One Player from Every NBA Team That Lights the Fanbase on Fire

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2012

One Player from Every NBA Team That Lights the Fanbase on Fire

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    Energy isn't a tangible asset, yet it's a primary driving force behind NBA teams' performances.

    Every fanbase admires an athlete who can bring them to their feet and leave them screaming until they've lost their voice.

    What makes that type of player more compelling is that they are not necessarily the fan favorite of their respective team. While they are certainly a favorite of the fans, other teammates may have too rich a history with the organization for them to exceed.

    But that doesn't matter. This type of energetic athletes provide instant excitement.

    Many are highlight reels waiting to happen, but each one of them simply sets the crowd on fire.

Atlanta Hawks: Josh Smith

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    At the beginning of the season, Josh Smith's future with the team was up in the air.

    Now, the only thing up in the air is his body.

    Smith not only sets the crowd ablaze with his rim-rocking dunks, but also with his emphatically blocked shots.

    He is also one of the few players in the league who gets the crowd excited about rebounding.

    His secret? Going straight up and coming down elbows out. 

    The forward's colorful emotions don't exactly keep the audience in their seats, either.

    Smith doesn't just play with fire, he emulates it. 

Boston Celtics: Rajon Rondo

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    Despite being dangled as bait in an attempt to land Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo has remained exciting as ever for the Boston Celtics. 

    In Rondo's absence, it has become abundantly clear that he is now the heart and soul of this Celtics team.

    He may never trounce Paul Pierce as the fan favorite, but he is by far the most electrifying to watch.

    Rondo's clean, crisp and improbable passes have become an NBA staple, and few outside of Paul can thread the needle as well as him.

    Not to mention he possesses the rare ability to turn a pass into a highlight reel, forcing fans to their feet in the process.

Charlotte Bobcats: Kemba Walker

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    The Charlotte Bobcats fanbase has had little to cheer about so far this season—outside of Kemba Walker, that is.

    Every time Walker touches the ball, you can sense the expectation the crowd has of him to break the ankles of any defender who may be on him at the time.

    And they go absolutely nuts when he pickpockets the opposition on the other end.

    Charlotte may be short on an identity, but it is chock full of exuberant youth thanks to Walker. Even if only for a second, he turns an otherwise noiseless crowd into a group of hopeless optimists.

Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose

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    Whether he passes, shoots, dunks or sneezes, Derrick Rose turns the Chicago Bulls' crowd upside down.

    Rose is one of the most athletic and energetic players in the entire league.

    He wears his heart on his sleeve, and Chicago embraces him for it. 

    A player hasn't had this much of an effect on the Bulls fanbase since—dare I say it—Michael Jordan.

    And yes, that's saying something.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving

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    Maybe it's because LeBron James burning the Cleveland Cavaliers is finally not the top storyline of the NBA season.

    Or maybe it's because Cleveland is desperate for a savior.

    Or maybe it's simply because the elusive Kyrie Irving has skills.

    Whatever is, Irving boasts a ton of it. The last time the Cavaliers fanbase was in such an uproar over a rookie, it was for a kid by the name of LeBron.

    Irving may not have the same hops at James, but he's sure got enough mojo to keep Cleveland fans' juices flowing. 

Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki

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    Dirk Nowitzki plays with as much fire as anyone in the league, and the Dallas Mavericks and their fans worship him for it.

    Nowitzki's range makes the home crowd liable to explode at any moment, and his half-fist pump, screaming-at-the-top-of-his-lungs tendencies send fans into a tizzy.

    What really wins over fans is Nowitzki's loyalty.

    He's stuck with Dallas over the years and brought the city and its fans a title that was so desperately craved.

    Nowitzki has had the kind of impact on the Mavericks' culture that Kevin Garnett did for the Minnesota Timberwolves, except that he actually won the team a title instead of bolting for greener pastures. 

Denver Nuggets: Danilo Gallinari

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    Danilo Gallinari isn't necessarily a walking highlight reel, but he is an offensive weapon that could be triggered at any second.

    Gallinari's sharp-shooting is incredible to watch. If he gets in a groove, you can feel the crowd's anticipation mount on each possession.

    Even some Gallinari faithfuls, on his return trip to New York, couldn't help but become immersed in his offensive displays, both from the outside and has he drew fouls in the paint.

    The Denver Nuggets are an incredibly exciting team to watch, mostly because there isn't just one player worthy of receiving all the attention.

