NBA Power Rankings: Derrick Rose and the 25 Most Athletic Point Guards Ever
Derrick Rose is well on his way to becoming a basketball revolutionary, just like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy. I didn't flinch when I put Rose in the same sentence as three of the best basketball players of all time. Rose is a genetic freak of an athlete who could probably play in the NBA 50 years from now if he were transported forward in time, when genetically-engineered robots will probably dominate the league.
One may call Rose the most athletic point guard of all time right now, even though he is only 22 years old. Certainly, as you look at the list of the top 25 most athletic point guards of all time, that case can be made. The list follows.
If you think so, tell me if you think any other point guard in NBA history can pull those 10 moves off with Rose's speed and tenacity.
My answers: I don't think so, and hell no.
No one threw quicker and more efficient passes than Magic Johnson. No other point guard ever led his team to a championship-clinching victory while playing center. No other 6'9" human being had his handle and court vision.
Magic may not have been the fastest point guard, and he couldn't leap over tall buildings like other point guard supermen, but he performed athletic feats nightly that others could not dream of.
Note the name on the No. 30 jersey on the right. Kansas State. Oscar Robertson pulled this split off in college. The most underrated basketball player of all time, Robertson averaged a triple-double in his second NBA year. A point guard who was simply ahead of his time, Robertson teamed with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to win the 1971 NBA Finals for Milwaukee.
Imagine if Kyrie Irving got picked by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the first selection of the 2011 NBA draft. Instead of going to Minnesota though, Irving decided to teach driver's ed for three months and doesn't report to camp.
That's what Bob Cousy did over 60 years ago when he was picked by the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. He did not report and eventually made it to the Celtics through a dispersal draft after the team who then picked up his rights, the Chicago Stags, folded.
Cousy was ahead of his time, as he was both the fastest and flashiest point guard on the floor at all times during his prime.
Not only did Calvin Murphy average 18 points per game over a 13-year career despite being just 5'9" and 165 pounds, but he won the Texas State Men's Baton Twirling Championship in 1977. I do not profess to be an expert in twirling, nor did I ever see Murphy play live, but those two facts cement Murphy's place in the top 25.
Spud Webb was 5'7" and could vertically leap 42 inches. I am 5'7" and can vertically leap 42 centimeters. Maybe that's why my NBA career never took off. Anyway, Webb won the 1986 Slam Dunk Contest via a dizzying array of moves such as a 360-degree helicopter one-handed dunk.
Webb also finished third in the 1989 contest.
What's more impressive? Muggsy Bogues blocking Patrick Ewing or Nate Robinson blocking Yao Ming? Close contest. I'm going with Bogues because he was 5'3". He was an inspiration to short basketball players like myself. Maybe he didn't inspire me much because I was so bad that I never even tried out for freshman basketball in high school, but I digress.
Bogues managed to stick in the NBA for over a decade and was a starting point guard on NBA playoff teams. He also appeared in Space Jam. Most certainly, his immense athleticism helped him compensate for his lack of height.
11 inches and 65 pounds—the height/weight differences between Suns point guard Kevin Johnson and Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon—were just some numbers on paper when KJ leaped over The Dream and into every NBA highlight for the 1990s. Johnson was a baseball star in high school as well, and now reigns as the mayor of Sacramento, California.
Steve Nash did not start playing basketball until he was a pre-teen. Incredibly enough, Nash was a soccer and hockey player growing up in Canada, but he decided to change course. Good choice. Still, how many MVP's didn't start playing basketball until 12 or 13 and can still excel at a second sport? As you see in this video, Nash hasn't lost a step or two in soccer.
If an NBA point guard blinked while bringing up the ball against Gary Payton, "the Glove" would have taken the ball and gone in for a fast-break layup before the victim opened his eyes.
Like the next player in this list, Payton's athleticism stood out mostly on the defensive end, when his cat-like reflexes and smothering body-to-body play suffocated opposing point guards.
Walt Frazier doesn't get enough recognition as a defensive stalwart because the NBA did not keep steals as an official statistic for his entire career. However, his quick reflexes in slapping away numerous basketballs proved worthy for over 10 years, and his speed enabled Frazier to finish off breaks successfully. He also had 36 points, 19 assists and five steals in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, the best Game 7 performance in NBA history.
