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NBA Top 150 – Numbers 135 thru 133

135) Terry Cummings – 6‘ 9″ PF from 1982 – 2000…Cummings came from DePaul, coached by the legendary Ray Meyer (remember how non-legendary his son Joey was?), the 2nd pick of a famous 1-2-3 1982 NBA Draft (Worthy, Cummings, Dominique). Worthy ended up as possibly the best ever 3rd guy on a team (by 1986, 2nd guy), while Wilkins ended up as a legendary scorer, dunker, and high-flier…but it was Cummings who won Rookie of the Year (23.7 pts, 10.6 rebs). Cummings proceeded to average 22.2 pts, 8.7 rebs, and 1.4 stls while shooting 49% from the field his first 8 years in the league. Twice an all-star and twice all-NBA (2nd team in ’85, 3rd team in ’89), he was a reliable rock at the PF position until a summertime pickup game injury in 1992 completely ended his impact days. He slipped into a reliable reserve role after that 1991-92 season (17 pts, 9 rebs, 48.8% shooting), but never averaged more than 9.1 pts or 5.5 rebs from then on. Playing for the Clippers, Bucks, and Spurs in his prime and wearing the legendary #34 (Akeem & Barkley’s number, not to mention Walter Payton, Earl Campbell, Bo Jackson, Nolan Ryan – w/ Mets, Astros, and Rangers, not Angels), Cummings scored in a variety of ways – turnaround bank shots, jumpers, power layups, putbacks & dunks…he wasn’t overly athletic but was Mr. Steady and Reliable until the injury radically curtailed his production and effectiveness. He was also rock steady in the playoffs, averaging 22.4 pts, 8.9 rebs, and shooting 51.4% from the field in 61 playoff games before his Summer ’92 injury. Post injury, he was still able to give 18 minutes/night for another 6 years before finally calling it quits at age 38. His toughness, skill, and durability allowed him to reach #46 on the all-time scoring list (19,460), #58 in rebs (8,630), and #22 on offensive boards with 3,183. He wasn’t a supernova, but instead a rock solid, no nonsense, no controversy contributor for 18 years in the league. He is currently a minister and musician, while also following his son TJ’s basketball progress in the NBDL.

134) Neil Johnston – 6‘ 8″ C from 1951 – 1959…Johnston was the league’s dominant center in the mid-50’s, bridging George Mikan and Bill Russell. But while going from Mikan to Johnston was like going from Atari 2600 to Mattel Intellivision, Johnston to Russell was like then leapfrogging to Microsoft X-Box. Johnston starred at both hoops and baseball at Ohio St., and initially tried his hand at pitching in the minor leagues. After little success, he migrated back to the hardcourt in 1951, scoring a modest 6 pts/gm in 15 minutes a night playing for the Philadelphia Warriors, the only team he ever played for in his 8 year career. The next year started his domination, as he led the league in scoring (22.3), FG% at 45.2 (yes, barely clearing 45% really did lead the league), and minutes (45.2) while finishing in 2nd in rebs with 13.9/gm. For four more years he continued posting similar stats, gathering two more scoring titles, two more FG% titles, a rebounding title (15.1/gm in ’54-’55), a league championship in 1956, and finishing in the top 6 in scoring and rebounding the other years. His hook shot was accurate and unstoppable, unless your name was Bill Russell. Russell played Johnston his 2nd game in the league as a rookie in 1956 (still Johnston’s prime), and held him scoreless for the first 42 minutes of the game. He was blocking his shots, stealing the ball from him, forcing awkward attempts, but always under control and never sending him to the line. That was the X-Box going against Mattel’s Intellivision – no contest – hardware and software far too advanced for the older model. At 6’8″ 210, Johnston was the size of today’s small forwards, only far less athletic and playing center. Nonetheless, he had that dominant 5 year stretch, making 1st team all-NBA 4 times and 2nd team once, and was a very good overall shooter, draining 76.8% of his free throws in his career – three times better than 80% – while leading the league in attempts and makes 3 straight years from 1952-55. He also finished with very solid career rebounding (11.3, #24 all-time) and scoring (19.4, #67 all-time) averages. Would he be on this list if he enetered the NBA in 1984? Definitely not, but you can’t ignore a Hall of Famer who was the elite big man of his day, even if it was a completely different era. He died rather young, at the age of 49 in 1978, 12 years before being voted into the Hall.

133) Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway – 6‘ 7″ PG/SG from 1993 – 2005…Technically, he played during the ’05-’06 and ’07-’08 seasons, but the numbers are so small and pathetic, his career essentially ended with the close of the 2004-05 season. The numbers we’d like to forget in those last two years: 20 total games, 20 min/gm, 3.5 pts while shooting 35.1%. This of course, was not at all the Penny who was a dominant all-around player at every level of the game – Senior year High School: 36.6, 10.1 rebs, 6.2 asst, 3.9 stls, 2.8 blks…final year at Memphis: 22.8, 8.5 reb, 6.4 asst, 2.4 stl, 1.2 blk…First 7 years in the league: 18.7, 4.9 rebs, 6.2 asst, 1.9 stl, .5 blk, and shot 47.3%. Penny was famously traded for Chris Webber on draft day in 1993, landing with the Magic and teaming with Shaq, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott and company. Here was a 6’7″, very quick, explosive athlete who could handle & pass like a point guard, shoot and score like an off guard, and was tall enough to defend small forwards – a dream Swiss Army knife for any coach or team. Alas, Penny was like a fine Italian sports car that worked great the first three years, but then kept going back to the shop. Those first three years – 5 total missed games. The next 5 years? Missed 23 games, 63 games, 0 games (strike shortened 1998-99 season), 22 games, and then 78 games in ’00-’01. He was 1st team all-NBA in 1995 and ’96, averaging at least 20 pts, 4 boards, 7 dimes and 1.7 steals each season while also hitting on better than 51% of his shots both years. He and Shaq led the Magic to the NBA Finals in ’95, only to be swept by Akeem and the Rockets, but Penny was strong with 24.5, 4.8 rebs, 8 asst, and over 50% from the field in the series. In his playoff prime (54 games through the 2000 playoffs), Hardaway averaged 21.5, 4.6 rebs, 6.4 asst, 1.85 stls, and .78 blks per game. He had a legendary set of back-to-back performances in the first round round of the 1997 Playoffs, going off for 42 in game 3 and 41 in game 4 against the Heat to force a game 5 in round 1, though they eventually lost the series. He’s the only player in NBA history to record consecutive 40+ games in the playoffs while his team failed to score 100 in either game. Besides giving us temendous hoops highlights and production in his prime, Penny, through Nike, also gave us the legendary Lil Penny, his mini-me puppet friend, and a series of pretty funny commercials, including this one that includes the great line, “Hey Tyra [Banks, famous supermodel], you left your toothbrush at my place”. Now 40, Penny was honored this month at his alma mater, as Memphis just opened the Penny Hardaway/University of Memphis Hall of Fame. It’s one thing to be inducted into your school’s Hall of Fame, quite another to have the Hall of Fame named after you – that’s how good Hardaway was.


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