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The RIB We Need and Want 95-96

-- About the Author Tork - Tork is a connoisseur of all things basketball from Dallas, TX. Listed at 5'10" in the official game day program, Tork aims to ascend to greater heights with his new team at Collectin' and Connectin'. Tork shares his vision for the RIB moments he wants to see come to NBA Top Shot -

The day started like any other, it was balmy and slightly overcast in Denver, and the city seemed to be high on the Avalanche and Nuggets' current playoff journeys. Yes, it is possible the city was high on something else (Colorado, amirite?), but the whole vibe felt different. Game 4 of the Warriors/Nuggets series was set to take place later on, and I thought, why not try and see Steph and Co.? Besides, I had attended a Nuggets game since arriving in Denver. So I did what any normal person would: I tweeted asking if anyone had extra tickets for sale. I am not quite sure what made me do it because I was certain there was no way it would work to my benefit. A few hours passed, and a collector I had interacted with before, named "Sir Edward Dunks," sent me a message. "Hey, I'm in town for the game. I have a ticket for you." Sir Edward sends me the tickets, and off I go with my buddy to The Sack, aka Ball Arena (locals affectionately refer to the arena as the former). Not knowing what to expect, I entered the arena, and after talking to a few ushers who politely guided me where I needed to go, I walked into a VIP suite. Sir Edward walked up, arms stretched wide, gave me a big ol' hug, and then turned to introduce me to his friend. His friend was George Karl. Yes, that George Karl of prior Nuggets fame and, before that, a team after my own heart: The Seattle Supersonics.

I selfishly talked George's ear off as so many indelible memories of those Sonics teams flooded my mind. He was gracious enough to listen to me be a fanboy and patiently answered my questions. Those Sonics teams were exceptional for me as a young basketball fan. I spent hours in my driveway as a kid re-enacting and creating games/playoff series/fictitious championships, playing them out in my head as I attempted to hone my craft. I just wanted to emulate the Dale Ellis' and Nate McMillan's of that world. I would never dunk like Shawn Kemp, but it never stopped me from dreaming I could. Maybe I could have the court vision and leadership of Gary Payton. Maybe I could be as relaxed and calm as Sam Perkins looked when he slanged that sweet lefty stroke from 3-point land. We know how that story ends, though. The Sonics lost to the Bulls in the 1996 NBA Finals, and my heart was broken in the unique way that sports tend to break it. But this is not about that temporary sadness. This is about the perspective that 27 years provides. Looking back on that Sonics team and the year 1995-1996 makes you realize how spoiled we were at the time with so much supreme talent running around the association. Mitch Richmond was at the height of his powers for Sacramento, David Robinson was becoming the foundational cornerstone of the Spurs organization, and of course, Michael Jordan ended up winning his 4th of 6 NBA titles. So it is with that spirit in mind I present to you: Run It Back - 1995-1996 Edition.

Shawn Kemp:

Who better to lead this whole thing than the "Reign Man" himself? This dude seemed like he defied the laws of gravity. Think of someone floating toward the rim with the grace of Jordan and then finishing the dunk with the aggression of Shaq. Yeah, that's Shawn Kemp. There are so many dunks to choose from, but I prefer this one from when he was at the height of his powers in 95-96. It's quintessential Seattle basketball, with Payton running the break and finding Kemp in transition for the throw-down. RIP David Robinson (no worries, you will have your glorious moment in the sun soon, Mr. Admiral)

David Robinson:

Segue time as it's now The Admiral's time to shine: husband, father, Navy veteran, and the foundation of the Spurs organization from a player perspective. David Robinson walked so Tim Duncan could run. Fresh off his MVP season a year ago, he picked up right where he left off, and this performance against the Mavs (31 pts, 15 Reb) is evidence of his greatness as his all-around game is on full display.

Mitch Richmond:

Mr. Richmond, the Sacramento Kings talisman, 1995 All-Star game MVP, and perhaps one of the most underrated players of the mid-90s. A pure shooter and an absolute technician on the perimeter, Richmond's movement off the ball gave opposing defenses nightmares. After dropping a career-high 47 against the 2x defending champion Rockets earlier in the season, here he is, torching the Sonics during game 2 of the Kings' victory over Seattle in the 1st round of the NBA playoffs.

Charles Barkley:

It was the last year in Phoenix for the "Round Mound of Rebound," aka Sir Charles. 95-96 was yet another All-Star year for him, as he averaged 23 pts and 11.5 boards while shooting 50% from the field. The summer of 1996 was exceptional as he was a part of the USA's gold medal basketball squad, defeating Vlade Divac and the former Yugoslavia in the championship. A shoutout to Sarunas Marčiulionis, Arvydas Sabonis, and Lithuania on their bronze medal win. That team was so much fun to watch. Remember those tie-dyed Grateful Dead warm-up shirts they wore? Here is Charles Barkley dunking on a player from Argentina at the Olympics. It highlights the brute force he played with, finishing this dunk through contact and, more importantly, making his free throw afterward.

John Stockton:

The Utah Jazz legend was busy averaging 15 pts and 11 assists during the 95-96 campaign, adding to his astronomical career assist total. I feel like he's still somewhere out there, setting egregiously illegal screens, throwing elbows, and looking like the softest dude in the gym, all while making defenses seem helpless against his powers. Love or hate him, he is the all-time NBA career assist leader, and it's not even close. Here's him foreshadowing his future as he dropped 23 pts and 12 assists against the Bulls just before they met Jordan in the NBA Finals a year later.

Scottie Pippen:

Like Batman and Robin, Michael and Tito, Jordan and Pippen are forever linked and synonymous with team greatness. I understand this is a hypothetical 1995-1996 Run It Back set, but sometimes exceptions must be made. Never mind that Pippen averaged 20/6/6/2 steals during the 95-96 campaign, I'd like to focus on a year before that when he almost ended Patrick Ewing's life. This dunk is possibly one of the most incredible in-game dunks in NBA history. The disrespect afterward, the borderline melee that almost ensued, and the coup de grace of Scottie telling Spike to "sit down." That era of basketball and those rivalries just hit differently. Watch the video and see for yourself.

Reggie Miller:

Speaking of Spike Lee and courtside-related drama, remember that guy Reggie Miller? Market Square Arena became his home away from home and a place that some opposing NBA players admittedly hated going to. However, the scene of this particular crime took place in Madison Square Garden during game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference semis—8 points in 9 seconds. Enough said.

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Michael Whalley
Michael Whalley


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