Thursday, April 29, 2010

So what's it gonna be?

I’m a little confused by the Tigers. They have great pitching and hitting, and… horrible pitching and hitting. That’s really the only way I can describe this walking contradiction of a baseball team. The starting pitching has been worse than atrocious. Collectively, Tigers starting pitching boasts a 5.56 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP. While the starting pitching has been horrendous preventing runs, the offense hasn’t fared much better scoring them. The Tigers are one of the worst teams in MLB at advancing—and thus scoring—baserunners. They are dead last in stolen bases. Only two teams in the AL are worse at taking extra bases on singles and doubles. They are 8th of 14 teams in scoring runners from 3rd with fewer than two outs. They’re also 12th of 14 teams in advancing runners from 2nd base with no outs. Part of the problem has to do with the number of strikeouts they’re piling up. With 156 K’s, the Tigers have the 4th most in the AL. It’s difficult to advance runners without putting the ball in play. “Not advancing runners” might not be such a big deal if the Tigers hit home runs. Unfortunately, they’re just 11thof 14 teams in home runs. It’s difficult to score runs without power and speed. Most teams have the luxury of at least one of the two.

Most teams that struggle with starting pitching, advancing baserunners, and hitting home runs have “cellar” written all over them. Inexplicably, the Tigers are not in the cellar. In fact, they’re 13-10 and just 1.5 games behind the Twins despite playing 14 of 23 games on the road to start the season. How is this possible? Well, it’s crazy-complicated. As poor as the starting pitching has been, the bullpen has been equally brilliant. The bullpen sports a stellar 2.22 ERA over 81 innings. Jose Valverde, Joel Zumaya, Eddie Bonine, Phil Coke, and Fu-Te Ni all have ERAs under 2.00. The bullpen is the only reason the Tigers stand at 8th in team ERA in the AL despite such terrible production from the rotation. Detroit is dead last in the league in quality starts. That has translated into the bullpen pitching more innings than any other bullpen in the American League by a long shot. Fortunately for the Tigers, that hasn’t been a problem, yet.

The only other thing keeping this team afloat right now is its ability to get on base. As poor as Tigers hitters have been at advancing baserunners (and as poor as the baserunners have been at advancing themselves) they’ve been equally superb at getting on base. Unlike the boom or bust Tigers of recent years, this team can draw a walk. The Tigers are 2nd in the American League in walks and hits. The “hits” have always been there but the newfound proficiency in drawing walks has helped give the Tigers the highest OBP in the American League. That was not a misprint! The barrage of free passes has been led by Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, and Johnny Damon who all have at least 12 walks and a better than 1:1 BB:SO ratio. So, while the Tigers are abysmal at advancing and scoring runners, they are the best at putting runners on base. That dichotomy has not surprisingly resulted in a ho-hum 4.78 runs per game. One reason why such a high OBP has resulted in such a correspondingly low number of runs is that the players drawing all the walks are the players who are supposed to be driving in the runs. They can’t drive in runs if they’re standing on first. Drawing walks is a great quality even from power-hitters but Detroit’s 6-9 hitters have been so wretched that a walk from Cabrera, Ordonez, and Damon has been as good as an out for the opposition.

What we’re left with is a team that is hedging its bets in virtually every capacity. The relievers have bailed out the starters in a way that nobody could’ve predicted. The sheer number of baserunners the offense has generated has offset the dreadful rate at which the Tigers have both advanced and scored runners. Yet, somehow, the Tigers are three games over .500 and very much alive in the AL Central. As great of a development as that is, I don’t think it foreshadows anything moving forward. None of what the Tigers are doing right now is likely to last. The starting pitching will improve. Bullpen production will drop off. The offense will advance and score baserunners at a higher percentage. And, you can expect a sharp decline in OBP. The Tigers are producing at the extreme of virtually every measure. Extremes don’t last. Unfortunately, that leaves us in the dark in terms of what can be expected when these numbers normalize. It just all depends on whether the forthcoming improvements in starting pitching and driving in baserunners offset the inevitable return to reality in terms of the bullpen and OBP. In other words, I have no idea what’s going to happen. If there’s one thing I can say, it’s that this team is either good, bad, or average and I’d put money on that.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Identity Crisis

