Cal Basketball: Who is the Fifth Player on the Bears' All-NBA First Team?
Four of them were easy. Almost automatic.
When identifying the five Cal basketball players who enjoyed the best NBA careers, choosing Jason Kidd, Kevin Johnson, Phil Chenier and Shareef Abdur-Rahim is a no-brainer.
No. 5 is where it gets tricky.
Keep in mind, our Cal All-NBA team is not based on a player’s collegiate achievements. That’s a different set of criteria. A listing of the best five college players at Cal would include Darrall Imhoff and Lamond Murray.
Both assembled solid NBA careers, as did Ryan Anderson.
But none of them were as impactful as pros as they were during their Golden Bear careers.
Our choice for the fifth spot on our first team goes to a player whose emerging hoops profile is just the opposite of that: Jaylen Brown.
Brown was a good freshman with the Bears, when he averaged about 14 points in his only college season. He was raw and unpolished with holes in his game, especially offensively. He did not shoot well.
At the same time, it also was predictable that he would be a better NBA player than college player. His quickness, jumping ability and intellect were going to be assets at both ends of the floor, and even Kidd learned how to shoot the basketball.
The point is, Brown at his best right now can do more to affect an NBA game than any of those we put on the second team. A year or two from now, I expect there won’t even be a debate about it.
Cal’s All-NBA Team
— Guard: Jason Kidd. Cal’s greatest player, Kidd’s 19-year NBA career led to a first-ballot election to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. His basic numbers hardly tell the story: 12.6 points, 8.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds while playing more than 50,000 minutes over his career. His power and creativity were matched by few who have played the sport. Kidd ranks second in NBA history in career assists and steals and he assembled 107 triple-doubles. He was a 10-time All-Star, a five-time first-team All-NBA selection and a nine-time first- or second-team All-Defense pick. He had 25 assists in a game for Dallas in 1995-96 and won an NBA title in his second stint with the Mavericks in 2010-11 at the age of 37. Kidd was 56-0 with Team USA in his international career and won Olympic gold medals in 2000 and 2008.
— Guard: Kevin Johnson. A player at the heart of Cal’s basketball revival in the mid-1980s, KJ played 12 seasons in the NBA — most of them with the Phoenix Suns — averaging 17.9 points and 9.1 assists. He had five seasons of scoring 20 points or more and he averaged at least 10 assists in four straight years. He matched Kidd’s best of 25 assists in a game, once had 10 steals in a game, and he averaged 19.3 points in 105 career playoff games. In the 1994 Western Conference semifinals, Johnson famously threw down a tomahawk dunk over Hakeem Olajuwon. At 6-foot-1. After his playing days, Johnson was voted a two-term mayor in his hometown of Sacramento, the first Black mayor of California’s state capital.
— Guard: Phil Chenier. A prep legend at Berkeley High, Chenier spent just two seasons at Cal before joining the NBA through its supplemental hardship draft. He played 10 seasons, averaging 17.2 points. A three-time All-Star, he scored 19.7 points or better in five different seasons, and averaged 18.1 points in 60 career postseason games. He scored 53 points in a game for the Baltimore Bullets during the 1972-73 season. For 20 seasons through 2017 Chenier worked as a TV analyst for the Washington Bullets/Wizards. That same year the franchise retired his jersey No. 45.
— Forward: Shareef Abdur-Rahim. He was Cal’s first one-and-done player after becoming the first player to win Pac-10 Player of the Year honors as a freshman. Abdur-Rahim was the No. 3 overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft, and he was ready, averaging 18.7 points as a rookie with the Vancouver Grizzlies. He averaged 18.1 points and 7.5 rebounds during a 12-year career, including 20.1 points through his first eight seasons. He won a gold medal on the 2000 U.S. Olympic team and scored 50 points in a game for the Atlanta Hawks in 2001-02. After retiring, Abdur-Rahim worked as an assistant coach and in administration with the Sacramento Kings, then was a VP of basketball operations for the NBA, and now serves as president of the NBA’s G League.
— Forward: Jaylen Brown. Here’s the thing about Brown — he’s still 23 years old and we really don’t know just how good he can become. But he’s pretty good already, and he seems to be getting better by the day. He’s already played 57 career playoff games, and he’s averaging 19.3 points and 6.8 rebounds over the past 18 of them. In the past three games, he produced 26.3 points and 10.0 rebounds as the Celtics closed out the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors to move into the Eastern Conference finals vs. Miami, beginning Tuesday. His career numbers through his first four seasons include 13.1 points per game, and he had a breakout this year, averaging 20.3. He’s added 3-point shooting to his ridiculous athleticism, he plays defense and he is one of the NBA’s most outspoken proponents of social justice.
— Guard: Charles Johnson. Generously listed as 6-foot, 170 pounds, Johnson played the first 5 1/2 of his seven seasons with the Warriors, helping them to a fairytale NBA championship in 1975. He averaged 8.1 points for his career, but was at his best in ’74-75, contributing 10.9 points per game in the regular season, then 12.5 in the playoffs. Johnson died in 2007 at the age of 58.
— Guard: Allen Crabbe. The Pac-12 Player of the Year as a junior in 2012-13, Crabbe played seven seasons in the NBA, averaging 9.1 points before being waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves in February of this year. Crabbe signed a four-year, $75 million contract with Portland in the summer of 2016, despite starting just 17 games and averaging 7.0 points over his first three NBA seasons. The Trail Blazers traded him to Brooklyn the following summer and Crabbe had a career season in 2017-18, averaging 13.2 points. But he was traded twice more before Minnesota negotiated a buyout before releasing him.
— Forward: Lamond Murray. Jason Kidd’s running mate on Cal’s 1993 Sweet 16 team and one of the program’s most prolific offensive players, Murray played 11 NBA seasons, averaging 11.3 points. He enjoyed his best statistical season in 2001-02 with Cleveland, posting 16.6 points per game, including a career-high 40-point outing. But he missed all of the next season with a foot injury and his production dipped after that. Murray’s son, Lamond Jr. was an all-West Coast Conference pick at Pepperdine in 2016-17.
— Forward: Ryan Anderson. A sweet-shooting wing player at 6-foot-9, Anderson played 12 NBA seasons, averaging 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds. He was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2010-11 and three years later scored a career-best 19.8 points per game for New Orleans. That was part of a six-year stretch where he averaged 15.6 points and shot better than 38 percent from beyond the arc. Anderson twice made more than 200 3-pointers in a season. He was released by the Houston Rockets after playing two games this season.
— Center: Darrall Imhoff. The key player on coach Pete Newell’s 1959 national championship team, Imhoff was a consensus All-American for the Bears a year later as a senior when he averaged 13.7 points and 12.4 rebounds. Imhoff then teamed with Oscar Robertson and Jerry West on Newell’s gold-medal 1960 Olympic team. The third pick of the 1960 NBA draft, the 6-foot-10 center played 12 seasons, averaging 7.2 points and 7.6 rebounds. He was an All-Star for the Lakers in 1966-67 when he averaged a double-double (10.7 points, 13.3 rebounds). He famously was the opposing starting center when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points on March 2, 1962 at Hershey, Pennsylvania. Imhoff died in 2017 at the age 78 .
*** In my video talking about Kevin Johnson, I mistakenly refer to 1987 as the first year the Bears made it to the NIT with KJ. They actually lost a first-round NIT game in '86 before reaching the quarterfinals in '87, where they lost to Arkansas-Little Rock at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo
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