#27 - Jason Kidd
Kidd had the fortunate luck of endearing me to his game early on for one very good reason. It wasn't because he was another one of those rare pure point guards even though I do enjoy those immensely. It was because as a freshman with the California Golden Bears, he led them to an upset over two-time defending National Champion Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Anyone that can keep Duke from getting another title is definitely okay in my book.
He made an instant impact on the NBA when he was drafted #2 in 1995 by the Dallas Mavericks. He finished the year by sharing the NBA Rookie of the Year with Grant Hill. The season before the Mavs acquired him, they had the worst record in the NBA at 13-69 and he helped them improve their record to 36-46 in just one season. He quickly became part of a solid foundation when the Mavs found themselves with the "Three J's": Kidd, Jimmy Jackson and Jamal Mashbrurn. It's too bad the dream was short-lived since near-sighted management traded Kidd to Phoenix as part of a deal that brought Michael Finley to town.
The first of many moves to come gave Kidd a chance to prove just how valuable he truly was. Every team he went to ended up improving their status and becoming contenders. There was nothing coincidental about it. He played the position of a point guard in the same fashion that Magic Johnson had done years before. He wasn't nearly as flashy as Magic was, but he was just as effective. He was definitely a follower of the "pass first-shoot second" philosophy and it often paid big dividends for both him and his teammates.
Kidd currently finds himself reunited with the Maverick franchise just slightly out of his prime. They'ved added him now thinking he can help bring them that title they've missed for several years, but Kidd's best days are behind him. He missed his own window with the New Jersey Nets where he got them to the Finals twice. Even if he never gets that deep in the playoffs with another team, he's had an outstanding NBA career that many would envy.
#26 - Kevin McHale
I'm not even going to lie...it pains me to have one of the 80s Celtics on the list. Not near as much as it does to have another one on here even higher. However, when I was compiling it, I realized I had to be honest about the talent of the ballers that I have seen play. I may not like their team, or in some cases even them, but I would certainly have to respect what they brought to the game. That's the very reason Kevin makes the list. Well that and another reason which I will get to in second.
Charles Barkley once said that Kevin McHale was the hardest player he ever had to play against. This is coming from the same cat who had to face Michael Jordan in his prime, so I'm pretty sure he meant as far as power forwards are concerned. McHale was a constant aggravation for many defenders because he was so methodical down low. He had the prototype big man frame and could play with his back to the goal just as well as he could defend. Probably even better.
McHale caught the stigma of being a dirty player for some of the hard fouls he delivered. He did play during the thick of the 80s. It was a different time int he NBA back then. Once the playoffs rolled around, the refs swallowed their whistles alot and the men were separated from the boys. As much as I hate to admit it, McHale was just adapting his style of play to what the flow of the game allowed. He may have been a dirty player, but he certainly wasn't the only one doing it. At least he was able to get three championships out of it.
I know this list should include guys for what they did on the court and that is definitely the case. However, there is much to be said about McHale's work as a general manager with the Timberwolves after he retired. This is the man responsible for Minnesota drafting Kevin Garnett to breathe life into the young franchise. Over the years, he would consistently make moves that would bring key players to the Timberwolves to make KG more successful. It was never enough to get them to the Finals, but it was more than any of his predecessors had done. There was that and his hilarious cameos on "Cheers" that made me forgive him for being part of that Celtics team that I couldn't stand.