With Big Ten expansion looking like a mere formality, what would the Big Ten call a new 16-team mega-conference? Keeping the “Big Ten” name when Penn State was added brought enough ridicule. With the addition of five more schools, the name “Big Ten” opens up the conference to quite the public relations embarrassment. There’s a pizza joint down the street from my house called, “Belly Buster’s.” I never eat there because I can’t get past the name. I feel guilty enough as it is eating pizza. I have to suspend my understanding of nutrition and the human body for the five minutes it takes me to eat a large pizza or otherwise I’d never be able to put such an insane amount of calories in my body at one time. With a name like Belly Buster’s, it’s literally impossible for me to forget that I’m doing serious damage to my body while decreasing the number of minutes I have on Earth in the process. Although it seems catchy in theory, the name absolutely kills this place and I’m sure it keeps people from eating there. The Big Ten won’t exactly have difficulty making money regardless of what it calls itself. It could be called “The Big Worst” and not lose a cent. However, Jim Delany is ultra-sensitive about the conference’s reputation as evidenced by his awesome letter defending the Big Ten against the SEC in the perception battle. So, trust me when I say that being widely lampooned for having a 16-team conference called the “Big Ten” will get under Delany’s skin. Like Belly Buster’s, the first thing anyone will think about when they think of the Big Ten is how ridiculous the name is. So, Delany has two options: 1). Change the name to something that makes sense, or 2). Keep the name and find a new significance for the number “10.”

Ever since last December when the news broke that the Big Ten was going to look into expansion, message boards and fan forums have been littered with ideas for new names for a 16-team conference. Unfortunately, it’s a fruitless endeavor. A new name is out of the question. The Big Ten isn’t just an athletic conference; it’s a brand. It’s a brand that has, among other things, its own TV station worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Perhaps even more than the individual universities that make up the conference, the name “Big Ten” is the most visible attribute the conference has to offer especially after the creation of the “Big Ten Network.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that the conference is stuck with a contradictory name. The key could be to find a new meaning for “10.”

My first thought was to look at the number of states in the conference instead of “teams.” If Notre Dame and Pittsburgh are among the additions, then the end result will likely be 16 members across 11 states. In that scenario, the Big Ten can just claim that instead of having 11 members, it now has 11 states with no name change necessary. However, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh would both have to be involved for that scenario to work.

Another idea—and this isn’t a slam dunk by any means—is to associate “10” with the largest markets in the Big Ten region. To be fair, the only reason the conference is even looking at expansion is to significantly increase revenue. So it would only seem fitting to incorporate the Big Ten’s motives for expansion as the new interpretation of the “Big Ten.” It’s impossible to know exactly which markets are going to end up in the conference because we don’t know which schools, if any, are coming to the conference. As it stands right now, however, the Big Ten region boasts 7 of the top 25 markets in the country according to the DMA rankings…

It’s not unreasonable to think that three additional markets among the top 25 could be delivered via expansion. Depending on which schools get invites, we could see New York City, Boston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Kansas City or a number of Texas markets enter the mix. Either way, it’s likely that the Big Ten will have either 10 of the top 20 markets or 10 of the top 25 making for a fairly convenient explanation for remaining the “Big Ten.” Owning “markets” might sound a bit trivial but it’s important to remember this whole expansion conversation is about reaching new markets. The SEC only has three of the top 25 markets. So having 10 is no small feat and is certainly worth acknowledging.

Otherwise, I’m all out of ideas. A name change isn’t a realistic option. The name itself is a brand and brands don’t just change names. I could see something like “Big Ten +” or a derivative there of but it would make everyone’s job a lot easier if there was a convenient, built-in reason to continue calling it the “Big Ten.” At the very least, it would save everyone from having to read another sweet letter from Jim Delany in 2015 explaining that it’s “not nice” to make fun of conferences with contradictory names.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's time for Tiger vs. Lefty

Tiger Woods has accomplished just about everything in golf. He has won each major at least three times over. He’s been named the PGA Player of the Year 10 times and has been the Tour Money Leader nine times. If his performance at the Masters over the weekend is any indication—especially coming off a lengthy and tumultuous layoff—he is still well on his way to shattering Jack Nicklaus’s record for career majors and Sam Snead’s record for most PGA Tour wins. Tiger is only 34. He needs just four major championships to tie the record. Nicklaus won six majors after his 35th birthday and—no offense to “The Golden Bear”—Tiger is peerless when it comes to physical conditioning. Barring an unforeseen catastrophe, Tiger is well on his way to becoming the greatest golfer of all-time if he’s not there already. As impressive as he has been and likely will continue to be, that level of success comes at a price. Namely, the price of not having a rival. Not that it’s his fault. Still, many media pundits have used Tiger’s lack of a rival as fuel for criticism. Some have used it as an indictment of his competition which, of course, mitigates his accomplishments. Others have argued that he has made golf boring by being too dominant. Whether those things are actually true doesn’t matter. It’s the perception that matters. The public “need” for a rivalry is deeply rooted. Rivalries transcend sports from a mere “game” to a compelling battle of ability and style. Michigan has Ohio State. The Yankees have the Red Sox. Jack Nicklaus had Arnold Palmer and, to a lesser extent, Gary Player. Jacob has the Man in Black. Tiger has nobody.

