Today, the NBA All Alphabet League is presented by:
Sorry about that. No really, I'll never to that again.
Anyway, The O team is almost the complete opposite to the last team presented, the N's. Where as the N's were a small, mobile unit, this O team is big at every position. Don't let that size fool you into thinking they're statuesque, though. At each and every position, the O's are athletic, with shooting, play making and defense to burn.
Point Guard - Victor Oladipo
The Pacers superstar slots in as the quasi point guard on the O Team. On offense, he’s quite capable of initiating the attack, but would likely share play making responsibility with his small forward. Defensively, however, Dipo can guard whoever you choose to throw him onto.
Oladipo found his feet pretty quickly in the NBA, providing solid all-round play at both ends of the floor for 3 years in Orlando and a single season with the Thunder. He flourished once he came ‘home’ to Indiana in the Paul George Trade. The former Hoosier has suffered through injuries in Indiana, but in 3 seasons he’s been named an All Star on two occasions, won All Defense and All NBA recognition, as well as led the league in steals. All this despite only one compete season as a Pacer.
It’s that fragility that consistently undermines the undoubtedly talented Oladipo. He is yet to play a full season, maxing out at 80 games in his rookie campaign. In his last two season’s he’s played in only 49 games due to a devastating quad injury.
When healthy, Dipo is a beast. A robust 6’4” and 210 pounds, he’s a physical player who looks for contact on his drives and is able to finish under pressure at the hoop or play-make for others. He’s a consistent 35% shooter from deep over his career, rounding out a versatile offensive game. Defensively, he’s a handful. Dipo uses his physicality and elite speed to give his opposing guard nightmares.
When healthy, Oladipo is one of the true two way stars of the current NBA. When healthy…..
Shooting Guard – Don Ohl
Don ‘Waxie’ Ohl was star shooting guard in the 1960’s. A sharpshooter, Ohl was one of the first players that would have benefited from modern spacing and the three point line. Ohl was a solid scorer from all over the court, averaging 15.9 points through his 10 year career as a Piston, Bullet and Hawk.
It was his range that made him such a weapon, though. In an era where the mid range was considered long range, Ohl was consistently firing away from 20+ feet, taking defences out of their comfort zones, and opening up space for high scoring teammates like Dave DeBusschere in Detroit and Walt Bellamy in Baltimore.
Ohl always stepped it up in the playoffs, averaging over 26 points per game in the 1965 and ’66 postseasons. His series long duel with Jerry West in 1965 is written into Bullets folklore.
In addition to his ability to stretch the floor, Ohl was an excellent defensive player. To give you a modern equivalent of the 5 time All Star, think of Ohl as the Klay Thompson of the 60’s, but without the rings.
Small Froward – Lamar Odom
The versatile Odom could act as a stand-in point guard for the O Team. The combo forward played 14 seasons of NBA ball with both the LA teams, as well as single season stopovers in Miami and Dallas. Discounting his final two years where he was a bit player, Odom put up a nightly 13.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks. Combine that all round ability with a respectable 3 point shot, and Odom was a tough match up.
It's surprising to learn that Odom didn't make a single All Star appearance in his career, given the high profile role he played on some successful teams. Odom was a leader of the young Clips of the early 2000's, a vital piece in the Lakers of later that decade and was probably the teams best player in his one Miami season, leading the unfancied Heat to the 2nd round of the playoffs.
Odom's silky game was a treat to watch. His ball handling in the open court and passing in any scenario were joyous. He wasn't a leaper as such, but still protected the rim and threw it down on the best shot blockers around. At his best, the left play maker was one of the best alleyoop passers in the league, lobbing the ball from all sorts of creative angles.
It's unfortunate, but you simply can't talk about Lamar Odom without mentioning the off court controversies. Between the DUI's, the marijuana issues, and his controversial marriage to somebody that won't be named by this writer, and his post career drug use that led to him being briefly placed on life support. Odom was a complicated figure. He was beloved by his teammates, an open and honest player with the media. Yet he was clearly a man dealing with demons through his career. Fortunately, Odom seems to have his life under control these days.
