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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

Lenny Wilkens


I didn’t have the pleasure of watching Lenny Wilkens, the player, but I did have the pleasure of being coached by Lenny Wilkens, the coach, when I was with the Seattle SuperSonics in the early ‘80s.  Anybody who knows basketball history can tell you that Lenny Wilkens was one of the all-time great players in NBA history and then he went on to become the all-time winningest coach in the history of the NBA.  That’s quite an accomplishment!

Wilkens was one of my favorite coaches because he really understood the mental makeup of the NBA player.  I played with the Sonics just a year after they won their one and only NBA championship in 1979.  When I was with them, the team was still stocked with NBA championship caliber players in every position, and Lenny Wilkens did a masterful job of continuing to coach the team in spite of missing a couple of the key players from the championship team.  I love the fact that he treated us like men instead of little boys, but with that, he had a big expectation that you would conduct yourself like men and be professional.  That was a great way for me to break into the league – to be coached by someone like Lenny Wilkens.

Wilkens went on to have a very lengthy coaching career and success at virtually every stop along the way.  His teams seemed to be always competitive and in the hunt for another title, which miraculously somehow eluded him the rest of his coaching career.  It just goes to show you how difficult winning an NBA championship is in the first place.  You have to have all the right pieces in place, and then have a great coach like Lenny Wilkens.


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