    That being said, Gallinari provides offensive excitement, and it's clear he has become a fan favorite, as the organization is intent on keeping him.

Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe

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    Watching Greg Monroe blossom into a sophomore sensation is about the only worthy genre of basketball the Detroit Pistons fanbase will get to see this season.

    Monroe has exceeded expectations and transformed into a potential star who makes an impact on both ends of the floor.

    He dunks, rebounds and has quick hands for a big man.

    And he's also got some of Detroit's fans assuming the role of an optimist, looking toward a brighter future.

    When the Pistons hear earth-shattering cheers on their home court, it can more often than not be attributed to something Monroe just did.

Golden State Warriors: Nate Robinson

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    Nate Robinson becomes an instant crowd pleaser for whichever team he plays for, and the tradition has lived on in his short time with the Golden State Warriors.

    Largely thanks to his heroics against the Miami Heat earlier this month, Robinson has set Golden State ablaze.

    He operates on sheer energy and can be found attempting to reach the ceiling after every highlight-worthy play he makes.

    In less than a month with the team, Robinson has become one of the crowd's favorite players to watch. And on a roster that boasts both Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, that's no easy feat.

    On a completely unrelated note, I hear that he is available to give Dwight Howard some free-throw shooting lessons.

Houston Rockets: Kyle Lowry

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    The Houston Rockets and their fans had just about given up on Kyle Lowry, and then he exploded.

    Lowry has emerged as one of the more prolific floor generals this season and creates a raucous in the stands with more than just his scoring abilities.

    Passing seems to be a lost art, but it's one that Lowry appreciates, as he loves to thread the needle almost as much as Rajon Rondo.

    Whenever the point guard has the ball in his hands, the Houston crowd assumes the role of a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off.


Indiana Pacers: Paul George

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    Despite having a mediocre rookie season, Paul George showed flashes of an athletic player with some serious hops.

    Those flashes have now become consistent episodes, as George has played his way into the hearts of Indiana Pacers fans, and he could even have the team debating on whether or not to move Danny Granger.

    George gets the fans up out of their seats with his athletic moves to the basket and keeps them on their feet with his hounding defense and—to date this season—his lethal three-point shooting.

    At only 21, George has proven that he has an immensely bright future in this league, and Indiana's fans are going to enjoy watching it unfold.

Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin

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    Prior to acquiring Chris Paul, the only reason anyone purchased tickets to watch the Los Angeles Clippers was to get a bird's-eye view of the human highlight reel known as Blake Griffin.

    Griffin is perhaps the most electrifying player in the NBA.

    His hops are enough to excite even the most emotionless of basketball fans, and arena-deafening dunks are like second nature to him.

    In fact, Clippers tickets should come with a disclaimer on the back that warns the patron he or she is liable to spontaneously combust when watching Griffin take flight.

Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant

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    Kobe Bryant doesn't impress with his mid-air accolades that often anymore, but his scoring prowess sends the Staples Center into a feeding frenzy on an almost nightly basis.

    Few players over the course of history could score like Bryant does.

    His knack for hitting the most improbable of shots has become only more prevalent with age, and while some chastise him for it, the Los Angeles Lakers fanbase runs amok with each shot attempt he drains.

    Age knows no bounds, and apparently, neither does Bryant.

Memphis Grizzlies: Rudy Gay

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    Fresh off an injury-plagued season, Rudy Gay has had his share of struggles.

    That being said, it hasn't stopped him from sending the Memphis Grizzlies fanbase into an extensive state of elation from time to time.

    Gay's athleticism is severely underrated. His ability to get to the rim even through traffic cannot be emphasized enough. 

    The small forward's strong penetration prowess helped him establish a claim to fame, and it will only become more prevalent as his health improves.

    That's good news for Memphis and their fans, as it means their future is filled with a number of abrupt fist and chest bumps.

Miami Heat: LeBron James

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    What the Miami Heat faithful must keep in mind here is that while Dwyane Wade is the clear fan favorite, LeBron James, more often than not, is the one that sets the American Airlines Arena on fire.

    James dunks harder and flies higher, and as we have seen of late, his perimeter game is no joke.

    He can score at will, and even though Chris Bosh may want Wade to have the ball in his hands for the final shot, it's still going to run through James.

    James is the most talented athlete in the entire league. Period. He excels in every facet of the game, and despite his recent struggles in crunch time, he has nothing to prove in terms of talent.