I don’t personally buy into the notion that Tiger needs a rival to validate his career or to transcend golf anymore than he already has. He is quite likely the most recognizable athlete in the world and has won more money than anyone in the history of the sport. If there is one thing that Tiger is doing just fine without, it’s a rival. Hell, judging from TV ratings, golf is doing just fine without a rival for Tiger. However, I think many people—and unfortunately many of these people are backed by the power of the press—need him to have a rival. While I’m sure it has been enjoyable for Tiger to dominate golf tournaments like he’s dunkin’ on a six foot rim, it has gotten pretty boring at times for fans and the media. That has led to a number of “jump the gun” scenarios in which Tiger’s long awaited rival had supposedly arrived. Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Sing, David Duval and Sergio Garcia were all, at one time or another, given the “Tiger’s rival” treatment. Of course, we know how all that turned out. The aforementioned “rivals” have combined to win 11 major championships. Tiger has 14 all by himself. Despite everyone’s best efforts to create a rival for Tiger, he has just been too good to have one. That may have all changed on Sunday.

Of all of Tiger’s fake rivals, Phil Mickelson has always been the one most likely to be the real thing. He has been the most successful golfer in the world outside of Tiger over the past 15 years. Unfortunately, the lengthy major drought to start his career made it impossible for the golfing world to take him seriously as a legitimate rival to Tiger. By 2004, Lefty’s struggles at the major championships had become equal parts “running punchline” and “heartbreak”. It wasn’t that he played horribly at the majors; he was, in fact, consistently good. Entering the ’04 Masters, Lefty had finished second or third at a major a total of eight times without winning. He finally broke through at the ’04 Masters and then followed that up with a PGA Championship in ’05 and another Masters in ’06. Still, entering the ’10 Masters, the major count stood at 14-3 in favor of Tiger. That’s not exactly a record that screams “rivalry!”

Three events over the past year-and-a-half have combined to potentially change the rivalry landscape considerably for the first time in the Tiger Woods era:

1). Tiger was forced to miss eight months to rehab the ACL tear in his left knee.

Tiger hasn’t won a major championship since his return from knee surgery. Right now, the drought stands at five majors and counting without a victory including only his second “missed cut” as a professional. It is his second longest major drought in over ten years.

2). The revelation of Tiger’s freaktastic personal transgressions.

Returning from reconstructive knee surgery is difficult enough without added distractions. The scrutiny, embarrassment, and self-doubt that must come from having personal infidelities aired in front of six billion people just makes maintaining focus in arguably the most difficult sport in the world that much more challenging, if not impossible.

3).Lefty’s win at the Master’s on Sunday.

Mickelson’s win wasn’t so much impactful because of the fact that he won a major as it was the timing of the win. Tiger came to Augusta last weekend to reclaim his dominance. It can be debated whether that was a realistic goal or not considering the mental obstacles he was dealing with, but there is no question that he came to win. Instead, Phil Mickelson won and that may very well prove to be a shot across Tiger’s bow. Don’t get me wrong, Tiger’s game hasn’t exactly suffered. He has finished in the top-six in four of the last five majors—all post surgery. Also, don’t forget that he won the ’08 U.S. Open hobbling on one leg which put him more at a disadvantage than any event he has entered post rehab; including the Masters over the weekend. Nonetheless, this is an interesting time for both Tiger and Lefty. The gap between the two that was seemingly the size of the Pacific Ocean just a few years ago seems to be narrowing on both sides. Mickelson will never erase the gap—or come close to it—but he could close it enough to bring credibility to Tiger’s first—and likely only—rivalry.

What Mickelson did by winning the Masters over the weekend wasn’t just prove that he can beat a motivated, lurking Tiger Woods at a major. Trevor Immelman did that at the ’08 Masters and that didn’t exactly catapult him into a rivalry with Tiger let alone prove that he was capable of winning more than one tournament. Plus, Mickelson has already proven that he can ward of a contending Tiger at a major when he outplayed him on Saturday and Sunday to win the ’06 Masters. What Mickelson did do that was far more meaningful than winning one tournament or beating one player was add to an ever increasingly rival-worthy resume. Nobody knows how Tiger is going to perform in the face of a rehabilitated knee and a yet-to-be rehabilitated image. By his standards, though, he has played poorly in five consecutive majors. It would not be surprising to see his winning percentage at major championships drop from the ridiculous level it was previous to ’09. If that happens—even in the slightest— then prepare for the very real possibility of the Tiger vs. Lefty era.

