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NBA Top 150 – Numbers 142 and 141

142) Guy Rodgers – 6′ 0″ PG from 1958 – 1970…Rodgers was a top-notch playmaker during the 1960’s, a top point guard who played alongside Wilt for the first 6 years of Chamberlain’s career. He came out of Temple University in 1958 having led the Owls to NCAA 3rd place finishes twice in his career (1956, ’58). He was the 5th pick of the 1958 Draft, the same draft that also gave us Elgin Baylor (1st pick) and Hal Greer. Rodgers was known for his quickness, exceptional dribbling ability, and razor sharp passes. From the 1959-60 season through 1966-67, he finished 1st in assists twice and 2nd six times (Cousy won one of the other titles, Oscar Robertson the remaining five). In 3 of those seasons he averaged more than 10 dimes a game, and also made 4 all-star teams during this stretch. When Wilt scored his 100 points in the 1962 game against the Knicks, Rodgers tallied 20 assists, and a year later, Rodgers tied Cousy’s single game record for dimes with 28 (since surpassed twice – by Kevin Porter and Scott Skiles). Rodgers was also a very good rebounder, tallying 6.2, 5.8, and 6.5 a game his first 3 seasons, and at least 4/gm his first 9 years in the league. I don’t think any modern day (post 1976) player 6 foot or under has ever matched those numbers from Rodgers’ first 3 seasons. He was never known for his scoring, only 11.7/gm for his career, but he did manage to average 18.6 and 18.0 in ’66 and ’67. Come playoff time, he was rock solid, averaging 12.7 pts, a large 6.3 rebs, and 6.9 asst/gm in his peak playoff years (excluding the 1970 playoffs, when he averaged just 9 min/gm). Cousy once remarked that he hated playing Rodgers, as he made him work so hard at both ends of the court, and Oscar called him the best passer, dribbler, and ball-handler that he’d ever seen. Since Rodgers seems to have been a very good but rather boring player, I’ll leave you with a bombastic quote from Chamberlain regarding his favorite point guard: ”better than Cousy or Jerry West or Robertson or Walt Frazier or Peter Maravich or anyone.” A complete exaggeration that I don’t think anyone who knows the NBA would ever agree with…certainly not me…but clearly Rodgers stood out in his time. He retired #3 on the all-time assist list behind Cousy and Oscar with 6,917 (#16 today), and his 7.8asst/gm career average is #14 all-time.  

141) Marques Johnson – 6′ 7″ SF from 1977 – 1990…Listed as a small forward but able to play a power game as well, Marques Johnson was one of the best forwards in the league his first 9 years in the league. He is our 3rd Top 150 Los Angeles product, where he went to legendary 70’s & 80’s baskeball powerhouse Crenshaw High (John ‘Hot Plate’ Williams ’84, Stevie Thompson ’86, Kevin Ollie ’91), before joining the UCLA Bruins in 1973, leading the team to its last Wooden Championship in 1975, and then winning the Wooden Award his senior year after averaging 21.1 pts & 11.1 rebs. He was selected 3rd overall by the Bucks in 1977, where he immediately became their best player, averaging 19.5pts, 10.6 rebs, and shooting 52.2% his rookie year. He went on to average over 20 pts/gm 6 times in his career, including a personal best 25.6 his second season, good for 3rd in the NBA behind George Gervin and Lloyd Free (hadn’t changed his name to World B. yet). He was an incredibly efficient scorer, shooting better than 54% three different seasons and 51.8% for his career (#52 all-time). I was a huge Sixers fan in those days and clearly remember those early 80’s Bucks teams that were often the 3rd best team in the East behind Philly and Boston. In the 1981 Eastern Conference semi’s, in a tight game 7 (2 point game with less a minute remaining), Johnson scored 36 points in an impressive variety of ways – offensive rebound tip-ins, jump shots, power layups in traffic, and dunks – it was an impressive display. He rebounded well in the game, and of course his entire rookie year as well, but surprisingly never averaged 8 rebs/gm for the rest of his career after clearing double digits as a rookie. He was an excellent passer, averaging over 4 dimes/gm three times (4.6 in ’81 his best), and over 3 a game every full season after his rookie year. He actually coined the term ‘point forward’ in the 1983 playoffs when, due to a rash of injuries to Bucks PG’s, Johnson brought the ball up the floor (the always creative Don Nelson was the Bucks coach at the time who came up with the idea). Sadly, he suffered a bad neck injury early in the 1986-87 season playing for the perenially cursed Clippers, and his career basically ended then at age 30. He ended up making 5 all-star teams, one all-NBA 1st team and two more all-NBA 2nd teams while finishing with career averages of 20.1 pts (#56 all-time), 7.0 rebs, and 3.6 asst, with strong playoff averages of 21.5 pts, 7.9 rebs, and 3.7 dimes in 54 postseason games.

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