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.
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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.
It took Ceballos a few years to find his footing, but he started putting up big numbers in the 1993-94 season with 19.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. In his first season with the Lakers, he would have a career year when he scored 21.7 points with 8.0 rebounds per game, and was named to his only All-Star team. He didn’t have a long run as being a great player, but he was certainly overlooked in the mid 1990s.
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.
By the late 1990s, he had become a star player (making his only All-Star Game in 1997-98), and his best season in the decade came in 1998-1999. Van Exel would end up scoring 16.5 points per game with 7.4 assists. In his career, Van Exel averaged an impressive 14.4 points and 6.6 assists per game, ending his career after the 2005-06 season with the Spurs.
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.
Willis would then play for Miami, Golden State, Houston and Toronto throughout the remainder of the decade, and he had finished his career with 12.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. He would only be named an All-NBA player once in his career (1992), but he definitely had an impact. In 2003, he won his only NBA title with the Spurs.
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.
Rice spent three seasons in Charlotte and made his only three All-Star teams while there. Rice scored 23.5 points per game in Charlotte before making his way to the Lakers for the final two seasons of the decade. Rice would eventually retire after the 2004 season with the Clippers after playing in just 18 games and is now an owner of a small-time MMA promotion.
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.
Jones would end up playing a majority of his career in the 2000s, but still had his best years and all three All-Star appearances in the 1990s. Jones was also a defensive standout that was named to three All-Defensive Teams and he would finish his career by averaging 14.8 points per game. Jones retired after the 2007-2008 season with Dallas.
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.
Robinson’s star would continue to shine for a couple more seasons,and he topped out his scoring at 21.3 points per game in 1994-1995. Robinson’s career started to wane in the 2000s, but he would end up playing until after the 2006-2007 season with the Nets. Robinson is now rumored to be getting into the legal marijuana market in Oregon and was a contestant on Survivor recently.
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.
Gugliotta’s career would continue until the end of the 2004-05 season when he played with both Boston and Atlanta, finishing his career with averages of 13.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. These days, “Googs” is enjoying retirement as he now lives in Atlanta and spends most of his time playing golf.
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.
Johnson had some incredible years in the 1990s, but his best had to be in the very first part of the decade when he scored 22.5 points with 11.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game in 1989-90. Johnson’s career came to an end when the 1990s did and he played all but 52 games of his career with the Suns.
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.
Brandon would have a stretch of a few solid seasons where he added one more All-Star appearance to his resume and was still scoring 16 points per game when the new millennium started. Brandon was only 31 when he made his final NBA appearance in 2002. He officially retired in 2004, ending his career with averages of 13.8 points, 6.1 assists and 3.0 rebounds 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.
The next year, Elliott would become an All-Star for the second time in his career when he had a career high in scoring with 20.0 points per game to go along with 5.1 rebounds. Elliott finished his career after the 2000-2001 season and scored 14.2 points per game for his career.
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.
Blaylock would also lead the league in steals twice with Atlanta and the 6’0” guard would end up averaging 2.3 steals per game in his solid career. Not only that, but he also averaged 13.5 points per game and 6.7 assists. The all-around player unfortunately made headlines in 2014 when he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for being involved in an accident that killed a woman in Georgia.
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.
Smits had arguably his best year in 1995-1996 when he scored 18.5 points per game with 6.9 rebounds and 0.7 blocks. Smits only made one All-Star team and continues to be one of the most underrated players of the past quarter century. Even the Pacers haven’t retired his number, as much more attention was paid to Reggie Miller.
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.
Richmond started his career with the Warriors and would finish with the Wizards and Lakers. When Richmond called it quits, he had an impressive career average of 21.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Richmond’s best season came with 25.9 points per game in 1996-1997 and he was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014. Now, Richmond is an assistant coach with St. John’s University.
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.
Though he would fall off rather quickly in the 2000s, Smith was still an outstanding player during the decade in question. Smith wrapped up his career after the 2004-2005 season, ending with an average of 14.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Smith is now living a quiet retired life in Atlanta with his family after having made more than $63 million in his playing career.
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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