It’s unfortunate that this all couldn’t have happened 12 years ago. Lefty’s run of “runner-up” finishes damaged his reputation considerably because while he was coming “oh so close”, Tiger was winning eight majors. The interesting thing is that this thing has been rivalry worthy even if few have actually realized it. Since 2004, Tiger holds just a 6-4 advantage in major championships over Mickelson. He holds a slight 16-13 advantage in top-tens at major championships. Tiger has 70 top-ten finishes on tour over that span to Lefty’s 55. There is no doubt that Tiger is the greatest golfer in the world. His career accomplishments trump not just any golfer on the PGA Tour today but just about any two golfers. Lefty certainly isn’t in the same ballpark as Tiger as far as career accomplishments. Fortunately, he doesn’t need to be.

The greatest rivalry in the history of golf is generally considered to be Jack Nicklaus vs. Arnold Palmer. There were a few extracurriculars involved with Jack vs. Arnie that Tiger vs. Lefty simply can’t match. First, Arnold Palmer was the top golfer in the world when Jack Nicklaus came on the scene. Second, as a 22-year old baby face, Jack beat Arnie in an 18-hole playoff to win his first ever tournament at the 1962 U.S. Open. That gave Jack vs. Arnie an aura of intrigue that few rivalries could ever match. Jack knocked Arnie off the mountain top. Instead of engaging in an ultra-competitive rivalry right at the beginning, Lefty vs. Tiger—if it materializes—would begin some 18 years after Lefty turned pro and 13 years after Tiger turned pro. That’s not exactly as compelling as the immediate drama that the Nicklaus vs. Palmer rivalry produced. Fortunately, rivalries in sports are based on results as much as they are drama. Had Palmer not been the greatest golfer in the world in ’62 or had he not continued to be a force on the tour for the decade after Nicklaus’s breakthrough win at the ’62 Open, there would not have been a rivalry. While style is a bonus, rivalries are built on substance.

So, the question is, does Tiger vs. Lefty have substance, or at the very least, potential for substance? To answer that question, we need to strip away all of the extracurriculars that gave Jack vs. Arnie its initial “juice” and simply look at how competitive they were on the golf course. That should be a measuring stick for a potential Tiger vs. Lefty rivalry. In Palmer’s best seven-year stretch against Nicklaus, he trailed 7-3 in majors. In that same stretch, he trailed 19-17 in top-ten finishes at major championships. As it turns out, that isn’t so different from how Lefty has fared against Tiger over the last seven years. As I referenced earlier, Tiger holds a 6-4 advantage in majors and a 16-13 advantage in top-tens at majors. Although, it hasn’t really been acknowledged as such, Tiger and Lefty seem to already have a worthy rivalry.

Mickelson is nearly 40 and about to begin a stretch in his career that has historically been the end for elite golfers. If this thing is going to happen on a much larger scale, it needs to happen now. Fortunately, it would only take a solid 2-3 year stretch of Tiger vs. Lefty, if that, for this thing to go down as an iconic rivalry. If this thing heats up, experts will undoubtedly apply a little revisionist history to the past seven years to make this thing a nine or ten year battle.

Because Tiger has been so dominant, it’s not surprising that Mickelson isn’t necessarily thought of as a great golfer. The numbers tell a different story, though. Tiger and Lefty are on pace to have very similar careers to Jack and Arnie. Palmer was an iconic golfer but really doesn’t compare to Nicklaus’s accomplishments. The same can be said of Mickelson with respect to Tiger. Jack vs. Arnie took off because of the added appeal of a 22-year old jumpstart challenging “The King.” Without that, their rivalry would’ve been far less compelling. While Tiger and Lefty have been bereft of intrigue up to this point, the “juice” that it needs to take off might finally be here. With Tiger’s mental and physical ailments, Mickelson will have a chance of his own to knock off the king—albeit a younger one.

Friday, April 09, 2010


If you’ve ever seen NBC’s reality show, “The Biggest Loser”, then you’re fully aware that the biggest loser is actually the biggest winner. The object, of course, is to lose the highest percentage of weight thus becoming the biggest loser. The Pistons are a different kind of “biggest loser.” Of all of the wretched teams in the NBA this season—including the near historically bad New Jersey Nets—the Pistons are, without a doubt, the biggest collection of losers in the group. While every other horrible team is spreading minutes to younger players and ethically tanking the remainder of the season, the Pistons have decided it’s time to showcase the $20 million of wasted money they had the misfortune of acquiring last summer. The only thing worse than Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon hibernating through the entire year is for the dreadful duo to wake up just in time to ruin Detroit’s only ray of hope in an otherwise miserable season. Thanks, guys. I didn’t think there was any way you could prove to be a bigger waste of roster space than you already had over the first 76 games. Clearly, I was wrong.

