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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

Magic Johnson


I first remember playing against Ervin “Magic” Johnson in 1979 at the Far West Classic basketball tournament that is played in Portland, Oregon.  I remember him being so exuberant, full of energy and excitement even back then as a freshman.  He had a way of getting his teammates all caught up in the excitement of playing a game that’s “supposed to be fun”. 

Never has there been a player who brought as much fun to the game and had as much talent and fan appeal as Magic Johnson.  With this effervescent smile and magnificent ball handling and passing skills, he was “Showtime”.  He was usually the “difference maker” out there on the court when his team went against yours.  On any given night he was capable of putting up a “triple double” but I truly believe he derived much more pleasure helping his teammates to be better than they ever thought they could be… and he played against a pretty darn good players!

Magic was all about “Winning” and having fun as he would say.  It was a tremendous leader on the court and getting his players where he wanted them to be to be most effective and to enhance their odds of winning.  I think people forget how truly talented Magic Johnson was because he played with so many incredibly talented players throughout his career.  His Showtime Laker teams of the 80’s were some of the most star-studded teams ever to grace the presence of the NBA.  Just look at the awesome lineup that they were able to put on the floor throughout that decade with Jabbar, Worthy, Scott, Cooper, Nixon and others!  As always, I had my hands full with Jabbar and I think Magic would “rub it in” from time to time by calling the play that was set for Jabbar “fist down”.  I used to just cringe and say “here we go again” as Jabbar would get himself into position and Magic would dribble on over and dump it down into the post for Jabbar to do his thing.  Whether Jabbar scored or not, that play alone had a way of tying our defense into knots and putting us back on our heels.

But you gotta take your hat off to Magic Johnson because he goes down into the history books not only as one of the all-time greats (top 5 in my book), but also the greatest at making his teammates better… and having a whole heck of a lot of fun doing it.





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