Coolest Player in the History of Each NBA Franchise

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 7, 2011

Coolest Player in the History of Each NBA Franchise

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    As a team sport dependent on the individuality of its players, basketball inherently provides quite a bit of coolness. 

    But what exactly makes an NBA player cool?

    Coolness is a special trait made up of some combination of on-court prowess, swagger during gameplay, confidence, personality, off-court behavior and more. It's not uncommon for a player to be cool, but it's much harder for a player to be the coolest one in the entire history of an NBA franchise. 

    So, which players are the coolest ones in each franchise's history?

    That's precisely the question that Bart Rich and I set out to answer. You see, this task was too monumental for me alone. Coolness is subjective in nature and thus I needed a second opinion to debate with. 

    Part of the fun in this is that there really isn't one definitive answer for most of the teams. If you leave your opinions in the comment section, we'll both do our best to prove you wrong. 

    Read on for a debate about the coolest player in the history of each and every franchise. 

Atlanta Hawks

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    Adam Fromal

    How can this one be anyone but Dominique Wilkins? I feel like having a nickname like "The Human Highlight Film" automatically qualifies a basketball player for ultra-cool status. 

    Nique, a high-flying scoring machine for the Atlanta Hawks, might not have been a top-notch defender, but his offensive prowess was off the charts. Whether it was putting up jaw-dropping dunk after jaw-dropping dunk or getting himself firmly embroiled in a shootout with Larry Bird, Wilkins knew how to create memorable moments.


    Bart Rich

    Spud Webb, all 5'6" of him, managed to be the shortest man EVER to win a dunk contest. How did he accomplish this unbelievable feat? Not only did he combine ridiculous ups and inventiveness, he had to dupe your boy 'Nique into not bringing his A-game because "Nique didn't even know that he could dunk. 

    The man played professional basketball with swagger and charisma while checking in around the average height of an American female. How he isn't the coolest player in Hawks history is beyond me. 

Boston Celtics

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    Bart Rich

    Despite looking like one of the least cool players in NBA history, with the flowing blonde curls and awkward gait, Larry Bird might have been one of the coolest to step on the court. A legendary trash-talker, some of the stories and rumors that have circulated about Bird's on and off the court are unspeakably cool.

    This is a man who once got bored playing against inferior opponents one night, so he decided to shoot lefty. With his opposite hand. Just for grins. And he was still the best player on the court. 

    I could devote way too many words to Larry Legend's coolness, but on top of being a top five player of all time, he was one of the cockiest. And he always backed it up.


    Adam Fromal

    I know I already used the nickname method with Dominique Wilkins, but how exactly can a guy with the moniker "The Hick From French Lick" be the coolest player in the history of the most storied franchise in The Association? 

    The choice here has to be none other than the original bringer of flash and pizzaz to the hardcourt: Bob Cousy, or "The Houdini of the Hardwood."

    Capable of out-dribbling even the Harlem Globetrotters, Cooz played a style of basketball that the NBA had never seen before. He'd whip behind-the-back passes just because he could. Cousy was the first player to truly realize that basketball was a form of entertainment. Once he realized that, there was no looking back (except to make sure his teammate wasn't too caught off guard by his fancy, no-look passes). 

Charlotte Bobcats

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    Adam Fromal

    Technically he hasn't played for a single second at the NBA level, but Kemba Walker is already the coolest player in the quite short history of the Charlotte Bobcats.

    Walker played with undeniable swagger during last year's Big East Conference Tournament and then the ensuing NBA Tournament. Both times he decided that he wasn't going to lose and then went out of his way to make sure he lived up to that decision. 

    With blazing speed, a step-back jumper to die for, terrific fashion sense (he was a popular choice for the unofficial best-dressed award at the 2011 NBA Draft) and an overall persona that just seems too cool to be true, Walker is going to not only be a successful player, but also a media sensation when he finally gets to ball at the next level.   


    Bart Rich

    Maybe this is a bit unorthodox, but I refuse to be pigeonholed into finding someone "cool" who has played for the Charlotte Bobcats. We do our research here at Bleacher Report. We've looked back through the years of this franchise.

    No one on the Bobcats has ever been cool and actually played for the team. I can't bring myself to agree with a rookie who, admittedly, dresses like a boss and has the game to back it up when he has yet to step on the court for Charlotte. I can't do it.

    I abstain.