The Pistons were in the Cadillac of draft positions just three days ago. With the first and second positions locked in place weeks ago by New Jersey and Minnesota, the Pistons were standing at the top of a massive heap of teams in the battle for the 3rd position. Thanks to the strength of an 11-game losing streak, the Pistons were just a week from securing a 15.6% chance of winning the NBA Draft Lottery. At the very worst, they were guaranteed the 4th overall pick meaning John Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, or DeMarcus Cousins was on his way to Detroit. That’s when Villanueva and Gordon decided that they were going to extend their lead as the most worthless players in the NBA. Not only are they largely responsible for Detroit’s inflexible cap situation and its worst record in 15 years, they also cut the team’s chances of winning the NBA Draft lottery by nearly 250% in just 24 hours.

The idiocy began on Tuesday night when Villanueva erupted for 25 points off the bench to lead the Pistons over the Sixers. Villanueva hadn’t scored 20+ points in a game since January 12th. Over that span, he averaged a whopping 9.3 points per game. Gordon—obviously unhappy at the prospects of Villanueva singly handedly pissing off every Pistons fan in the universe—decided that he wanted to wake up from his long winter’s nap against the Hawks on Wednesday night. Gordon came off the bench to score 22 points to lead the Pistons to victory. He hadn’t scored that many points since February 5th. Over that span, he averaged a Villanueva-esque 9.4 points per game.

I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that the Pistons have been nauseatingly unwatchable this season, the fact that Villanueva and Gordon sabotaged Detroit’s draft, or the fact that we’ll undoubtedly have to endure Joe D telling us that these worthless wins are a sign that this team has started to gel. This team couldn’t gel if it were the Jonas Brothers at the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards. Unfortunately, a lack of quality hair product and bucket of slime is only part of the problem. Perhaps the biggest problem is that this team has no future. Villanueva and Gordon are the equivalent of a pair of anchors buried in the concrete floor of cap space hell. Thanks in part to Joe D’s regrettable decision to sign them to longterm contracts last season, the Pistons not only find themselves the proud owners of a pitiful basketball team, but the proud owners of a pitiful basketball team for what appears to be a long, long time. They are already on the hook for $51.40 million next season. As bad as the Nets, T-Wolves, Kings, and Wizards have been this season, none of the four are on the hook for more than $36 million next season. At least they have the funds to do something about their futility not to mention improved draft position courtesy of Deeetroit Basketball’s awesome two-game winning streak. All of this makes the Pistons the “Biggest Losers” of the NBA.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Updated 100 Greatest Basketball Players of All-Time

I receive email from readers on a weekly basis asking when I’m going to update my top 100 lists. The most requested is the basketball list. I’ve decided to bow to the pressure of my readership and issue an updated version of the top 100 basketball players of all-time. The same rules apply from the previous lists. If you need a refresher on list criteria, please click here. Without further ado, here are the updated 100 greatest basketball players of all-time.

100 Greatest Basketball Players of All-Time

1. Pete Chilcutt

He'd “cutt” you with a razor on the court and then take you to dinner off of it.

2. Vernell Eufaye Coles

This guy was a first class “bimbo."

3. Kurt Nimphius

Despite his name, Nimphius was prude on, and off, the court.

4. Kurt Rambis

Once blazed through 38 lbs of scotch tape in one season to hold his glasses together.

5. Rory Sparrow

Became the first player in NBA history to be born to bird parents. He honored them by changing his last name from "Winslow" to "Sparrow" on his 18th birthday.

6. Kevin Loder

Although most people remember him for his work as an MTV VJ, Loder was such an important force in the NBA that he closed down two NBA franchises: the San Diego Clippers and the Kansas City Kings.

7. Frank Brickowski

Overcame arguably the most detrimental last name in basketball history to shoot a robust .519 from the field.

8. Scott Hastings

Hastings had a reputation for being a frontcourt bully but he was actually one of the greatest score-o participants the world has ever seen. He took shooting from three feet way to new heights. I know this because a friend was blessed with the knowledge of Hastings at a chance encounter at Dunham Sports.

9. Chuck Nevitt

The original "human victory cigar" was also a great mentor. Nevitt is almost solely responsible for Fennis Dembo becoming the greatest towel waiver in NBA history.

10. Ed Nealy

Honorary member of Chicago's three-headed monster was solely responsible for Chicago's third-straight NBA Title in 1993.

11. Greg Kite

Kite once flew a Kite for an entire 48 minute NBA game without allowing his opponent to score a single point.

12. Randy Wittman

Spun such beautiful poetry that coaches who didn’t even want him on the court actually allowed him to be an on-court player/coach while they went to the bathroom to wipe away their tears.

13. Manute Bol

Bol was so good that he was drafted twice. He also once killed a lion with his bare hands in the middle of an NBA game.

