If you know me, you know two interrelated facts: (1) I love the game of basketball; and (2) I love playing the game. I will never forget my introduction to the game. I was in the fifth grade at Moore Elementary School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Some of my friends were on the basketball courts playing, so I decided to join them (At the time—believe it or not—I was a football player). To say that my introduction to the game was rocky would be a gross understatement. My friends laughed at me and told me that I was terrible (this was no lie). But, after this embarrassing introduction, I was determined to learn how to play the game. Soon, my passion for football would make way for my true first love: basketball.
This past weekend, I was at a bar watching a few college games when I started to think about some of my favorite collegiate basketball players of all time. More specifically, I started thinking about my favorite guards of the last 25 years (1992 to present).
When I thought about this question, a few names came to mind. However, I wanted to gather different perspectives from my friends, so I conducted a poll on Facebook. I also did a little research online to see what other basketball-lovers had to say. To be fair, I wanted to judge the players on very specific qualities. I decided to exclude the respective players pro careers; I only wanted to focus on their college careers. Also, I decided that my list could include players 6’2” or shorter.
The first name to come to mind was Allen Iverson who is my favorite basketball player of all time. Iverson played two seasons at Georgetown from 1994-1996. During his tenure, he averaged 23 points per game, 4.6 assists per game, and 3.2 steals per game. He shot 44% from the field and 68% from the free throw line.
In terms of impact, there is probably no one (small) player in the history of the game who changed the game the way he did. He was instrumental in players wearing longer shorts, black socks (along with the Fab Five) and black shoes. He also possessed one of the most unstoppable moves in the history of the game: the crossover (ask Michael Jordan).
Let me say this: I am most certainly NOT a Duke fan. However, when I think about all-time great guards, Jayson Williams’s name belongs in the conversation. Williams dominated the ACC from 1999-2002. During his career, he averaged 19.3 points per game, 6 assists per game, 2.2 steals per game, all while shooting 45% from the field and 67% from the free throw line. As talented as Williams was, he was equally, if not more so, intelligent. Although he could dominate a game physically, he mastered the game of outthinking his opponent.
Steph Curry had a great career at Davidson College. The funny thing about Steph is that not many people recruited him out of high school. This explains why he ended up playing his college career at Davidson College instead of a high major program.
Steph played at Davidson from 2006 to 2009.
During this period, he averaged 25.3 points per game, 3.7 assists per game, and 2.1 steals per game. He shot 46.7 percent from the field, and 87.6% from the free throw line. Steph Curry is the best shooter the game has ever seen (on any level). His shooting changed the way guards prepared for games, and the way coaches recruited. He was also an underdog, who was told that he was too skinny, or not athletic enough to play high-major basketball.
Kemba had one of the most storied careers of any player on this list. He literally carried his team to the National Championship in 2011. He played with heart and swag that not many players before, or after him, have displayed.
During his career at UCONN, from 2008-2011, he averaged 16.1 points per game, 4.4 assists per game, and 1.7 steals per game. In addition, he shot 43 percent from the field and 78 percent from the free throw line.
I watched a lot of players play, but I have never seen anyone with a step-back move like Kemba. Talk about shifty. He was a throw back New York City guard in the same vein as Kenny Anderson, and Stephon Marbury.
Last but not least: Chris Paul. He played every game with a chip on his shoulder. This does not surprise me because I remember when he played ball at the YMCA in Winston-Salem. He was younger than us, and much shorter, but he always played with passion and aggressiveness. On the defensive end, he defended with a tenacious spirit like a smaller version of Gary Payton.
During his career at Wake Forest, from 2003-2005, he averaged 15 points per game, 6.3 assists per game, and 2.5 steals per game. He shot 47% from the field, and 84% from the free throw line.
Chris’ biggest impact on the game was his ability to dominate a game without being a volume shooter. There are very few players in the history of the game who could dominate a game without shooting 20 times per game. CP3 is that rare player who mastered this skill.
This list does not include the one-and-done players. Who would you add or remove from your personal list?