Chicago Bulls

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    Bart Rich

    Ok, so, I'm just going to stick to my personal cardinal rule of anything and everything basketball: Never, ever, no matter what, in a million years, go against Michael Jordan. You'll lose. Just don't do it. 

    So here's a list of everything you need to know. Really, no convincing is needed.

    Example 1: Switching hands in the air on a layup, because he can, and because it's awesome.

    Example 2: Free-throw line dunk. Duh.

    Example 3: The Shot.

    Example 4: Being Michael Jordan.


    Adam Fromal

    Since I feel like I would have my writing privileges revoked if I disagreed with you here, I'm going to have to back up your selection of MJ.

    But that said, Dennis Rodman deserves at least a mention here, if not for his hairstyles, for his "I'm going to do what I want and don't try to stop me" personality.  

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Adam Fromal

    Ready Cleveland fans? I'm about to make you love me. 

    The coolest player in Cleveland Cavaliers' history is...drum roll...NOT LEBRON JAMES! Oh wait, you want me to actually pick someone else? Fortunately, that's not too difficult. 

    World B. Free takes the cake here in my book. Born Lloyd B. Free, he actually changed his name so that it would become the coolest name in NBA history, one that not even Metta World Peace can touch. 

    Then there was his playing style, so full of 44-inch jumps, full-circle dunks and breathtaking albeit unnecessary theatrics in the air that he actually earned the moniker "The Prince of Midair."

    Yeah, that's pretty damn cool. 


    Bart Rich

    Alright, while I can appreciate World B. Free for the unbelievable name that it is, how can you possibly go against LeBron James here? Have you not been watching basketball for the past 10 years? He's the most athletic and entertaining athlete the league has ever seen.

    How many other players could we have a legitimate discussion about playing whatever sport he wanted to, if only because he's that physically gifted? 

    And the 48 Special? Are you kidding me?

    Cleveland, there may be quite a bit of residual bile leftover for LBJ right now, but let's not forget the seven years he spent lighting up the Q, dunking on everything in his path and terrifying opponents on the fast break as he barreled from behind to crush the ball into the backboard as they tried to lay it in.

    Also, the chalk throw. Clouds of sweet glorious chalk raining down on you. I get chills watching it to this day.

    It's gotta be LeBron.

Dallas Mavericks

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    Bart Rich

    Ok, currently, the Dallas Mavericks are a bit of a sore spot for me. As a lifelong Miami Heat fan from Fort Lauderdale, the thought of Dirk and his flamingo-looking jumpshot is still too bitter a pill for me to swallow.

    Even though I've already abstained once, albeit for different reasons, this time I can't pull myself together enough to consider what players on the Mavs are cool. My blind hatred has caused me to even forget where Dallas is on the map.

    So yeah. For now, I abstain.


    Adam Fromal

    I considered Dirk Nowitzki, the absolute hero of those tremendous 2011 NBA Finals. I considered Shawn Marion and his unorthodox style of play. I considered the miniature J.J. Barea and his tendency to weave through the much-bigger players on his way to the rim. I considered Tyson Chandler and his ability to block Dwyane Wade and LeBron James' shots in the paint. 

    Hell, I even considered fourth-quarter LeBron James before remembering that he didn't actually play for the Mavericks, it just seemed like he did. 

    (Note: I didn't actually consider any of these players).

    After thinking about the relatively unexciting list of players in Dallas history, I had to settle on Jason Terry. 

    The unabashed confidence he has in himself doesn't always come off as cocky; it seems cool quite a bit of the time. But it's really his celebrations after hitting one of his countless three-pointers that makes him suitable for this role. 

    Unless you're a fan of the opposing team, it's always cool to see Jet run down the court with his arms imitating that of an aircraft just after drilling a long-range bomb. 

Denver Nuggets

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    Adam Fromal

    Dikembe Mutumbo is cool for two reasons. 

    The first is his low, booming voice. If I had to listen to a book on tape or watch a documentary, I think I would pick Mt. Mutombo's roaring bass to fill my ears with audio goodness.

    The second is the finger wag. How many players have cooler trademarks? Other than Michael Jordan's tongue, I can't think of too many.

    It wasn't enough for Mutombo to block a player's shot. He had to humiliate him afterwards with the finger wag.

    To prove both of my points, here's a video of Dikembe doing his thing.  


    Bart Rich

    FREE. BIRD. Just check out that Technicolor explosion all over his neck.

