One of the biggest legacy-defining arguments for the great LeBron James is “the block.” With game seven of the 2016 Finals coming to a close, LeBron swatted Andre Iguodala’s fast-break lay up with his patented chase down block. The defensive play will go down in history as probably the most clutch non-offensive moment of all time. True: LeBron’s heroics helped ice the game. Also very true: Kyrie Irving’s dagger three pointer on Steph Curry the next play is also arguably the reason the Cavs won that year. Look, the casual NBA fan will focus on scoring. It’s inevitable. It’s a sexy statistic, and yet, it is focused on way too much. Scoring is important, but it leads to me-first selfish isolation basketball that ruins the game for spectators, players and coaches. It’s about time that we honored the grit and grind, the selfless floor generals, and the guys pounding the ground for rebounds every night. Here goes nothing, the best NBA players who couldn’t score!
15. Free Charles Oakley!
“Free Charles Oakley!” bellowed the indignant and oft-belligerent sports personality Mike Rapaport into the raw New York winter air earlier this year, as he learned that the beloved Charles Oakley was banned from Madison Square Garden by owner James Dolan. The support Oak received from New Yorkers and the rest of the basketball world when he was banished for unknown reasons is a huge testament to what Oakley meant for Knick fans during his ten year tenure with the franchise. Oakley holds many rebounding records and is perhaps one of the best rebounders in the history of the game, all while averaging an overwhelmingly mediocre nine points per game. In the end, Oakley retired after eighteen seasons with an All Star appearance and two all defensive NBA selections to his name.
14. Tony Allen: The Grindfather
An interesting story came out of Memphis recently, when Tony Allen finally called out then-Grizzly swingman Rudy Gay for not playing one night on account of a “hurt toe,” an injury that switched Allen’s defensive assignment of the night from James Harden to Kevin Durant. He had his work cut out for him. After slinging mud at his teammate, he simply chalked up the victory to the grit and grind, a phrase that eventually came to be the team-nickname for the Memphis Grizzles: The Grindhouse. Tony Allen is the working-class hero of the NBA! If you don’t know his name, you may have missed the 2008 Boston Celtic championship run, or any of the Memphis Grizzlies surprisingly effective playoff appearances in the 2010s. Yes, the Grindfather has made a name for himself in his twelve NBA season by consistently swiping the ball from opponents, and being the guy who eagerly accepts the toughest opposing player assignment night in and night out. While he averages a modest eight points on his career, he simply has not needed to score the ball to be an important NBA player in the last decade.
13. 5 Rings, 6 PPG: Steve Kerr
When you averaged only one more point per game than the amount of rings you have won, your name might be Steve Kerr. No, not just the coach of the Golden State Warriors, kids. Kerr played alongside Michael Jordan during the Bulls dynasty, collecting a cool five rings in the process. Although he started at point guard for a large portion of that time, his steadiness of character and play is what made him valuable to the Bulls organization. He was a locker room presence, and although he averaged a mere eight points during most of the peak of his career, those eight points plus his pesky defense made the Bulls a complete picture.
12. Ason Kidd, No “J”
Here is where this gets crazy. Jason Kidd is known to be one of the greatest point guards of all time, and although he became a great three point shooter out of necessity later in his career, he was never a pure shooter. Although he did manage to average twelve points on his career, Kidd’s calling card has been his triple doubles, and how great he made the players around him. Bottom line, despite his brilliant back to back Finals appearances with the New Jersey Nets and 2011 Championship with Dallas, J Kidd shot sub-.400 from the field in most of his prime years. Once again, the point here is that despite his shooting woes, Kidd will go down as one of the greatest ever.
