We all know who the best 2-guard was in the 1990s, but who else made the list?
by Allen Powell II
The 1990s were a great time for shooting guards. We all know the big names like Jordan, Drexler and Miller, but there are some forgotten souls who also made noise. Let’s take a ride in the wayback machine and see who dominated the decade.
What more can be said?
No one needs to be reminded of Jordan’s feats because the public has never been allowed to forget them. Entire marketing campaigns have been dedicated to fostering and strengthening the “Jordan” aura. Hell, sports gamers are currently enthralled by a video game built around Money’s dominance. The game invites fans to finally realize the dream first given voice in Gatorade’s most famous commercial: Be Like Mike.
A detailed explanation for Jordan’s position on this list is unnecessary because placing any other shooting guard in the top spot would have been basketball blasphemy.
That’s actually the most amazing thing about Jordan’s dominance of the ’90s, well besides the fact that he took a nearly two-season hiatus and didn’t lose a beat. The chasm between Jordan and players like Clyde Drexler, Joe Dumars, Mitch Richmond and Reggie Miller makes the Grand Canyon look like a hairline fracture.
There was never any question about who was the top dog. There were no challengers to his throne then, just as there are no challengers to his throne now.
Clyde “The Glide” Drexler
Clyde Drexler wore his “cool” the same way a pimp wears a fur coat.
Drexler’s nickname was related to the way he moved in the air, but it also described his every movement on the court. Not even his decision to sport George Jefferson’s hairline and John Stockton’s shorts could dampen Clyde’s glide.
The man just played smooth.
But, it wasn’t all style, Drexler had substance too. Throughout the early and mid-’90s Drexler was good for 20 ppg, 6+ rebounds and 5 assists. Even without the world’s greatest handle, Drexler lived in the lane, and was a terror on the wing. Clyde’s Portland squads were legit contenders in the West, and even though he couldn’t match up to Mike in the Finals, who could?
Drexler was confident, but never arrogant. He was willing to take a backseat to The Dream to get his only championship ring, and was clutch for that Houston team. Whether it was ramming home a one-handed tomahawk or shooting that jumper with the high leg kick, Clyde’s game was a thing of refined beauty.
Smoother than ice.
“Mitch Richmond is ranked higher than Reggie Miller? Are you high?”
Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, there were two fellows named Emmitt and Barry. Emmitt was a complete running back; he was powerful, shifty and speedy with toughness to spare. Blessed with a top notch offensive line, astute coaching and quality teammates, Emmitt wracked up accolades, records and championships.
Then there was Barry. Barry didn’t win any championships, in fact, his teams rarely made the playoffs. He posted ridiculous numbers, but didn’t set any all-time records. But, when Barry ran the rock, it was like watching imagination in the flesh. Turn your head for a second and regret it forever.
Reggie had the team success, but The Rock was the better player. A slasher when he entered the league on Run TMC, Richmond built himself into a pure shooter and all around terror anywhere on the floor. Pull-ups, dribble drives, or on the block, Richmond could score with the best of them. He put up 22 ppg his first decade in the league, and tossed in four boards and four assists for good measure.
Matching up against names like Payton, Jordan, Drexler, Kidd, Stockton, and Hardaway, Richmond was second team All-NBA three times, and third team twice. Think about that, and then ask Reggie who was the second toughest player he ever had to guard.
He was a fiend.
Not in the diabolical sense, although Reggie did have a flare for the dramatic. No, Miller was a fiend because he seemed to mainline hate. He reveled in it, he lived for it, and it was his ambrosia. There has never been a player who loved being the villain more than Reggie Miller, and given the Charmin-soft mentality of many of today’s players, there probably never will be.
His numbers are solid, not gaudy. His game wasn’t terribly well-rounded. But, outside of Michael Jordan, there was not a single player in the 1990s more feared with the game on the line. Nut-cutting time was Miller Time, and nobody ever doubted it. Just consider the jump in his playoff stats compared to his regular season numbers when Reggie would go from averaging 20 ppg to something like 25-29 ppg. That’s insane.
Knicks and Sixers fans can testify that even though the stats say that Miller’s shooting percentage dropped in the playoffs, when things got tight, it seemed like he never missed a freaking shot. There have only been so many killers in the league, but Reggie definitely is on the list.
Cheers to the bad guy.