The All Time All Alphabet team moves on the letter K.
In putting these teams together, the idea is to adhere to some sort of positional orthodoxy. With the K’s, positions are a more malleable concept. There are essentially 3 small forwards in this team, but they are all very different ball players, capable of fulfilling very different roles. Fronted by an outstanding set up man, the K Team should be able to thrive as an uptempo offensive force.
Point Guard – Jason Kidd
An all-time great of the game, Kidd can sometimes get overlooked when the discussions turn to the greatest point guards, which seems strange for a man with 10 All-Star appearances, 9 All-Defensive teams and 6 All NBA awards.
Over a long 19 year career, Kidd racked up numbers. He led the league in assists on 5 occasions, only trailing only the legendary John Stockton in assists and steals all time. Sporting excellent size and athleticism, Kidd’s nose for a rebound made him a constant triple double threat. Kidd retired in 3rd all time in that stat, although Russell Westbrook has since overtaken him. Remarkably for a player once dubbed Ason Kidd for his lack of a jump shot, Kidd retired in 3rd place in 3 pointers made, although the NBA’s 3 point centric modern era has pushed him far down that list, nowadays.
Kidd was the centrepiece of a young core leading a moribund Mavericks team out of the wilderness in the mid 1990’s, although he wouldn’t taste the ultimate success until 2011 after a long, circuitous route taking in the Suns and Nets (who he led to a pair of finals appearances).
Standing 6’4 with a solid build, Kidd had excellent size at the 1. His all world speed made him a spectacular physical package. Kidd’s passing, rebounding and defense made him a star.
Kidd and his back court running mate will enjoy throwing lobs the the athletic bigs on this K Team.
Point Forward – Toni Kukoc
The versatile Kukoc nominally slots in at the shooting guard position, although his malleable game means he could play the point, run off ball as a wing, or create mismatches as a stretch 4.
His impact on the NBA is perhaps a little overplayed, given his role in the 2nd of the Bulls three-peats, but Kukoc was nonetheless a fine player.
He didn’t join the Bulls until the 1994 season as a 25 year old, despite being drafted 4 years earlier. To some extent, we’re lucky to have seen the Croatian in the NBA at all. He was coming from region in the midst of civil war, and felt strongly about moving too far away from his family. There was also the infamous beat down he took from Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen at the Barcelona Olympics. He would have been well within his rights to think, ‘screw playing with those guys!’.
Fortunately, Kukoc did head stateside, and enjoyed a 12 year NBA career for the Bulls, Sixers, Hawks and Bucks.
The 1996 Sixth Man of the Year was a gifted play maker, using his height to see angles that others couldn’t. European basketball was ahead of the curve when it came to the position less basketball mantra and Kukoc was a prime example of what teaching bigs to play like guards could produce.
In retirement, Kukoc has become an outstanding golfer, claiming Croatia’s Amateur Championship in 2011.
Small Forward – Bernard King
Professional scorer Bernard King was a typical 80’s wing. A lightning fast and explosive 6’7” wing who completely eschewed the three point line, King was a mid range assassin with a toolbox full of low post moves. The career 22.5 point scorer led the NBA scoring charts in 1985, giving the Knicks 32.5 points a night before a devastating knee injury (ACL, cartledge and a broken bone) caused him to miss the remainder of that season as well as the ’86 season entirely. The what if’s defined King’s career: injuries, arrests and alcoholism.
King could always score – as a rookie in New Jersey he 24.2 points along with 9.5 rebounds – before he moved to Utah and missed most of the 1983 season to mental health and alcohol issues. He started to get his career back on track in Golden State before becoming a star in New York. Back to back 50 point games, a 40 point half and a 60 point game in the 1984 season made King an All Star. In ’85 he was an MVP candidate before his knee exploded. The combination of King and a young Patrick Ewing were supposed to lead the Knicks back to the promised land. Alas….
Despite working diligently to reclaim his former throne, King’s speed had evaporated and he was never the same. To his credit, he altered his game to be more powerful and continued to put up healthy numbers in Washington, where he was able to claim his 4th All Star appearance (6 years after his 3rd) in 1991 at the age of 34. He finished 3rd in the league in scoring that season.
Power Forward – Andrei Kirilenko
Like his fellow European, AK47 is one of the more versatile players of his era. A speedy, lithe power forward with 3 point range, Kirilenko was a true 5-position defensive ace, who could nullify all but the burliest low post brutes.
The 3 time All Defense selection had a strange end to his career, leaving Utah aged 29 due to the lockout to play in his native Russia for the 2012 season. He returned to the NBA firstly as a role player in Minnesota for a year, before stumping up in Brooklyn for a career end that was truly bizarre.
In his pomp, Kirilenko seemed to be everywhere at once on the court. He would be guarding a point guard on the wing before flying in for a weak side block, staring the break, then spotting up in the corner for a three pointer.
He was a genuine all rounder who regularly posted 5×5 box scores (at least 5 points, boards, blocks, steals and assists), as well as being a dynamite on ball defender, and a willing play maker. In many ways, Kirilenko was the poor man’s Scottie Pippen.
The 2005 blocks leader averaged 12.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals and a pair of blocks through his time in Salt Lake. He also led the league in Free Passes per season.
Centre – Shawn Kemp
One of the greatest dunkers ever to grace the hardwood rounds out our K Team.
Kemp electrified the 90’s in a way no player bar Michael Jordan could. He wasn’t the best player by any means – although he was a 6 time All Star and 3 time All NBA – but he was certainly the most spectacular.
Kemp was a ridiculous athlete. A 6’10” specimen that could run like a gazelle, had wonderful agility, extreme power and could – of course – jump out of the gym, he would be the sort of player that these days would be compared to Giannis Antetokounmpo. To that end, Kemp was a very skilful big man for the era, with the ability to step out and consistently drain jumpers to 18 feet, playmake from the post or the top of the key, and enough handles to lead the fast break. It would have been intriguing to see Kemp raised on this era of basketball.
Kemp was a consistent 18/10 player with 1.5 steals and blocks thrown in through his prime. Good but not dramatic numbers. He always stepped it up in the playoffs, though. From the 1995 playoffs through to 1998 (his first season as a Cavalier) Kemp averaged 22 points, 11.2 boards, 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks.
Talking numbers doesn’t do Kemp justice, though. When you come for the Reign Man, you come for the Dunks. Without further ado, and may God rest Alton Lister’s soul: