he could do was finger roll. Nobody was cooler than the Iceman.
Never has a nickname been more befitting. Knight coached at the U.S. Military Academy and adopted the authoritarian leadership style of his idol General Patton. Point guard Sherman Douglas also went by “The General” and Avery Johnson was “The Little General.”
20) The Wizard of Oz – Ozzie Smith
This was a great play on words and quite apropos. Smith’s back flips and slick fielding introduced an eloquent and magical flare to the game.
19) Mr. October – Reggie Jackson
He hit three home runs on three consecutive pitches in the decisive Game 6 of the 1977 World Series. Enough said.
18) The Human Highlight Film – Dominique Wilkins
This two-time slam dunk champion brought a devastating combination of athleticism and power to his craft.
17) Charlie Hustle – Pete Rose
The guy sprinted to first base after a walk and ended catcher Ray Fosse’s career when he bowled him over at home plate during an all-star game.
16) The Refrigerator – William Perry
15) Night Train Lane – Dick Lane
The great defensive back’s teammate plucked this nickname from a song that was popular in the Rams locker room.
14) The Iron Horse – Lou Gehrig
Iron horse is an old name for a locomotive, a fitting description for the lean, muscular first baseman who played in 2,130 consecutive games.
13) Mean Joe Greene – Joe Greene
It’s short and simple, but rhymes and is on point. The cornerstone of the vaunted “Steel Curtain” was one of the most dominant defensive players of the 1970’s.
12) Cool Papa Bell – James Bell
This African-American speedster is one of the figures most associated with the Negro Leagues in large part due to his nifty nickname.
11) The Splendid Splinter – Ted Williams
Also known as “Teddy Ballgame,” “The Splendid Splinter” truly captured the artistry and excellence of baseball’s last .400 hitter.
10) The Raging Bull – Jake LaMotta
This nickname was so catchy that Martin Scorsese used it for the title of one of the best boxing movies ever made.
9) The Great One – Wayne Gretzky
The greatest hockey player of all-time was in a class of his own.
8) Dr. J – Julius Erving
Originally just called “The Doctor” for the way he operated on his opponents, the “J” was added later for his breathtaking jams. His nickname has inspired several derivatives, from rapper Dr. Dre to pitcher Dwight Gooden, AKA “Dr. K.”
7) Crazy Legs – Elroy Hirsch
A sportswriter once said of the great running back: “His crazy legs were gyrating in six different directions, all at the same time; he looked like a demented duck.”
6) Chocolate Thunder – Darryl Dawkins
The colorful Dawkins threw it down with such force that he shattered two NBA backboards. He also went by “Sir Slam” and “Dr. Dunkenstein.”
5) Manos de Piedra – Hands of Stone – Roberto Duran
Duran was a brawler who intimidated his opponents by cursing and snarling at them in the ring. The Panamanian took on all comers and began his career with a remarkable 72-1 record.
4) The Galloping Ghost – Harold “Red” Grange
They just don’t have nicknames like this anymore. The legendary halfback was named the greatest college football player of all-time by ESPN in 2008.
3) Stan the Man – Stan Musial
Supposedly, the name originated when an awestruck kid at Ebbets Field said, “Mama there goes that man.” The nickname is now pervasive in American culture and casually used for Stans and Dans everywhere.
“The Babe” acquired many nicknames over the years, though none captured his mystique and grandeur as well as “The Great Bambino.”
1) Magic – Earvin Johnson
A mesmerized local sportswriter came up with the most apropos nickname in sports after watching Johnson play in high school. His court awareness and no-look passes were simply Magic.
by Paul Knepper
Basketball is a team game, though often performed at the highest level when two players work in concert. The pick-and-roll remains the most productive offensive set and no play is more enthralling than an alley-oop. Rarely has a lone superstar carried a team on his back to an NBA championship. Shaq needed Kobe, Jordan needed Pippen and Isiah needed Dumars.
During past this season LeBron James and Dwyane Wade distinguished themselves as the most dynamic duo in the league, even though they fell just short of a championship. Before they can be considered among the elite duos to ever player the game they have to do it for more than one season.
