As we continue to work our way through the endless summer between the Finals and Opening Night, we'll pause each Friday to briefly consider and count down some NBA-related topic of note. We like starting lineups and round numbers, so we'll run through a handful of items each week. With a nod to our friends at Dr. Saturday , welcome to Ball Don't Five . This week's installment: The Top Five Retired Players That Never Made an All-Star Team. 5. Lamar Odom . It’s arguable that Odom never truly had an All-Star season, so his placement on this list is more of a career honor than a knock at, say, the assistant coaches in the East during the 2003-04 season. Those coaches were likely still considering Odom, who averaged more than 17 points, nearly 10 rebounds, 4.1 assists and a block per game with the playoff-bound Miami Heat that year, a flighty ne’er-do-well who hadn’t paid his dues. In opposition to, say, Jamaal Magliore – who made the damned All-Star team that season. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] 4. Rod Strickland . Like Odom, Strickland struggled with image issues throughout his career, which likely (needlessly) cost him votes as a reserve. He dealt with academic problems at DePaul, immediately entered a point guard controversy (which was not his fault) upon entering the league with the Knicks, and after being traded to San Antonio in his second season he infamously decided a behind-the-head pass late in a Game 7 loss would be the right move (it sailed out of bounds). Strickland played killer basketball throughout the 1990s, but he could never crack the roster.
As the summer wears on, with training camps and preseason play still off in (what feels like) the distant future, we turn our attention to the past. Join us as we while away a few late-summer moments recalling some of the most scintillating slams of yesteryear, the most thunderous throwdowns ever to sear themselves into our memories. This is Dunk History . Today, Paul Palladino remembers how Dwyane Wade went up, over and straight through Anderson Varejao during a 2009-10 meeting between the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers. As members of the historic 2003 draft class, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James quickly developed a close friendship. They also spent significant time playing together for Team USA during the NBA offseason. They took home bronze medals from the 2004 Summer Olympics and 2006 FIBA World Championship before breaking through and winning gold during the 2008 Summer Games as part of the “Redeem Team.” Their on-court matchups were must-see television, as each upped their game for their head-to-head contests. "I like playing against LeBron more than anybody else in the league," Wade said . "He brings out the best in me, and I bring out the best in him." During 25 head-to-head matchups in their careers, James holds a 14-11 advantage and has averaged 29.0 points, 7.4 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game. Wade has more than held his own, averaging 27.1 points, 6.2 assists and 5.2 rebounds per meeting. In November 2009, the 27-year-old Wade and 24-year-old James were both in the midst of their athletic peaks, capable of producing game-changing highlight-reel plays at any moment. James had just won the first of four Most Valuable Player awards in a five-year span, while Wade was the NBA's reigning scoring champion. The early-season matchup between James' Cleveland Cavaliers and Wade's Miami Heat was such a hot ticket that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were in attendance at AmericanAirlines Arena. After seeing James dunk on his teammate Damon Jones in 2005, Wade got revenge a few years later. The sequence leading to Wade’s dunk begins at the other end of the court, as James drives to the rim and goes up for a dunk of his own, only to be blocked by Jermaine O’Neal. Wade then gathers the rebound and pushes the ball up the right sideline. When no Cavalier defender stops the ball, Wade veers into the middle of the lane, where Anderson Varejao is the last line of defense for the Cavaliers. Wade explodes to the rim. As he comes body to body with Varejao, Wade temporarily loses control of the ball, but is able to corral it before nearly ripping the rim off the hoop. Despite being six inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter, Wade knocks Varejao to the ground and draws the foul. With Varejao laying on the ground, Wade not-so-subtly steps over him, a la Pippen against Patrick Ewing in the 1994 playoffs . He then mean-mugs for the crowd before trash talking with O’Neal and Michael Beasley as the crowd roars. TNT broadcasters Marv Albert and Reggie Miller each went into a frenzy following the slam. “Wade — Oh, a facial ! Yes! And the foul!” Albert exclaimed. “Dwyane Wade going right at Anderson Varejao!” Miller nearly combusted while narrating the replay before concluding with, “Welcome to your Kodak moment, Anderson Varejao!” After the game, James was not bashful in his praise of Wade’s dunk on his teammate. "It was great, probably top 10 all-time," James said. "That was an unbelievable play by a great player." That night, James also said that he planned to change his number from No. 23 as a sign of respect to Jordan, and that the league should permanently retire the number. Jordan’s jersey was already retired by two teams, a fact then-Plain Dealer reporter and LeBron aficionado Brian Windhorst quickly pointed out : “The Miami Heat retired Michael Jordan's No. 23 in 2003. It's also retired in Chicago. Hmmm ...” While Wade had the highlight dunk and a game-high 36 points, James’ 34 points were enough for the Cavaliers to get the victory . Despite being the two best individual players in the Eastern Conference, neither Wade nor James could get past the Boston Celtics' Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. In a first-round playoff matchup with Boston, Wade did everything for the Heat, averaging 33.2 points, 6.8 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks in 42 minutes per game. Even with his superstar performance, though, the Heat only managed to win one game against the Celtics. In the second round of the playoffs, James suffered a similar fate. He battled a questionable elbow injury to average 26.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.3 blocks in 42.5 minutes per game as the Cavaliers lost in six games to the Celtics. The lasting image from the series was James ripping off his jersey as he walked into the locker room after Game 6. Whether it was time spent bonding in Beijing, the bullies in Boston or the example set by Jordan and Pippen, Wade and James ultimately decided they would be better off playing together (along with Chris Bosh) than competing against each other. Although they were widely criticized and struggled early on, Wade and James had a very successful four-year run together; once Wade settled into a Pippen role and allowed James to play Jordan, the Heat won back-to-back titles. For a player of Wade’s caliber to take a back seat is pretty remarkable. He is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, one of the best guards of all time and could finish his career as one of the best 25 players ever. While his 2006 Finals MVP and declining health likely made his decision slightly easier, Wade deserves a lot of credit for ceding the spotlight to James. The signature game of the Big Three era in Miami was Game 4 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals on the road against the Indiana Pacers. Trailing 2-1 in the series and playing without Bosh, a loss likely would have led to significant roster changes during the offseason. Instead, James and Wade combined for 70 points , 27 rebounds, 15 assists, four blocks and three steals to even the series. The Heat won the final two games against the Pacers, and went on to win back-to-back titles. Just like they did when playing against each other, Wade and James brought out the best in each other as teammates. Paul Palladino is a mobile alerts/social editor for Yahoo Sports, and the author of "No Boys Allowed: The Definitive Case Against the NBA Age Limit." More Dunk History: • Vince Carter defies belief, gravity in the 2000 Dunk Contest . • Shawn Kemp, Alton Lister and how memory works • Chris Webber, Charles Barkley and a poster preserved • Young Wolf Andrew Wiggins goes straight for Rudy Gobert's neck • Rajon Rondo leaps past Dwight Howard, ascends to All-Star status • Blake Griffin defines 'Mozgov,' picks up Stoudemire's mantle • LeBron James rises up and Damon Jones gets 'banged on' • Dunk History, Season 1 : Our 2014 series, collected
The internet is filled with hundreds of thousands of nostalgic tales, but that’s to be expected. As a wise man once said, “Nostalgia is a mild form of depression,” and everyone can get a little blue when thinking back to 1997. With the summer sun shining, however, we’re in a cheery mood. And with the NBA having settled down after a busy first few weeks of offseason transactions, we thought it best to highlight some random NBA players who may have done their best work a decade or two ago. This isn’t a list of your “Top 12 File Sharing Services of 2002” or “27 Ways Britney Ruled the VMAs.” No, this is … Random Players, NBA Edition We continue with Darius Miles. By 2000, the NBA was ready for 18-year olds to move the needle. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] Kobe Bryant, by then just 21 but already coming off of his fourth season, had just been the tipping force in an NBA Finals victory for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kevin Garnett, by then, had been a three-time All-Star while acting as the biggest reason for an extended battle between labor and team owners. Tracy McGrady, barely a starter even in his third season, was about to receive a max contract after a fierce free agent bidding war. The Indiana Pacers, coming off of the team’s first NBA Finals appearance, were about to deal for Jermaine O’Neal to act as the team’s go-to two-way force. Each of these players skipped college for the pros, and heading into the 2000 NBA draft very few had reason to believe that Darius Miles wasn’t going to join this new wave. Even if his time at East St. Louis High hadn’t earned him the sort of plaudits that Garnett, Bryant, and McGrady earned in their high school careers. Even if some of the rumors emanating him from individual team workouts (there was chatter that Miles appeared clueless and even physically limited during some of the most rudimentary drills) weren’t exactly promising. The Los Angeles Clippers, widely regarded as the worst franchise in sports, selected him third overall. It was the highest a prep star had ever gone in the NBA draft, bettering Garnett by two spots. Almost immediately, Miles became a martyr. Charles Barkley, in his second-ever appearance as a TNT employee, lit into the Clipper organization, lamenting the fact that the Clippers routinely made money while losing heaps of games and letting their best players run off in free agency, telling the Turner crew that “people assume that every organization is trying to win, and there's just no excuse for what the Clippers have been doing” and that “I don’t think the Clippers are a good environment for Miles.” He may … he may have been right. This isn’t to say the Clippers overreached. The 2000 draft is, at the very best, the second-worst draft in NBA history, so it isn’t as if the Clippers were wrong in selecting an 18-year old with huge hands, huge wingspan, a 6-9 frame, obvious handle and massive hops in Darius. Orlando, settling into its rebuilding project, wanted Miles and outlined a trade that offered up the fifth pick (presumed to be Marcus Fizer), Corey Maggette, and the tenth overall selection later in the round – a pick that turned into Rookie of the Year Mike Miller. The Magic were out to cut salary as they chased down Tim Duncan, Grant Hill and McGrady in free agency, to be sure, but they did want Darius. Whether Los Angeles general manager Elgin Baylor was picking on Orlando’s behalf has been up for conjecture for 15 years, but the potential deal was scuttled when Bulls GM Jerry Krause (only out to ruin things, with Elton Brand already at power forward for Chicago) selected Fizer at No. 4 in the hopes that he would receive a similar offer. The Clippers would be stuck with Miles, Krause received no offers and Chicago continued to stink, while Orlando missed out on Duncan, signed a broken Hill and wasted McGrady’s prime years. The whole night should have acted as an omen. Any omen would seemingly be doubled-down upon when autumn showed up. Not only did Miles make the cover of Sports Illustrated’s season preview, he was pictured alongside Kevin Garnett in seemingly the final pose KG ever made without mean-mugging: