When it comes to the NBA, the one decade that fans under the age of 40 want to talk about first is the 1990s. Millennials refer to this decade as the best in basketball history as exposure and scoring increased, producing a lot of new stars. Many of the stars from the decade are still talked about today and are incredibly visible in the media. Some of those players that first come to mind include Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone and, of course, Michael Jordan.
While those guys are in the public eye, there are plenty of players that made a huge impact that you either haven’t heard from in a long time or have completely forgotten about. These are the types of players that you forgot had made at least one All-Star team, but weren’t really known for their deep playoff runs (not that they could have with Jordan and the Bulls dominating the decade).
So who are some of these players that you probably rooted for in your childhood but may have forgotten about? Here are 15 of the NBA’s best that were overshadowed, their accomplishments and what some of them are up to today.
15 Cedric Ceballos
A second round pick out of Cal State Fullerton in 1990, Cedric Ceballos was pretty much already forgotten about before his career even started. Ceballos spent his first four seasons with the Suns before heading to the Lakers for three more years. He would then return to Phoenix for a season, then ended his career with short stints in Dallas, Detroit and Miami, retiring in 2001.
14 Nick Van Exel
Currently an assistant coach for the Memphis Grizzlies, Nick Van Exel had a very long career as a player in the NBA, but is known mainly for being a role player during the 2000s by younger NBA fans. Like Ceballos, Van Exel was a second round pick that spent time with the Lakers. Van Exel would immediately make an impact with 13.6 points and 5.8 assists per game in his rookie season.
13 Kevin Willis
A former Michigan State standout, Kevin Willis actually started his NBA career in the mid 1980s, but wouldn’t retire until 2007 at the age of 44. Willis would have his best years in the 1990s as he was pretty one dimensional through the early part of his career. In the 1990s, Willis would become a scoring and rebounding machine, posting his best season in 1991-92 with Atlanta when he scored 18.3 points and hauled in 15.5 rebounds per game.
12 Glen Rice
When everyone talks about the greatest players of the 1990s, it seems that hardly anyone ever brings up Glen Rice, even though his numbers could be compared to a lot of the greats. Rice was one of the stars from Michigan, being drafted fourth overall in 1989 by Miami. In his six seasons there, Rice would average 19.3 rebounds with 4.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, but he really found his stardom in Charlotte.
11 Eddie Jones
The Lakers make yet another appearance on the list with our next star, Eddie Jones, the former 10th overall pick (1994) out of Temple. Jones spent his first two season in a crowded backcourt before getting the chance to play more in his third year, and it would make him an All-Star in 1996-1997. Jones followed it up with another All-Star appearance in the next season before joining the Hornets.
10 Cliff Robinson
Cliff Robinson wasn’t drafted until the 36th pick in 1989 by Portland and the Trail Blazers would end up getting a star from the east coast. Robinson spent a lot of time on the bench during the first three seasons of his career, then became the best sixth man in the league during the 1992-93 season. The next year, Robinson had his only All-Star season when he averaged 20.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
9 Tom Gugliotta
By the later part of the 1990s, Tom Gugliotta was one of the better scorers and overall players in the NBA, but nobody was really talking about him and they still don’t to this day. Gugliotta was a former sixth overall pick by Washington, but would have his best days in the 1990s with Minnesota. Gugliotta was named to one All-Star team and that happened in the 1996-1997 season with Minnesota when he scored 20.6 points per game to go along with 8.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
8 Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is certainly not forgotten in Sacramento, as he has been serving as the city’s mayor since 2008. However, people could probably tell you more these days about Johnson’s political career than his basketball career. Johnson was the seventh pick out of Cal by the Cavaliers in 1987 and he would end up being a three-time All-Star with the Suns (after a trade) in the early 1990s.
7 Terrell Brandon
Just like Kevin Johnson, Terrell Brandon was another west coast player that was drafted early in the first round by the Cavaliers (11th overall). However, Brandon would stick around with the team and become a standout after a slow start. Brandon was only averaging around eight points per game over his first three seasons, but by 1995-1996 became a star when he exploded for 19.3 points and 6.5 assists per game.
6 Sean Elliott
Sean Elliott ended up spending 12 seasons in the NBA (most in the 1990s), and all but one of them came with the Spurs. Elliott averaged at least double digits in scoring in all but one of his first 10 seasons in the league. Elliott certainly needed the Spurs as he struggled in his only season with the Pistons and became a star when he returned in 1994-1995 with 18.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
5 Mookie Blaylock
Most people only remember Mookie Blaylock in the first place because of the way Stuart Scott said his name on SportsCenter back in the 1990s. Blaylock was actually a standout player, though, playing from 1989 to 2002. While he started his career with the Nets, Blaylock was most known for his time in Atlanta where he became an All-Star for the only time in his career and a six-time All-Defensive player.
4 Rik Smits
The Netherlands hasn’t quite been known for its basketball history, but they have at least produced one of the better players in the 1990s, Rik Smits. Smits was the second overall pick out of Marist in 1988 and spent his entire career with the Pacers, retiring after the 1999-2000 season. Smits never really got the credit that he deserved for being a great center, though he had the numbers to back it up.
3 Mitch Richmond
A perennial All-Star that put up a ton of points, Mitch Richmond’s name sadly never gets mentioned when talking about the best players from the 1990s. Richmond averaged at least 21.9 points per game throughout his first 10 seasons in the league and he also made six straight All-Star teams between the 1992-1993 and 1997-1998 seasons, while he was a member of the Sacramento Kings.
2 Steve Smith
Not to be confused with the countless other people of the same name, this Steve Smith was a former Michigan State Spartan drafted fifth overall by Miami in 1991. Smith spent the 1990s with Miami, Atlanta and Portland and is one of the many forgotten stars on our list that would win their only title with the Spurs in the 2000s. Smith was named to one All-Star team (1997-1998) in the year that he averaged 20.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.
1 Vin Baker
The Milwaukee Bucks took our top forgotten star with the eighth pick in 1993 out of Hartford and found they had something in his rookie season. Baker developed into a great player quickly as he made the next three All-Star teams with Milwaukee, before heading to Seattle and making a fourth straight. At the height of his career, Baker was averaging 21.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, though he was a bit overshadowed by Gary Payton in Seattle.
Baker had another couple of solid seasons before seemingly falling off the map completely. Baker struggled with his weight and was having substance abuse problems that would cost him the prime of his career. Baker played his last game in the 2005-2006 season, but his stretch in the mid 1990s was one of the best in the NBA. At last check, Baker was working at a Starbucks last summer in Rhode Island.
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