    Chris "Birdman" Andersen's coolness comes from a combination of many different things. First, his nickname is Birdman, and he backs it up with that gravity-defying mohawk which oddly resembles some kind of avian crest.

    He's also one of the most tatted up players in the game. Any man willing to tattoo "Free Bird" into a sleeve on his neck clearly has all kinds of swagger. I'm hard pressed to think of someone with a cooler tattoo in the NBA right now.

    And his celebration: that bizarre flapping motion that makes him look like some sort of giant pterodactyl sent from the past to block his opponents' shots.

    Birdman is cool if only because of how bizarre he truly is. 

Detroit Pistons

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    Bart Rich

    Even though his antics in the New York Knicks front office in recent years may not seem too cool (Eddy Curry, I'm looking at you), Zeke played with an undeniable coolness during his prime with the Detroit Pistons.

    Isiah Thomas wanted to win no matter what, consequences be damned. He made it seem so effortless to lead those Bad Boy Pistons on the court, and his defining moment is one of those heart-of-a-champion stories that every sports junkie has a soft spot in their heart for. Limping around on a sprained ankle, Isiah did everything he could to fight back against Magic's Lakers in Game 6 of the 1988 Finals and ended up scoring 25 points in one quarter, an NBA Finals record. 

    No one else comes close to the heart and tenacity Isiah brought to the floor night in and night out. That's pretty damn cool to me.


    Adam Fromal

    I agree.

Golden State Warriors

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    Adam Fromal

    Back when the franchise was located in Philadelphia and San Francisco (1959-1965), Wilt Chamberlain was the Warriors' true general on the court. While his off-the-court antics are particularly well-chronciled and some might view his nonchalant, free-wheeling attitude as undeniably cool, I'm going to stick to the basketball part of The Big Dipper's legacy here. 

    Wilt was the king of statistical achievements, to the point that he sometimes sacrificed winning for individual stats and accolades. If he wanted to lead the league in assists from the center position, well then you could bet he was going to do that. 

    Back in an era where not everyone could dunk and basketball was played at a significantly less-athletic level than it currently is, Chamberlain defied the norms. He was a seven-footer with track-star speed and the ability to throw down on anyone not named Bill Russell. 

    His blocked shots (which unfortunately will never be properly tabulated) didn't come in meek fashion. Instead, he swatted the orange ball as many rows into the stands as he possibly could. 

    Portrayed as the bad guy back in his day because of the love for the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers and relative disdain for any real challengers, Wilt was simply cool. 

    And he once played for the Harlem Globetrotters. That has to give him some bonus points.  


    Bart Rich

    While I have to respect the cool that emanated from Wilt, I have to go with the combination of Run TMC here.

    From 1989-1991, Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin teamed up to form Run TMC, making their first initials into a namesake honoring the timeless rap group Run-DMC.

    Together, these guys ran the fast break and played with a wide-open, freewheeling style that was electrifying to watch. While Mullin could spot up with deadly range from outside, Richmond was always eager to finish at the rim thanks to his ridiculous athleticism. And Hardaway could get around literally anyone by putting on a clinic with his crossover

    Ankles and scoreboards, beware.

Houston Rockets

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    Bart Rich

    The most famous of the streetball players to make the transition to the NBA, Rafer Alston managed to translate his insane AND 1 talent into a successful career with the Houston Rockets.

    Known on the streets as the legendary Skip 2 My Lou, he was a master at "breaking down" defenders and getting past his man. And I'll be damned if he didn't look really cool doing it. 


    Adam Fromal

    The only problem with your argument here is that a "successful career" consisted of career averages of 10.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. Never once did Alston even manage to hit that not-so-elusive 15 points per contest milestone. 

    Instead of sticking with Skip 2 My Lou, I'm going to have to counter with a much more glamorous and much better player: Tracy McGrady. 

    T-Mac was a 6'8" shooting guard with the athleticism necessary to provide countless highlights in his prime. He never found himself in the perfect situation, but he was cool enough to elevate his name to the level of those few who you'd pay money to watch. 

    Oh, and he won a scoring title and averaged over 20 points per game for eight consecutive seasons. 

Indiana Pacers

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    Adam Fromal

    I hereby present all the evidence I need of Reggie Miller's swagger/coolness in one video. 


    Bart Rich

    Spike Lee may be a great director, but Reggie put him in his place. I definitely have to agree here.

