The 15 Most Sensational Showmen in NBA History
The NBA has been around for a while and it's had quite a few sensational players. The great thing is that the sensation came in a variety of ways. Dunks, no-look passes, spectacular blocks, pickpocketing on defense, finger rolls and more.
So get ready for the 15 best showmen in the NBA's history
And remember, sharing is caring. Comment with your favorite showmen if they don't appear on the list.
Nicknamed "Honeycomb," there was very little that was sweet about Gus Johnson on the court.
As you can see, he could go BOOM with the dynamite and that was back in 1966. The Baltimore Bullet wound up in six All-Star Games, four All-Defensive teams and two All-NBA teams thanks to his stifling defense, which allowed him to bottle up small forwards, power forwards and centers.
He'd also grunt tremendously loud and swing his elbows after every rebound. He was really a frightening player to go up against, but if you're watching from a safe distance like we are, the man was truly sensational.
With hands the size of dinner plates, The Hawk could easily manipulate the ball while flying in the air for sinewy layups or graceful dunks. His NBA days were surely majestic, but the Hawkins seen in that era was an aged one. He didn't join the league until age 27 because of his alleged involvement in a gambling scandal while attending the University of Iowa.
Hawkins wandered the basketball wilderness with the Harlem Globetrotters, the ABL and the ABA (where he won the league's inaugural MVP and title) before joining the NBA in the 1969-70 season. A truly special sensation.
Pistol Pete never averaged more than 7.0 APG during a season, but the assists he made sure were dazzling. As a member of the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Jazz, Maravich dished some of the best no-look and on-the-run passes we'll ever see.
The real bread and butter of Maravich's game was dribbling and weaving his way through defenses and traffic for off-balance layups and pull-up jumpers. Whether shooting or passing, the man was a sight to behold.
The Doctor started his career with the ABA's Virginia Squires, where he averaged 33 points, 20 rebounds and 6.5 assists in the 1972 postseason, then moved on to the ABA's New York Nets, where he won three MVPs and two titles, and finally to the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, where he garnered another MVP and another title.
All the while he was throwing down some of the most spectacular dunks known to man. Akin to Connie Hawkins, Erving had gargantuan hands that allowed him to maneuver the ball around opponents after he'd already jumped into the air. These are just his top 10 dunks; the man has hours and hours worth of great dunks, steals, blocks and layups.
I could talk on and on about the Iceman and how he scored more than 26,000 points while shooting 50 percent from the field and 84 percent from the free-throw line. I could go on and on about how he made 12 All-Star teams, nine All-NBA teams and took home four scoring titles.
Instead, I suggest you listen to Gervin discuss how he developed his signature sensational move, the finger roll.
A 6'9" point guard whirling passes with razzmatazz pizazz? Definition of sensational.
Random Magic fact: In the 1981-82 season Johnson averaged 18.6 PPG, 9.6 RPG and 9.5 APG. That's the closest anyone has come to a triple-double season since Oscar Robertson back in 1961-62.
The awesome Larry Bird was always known for his impeccable dunking skills. Julius Erving is the unfortunate victim in this video clip.
But beyond the dunking, Bird was really an all-around and complete player. Career averages of 24 points, ten rebounds and six assists get the point across. His deadeye shooting, trash-talking and shooting left-handed for an entire game drive the point home. This was a bad, bad man on the court.
When you're nicknamed "The Human Highlight Film," there's no way in the world you're being left off this list. Dominique gave the fans of Atlanta* 11.5 seasons of sensational basketball that's yet to be replicated.
*We're ignoring the other seasons he spent in Orlando, Boston and Los Angeles. However, his time in San Antonio was surprisingly awesome as he filled in during the year David Robinson was sidelined and right before Tim Duncan joined the team. But those other seasons definitely didn't happen.
Like Larry Bird, Michael Jordan gets singled out often for his sensational dunks, much to the detriment of his other scintillating qualities. Like Bird, he was also cutthroat, talked trash and would just stare you down and drill a game-winning shot.
My personal favorite Jordan play was a sensational layup against the New Jersey Nets where he does two pump fakes in the air while gliding between three defenders before finally tossing up the shot. Of course it went in.
Usually big men are imposing, but not necessarily sensational. With swarming defense and unfathomable offensive footwork, Hakeem Olajuwon certainly qualifies as sensational. His versatility is exemplified by being in the top 11 of all time in NBA history in points, rebounds, steals and blocks. The man was literally everywhere.
Just ask poor Rod Strickland, who thought he was home-free on that layup. The Dream came out of nowhere to smother that shot. So, so many victims of his terrific play.
Hakeem's teammate back in the mid-1990s, Robert Horry was an integral, sensational part of seven NBA champions. In his days with the Rockets, Horry was a Swiss Army knife-type of player because he did a bit of everything.
As he played on with Los Angeles and San Antonio, his high-flying dunks and swats may have dwindled, but he continued to drill big-time shots to win playoff games.
Shawn Kemp had many unbelievable dunks. Many of them were courtesy of lob passes from Gary Payton.
But this dunk on Alton Lister is one of the most frightening things known to man. Lister wasn't much of a center before this dunk, but I'm fairly certain it sapped all remaining enthusiasm he had for the game. It's just heartbreaking to get slammed on like that. Good Lord.
Sure, he was 300 lbs.
Sure, he was stiff as a cardboard box.
But I tell you what, Arvydas Sabonis was sensational. I'd give my bottom dollar to see anyone in today's NBA toss over-the-head passes in the post. Or even try a pass that was akin to rolling a bowling ball. Arvydas did both... and they'd work!
The Sabonis we saw in the NBA was very good, but like with Connie Hawkins, his most spectacular work was done before joining the league. Check out those clips where in the late 1980s, he's demolishing David Robinson in international competition. He's the reason why the USSR won the gold medal in the 1988 Olympics.
As far as mid-career sensations go, few have upped the ante like Steve Nash. He was really good, but not great during his first run in Phoenix and then his stay in Dallas. Then magically in the desert once again, Nash just blossomed into one of the most amazing passers ever and propelled the most exciting offense the NBA had seen in a decade.
Back in 2005, the NBA was in a serious and awful funk when it came to passionate, high-octane offense. Those Suns were a breath of fresh air and bless Steve Nash for helping to orchestrate it all.
Half-man, half-amazing, half of a season
It's the Vince Carter story.
When he wasn't milking injuries in Toronto, Carter really was a tremendous player. Like Nash saved NBA offense, Carter saved the dunk contest (even if it's nearly dead again) with his series of stupendous dunks in 2000. The moment he dunked and left his elbow in the rim was probably the most unforeseen moment in NBA history.
Well, except maybe that one time Spud Webb went out and won the dunk contest.
Thanks for reading.