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NBA Top 150…144 & 143

144) Jim Pollard – 6′ 4″ SF from 1948 – 1955…We finally get to the first of the 36 white guys to make the Top 150, exactly 24% of the list. Ironically, it’s a white guy who was known for one thing above all else – being able to jump. Pollard was known as ‘The Kangaroo Kid’, a high flying jumper out of Stanford where he helped them win the NCAA title in 1942 (though he missed the title game due to illness). He was reported to have dunked from the free throw line during warmups, a full 25 years before Dr. J made that a legendary feat. Following his collegiate career, Pollard joined the Coast Guard during WW II and then played AAU ball until finally, at age 26, joining the Minneapolis Lakers in the NBL, a predecessor league to the NBA. He joined forces with George Mikan and Vern Mikkelsen to form possibly the most dominant front line in league history. Together they won league titles in 5 of the next 6 years, all in basketball’s stone age when there was no shot clock. In 1952, he was voted by fellow players as the best player in the league, over his far more statistically dominant teammate Mikan. Pollard averaged over 9 reb/gm at least twice, maybe more (we’re not sure because his first two years they didn’t keep track of boards!). He was also a good passer, as evidenced by 4 seasons of at least 3.4 asst/gm – impressive considering he wasn’t a guard and teams averaged only about 81 pts/gm during his era. His age and strong rebounding/scoring teammates conspired to keep his stats in check (career averages of 13.2 pts, 7.8 rebs, 3.2 asst), as he would have likely stuffed the stat box much larger on a lesser team and if he’d joined the league at age 22. He raised his game come playoff time, posting slightly better scoring (13.6), rebounding (8.1), and assist (3.6) numbers. The Kangaroo Kid was voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978, and is also in the Stanford and Bay Area Hall of Fames, as well as the Pac 10 Hall of Honors.

 143) Rod Strickland – 6′ 3″ PG from 1988 – 2005…Supremely confident, quick, and creative with a marvelous ability to convert acrobatic layups in traffic, Strickland had a long and productive career playing for the Knicks, Spurs, Blazers, and Bullets/Wizards, before hanging around too long and playing for five different teams his last 4 years in the league (I’m a huge NBA fan and yet had no idea he played with Miami, Minnesota, Orlando, Toronto, and Houston from 2001-05). He was taken 19th overall by the Knicks in the 1988 draft, behind such illustrious notables as Rickey Berry, Eric Leckner, Derrick Chievous, Jeff Grayer, and Tim Perry. He was a supreme backup to Mark Jackson for a year and a half (and far more entertaining to watch) before being traded to San Antonio for an aging Mo Cheeks. After 2 solid years with the Spurs (13.8 pts, 4.2 rebs, 8.3 asst, 2 stls), he signed as a free agent with Portland, where he soon began the most productive stretch of his career. For the 6 seasons from 1993 to 1999, Strickland averaged 17.7 pts, 4.7 rebs, 9.4 asst, 4.4 free throws, and 1.7 stls. This period included his only All-NBA selection – 2nd team in 1998 – as well as one assist title (10.9/gm also in ’98), one runner-up (9.9/gm in ’99), and four more top 6 finishes as he never averaged less than 8.6 asst/gm. But it wasn’t just about impressive numbers with Rod, it was about watching him play – a super-quick dribbling master who loved to go to the hole and find some creative way to drop the ball either in the bucket or in the waiting hands of a big man ready to convert. And though his teams never enjoyed much playoff success, he always came through big, with far higher scoring, diming, and rebounding numbers in his playoff prime. He ended his career with some pretty impressive all time numbers: 7,987 dimes (9th all-time, right behind Gary Payton and ahead of Mo Cheeks), 1,616 steals (25th all time), a 7.3 asst/gm average (#22 all-time), and 41st on the stls/gm list at 1.48/gm. Now you’re probably wondering why a guy this talented moved around so much in his prime…Rod was no angel…got a couple DUI’s while playing in Washington, but the best story comes from 2001…September 11th to be exact. While the rest of the country was wondering about radical terrorism, falling towers, and the future of America, Rod and his pals were brawling in a TGI Friday’s parking lot with staffers from the rival Applebee’s next door. You gotta love radical Rod Strickland!!

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