Isiah Thomas once scored 16 points in 94 seconds to send a 1984 playoff game into overtime against the New York Knicks. He also scored 25 points in the third quarter against the Lakers in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals. As much as Knicks fans despise Thomas, he was all heart and soul on the basketball court and possessed freakish stamina to boot.
How many starting NBA point guards can pull off windmill dunks during a game? I count two. Russell Westbrook was strained in the UCLA system but has blossomed in Oklahoma City, wowing that insane home crowd every night with moves like these.
Speed plus length equals undeniable athleticism for Rajon Rondo. How many point guards can become All-Stars with a bad NBA jump shot? I count one. Rondo's steal, hustle and putback over Jason Williams in the playoffs last year personifies Rondo to a T.
Steve Francis finished second in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest to Vince Carter, which is like finishing first in any other Slam Dunk Contest that didn't include MJ, Dr. J or the aforementioned VC.
Francis' superb leaping ability and the ferociousness with which he put down dunks lands him in the top 25.
Nate Robinson was a three-sport star in high school, setting records in football, basketball and track. He eventually settled on football and basketball at the University of Washington. In the NBA, Robinson has won three Slam Dunk Contests and was the runner-up in a fourth. Listed as 5'9" and 170 pounds (but probably closer to 5'7"), Robinson has a 43.5-inch vertical leap.
Charlie Ward had 49 touchdowns and only 22 interceptions during his Florida State football career. He also won a Heisman Trophy and national championship. After he decided to forgo an NFL career for the NBA, Ward was drafted by the New York Knicks and played during the tail end of the Patrick Ewing era. As a backup point guard, Ward made the 1999 NBA Finals.
Not every day do you see the normally subdued Mike Tirico freak out on national television. It was justified though. While Davis' reputation took a big hit after his stint with the Clippers, we can't forget his efforts with Charlotte and Golden State, when he could fly over people for nasty dunks.
Bull, meet china shop. Stephon Marbury was a fearless driver (still is, albeit in China) who took the ball to the line with reckless abandon. He could also throw down a dunk once in a while. Marbury was a strong and tireless NBA point guard who would have been an NBA great if he did not lose his sanity somewhere along the line.
The best part about John Wall is that he is a hybrid of other current athletic point guards on this list. He has sensational length, like Rondo. He also has blazing speed and leaping ability, like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook (not in their class, but still). If he develops a good jump shot and gets himself some reliable teammates, he could be a prominent NBA All-Star.
Penny Hardaway is most famous for his Lil' Penny sidekick ads even though he seemed destined for the NBA Hall of Fame until injuries ravaged his career, but he was lengthy, quick and could jump single buildings in one try. The last part is only a slight exaggeration; notice the dunk at around 14 seconds.
I don't think it's a coincidence that numerous point guards on this list hail from New York City, with Nate "Tiny" Archibald being one of them. Archibald was 6'1" and just 150 pounds, yet he was quicker than lightning and could shoot from long range. One must have great core strength and stamina to make it through 13 full seasons in the NBA at just 150 pounds, yet Tiny did just that.
Wow, the vibrant colors in 1992 were obnoxious. Anyway, Tim Hardaway had great skills and a killer crossover. As in, the only person who can rival that crossover in history is Allen Iverson.
He was also one of the top five point guards of the 1990s.
So, remember the bull-china shop analogy with Stephon Marbury? That goes for Jason Kidd too. Plus, he was strong enough to be a triple-double threat every night, just like Oscar Robertson.
Obviously, Robertson is on his own planet and one of the five best NBA players of all time (if you don't agree, I will debate you to death on that), but Kidd was in his own stratosphere.
"But Allen Iverson wasn't a point guard!"
Was he bringing up the ball for Philadelphia in crucial situations during the 2001 title run, or was it Eric Snow? I remember it being A.I. Correct me if I'm wrong, Sixers fans, but Iverson brought up the ball enough times to be mentioned here.
Iverson was a fearless athlete, with elite speed and sensational leaping ability for being 6'0" (probably more like 5'11"). He was an NBA MVP and willed teams to win with his athleticism, and I'm still not sure how he led Philadelphia to the NBA Finals in 2001.
Honorable Mention: John Stockton
John Stockton is the best NBA point guard to not make this list. He used guile over athleticism to succeed, but hey, remember what I said about cat-like reflexes with Payton and Frazier? Stockton had them too. They were good enough to be the NBA's all-time steals leader, in fact.