    Night in and night out, James brings the heat for the Heat—pun intended—and sets the entire basketball world on fire in the process.

Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings

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    Brandon Jennings seems to have reinvented himself this season, excelling in his role as both a facilitator and a scorer, and blowing up the Milwaukee Bucks fanbase in the process.

    The Bucks, for a change, have a respectable record at home and have even become somewhat exciting to follow again.

    Milwaukee has long been irrelevant in the scheme of things, yet Jennings is helping them shoot their way to the brink of relevancy.

    Jennings plays with so much energy and so much resolve that his perpetual upbeat attitude is contagious.

    Consequently, the usually desolate Bradley Center can now be found actually committing to making some noise.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio

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    Kevin Love is having a career year, but rookie sensation Ricky Rubio is taking Minnesota Timberwolves Nation by storm.

    With Rubio on the floor, the Timberwolves are smarter, more efficient and overall, more exciting to watch.

    He's got a humble flair about his game, and Minnesota loves it.

    Love is the team's cornerstone, that is undeniable, but Rubio sets the stage that the power forward and the rest of the team plays on, on fire.

New Jersey Nets: MarShon Brooks

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    The New Jersey Nets fanbase expects the world from Deron Williams, but it has been MarShon Brooks that is lighting what's left of the team's reputation at the Prudential Center on fire.

    While Williams is entertaining to watch, Brooks has been even more of an entertaining surprise.

    Coming into the league, everyone knew that the kid could shoot, but no one expected him to be as deadly as he has been.

    Brooks has emerged as Williams' go-to guy on offense and is an efficient shooter from all areas of the court.

    Whenever he jacks up a three, you can hear the crowd release an extended "oh" of anticipation.

    Williams has kept the Nets competitive in some tough games, but it is Brooks who has kept the soon-to-be ex-fanbase interested.

New Orleans Hornets: Eric Gordon

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    Unfortunately for Eric Gordon and the New Orleans Hornets, the star-to-be has only appeared in two games thus far.

    That being said, it took only one for him to win the hearts of any remaining Hornets fans over.

    In his first regular season game as a member of New Orleans, Gordon buried a shot with 4.2 seconds remaining to give the Hornets the lead and victory over the Phoenix Suns.

    He's as offensively talented as any other shooting guard, and as he demonstrated there, he is more than capable of becoming big time.

    If Gordon is serious about being open to signing a long-term deal with New Orleans, then the team's fans will be able to witness and gush over his accolades for years to come.

New York Knicks: Iman Shumpert

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    Amar'e Stoudemire's immortal swagger seems to be wavering, and the Madison Square Garden crowd can be found chanting Iman Shumpert's name.


    After being booed on draft night, the ever-confident Shumpert has become a New York Knicks sensation.

    Every time he touches the ball, fans take the edge of their seats wondering what's going to happen next.

    It may not always pretty, and it may not always be sanctioned, but Shumpert's energy overshadows any rookie-type shortcomings he displays.

    He's the 2012 version of Nate Robinson, and the fans live and die with his performances.

    That's how you light up a fanbase.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant

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    Kevin Durant is a perimeter-shooting highlight reel, which is hard to come by.

    The small forward can take to the air when he pleases, but he lives off of pull-up jumpers and fade-aways.

    And with every shot he buries—and he hits nearly 50 percent of them—the Oklahoma City Thunder fanbase lose their minds.

    Oklahoma City isn't an especially large market, yet Durant has his team on center stage, and he's sending rip-roaring chills not only throughout the Thunder's fanbase, but the entire league.

Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard

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    A plethora of basketball fanatics preach the notion that defense wins championships, but few get excited about what transpires on that end of the floor—unless they're watching Dwight Howard.

    With every shot he blocks and every rebound he grabs, Howard gives the Orlando Magic fans a reason to erupt.

    He has single-handedly kept the franchise relevant for almost a decade, and his dunks, while frequent, aren't any less impressive.

    He's the epitome of a man-child, playing with the intelligence of a veteran but the fire of a rookie looking to prove his mettle.

    Howard's personality is explosive, and what's more is it's contagious. Just observe the fans at the Amway Center.

Philadelphia 76ers: Jrue Holiday

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    Jrue Holiday plays with fire but hardly ever gets burned.

    Holiday is the most exciting player on an extremely deep Philadelphia 76ers team.

    He has the potential to be a perennial All-Star and is guaranteed to entertain the Philadelphia fanbase as he begins his journey down that road.

    The point guard has subpar passing instincts yet admirable scoring ones. He can take to the air and make acrobatic lay-ins look easy, and he is a hound on the defensive end. 76ers fans love it.

    Holiday seems to be a never-ending supply of energy, and when he's on the court, spectators can usually be found at the edge of their seats.

Phoenix Suns: Steve Nash

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    The only reason Phoenix Suns fans ever have anything to cheer for is because of Steve Nash.

    Nash is has the most complete court vision in the league, and he makes everyone around him much better as a result.

    Marcin Gortat and Channing Frye are solid players, but would they be able to make a name for themselves without Nash by their side?


    As Phoenix moves closer and closer toward finally admitting they have to rebuild, the fans instinctively cling to their ever-exciting leader in Nash.

    Each no-look pass creates an opportunity for a a fanbase that has little to nothing to be ecstatic about to let out a yell of triumph.

Portland Trail Blazers: LaMarcus Aldridge

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    LaMarcus Aldridge creates waves throughout the Portland Trail Blazers fanbase because of how overlooked he has been up until recently.

    Last season, MVP chants ensued on Portland's home court for the player who was snubbed of an All-Star appearance.

    Coming into the season, the Blazers remained underrated and overlooked, but Aldridge has led them to elite status.

    Every time he touches the ball, fans are waiting for something spectacular to happen, looking for a reason to allow the Rose Garden to implode.

    And he gives them one quite frequently.

Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins

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    DeMarcus Cousins, even ahead of Jimmer Fredette, Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton, is the Sacramento Kings' most exciting player.

    Not only is Cousins unpredictable in which attitude he will let prevail on the court, but he is also a stat-line machine.

    In addition to being a good low-post scorer, he is a rebounding fiend and shot-blocking guru.

    Everything Cousins does, he does with emphasis. When he blocks shots, they are liable to wind up in the stands. When he fouls, he fouls hard. And when he crashes the glass, opponents better hope they don't get in his way.

    Once you factor in the power forward's aversion to authority, it becomes quite clear that Cousins has the undivided attention of Sacramento's fanbase.  

San Antonio Spurs: Manu Ginobili

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    Manu Ginobili will not win you over with a boisterous dunk, but he will amaze you with his slash-and-shoot tendencies.

    The shooting guard is an extremely exciting player to watch, as he navigates the court in a demeanor that can only be described as gliding. And at 34, he remains lights-out from the perimeter.

    Prior to suffering a broken hand, Ginobili was shooting nearly 60 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from beyond the arc.

    He was only five games deep into the season, but those are stat lines you just can't ignore.

    Ginobili is a buzzer-beater waiting to happen, and on a relatively humble, wind-and-grind team, he provides the San Antonio Spurs fanbase with an offensive punch that is worthy of getting them on their feet.

Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan

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    DeMar DeRozan doesn't play much defense and he isn't the leading scorer for the Toronto Raptors, but he is the closest thing the team has to a walking highlight reel.

    The Raptors spend a majority of their time being overshadowed by the rest of the NBA, yet from time to time, DeRozan reminds Canada and the rest of the league that he has some hops, too.

    He's extremely athletic, and while he's averaging under 15 points per game this season, he can score in bunches on any given night.

    Toronto fans have little to cheer for nowadays, so they relish in the moments they get to celebrate a high-flying accolade courtesy of DeRozan.

Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson

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    The Utah Jazz have been getting it done as of late, but no one more so than Al Jefferson.

    Jefferson leads the team in scoring, blocks and rebounds per game and has emerged as a dominant player on both sides of the ball. 

    Jefferson's physical low-post play allows him to battle with the best of the league's bigs every night, and makes for entertaining matchups.

    It also doesn't hurt that he's far from shy about throwing down a nasty jam every now and then to get the crowd on their feet.

    There's a lot to be excited about in Utah right now, and Jefferson's the catalyst of such a reality. 

Washington Wizards: John Wall

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    John Wall got off to a slow start, but has recently returned to his usual highly flammable self.

    And as he burns, so does the Washington Wizards fanbase.

    Wall can do it all on the court. He grabs steals, creating an opportunity for a prolific transition slam, and his passing abilities coupled with his unmatchable speed gets the crowd absolutely amped.

    Whether or not better days are on the horizon for the Wizards is debatable, but what's undeniable is that Wall lights up the Verizon Center every chance he gets.