Where were you in the year 2000? At that time, you probably thought Limp Bizkit was a legend in the making, and that rap and hard rock/metal had a marriage that could last forever. You probably watched Pokemon on television, not knowing that 16 years later, it would serve as the basis for a wildly-popular mobile game. And if you were an NBA fan, you were watching the league as it recovered from a lockout-shortened season, and several years of increasingly lower scores.
While you may definitely remember the AIs, the KGs, the Kobes, and the C-Webbs of the “Y2K era” of pro basketball, there are many other NBA players whose names may be slipping your mind, if not completely forgotten. But bear in mind that we’re not referring to guys like A.J. Guyton, Hanno Mottola, and Olumide Oyedeji. We’re talking about NBA players who were actually well-utilized in or around the year 2000. They may have been promising youngsters, more productive journeymen, or in one case, a fading star whom you probably thought had already retired at that time.
So without further ado, join us as we take a trip down memory lane, and remember 15 NBA players who were productive in the Y2K era, but are probably forgotten by many fans today.
15. TARIQ ABDUL-WAHAD
Back in his college days, he was known as Olivier Saint-Jean, a reserve on some talented Michigan teams who broke out when he transferred to San Jose State. He seemed to have the makings of a big scorer in the NBA, but upon being drafted 11th by Sacramento in the 1997 draft, Tariq Abdul-Wahad (who converted to Islam that same year) was used mainly as a defensive stopper. He enjoyed his best NBA season in 1999-00, averaging 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds and splitting time between the Magic and the Nuggets.
That seemed to hint at Abdul-Wahad developing into a solid two-way player, but as the 2000s hit, he found himself besieged by nagging injuries. He never regained his old form, and was out of the NBA after the 2002-03 season, having played just 67 games in his last three seasons.
14. TRAVIS BEST
This Travis was not the Best point guard in the NBA during his time. In fact, he was pretty average in the pros despite his gaudy numbers as Kenny Anderson’s heir apparent at Georgia Tech. Still, he was at the peak of his game during the Y2K era, averaging 11.9 points and 6.1 assists off the bench in 2000-01 and standing out as the best pure point guard on the Indiana Pacers. (The team’s starting backcourt included Jalen Rose, normally a shooting guard, and Reggie Miller.) He also played a key role in the team’s 2000 NBA Finals run, but was ultimately rendered replaceable when Indiana drafted Jamaal Tinsley in 2001.
Once again, and this time without puns, Best was an average point guard across the board. He didn’t have any overwhelming strengths nor weaknesses apart from his pesky defense, and he ultimately became a literal journeyman after the Pacers traded him to the Bulls midway through the 2001-02 season.
13. JAKE TSAKALIDIS
At 7’2” and 280 pounds, Jake Tsakalidis was an anomaly for a European player when the Phoenix Suns drafted him 25th overall in 2000. Unlike his fellow Euro big men, he mainly operated inside and played like a true center, and as an added bonus, used his height to block opposing shots fairly well. This wasn’t your average stretch four or five, and the Suns were so desperate for an inside presence that they started Big Jake most of the time when he was healthy.
But was he any good? In terms of rebounding, he left a bit to be desired. And while he wasn’t drafted to score, he was mediocre at best on the offensive end. Tsakalidis also played for the Grizzlies and the Rockets, where he didn’t distinguish himself either. Hey, at least he was still much better than his far more-hyped countryman, Nikoloz Tskitishvili.
12. ROSHOWN MCLEOD
When you think Duke small forwards who made it to the NBA after starring in college, you think Grant Hill. Luol Deng. Corey Maggette. Heck, even Lance Thomas and Kyle Singler. But you do not think Roshown McLeod, who was the Atlanta Hawks’ first-round pick in 1998, and their starting small forward for good parts of 1999 to 2001. In the 2000-01 season, he averaged 9.6 points and 3.4 rebounds for the Hawks, and wasn’t really a bad player on paper if you come to think about it.
After that, he was gone. Actually, McLeod did play one game for Philadelphia in 2000-01 (as part of the trade that sent Dikembe Mutombo to the Sixers) before his NBA career ended. But after he failed to stick with the Boston Celtics in 2001-02, he embarked on his coaching career, though he has yet to win a major college head coaching job as of this writing.
11. MAURICE TAYLOR
He may be familiar as the most prominent ex-Michigan Wolverine who was accused of taking money from a booster several years after the fact, thereby forfeiting all his team’s wins where he played in. But in the first few years of his pro career, Maurice Taylor was one of the many promising Los Angeles Clippers who produced well for his team, but ultimately wanted out of the Donald Sterling experience. His career peaked in 1999-00, when he averaged 17.1 points and a rather paltry 6.5 rebounds (as a 6’9”-260 power forward) for the Clippers.
After his run with the Clippers ended, Taylor became more famous not only for the aforementioned Ed Martin scandal, but also as a habitual weed smoker and underachiever who couldn’t recapture the promise he had in L.A. He also dealt with some weight problems, and was a perennially poor rebounder for a player his size, even more so as his NBA career drew to a close in the mid-2000s.
10. OTHELLA HARRINGTON
You may probably remember the unrelated Al Harrington by virtue of his being a preps-to-pros draftee and his having a more successful NBA career. But what about Othella Harrington? Before this “Big O” started his journeyman run in the pros, he was a pretty big deal in high school, a first-team All-American expected to follow in the footsteps of Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, and Alonzo Mourning as a franchise-quality big man from the Georgetown Hoyas.
Obviously, that didn’t quite happen, as Harrington was good, but not great in college. But he was, for all intents and purposes, a dependable forward/center in the NBA, solid enough to last 12 seasons, but never good enough in what he did best (inside scoring and rebounding) to be a star. He played his best pro ball for the sad-sack Vancouver Grizzlies, averaging 13.1 points and 6.9 rebounds in the 1999-00 season.
9. RON HARPER
Sometimes, less is more, and diminished stats don’t tell the whole story of a player’s value to his team. Ron Harper is the quintessential example of such. Although he was a consistent 20-point scorer for the Cavs and the Clippers from 1986 to 1995, he was also a very unhappy, injury-prone camper with the latter team, back when playing for the Clippers was akin to serving time in solitary confinement. But when the Bulls signed him as the erstwhile-retired Michael Jordan’s replacement at the two in 1995-96, he had found his niche as a defensive-oriented role player extraordinaire, despite seldom scoring in double figures.
Harper played a key complementary role in the Bulls’ second three-peat, and added two more titles to his resume as Kobe Bryant’s backcourt partner in the L.A. Lakers from 1999 to 2001. Believe it or not, he was still in the league, and getting good minutes, during those days of Y2K. And while his unsexy later-career numbers make him less memorable to many fans, opposing guards probably still have nightmares of his defensive prowess.
8. TERRELL BRANDON
Older fans may still remember Terrell Brandon as the high-scoring point guard on those low-scoring Mike Fratello-coached Cleveland Cavaliers teams of the mid-‘90s. And as the 21st century started, Brandon was still putting up big numbers, now playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves and getting the ball to Kevin Garnett, while scoring pretty well himself. So why might you not remember him if he had such a productive NBA career beforehand, and during the Y2K era itself?
The reason may be the fact that injuries prematurely ended Brandon’s career; after playing just 32 games in 2001-02, TB never played in the NBA again. Brandon formally announced his retirement in 2004, only 33 years old and a good two years removed from his last game in the league.
7. JAHIDI WHITE
Despite carrying around 300 pounds on his 6’9” frame, Jahidi White was a surprisingly athletic player, and that’s what convinced the Washington Wizards to take a flyer on him in the second round of the 1998 draft. By 2000, he was the team’s starting center; a bit short for the position, a bit lacking on offense, yet tough on the boards and on defense. Like Oliver Miller before him, he was proving that looks can be deceiving; he was built almost like an NFL lineman, yet moved fairly well and made the most out of his skills.
It wasn’t long, however, before weight and injuries took their toll on the burly big man. Kwame Brown and Brendan Haywood weren’t much better, but at least they had height on their side. White didn’t make much of an impact when he was traded to the Phoenix Suns in 2003, and barely played when he wrapped up his NBA career with the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2004-05 season.
6. MARC JACKSON
Back in the day, Marc Jackson was a pretty solid player for the Golden State Warriors. No, we’re not referring to the guy who once coached them – that’s Mark Jackson. This dude with a very similar name (and the same middle initial, might we add) played center, not point guard, and he had quite an impressive rookie year in 2000-01, averaging 13.2 points and 7.5 rebounds after playing his first three pro seasons in Europe.
