As a youth in Oakland, many of my piers and I engage in the timeless game of basketball. Intense rebounding, crazy behind the back dribbling, and no look over the shoulder passing; that's what we're about.
Of course before us, there were the fore fathers of Oakland. The amazing players that lived in Oakland gyms, players who did not quit, and made it to the NBA through the tough streets of the O.
Point Guard: Jason Kidd
Arguably the best rebounding point guard in NBA history, and the best PG of the last five years. Jason Kidd has elevated his game to a whole other level than what was expected of him, when he came into the league as a skinny, prep star out of California. As one of the most well rounded guards of the decade, Kidd has made several NBA Finals appearances as a member of the New Jersey Nets. But all attempts in going all the way have been unsuccessful, losing to Shaquille O’Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers and Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.
As a nine time NBA All Star and Co-Rookie of the Year, Kidd has led the league in assists per game five different seasons in his career. Gold Medalist in the Sydney Games, fifth in all time in assists, third in triple doubles, and fourth among guard rejoinders in NBA history, are just some of Kidd's accomplishments.
One of the best point guards in NBA History, Jason Kidd found himself on the inside of the glove on the courts of Mosswood Park in North Oakland. Maybe the most incredible accomplishment: averaged a triple-double for a playoff series joining The Big O and Jordan as the only to ever do this.
SG Gary Payton
"The Glove" G.P., Jason Kidd’s rival, the one and only Gary Payton. At 180 lbs of pure mouth, the Skyline High standout wowed college scouts with his aggressive defense, toughness, and soft touch that landed him at Oregon State. He continued his ferocious on ball defense, and ended his collegiate career as Oregon State's all-time leader in field goals, three point field goals, assists, and steals. In addition to those outstanding accomplishments, Payton was an All American, three time Pac-10 selection, Pac-10’s freshman of the year in 1987, and named to the Pac-10 All decade team. Payton was also elected into the OSU Hall of Fame, and took the Beavers to three NCAA tournament berths.
Obviously ready for the next level, Payton was selected with the second pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. His career was highlighted by nine All star appearances, including eight of those appearances consecutive seasons, the Defensive Player of Year in 1996, and two Olympic Gold Medal teams in Sydney.
Gary‘s nickname "The Glove" was given to him by a family member.
In over 16 years in the league, he played for four different teams, Supersonics, Bucks, Lakers, Celtics, and the Heat, spending 12 years up North in Seattle and concluding it in the tropics of Miami. He was most widely known to be on the modern day Laker dream team that featured Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal.
The six foot one guard received a championship ring as being a veteran on the 2005-2006 Miami Heat squad. G.P. led the league in steals, assists, and three point shots made at different times in his career and is the only player in NBA history to have at least 20,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 8,000 assists and 2,000 steals. Gary is also 3rd in the history in steals, seventh in assists, seventh in minutes, and eight in games besides being an IronMan, he also was a phenomenal scorer finishing 21st on the All time list in points with 21,813 narrowly passing another legend Larry Bird. Payton will undisputedly go down as one of the game’s best defenders.
SF Paul Pierce
The anchor of the Boston Celtics team and the only link to the past, Paul Pierce has to be nothing but smiles after the C’s turnaround season this year. Born in Oakland, CA Paul, has shown the tenacity that it takes to become an NBA star since his days at Kansas where he was the MVP of the Big 12 tournament in consecutive years.
Paul then decided to enter into the 1998 NBA Draft and he was selected with the 10thpick by the Boston Celtics. So far in his 9 year NBA career, Pierce is a six time All Star and has become one of the best small forwards in the game. Pierce has career averages of 23.2 PPG, 4 APG, and 6.4 RPG
PF Leon Powe
Powe attended Oakland Technical High School (my school), where he averaged 27.2 PPG, 14.2 RPG, and 3.one BPG in his senior season. Leon was then invited to the McDonald’s All American game and accepted a scholarship at Cal. From there Powe was a two time All Pac-10 selection and a second team All American and posted amazing averages of 20.5 PPG and 10.one RPG.
Leon Powe decided to enter the 2006 NBA Draft and was chosen by the Denver Nuggets, unfortunately for me and other Nuggets fans, Powe was immediately dealt to the Boston Celtics. After a couple of decent seasons in Beantown, Powe has had a break out year averaging his game winning put back against Minnesota on national T.V. (ABC Sunday), his best game this year came versus Pat Riley and the Miami Heat with a career high of 25 points and 11 rebounds. Powe also proved himself against the Western Conference with his 21 points and four rebounds against the Houston Rockets in a 94-74 win.
C Bill Russell
Bill attended McClymonds High School in West Oakland, the current division 1 state champs who beat Tyson Chandler's and Tayshaun Prince's alma mater Dominguez High School in the championship last month at Arco Arena. It was in West Oakland where he became a automatic star.
To summarize his career, 11 Championships, five time MVP, 12 time All Star, Olympic Gold Medalist, and Hall of Famer, pretty good career right?. Not to mention 2 National Championships and the NCAA Player of the Year. Playing from 1956-1969, he also averaged over 20 rebounds a game for 11 years including 10 straight!
Hands down the most successful athlete in terms of accomplishments that there will ever be in any sport.
Bill Russell also dominated fellow NBA legend and the game’s greatest scorer Wilt Chamberlain almost every year in the playoffs. Most people don’t acknowledge Russell as the best to ever put on a NBA uniform because many did not get a chance to see him play; the reason why everyone is so tightly wrapped around Michael Jordan’s spandex. Bill has career averages of 15.1PPG, 22.5RPG, and .BPG .
A victim of constant racism in Boston, at USF, and across America, Bill preserved and stood strong in the faces of his enemies even after a unknown racist went as far as breaking into his suburban home and defecating on his bed. Even though he was stunned by this incident, Bill remained a tyrant in the eyes of African-Americans fighting against racism and a even worse foe on the basketball court. I know I may have forgotten more legendary accomplishments about this man.
DeMarcus Nelson (Duke)
Quentin Thomas (North Carolina)
Mosswood Park, the premiere street ball court in the Bay Area, was and is home to many of today’s and yesterday’s basketball players from Oakland.
Someday I plan to join this list and I’ll look back and revise this article.
Thank you Oakland, I did this for you.