14. Sam Bowie

Bowie is single-handedly responsible for the city of Portland being recognized as one of the luckiest cities in the world. The Blazers nearly made a crippling mistake by selecting Michael Jordan.

15. Devin Durrant

Devin Durrant was very nearly Kevin Durant. He never let the cruelty of the situation bring him down as he went on to a remarkably effective 63-game NBA career.

16. Bill Wennington

One of four members of Chicago's three-headed monster to appear on this list. “Beef” Wennington excelled brilliantly in "fouls per minute."

17. Johnny Newman

Aerodynamic Arsenio Hall hairstyle gave him the extra inches necessary to grind and thrive in the paint.

18. David Wingate

Anyone who collected basketball cards in the early 90s knows of the David Robinson rookie “false positive” all too well. Wingate and Robinson were both “Davids” who played for the Spurs. As the opener was flipping through the pack of cards going from left to right, the “David” and “Spurs” logo was easily identifiable. At that point, the opener had no choice but to hold their breath and hope for the best. And if the opener was lucky, they would be a proud owner of a David Wingate 4th-year card.

19. Michael Jackson

No introduction necessary. Jackson gave up a career with the Knicks to become the King of Pop.

20. Jim Les

The classic example of “Les is more."

21. Pete Myers

“Fistpump Pete.” Perhaps no player in NBA history was more instrumental in cheering on the Chicago Bulls than Pete Myers.

22. Jim Farmer

Gave up a lucrative farming career to cultivate points in the NBA.

23. Donald Royal

Once won a head-to-head vote against Royal Ivey to see who truly was the “Royalty of the NBA.” Not surprisingly, Donald was the winner. Making the selection even more meaningful was that it was voted on by his NBA peers.

24. Chris Dudley

Was such an exemplary strategist that he once turned a career 46% free throw percentage into $34.8 million.

25. Jack Haley

Was a member of Chicago’s vaunted three-headed monster for one game. As the saying goes, though, “once a member of the three-headed monster, always a member of the three-headed monster.”

26. Will Perdue

Perhaps the most accomplished member of the three-headed monster. Perdue led the Bulls to three consecutive NBA Titles from 1991-93. He then went on to mentor Tim Duncan and resurrect the flailing career of David Robinson in San Antonio.

27. Vinny Del Negro

"Of the Black" was so silky smooth that he could smoke a doob in one hand and dunk on you with the other.

28. Fennis Dembo

Dembo was arguably the greatest towel twirler in NBA history. One can only wonder how much better he would’ve gotten had he waved his towel for more than one season.

29. Pervis Ellison

Nobody tried harder to shed an unwanted nickname than “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison. Not one to let others dictate his state of mind, Ellison played nervously on purpose just to spite the people who gave him his nickname.

30. Tom Hammonds

“Hambone” spent much of his career announcing Notre Dame games from the end of the bench.

31. Pooh Richardson

Despite hellacious gas problems that caused him to head to the dressing room every 14 minutes, Pooh thrived as a merciless distributor of the ball.

32. Lance Blanks

You never know if a gun shoots blanks unless you're willing to fire it. Blanks left no doubt that there was nothing in the chamber.

33. Luc Longley

Double L was the sexy accent of the Bulls three-headed monster. He was also the Will Perdue and subsequent MVP of the Bulls’ second three-peat.

34. Adam Keefe

It's difficult to tell if Keefe is more known for being a menace in the paint or being a "W" away from infamy.

35. Oliver Miller

Miller derived much of his talent from eating college teammates Todd Day and Lee Mayberry.

36. Darren Morningstar

Most thought Mornginstar's fate was sealed the day the NBA decided to play its games after noon. Clearly, most were wrong.

37. Geert Hammink

Was so good in college that LSU urged Shaquille O'Neal to turn pro so Hammink could run the show.

38. Yinka Dare

A man with priorities. I once asked him for his shoes following a game. His response would've made Socrates smile. "What will I wear for the next game?"

39. LuBara “Dickey” Simpkins

The most unheralded member of Chicago’s three-headed monster to go along with a nickname well earned from what I hear.

40. Wesley Person

Was so good that video game programmers had no choice but to make sure he never missed a shot in NBA LIVE '95.

41. Tariq Abdul-Wahad

Once played Olivier St. John to a draw in a game of one-on-one.

42. God Shammgod

Basketball Jesus has nothing on this guy. Heck, Jesus himself has nothing on this guy.

43. Michael Olowokandi

Say his name three times in the mirror and you'll get dunked on for eternity. Countless NBA centers have doubted the legend and, as I type this, they are currently and repeatedly getting dunked on by Michael Olowokandi.