    Also, let's talk about Reggie scoring 8 points in 9 seconds on back-to-back threes to tie a playoff game against the Knicks. 

    Seeing as the three-pointer is inherently a cool shot, Miller's role as a three-point specialist who was also the emotional leader of the Pacers places him in the pantheon of cool. 

Los Angeles Clippers

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    Bart Rich

    To find out just how cool Blake Griffin is, I say we consult Timofey Mozgov.

    After only a year in the league, the still-nicknameless Griffin is the most exciting young player we've seen in quite some time. A regular feature on the SportsCenter Top 10, his dunks are the things tall lanky defenders have nightmares about.

    Blessed with unbelievable hops and an uncommon grace for such a powerful big man, Blake plays with a reckless abandon that shows his passion for the sport and, most importantly, his passion for awesome rim-rattling dunks.


    Adam Fromal

    Have you ever jumped over a car to dunk a basketball? I certainly haven't, but then again I haven't dunked since I was using a Nerf basketball and a miniature hoop. I'd be willing to bet not too many people have. 

    Let's see, other cool things Blake has already done in ONE SEASON IN THE NBA: completely dominated the Rookie of the Year voting in a year that had another strong candidate (John Wall), made enough YouTube-worthy plays that I need a calculator to count them, been featured in a hilarious skit at the ESPYs and most impressively, actually make the Los Angeles Clippers relevant. 

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Adam Fromal

    It's tough to pick just one cool player from a franchise that has seen the likes of Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, George Mikan, Shaquille O'Neal, Magic Johnson and so many other great players. 

    But at the end of the day, I have to settle for the player known as Superman, Diesel, Shaqtus, The Big Cactus, The Big Aristotle, The Big Agave, The Real Deal, Shaq-fu and now The Big AARP. 

    As if I haven't already proven my point, there's the undeniable coolness that Shaq possesses both on and off the court. He's one of the most quotable players in NBA history, once even confusing the Parthenon for one of the clubs he visited in Greece.

    He doesn't give a damn what others think about him, not even the legendary Kobe. 

    And most of all, who could stop this beast of a man in the paint during the early 2000s? 

    Shaq isn't cool. Shaq defines cool. 


    Bart Rich

    Like you said, picking one from the long well-known history of Laker greats isn't a simple task. I really thought about The Logo (come on, he's the NBA's logo!) and Kobe. But ultimately, I knew I couldn't pick anyone else but Earvin "Magic" Johnson. 

    His accolades on the court, as well as his troubles and triumphs off the court, are well-documented. But consider, for a second, what the history of this league would be without Magic Johnson?

    We wouldn't have his iconic Game 6 in the 1980 Finals, where he led the Kareem-less Lakers to a championship in his rookie season by playing every single position during that one game.

    We wouldn't have memories of his unusually graceful 6'9" frame running the fast break better than anyone else ever has or will.

    We wouldn't have one of the greatest leaders in all of sports history commanding the court and battling against some of the all-time greats with the Showtime Lakers, as well as one of the most charismatic athletes to become a genuine superstar celebrity.

    And most of all, we wouldn't have possibly the single most famous shot in all of basketball: the running skyhook

    And if all of that isn't enough for you, the man gave himself the nickname "Magic". What's cooler than that?

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Bart Rich

    Of all the different Jason Williams that have played in The Association, this particular Jason is definitely the most memorably cool. He played with an unmistakable flare and he brought his streetball style to Memphis. 

    His flash came from a combination of speed and style that allowed Williams to whip passes to his teammates behind his back while seemingly executing a pirouette. Balancing just the right amount of talent and swagger, Williams was liable to impress the fans at least once a night with some kind of trickery. 

    He perfected a pass behind his back off of his elbow and pulled it off during a game. That's the stuff that backyard chain-net dreams are made of.


    Adam Fromal

    The Memphis Grizzlies haven't been around for too long, but even if they had it would be tough to top the man you just talked about, otherwise known as White Chocolate. 

    I don't even understand some of the moves he was able to pull off. That elbow pass was ridiculous; so too are the passes he made with unnecessary flair, using his left hand to rocket the ball into a seam not even Tom Brady could fit a football through. 

    For Jason Williams, coolness was the ultimate goal worth striving for. And he succeeded. 

