Eric Snow's Magical Career Comes to an End: A Look at His Impact

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Eric Snow's Magical Career Comes to an End: A Look at His Impact
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Many people probably didn't notice. In fact, Eric Snow's own mother probably wouldn't have noticed, but the 35-year-old point guard was released by the Cleveland Cavaliers on Apr. 5, 2009, officially ending what has been one of the steadiest and most unheralded careers in recent NBA history.

Eric Snow's impact on the NBA can't be measured in his stats, but can be appreciated almost everywhere else you look.

Eric Snow was like a magician. His greatest trick was always to convince you that he wasn't doing anything special, and that the action was happening somewhere else.

While the audience was always mesmerized by Snow's glamorous stage assistants, whether they be LeBron James or Allen Iverson, it was often Snow who was the steady hand that kept the show going.

Consider that Eric Snow managed to reach the NBA Finals with three separate teams.

Consider the fact that in two of those NBA Finals teams, it was Eric Snow who was co-captain of the team alongside LeBron James in Cleveland and Allen Iverson in Philadelphia.

Consider again that, since his early days with Philadelphia and currently Cleveland, Snow's defensive abilities have transformed his teams into perennial NBA defensive stalwarts. 

If it sounds like I'm describing a coach more than a player, then it should come as no surprise to you that Eric Snow has been operating as an unofficial assistant coach to Mike Brown this past season, as he rehabilitated his injured knee. It has also been rumored that Snow was named as a coaching candidate for the Chicago Bulls

You know those "intangible" things which don't show up in the box score, that coaches always talk about good players doing? Snow was a master of those intangibles. 

The casual NBA fan typically appreciates the majesty of Ray Allen's jump shot, or the brutal nature of LeBron's dunks, or the might of Dwight Howard's rebounding prowess.

What many fans don't understand is that those stats are merely the end results of endless permutations of little actions taken by all the other players on the team.

Eric Snow understood better than anybody else that these little things are eventually what makes one good team better than others.

It is this understanding that allowed him to guard opposing shooting guards with such effectiveness during his days in Philadelphia, while the smaller Iverson guarded opposing point guards.

It should be noticed, that Allen Iverson had some of his lowest turnover per game averages in his seasons beside Snow, and then saw a spike in his turnover rate in the seasons after Snow departed.

It was Snow's snug defensive abilities on the perimeter which allowed Iverson to gamble the passing lanes, which in turn resulted in Iverson being among the leaders in steals in the NBA for many seasons. Iverson's steals per game average have never quite been the same after parting with Snow.

It is a testament to Eric Snow's capabilities that Kobe Bryant once singled him out as his toughest defensive opponent, saying: "Eric Snow has always done a great job. Aaron McKie, too... Bruce Bowen because of his length, Portland has a cast of players who do a great job, but I would say Eric Snow. He's very intelligent."

With his knee ailments, and recent release, it appears that Eric Snow has played his last NBA game, from the court at least. But, for careful observers, herein lies Snow's latest magic trick.

While we've all be watching LeBron James' porous defense improve dramatically before our eyes, much of the magic was again happening somewhere else. 

Do you think that LeBron James' critically acclaimed defensive improvement might have something to do with the tutelage of his co-captain and player-coach, Eric Snow?

If you don't think a player like Snow could have such an effect on a superstar like LeBron James, you might want to consider that Allen Iverson, a superstar and MVP in his own right, once stated that Eric Snow, along with Aaron McKie, were the two biggest influences on his life as leaders. 

While it is a sad thing to realize that we will no longer be able to watch a classy and upstanding athlete like Eric Snow play anymore, just remember that magicians make themselves disappear all the time, only to reappear, much to the delight of the audience, in another place.

This writer firmly believes Snow will reappear once again, when we all least expect it. And I can't wait to see his latest magic tricks.

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