44. Jonathan Bender

Was so dominating on the court that he is the subject of M. Knight Shyamalan's forthcoming "The Last Airbender."

45. Frederic Weis

Although Weis never actually played in the NBA, he was such a selfless basketball player that he allowed Vince Carter to posterize him with the "Le Dunk de la mort."

46. Chris Mihm

Mihm's the word on this elite big who scorched the league for a .337 field goal percentage in 1998--an impressive feat for a center.

47. Brian Cardinal

The shrewdest of negotiators--Cardinal has amassed over $30 million in career earnings with a .412 career field goal percentage.

49. Dajuan Wagner

Scored more points in a high school game than he did in his last two NBA seasons combined. That stat is a little misleading because he once scored 5,000 points in a high school game.

50. Jewish Jordan

JJ was destined to break Kareem's scoring records but chose religious obedience over superstardom.

51. Dan Dickau

"The Dick" or "DDs" as he was often referred to was so sought after that he was traded eight times.

52. Rafael Araujo

This former 8th overall pick out of BYU was so Mormon that he was born in Brazil.

53. Daniel Ewing

The son of J.R. Ewing, Daniel overcame the pitfalls of growing up under the shadow of a famous father to dominate the NBA.

54. Jon Koncak

Koncak was so physical that writers often subconsciously replaced the "c" with a "t" in his last name.

55. Uwe Blab

Blessed with the "gift of blab", Uwe often talked his opponents into mental breakdowns and then dunked on them.

56. Benoit Benjamin

Was so gifted as a youngster that his father changed the pronunciation of his name ala Joe Theisman. His parents ditched the common French pronunciation of “Benoit” for the phonetic version to rhyme with "anoint." As a result, Benjamin grew to 7'0 tall and was anointed the “King of the NBA.”

57. Joe Wolf

Wolf became the first Werewolf to start an NBA game.

58. Hot Rod Williams

Earned his nickname by taking a charge from a 1949 Mercury Hot Rod. His career arc nosedived after the collision but he limped away the proud owner of a flashy nickname.

59. William Bedford

Following a successful NBA career, Bedford was traded to the Lonestar Stabbers of the Texas State Federal Prison league where he has thrived under the alias "Inmate 675328."

60. Dave Corzine

There is a famous story in NBA circles that Dave Corzine was set to become the greatest player in NBA history but was so secure with himself that he allowed a teammate--Michael Jordan—the honor instead.

61. Pete Incaviglia

Was such a good baseball player that his baseball career ranks as one of the top 100 basketball careers of all-time.

62. Scotty Brooks

Ran into trouble with the law following a splendid basketball career. He was sent away to Shawshank State Prison where upon his release found it difficult to re-acclimate himself into society and thusly ended his life but not before etching, "Brooks was here" into the very wood beam that he hung himself on.

63. Danny Schayes

Danny was actually a better player than his legendary father (Dolph) but, out of respect for him, played worse on purpose to preserve his legacy.

64. Lloyd Batts

This guy was flatout bats.

65. Ruben Boumjte-Boumjte

Initially went by just Ruben Boumjte when he entered the league but, after seeing how awesome he was, league officials demanded that he become Boumjte squared, or the more familiar Boumjte-Boumjte.

66. Primoz Brezec

Brezec was straight-up gangster. Among many honors, he scored the first points in Charlotte Bobcat history which is generally recognized as one of the greatest accomplishments in the NBA record books.

67. Harold Miner

Miner's basketball exploits were so legendary that he was affectionately referred to as “Baby Jordan” after the legendary Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block.

68. Antoine Carr

Although not as famous as his brother, Lloyd, Antoine was not only a force in the paint but a purveyor of sweet goggles.

69. Rex Chapman

While a litany of former NBA players have fallen victim to inconsistent play following changed hairstyles, Chapman bucked the trend by flourishing with every new do. He was just as good under “normal haircut” as he was under “ridiculously dyed red hair” and “bald.”

70. Doug Christie

Christie was so devoted to the game of basketball that he once went 8 minutes without talking to his wife.

71. Billy Curley

Curley was so focused on the court that he once scored a basket by simply asking the ball to throw itself into the hoop. Even more remarkable, he was fouled on the play.

72. Andrew Declercq

Despite a remarkable basketball career, Declercq will best be remembered for ending apartheid in South Africa.

73. Blue Edwards

Theodore "Blue" Edwards was the Joseph "Blue" Pulaski of the NBA.

74. Howard Eisley

One aspect of Eisley's NBA career that is often overlooked is the fact that he succeeded despite spending half of his career touring with the Eisley brothers.

75. Stan Love

In 2005, Mike Love—Stan’s brother—filed a lawsuit against fellow Beach Boys member Brian Wilson for, among other things, being one of the greatest songwriters of all-time. Stan Love was such an awesome basketball player, that he didn't do the same thing to Michael Jordan.