Miami Heat

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    Adam Fromal

    The man with the moniker named Flash has style both on and off the court. Always known as one of the most fashionable men in the NBA, Dwyane Wade's reckless slashing style of play is simply cool. 

    If you made me choose any one player in the league right now that could get to the rim no matter how many competent defenders stood in the way, I'd have to go with Wade. 

    He single-handedly carried the Miami Heat to a championship in 2006, leaving behind a whole slew of unforgettable moments. 

    Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway and even LeBron James have to be considered here, but Wade leaves them all in the dust, just like he does defenders. 


    Bart Rich 

    Dwyane Wade has been my favorite player since as long as I can remember. I've seen him complete some of the most amazing plays I have ever seen with almost routine ease.

    Remember this one? From the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pistons? Yeah, that's just what he does.

    He's unstoppable on the court, and one of the suavest men off of it. Plus, he convinced Chris Bosh and LeBron to join him last summer in Wade County on South Beach. So he's kinda a Jedi mastermind too.

    So cool. 

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Bart Rich

    Ray Allen's coolness can really be boiled down to one thing: that sneer. 

    You'll see it after running off an endless series of screens to be left wide open in the corner. Or after one of his silky smooth finishes at the rim. Or especially after he drains one of his all-time league leading three-pointers to quiet an opposing crowd.

    Like with Reggie Miller, there's something that much cooler about being great at the three-point shot. And for Ray Allen, it couldn't come easier. He has one of the prettiest and purest jumpshots the game has seen. It's the kind of jumpshot that rolls off his fingers and melts the hearts of basketball junkies everywhere.

    And it all is fueled by that sneer, an undoubtable sign of Allen's inherent confidence on the floor. How else do you lead all NBA players ever in three-pointers made without having confidence in your jumper?

    That's the kind of greatness that's cool in my book.


    Adam Fromal

    As cool as Ray Allen is, there's another Milwaukee Buck who often gets overlooked. He looks like an alien and his name is Sam Cassell. 

    Cassell is one of the biggest blabbermouths in NBA history. Seriously, you just can't shut him up, kind of like you couldn't shut down his offense during his prime. 

    Former teammate Elton Brand: `Nobody, not even toys where you squeeze their stomach and they talk. He just talks away all the time about everything.''

    Former teammate Chris Kaman: ``He don't shut his mouth. Whether it's about basketball or life or whatever, he just has this constant blow of information coming out of his mouth.''

    In apposition to that sneering confident coolness of Allen, it's the fun personality of Cassell that wins out for me.  

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Adam Fromal

    Kevin Garnett exudes coolness just as he exudes intensity. 

    Whether he's banging his head against the padding under a basket to pump himself up or screaming in joy after winning a championship (although that was with the Boston Celtics and not the Minnesota Timberwolves), KG is just a cool guy to watch. 

    That intensity is ever-present in his game. Garnett is one of the few people that can legitimately claim to have made defense fun to watch for the average fan. 

    His coolness lies in the fact that no one wants to mess with that intensity. Period. No matter what. 


    Bart Rich

    Because of that coolness, and a basic fear for my life, I feel like KG might have something to say about it personally if I were not to agree.

    So yeah. I agree.

New Jersey Nets

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    Bart Rich

    Some players are content to play it cool by not trying very hard and carrying themselves with an aloof air. Jason Kidd is the opposite of that, and that's what makes him so cool.

    He's a point guard. Point guards have no reason to be snaring so many rebounds that they are consistently racking up triple-doubles, yet J.Kidd's combination of hard-nosed playing and passion for the game made him a regular force to be reckoned with.

    In his prime, Kidd was a triple-double machine, bouncing all over the court and leading the fast break while still maintaining his calm, relaxed demeanor. Sounds pretty cool to me.


    Adam Fromal

    As cool as Kidd may be, you're forgetting about Vince Carter here. 

    Even though he may not have come close to living up to his full potential, Carter was Blake Griffin before there was Blake Griffin. By that I don't mean that they play similarly. I just mean that they're both absolute highlight machines. 

    You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone as athletic as the one they call Half-Man, Half-Amazing, a guy completely capable of taking over a game whenever he felt that he wanted to that night. 

    I still don't like Vince at all, but I can't deny his cool factor. 

New Orleans Hornets

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    Adam Fromal

    Larry Johnson might not be as well known now as he should be, but let me do my part to change that here. 

