Alphabet League
All Alphabet League Double Header (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

The All Alphabet league presents a double header, today.

The Q team selected itself, given there are only 5 players who’s names start with the letter Q in the history of the entire NBA! And if we’re being honest, one of those only qualifies due to some linguistic gymnastics!

So given that, we’re also unveiling the R Team today. A team with two of the most revered players ever to throw a ball through a hoop, as well as a pair of 90’s superstars and a modern player that is the definition of ‘what if’. The R’s are amongst the best teams in the All Alphabet league, and considerably better than the unfortunate Q’s!

Point Guard – Tim Quarterman

Tim Quarterman is the typical player that is skillful enough to catch on to the back end of an NBA roster, but just doesn’t have the athleticism. At 6’6”, he has excellent size for a lead guard, and is a solid distributor and organised of an offense. What he lacks, however, is any type of pop. Quarterman is a heady, intelligent baller, he just doesn’t have the first step, the speed, or the bounce needed to make his way in the NBA.

Currently playing in the G League, he seems the perfect candidate to find a career playing in Australia’s NBL, or a European league.

Shooting Guard – Chris Quinn

A 6’2” guard out of Notre Dame, Quinn enjoyed a 6 year NBA career. He spent 3 seasons in Miami before bouncing between the Nets, Spurs and Cavaliers. He was a solid contributor in Miami, starting 25 games in the 2008 campaign, putting up 7.8 points and 3 assists per game.

Quinn wasn’t an athlete by NBA standards. What got him to the big league was his jump shot. A career 37.7% shooter, Quinn twice broke the 40% mark as a member of the Heat.

Small Forward – Bob Quick

Quick enjoyed a brief journeyman career in the late 60’s and early 70’s, spending time with the Baltimore Bullets and Detroit Pistons, before spending a half season in the ABA with the Dallas Chaparrals, the precursor to the San Antonio Spurs.

His best campaign was in 1971, where he averaged 8 points and 4 rebounds as a backup forward with the Pistons.

Power Forward – Brian Quinnett

Quinnett, a former Knicks 2nd round pick, stuck around in the league for 3 seasons. He was a man without a country, to a degree. At 6’8” and 240 pounds, he was built like an undersized power forward, but played like a 2-guard. Unfortunately, he couldn’t really shoot, with careers splits of 41/33/68.

Centre – Zhou Qi

Before any Mandarin linguists @ me, I fully acknowledge and understand that Zhou Qi should like up on the Z team. Given the lack of available numbers for the Q Team, he’s been drafted in as a type of emergency loan. Deal with it.

The 7’1” Chinese centre played 19 games across a couple of seasons in Houston. He gave his team 1.3 points, 1.2 boards and 0.7 blocks.

I’ll leave you with this, though: Zhou scored 72 points per 36 minutes in 2019. I guess that’s what happens when you play 1 measly minute all season!.

So after that deep dive into the NBA’s underbelly, onto the R Team.

Point Guard – Oscar Robertson

The great Oscar Robertson is a fine lead guard for the R Team, a long and athletic star in a team of long athletic stars.

The Big O was famous for being the only man to average a triple double over the course of a season before Russell Westbrook was given carte blanche over the Thunder’s offense a few years back. His 1962 line of 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists is almost as astonishing now as it was back then, and surpasses anything his modern counterpart achieved in Oklahoma. Robertson was less than a rebound or assist from repeating his famous feat on another 4 occasions.

Over the course of his 14 year career, the 1964 league MVP averaged 25.7 points, 9.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds. Steals were not recorded until his final season, but it’s said that Robertson averaged at least 3 steals per game through his prime. Whilst he has famously rallied against the modern trend towards the 3 pointer, it’s conceivable that the career 83.8% free throw shooter would have been at least a reasonable shot from range, had the arc existed in his playing days.

Robertson was a mainstay with some excellent Cincinnati teams through the 1960’s, winning  All-Star and All NBA (9 times first team) status in each of his 10 seasons as a Royal. Despite sustained individual success, he didn’t win an NBA title until he paired with a young Lew Alcindor in Milwaukee, dominating the league to claim the crown in 1971.

Robertson’s size and athleticism at the point position was rare in his era and allowed him to physically overwhelm opponents in much the same way that Magic Johnson would two decades later. His mid range jumper opened up a driving game that was nigh on impossible to stop. That size also allowed him play making opportunities that other point guards didn’t have, and Robertson exploited his size recording many of his assists by simply passing over the defense, on his way to leading the league in assists on 6 occasions.

The 12 time All-Star & 11 time All NBA selection stayed involved in the game for many years as a broadcaster. Throughout his playing days, and into his post career life, Robertson has campaigned for what is right. As President of the NBA Players Association, he led the push for the league to recognise an early form of free agency. Post career, he’s been a highly visible campaigner for better opportunities and living standards amongst the African American communities.

Shooting Guard – Mitch Richmond

Oft maligned as the perfect example of the Hall of Fame becoming the Hall of Very Good, Mitch Richmond is perhaps unfairly maligned by pundits, these days. He’s also seen as the emblem for the veteran ring chaser, after picking up his only ring in his final season, playing a bit part on the 2002 Lakers.

To be frank, that’s not fair to Richmond, who enjoyed a stellar 14 year NBA career, not scoring less than 16 point per game until that final season. The Rock (Dwayne Johnson should be paying Mitch royalties) made his living putting the ball in the hoop, firstly as a member of the legendary Run TMC trio in Golden State, then as the main man in Sacramento and Washington.