Despite finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2001, the Warriors preferred the offensively-challenged, yet defensively-skilled Adonal Foyle and Erick Dampier at center, and Jackson was riding the bench in his second NBA season. He ended up bouncing around the NBA, retiring in 2007 after playing for five teams in seven seasons, and never returning to the starting lineup on a regular basis.
5. DEREK ANDERSON
These days, the Derek Anderson most of us know may be the ex-Arizona Cardinals quarterback who flipped out at reporters who took offense at how he laughed in the middle of a loss. He sure takes that s—t seriously, but so did the NBA’s Derek Anderson, who was a pretty good two-way wingman in the Y2K era. He was even part of one of those early Tim Duncan-led Spurs teams, averaging 15.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.5 steals in 2000-01 before being sent to the Portland Trail Blazers.
And that’s maybe one reason why the NBA’s Derek Anderson isn’t as memorable as the NFL guy, despite having a much better pro career. On a “Jail Blazers” team with a temperamental Rasheed Wallace, an underachieving Damon Stoudamire, a fat Shawn Kemp, and an unpredictable Bonzi Wells and Ruben Patterson, Anderson quietly did his job while his more colorful teammates grabbed the headlines for the wrong reasons.
4. MICHAEL DICKERSON
Remember when Michael Dickerson was a hot-shooting Vancouver Grizzlies guard whom you could constantly rely on score 20-ish points and hit about a trey or two in a game? You probably don’t, because when the Grizzlies moved to Memphis, the former Arizona Wildcats ace was already dealing with chronic hamstring and groin injuries, and only played ten games over two seasons from 2001 to 2003.
Before he retired from basketball at the shockingly young age of 27, Dickerson was quite a big deal for the Grizzlies. He was their “consolation prize” for 1999 second-overall pick Steve Francis refusing to sign with the team, and was acquired from the Rockets in exchange for Francis. Dickerson was never a glamorous player, but had he not been injured, he could have easily had a long career due to his reliability and shooting skills.
3. RON MERCER
Playing for an awful Chicago Bulls team in 2000-01, Ron Mercer was living up to his status as a lottery pick in the 1997 NBA draft. He played close to 42 minutes a game, averaging a career-best 19.7 points and teaming with Elton Brand and Ron Artest (a.k.a. The Player Not Yet Known as Metta World Peace) to give the Bulls a promising young nucleus. So why isn’t he as memorable as Brand and Artest/World Peace are to today’s fans, regardless of the fact that those two were still in the NBA as of last season?
As it turned out, Mercer’s career year was as good as it got for the former Kentucky wingman. His play was already fading in 2001-02, and he got demoted to reserve duty that season after the Bulls shipped him to the Indiana Pacers. He was out of the NBA by 2005 at the young age of 29, after again failing to regain his old form in stints with the Spurs and the Nets.
2. GEORGE LYNCH
Just how unsung a hero is George Lynch in the NBA? Well, if you do a Google search for him, the only George Lynch in the front page is the ‘80s guitar wizard for Dokken, and not the NBA small forward. As for the basketball player, this writer was honestly surprised to find out that Lynch started for the Philadelphia 76ers during their NBA Finals run in 2000-01. Then again, when such a team is led by Allen Iverson, it’s easy to forget that the Answer was surrounded by a plethora of talented defenders, Lynch included.
Lynch never made the All-Defensive Team, and never did he average more than 10 points per game, despite starting for most of his 12-year NBA career. He was just one of those players who busted their tail every day and did what was asked of him; in his case, it was shutting the big scorers down, and getting more than his fair share of steals.
1. DANNY FORTSON
Given what we know today, former Denver Nuggets power forward Danny Fortson may have been the proto-Kenneth Faried. Too short to play the four in the NBA, not a good enough shooter to slide down to the three. Ostensibly doomed to be a tweener, yet ultimately successful as a pro. But unlike the Manimal, who has played solidly for six seasons and counting, Fortson only enjoyed success for a few brief seasons in the NBA. He had averaged a double-double twice, once for the Nuggets and once for the Warriors, but nagging injuries had hampered his game early on in his career. It didn’t help either in 2002-03, when the taller, sweeter-shooting Troy Murphy stepped into Fortson’s starting role, even before injuries cut short yet another season for him.
In ten NBA seasons, Fortson played for five teams, and ended up with career averages of 8.2 points and 7.2 rebounds. But if it’s any solace to this undersized bruiser, he was quite the per-36 guy as a rebounder, averaging 13 per 36 minutes for his career.
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