Power Forward – Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Olajuwon steps down the positional spectrum in this O Team, but do you doubt one of the all time great’s of the game couldn’t play as a power forward?
Olajuwon undoubtedly obsessed the greatest footwork of all time amongst big men, and arguably the greatest footwork of all time. Combined with a feathery shooting touch and excellent ball handling skills for a centre of his era, and Olajuwon would find a way to adapt in this lineup.
That footwork stemmed from his time as a soccer goalkeeper in his native Lagos, Nigeria. The pitter-patter steps of the goalkeeping science gave the agile big man an almost unfair advantage over other centres in his day.
Olajuwon had it all physically: speed, agility, strength and lift. His skill set for a centre unprecedented. His ability to drive and turn on a dime was amazing. He was also a remarkably intelligent player for someone that didn’t come to the game until he was 17 years old. Again, that can be attributed to his goalkeeping background. Olajuwon’s patience and understanding of angles – combined with his rare physical gifts - made him one of the greatest defensive forces of all time.
The Dream’s honour roll is as long as one of his arms:
2x NBA Champion
2x Finals MVP
12x All NBA
12x NBA All Star
2x Defensive Player of the Year
9x All Defense
2x rebounding leader
3x blocks leader
All time NBA leader in recorded blocks
Over his 18 season career (17 in Houston and 1 in Toronto that we try not to talk about) Olajuwon put up incredible all round stats: 21.8 points, 11.1 boards, 2.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 3.1 blocks. Only once did he average under a steal per game – his age 37 season – he only dropped below 2 blocks per game over the last 3 seasons of his career. He averaged more than a combined 5 stocks (steals/blocks) an unprecedented 9 times over a 10 year span, including a ridiculous run from 1989 to 1993 where he averaged 13.3 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 4.1 blocks. How Hakeem only won a pair of Defensive Player of the Year awards remains a mystery.
Centre – Shaquille O’Neal
Shaq Fu; Superman; Shaq Daddy; MDE; Shaq Diesel; Wilt Chamberneezy; The Big Aristotle; The Big Cactus; the Big Conductor; The Big Baryshnikov….
….no matter what you want to call him, you simply can’t go past Shaq’s dominance for the O team.
Over the course of Shaq’s 19 NBA seasons, he averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 boards and 2.3 blocks, despite spending many regular seasons playing his way into shape. It’s perhaps for that reason that he only won a solitary MVP award. Whilst he didn’t totally discount the regular season, Shaq played for the post season where he upped his stats across the board, averaging over 30 points in 3 separate playoff runs, as well as 15+ rebounds twice.
Shaq was the best player on 3 championship teams in Los Angeles – winning 3 Finals MVP’s - despite the presence of Kobe Bryant, and was the bedrock that allowed Dwyane Wade to thrive in Miami’s 2006 run.
Shaq lead the league in scoring twice on the way to being named to 15 All Star games, 14 All NBA teams and 3 All Defensive teams.
Despite all the numbers, Shaq is one of those players that can’t be explained in mere figures. Shaq was a cultural phenomenon upon entering the league in 1992. Magic and Bird were gone, Jordan was at the top of his game, but had been around for 8 years by that point. Shaq was new, he was gregarious and he was – in every sense of the word, huge!
Off the court, he parlayed his celebrity into acting appearances, rap albums, books and DJing (with varying degrees of success, it has to be said). On court, he was unstoppable. Shaq took delight in destroying opponents, backboards and stanchions. The league simply hasn’t seen a physical force like him. At 7’1” and anything between 300 and 370 pounds with a ballerina’s agility and underrated passing ability, Shaq was unguardable.
The combination of Shaq and Hakeem give the O Team possibly the best combination of big men in the Alphabet League.