By Cardell Dudley
They say, nothing is new under the sun and that saying deeply represents the evolution of basketball. Lebron James is the best player in the game today, its not even up for debate. At 6'8 250 with a unique blend of elite athleticism, skill and IQ, James is one of the most unique talents the game has ever seen. With that said, James is far from being the first of his mold. Lets go back through time and name some players. Penny Hardaway, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Elgin Baylor are names of big versatile athletic wings that could do it all. One name that usually gets lost when comparing former players to todays "King" is Honeycomb...Gus Johnson. Ironically, Johnson has more in common with James, then any of the previously mentioned players. Johnson himself was an Akron, Ohio native and was a high school legend at Central High School. Standing 6'6 and 235 pounds, Johnson was a physical freak of nature with a blend of power, skill and athleticism that wasn't normally seen in those days. Johnson took full advantage of his gifts. Johnson averaged 19 points and 20 rebounds as a junior at Idaho before entering and being selected 10th in the 63 NBA Draft to the Chicago Zephyrs who later became the Baltimore Bullets. He made an immediate impact. Johnson would finish runner up to John Lucas (his high school and college rival) in rookie of the year voting after averaging 17.3 points and 13.6 rebounds per game. He quickly became one of the best two way players the game has ever seen. Offensively he was deadly at finishing around the basket and in the open floor, becoming one of the first players to consistently finish above the rim. Add in a dependable post game and efficient mid range jumper, Honeycomb as his college coach Joe Cipriano called him, due to his game being so sweet, was an offensive force. However, defense is where he caused the most trouble for opponents. Just like King James, Johnson could guard every position on the floor. He was quick enough to move with the Oscar Robertsons, Elgin Baylors and Jerry Wests of the world while also being strong enough to bang with the Russells, Chamberlains and Thurmonds in the league as well. Versatility like this had never been seen before. Johnson would finish his career with averages 17.1 points and 12.7 rebounds with his best years coming as a Bullet. His career only lasted 10 season (63-72 (NBA) 72-73 (ABA))due to chronic knee pain. Johnson was also a 5-time All Star and 2- time selection to the NBA All Defensive First Team. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 which was way overdue according to those who competed with or against him.
" Gus was ahead of his time, flying through the air for slam dunks, breaking backboards and throwing full-court passes behind his back. He was spectacular, but he also did the nitty gritty jobs, defense and rebounding. With all the guys in the Hall of Fame, Gus deserves to be there already." - Earl "Pearl" Monroe
Check out the exploits of Honeycomb below