Best of times

Stephen DyellContributor IJanuary 30, 2009

To put out a thought that all basketball players were stars is an honest thought. Each individual once led or helped lead a team to some sort of glory while gaining attention from mass media sources also known as college and professional scouts.

As for stars outside of the mainstream basketball, there are only a select few that a certain All-Star Game can hold while others take the backseat while still being an innovated part of their team’s success. Nobody knows this better than Travis Best.

Travis grabbed many nicknames throughout high school as his speed, and overall ability to play basketball impressed many.

His time spent in his teen years at the birthplace of basketball and the location of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts tearing up competition.

In his senior year he dropped 81 points on a city rival that earned him the right to be called a high school McDonald's All-American which was being held in his home town that year. The ultimate honor.

The highly recruited high school star had many options to choose from when picking a college to go to but decided to go to Georgia Tech due to a close bond with fellow teammates and also a well respected coach.

After a slow but steady freshman year, Travis burst out onto the main college basketball scene earning All-ACC selection and leading Georgia Tech to their long awaited NCAA tournament. After another two years of All-ACC selections, Best’s name floated into the honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press after his senior season.

Travis had accomplished a triumphant college career ranking in the top five all-time in Georgia Tech history in points (2,057), assists (692), minutes, three-pointers (258), and steals while retaining a star status in the state of Georgia.

Then like a well oiled machine, the big, frightful world of media power came down on him like hail.

Critics bashed hard on the 5’11” (with shoes) star from Georgia Tech but Travis learned to block it all out. He did what he had to do and did stellar workouts for many teams including Toronto, Miami, and Dallas.

Travis knew what he had to offer and stated that many times in pre draft camps to coaches and general managers with the simple motto, "I'm here to play, whenever and wherever."

Draft night came and went with Best heading on down to Indiana to play alongside Reggie Miller and the talented Pacers squad. Travis Best saw this as a perfect time to adjust. Nor was he going to be a star as he was once in Massachusetts, or in Georgia, he was going to flat out be 'that' role player.

The minnie-man behind the highlights that didn’t quite make the articles, but was also good enough to be noticed by management. This was Travis Best’s time to adjust into himself.

That year as a rookie, Travis helped Indiana to a 52-30 record alongside greats like Marc Jackson who was acquired just one year before and Miller. Though he was limited in playing time, he learned fast from former NBA coach, Larry Brown and got on his good side unlike many players after him. After a short but experienced playoff series, Travis was ready for the next step.

Things looked even better for best as they traded away starting point guard Marc Jackson opening wide doors for Best to gain a starting role and that he did.

After 56 starts though, Best was sent straight back to the pine once Marc was traded back to the Pacers from Denver. The season was a disappointment, but Best had averaged 9.9 points per game which was fifth best on the team.

It wasn't until 2000 when Travis' hard work paid off as he was given the last shot against Milwaukee. He hit the game winning three-pointer in the decisive fifth game against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs and then later on went to the Finals but falling short.

The next season he was an honorable mention for 6th Man of the Year due to his 11.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.43 steals, and 31.9 minutes over 77 game periods where he helped them reach the playoffs yet again.

Then it hit. Forty-four games into the 2002 season, Best requested a trade due to lack of playing time of newcomer Jamaal Tinsley. He knew he wasn't a starter but he wanted something bigger and better rather than being a third wheel on the young and upcoming Pacers squad so they granted his request and trading him to the Chicago Bulls. 

Best was a veteran on a young and out of control team. His conduction helped cruise the post-Jordan Bulls to 21 win seasons, six more than the previous year. His fall began as he took short stints with many other teams until he found himself in Europe.

Though he never gained the status of superstar or let alone star, Best enjoyed his time in the league passing the knowledge to newcomers and veterans alike. Reggie's right hand man will never have the highlights or the fame like many others, but what he brought to the NBA was a perfect player for other players to model after which you see from team to team.