76. Tom Hagan

Could've been even higher on the list had he not abruptly retired after one season to become the consigliere to the Corleone family.

77. Dontonio Wingfield

In the face of nothing but dissenting opinion, Wingfield went pro after his freshman season at Cincinnati. The result was a mathematical match made in heaven as Wingfield became one of just a handful of NBA players to match his number of career starts with the round he was drafted in.

78. Mike Iuzzolino

One of only 18 players in NBA history with a last name beginning with "I", Mike proved that while there isn't an "I" in team, there is one in both "Mike" and "Iuzzolino."

79. Andrew Lang

Lang was the centerpiece of one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history. The 76ers stole Lang from Phoenix along with Tim Perry and Jeff Hornacek for Charles Barkley.

80. Priest Lauderdale

Although he wasn't a "priest" and he wasn't from Ft. "Lauderdale", he was without question, the greatest basketball player ever named Priest Lauderdale.

81. Marcus Liberty

When the Denver Nuggets handed in their pick in the second round of the 1990 draft, their new General Manager scribbled on the card, "Give me Liberty or give me death." David Stern tried to talk them into "death" but they were hell-bent on Liberty and they were rewarded with a blistering .417 field goal percentage over four years.

82. Don Maclean

Rumor has it that Maclean wrote the words to "American Pie" midair as he dunked over former college teammate Tracy Murray.

83. Sarunas Marciulionis

Was so valued by the Golden St. Warriors that the franchise forced Don Nelson’s son to learn Lithuanian rather than let this non-English speaking superstar go.

84. Sam Perkins

Perkins was a natural having reportedly slept during 52% of his time on the court. Imagine how good he would've been had he been awake the whole time.

85. Bryant Reeves

Big Country was such an iconic figure in American sports history that Canada made it its mission to build its entire sports program around Reeves. Canada had to play coy since any inkling of suspicion on the part of the United State would've ruined the plan. Canada eventually succeeded in the heist when the Vancouver Grizzlies selected him in the first round of the 1995 draft.

86. J.R. Reid

Reid took the reins from Earvin Johnson as the NBA's magic man. He played 11 seasons in the NBA but nobody had any idea he played more than five. How did he do it? A good magician never reveals his secrets.

87. Tree Rollins

Rollins was literally a tree that teams planted in front of the basket to deter shot attempts. Sadly, he was cut down for firewood following the 1994 season.

88. John Crotty

There’s nothing I can say about John Crotty that hasn’t been said a million times.

89. Otis Thorpe

Was such a respected basketball player that the Vancouver Grizzlies were willing to give up the rights to Darko Milicic six years before he was even drafted just to get their hands on O.T.

90. James Edwards

With his famous Fu Manchu, “Buddha” was the ultimate intimidator. Every single one of his 14,862 career points came within the first five minutes of the game.

91. Stanley Roberts

Recorded the first NBA Triple Double of its kind when he went for 11 points, 11 rebounds and ate 10 meatball sandwiches in a game against the Pistons in 1993.

92. Mark Aguirre

What he did on the hardwood was impressive but his most notable achievement came when he added an "M" to his last name and went on to hit 583 home runs and break Roger Maris's single season home run record.

93. Mike Smrek

Smrek was the first ogre to suit up for an NBA game. His brother, Mike Shrek, reached international fame when he married Princess Fiona in spite of Lord Farquaad’s best efforts to steal the headlines.

94. Michael Cage

Cage was a two-sport start. Everyone knows about his exploits as a feared NBA baller but most people don't know that he defeated Eric LaSalle in the 1987 World Jheri Curl Championships.

95. Eric Leckner

Leckner broker the lower limit of John Hollinger's PER rating in the 1989 playoffs with Utah. Although the Jazz were swept out of the playoffs, Leckner did his part with a -14.8 PER.

96. Jeff Grayer

In a career full of highs, Grayer will be most remembered for being the grayist player to ever suit up in an NBA game.

97. Jud Buechler

Buechler led the Bulls to back-to-back NBA Championships in '97 and '98.

98. Chris Gatling

I've always said that you can judge a player’s worth by how many times he has been traded. Few players in NBA history were worth more than Gatling who was traded nine times. Interestingly, Gatling was, at one time or another, traded for every player in the NBA.

99. Shawn Bradley

I've always said you can judge a player's worth by how much his sweat glistens. I once asked Shawn Bradley for his shoes. Luckily for me, he threw me his sweaty towel instead. His glisten was magnificent.

100. Gerald Glass

Glass became the first and only player in NBA history to be entirely made of glass.

101. April Fools!

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