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NBA’s All Time 50 Greatest Players: Excerpts from Standing Above the Crowd: Success Strategies in Athletics, Business, Community and Life by James Donaldson


Excerpts from Standing Above the Crowd: Success Strategies in Athletics, Business, Community and Life by James Donaldson.  Release date is January 201l.  Pre-order now and save!!!

For details go to www.StandingAboveTheCrowd.com

I know that there are a lot of NBA basketball fans out there who will get a kick out of my chapter on my experiences playing against and observing some of the greatest players in NBA history.  I’ll send out an excerpt from this chapter everyday leading up to the book release.  I welcome your comments!

One of the most frequently asked questions that I encounter besides “how tall are you?” is either who is the greatest player that I’ve ever played against, or who is the toughest player that I’ve ever played against?  Depending on the person’s knowledge of basketball who’s asking the question, I typically give a couple different responses.  There’s a big difference between “the greatest” and “the toughest”.

The game of basketball has been around for a long time now and it has evolved over the years from when Dr. James Naismith first tied a peach basket an old barn post and the players were shooting two hand set shots, to now where the game is played on a global scale with some of the finest athletes in the world.  There were great players back in the beginning of the game, just as they’re great players now.  I don’t know if it’s ever totally fair to compare players from one era against players of another era.  Periodically you see sports aficionados coming up with hypothetical computerize scenarios of say the great Green Bay Packers of the 60s versus the New England Patriots of the new millennium.  It’s impossible to really say who the best players are or which team would come out on top.  But it’s a fun exercise and it creates a lot of heated conversation amongst the fanatics and all of us.

I was lucky to play during perhaps the greatest era of NBA basketball.  My NBA career spanned two decades essentially, from 1980 – 1996.  Some of the greatest NBA players to ever play the game played during that era.  I remember as a rookie in 1980 marveling at the great Dr. J. and also been privileged to witness the new era of NBA basketball that was brought to us by Ervin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird.

All in all I was privileged to play against over 30 of the all-time 50 greatest NBA players ever.  I’m going to go through the whole list of the 50 greatest players and share my thoughts with you in regards to either actually playing against them or watching them as I was a youngster.  They are listed in alphabetical order and if you want to find the actual numerical order in which they are listed by the NBA you can check out their website at NBA.com

John Stockton


I got to know John Stockton when he was still a student athlete at Gonzaga University.  I had just graduated perhaps a couple of years earlier from Washington State University and he was finishing up his senior year at Gonzaga when I met him as they traveled to Seattle Washington for a game.

He was a focused and talented young man even then.  Someone who always paid attention to the fundamentals of the game and was a consummate team player.  Stockton teamed with Karl “the Mailman” Malone his entire career with the Utah Jazz and led them to appearances in the playoffs every single year (which included two appearances in the NBA finals, in which they came up just a little on the short end both times).

Stockton was a small guard by NBA standards, but he competed with the best of them.  I remember one of his favorite plays was then where he would pass the ball off to the wing, rub his man off the high post as he headed down to the baseline right below the basket, then circle back around to set a back pick on me.  Actually, I don’t know if that was his favorite play because I remember him telling me when I joined the Utah Jazz during the latter part of my career and became his teammate, “I’m so glad I don’t have the set those back picks on you anymore, because I was always ducking your elbows as you tried to swing around to get me”.  Stockton was never shy of doing whatever it took to help his team win, even laying his body on the line as he tried to set a back pick on me. 

I’d say the most enjoyable part of my career, was when I became teammates with John Stockton.  He was my kind of guy, professional, focused, paying attention to details, helping his teammates to be better and laying it all out there trying to win.


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