11. Dimes in Stock: John Stockton!
A lot of people don’t realize this, but John Stockton and his teammate Karl Malone practically never missed a game from 1984 through 1996. Stockton alone played all 82 games for eleven of the first twelve years he played for the Utah Jazz, and during that time he dished it an unreal average of twelve times per game. He is the great distributor. And all the more amazing, for all the ridiculous record-setting amount of minutes he played without injury, John Stockton manage to only average thirteen points per game on his career. That must have almost been challenging to do! To be fair, he had a pretty smart shot selection. But nonetheless, Stock became one of the most decorated players in the history of the game without putting the ball in the net.
10. No, no, no! Dikembe Mutombo
Considered one of the greatest rim protectors in the history of the game, Dikembe Mutombo made a name for himself over his nineteen year career all while putting up a measly career average of nine points. Famous for his finger-wagging after blocking nearly all of the greats, few will forget when Jordan dunked on Deke and wagged his finger right back at him. For a guy who was a mainstay at the NBA all-star game however, it is an unbelievable that he hardly scored the ball. Although he has a career field goal percentage right around five hundred, that number should be way higher considering he lived about two to three feet away from the basket. Poor shooting aside, he was a Hall of Fame shoe in.
9. DeAndre 3000
Considered one of the best if not the best center in today’s talent-loaded NBA, it is difficult to put down DeAndre Jordan, even if any offensive game he has boasted in the past nine seasons has been thanks to injuries or simply existing next to Chris Paul. Regardless, no one will forget DJ’s historic ditch of the Clippers for the Dallas Mavericks, only to abandon his verbal agreement before signing, and come back to his beloved Clippers. Jordan has risen to the top of the heap as the best rebounder and shot blocker in today’s NBA, and a lot of the Dallas drama had to do with him wanting a more prominent role on offense. Truth be told, he has a ridiculously high field goal percentage, but most of those come from defensive draws to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, who are both pretty awesome passers. Bottom line, DJ gets more lobs than he knows what to do with, which are the main reason it appears that he is such a great shooter. He makes this list mainly because at the end of the day he can’t create any offense on his own… oh, and he couldn’t sink a free throw to save his life!
8. Andrew Bogut
In Andrew Bogut’s eleven year NBA career, he has carved out a niche for himself as one of the most valuable rim-protectors and rebounders in the game. Averaging a lowly ten points per game however, is a testament to just how valuable he was as a team player that can intimidate almost any opposition at the rim. Being a critical part of the historic 2015 Golden State Warrior championship team, injuries struck hard and repeatedly for the Australian center, causing a quick and steep decline in the last few seasons. His most recent stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers literally lasted for a few seconds, as he suffered a broken leg and derailed his chances at helping the Cavs win another ring this year. Despite his big name, he was a glorified role player most of his career who simply could not score!
7. Rick “McNasty” Mahorn
Often regarded as the baddest bad boy of the championship winning Detroit Pistons of the late ’80s, Rich Mahorn’s stats don’t jump off the sheet. It’s true, Mahorn averaged a pedestrian seven points and six rebounds on his career. But, he is still considered an defensive great and a key player in the physical era of 1990s that was one of the most entertaining and competitive eras of the NBA. His bad boy disposition extended beyond his hardwood duties, as he comically was suspended from the WNBA in 2008 when he backhandedly (and clearly by accident) knocked over star player Lisa Leslie while trying to break up a brawl. Yes, the day came where Ricky was actually trying to break up a fight, and he ended up suspended. The irony is too much to fathom.
6. Bruce Bowen
Like Jason Kidd, Bowen made his three ball a threat later in his career out of necessity. And like DeAndre Jordan, his only offensive threat was due to the fact that teams had so much else to deal with when they faced his team. Make no Bowens about it, he is one of the greatest defensive players of all time, and although his three point percentages were decent on his career, his overall field goal percentage leaves much to be desired. He spent a lot of time on the floor in his career, whether earning minutes or fighting for loose balls, yet he had his fair share of trouble finding the net. Regardless, he managed to be a key part of three championship runs with the San Antonio Spurs dynasty, all while averaging only six points!
5. 7 PPG, 7 Rings: Big Shot Bob Horry
Robert Horry has just about the most fortuitous career in NBA history. Coming into the league in 1992, Horry spent time on four teams over the course of fifteen seasons, but the crazy part is this: almost every team he was on either was in contention or came into contention while he was rostered. In the end, he won seven NBA championships with three different teams. Even more unbelievable, he only averaged minutes in the mid 20s during all of those years, and only averaged seven points on his career! Talk about the right place at the right time! Horry’s most famous moment came in the 2002 Western Conference Finals Game 4 where he hit a buzzer beater to steal a win against the dominant Sacramento Kings! Despite the lack of offensive game, Horry will go down as one of the most clutch players in NBA history.
4. Rajon “Swag” Rondo
When the big three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen formed in 2007, nobody would’ve guessed that Celtic fans were actually getting a big four out of the deal. But once the crafty wheeling and dealing Rajon Rondo stepped up, earning himself four all star appearances, it was obvious that Boston had found a diamond in the rough. Still a consistent rotation point guard today, Rondo has certainly lost some of his touch. But one touch he never had to lose was his shooting touch. While Rondo’s crafty style earns him some points in the paint, he is truly an abysmal three point shooter, shooting .300 on his career and spending most of his peak years shooting under .233 from beyond the arc. Despite that, the fact that he gets his teammates involved and makes others around him better, as well as his elite rebounding and defense, lands him high upon this list of the best players who couldn’t score!
3. Ricky Rubio
Rubio is truly one of the purest point guards in today’s league. He plays like he just crept out of a time capsule from the 1970s. He can steal the ball perhaps better than anyone else in the league, and has a knack for finding teammates for buckets (having Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns sure doesn’t hurt!) But when it comes to shooting, not only is he bad, but due to his shot volume and the amount of minutes he has played, he might actually be the worst shooter of all time! Seriously! For a player entering his prime boasting elite swiping and dishing, it’s hard to believe just how much he could hurt a team trotting him out there as starting point guard. Maybe throwing lobs to Rudy Gobert in Utah next season will assist his confidence, but don’t hold your breath!
2. Ben Wallace
Everyone loves Big Ben! Back in 2004, he was the baddest center in the league. His biceps were bigger than your head, and he was a beast on the boards. At six foot nine, it’s kind of hard to beat up on the four time All Star and NBA Champ, but the truth is he couldn’t hit the ocean if he was on the beach! He averaged five points in sixteen seasons, and considering most (safe to say probably all) of his shots were a few feet from the rim, it’s nearly embarrassing to think his field goal percentage on the career was .475 … yikes! But tenacity and heart are what made the improbable and undersized centers one of the greats, and a trouble maker under the boards season after season.
1. Dennis Rodman
Speaking of trouble makers, let’s hope Dennis Rodman’s unexpected diplomacy with North Korea ends in the United States scoring more than the Hall of Famer could during his fourteen year career. Percentages aside, Rodman’s stats would make for the easiest Jeopardy question for the most casual of NBA fans. “Nicknamed “the Worm” this NBA player boasted the most bizarre averages of five points and seventeen rebounds per game during his prime years, winning a whopping five NBA titles while at it.” Unlike Steve Kerr, this Jordan beneficiary has much less to thank Michael for, as his insane rebounding averages for just under a decade allowed the luxury of anyone else wearing red and black to shoot until they felt warm. Largely underrated for his absence on offense, Dennis the Menace not only provided the dynasty Bulls with the fire to compete in the height of the physical era, but was a silent member of arguably the most dominant trio in NBA history, all before anyone uttered the phrase “big three.”
Look: most fans would kill to play in even one moment of NBA action, and probably would offensively make any these guys look like Steph Curry. In that sense, a huge amount of respect is due to the fifteen hugely impactful players listed here. Even so, let the record show, basketball is way more complex than just putting the ball in the net!
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