The Forgotten Player

By: Joe LaSala

Whether it be NBA or NCAA (we will be focusing on NBA), any true basketball fan has an appreciation for the role player.  I’m obviously not talking about the Wilt Chamberlains, Michael Jordans, or Kobe Bryants of the world.  We are not even talking about the last guy picked to the All-Star team.  I am talking about that other guy.  That guy who is the 4th or 5th best player in the starting lineup or the first or second guy off the bench, and has been that guy for 10 plus years.  This guy never gets enough credit for one reason or another.  He may have been a top 5 draft pick that never turned into the Hall-of-Famer a GM thought he would be, he may have bounced around from team to team until a coach finally figures out how to best use his skills, or he simply may have been overlooked.  Regardless, you can find at least 1 of these players on every NBA Championship Roster.

In the midst of the 2016-2017 NBA playoffs we can, as always, see that this player is essential to any contenders’ success.  It is no coincidence that maybe the most successful NBA team of the past 20 years has been able to take advantage of the forgotten player better than anyone, the San Antonio Spurs.

When talking about the best teams of all time, Greg Popovich and his players have coached and played themselves into being included.  You would be a fool to say that Popovich and players like Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker were not the main reason.  Regardless, they were not the only reason.  They had guys like Stephen Jackson, Avery Johnson, Bruce Bowen, Jaren Jackson, Robert Horry, etc… that guarded Kobe Bryant (Bruce Bowen), that made that more than essential three (Robert Horry), hit that key jump shot (Avery Johnson), or was that secret scorer (Stephen Jackson).

As I mentioned before, this years playoffs is no exception.  20 years from now, most people will not remember this essential player, hence why I want to give them credit now.  Shaun Livingston of the Golden State Warriors is a perfect example.  Shaun may, at one point in his career, have been destined for greater things, until a brutal leg injury derailed it temporarily.  To his credit, he healed, regained strength and persevered. In his NBA career he has never averaged more than 10 points per game, has never made an All-Star team, and has rarely been a starter for most of the teams he has played for.  Yet, he is the perfect example of that guy.  He never forces his own shot even though he can obviously score, he can defend with the best of them, and any coach would have no problem having him in the game in crunch time.

I, personally, am a huge fan of the forgotten player.  Even if they are forgotten by most, they will always be that person you can reminisce about years later with another true fan of your favorite NBA or NCAA team.  As a 31 year-old New York Knicks fan, I have more than fond memories of players like Charlie Ward, Hubert Davis, Marcus Camby, Pablo Prigioni and the list goes on.  So let us salute this man that never gets enough credit.  The guy who, like a best friend, is always there for you and rarely puts himself first., we salute you.

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