Richmond was a dead eye shooter, who regularly launched his gorgeous jumper from deep in an era where the 3 point line was still looked upon with suspicion. He was an assassin from the mid range, combining to form a deadly combination with Tim Hardaway. He was also a ready and willing driver, using his thick upper body to absorb contact and finish at the cup.

He scored 21 points per game over his career, shooting 38.8% from deep and 85% from the free throw line. Throw in 3.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game, and it’s clear that Mitch Richmond was no slouch.

Richmond appeared in 6 All Star games, and was named to All NBA teams on 5 occasions. For all the heat he takes from the Bill Simmons’ of the world, there are plenty of worse players who have made the Hall.

Small Froward – Brandon Roy

Another victim of The Blazers Curse is Brandon Roy, a baller with the world at his feet, but for his balky knees.

Roy’s criminally short career was effectively only 5 seasons long, and he was only healthy for three of those. Roy came into the league with major question marks over those knees. He was a contender for the first overall pick, but with many teams frightened off by his medical reports, the talented wing fell to the 6th pick, where Minnesota snapped him up, then immediately traded him to Portland.

As a rookie, Roy put up 16.8 points (with 37.7% shooting from deep), 4 boards, 4 assists and over a steal per game. The problem is he only played 57 games – those knees again.

In the three seasons that followed, Roy missed a far more reasonable 29 games total. He was wonderful; a nightly 20/5/5 with excellent shooting splits and great defense. He was an All Star in all 3 campaigns and picked up a pair of All NBA awards. At the age of 25, he was ready to take over the league.

Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for Roy. He only played 47 games the next season and his production plummeted. He was simply unable to get on the court consistently, and when he did play, his explosiveness was sapped. Sadly, he retired at the end of that season, at the age of 26.

Roy did make a short comeback attempt two seasons late, appearing in 5 games for the Wolves, but he was a shadow of his best self, and quickly aborted the mission.

Brandon Roy could do it all. A late game killer with the ability to fill it up all over the floor, play make for others, and defend multiple positions, a healthy Roy could have finished his career as an all time great. Instead, he’s another poster child for what might have been.

Power Forward – David Robinson

The Admiral steps down to the power forward position in the R Team. Despite standing 7’1”, Robinson was a gazelle who was faster than many of the wings that played in his league. There’s no doubt he’d be able to adapt.

The Spurs played the long game in taking Robinson first overall in the 1987 draft. Robinson’s remarkable career didn’t start until he was 24 years old, due to completing his full 4 years of college, then completing a 2 year Naval commitment. When he did finally arrive, he dominated: 24.3 points, 12 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 3.9 blocks (!) as a rookie.

Robinson’s list of accolades is outstanding:

  • 2x NBA champion
  • 10x All NBA
  • 10x All Star
  • 8x All Defense
  • 1995 League MVP
  • 1992 Defensive Player of the Year
  • 1994 scoring champion
  • 1991 rebounding champion
  • 1992 blocks champion

Robinsons’ career line of 21.1 points, 10.6 boards, 1.4 steals and 3 blocks speaks to his dominant as a player. The fact that he did it whilst missing his entire early 20’s, and later sacrificing his own stats to accommodate the ascension of a young Tim Duncan is remarkable. The only time he didn’t play in the All-Star game through his first 12 seasons in the league was in 1997 where he only played 6 games all season due to a back injury, and 1999 where the lockout meant the All-Star weekend was cancelled.

Robinson was an exciting player to watch. He was a muscular Adonis, with speed and athleticism that were unmatched at the centre position. As was the custom of the day, a 7 footer like Robinson was trained to be a centre and only a centre, despite what skills and physical abilities he may have had. It’s interesting to think of what Robinson could have been if we were born 30 years later. He probably would be a Giannis type, but it’s conceivable that he could have been a taller Anthony Davis.

Centre – Bill Russell

The R Team is anchored by the greatest winner in the history of the league.

Russell’s 11 championships as a player (the final 2 of those were as player/coach) are unsurpassed and only Phil Jackson, who won 11 of his 13 as a coach, has more rings overall.

Russell was an anomaly in that he played a purely defensive game in perhaps the most offensively friendly era of NBA basketball. He averaged 22.5 rebounds per game for his career as well as 15.1 points, and an incalculable number of blocked shots and steals. What isn’t often recognised about Russell is his outstanding play making ability. He put up 4.3 assists per game over his 13 seasons, and in an era where centres rarely averaged over 3 assists per game, Russell did so on 11 occasions, including a pair of seasons with over 5 assists.

Russell – as he recently reminded us all – was an athletic marvel, who starred in track and field, excelling as a high jumper and 400 meters runner. Luckily for us, basketball was his passion. He revolutionised the way the game is played, by being the first man to dominate the league on defense.

Russell’s honour roll is simply extraordinary:

  • 11x NBA champion
  • 5x League MVP
  • 12x NBA All Star
  • 11x All NBA
  • 4x Rebounding champion
  • All Defensive (the first year of the accolade) in 1969

Like his squad mate Robertson, Russell was and remains an active fighter for social justice; his twitter page is one of the best follows you’ll ever make. It was that acute recognition of the world around him that lead to Russell’s retirement in 1969. He was distraught by the assassination of President Kennedy, and the Vietnam War and openly wondered why he was participating in something as ‘trivial’ as sport. But Russell – ever the winner – went out on a high, leading his ageing and underdog Celtics to a 7 game victory over their great rivals in Los Angeles