These are the ten greatest NBA duos ever.
10) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson (Milwaukee Bucks)
“The Big O” and Lew Alcindor teamed up for the 70-71 season and led the Bucks to a league best 66 wins. They rolled to the NBA Finals, where they defeated a Baltimore Bullets team led by Earl Monroe and Wes Unseld 4-0. The next day Alcindor announced that he’d changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The two hall of famers played just three more seasons together and never returned to the finals, as Robertson’s skills declined in his mid-30’s.
9) Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars (Detroit Pistons)
Isiah and Dumars teamed up four nine seasons as the starting bakcourt for the Detroit Pistons. Isiah handled the ball and Dumars knocked down jumpers, while locking down the best shooting guards in the league. The “Bad Boys” won back-to-back championships together in 1989 and 1990. Dumars won the 1989 Finals MVP and Isiah took the award in 1990.
8) John Stockton and Karl Malone (Utah Jazz)
Stockton and Malone mastered the pick-and-roll over their 18 seasons together and went to the playoffs in every one of them. The NBA’s all-time assist leader and second all-time leading scorer led the Jazz to the Western Conference Finals five times in seven years, including back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998, but weren’t able to get past Jordan and the Bulls.
7) Tim Duncan and David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs)
Robinson’s injury during the ’96-’97 season was a blessing in disguise for the Spurs. With the first pick in the ’97 draft they landed Tim Duncan, creating the twin towers that would lead the Spurs to the promised land. San Antonio defeated the Knicks in five games in the ’99 Finals and after a three-peat by the Lakers, Duncan and company delivered Robinson a second ring as a retirement gift in 2003. Duncan was named the MVP of both finals.
6) Wilt Chamberlain & Jerry West (Los Angeles Lakers)
West and the Wilt played together in L.A. for just five seasons, though they advanced to the NBA Finals in four of them and defeated the Knicks to get “the logo” his first ring in 1972. That season West and “The Big Dipper” led the Lakers to 69 wins, including 33 consecutive wins, a record which still stands today.
5) Larry Bird & Kevin McHale (Boston Celtics)
Bird and McHale made five trips to the NBA Finals during their 12 seasons together in Boston, winning championships in ’81, ’84 and ’86. Larry Legend ripped teams hearts out with his long range shooting, while McHale dominated inside with a vast array of post moves. Were their careers not derailed by injuries (McHale never fully recovered from playing on a broken foot in the ’87 playoffs and Bird’s back gave out on him), they may have won more rings.
4) Bill Russell and Bob Cousy (Boston Celtics)
Russell and Cousy were the first dominant duo in the league, both innovators who changed the way their positions were played. They won 6 championships in the late ’50’s and early 6o’s before Cousy retired in 1963. They don’t rank higher on this list because they had so much talent around them, especially Russell. In fact, you can argue that Cousy wasn’t even Russell’s greatest wing man. Slick-shooting Sam Jones was by Russell’s side for 10 of his 11 rings and Havlicek joined him for the later years of his career.
3) Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal (Los Angeles Lakers)
Shaq and a young Kobe joined forces to form an indefensible inside-outside punch which carried the Lakers to three consecutive championships from 2000-2002. Shaq won the Finals MVP each time. Ultimately, the only thing that stood in between this dynamic duo and several more rings was their own egos.
2) Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (Chicago Bulls)
No two players have ever controlled the perimeter on both sides of the court like MJ and Pippen. Together, they led the Bulls to 6 championships, by way of two different three-peats, ’91-’93 and ’96-’98. Had Michael not walked away from the game for nearly two seasons they likely would have won eight in a row.
1) Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Los Angeles Lakers)
They’re two of the top five players to ever to play the game, the flashy point guard, with the no-look passes and the dominant big man with the unstoppable hook-shot. Magic and Kareem won five championships together and appeared in 8 NBA Finals over their ten seasons as teammates. Kareem led the way in the early years, then Magic carried the load as Kareem grew older.
Jerry West and Elgin Baylor (Los Angeles Lakers)
Moses Malone and Julius Erving (Philadelphia 76ers)
Willis Reed and Walt Frazier (New York Knicks)