Earlier today on ESPN, a small debate arose in relation to the basketball players who can be considered amongst the most unique of all time. Ron Artest was suggested to be one of the more unique players currently in the NBA, due to his prolific play on both sides of the court, while Charles Barkley's name was also mentioned for consideration on the all-time list.
This short debate inspired me to assess who I consider to be the most unique players in basketball history.
For the purposes of this article, the term "unique" will be conditionally defined as a player who brings an element to the game that is scarcely seen otherwise. Elements that can make a player unique may be anything like ethnicity, size, or style of play.
At 7'6", Yao Ming is one of the tallest players in the history of the NBA. Plus, he came to the NBA from a China, a country very scarcely represented in the NBA.
Yao's game isn't exactly characteristic for a man of his size though. While most big men in the NBA shoot very low free-throw percentages, Yao is amongst the best free-throw shooters in the league, making him a dangerous weapon near the post.
At 5'3", Mugsey is the shortest player in the history of the NBA. Even though Bogues was small enough to be picked on in a high school playground, Bogues became an all-star caliber player in the NBA, utilizing quick hands and an explosive first step to take the basketball world by storm.
At 6'7", Wes Unseld was the shortest full-time center to play in the NBA.
Despite a modest height that would have been more appropriate for the small forward position, Unseld became an all star center in the NBA, and his reputation for playing with the tenacity of a giant was known throughout the league.
At 6'4", Charles Barkley is the smallest power forward in NBA history. While most 6'4" basketball players would be playing guard, Barkley played with the heart and toughness needed to succeed as a big man.
By playing at an all-star level at a big man position with small man size, Barkley is undoubtedly one of the most unique players of all time.
At 6'9, Magic Johnson is the tallest point guard of all time. Despite center-like size, Magic manned the point position throughout his entire NBA career, displaying some of the best passing ability that the league had ever seen.
Magic combined his passing with solid rebounding and over-powering scoring to become one of the most versatile players the league has ever seen. In fact, Magic may be the only point guard ever to start at the position, and be as tall or taller than the starting center he played along-side.
Without much doubt, Magic Johnson deserves top honors as the most unique NBA-er of all time.