    LJ, who was also called Grandmama thanks to a quite popular Converse commercial he was a part of, was an incredibly popular early in Hornets lore thanks to his attitude and personality off the court as well as his thunderous dunks on it. 

    You and I have already talked a lot about the three-pointer as a cool play, but there's no denying the awesomeness of a sick dunk. LJ provided quite a few of those in his day. 


    Bart Rich

    While you know I love a nasty dunk as well as the rest, there is more to be said for the best player in Hornets history: Chris Paul.

    You can't overlook the ease with which he plays the game. For CP3, it all comes naturally. He's one of those select athletes that they talk about who sees the game in slow-motion, because he sees plays developing before anyone else on the court can conceive of them.

    Chris Paul is the closest thing to a pure point guard that you can find. He scores when you need it, he's more than willing to be unselfish and dish out assists all night, and he elevates the teammates around him. 

    I'll take CP3 gleefully throwing alley-oops any day. 

New York Knicks

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    Bart Rich

    "Here comes Willis!"


    Adam Fromal

    As great as that moment was, and it probably was the greatest moment in the history of the New York Knicks franchise, it was just a moment. In fact, it was a moment that should have been overshadowed by the fact that Walt Frazier scored 22 points in the first half and carried the team to victory with an incredible line of 36 points, seven rebounds and 19 assists. 

    But even that's not why Clyde is the coolest player in franchise history. 

    He just was cool. For Frazier, coolness isn't even something that needs to be discussed. 

    The man had style off the court. He played with flair on it. If you said the name Clyde in New York during Clyde Drexler's prime, not a single basketball fan would think of anyone other than Frazier first.

    Frazier even made stealing the ball cool. Instead of actively trying to take the ball away, he would lull the offensive player to sleep before swiping it away and taking off in one motion.

    As much as I hate quoting Wikipedia, I have to twice here: "While he was a steely, no-nonsense competitor in games, Frazier was known for his flamboyant sense of style off of the court. Bringing glamor to Madison Square Garden, Frazier would arrive at games in a Rolls Royce, dressed in designer suits, broad-brimmed Borsalino hats, and full-length mink coats" and "Frazier became one of the first NBA players to have his own signature shoe model when he endorsed the eponymous suede Clydes athletic shoes made by Puma. The shoe has proven to be very popular over the years, and is in its third decade of production."

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Adam Fromal

    If you've seen Shawn Kemp dunk, that should be enough for you. 

    The Reign Man could throw down with the best of him, and rumor has it that there were quite a few women who thought he was pretty cool off the court. 


    Bart Rich

    While I was very tempted to enact a youth movement here and talk about the raw athleticism of Russell Westbrook, or the perfectly sculpted facial hair of James Harden, this one had to be The Glove.

    His coolness is vindicated by his trash talking abilities alone, which are the stuff of true NBA legend. The competitive fire he brought to the court allowed him to get inside his opponents' heads and under their skin.

    Besides, he backed that up with some seriously stifling defense. He got his nicknames for being able to hold defenders like a baseball holds a glove. When you can intimidate your opponents with your defense just as much as your offense, you know that's cool.  

Orlando Magic

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    Bart Rich

    Could we have found anyone better to replace Shaq in Orlando and assume his Superman moniker than Dwight Howard?

    He combines his imposing physical gifts and backboard-abusing two-handed slams with that dopey mischievous smile best suited to a little kid. Big Dwight is a monster on the court, but he's at his coolest when pretending to take team photos before games or donning a cape to complete his dunk contest transformation.


    Adam Fromal

    Of the things you mentioned, I think it's the smile that makes him the coolest. Whenever he shows the pearly whites, it reminds us fans that deep down, just like us, he's a part of basketball simply because he legitimately loves what he's doing. 

    That carefree look combined with his competitive fire makes Dwight Howard ooze coolness. 

    And let's not forget to mention those shoulders. 

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Adam Fromal

    If you don't think that Julius Erving is cool, please, stop reading this, throw out any basketball memorabilia you may own, and lock yourself away in an empty room without any form of entertainment until you've changed your mind. 

    Erving was the original high-flyer in the NBA. He is THE GUY who popularized the above the rim style of play that's so popular in the league today. Basketball simply wouldn't be the same without him. 

    It was Dr. J who provided the first truly memorable gravity-defying moment when he launched himselffrom the free throw line and hung in the air longer than humanly possible before jamming the ball home through the rim. 

