I was watching Game 5 of the 1993 first-round playoff series between the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Clippers earlier tonight as part of a project for SBNation.com (it’s starting tomorrow!). While doing it, I couldn’t help but marvel at the Clippers’ roster. This is probably the most idiosyncratic, obscure list of players ever assembled, which caused Eric Freeman to postulate that they were the most basketball card team ever assembled.
Since I’ve been digging through a lot of my old cards anyway, I figured I’d put this theory to the test. So, without further ado, a look at the 1993 Clippers, who may indeed be the most basketball card lineup ever assembled.
Mark Jackson: The former New York Knick who emerged as this ringleader of misfits after being sent away by Pat Riley for Charles Smith. It was a classic dumb Clippers trade at the time — Smith was a 20-point scorer, and Jackson was unwanted by Pat Riley. Improbably, it worked out, as Smith slowly started to lose his game and Jackson found his again. The Clippers, needing some stability, gave Jackson a long-term contract after the 1993 season. One year later, Jackson was in Indiana.
More great Jackson cards:
The top one is especially funny
Ron Harper: The one sane member of the team. A fantastic two-way guard who came in an actual good Clippers trade (Harper for the draft rights to Danny Ferry), he was a terror in transition and a tough guy to cover on the block. Here he is doing his patented finger roll. Sadly, he blew out his knee in 1994 and moved on to the Bulls, where he made a remarkable recovery to be Michael Jordan’s backcourt mate.
He’s also definitely the most basketball card player ever on the most basketball card team ever.
What you looking at, Ron?
Danny Manning: The former No. 1 draft pick who at one point mused that he was tired of playing for Larry Brown, seeing as he was also his college coach. Averaged 23/6 in 1992/93, in what was probably his best year. His career was derailed by injuries, and he never really was the superstar he was supposed to be. Still a decent player, though, kind of like Antawn Jamison.
Ken Norman: One of the most 90s players ever. A small forward who averaged 15 and 7 when he got the minutes, didn’t shoot threes well, but could score. They don’t make players like him anymore, because he neither played a role or stood out. He was just kind of there, along for the ride. He always got overshadowed by better or more ridiculous teammates.
Stanley Roberts: A 300-pound center described by Brown as the kind of guy who could have dominated if he wanted to dominate. Instead, Roberts used his opportunity out of Shaquille O’Neal’s shadow to get overweight, foul like crazy (he averaged nearly seven fouls/36 minutes) and tease the Clippers with his potential. The Clippers were so worried he’d pick up fouls that they had Manning guarding Hakeem Olajuwon instead of Roberts.
Loy Vaught: A promising youngster in 1993, Vaught ultimately became Mr. Clipper simply because he didn’t get hurt, demand out, get fat or all of the above. He played at least 75 games every year from 1992 to 1997, always decent, never amazing. In other words, he defined mediocrity.
John “Hotplate” Williams: The 1990s version of Michael Sweetney, except somehow even more ridiculous because he was a perimeter-oriented player. Larry Brown valued his court savvy, supposedly, so he would isolate Williams at the top of the key at the end of quarters. That’s how you got a 300-pound power forward going one on five from 23 feet away. It’s safe to say we’ll never see that again.
Gary Grant: Nicknamed “The General,” Grant had an incredibly anonymous name and a very crazy game. By 1993, he had mellowed out a bit, but he was a turnover magnet in his first few years in the league. Was prone to making the spectacular play, at least until Larry Brown neutered him a bit. Spent seven years with the Clippers, which makes him a legend for that franchise just for sticking it out.
Kiki Vandeweghe: By now, he was on his last legs, but he still provided this memorable Skybox 1993 card.
Elmore Spencer: Goofy, horrible backup center who nevertheless played a lot in the 1993 playoffs because Roberts couldn’t handle Olajuwon.
Larry Brown: The last coach you’d expect for this roster of misfits. Switched from being the Spurs coach in midseason to coach the Clippers, which is way more sketchy than what he did with the Knicks. Ended up leaving after 1993 to coach the Pacers because he felt no long-term commitment with the Clippers. Leaves you wondering whether it was him or them.
The 1993 Clippers ended up losing that Game 5 to the Rockets in the closing seconds, and that was the end. Brown left for Indiana. Harper and Roberts blew out their knees. Manning was traded for Dominique Wilkins, who sulked his entire way in LA. Jackson stuck around for one more year, then joined Brown in Indiana. Norman went to Milwaukee. Williams got closer to eating himself out of the league. Spencer actually became a decent player. The 1994 Clippers included Mark Aguirre, Wilkins, Bo Outlaw and Tom Tolbert. They were awful. Only three men (Vaught, Grant and Spencer) stuck around for the 1994/95 season. It was a roster torn away from us too soon.
We’ll miss you, 1993 Clippers.
1. They stole Rob Neyer from ESPN.
2. They stole the Engadget bros from AOL.
3. They added Ashton Kutcher to their advisory board.
4. They revealed the name of their tech site on Jimmy Fallon.
5. My brother works there and knows all the words to “Chickenhead.”
(Note that items 1-4 all occurred this year, and my brother was hired last year. Pretty sure the latter is responsible for the former.)
JaVale McGee is the planking king.
Paul Pierce at the World Series of Poker, looking like … a poker player. Too much like a poker player, in fact.