If the SLAMonline Top 50 was based on how a dude looks with a plastic face-mask pressed against his mug, there is little doubt Richard Hamilton would be the Lance of that award. However, Rip, who has sported the mask since the 03-04 season (his “Superman cape,” as he calls it), surely wouldn’t mind the humble ranking.
That’s simply the type of hombre that Hamilton is. He plays big when he needs to. He can score but doesn’t need to score. He doesn’t fiend the spotlight. His career scoring average is a chin hair below 18 ppg, and that number goes up almost 3 points come playoff time – a stage Rip has been to throughout his entire b-ball career minus three seasons with the Wizards (y’all almost forgot that didn’t you).
Rip and winning have gone together for quite a while now. Dude led UConn to its first National Championship in 1999 as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, vaulting him to the seventh overall pick that summer. After the 2002 trade to Detroit, Hamilton and the Pistons have gone to the Conference Finals or better in each of his six seasons with the team including 2004-‘05 when Detroit brought it home for the first time since the Laimbeer era.
Rip isn’t your typical NBA stud though. First of all, he probably wouldn’t label himself a stud. The strongest part of his game is arguably his ability to run around a pick better than anyone in the league. And then he keeps running, and running, and then might run some more. Matter of fact, he might just outrun his own dogs, as he claims.
Not only that, despite leading the Pistons in scoring in each of his six seasons in the D, Rip has been second on the squad in assists in five of those years. Point is that Hamilton is the man without acting like the man. It’s not about him.
The examples pile up. The nickname Rip comes from a tattoo he sports in honor of a childhood friend that passed. You ever see Rip in commercials? Doing a skit at the ESPY’s? Pushing his rap albums? All of that is about as likely as me suiting-up next to Hamilton in the red white and blue next fall.
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