    It was Dr. J who "rocked the baby" against Michael Cooper and left the crowd simply speechless.

    It was Dr. J who provided us with my favorite basketball play of all time.

    If you don't think Erving was cool...I give up.


    Bart Rich

    Allen Iverson was a man who was too cool for practice. The scary thing is, A.I. kinda had a point.

    If there's anyone who could challenge the throne of Dr. J, it would have to be The Answer.

    However, despite his insane acrobatics and ball-handling skills, and the revolution of cool that he brought to the fashion of our beloved sport, this one's got to be Dr. J.

    Julius Erving may be the coolest player to ever play the game. Think of that scoop. And think of that fro.

    This one just makes too much sense. 

Phoenix Suns

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    Bart Rich

    Reasons why Charles Barkley is cool:

    No. 1: He is the Round Mound of Rebound. No nickname is more descriptive or incredible. A perfect fit.

    No. 2: He also answers to Chuck.

    No. 3: He and Dwyane Wade are best friends. Watch TNT. T-Mobile says so.

    If you don't think that Chuck is the coolest Sun ever, that's just turrible.


    Adam Fromal

    I need to mention Kevin Johnson's dunk over Hakeem Olajuwon here because it's the coolest single play in Suns' history. I also need to mention Steve Nash. 

    But besides that, I completely agree with you here that Chuck has to be the choice. 

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Adam Fromal

    Clyde Drexler. Clyde the Glide. 

    Doesn't the name just conjure up images of the 6'7" swingman soaring through the lane en route to the rim, ready to terrorize defenders with yet another monstrous slam dunk? 

    Playing in the 1980s and 1990s, the golden age of shooting guards in the NBA, Drexler still made a name for himself thanks to his ridiculous ability to pull a Dr. J and simply defy gravity.

    Greg Oden was definitely a close second here, but he can't touch The Glide. Or the court for that matter. 


    Bart Rich

    Unless we're valuing the ability to age backwards and send inappropriate photos, I'm just going to assume you're being sarcastic when you mention Oden, aka Sam Bowie 2.0. 

    And I couldn't agree more about Clyde the Glide. One of my personal favorite nicknames, and let's not forget about his founding of Phi Slama Jama with Hakeem, the dunk fraternity at the University of Houston in the early 80's. 

    For induction, you were required to stand underneath the rim as Clyde tomahawk dunked over you. That's the kind of cool that speaks for itself.

Sacramento Kings

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    Bart Rich

    Oscar Robertson. Unquestionably one of the coolest players of all time. I'm consistently surprised by the fact that he wasn't more famous, until I remember that he spent his prime with this franchise in Cincinnati long before they moved to Sacramento.

    The Big O was a walking triple-double. The only basketball player to average a triple-double for his entire career, he was the predecessor to physical specimens like LeBron, who are terrifying both for their crazy athleticism and prodigious talents with the basketball.

    It's hard not to revere a man who was such a tour de force on the court.


    Adam Fromal

    In order to further back up your point, I'd like to quote Bill Russell from his book Second Wind:

    Of all the players in the NBA, I had the most fun playing against [Robertson] and his teams. He was so brilliant that he could orchestrate the Royals' offense and pump so much energy into it that all by himself he could push a game into a high if we could respond. He had a joy and ferociousness that nobody else could match.

    Whenever Russell speaks that highly about a player, you know he truly means it.

    But all that is for naught because we're forgetting about a player who hasn't even suited up for the Kings yet: Jimmer Fredette.

    I'm kidding, but only kind of.  

San Antonio Spurs

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    Adam Fromal

    David Robinson and his massive deltoids worked in perfect harmony to create a terrifying blend of power on offense and ridiculous awesomeness on defense. There's a reason that he's universally considered an all-time great. 

    Then there's the flat-top. Talk about bonus cool points there. It even outshines the little bit of Dennis Rodman's hair that we can see in the picture to the left. 

    The Admiral, thanks to his prior service in the Navy, was a player you didn't want to mess with. He wasn't just too cool for school, he was almost too cool for the NBA. 

    I have one last bit of coolness to briefly talk about. How many players would be content to help usher in the next era for their team? Robinson was one of the few that did, helping ensure that Tim Duncan would have an even more storied place in history thanks to his tutelage and acceptance at the hands of The Admiral.   


    Bart Rich

    Judging on nicknames alone, both of these players rank pretty high. And though I have to give The Admiral credit where it is due (mostly that flattop), it really doesn't get much better than George Gervin, the Iceman.

    Gervin is most famous for his ability to score at will and making the finger roll his trademark move, which begs the question: is the finger roll actually cool? 

    That depends. Is it cool when I attempt the finger roll 10 feet away from the basket and brick, causing shame and embarrassment for everyone involved? We can safely assume no. (I'm sure Adam is furiously nodding in agreement.)

    But when Iceman did it? That was one of the coolest things you could imagine doing on a basketball court. 

Toronto Raptors

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    Bart Rich

    Even though he's one of my least favorite players in the history of the NBA, here I have to give props to Vince Carter. 

    His nickname was Vinsanity, he changed the way we think of the modern dunk, and he thrilled lots of people when the stakes were low.

    That's it. I'm tapped out. That's all the positivity I can summon for Vince Carter. Adam, maybe you can put aside your biases better than I can.


    Adam Fromal


    I already said all I need to on the New Jersey Nets slide. While I agree with the selection, I'm going to point you back to that one and not say anything else positive about Carter. 

    Just for the record, both of us are Vince haters because of the way he wasted his talent, his lack of competitive drive and his lack of remorse for those facts. We have to respect that he was indeed cool and had a lot of success, but we can still be bitter that he could have been better.   

Utah Jazz

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    Adam Fromal

    Pistol Pete was one of the most creative players in NBA history when he had the ball with his hand. The amount of innovation that he provided for the guard positions is simply unmatched by any player ever, bar none.

    I can't describe his coolness any better than Bill Simmons can, so here's a quote from The Book of Basketball

    In every conceivable way, Pistol Pete was ahead of his time. Seeing him in person was like seeing twelve Globetrotters rolled into one: no pass was too far-fetched, no shot too far away. He'd glide across the court--all rubbery limbs, ball attached to his hand like a yo-yo, blank expression on his face--and you never knew what would happen next, just that the scoreboard never mattered as much as the show. Kids from that era remember his appearances on CBS's halftime H-O-R-S-E contests more fondly than any of his games. Even his basketball cards were cool, like the one from 1975, when he sported an extended goatee and looked like a count...He made impossible shots look easy. He saw passing angles his teammates couldn't even imagine. He was the most entertaining player alive..."

    If that's not cool, I don't know what is.  


    Bart Rich

    The only thing I can add to that is to point out that his name was Pistol Pete Maravich. That could be an awesome NBA legend or an iconic John Wayne character for a Western. Either way, the name is fantastic.

    Also, I feel obliged to mention Deron Williams, if only because watching him run the pick and roll with Carlos Boozer was pretty cool to watch.  

Washington Wizards

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    Bart Rich

    John Wall is a great place for this to wrap up. Even at such a young age, and after one electrifying year in the league, he embodies so much of that swagger and confidence we've both mentioned as a defining characteristic of cool. 

    For instance, he Dougied his way into the NBA during the intros of his very first game. That's so awesome.

    He's even inspired a dance from others. Now, we can all do the John Wall.

    When you take into consideration that he's also a No.1 overall pick for the Washington Wizards with blinding speed, unlimited potential and the shenanigans offered by sharing a locker room with JaVale "Pierre" McGee and Andray Blatche, John Wall has nowhere to go but up.

    As far as being cool goes, he's got that taken care of.


    Adam Fromal

    John Wall is a great choice here, but he's still got a long way to go before he can match Gilbert Arenas (pre-gun incident) in the coolness department. 

    We've been talking about nicknames all throughout this article because the monikers that a player is assigned (and more importantly, the ones that stick), truly represent just how a player was thought of. If they had a cool nickname, chances are they were pretty cool.

    Well, I present to you Arenas a.k.a. Agent Zero a.k.a. Hibachi.

    Whatever you want to call him, there's no denying that he had a fun-loving personality, one that oozed forth from him on the basketball court when he was jacking up three-pointers left and right in an unrelenting attempt to light up the scoreboard.

    Things have gone downhill for Arenas in recent years and Wall will probably surpass him in the coolness department sooner rather than later, but I've gotta stick up for Agent Zero here.

    * * * * *

    Adam Fromal is a syndicated writer and Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.

    Bart Rich is an English major at the University of Georgia and a lifelong basketball fan.

    Check out a previous article these two wrote here: Brian Wilson vs. James Harden: The Battle of the Beards.