On Memorial Day, a day set aside for remembering the sacrifices people have made for our freedom and the chance to do things like watch NBA games, it seemed fitting to look back at NBA players who served in the military.
Because the NBA was formed after World War II, the NBA does not have the long list of players who left the game in wartime to serve. But there are some who have. (Many of the early NBA players in the 1949 season had been in college during the war, or in the case of some had simply been too tall to serve.)
But there are some who have served before and after. (What follows is an incomplete list.)
David Robinson. “The Admiral” is by far the best known of this group, a star at the Naval Academy who spent a couple years in the service as a civil engineering officer at the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia before moving on to the NBA. For the record, “the Admiral” was really a Lieutenant, Junior Grade. After leaving the Navy he has continued as a reserve for years and still helps with recruiting. As a player, well, he’s in the Hall of Fame, that should tell you how his career went.
Tim James. Earlier this season the Miami Heat honored their former first-round draft pick. He was drafted in 1999 but after his NBA career fizzled (and after a couple seasons playing in Europe) he joined the army and has done a tour of duty in Iraq.
Mike Silliman. The only NBA player ever to graduate from the United States Military Academy (West Point). The small forward was a member of the 1968 United States Olympic Team that won the gold medal and played in several other international tournaments for the United States. He was selected in the eighth round of the NBA draft in 1966 draft by the Knicks (yes, there was an eighth round back then) but he played just one season, the 1970-71 season with the Buffalo Braves.
Connie Norman. He highlights a larger issue we face in our nation — homeless veterans. Norman was a former Arizona star in college who was drafted by Philadelphia in 1974. He played in part of three NBA seasons (the last in 1979 with the San Diego Clippers). After the Clippers cut him he joined the army, where he was stationed in Germany. After that he played several seasons professionally in Europe. Three decades later he was homeless, living on the streets in Los Angeles due to drug problems. He got clean and was living in a facility to help get homeless off the street in Detroit.
James Harden spearheaded the Rockets’ recruitment of Chris Paul, but the MVP runner-up didn’t work alone.
Paul’s former New Orleans teammates Trevor Ariza and Bobby Brown added appeal.
So, unsurprisingly, with Paul in a contract year, Houston is re-signing Brown. The Rockets are also re-signing Troy Williams.
Alykhan Bijani of ESPN Houston:
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Brown is an undersized gunner who’s not nearly efficient enough to compensate for his defensive deficiencies, and he turns 33 before the season. But if he helps convince Paul to re-sign, it would be well worth keeping Brown on the roster all year.
The 22-year-old Williams, who went undrafted last year, is the far more intriguing player. A 6-foot-7 forward, he has the athleticism to stick in the NBA. His 3-point shot needs major development – though not quite as much if he becomes more adept at being a small-ball four, an easier task in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo system.
The Celtics lost their third-string point guard (Demetrius Jackson) and plenty of big men (Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, Tyler Zeller and Jordan Mickey) in their quest for Gordon Hayward.
That paid off in a big way, but it’s time for Boston to restock its depth.
Enter Shane Larkin and, as previously expected, Guerschon Yabusele and Daniel Theis.
Jay King of MassLive:
The Boston Celtics have agreed to sign Shane Larkin for point guard depth, league sources confirmed to MassLive.com.
The one-year contract, which pulled Larkin away from bigger money in Europe, will be fully guaranteed for the coming season, a source indicated.
Despite adding another guaranteed contract in Larkin, the Celtics still plan to sign 2016 draft pick Guerschon Yabusele
Theis signed a two-year deal with the first-year salary fully guaranteed, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Yabusele will be on a rookie-scale contract for a No. 16 pick.
They, with Larkin, give Boston 16 players on standard contracts – one more than the regular-season limit. All those deals apparently include guaranteed 2016-17 salaries, but the Celtics can always eat (or trade) a contract. It costs only money. This just increases the likelihood Boston fields the best possible roster after the preseason.
Larkin showed promise early in his career, opted out of a $1.5 million Nets contract then fell out of the NBA. He adds another viable point guard behind Isaiah Thomas, joining Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. Smart and Rozier can spend time off the ball, but the 5-foot-11 Larkin probably can’t. Fortunately for Larkin’s chances of making the regular-season roster, the Celtics likely need Smart and Rozier to spend time at shooting guard after trading Avery Bradley.
The Cavaliers are reportedly in serious discussion to sign Derrick Rose.
They still have about $2.5 million of the taxpayer mid-level exception left, but don’t expect Rose to get it.
Brian Windhorst and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
The Cavs are believed to be offering Rose a minimum contract
A minimum salary for Rose is $2,116,955. More importantly for the Cavs, they’d have to pay him – and be taxed at – just $1,471,382. (The NBA covers the difference on one-year minimum deals for veterans.) Regardless of whether they sign Rose, they still have to fill out their roster with at least minimum players.
If they pay him more than the minimum, they’d be on the hook for his full salary and be taxed on it.
So, Rose could push for a little more. But Cleveland has much more incentive to set a hard line.
LeBron James is reportedly frustrated with the Cavaliers’ offseason.
Can they soothe him with former MVP Derrick Rose?
Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
Rose is still a big name, but his play has SIGNIFICANTLY regressed. He could add scoring punch to reserve units, but his only plus skill – driving to finish for himself – doesn’t complement LeBron and Kyrie Irving. Rose is a poor spot-up shooter and defender, so his usefulness would be limited to minutes when LeBron or Irving – or maybe both – sit.
The Cavs rushed to lock up Jose Calderon on the first day of free agency. Rose is better, and if the Cavs want to spend a minimum contract – or even the remainder of the taxpayer mid-level exception – to upgrade, more power to them. But following Calderon with Rose suggests there isn’t much a plan here.
That’s not shocking for a team without a general manager.