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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


Isaiah Thomas



For being a small guard, Isaiah Thomas was one of the most competitive and feisty players I’ve ever seen.  He had an incredible will to win and wasn’t afraid to dust it up with anyone who stood in his way.

Isaiah came from a winning background all the way from high school, then to Indiana University with coach Bobby Knight, and then with the Detroit Pistons where he teamed with some of the most combative players I have ever had to play against, namely McFilthy and McNasty, aka, Rick Mahorn & Bll Laimbeer.  I’m not sure which one was which and it doesn’t matter, because they were brutal to play against.

Isaiah was one of the premier point guards of his era in terms of the total package.  He could score, play defense, assist and run the show.  After years of toiling in the shadows of the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, the Detroit Pistons finally broke through with a pair of back-to-back NBA championships.  Isaiah was a big reason for that.  His never say die attitude and his willingness to play hard while leading his team to victory was a huge factor.

Of course me being a big guy, I didn’t have to match up one-on-one with Isaiah (lucky for me, because I’m sure he would’ve broke my ankles with his quick dribble moves), and he could tie a team up in knots as he would break down the perimeter defense and then dish off for easy layups, dunks or short jumpers to any of a number of talented teammates.  Playing against guys like that always presents a tremendous challenge.  Isaiah was one of those guys!


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