Dwight Howard hears your concerns, especially you Magic fans out there. He appreciates the Stay Dwight campaign, and doesn’t seem like he really wants to leave. It’s as if he’s slowly being pulled away towards the big city – L.A. or New York. He wants to show he cares. So come Nov. 13, he’ll be throwing his own charity game, which has so many former or current Magic players, we might as well just call it a preseason scrimmage. Everyone from DeShawn Stevenson to Ryan Anderson will be in the house, but the one guy I want to see – no, must see – is Steve Francis. Stevie Franchise… or whatever’s left of him.
Talking with some of the D.C. area’s most famed playground coaches over this summer, they kept telling me the same stories: Francis was the truth… he was the most exciting player ever… he did things no one in this area ever could. He was like some mythological figure, Brad Pitt playing Achilles playing a guy in a basketball uniform. When he made it, it was “a dream” that came true. Penny Hardaway will be in Dwight’s house as well nine days from now. But I really want to see what Francis has left. The last we heard of him, he was over in China checking into games with ice packs strapped to his ankle. That’s not exactly the best way to go out. As fast as he gained his hops in high school, he left the game just as quickly. With Howard’s celebrity game coming up, I’m hoping it’ll be good to see him.
Here are four other players I wish I could still see play.
Along with Glen Rice, he’s one of my favorite shooters ever. There was just something about the way he let it fly that was dope. It was swag in a nutshell. Later in his career, Smith also had a nice little post-up game, hitting turnarounds and fadeaways all day on younger cats, and I’ll always love guards who can post on the block. He also starred on one of the most exciting/most infuriating teams ever, the 2000 Blazers. If I made a list of the 10 most enjoyable teams to watch (purely from an entertainment perspective), they’d probably make it.
It’s kind of sad that the only thing I really remember about one of Kentucky’s finest is the wild three he hit against Seattle in the playoffs. Any man who can turn the term “Gunner” into a positive is a friend of mine. He also was a solid player on one of the most overlooked fun teams ever: the 40-42 1996-97 Suns. That team had eight guys throughout the year average double-digit points for them, had Kevin Johnson, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash and Sam Cassell all suit up at some point throughout the season, had Hot Rod Williams (one of the best nicknames ever) and then in the playoffs played a back-and-forth series with Seattle where Rex was their best player. Too many white guys get pigeonholed into one specific thing. Rex could just hoop.
I think I’ve gone over my prescribed limit for “longest time without ever mentioning J-Will.” Why isn’t he in this Orlando game? He played there. He dropped some dimes there. It’s a colossal failure that his prime arrived just before the era of YouTube and summer charity games. We would’ve had behind-the-back passes (with three of five ending up hitting some kid in the face in the front row), 50-foot threes (with three of five being way off) and probably something even better than an off-the-elbow pass.
Once upon a time, Stuart Scott was cool. When he used to cite rap lyrics on SportsCenter, he had me nodding my head, earning him some extra points. Back when Mario Elie was cooking for Houston – and Biggie was still spitting – Scott would go hard with “Mario, Mario, Mario, Mario, all your threes just hypnotize me!” Somewhere along the line, he switched up his style and started saying things like “redunkulous!” as if he thought that was what the kids were saying on the street. But I still have to hold some things he used to say close at heart. We’ve heard all of the Pearl Jam stories, but Stu Scott always made the most out of Blaylock’s name. His greatest voiceover ever came courtesy of perhaps the best NBA name ever. Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-Mookie! Loved that, mostly because it’s fun to say and because Mookie was one of the smoothest point guards of that generation. He would routinely give you 15, 7 and two or three pick-pockets a night, and did it all for the very good team that nobody ever cared about, Atlanta.
Which players do you wish were still in the league? Who would you love to see play today?
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